The Rock River BUIS, with integral rail for mounting a red-dot sight.
The Rock River BUIS, with integral rail for mounting a red-dot sight.

As a final lagniappe, Rock River knows that what the end-user needs are options and extras. So when the Operators rolled out, they came with some very nice extras. You could have your choice of one-inch or 30mm scope rings, a one-piece unit that clamps right onto the top rail of the receiver. And you got to pick from four different BUIS/handle setups, from a regular A2 handle and sight to the RRA tactical handle, the Dominator2 that allows you to put a red-dot on the removable rail/BUIS, and a plain old RRA standalone sight that would be an entirely serviceable sight all on its own.

Now, the bonus items may well have been changed, dropped or modified by the time you get this book, so don’t go hounding Rock River for the extras that “Sweeney promised me.”

How does it shoot? Nice would be a word to use. Accurate would be another. An eight-pound (before sights and ammo) AR carbine in 5.56 doesn’t exactly smack you in the chops every time it goes off, and the muzzle brake does a lot to remove what little steam there might be in the recoil. The trigger is clean and crisp, and has a short re-set (for those who care about re-set), so shooting quick pairs or follow-up shots is no problem at all. As with all aluminum handguards, if you shoot a lot, quickly, you’re going to heat up the handguard. So it would be best (if you’re a “heavy on the trigger” shooter) to have a set of nomex gloves in your shooting gear, just in case.

The Operator comes with the Ergo grip. If you like it, great. My odd, non-standard grip makes it not so useful.
The Operator comes with the Ergo grip. If you like it, great. My odd, non-standard grip makes it not so useful.

Also, the black aluminum will absorb heat from the sun, so if you live in a desert or desert-like area, you’ll want to be careful picking it out of the rack. But that is not a feature unique to the Elite Operator; all aluminum-handguard rifles have that predicament.

The 1:9 twist is plenty good enough for all bullets up to 68 grains, and like the rest, it may or may not like a particular 75- or 77-grain load. Only testing will tell, and I’m not worried. It isn’t like I have a garage full of cartons of Mk262 Mod 1 ammo. It shoots just fine with M855 green tip, so I’m set.

If you like the RRA half-quad aluminum free-floated handguard (that’s what it is called, off of the Elite) you can get one from Rock River. It is a standard stocking item, and they’d be pleased as punch to send you one. You can even get it with the top rail full-length, just in case you want to mount something that can’t or won’t fit onto just a partial upper rail.

The shipping box is a real bonus. A hard case with latches on three sides (hinge on the other), it takes the rifle in its assembled form. You can have it in the case, ready to go (well, not loaded, that would be stupid) and won’t have to slap the two halves together once you’ve opened the case. While it might not survive being run over by a vehicle (and then again, it might) the case will certainly protect your Rock River Operator from normal abuse: dropping, falling off benches, getting kicked across the room by your clumsy buddies, etc.

Did I send this one back? Are you crazy? After all, I named the thing. Now go out there and buy one for yourself, so Rock River thinks I actually knew what I was doing.

This article is an excerpt from The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. III.

Recommended AR-15 Resources:

New! The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. III

New! The Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Tactical Rifles

The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. I

The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. II

Gunsmithing the AR-15, How to Maintain, Repair & Accessorize

Find more gun books, DVDs and downloads at


  1. I just bought this same rifle, but didn’t care for the stock so I replaced it with the Ace Skeleton Stock and then traded the original stock for a Remington 597 .22 Rifle straight up. The Ace stock makes it lighter and it looks a lot meaner.

  2. I had traded for one of these but let it get away from me before I had the opportunity to shoot it. It was hefty for certain, which I liked. I did trade it for a Colt H-bar Competition Target so I do not feel as bad. I would like to have another one some day though. I just preferred the longer rifle to the M4 if I were only allotted one. I have since acquired a Bushmaster Varmint with the 24″ fluted barrel as a companion piece. Oh well….