AR-15 Review: Rock River Arms Elite Operator


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Rock River Arms Elite Operator AR-15 Review.

OK, I have to ‘fess up on this one. The ads you’ve been seeing for the Rock River Arms Operator series? That’s due to me. Well, due to me and a couple other of my gun writer compatriots. You see, at an industry gathering where Rock River was showing us the parts and pieces that would go into the new series of rifles, they came up with an idea: name the gun. So, we dutifully took the forms, scrawled our names on them, and jotted down a few ideas for names. I have to confess I wasn’t really in the naming frame of mind. Perhaps I’d had too much coffee.

The Operator stock, a solid, comfortable tele-stock with storage.
The Operator stock, a solid, comfortable tele-stock with storage.

Or perhaps I was just itching to get out to the range and actually, you know, shoot guns. I put down all the tongue-in-cheek names I could think of, along with a few obvious satirical ones (there’s a reason some PR people groan when I walk into a room) and to finish it off I added a few that might actually be useful. I’m surprised they didn’t just toss my list when they saw my name.

And yes, being a gun writer can be (but isn’t always) just as much fun as you think it is.

You guessed it; Operator was one of the last ones I scribbled down. Now, I can’t take full credit for this, as two other writers came up with the same name. Soon afterwards we had rifles to inspect and test. I opted to test the top of the line model, the Elite Operator. The other two are the Entry Operator and the Tactical Operator.

Rock River Arms is located on the western edge of Illinois, right near the Quad Cities area, a location known for its manufacturing capacity in times past, and when rational people ran the country the region was well-thought of as a cradle of manufacturing and arms industry. Rock River also used to make semi-custom and custom 1911s, but when the AR-15 market exploded they set aside all the 1911 tools to concentrate on the product of the age: the AR-15. I had a chance to visit them just as they were transitioning to making just ARs, and it was sad to see the last of the 1911s being worked on, knowing there would be not more for a while.

The buttplate slides down to uncover the storage compartments.
The buttplate slides down to uncover the storage compartments.

The Elite Operator (or to give it its full title: the RRA LAR-15 Elite Operator) is a tele-stocked carbine in 5.56. The stock is a close-appearing copy of the mondo-expensive SOPMOD stock that your tax dollars buy by the truckload. At more than $100 less in cost than the USGI SOPMOD stock (and a complete assembly, at that) the Rock River stock is more than just a good deal.

It has six positions, and instead of the two battery compartments being opened on the front, with an o-ring to keep them sealed, the two compartments on the Operator stock are hidden. First, you use the push button to unlatch the buttplate, and slide it down, then you pry the two o-ring sealed covers off. They are large enough to grasp, and thus you can really shove them in for a good seal. As a bonus, if you lose the o-ring covers, the buttplate will still keep your stuff in the tubes, albeit without the waterproof seal.
The stock is well-shaped to provide a good cheeckrest, and it slides back and forth smoothly and clocks solidly in place. Plus it doesn’t rattle or wobble.

The Operator series also come with an ERGOgrip, a rubber pistol grip that replicates the shape of the MP5 grip. A lot of people like it. As with a lot of the options on an AR, it can be a very personal thing. When I first saw them, I started out liking the ERGOgrip but have come to find it not suited to my shooting style. If it works for you, good – get it or keep it. If not, it is easy enough to change. A lot of rifles come with this grip, so I have to assume that a lot of you like it.

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


  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….

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