Review: Rock River Arms LAR-22 Rimfire Carbine

by
posted on February 1, 2024
001 RAA LAR22 Gun L 01

There's no denying the momentum that the AR-15 platform is continuing to gain as a preferred platform for hunting. Centerfire models chambered in 6.5 Grendel, .300 BLK, and .350 Legend are ideal for harvesting deer, while the .223 Remington has proven to be an effective varminting option. So it's only logical that we would see America's most prized small game rimfire cartridge, the .22 LR, make its way into AR-pattern long guns. 

RRA LAR-22 on white

That said, not all AR-style rimfires are created equal. I'm not a fan of semi-automatic .22 LR rifles which have been subjected to an AR-15 'Potemkin Villages' treatment. I remember examining a rimfire which at first glance looked like an AR, but picking it up revealed a plastic AR-like clam shell secured with more than a dozen screws to contain the actual receiver and barrel. All of those screws had to be removed to get to what proved to be a second-rate clone of a 10/22 receiver and bolt assembly. All of this meant that the gun was far too light to handle like an AR; the balance was strange, the controls did not line up and the magazine was not patterned after AR magazines. It was not just disappointing, it was confusing. These types of .22s are relatively inexpensive but just don’t have much to offer. A 10/22 fan is going to buy a 10/22 and enjoy the features it offers, while an AR fan is going to buy an AR.

RRA LAR-22 with optic

Picking up a Rock River Arms (RRA) LAR-22 Tactical Carbine, on the other hand, is a significantly more satisfying experience. Instead of a sporting rifle masquerading as an AR, it's an AR that just happens to be chambered in .22 LR. This means it has a heft, balance and control configuration that, for folks who already use ARs in the field, is utterly familiar and ruggedly reliable.

RRA LAR-22 controls

This American AR manufacturer was founded in 1996 by Mark and Chuck Larson who brought over 40 years of combined gun-industry experience to the endeavor. By 2003, RRAs reputation of providing top-notch AR-15s and components led to a contract with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In the years since, the company has continued to be a significant provider of components and complete rifles for civilian and law-enforcement applications at reasonable prices.

RRA LAR-22 Stock

The rimfire LAR-22 series includes the Mid A4, NM A4 CMP Trainer, NM A4 Rifle and Tactical Carbine models. I opted to work with one of the Tactical Carbines with suggested retail prices starting at $705 depending on the factory-installed features, add-ons and finish-options customers select. I went with the Model 22L1264A with a 15-inch aluminum handguard and a fixed buffer tube ($855).

RRA LAR-22 handguard

The LAR-22 features some key modifications to accommodate the .22 LR cartridge, including the caliber-specific barrel, upper receiver, receiver-contained bolt assembly and the magazines. Other than these four parts, the rest of the rifle is made up of Mil-Spec compatible AR-15 components. This is worth noting for two reasons. First, the LAR-22 lower is compatible with centerfire AR uppers and standard 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem. magazines. If this is someone's first AR-15, the lower assembly can be paired with other uppers to shoot popular centerfire calibers. Secondly, this gun is just as modular as other RRA ARs. This allows for the use of a variety of aftermarket components including folding back-up sights, drop-in trigger groups, alternative pistol grips, and so on.

RRA LAR-22 on stump

The forged aluminum flat-top upper arrives optics ready, is clearly marked .22 LR over the ejection port and omits the forward assist button. The 15-inch long vented 3G free-float aluminum handguard features a short forward sight rail to support an iron sight, M-LOK-compatible accessory slots and QD sling ports. The 16-inch barrel is fitted with a removable A2 flash hider.

RRA LAR-22 bolt

The blow-back-operated aluminum bolt and recoil assembly are fully contained within the upper receiver. The absence of an AR-type buffer and spring allows this gun to be fitted with a folding stock. The six-position carbine buffer tube is fitted with an RRA NSP-2 CAR adjustable shoulder stock that has QD sling ports and a textured rubber butt pad. The controls and A2 pistol grip are mostly Mil-Spec fare with the exceptions of the RRA oversized aluminum Winter trigger guard and the company's two-stage trigger group. The trigger exhibited a light, smooth take-up before breaking cleanly with four-pounds three-ounces of pressure making it five-ounces lighter than the listed pull weight. This trigger group is a nice touch and a welcome improvement to the typically less refined, factory-installed Mil-Spec triggers with their sometimes creepy or gritty five-pound eight-ounce or greater pull weights.

RRA LAR-22 open receiver

At the shooting range, testing was conducted using a Bushnell Rimfire 3-9x40mm scope sporting a Dropzone SFP 22 reticle (RR3940BS4, $99.99). The gun was fired using three in-house, translucent 25-round magazines (22L011625RD, $20) which use a Black Dog Machine style follower. It’s worth mentioning here because other brands of .22 AR magazines—like those that ship with the CMMG Banshee pistol and Bravo caliber conversion kits—will not operate reliably with this rifle due to the differences in the follower configurations.

RRA LAR-22 clear magazines

The LAR-22 was put through its paces using a variety of bulk-box (practice-grade), semi-automatic optimized and hunting-grade .22 LR ammunition with bullet weights in the 36- to 40-grain weight range. The gun experienced a total of three failures to fire which were due to faulty primers found in bulk box loads. Other than these three instances, which were just par for the course for practice-grade .22 LR ammunition, the gun and its magazines operated flawlessly for hundreds of rounds fired.

RRA LAR-22 in rest

Muzzle velocity was checked for 10-rounds using a Lab Radar chronograph while formal bench-rested three 3-shot group accuracy testing was conducted at 50-yards. Aguila's Interceptor 40-grain copper-plated flat point yielded a muzzle velocity of 1318-fps. It knocked out three shot groups between 1.19-inches and 1.38-inches in size for an average of 1.27-inches. 

CCI and Aguila ammunition

The CCI Mini Mag 40-grain copper-plated hunting hollow point left the barrel at 1223-fps. with groups between 1.06-inches and 1.24-inches for an average of 1.15-inches.  The tightest shooting load of the test was CCI's Clean-22 Target load launching a red polymer coated 40-grain lead round nose at 1130-fps. It printed groups between 0.97-inches and 1.19-inches for an average of 1.09-inches.

CCI group through RRA LAR-22

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of multi-purpose firearms. Owning a long gun which fills a specific role is a time honored tradition, and one I don't disparage in any way. But when you find a gun that can fill more or most roles for a given caliber, then you've got something worth the investment. This proved to be the case with the Rock River Arms' LAR-22 rimfire .22 LR rifle. For those who use centerfire ARs, it’s an ideal rimfire understudy that uses less expensive ammunition. This particular model is an AR, so it replicates the shooting experience with the exception of the reduced recoil and five fewer rounds in the magazine.

The LAR-22 is also useful as a training gun for new or youthful shooters who are still getting the feel for the AR platform. Even though .22 LR is not an optimal choice for self defense, the reliability was such that this carbine could do in a pinch. And last, but not least, this carbine demonstrated a level of accuracy potential which makes it useful for target shooting and small-game hunting. All in all, it was a hoot to shoot and an ideal option for those wanting to fire .22 LR from a genuine AR instead of a model that aspires to be one. For more information, visit rockriverarms.com

RRA LAR-22 stamp

Technical Specifications

  • Type: blow-back operated rimfire carbine
  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Magazine: removable box; 25- or 10-round capacity
  • Barrel: 16-inches, chromoly steel, 1:16" RH twist
  • Trigger: RRA two-stage AR-15; pull weight 4-pounds 3-ounces (as tested)
  • Sights: none; flat top upper and front sight rail handguard
  • Safety: AR-15
  • Stock: RRA 6-position; rubber recoil pad; LOP 11 to 14.75-inches
  • Metal Finish: hard-coat anodized aluminum; matte-black polymer
  • Overall Length: 37.25-inches extended
  • Weight: 6-pounds 3.4-ounces with empty 25-round magazine
  • Accessories: one magazine, lock, owner's manual
  • MSRP: $855 (Model 22L1264A); rockriverarms.com

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