October 02, 2019
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Oklahoma-based Rise Armament is a company built around paying careful attention to details. It made its name as a manufacturer in the aerospace, oil and gas and defense industries. Attention to detail, then, was already part of the DNA before the brand’s first rifle rolled out of the factory.
“We first made firearm components for other companies, but we had ideas for new, improved products that weren’t on the market,” says Matt Torres, company president. “Rise Armament’s flagship product was the RA-535 trigger, which several years later still has the fastest reset on the market. From there, we’ve continued designing and manufacturing new, innovative products, expanding to offer nearly all the individual components as well as complete rifles.”
The team at Rise comprises veterans, dedicated shooters and hunters who prefer to spend as much of their free time as possible in the woods or on the range. Oklahoma is coyote country, and the state’s large deer population and rapidly growing hog population make it an ideal birthplace for a dedicated AR hunting rifle. And that, says Torres, is exactly what the RA-303H is: an accurate, lightweight rifle tailored to the hunting crowd.
The RA-303H is available with a .223 Wylde chamber, a design that handles the 5.56’s higher pressure but with the tighter throat diameter of the .223 Rem., allowing you to shoot both cartridges with safety and accuracy. The rifle is also chambered to .300 BLK.
My sample was chambered in .223 Wylde and had a milled 7075 Ripper aluminum billet upper receiver and 13.5-inch RA-901 slim billet aluminum handguard with a flat dark earth finish.
The air-gauged 20.2-inch 416R stainless steel barrel comes with a threaded muzzle and a cap protector with a substantial recess. Thread quality on muzzles may seem of little importance, but the RA-303H’s threads are clean, and the cap threads off and on with no grittiness.
There’s a full-length top rail, and the front and rearmost 3.75 inches of the handguard receive additional rails at the three, six and nine-o’clock positions. That leaves six inches of open space in the center of the handguard where you can comfortably grip the rifle while still offering space for your bipod, light, infrared unit or anything else you opt to hang on a hunting rifle.
The stock is a Magpul MOE fixed carbine model with a roughly 13.5-inch length of pull, a 1.25-inch sling loop, QD attachment cups and a storage compartment located behind the hinged buttplate. Other features include Rise’s premium black nitride bolt-carrier group, an MOE soft-rubber pistol grip and the company’s RA-212 extended-latch charging handle. The trigger guard is oversize to accommodate gloved fingers, but not absurdly so, and the flared magazine well simplifies mag swaps (primarily a consideration for hog hunters).
A lot of shooters and hunters opt to upgrade their stock AR’s trigger, but I don’t imagine that will cross your mind when you buy the RA-303H because it features Rise’s RA-140 Super Sporting single-stage trigger, which broke cleanly and crisply at 3.4 pounds according to my scale. It goes a long way toward printing small groups on the range or making a quick one-two shot on a pair of advancing coyotes. I can’t say it’s the best off-the-shelf AR trigger on the market, but I can’t remember shooting a better one.
Like most varmint/predator ARs, the RA-303H is rather long, but it isn’t a boat paddle. In fact, I’d say it’s just about right. The 20.2-inch barrel aids in accuracy and helps wring every bit of velocity out of hunting loads but isn’t so long you’re constantly trying to maneuver it through brush and low branches. And at eight pounds, five ounces with an empty magazine, the RA-303H is relatively light for a gun of these dimensions.
For the range test I topped the rifle with my go-to AR hunting optic: a Trijicon AccuPoint 3-9x40. Accuracy was excellent, with the best groups coming courtesy of the Black Hills 68-grain Match load and measuring from 0.63 to 0.9 inch at 100 yards. The gas system works effectively, and there were no issues with feeding, extraction or ejection.
Some ARs that are purportedly designed for the field seem rather like a hodgepodge of hedged-bet parts—a rifle sold as a hunting gun but really is just a tactical rifle with a longer barrel or camo dip. On the contrary, the RA-303H feels like a purpose-built rifle—because that’s what it is.
At $1,449 it isn’t the cheapest gun in the field, but the RA-303H’s functionality and build quality demand that kind of money. It may be hard for relatively new AR rifles to make an impression on a crowd of shooters who will evaluate and criticize each and every component, but the Rise RA-303H stands up well to the scrutiny.