August 08, 2021
By James Tarr
With the RBG—Rock Bolt Gun—Rock River Arms just didn’t enter the precision bolt-action rifle market. It has jumped in with both feet and started splashing around. The company has been working on this project for several years. While its people had a good idea of what they wanted in the finished product, their struggle was in picking the components that would provide the performance they were looking for.
In the end they spared no expense in selecting those components, and if you’re in the market for a factory rifle suitable for long-range shooting and competition right out of the box, a factory rifle capable of competing with custom offerings, you should take a look at this gun.
The RBG-1S—the first in a planned series of bolt guns—is far from a retro or old-school rifle. Rock River Arms provides a sub-m.o.a. accuracy guarantee with these rifles, and a test target showing a 0.44-inch three-shot group with Copper Creek handloaded Hornady A-Tip bullets was provided with my test rifle.
The RBG-1S is available in .308 Win./7.62x51 and 6.5 Creedmoor, with a 20-, 22- or 24-inch barrel, and a black, green or tan stock. Rock River Arms sent me a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle with a tan stock and 24-inch barrel for testing. This rifle is fed by a 10-round AICS-pattern detachable box magazine. It weighs 10.2 pounds empty and is 43.5 inches long.
The barrels on all the RBGs are from Wilson Combat and are stainless steel and air-gauged for precision. Rock River does the final chambering and finish work in-house for more control over the finished product. The barrel has a 1:8 twist and is threaded at the muzzle 5/8x24. The thread protector extends a bit beyond the barrel to help protect the crown.
These barrels are cryo treated. This process involves bringing the temperature of the steel to minus 300 degrees via liquid nitrogen and kept there for 24 hours. This deep freeze reduces inherent stresses in the barrel steel, and testing shows it seems to increase the accuracy of every barrel that undergoes the process. Cryo treating is a one-time, permanent process, and it’s good for the life of the barrel.
This top-of-the-line barrel is mated to a fabulous action. While you’ll see only the Rock River name on the side, these actions are actually the TL3 from Bighorn Arms. The TL3 is one of the most popular actions with the precision rifle crowd—at least those with some money to spend, as the bare action alone starts at $1,250.
This receiver is constructed of 416 stainless steel. The action sports a spiral fluted bolt body, interchangeable floating bolt head, controlled-round feed and a fixed ejector mounted in the receiver. The extractor is big and beefy, a piece of hardened steel protected and strengthened by two ridges in the bolt head.
The smooth bolt handle is large but not too large, and it unscrews if you want to swap it out for a different size or shape. (Bighorn Arms sells a half-dozen different bolt knobs.) The bolt movement is buttery smooth, but that’s to be expected with such a high-end action. There is a two-position safety—forward for Fire—and you can’t engage the safety if the firing pin isn’t cocked.
The barrel threads into the receiver, and then an external barrel nut is tightened down to keep everything in place. The barrel is marked for caliber on the right side, just forward of the barrel nut.
The receiver comes with an aluminum Picatinny rail with 20 m.o.a. built into it for long-distance shooting. Standard scope base holes are drilled into the receiver if you want to go with conventional ring mounts.
The barreled action is mounted in a Kinetic Research Group Whiskey-3 chassis stock that alone retails for $899. This chassis has aluminum bedding for the action. In fact, the chassis itself is a huge piece of aluminum that reaches all the way to the end of the fore-end, and the polymer stock pieces simply attach to that chassis.
Of course, the barrel free-floats above the fore-end. The fore-end has a QD sling swivel socket and stud, and many additional mounting points for handstops, rails and other accessories. Two polymer rail sections—one two-inch section and one three-inch section—are provided with the rifle.
The Accuracy International-pattern magazine fits snugly into the magazine well, and the 10-round magazine extends to the bottom of the pistol grip. These steel AI magazines have proven themselves in precision bolt guns, which is why so many rifle manufacturers use them. They have long feed lips and polymer followers. They feature a single column of ammunition at the top and then widen toward the bottom of the magazine to not quite a double-column stack.
The magazine release is a polymer lever just forward of the trigger guard. You can push it forward with the tip of your trigger finger or use the thumb of your off hand on either side.
The stock has a pistol grip with a vertical face that allows you to pull the rifle back into your shoulder. You’ll also note a hard polymer tab on the bottom rear of the stock that you can hook your off hand around to pull back into your shoulder as well or set atop a shooting bag.
The pistol grip is composed of polymer halves screwed onto the aluminum chassis. Supplied with the rifle is a second pistol grip that is both thicker and longer front to back than the factory-installed grip, which allows you to customize this part of rifle.
If you need to take the barreled action out of the stock, it is held in place by two screws, one forward of the pistol grip and one forward of the magazine well. Assembly is just as simple, although you’ll need a torque wrench to tighten the screws to the recommended 65 inch-pounds.
Length of pull, the vertical position of the cushy rubber buttpad and the height of the polymer cheekpiece are quick-adjustable. There is a tension screw for each. Simply loosen it by hand, adjust as necessary, and retighten. The comb height adjusts 1.5 inches, the length of pull 1.75 inches and the buttpad height about 1.6 inches.
The polymer cheekpiece can also be adjusted at least an inch forward and back, as well as reversed for left-handed shooters. A full instruction manual for the KRG stock is provided with the rifle.
The rifle comes with a TriggerTech trigger, although there is a Timney trigger option from the factory. This trigger has an adjustable pull weight from 1.5 to four pounds, and from the factory it provided an outstanding 2.75-pound pull weight. It is a single-stage trigger with a stepped face. There was no takeup and a crisp break.
Let’s take a brief moment to talk about your caliber options. The .308 Win. has been serving America well for decades, and you can find .308 ammo everywhere. The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t quite as common, but it’s getting there. In the past few years it has become hugely popular among hunters and long-distance competitive shooters thanks to its bullets’ excellent ballistic coefficients. You won’t see much difference in drop and wind drift between the .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor inside 600 yards, but beyond that the 6.5 Creedmoor really shines. In addition, the 6.5 Creedmoor has slightly less recoil.
For testing, I topped this rifle with a Leupold VX-6 3-18X scope. That amount of magnification would allow me to wring the utmost accuracy out of the rifle. I mounted it in a set of medium-height Steiner rings. I could have mounted the scope a bit lower, but I wanted to test the adjustable cheekpiece.
The KRG chassis stock was designed by several former Special Forces soldiers who have spent time behind precision rifles, so I wasn’t surprised to find the stock worked just as well shooting prone as it did off a bench.
This rifle balanced just forward of the magazine well, which made for comfortable one-handed carry. Once you add a scope, rings and ammunition, the rifle is going to weigh more than 13 pounds. Combine that weight with one of the softest rubber buttpads I’ve ever felt on a rifle and you’ll be able to shoot this rifle all day. Not that anybody can get that much ammo these days, but in theory.
The first bolt-action rifle I ever bought wasn’t a little .22 but rather a Steyr SSG P1 .308, and the RBG-1S reminds me strongly of that rifle. The box magazine-fed, polymer-stocked Steyr was an Indian government sniper contract overrun package deal, and it came from the factory with a Swarovski 6x42mm scope already mounted. With the right ammunition that rifle with its 2.5-pound trigger pull would do 0.75 m.o.a. all day long, and the RBG-1S puts that gun to shame in every way.
The RBG-1S was a joy to shoot. I bore-sighted it at home and first sighted-in the scope at the range at the 50-yard line. At that distance the rifle was doing one-hole groups. At 100 yards it would do m.o.a. groups easily with every type of ammo I had—even if my attention wandered or I got sloppy on the trigger. The gun shot half-inch groups with ammo it liked.
My youngest son was home on leave from the Army, and I got the opportunity to go to the range with him and two of his friends. They all took turns on the RBG-1S. His friends, who had never even touched a scoped bolt-action rifle before, were doing two-inch groups at 100 yards off the bench. That’s how shootable the rifle is. The only problem we experienced was being unable to chamber a round after my son loaded 12 rounds into the 10-round magazine.
Unfortunately, my testing was limited to a 100-yard range. This rifle just screams to head out West and stretch its legs at a PRS or NLR match. Thoughtfully provided with this rifle is a Pelican-style lockable hard case with wheels—which you’ll use, as it’s big enough for the rifle and everything you might want to bring along with it.
Whether you’re looking for a “tactical” short-action bolt gun or something suitable for the long-range circuit, the RBG-1S performs admirably and sports all the modern features discerning bolt gun users want. At this price range it is competing against well-established names in the field, such as GA Precision. While Rock River Arms is a well-known company, it is a company that does not have a history of producing bolt actions, so it has an uphill battle—but only when it comes to marketing. The rifle itself is more than capable of competing with the big dogs.
Rock River Arms RBG-1S Specs
- Type: Bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Win.
- Capacity: 10; accepts AICS-pattern magazines
- Barrel: 24 in. stainless (as tested), 1:8 twist; threaded 5/8x24
- Overall Length: 43.5 in.
- Weight: 10 lb., 3 oz.
- Chassis: Tan KRG Whiskey-3, fully adjustable, tan
- Trigger: TriggerTech adjustable (as tested); 2.75 lb. (measured, as received)
- Sights: None; 20 m.o.a. rail; receiver drilled and tapped
- Price: $4,235
- Manufacturer: Rock River Arms, RockRiverArms.com