Review: Ruger SFAR
The AR-15 platform has become the most popular rifle in America and so has found a home with hunters. For proven big-game cartridges like the .308 Winchester family, a hunter had to move up to the larger, heavier, AR-10 or AR-L (AR-Large) style of rifle. But the joy wears off soon enough as lugging a gun weighing double digits with optics becomes burdensome.
Remington/DPMS took a run at the problem with their Gen II line of AR-L rifles. These were lighter and scaled down from their previous AR-L rifles. Great guns, but now a bankrupt company.
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Now we have the Ruger Small Frame Autoloading Rifle (SFAR) picking up and running with the flag. This new, groundbreaking, .308 introduction is nearly identical in size to the AR-15-style rifle, yet it’s chambered in .308 Winchester, a serious hunting cartridge. I would fully expect the line to be expanded soon to include 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Winchester and perhaps others.
The rifle with a 16.1-inch barrel weighs only 6.8 pounds. That’s the same as a standard Ruger 5.56 rifle in similar configuration. Most other AR-L .308 rifles will be a pound to 2 pounds heavier.
The rifle comes in two barrel lengths, 16.1 inch and 20 inches. As this is a hunting gun, I didn’t hesitate to order the 20-inch barrel, even though it adds .4 pound to the weight. I have found over the years in testing the .308 in a lot of barrel lengths that it forfeits a considerable amount of velocity in short barrels.
The gun comes with a very effective Ruger two-port Boomer muzzle brake fitted on a ⅝ -24 muzzle thread. This of course means the gun is compatible with other brakes, flash hiders and suppressors. “Boomer” is a good description; like any brake, it’s loud. For hunting I would remove the brake and install a thread protector or more likely install my Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold suppressor.
The black oxide-coated, heavy-profile, hammer-forged barrel is 4140 chrome-moly steel and has 5R rifling. The 15-inch free-floating aluminum handguard uses Magpul M-LOK accessory attachments. It also has a full-length Picatinny top rail. Sockets for quick-disconnect (QD) sling swivels are located at the muzzle end of the handguard, the back of the lower receiver and in the adjustable-length buttstock. This allows using a two-point sling, which is in my never humble opinion the best option to carry the rifle while hunting.
The SFAR has a rifle-length gas system with a .75-inch diameter, four-position rotary-regulator gas block. The shooter can adjust it to a wide range of ammo and for using a suppressor. Adjustment is easy with a 3/16-inch Allen wrench. Conveniently, one such wrench is hidden inside the pistol grip behind a trap door.
The bolt and barrel extension are CNC-machined from high-strength steel that Ruger says will outperform traditional C158 bolts. Tapered lug geometry further strengthens the breech to support larger short-action cartridges.
It has a chrome-lined 8620 steel bolt carrier and nitride-processed gas key staked in place. The titanium firing pin has been DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coated. The bolt includes dual ejectors and a purpose-designed extractor as well as an enlarged ejection port.
The trigger is Ruger’s Elite two-stage. Trigger pull averages 3 pounds, 14 ounces. The first stage is just over 2 pounds, so to complete the pull takes less than 2 pounds. The second stage has some mushy travel and there is a bit of overtravel after it breaks, but overall, it’s one of the better factory AR triggers I have tried. A full-strength hammer spring and lightweight hammer ensure fast lock times and consistent primer ignition, important with .308 ammo. I had no function issues when shooting the gun, even with some surplus military ammo.
The forged receivers are 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum. The upper includes the traditional brass deflector and forward assist. The upper also has a full-length Picatinny rail. The lower receiver has a flared magazine well. There are safety vent holes in the upper receiver, barrel extension and bolt carrier to direct the gas safely away from the shooter in the event of a case failure. The buttstock is a Magpul MOE SL and the grip is a Magpul MOE as well. All controls are standard AR-style in right-hand only.
While many of the components are specific to the SFAR, the rifle is also compatible with mil-spec MSR trigger groups, receiver end plates, charging handles, pistol grips and adjustable stocks.
The gun normally comes with one, 20-round Magpul PMAG magazine and is compatible with SR25/AR-10-pattern .308 Win./7.62 NATO magazines. In my case, I live in the communist state of Vermont, so it shipped with a 10-round magazine. However, I have a lot of older magazines that were grandfathered when the smears in Montpelier passed the magazine ban. These all work well, including some 30-round magazines I tried.
I first installed a 6-24X Swarovski scope for the formal range test. I was amazed at the accuracy this gun is capable of producing. It loves the Remington 168-grain Match ammo, which resulted in several tiny groups. Every ammo I tried was accurate, but this stuff was amazing in this rifle.
We tried shooting at 100 yards from field positions. Mike Brookman and I were easily able to run our MGM Know Your Limits target, hitting all targets including the 2-inch final target.
I replaced the big scope with a Bushnell 1-6.5x30mm with an illuminated dot. I also plan to use this gun for competition, plinking, for home defense and hunting, so this is a very good all-around optic.
This gun is fun to shoot and makes a day at the range enjoyable. Why is this important to a hunting gun? It builds familiarity, skills and confidence in the rifle. Learning to be decisive and to shoot fast has helped me take a lot of deer over the years. With luck, I’ll add a few more with this rifle this fall.
• Type: semi-auto centerfire rifle
• Caliber: .308 Win.
• Magazine: Magpul PMAG; 20-rnd. capacity (10-rnd. capacity mags available); compatible with SR25/AR-10-pattern .308 Win./7.62 NATO magazines
• Barrel: 16.1″, 20″ (tested); heavy contour; 5R rifling; 1:10″ RH twist; threaded ⅝”-24 w/Ruger two-port Boomer muzzle brake
• Gas-System Length: rifle
• Trigger: Ruger Elite 452; two-stage; 4.5-lb. pull weight
• Sights: none; Picatinny rail for optics
• Safety: AR-style, two-position
• Stock: Magpul MOE SL; Magpul MOE grip; 11″-14.25″ LOP; tubular aluminum, free-floating, 15″ handguard w/M-LOK slots; full-length Picatinny top rail; QD sling swivels
• Metal Finish: Type III, hard-coat anodized
• Overall Length: 38″-41.25″
• Weight: 7.3 lbs.
• Accessories: gas-block adjustment tool
• MSRP: $1,329; ruger.com
Article by BRYCE M. TOWSLEY