Don’t think of the Ruger SFAR as an AR10 in an AR-15’s body. It’s more like an AR-15 that’s chambered in .308 Winchester. And it’s wonderful.
How did Ruger do it? Witchcraft. Probably.
The external dimensions of Ruger’s Small Frame Autoloading Rifle (SFAR) and your grandfather’s AR-15 are practically identical. Take a look at the lower receivers. The take-down and pivot pin holes line up between the tan AR-15 receiver and the SFAR.
The SR25/AR10-size magazines necessitate a larger magazine well, but the rest of the lower receiver is very similar. Swap in any standard AR-15 trigger, mil-spec buffer tube, grip and buttstock you want. The buffer spring and the buffer itself are particular to the SFAR, however, and should not be replaced with aftermarket parts.
The stock furniture is great, including a Magpul MOE SL stock and Magpul MOE grip. The slimline M-LOK-compatible handguard has slots on 270 degrees, with the top smooth except for a small section of rail at the muzzle end.
The trigger is Ruger’s own Elite 452 trigger. Ruger advertises a 4.5.lb trigger pull, but this one measured to 3 lbs 9.1 oz when averaged over five pulls on my Lyman digital trigger scale and the extreme deviation was just under 3 oz. The curved shoe has a wee bit of grit after the 1st stage slack and features a solid, very positive reset.
This upper receiver features a 16.1″ chrome-moly heavy profile barrel with 5R rifling and a 1:10 twist. A 20″ version is also offered that adds half a pound of weight. but gains the ballistic advantages of a likely 100+ fps of muzzle velocity. You’ll find Ruger’s “high-strength super alloy steel” in the barrel extension mating up to the bolt itself.
There are some obvious differences in the bolt carrier group, but it’s very similar in overall size to the standard AR-15 BCG. Again, compare the AR-15 BCG on top with the SFAR BCG on the bottom in the photo above.
The bolt face itself is obviously a different size, and the bolt has larger, tapered lugs, dual plunger style ejectors and a larger extractor. It’s also clearly a different material than Carpenter 158 and Ruger touts this “high-strength super alloy steel” as a key feature in the gun’s ability to stay small and light while retaining the strength necessary to handle the larger chambering.
The carrier itself is chrome lined 8620 steel and the titanium firing pin has been DLC coated. When it comes to the guts of the gun, Ruger didn’t skimp.
The SFAR features a 4-position gas regulator. This one shipped on the “3” position, throwing as much gas back into the receiver as possible. I had zero reliability issues with this setting, but after a couple of hundred rounds I noticed my brass was getting absolutely launched from the gun.
Using a 3/16 wrench (Ruger supplies one and tucks it inside the grip) I turned the setting back to 2. That reduced carrier speed, diminished shock back into my face, and still gets me perfect reliability while using the factory muzzle brake.
That muzzle brake is a big ol’ two-port affair that does a great job at reducing recoil but significantly adds to the noise and blast of the .308 Winchester cartridge, already loud from the short 16.1″ barrel.
Since the entire rifle weighs in at 6.8 lbs., that muzzle brake is required in order to keep your eye in the glass for precise shots or fast follow-ups. A sub-7 lb. 7.62 NATO gun is going to kick…there’s just no fighting physics.
The better option is, of course, to put a can on it. Ruger makes that very easy, using a jam nut to time the brake and lock it in place, exposing the practically standard 5/8″x24 threads.
I shot the first 300 rounds with the supplied muzzle brake, then another 260 with a SilencerCo Omega suppressor attached and with the gas regulator set to the “1” setting. I also shot a few rounds suppressed and some unsuppressed with the rifle on the “0” setting, and in both cases, it turned the rifle into a single shot rifle, as advertised.
I lubed the SFAR with a healthy spray of CLP prior to shooting it, shot 20 rounds, cleaned the barrel, and did that twice more. After that, I never cleaned any part of the gun again until the review was over and it was time to take photos.
Yes, it got dirty, but it never failed in any way. That said, my load selection was a bit narrow, out of necessity. I shot 40 rounds of Hornady’s 150gr SST Superformance round, which I’ve found to be a phenomenal hunting cartridge. I fired 60 rounds of Hornady’s 178gr BTHP Match round, and all the rest were my own home-rolled 175gr SMK M118LR clone cartridge. Ammunition pickins has been slim around here lately.
If I were to judge the SFAR’s precision on my first 200 rounds, I would have given it middling scores, at best. My first five rounds of that 150gr Hornady round printed a 2.1″ five-round group at 100 yards from a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest and a US Optics 10X scope (sighting the gun in). My own home-rolled round printed 1.8″.
Shooting it all again nearer the end of the review, things had changed quite a bit. After 400 rounds through the gun, the 150gr round was still the worst performer, but now printing 1.6″ five-round groups averaged over four shot strings. My 175gr SMK barely beat that, at 1.5″, but the Hornady 178r BTHP Match round printed the best results at 1.2″.
No, nothing broke the 1 MOA mark, but that would be particularly challenging with a sub 7 lb. .308 autoloader. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen a sub-7 lb. autoloader break the 1 MOA mark consistently, at least not with five-round groups, but I’m hopeful.
I’m a huge fan of cartridges like the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel for the simple reason that you can get a lot of terminal effect in a small, lightweight AR-15 package. The SFAR takes that a huge step further.
Yes, those cartridges are still great simply for their lack of recoil and efficiency, but there’s no denying they don’t touch the .308 Winchester in terms of energy and mass delivered on target, especially at longer ranges.
The only real question here is longevity. This gun performs well at the 500+ round mark and shows no signs of significant wear. But what’s it going to look like at the 6,000 round mark, and how easy will it be to re-barrel the gun when it gets there? There’s one word that soothes my fears there, and it’s “Ruger” whose customer service and aftermarket support are second to none.
The SFAR, especially this 16.1″ barreled version, balances well in the hand. The muzzle stops and starts quickly and breaking the trigger on target then getting back on target is no real challenge, especially considering the chambering. It’s a .308 autoloader that’s easy to shoot and extremely easy to carry.
Ruger’s done something pretty amazing and unique here. Yes, there are a few other companies making AR-15(ish) guns that shoot 2.800″ OAL cartridges, but none that I know of that are quite this light, or light on the wallet. I was able to easily find this rifle online for under $1,100. I don’t know how Ruger will keep them on the shelves.
Specifications: Ruger SFAR Autoloading Rifle
Caliber: .308 Win.
Stock: Magpul MOE SL
Handguard: Lite Free-Float with M-LOK Attachment Slots
Barrel Length: 16.10″
Thread Pattern: 5/8″-24
Grip: Magpul MOE
Capacity: 20Receivers: 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum forging
Finish: Type III Hard-Coat Anodized
Weight: 6.8 lbs.
Twist: 1:10″ RH
Overall Length: 34″ – 37.25″
Length of Pull: 11″ – 14.25″
MSRP: $1,329.00 (about Ruger SFAR)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
It looks like an AR, but a good one.
Customization * * * * *
There are a few pieces specific to the SFAR, but it’s pretty amazing what all isn’t. When it comes to how the gun looks and feels, there is a ton of aftermarket options available.
Accuracy * * * *
Not breaking the 1 MOA means no 5-star rating, but near there is very good for such a lightweight AR.
Reliability * * * * *
Perfect, suppressed or not.
Overall * * * * *
I wanted to review this rifle and when I got it, I found it very boring. Just another AR. But…this is just another AR-15, that shoots .308 Win, and shoots it well, all day long, with lots of ability to customize…and with solid features, under 7 lbs., and pretty affordable. Ruger may have just made the perfect all-around truck gun. It’s been quite a few years since I bought an AR, but this one just made the top of the list.