The Best AR-10 Rifles

Who makes the best AR-10 rifle?

The grandfather of all the modern sporting rifles and the daddy of the comparatively smaller AR-15, the AR-10 rifle has been around for 65 years and, despite going extinct for a short time, saw a rebirth and has grown today to be one of the best and most widespread .30-caliber autoloading rifles available.

Quick List: Top AR-10 Brands

1. PSA-10 Rifle

Palmetto State Armory’s AR-10 variant in .308 Win is dubbed the PA-10.

While some turn up their nose at PSA guns, make no mistake, the company makes some seriously decent products and is building a reputation to continue to do so.

Leveraging their massive supply chain as an AR parts supplier, Palmetto usually lists a dozen or so models of the PSA-10 on their site at any given time ranging from lightweight 16.5-inch carbines with “mil-spec” triggers to 20-inch Teflon-coated stainless steel rifles with 2-stage trigger packs.

2. Armalite AR-10 (Current)

In 1995, Eagle Arms, a company known for their AR-15 variants, purchased the old ArmaLite trademarks and started marketing their guns under that iconic banner.

Since then they have been releasing more modern versions of the AR-10 in several models including the AR103GN which includes a 4-pound Timney single-stage trigger and is geared towards 3-Gun and practical rifle competition.

For those looking to reach out and touch something, they have an AR-10 Tactical series which runs a 20-inch heavy barrel, a full-length MIL-STD 1913 12 o’clock rail for optics, and a fully adjustable MBA stock.

3. Barrett REC-10

Departing from the long-range shooting .50-cal rifles which made them a household name, Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms in 2018 introduced a scaled-up variant of their REC7 5.56 NATO AR-15-style carbine.

Chambered in 7.62 NATO, the REC10 brings a 1:10-inch twist chrome-lined barrel to the party along with all the Magpul M-LOK slots you could want.

Still in a carbine format, the REC10 offers up a 16-inch button-rifled barrel topped off with a mean muzzle brake helps keep the weight down to 8-pounds.

4. Daniel Defense DD5

Georgia’s Daniel Defense started off making M4 rail systems, which naturally led to moving into production of all-up M4-style rifles, which in turn naturally led to up-sizing the same platform to 7.62 NATO.

The SR-25-style Daniel Defense DD5 series was introduced in 2016 and now includes the 16-inch DD5V3 and 18-inch DD5V4.

They aren’t cheap but they come standard with chrome-lined barrels, buffered super DLC-coated bolt carrier groups, and a user-adjustable gas block to help tweak use with suppressors– keep in mind Daniel Defense is a can maker as well.

Expect the company to continue to be a big name in AR-10s in the coming years.

5. Diamondback DB10

Florida-based Diamondback Firearms has made a big splash on the AR market in the past decade and today offer more than 20 AR-10 rifle and pistol variants.

These range from their top-shelf Diamond series which have 416-R stainless steel barrels, CMC 2.5-pound trigger, and ACS-L stocks to the more affordable ($800~) Carbon series which still come standard with a forged lower, 4150 CrMov barrel, M-LOK rail, and MOE stock.

6. Springfield Armory SAINT Victor

Borrowing the old U.S. Army’s defunct Springfield Armory name in the 1960s as they built semi-auto M1A variants of the M14, today’s Springfield Armory, Inc. has been in the .308 rifle biz since before it was cool.

It only made sense for the company to go AR, which they did recently with their SAINT series, and from there enter the AR-10 space with a .308 variant of the SAINT Victor last year.

Springfield Saint Victor featured at the SHOT Show

Springfield has done a lot of things right with their AR-10 entry, producing a light 7.8-pound rifle that comes standard with a 16-inch CMV barrel in a 15-inch M-LOK aluminum handguard coupled with a nickel boron-coated flat-faced trigger and a BCM Gunfighter stock.

7. Windham Weaponry

Rebooted with the former owners and employees of Maine’s famed Bushmaster Firearms company left behind when Remington bought the company and moved it out of state, Windham Weaponry jumped into the AR-15 world in 2011 with a lot of tribal knowledge already in place.

Their direct impingement AR10 rifle, the R18 series, offers a 15-inch M-LOK handguard and a MOE stock. Barrel length comes in at 18-inches. It’s also available a number of other chamberings, such as 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 BLK, for those interested. 

History of the AR-10

In the mid-1950s, Eugene Stoner, an often unappreciated genius of American small arms design, crafted the rifle that became the AR-10 while working for Fairchild-ArmaLite, a California-based aviation tech venture that at the time was exploring the use of lightweight materials used in aircraft fabrication for the production of light, forward-thinking firearms.

Best AR10 - AR10 1956
Fig. 1 “The original Fairchild-ArmaLite AR-10, shown in 1956 images from its military trials at the Army’s Springfield Armory.”

Atomic Age Materials

It was the “Atomic Age,” after all, and the U.S. had its eyes on a future filled with rocket packs and moon bases. The AR-10 was billed in a 1955 press release by ArmaLite as “combining the accuracy of a sniper rifle with the firepower of a machine gun.”

Stoner’s original prototypes of the AR (for ArmaLite Rifle) Model 10 were for a rifle that used aircraft-grade aluminum lower and upper receivers, a piston-less direct impingement gas system, aluminum magazines, composite furniture with a straight-line stock and a self-contained bolt carrier group to achieve a reliable select-fire 7.62 NATO-caliber infantry weapon that weighed in the neighborhood of 6-pounds.

If all this sounds familiar to those who know and love AR-15s today, there is an excellent reason for this.

AR-10 Rifles - handguard and gas system
A disassembled AR-10 handguard displaying the gas system

AR-10 vs AR-15

The early AR-10 prototypes included some things that, due to the nature of 1950s-era technology and manufacturing techniques, didn’t quite work out.

The composite aluminum barrel and a banana-sized soup strainer-style muzzle device weren’t up to the rigors or combat, despite the AR-10’s designation as the best .308 AR available at the time.

Army Trials Bear AR-15-Sized Fruit

Submitted for the U.S. Army rifle trials, the space-age firearm with some bugs (surprise, surprise) lost to the Army’s in-house developed and preferred wood stocked M14.

This led to a five-year overseas licensing deal with a Dutch firm in 1957 to make AR-10s for export to places like Sudan and Portugal while Stoner’s assistant, Robert Fremont, along with Jim Sullivan scaled the rifle down to .223 Remington for another round of U.S. Army trials, incorporating a shorter barrel & nice additions like Picatinny rails.

That scaled-down AR-10 was dubbed the AR-15. Fast forward over 60 years and the similarity between the two platforms is easy to see.

SR-25 vs AR-10

Long Range Uppers - SR25 Rifle at the Range
Maj. Gen. Douglas V. O'Dell shoots a 7.62mm KAC (Knight's Armament Company) SR-25 sniper rifle.

Remember Eugene Stoner? Well, in the 1990s, after the patents for the original AR-15 and AR-10 that ArmaLite sold to Colt in the 1960s ran out, the inventor was working for Reid Knight’s Knight’s Armament Company (KAC) in Florida.

Responding to a tender by the Army for a Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (SASS), KAC submitted the Stoner Rifle (SR) 25 for review.

The gun grew on the inventor’s original 1950s-era AR-10, which was never really successful on the commercial market, and modified it to take advantage of several generations of AR-15s that followed in the three decades after it. 

Comparing an SR-25 and AR

Moving forward from the light barrel of the AR-10, the updated SR-25 used a heavy match-grade barrel inside of an AR-15-style free-floating handguard.

Many of the internal parts, including pins, buffer tube, gas tube, springs, and triggers of the updated SR-25 style rifle, which became the new default “AR-10” in most respects, interchange with the AR-15.

Similar Controls

Most importantly, the rifle used standard AR15-based controls.

Knight’s SR-25 went on to win adoption with the U.S. military as the M-110 SASS in 2005 and has soldiered on for the past 15 years. Added to this were orders for the rifle in a slightly different format for the Navy and Marines as the Mk 11– which Navy SEAL Jack Carr described after his deployment to Iraq using one as an “urban sniper’s best friend.”

Is a FAL, SCAR, or M1A the same as an AR-10?

FN cut itsSCAR rifles standing at the ready modern teeth on 7.62 battle rifles and by 2004 had another trick up its sleeve. Answering a call from USSOCOM for a modular carbine that could go "light" in 5.56 or "heavy" in 7.62 with a lot of commonality between the two, the company came up with the concept today that is the SCAR or Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle.
A pair of SCAR rifles

When it comes to autoloading 1950s-era 7.62 NATO-caliber “battle rifles” such as the FN FAL, M14/M1A, HK G3, and similar HK91 clones along with its forerunner the CETME, it is easy to fall into the trap of lumping them all in the same category as being “AR-10s.”

This is fundamentally incorrect as each of those guns had its own, vastly different, evolutionary period and utilize actions to include using roller-locked delayed blowback and short-stroke gas pistons instead of direct gas impingement.

The latter being a hallmark of Stoner’s guns.

As such, the only thing that interchanges between the AR-10/SR-25 and these other rifles is the ability to use the same ammo.

The same can be said about newer guns such as the monolithic receiver FN SCAR series and a host of 7.62 NATO bullpups such as Kel-Tec’s bottom-ejecting RFB-24, the Desert Tech MDRX, &IWI’s Tavor 7.

Differences Abound

Some rifles, like the Colt LE6940P/MARC901, Heckler & Koch MR762, IWI Galil ACE, LWRC REPR, and Ruger SR-762 look much like an AR-10 style rifle on the outside.

Internally, however, they leave the Stoner-type direct impingement system behind in favor of a piston-driven system, often with an adjustable regulator, a factor that really makes them somewhat different platforms, albeit one that still has some commonality with the SR-25-style rifles.

Likewise, Lewis Machine & Tool’s MWS system still uses DI, but their monolithic upper sets it apart.

A Scaled-Up AR-15

In a nutshell, today’s AR-10s are essentially scaled-up AR-15s chambered in .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO and capable of taking SR-25/M110-pattern mags. Interested in .308 rifles? We’ve got a full review of the best .308 rifles here.

With that being said, there is no one single “type” of AR-10 on the market today– although a rebooted ArmaLite-branded company sells one labeled as such.

However, the current AR-10/SR-25 standard is very real and the 2020s are starting to look like the golden age of such rifles.

Sources:

  1. ATF, Rifles, 06/05/2015
  2. ATF, National Firearms Act Handbook
  3. NRA Museum, Armalite AR-10 Semi-Automatic Rifle
  4. Disassembled AR-10 Handguard

Common Questions:

What does the "10" in AR 10 stand for?

The AR is an abbreviation for “Armalite Rifle” – not “Assault Rifle” as is the common misconception. Eugene Stoner, Armalite-Fairchild weapon designer, developed the AR platform in the mid-1950s.

What is difference between AR 10 and AR 15?

The main difference is caliber. The AR-10 was originally chambered in 7.62, while the AR-15 uses 5.56/.223 cartridges. The AR-15 is a scaled-down version of Eugene Stoner’s original AR-10 concept.

Are AR 10s legal?

in general, yes. Unless your state restricts or prohibits semi-automatic or AR-style rifles, that AR-10 is indeed legal to bring home.

The Latest firearm Reviews:

semi-auto-shotgun

The Best Semi-Auto Shotguns

Why use a semi auto shotgun and what are the best brands? We break down the pros and cons of the semi auto shotgun and highlight some great options.

Remington 870 Tactical - Cover

The Remington 870 Tactical — A Guide & Restrospective

The Remington 870– the greatest selling pump-action shotgun in the history of firearms– is famous with sportsmen and has also been the gold standard for dependable and ultra-reliable tactical models for users both in and out of uniform.

best pistol grip shotguns - cover

The Best Pistol Grip Shotguns

Why use a pistol grip shotgun and what are the best brands? We break down the pros and cons of the pistol grip scattergun and highlight some great options.

Bergara Rifles - hunter in the field

The Best 6.5 PRC Rifles

Why use a 6.5 PRC rifle? We break down the pros and cons of “magnumized” 6.5 Creedmoors and highlight some great rifle options.

MICHAEL CRITES is el jefe around here. He has spent more than 30 years shooting, learning about guns, and collecting firearms old and new. He’s tried his hand at 3-gun, trap, and distance-shooting, but ultimately enjoys ringing steel in the back 40 of his farm. His mission is to make guns and shooting accessible for everyone, and American Firearms is a passion project to help make that a reality.

Connect with him on Facebook

Read more gun & gear reviews: