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: The Top AR-10 Rifles for Any Shooter
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.
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.
Currently the only maker in the “retro” AR-10 game, producing rifles that look as if they left Eugene Stoner’s workbench in 1956, Brownell’s BRN-10 carries the top-mounted trigger-style charging handle under the carry handle– which in itself is a rarity these days as everyone else markets flat-topped AR-10s.
Likewise, it has a three-prong flash hider that looks like it served in Angola in the 1960s. In a nod to the 21st Century, however, the BRN-10 accepts metal SR-25 style mags and has a Faxon-made fluted barrel.
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.
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.
The SR-25 series rifle by Knights Armament recast the AR-10 style rifle– or .308 Win-caliber AR-15, depending on how you look at it– and is still a benchmark that is in factory production.
Today’s SR-25 models which use 5R hammer-forged barrels, 2-stage match triggers, and M-LOK handguards, include a 16-inch Combat Carbine (CC), 16-inch Precision Carbine (PC) and 20-inch Precision Rifle (PR).
PSA PA-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.
Savage MSR 10
Savage Arms has been around for centuries and only recently moved into the AR, aka “modern sporting rifle” market, and their MSR 10 series is high-value and feature-rich.
Like many AR-10 rifle makers, they produce guns in a more basic format– such as their MSR 10 Hunter and Hunter Overwatch series which use a Magpul MOE stock and 16.125-inch carbon steel 5R barrel– up to a 20- and 22.5-inch MSR 10 Precision model with a two-stage target trigger and Magpul PRS adjustable buttstock.
Their luxury AR-10 is the MSR 10 Competition model with a nickel boron-coated BCG and PROOF Research 18-inch carbon fiber wrapped stainless barrel.
Sig Sauer’s original 716 series rifle isn’t a true Stoner-style AR-10 as it is a piston gun, but the company just recently introduced a lightweight direct impingement system model, dubbed the 716i, that comes ready to play.
The model is vanilla, with a 16-inch carbon barrel, single-stage trigger (with a Matchlite Duo Trigger upgrade available), and Magpul furniture, but it is a Sig.
The model has proven itself popular enough that the Indian Army, currently facing off against China and Pakistan in mountainous border regions where precision long-range rifles are key, just ordered 72,000 of them last year and doubled down on another 72,000 this year.
Smith & Wesson M&P10
Like Savage, Smith & Wesson has been around for generations, and only more recently the firm, best known for their handguns, moved into the AR market with their M&P15 series guns.
In 2013, they made the logical jump to the .308 Win-chambered M&P10 series which has been well-received and deliver a lot for the money. Big Blue has a few different models of the M&P10 including the $1K Sport which comes with their proprietary Armornite nitride finish, 6-position M4 style stock, and 16-inch 4140 barrel.
Moving up from there they have camouflage hunter models, are one of the few AR-10 makers that try to make California-compliant guns, and Performance Center models geared to serious precision work.
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 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.
Stag Arms Stag 10
Wyoming-based Stag Arms has always been an AR-15 maker and their Stag 10 series of AR-10s are no-frills guns meant for hard work.
The company offers what they term “Bones” models that come sans furniture to allow end-users to pick their own to best suit their tastes.
Moving past that, their all-up rifles include the Stag 10S, an 8.25-pound carbine with a 16-inch 4150 steel chrome-lined barrel, and a Magpul SL-S stock. Meanwhile, those with a taste for longer range may want to opt for the Stag 10 LR which has a 20-inch barrel, nitride QPQ carrier group, and adjustable Magpul PRS stock.
Windham Weaponry R18
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.
Their direct impingement AR10 rifle, the R18 series, uses an 18-inch fluted 4150M CMV barrel coupled with a 15-inch M-LOK handguard and a MOE stock.
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.
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 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 such as a composite aluminum barrel and a banana-sized soup strainer-style muzzle device.
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
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.
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.
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?
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 their 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, with 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, and IWI’s Tavor 7.
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, but internally 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.
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.
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.
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