Best AR-10s - Brownells BRN 10 series

The Best AR-10 Rifles in 2021

Kenzie Fitzpatrick

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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.

Despite going extinct for a short time, the AR-10 has seena rebirth and has grown today to be one of the best and most widespread .30-caliber autoloading rifles available.

In this Article:

Comparison of the Best AR-10 Rifles

Below is my list of the best AR-10 rifles for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.

Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of AR-10 rifles.

ImageNameRatingPrice
PSA PA-10
(4.4/5.0)
$1,149
Daniel Defense DD5
(4.8/5.0)
$2,499
Armalite AR-10
(4.5/5.0)
$1,714
Barrett REC-10
(4.6/5.0)
$2,565
Diamondback DB10
(4.3/5.0)
$799
Springfield SAINT
(4.7/5.0)
$1,452
Windham R18
(4.8/5.0)
$1,165

What to Look for in a Quality AR-10 Rifle

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 that offered accuracy and mobility in a single package.

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, front sight gas block, aluminum magazines, composite furniture with a straight-line stock, a forward assist, charging handle, 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

1. AR-15 or AR-10?

best ar-10 - comparing AR-15 and AR-10
A .308 AR-10 (top) vs a 5.56 NATO (bottom)

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.

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 for out-of-the-box range shooting performance.

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.

2. Caliber (as long as its .308)

AR-10 vs AR-15 - 308 v 556 bullets
The .308 Winchester (left) offers big medicine relative to the 5.556 NATO (right)

In the 1940s the Army set out to package .30-06-level performance into a smaller cartridge — the end result of their experimentation was the .308.

Why boil down “God’s Caliber”? Well, for an identical number of rounds the .308 shaves 15% off the weight (20 rounds of 180 grain .308 weighs 17 ounces, while 20 rounds of ’06 weighs 19.5 oz).

In short, the cartridge cuts weight without impacting ballistic performance — as the .308 is performant and lethal viable up to 800 yards out.

With a huge variety of bullet loads available — from as light as 79-grains up to a chunky 200-grains, the .308 is a capable long-range round, at home both in hunting, warfare, and varminting. Be it medium-sized predators like coyotes to any North American big game, the .308 has the power to get the job done.

When it comes to the LE side of the world, the same flexibility gives the .308 an incredible array of uses — plus it will knock down individual armor plate below Level III SAPIs much more effectively than 5.56 NATO.

3. 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 for uncompromised accuracy.

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

4. 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 more precision 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.

5. DI or Piston?

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 gas block or regulator and a carbine length gas system, 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 – using the same lower/upper receiver orientation but 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. Various builds will offer a mix of accuracy and mobility — its up to you to determine which gun strikes the right balance.

However, the current AR-10/SR-25 standard is very real and with new entries capitalizing on the interest in the platform – -and even retailers like Brownells cranking out AR-10s with their the Brownells BRN 10 — the 2020s are starting to look like the golden age of such rifles.

6. Gas blocks & systems

In the vein of similarity, AR-10s use a lot the same components of AR-15s. With a DI system the gas system redirects hot gas from the barrel — the propellant from a fired cartridge — and powers the action with a blast from the gas block which pushes the bolt back into the buffer tube. This prompts the ejection of the bullet casing from the breech and the forward movement of the BCG picks up another round from the magazine and rams it into the chamber.

This action is identical for AR-10s and AR-15s — with the exception of the caliber.

The Best AR-10 Rifles Reviewed

PSA-10 Rifle (Best Value)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
3.5/5
Value:
4.4/5
Overall:
4.4/5

What we liked:

  • Adjustable gas block
  • Builds on Gen 2’s strengths
  • Better finish than the Gen 2

What we didn't like:

  • Seating mags takes more effort than the PA-15
  • Gas block adjustment is a little clumsy
  • Gas block and handguard use different allen key sizes
Best AR-10 Rifles_PSA-10-5

Palmetto State Armory’s AR-10 variant in .308 Win is dubbed the PA-10. The second-gen PA-10 offers some nice upgrades over the Gen 2 model – most specifically a tunable gas block that will help dial out the tendency for these rifles to come, shall we say, a bit over gassed out of the box.

Beyond creating a more tunable rifle, the adjustability also gives you room to dial in a suppressor or other muzzle device of your choosing. You’ll need either a reasonably long allen key or to remove your handguard, but the adjustment is simple enough once you’ve got the right tool.

You’re not going to eliminate recoil, but you can dial the PA-10 much more effectively than the Gen 2. 

Best AR-10 Rifles_PSA-10-4
Adjustable gas block ahoy

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

Best AR-10 Rifles_PSA-10-2
In addition to the adjustable gas block the mid-length gas system keeps the PA-10 cycling smoothly

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 – all with multi-position adjustable PSA stocks.

Also, good news if you want to upgrade your Gen 2 PA-10 with the new upper — it’s available by itself and fully compatible with the Gen 2 lower. 

Daniel Defense DD5 (Premium Option)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
4/5
Overall:
4/5

What we liked:

  • Quality DD barrel
  • Rail is second to none
  • Forged lower & integrated trigger guard
  • Innovative charging handle 

What we didn't like:

  • Significant recoil impulse
  • 4-bolt barrel attachment system adds weight
Best AR-10 Rifles_DD5V3
DD's strength is rooted in their attention to detail, and their rails are some of the best in the biz

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. A lot of folks love Daniel Defense for obvious reasons — they make a great product.

The barrels are always top-notch, but some of the more interesting features include the ball-detent charging handle — which has replaceable latches for a nice level of customizability. 

Best AR-10 Rifles_DD5V3-1

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

Best AR-10 Rifles_DD5V3-3
The 4-bolt barrel attachment is secure -- but heavy.

None of Daniel Defense’s guns are 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.

Best AR-10 Rifles_DD5V3-4
The "GRIP-N-RIP" charging handle engages the release latch independently and ambidextrously. Plus you can swap the handles for something more aggressive if you prefer.

Expect Daniel Defense to continue to be a big name in AR-10s in the coming years. While not a DD5, we did a hands-on review of the DDM4 V7, which gives you a sense of their rifle build quality.

Armalite AR-10 (Best Stock)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
4/5
Overall:
4.1/5

What we liked:

  • Improved magazine support over the previous model
  • Big, chunky grip
  • Super crisp single-stage trigger
  • Fully adjustable stock & cheek rest

What we didn't like:

  • Ships without any optics or sights
  • Only includes a single magazine
Best AR-10 Rifles_Armalite AR10

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.

Best AR-10 Rifles_Armalite AR10-1

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, iron sights, and is geared towards 3-Gun and practical rifle competition.

Best AR-10 Rifles_Armalite AR10-2

For those looking to reach out and touch something with sub-MOA accuracy, 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 multi-position adjustable MBA stock.

The trigger is super crisp, possibly one of the best factory triggers on an AR these days. Coupled with the fully adjustable stock and you have a superbly shootable .308 on your hands.

Barrett REC-10

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.8/5
Quality:
5/5
Value:
4/5
Overall:
4.6/5

What we liked:

  • Immaculate build quality
  • Impressive balance
  • Soft-shooting

What we didn't like:

  • 3/4″ handguard 
  • Expensive
Best AR-10 Rifles_REC-10-2
The REC10 is focused on balance -- in part because the .308 gives you long-range potential. So yeah, you'll be mounting glass on it.

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 battle rifle. A .30-cal big brother, so to speak.

Given Barrett’s military and LE presence, the REC10, in part, is a product of their law enforcement client’s need for a more standardized AR-10 platform. The REC10 is a fighting gun, and Barrett has no shortage of SKUs in use with militaries around the globe. The REC10 is another notch in that legacy — and it lives up to the hype. 

Best AR-10 Rifles_REC-10-1
The 3/4" handguard may not be en vogue -- and can limit the extension of your support hand -- it offers the right mix of mounting space and weight reduction for the REC10's intended purpose: as a battle rifle.

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 and an oversized trigger guard.

The 3/4 length handguard is unique to the Barrett, which provides a good mix of mountable area while avoiding excess weight up-front. While full-length handguards are all the rage, Barrett thinks about their firearms a little differently. 

Best AR-10 Rifles_REC-10
The billet upper and lower are cut with incredible precision. No slack here. Plus the Raptor ambi charging handle is a nice touch.

Still in a carbine format, the REC10 offers up a lighter-weight profile for the 16-inch, button-rifled barrel and top it off with a mean muzzle brake and MBUS flip-up iron sights to help keep the weight down to 8-pounds.

This focus on balance is what sets the Barrett apart. The .308 is a round that offers long-range performance not found in an AR-15, so Barrett knows you’ll be adding glass to the gun. Focusing on that balance is what will helps the REC10 perform.

The gas tube is also unique — and dialed in a way that gives the REC10 less of a sharp recoil, and more of a pulse. That subtle pulse helps keep the gun on target, and speeds follow-on shots. That smooth function will also extend the overall life of the gun.

Diamondback DB10 (Best Entry-Level AR-10)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
3.3/5
Value:
4.4/5
Overall:
4.4/5

What we liked:

  • Very well priced
  • Muzzle brake is a smart addition for the .308 round
  • Fluted barrel lightens up the package

What we didn't like:

  • Slim handguard profile can transfer heat to your support hand
Diamondback DB10 308
The front end of the DB10 pairs a 15-inch handguard with a 16-inch barrel for the best of both worlds.

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.

Diamondback DB10 308 - Charging Handle
Many of the DB10's components are on par with pricier options, but the single-sided charging handle -- not so much.

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.

Diamondback DB10 308 - Grip & Upper
The MOE furniture will feel familiar to anyone who has handled ARs previously

The DB10 is remarkably capable for a sub-$1000 AR, with sub-MOA groupings more than possible at 100 yards, and 6-inch steel easy to ring at 200. 

Diamondback DB10 308 Lower Receiver
The recessed mag release is a nice touch that helps speed reloads.

Springfield Armory SAINT Victor (Lightest)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
3.3/5
Value:
4.4/5
Overall:
4.4/5

What we liked:

  • Surprisingly light
  • Single-stage, flat trigger included
  • Flip-up battle sights included
  • BCM stock & grip

What we didn't like:

  • Basic, single-sided GI charging handle 
  • Single-sided safety
  • Front Picatinny rail offers little real estate
  • Non-standard gas block adjustment
Best AR-10 Rifles_SA 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 battle rifle biz since before it was cool.

Best AR-10 Rifles_SA Saint Victor-1

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 7.62 rifle that comes standard with a 16-inch CMV barrel in a 15-inch M-LOK aluminum handguard, flip-up iron sights, coupled with a nickel boron-coated flat-faced trigger and a BCM Gunfighter stock.

If you like single-action triggers the SAINT offers one of the snappiest triggers — surpassed only by the Armalite AR-10 in my opinion.

The BCM Mod3 grip is also a nice touch — both for folks who prefer a straighter grip angle and want to hide a few goodies in the grip itself. Can’t have enough Skittles at the range IMO. 

It’s an AR 10 that’s made to get the job done from day one.

Room for improvement

That said, the single-sided charging handle and basic non-ambi safety aren’t particularly Gucci, but they’ll feel familiar to anyone who has spent any time around the AR platform.

It would also have been nice to more Picatinny coverage at the top of the rail. Sure, this limited top rail is part of what contributes to the light weight, but the limited 2-inch rail essentially eliminates your ability to run any other accessories in the 12-o’clock position. A few M-Lok slots would probably achieve a better balance of mounting space and light weight.

Adjusting the gas block can’t be done via a side adjustment — it’s done down the front of the handguard. Dialing in the gas for specific use cases also uses different screws.

This front adjustment requires either Springfield’s tool or a very long allen wrench. 

Windham Weaponry (Also Great)

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4/5
Quality:
3.7/5
Value:
4.2/5
Overall:
4/5

What we liked:

  • 18-inch barrel
  • Fluted, thick barrel profile
  • Heavily milled, reduced diameter handguard

What we didn't like:

  • On the heavy side
  • A2 flash hider is insufficient for a .308
Best AR-10 Rifles_Windham Weaponry-1
The Windham R18's finish is second to none.

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.

Best AR-10 Rifles_Windham Weaponry-2
The A2 flash hider makes for a very loud .308. Room for improvment for sure, especially for an AR of this price.

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. Slap on an optic or some iron sights and you’re off to the rapid fire races.

Best AR-10 Rifles_Windham Weaponry-3
The handguard is both aggressively milled-out, which helps lighten up the scales, but also reduced diameter, which makes it easier to grip.

Shortcomings

While the fluted barrel and heavily milled handguard help with weight, the R18 is a little on the heavy side relative to other options, and the inclusion of the A2 flash hider is an odd choice.

There’s really no reason to run an A2 flash hider on a .308 — they’re loud guns to begin with — and the A2 does little to tamp that down. It’s also not a cheap gun — so I’d expect a more effective muzzle device from a gun of this caliber.    

Sources

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.

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