The Best AR-10 Rifles

Kenzie Fitzpatrick

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Disclosure: Products are selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases from a link. How we select gear.

Best AR-10s - Brownells BRN 10 series

This article is part of our Guide to Everything AR

The PSA PA-10 is the best AR-10 for most people. Palmetto State builds reliable, performant rifles with a huge collection of options — often at lower prices than competing brands.

Those looking for a shorter, premium Carbine-length barrel would do well the check out the Daniel Defense DD5 — it’s a bulletproof, high-quality rifle.

In this Article:

AR-10 Rifle Comparison

The grandfather of all the modern sporting rifles — and the daddy of the comparatively smaller AR-15 — the AR10 rifle has been around for 65 years.

Despite going extinct for a short time, the AR10 has seen a rebirth and has grown today to be one of the best and most widespread .30-caliber autoloading rifles available.

Below is my list of the best AR-10 rifles for 2022. 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.

ImageNameSelectionBarrel Length
PSA PA-10Best Full-Size20"
Daniel Defense DD5 Best Mid-Length18"
Armalite AR-10Best Carbine-Length16"
Barrett REC-10Carbine Runner-Up16"
Diamondback DB10Budget Pick16"
Springfield SAINTBest Light Weight16"
Windham R18Mid-Length Runner-Up18"

How We Picked

Barrel Length. We looked for rifles that fit into the logical 16″, 18″, and 20″+ ranges.

Reliable Brands. We concentrated our recommendations on brands with a history of reliable performance.

Weight. We kept for rifle selections under 9lbs in weight. 

Real-world Experience. The American Firearms staff has extensive experience shooting AR-10 & .308 rifles.

Our research team has several experienced long-range shooting experts, with Kenzie Fitzpatrick specifically having impacted targets well over 600 yards multiple times. We have been reviewing and assessing AR-10 rifles since 2019, and this collection of recommendations involved 20+ hours of research, range time, and conversation with AR experts. Our team for these rifles included NRA-certified gunsmiths and armorers as well as military history experts with decades of experience and knowledge of the AR’s evolution. They used their knowledge and know-how to evaluate each rifle recommendation.

When range time wasn’t an option we rented products from local gun ranges or went hands-on in local gun shops, which provided an opportunity to make informed recommendations.

The Best AR-10 Rifles

1. Best Full-Size: Palmetto State Armory PSA-10

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8.8lbs
  • Length: 39”
  • Barrel Length: 20”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

  • Reliable and affordable
  • Adjustable gas block
  • Builds on Gen 2’s strengths
  • Better finish than the Gen 2
  • Several configurations of barrel length and furniture

Cons:

  • 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 is a great rifle that 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.

Shooting the PSA PA-15 .224 Valk
Shooting the PSA PA-10

2. Best Mid-Length: Daniel Defense DD5 V4

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8.6lbs
  • Length: 39” fully extended
  • Barrel Length: 18”
  • Capacity: 5
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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.

3. Best Carbine-Length: Armalite BAT10

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 7. lbs
  • Length: 35” collapsed
  • Barrel Length: 16”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

  • For the purists, owning ArmaLite rifles  is a selling point
  • Big, chunky grip
  • Super crisp single-stage trigger
  • Fully adjustable stock & cheek rest

Cons:

  • 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.

4. Carbine Runner-Up: Barrett REC-10

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8lbs
  • Length: 37.75”
  • Barrel Length: 16”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

  • Immaculate build quality
  • Impressive balance
  • Soft-shooting

Cons:

  • 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 their legacy of high quality rifles — 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.

5. Budget Pick: Diamondback DB10

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 9.1lbs
  • Length: 38”
  • Barrel Length: 16”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Slim handguard profile can transfer heat to your support hand
  • 16” barrel is a little on the short end to make the most out of .308
  • Muzzle brake is a little on the small side to tame .308 recoil.
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.

6. Lightweight Pick: Springfield Armory SAINT Victor

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 7.75lbs
  • Length: 34.5” collapsed
  • Barrel Length: 16”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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. 

7. Mid-Length Runner-Up: Windham Weaponry R18

Performance Scorecard:

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

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8.45lbs
  • Length:38.8”
  • Barrel Length: 18”
  • Capacity: 20
  • Height: 7.75” at the pistol grip
  • Caliber:. 308
  • Action: Direct Gas Impingement, Semi-Automatic

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • 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.

AR-10 History

In the mid-1950s, Eugene Stoner, an often unappreciated genius of American small arms design, crafted the new 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.

The story goes Stoner was hired by Armalite founder George Sullivan after meeting Stoner at local shooting range.

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.”

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

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.

Comparing AR-15 and AR-10 -- both of which are outfitted with a flat-top A4 upper.
A .308 AR-10 (top) vs a 5.56 NATO (bottom)

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. We dive deep into these two rifles in our AR-10 vs. AR-15 comparison.

A .308 vs a 5.56 rifle bullet.
The .308 Winchester (left) offers big medicine relative to the 5.56 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, a .308 AR10 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.

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. 

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.

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 the autoloading 1950s-era 7.62 NATO-caliber rifles — or “modern battle rifle ” — 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.

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. For more on gas systems take a spin through our gas system deep dive.

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 – 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.

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.

Why an AR-10?

Exploded AR-10
An exploded AR10.

While the AR10 & AR-15 share common design features — that of being made of both an upper and lower receiver, critical components like the bolt carrier are distinct to each. The main benefit of the AR-10 over the similar AR-15 is the long-distance performance the caliber offers.

The former is commonly chambered in .308, and the latter is in 5.56mm. I say “commonly chambered in .308” because today, AR-10 rifles and pistols are available in a variety of caliber options, such as 6.5 Creedmoor. As a general rule I would call any AR larger than 5.56mm an AR-10.

With the larger caliber and longer-cased rounds, the AR-10 is more effective at ranges beyond 500 yards than an AR-15. 

The US has been using the AR-15 — in this case, the M4 and M16 series of rifles — for decades, but at the longer engagement distances of Afghanistan, the 5.56mm cartridge just was not packing the necessary punch. Thus, several military branches pulled old M14 rifles, the civilian version of which is the M1a, out of storage and began to issue them to designated marksmen.

Eugene Stoner designed the original AR in .308 to compete in NATO military trials against rifles like the FAL and the G3. Decades later, the original design and caliber are still excellent choices for folks looking to shoot at longer distances or bring a lot more with them ballistically speaking than a traditional 5.56 NATO AR-15.

Who Uses the AR 10?

Initially, the AR10 was a military rifle. In 1954, George Sullivan, the owner of Armalight manufacturing, a subsidiary of Fairchild Aviation, was out at a shooting range testing his very own AR-10.

Development of the AR-10 started in an attempt to win military contracts to replace the venerated M1 Garand. Firing the 7.62×54 NATO, with a 20-round lightweight aluminum ‘waffle’ magazine, aluminum steel composite barrel, a newly patented gas-operated bolt carrier system, and a few forged alloy parts led to a rifle that weighs less than 7 lbs (6.82 to be exact).

A classic AR-10 with carry handle scope attached.
A classic AR-10 with carry handle scope attached.

While the overall performance of these prototypes impressed the Springfield Armory staff, the aluminum steel composite barrel burst during torture tests they conducted. Future models were made with a full steel flute barrel, but unfortunately, this test failure lost them the contract, and the Springfield T44 (better known as the M14) won the contract.

A short time later, Nicaragua became interested in order of 7,500 AR-10s. In an attempt to fill this order, ArmaLite signed a manufacturing license with Artillerie Inrichtingen (A.I.) an armament manufacturing company out of the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, this contract would not turn out well either. When one of the Nicaraguan generals was stress testing the rifle, the bolt sheared and flew past the General’s head, leaving him understandably angry and refusing the order.

Shortly after this A.I. lost its manufacturing license. I can’t say I blame George for losing trust in his Dutch partner after an incident like that.

Changes to the rifle were made as time went on, such as steel fluted barrels with a fitted trim for the Sudanese government and upgrades for the regulator. Sales eventually were made to Burma, Italy, Cuba, and Portugal.

Because of the deteriorating relations between the US and Cuba at the time, ArmaLite had no chance to continue selling or manufacturing for Cuba. After learning from all the failures of the previous versions, the new and improved AR-10, with a simplified gas regulator for better reliability, was sold to Portugal.

It was adopted by paratroopers in the Portuguese military, and the rifle’s accuracy was commended. Some reports state that most rifles could reliably put a 1-inch group at 100 meters.

The AR10 never found many original, wide-scale military users. However, Knights Armament also took an interest in the rifle and, with the help of Eugene, developed the SR-25 (Stoner Rifle-25).

Like the AR10, the SR25 was another 7.62×51, with over 60% of the parts being interchangeable with the AR-15 and M16. The SR- 25 eventually found a military home with the US Special Operations Command. This was eventually adopted and named the MK-11 mod 0.

Building off of the success of the SR-25, Knights Armament came out with the M110, another 7.62×51 semi-automatic sniper rifle as a replacement for the M24 sniper system used by marksmen within the Department of Defense.

In 2011, the US military wanted to reconfigure the M110, stating they wanted a smaller, lighter version for their sniper teams.

The M110A1 was one answer to this. With the addition of a collapsible stock and removable flash suppressor, the rifle’s overall weight was barely 36 in and weighed 9 lb unloaded. It took half a century from Stoner’s original design, but the AR10, in some ways, has found its way back into the hands of the US military, who prize it for its long-range stopping power in engagements found in places like Afghanistan.

The platform’s growing popularity, the M110A2, and M110 A3 variants were developed with an improved gas system, newer suppressor, and adjustable stocks. The conversion to being chambered in 6.5 mm Creedmoor was the notable change in the M110A3. This required new upper receivers chambered for 6.5, new muzzle brakes, and precision adjustable stocks. Still, I consider this to be an AR10 at least in spirit.

Modern versions of the AR-10 have also been built by ArmaLite based on the original design. Chambered in .308 (a civilian variant of the 7.62×54 NATO round), the modern AR-10 holds a lot of value for some over other .223 chambered platforms. For a time, Brownells also produced reproductions of Stoner’s original design, if you’re lucky to find one.

As far as a short answer to the question: both the military and civilians use the AR10 today. The interesting bit to me here is that it took both groups nearly half a century to realize that Stoner was right in the mid-1950s.

The US military has once again seen the wisdom in long-range semi-automatic rifles. This stopping power and accuracy are also just as important when it comes to hunting in the civilian world; being able to hunt a deer or elk from a farther range and also having the power to make sure it gets put down in the first shot is a huge advantage.

The semi-automatic capability of the AR-10 allows for fast follow-up shots as well when compared to other bolt action rifles used for hunting.

The only downside of having the AR-10 fully loaded and equipped to go hunting is that it will be heavier than your standard wooden bolt action. And while that may not be a problem to some of you, I know after hiking for a couple of miles, those ten or so few extra pounds make a difference.

Its ability to effectively send rounds down range has also gotten its attention in the competitive shooting world. ArmaLite even offers an AR-10 specifically built for competition shooting.

Types of AR-10s

Here, we’re going to distinguish between four general types of AR-10, though there is some overlap between them.

  • Retro AR-10s. Brownells currently sells a reasonably faithful version of Stoner’s original AR-10 design, and it certainly looks and feels like a classic AR. Besides the furniture, one feature makes these different from Stoner’s original — the first AR-10 charged at the top of the receiver instead of the back. You’ll see this as what looks like a second trigger in what we now call the carry handle. Initially, the carry handle was intended to protect the charging handle and house the rear sights.
  • Modern AR10s. Second, more modern AR-10s look and feel like the contemporary AR-15s many of us are used to as primary rifles. These charge in the back and usually come with some variation of tactical stock and an upper receiver/rail system with room for accessories. This is what you want if you’re looking to mount a bipod, scope, and the standard kit for long-range shooting in the 21st century.
  • Long-Range AR-10s. Thirdly, most AR-10s have longer barrels, exceeding 16″. That length helps maximize the cartridge’s effective range by letting all of the powder of the .308 round burn off, making the AR a generally accurate rifle at ranges greater than that possible with the 5.56m. The longer barrel also helps to cut down on muzzle flash and recoil, always a good thing.
  • AR-10 Pistols. Fourth, there are short-barreled AR-10s, all the way down to AR-10 pistols with barrels of 10” or so. These do not take full advantage of the .308 as the short barrel lengths do not allow the bullet to reach its maximum velocity, but they are a lot of fun on the range and tend to shoot fireballs out of the muzzle from the burning gun powder. We dove deep into the world of .308 pistols and came up with some recommendations.

As a final note, some places market AR-10s in both direct gas impingement and gas-piston systems. To get a little selective here, only direct gas systems are proper AR-10s, which is the system used in the original design.

However, many gas piston guns, which borrow elements from other contemporary platforms such as the AK series of rifles, are excellent in their own right.

They look and feel close enough to an AR that we don’t need to correct people about it in person, but technically, they’re not ARs if you’re being strict in the design interpretation.

DPMS LR-308 VS Armalite AR-10

It's important, but not critical, to know the difference between DPMS pattern and ArmaLite pattern AR10 lowers.
It's important, but not critical, to know the difference between DPMS pattern and ArmaLite pattern AR10 lowers.

AR10s don’t quite have the standards of the smaller AR-15, with two primary lowers seen in the wild — DPMS pattern and Armalite-style lowers. These lowers are not compatible, so no mixing and matching.

Beyond a lack of part compatibility, things like buffer tubes, gas blocks & tubes, and bolt catches need to be DPMS or ArmaLite compatible.

While there are a few compatible bits — trigger springs, takedown pins, roll pins, threaded brass inserts are all interchangeable, just do your research before you try to swap in parts from the other style of rifle, as you’ll likely be surprizied. When in double just pick up an LPK for your specific build to eliminate headaches.

DPMS option are newer and generally sold as LR-308, AR-308, and other similar names. They’re common and cheaper than ArmaLite options, but less traditional.

For those who want a truly classic AR-10, then you’ll need to pick up an ArmaLite model. There’s really no advantage to these style lowers, but for the diehard there’s really no other option.

Important Features of an AR-10

If you're going to want to mount accessories a functional fore-end is a must.
If you're going to want to mount accessories a functional fore-end is a must.

When it comes to an AR-10, there are four features that we look for before making a purchase recommendation.

  • Barrel Length. The first, and arguably most important, is the barrel. To get the most out of the .308, we want a barrel over 16” in length to maximize velocity. From there, we prefer a barrel that is cold hammer-forged to guarantee a longer barrel life, though this only matters if you plan on shooting a lot of rounds at fairly high rates. We also stay away from chrome-lined barrels: this holdover from the M16 days is fantastic for reducing corrosion in, say, Vietnamese jungles but may very slightly degrade accuracy. For more on AR barrels check out or explainer.
  • Trigger. Second, the trigger of an AR-10 is vitally important. For our AR-15 rifles, we’re mostly okay with military triggers that have a little bit of play and some grit. But with an AR-10, mainly when shooting much longer distances, a trigger with unwanted play can throw off shots, which we’re trying to avoid here. Instead, we recommend trying to find a model with an upgraded trigger or, ideally, one that has a user-adjustable trigger from the factory so that you can dial it to your preferences.
  • Fore-end & Handguard. A third thing that we look for n a complete rifle is the fore-end. Ideally, an AR-10 will come with a handguard that free-floats the barrel and gives you plenty of room to install accessories. We like to run our AR-10s with bipods, as they tend to be rifles we plan to use to shoot longer ranges rather than using them for a general-purpose rifle like the AR-15. If you’re looking to add a complete upper to an existing lower, just look for one from the same brand to eliminate any headaches with fit.
  • Stock. Finally, take some time to think about the stock. Many AR-10s come with fixed stocks, but this is slowly changing as consumers want more adjustability and interoperability with the AR-15s of the world. With that said, a fixed stock can offer a more accurate option, assuming you get one with a length of pull that is comfortable and consistent for you. We choose to go with stocks that have some means of user adjustment so that we can go from standing to kneeling and prone while maintaining a good sight picture and consistent trigger pull. This one is a lot of personal preference, but it’s certainly worth thinking about before making a purchase.

AR-10 Pricing

  • Under $1,000. For under $1,000, most gun owners in the market can expect complete rifles that simply work. The trigger might be nothing special, and it likely will not have many fancy features such as upgraded charging handles or the best furniture in the business. Still, these can be excellent basic rifles for people on a budget. In this price range, you’ll also almost certainly have to provide your own optics as well, which is excellent if you have a specific optic in mind or, as many AR shooters, have an unused scope sitting in a drawer begging to be put to use.
  • $1,000 more over. Over the $1,000 mark, and the sky is more or less the limit here. You can pick and choose the features that you like. For instance, the more you spend, the more likely you are to find features like high-end barrels, better muzzle devices, included optics, and so on. Brands in the space are the likes of Aero Precision, Daniel Defense, and Barrett.

Whatever your budget is, the AR-10 is a platform that’s more than worth exploring if you want to start shooting at longer distances but also want the familiar controls of an AR platform rifle.

Especially with the development of new .30 caliber bullets and loadings, the AR-10 will likely be here to stay for years.

More Resources

FAQs

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.

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.

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

Short answer, yes. Long answer, not all the time.

The AR-10 has gone through a lot of changes throughout its days. Even the trademark AR-10 has been held by Colt for a few years before being bought back by ArmaLite. While most civilian variants are chambered in .308. Some additions can be found chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, and the newer M5 ( an AR-10 in spirit)  chambered in 6.8 by 51. 

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