The AR-10 is an AR platform, full length rifle designed to shoot heavy calibers. It is a great rifle that helps the AR platform meet the demands of even more facets of the gun community. With its roots stemming from the famous AR-15, there are very many similarities they both share to create that user friendliness and handling we all know and love, along with a few modifications that make it something unique entirely. Here is everything you need to know about the AR-10.
What does the AR-10 stand for?
Effectively, the AR-10 would stand for “ Armalite Rifle(AR) ” 10. This means that the AR-10 would be Armalite’s 10th model. Armalite likes to keep their denotation of firearms relatively simple. Even the AR-15 would be noted as Armalite’s 15th model, however the nomenclature for the AR-15 has very well been used to describe the style of gun rather than its actual affiliation with the original Armalite firearm.
When it comes down to it, the AR-10 does exist as one of Armalite’s models. When we take a look at the history of the AR-10, it was made around the same time as the AR15. Back then, the manufacturing/ engineering company was still looking to make a suitable rifle to obtain military contracts. This rifle actually precedes the AR-15 in its development, but as production numbers were very low for the AR-10, the company looked for new modifications that would lead to the birth of the AR-15 as we know it, and the subsequent models that would come after it.
The AR-10 did see military use, just not in the United States Military. As the AR-10 was initially made for the NATO cartridge, 7.62×51 NATO, it was meant to see use by the forces in NATO. It saw use by a few of the NATO forces including West Germany, Brazil, India, and Finland.
That being said, the AR-10 was originally designed to be a fully automatic implement for the NATO armed forces, but for the commercial market, where it has seen most of its success, we see only semi automatic variants of the rifle.
What caliber is the AR-10?
The AR-10 was originally designed for the union cartridge, 7.62×51 NATO. It resembles the dimensions and ballistic capabilities of the .308 Winchester, what we commonly see AR-10s chambered in for the commercial market.
The AR-10 however, is capable of taking similarly lengthened cartridges due to the size of its magazine well and bolt carrier group. In fact, today, we see less and less of the .308 winchester/ 7.62 NATO, and more hunting calibers than anything, like the 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 Grendel.
The AR-10 is an extremely modular rifle. As it is designed to be a full length rifle, the AR-10 is designed for many full length cartridges, making it great for hunting and long range shooting over 600 meters.
Fire Rate of the AR-10?
The fully automatic version of the AR-10 is capable of a higher firing rate than its semi automatic counterpart. However, that does not mean it is slow. Since it works off a simplistic design utilizing weighted springs and the expanding gasses of the fired cartridge, the system works simultaneously and instantaneously. In other words one can fire an AR-10 as fast as they are able to pull the trigger with no latency due to the function of the gun itself. The firing rate of an AR-10 varies due to the training of the operator.
How long is an AR-10?
The AR-10 is a full length rifle, meaning it typically has an overall length comparable to most long guns made for hunting or long range marksmanship. 40 to 50 inches would be the average overall length of an AR-10. It is designed for barrel lengths over 16 inches, the standard for the AR-15 which is a carbine length rifle. With barrel lengths starting from 18 inches, the AR-10 can maximize the ballistic capabilities of the rounds it commonly shoots.
Longer barrel lengths typically means better accuracy. This is because a longer barrel means a greater distance between the front and rear sights making the angle of acquisition much more critical. In this way, the AR-10 is typically much more accurate than the AR-15.
AR-10 vs AR-15
The AR-10 precedes the AR-15, so really the AR-10 is the progenitor of the functions of the AR platform. Developed by Eugene Stoner and Armalite, in affiliation with Faichilds engineering company, the AR platform features a series of unique systems that can be found in both the AR-10 and the AR-15.
Systems of the AR Platform
The Upper Assembly: The Upper assembly controls the gas system, houses the barrel and BCG, and is primarily responsible for the cycling of ammunition in the firearm.
The AR platform does this with the help of the gas block, gas tube and gas key. A small portion of the expanding gasses of the spent cartridge is funneled to the gas key which is connected to the BCG through the gas block and gas tube. This pushes the bolt back causing the extraction of the spent cartridge and the reset of the trigger in the lower assembly.
Priming the first bullet is also done from the upper. This is done with what is called a charging handle. The charging handle acts as a lever to pull the bolt back setting the first cartridge into battery, “charging” the rifle before it is ready to fire.
The Upper assembly is also where all of the attachments are installed. Optics, foregrips and muzzle devices are either secured to the handguard with either an M-Lok, or Keymod mounting system. Muzzle devices are installed on the end of the barrel.
Parts of the AR-10 Upper Assembly:
- Bolt Carrier Group
- Gas Block
- Gas Tube
- Flash Hider
- Upper Receiver
- Dust Cover
- Forward Assist
The Lower Assembly: The lower assembly houses the magazine, trigger group and buffer assembly. The lower is responsible for feeding rounds to the upper, firing the cartridges, and providing the necessary force to cycle the action.
The magazine well is placed directly in front of the fire control group. When a magazine is inserted into the magazine well, the charging handle must be pulled back in order for the bolt to pick up the first round.
The fire control group has several functions, the primary being firing the gun. However, in the fire control group is also the safety selector which when enabled locks the trigger in its unfired position. Note: the safety may only be engaged when the trigger is ready to fire.
The buffer system is characterized by a weighted spring which pushes back on the bolt when the gun is fired with the purpose of pushing the bolt forward, back into the battery. The buffer provides the force for the second part of the action to work, where the first part is the extraction of the spent cartridge, and the second part is the chambering of a new cartridge.
These systems of the AR work the same way in all AR style rifles and pistols.
Parts of the AR-10 Lower Assembly:
- Lower Receiver
- Buffer tube
- Buffer spring
- Magazine release
- Bolt catch
- Safety selector
- Takedown pins
The Pros and Cons of the AR-10
Now that we have gone over what makes the AR-10 the same as the AR-15, we will discuss the difference between the two, particularly what they are better suited for.
The AR-10 is a full length rifle, meaning it poses the same performance capabilities as other long guns. It is much better suited for hunting and other shooting activities that require longer range and high ballistics than the AR-15. Recoil is typically reduced in this platform compared to the AR-15.
- It’s better for hunting
- Less recoil
- High effective range
- Better ballistic capability
- Semi auto, (faster than most commercial full length rifles)
- Great for hunting
- Has a wide variety of Calibers
- Not Optimal for home defense
- Can be bulky
- Can be expensive
- Not suitable as a pistol
- Not intercompatible (DPMS vs Armalite)
Armalite vs DPMS
There are two official designs for the AR-10 each with their own compatibility whether by the manufacturer or the aftermarket. The Armalite progression of the AR-10 skyrocketed in the mid 2000s when the ban was lifted. In the time, a company known as DPMS came in to respec the original version, making it more compatible with the array of aftermarket parts coming out for the AR-15. The DPMS AR-10 resembles the AR-15 a lot more in its design with a curved section of the lower receiver in between the trigger and the buffer.
The Armalite AR-10 has gone through some changes since its original model came out. That is because Armalite sold the rights of the platform to Colt in the early 60s when they couldn’t gain traction quickly enough to win the US military contract. However, when the Colt patent ran out, Armalite picked the design back up and redesigned the lower and upper receivers with a straight slanted edge where the trigger portion of the lower meets the buffer portion.
While many of the attachments made for the AR are compatible with either the Armalite or DPMS designs, the upper and lower receivers are not compatible. This means that trying to make a custom AR-10 will require a little more studying as the generation and designs mean less overall parts compatibility.
Is the AR-10 good for hunting?
Hunting is often seen as America’s favorite pastime, besides baseball. That being said, the AR-10 brings a host of positive design features to the hunting game. The AR platform, being well suited for virtually any kind of customization, has a relatively easy time housing the necessary attachments for hunting.
The AR-10 shoots the .308 Winchester or 7.62 NATO as a standard cartridge. That means it relies already on one of America’s most famous hunting cartridges. And because the AR-10 is semi automatic, it is even better for hunting game that has an open season year round, like hogs.
The AR-10 has over 700 yards of effective range making it optimal for a great deal of bigger game animals. It is also able to utilize effectively a series of other cartridges, especially magnum cartridges which are even better suited for taking down bigger animals at longer ranges. As we know, the bullet slows down during its flight, so an increased range supplemented by an already high muzzle velocity means that it can lethally shoot bigger animals from farther away.
The Main calibers of the AR-10
- .308 Winchester
- 7.62×51 NATO
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- 6.5 Grendel
How much is an AR-10?
AR-10s rely on the same kind of parts used in an AR-15, however, the increased material required in the design inevitably bumps the price up a little bit more. On average, a complete AR-10 will have a price range from $600-$900. The price average is around $200 more than what one would normally pay for an AR-15, but for good reason. The bulkiness of the AR-10 is crucial as it is key in maintaining the integrity of the gun when firing such high powered cartridges.
The AR-10 is more specialized, meaning it is better suited for less than the AR-15. This means that while the AR-10 is a little more expensive outright, optimal attachments for a set up can end up costing much less.
Building an AR-10
Many people opt for building their AR-10s in order to save a little money. Building from an 80% lower receiver makes things cheaper for a few different reasons:
- Are not complete firearms
- Do not require background checks
- Do not require transfer fees
- Can be shipped to your house
- Still need machining to be done
How to build an 80% AR-10?
Unfortunately, if you are not set up to build an AR-10 there will be a slight cost in acquiring the necessary tools to get the job done. However building an AR-10 is a process that can be done with common household tools, namely a hand drill, router, or a drill press. The most important tool that you will need to complete an 80% lower AR-10 is a .308 jig.
The .308 jig is a series of plates that house the AR-10 80% lower receiver. The jig provides a protective barrier when drilling, reducing the chance for catastrophic failures during the build process. While doing this, the jig also provides the dimension and shape of the cut out needed to properly install the fire control group.
Once the machining of the 80% lower is complete, it is simply a matter of properly installing all the parts, testing the build for headspacing and functionality, and a final performance test to gauge if it is safe to shoot. Building an AR-10 from a complete lower will still entail all of these steps excluding the milling process of the 80% lower.
Here are the tools you will need to build an AR-10
- Jig kit
- Hand drill/ Drill Press/ Router
- Armorers wrench
- Roll pin punch set
- Hex wrench
- Vise grip
Is an AR-10 Legal to Build?
It is currently legal to build an AR-10 either from an 80% lower or from a completely stripped lower. When it comes to 80% lowers, the legality is based on the state, where they either regulate heavily or completely ban the sale and ownership of 80% lowers. Here is a list of states where it is illegal or the sale or ownership of 80% lowers is legal.
Here are the States where 80% lowers are illegal
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
Where to buy an AR-10?
Because of the exponential growth of aftermarket companies and manufacturers competing to give the community quality AR-10 parts, there are many places to find AR-10s. The most common place to buy an AR-10 is on the internet. From there, you will get access to a host of build kits and complete rifles, along with attachments and accessories to customize your new AR-10. The internet is rife with aftermarket parts and tools to optimize your build.
When buying an AR-10 online, you will get the choice to either buy a completed AR-10, which you must have sent to an FFL dealer near you in order to conduct the federal background check. This will likely incur a transfer fee on top of the shipping price and cost of the gun itself. There may also be a mandatory waiting period before the gun can be released to you, which can range from as little as 3 days to as many as 2 weeks after the background check is completed.
Buying an 80% lower online is much more cost effective, as 80% lower build kits are generally sold for much cheaper than complete AR-10s. The financial cost of the AR-10 is switched to be primarily a time investment however, where the builder will have to take the necessary steps to ensure the quality of their build is up to par with industry standards of performance and safety.
Aftermarket parts and accessories can most commonly be found online too. This is the most accessible method as there is a lot more variety online than at walk-in gun stores.
The AR-10 is versatile because of its AR platform lineage, however it takes a step in a specialized direction as it is optimal for long range shooting. As a full length rifle, it has better ballistic capabilities and effective range than its .223 counterpart. It is a great hunting rifle because of this, and since it uses a semi automatic action, it is even more optimal for game with year-round open seasons.
Buying an AR-10 is just as easy as buying an AR-15. The building processes are very similar, however they require different jigs in order to be milled out properly. That is because the dimensions for the AR-10 lower receivers are much bigger than the AR-15. The laws regarding 80% lower AR-10s are the same as those that govern the AR-15, so unfortunately, residents of these states where 80% lowers are illegal will not be able to make use of building as an option for owning an AR-10.
The budget for an AR-10 is around $200 more than an AR-10. But in the rifles of its class, it works out much cheaper in the long run. It is also more versatile than other rifles in its class because of its faster firing rate and customizable frame. The AR-10 possesses the same amount of modularity as the AR-15 although compatibility is not as good because there are two main design specifications: the Armalite and DPMS AR-10 platforms.
The AR-10 has a longer history than the AR-15 although it had a less than successful service life in the military with very low production numbers in the NATO forces. When Colt took control of the AR-15 patent, the M-16 became the main battle implement of the United States army succeeding the Springfield M-14, another 7.62×51 NATO military implement. While it didn’t have the best military record, it would become vastly popular in the modern age after the Clinton ban ended in 2004.
The AR-10 is widely available on the internet on online gun stores across the web. There is a range of products in the aftermarket at different budget levels that will suit the needs of the gun community at large. Buying an AR-10 is as easy as setting up a reasonable budget for materials and accessories, and then checking out.