The AR platform is immensely modular. Because of this, the platform has been evolved in several ways to make it able to take bigger rifle cartridges; the .308 AR-10 rifle. Originally made by Armalite with its model AR-10, this evolution of the AR platform is bigger and wider than the standard AR-15, allowing it to perform exceptionally well with common big game hunting cartridges.
The AR-10 .308 rifle is a great implement for many different situations. It not only has defense applications, but displays exceptional prowess at range, making it optimal for marksmanship shooting and especially big game hunting. However, how does it compare to the AR-15, what has typically been called America’s most popular rifle?
What is the difference between the AR-10 and the AR-15
The AR-10 .308 is among the same family as the AR-15. While the AR-15 technically shoots a rifle cartridge, the .223 remington/ 5.56 Nato it is still only considered a varmint hunting round. It does not display the same, or even close to the same ballistic capability as the rounds available in the AR-10.
The standard cartridge for the AR-10 is .308 winchester. This is one of the most common hunting rounds in the United States, and is also used in the NATO forces as the 7.62×51 NATO. It is a versatile round with a lot of stopping power, muzzle velocity, and range to boot. Here are the ballistic capabilities of the .308 winchester.
Ballistics of 125 gr .308 winchester:
- Muzzle Velocity (fps) 2820
- Muzzle Energy (foot pounds) 2648
- Maximum Pressure (psi) 60191
Ballistics of 55gr 5.56 NATO:
- Muzzle Velocity (fps) 3260
- Muzzle Energy (foot pounds) 1294
- Maximum Pressure (psi) 62366
As you can see, there are some major differences between the .308 and the 5.56 in terms of muzzle energy. That is because the .308 Winchester contains a great deal more mass than a 5.56. The 5.56 NATO still competes with the .308 Winchester in muzzle velocity, which is the speed of the projectile when it exits the bore.
The 5.56 NATO was essentially created to be a replacement of the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge which was based on the .308 winchester. This means that the 5.56 NATO cartridge had to perform similarly as many of the guns that use the cartridge would be sold to NATO countries.
Why is the .308 Winchester Popular?
The .308 Winchester, especially in the AR-10 .308, is popular for a multitude of reasons, mainly having to do with the evolution of ammunition in the Civilian market in America. In 1898 the Spanish American war saw the invention of the .30-40 krag after the adoption of the Krag Jorgenson rifle.
This the first among the smokeless powder cartridges to be used by the US armed forces. However, with the succession of the Krag, the Springfield 1903, originally chambered in the new .30-03 became the new standard until 3 years later with the development of the .30-06: the round which carried the US military to victory in the Great War, World War II, and the Korean War.
The .30-06 blew every other wartime cartridge out of the water with its optimal ballistic capabilities, pushing the projectile to a 4,000 fps muzzle velocity in what was for the day, the perfect battle implementation until the construction of the M1 Garand. However, while the round was seen as perfect, it was not as popular on the civilian market because it was “too hot.”
The civilian market required something with less power, a better balance for one of America’s favorite pastimes: hunting. Thus, the popularity of the .308 Winchester cartridge skyrockets.
What caliber is the AR-15?
The caliber of the AR-15 is standardly the .223 remington or the 5.56, however the AR-15 can be chambered in many different calibers, including these in the list below. The thing is, the AR-15 is not a standalone rifle, but a platform that can be modified to fit almost any caliber out there. Because the platform is for all intents and purposes, open source, any modification on the AR platform, so long as it is legal, is permissible. That means that virtually any caliber can be shot out of an AR style rifle.
List of main AR-15 calibers:
- 5.56 NATO
- .223 Remington
- .300 AAC Blackout
- .450 bushmaster
What calibers does the .308 AR-10 come in?
The .308 is not the only caliber that the AR-10 comes in. Because it is based off of the AR-15, it displays the same long laundry list of calibers that people can make use of on a whim. That is because of the design of the upper, which is fastened to the lower by a series of two takedown pins. Multiple uppers can be put on the same lower and remain functional. Not only does this make the AR-10 .308 a multi caliber rifle, but a multipurpose tool that can be used well in most occasions.
List of the main Calibers of the AR-10:
- .308 winchester
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- 6mm Creedmoor
- 6.5 Grendel
- .270 winchester
- 7.62×51 NATO
- .243 Winchester
What are AR-10 .308 build kits?
The AR-10 can be sold as a complete rifle or as a build kit. This refers to an AR-10 that must be assembled before it is ready to be used on the field. AR-10 build kits usually come with everything you need to assemble it. If you have a complete AR-10 lower, it is much like building a set of legos, but if you are building it from an 80% lower, the process is a little more complex.
What is an AR-10 Complete Lower?
The receiver of any AR platform gun is broken into two main parts, the upper receiver and the lower receiver. The lower is the only part that is considered a firearm, and if it is purchased alone, it is referred to as a complete lower. Complete lowers come with the trigger pocket milled and the lower parts kit already installed.
What is an AR-10 80% lower?
An AR-10 80% lower is receiver blank to the same dimensions as an AR-10. The only difference is that the trigger pocket is not milled out, effectively making it a receiver shaped paperweight. 80% lower AR-10s are not considered firearms and can be sent straight to your house without a federal background check.
Hunting with the AR-15 or the AR-10
Hunting is generally not a mobile activity. In many cases, hunting involves a great deal of patience as even the subtlest of movements can be the determining factor in whether a hunt falls short or the prize buck gets hit. Other forms of hunting, like hog hunting which has a constant season, enable the hunter to get off more shots because they generally group up, and the laws on hunting hogs is much less strict than with other game animals. Firing on things as big as Oxen doesn’t happen so often, but you can still drop anything with an AR, especially if it is chambered in .308.
.308 rifle kits are nearly perfect for the occasion. The AR platform brings a host of good things to a hunting set up, like magazine capacity, a very nice gas system (if you set it up correctly), and an accurate shot. Its semi-auto capability alone makes it a much more suitable option for hunting than a conventional bolt action made for hunting. And usually, those rifles are only able to fit one attachment, being the scope, which you may hit or miss depending on if the scope came with the rifle you bought it with. In most bolt action hunting rifles, the real price factor is the scope. So don’t be surprised if you purchased a $200 gun with an $800 scope and wonder why your groupings are not optimal.
The great thing about hunting is that you don’t need to go all out with attachments on your AR. It’s built for it, sure, but hunting really relies on how well you can aim with your rifle. So ensuring that in whatever situation you might be in, that you aim can be as accurate as anything is the single most important thing you should build your set up around.
Different muzzle devices can help relieve flash, as well as the addition of subsonic ammo and suppressors. The AR platform is capable of chambering the 300 blackout, which is optimal in set ups with a suppressor. While it doesn’t have the best range, you can definitely take advantage of a quieter shot.
Forged Vs. Billet Lowers?
AR-10 lowers can come either forged or billet. There is not much difference in their performance, but there are a couple of different things going on in the manufacturing aspect of these lowers. Billet lowers use a different kind of aluminum than forged lowers. Forged lowers do not typically carry the aesthetic appeal that billet lowers do. Both are strong and durable enough with advancements to metallurgy catalyzing the production of stronger products.
Billet lowers are still forged to some degree, but the process by which they are made is very different from forged lowers. While forged lowers are forged to the shape of the lower from an aluminum block, the billet AR-10 lowers are cut, via CNC machine, to the dimensions of the lower.
Forged lowers go through the process of forging, involving a forge and a hammer to get the dimensions correct. While there are sometimes slight deviations in the dimensions of forged lowers, they are typically the most resilient in the face of external forces. Billet lowers have come a long way, and were regarded as the more fashionable choice because the CNC machine can make more precise cuts along the exterior of the AR-10 lowers surface.
DPMS Vs. Armalite
There are two industry terms you ought to know if you are looking to by an AR-10 or AR-10 style rifle. These are DPMS and Armalite.
DPMS was an aftermarket company which took over a lot of the production of the AR-15 platform after the AR-15 became open source. While Armalite is responsible for the AR-15’s inception, the DPMS platform is favored among those in the aftermarket as most upper and lower sets are made to the specifications of the DPMS style.
DPMS and Armalite are not compatible. There are some nuances to each that make merging the platforms completely different. The DPMS Gen 1s and Gen 2s are also not compatible with each other, as the lowers have slight differences that make them incompatible. The gen 1 DPMS lower is the most commonly seen AR-10 style lower on the market and is compatible with a wider array of aftermarket parts. Even the AR-15s most widely available on the market are built from the DPMS model. The Armalite models for both the AR-15 and the AR-10 are less interchangeable with aftermarket parts and accessories.
The AR-15 is a great gun, and while it has definitely made its own name in the commercial gun market, it owes its popularity due to the AR-10, its predecessor. The best part about the AR-15 is that it uses a very widely available, and very inexpensive cartridge. It is also interchangeable with the .223 Remington widening the availability of ammo for the gun. The AR-15 is lightweight despite being made almost entirely of metal. It is essentially the perfect urban firearm, great for self defense purposes, combat training, and hunting. While the AR-10 is a little more specialized since it is a full length rifle, it is still capable of performing on the same level in self defense and even better in hunting. In the case of home defense, the AR-15 takes the cake as a versatile rifle with a much safer cartridge to use indoors than the .308 winchester.
An AR-10 is a versatile tool for all who enjoy the pleasures of hunting along with affordability, customization and versatility of the AR-15. It has compatibility with many different ammo types, and can be used for any long range shooting. Because it is an AR rifle, takedown and maintenance are just as easy because the core systems of the rifle are exactly the same. There are still many choices to make, whether you want a different caliber, complete or 80%, or a build kit or a complete AR-10 .308 rifle. The qualities of the AR platform lend itself well to the full length and robust build of the AR-10 as well as the sleek, tactical performance of the AR-15.