10 Best AR 10 Rifles (2021 Update) Buyer’s Guide


The AR-10 was created by ArmaLite designer Eugene Stoner in 1956 as a potential replacement for the Army’s outdated M1 Garand. Over the years, the AR-10 itself would enjoy only modest commercial success but go on to spawn generations of lighter variants collectively known as AR-15s.

Despite being eclipsed sales-wise by its lighter offspring, the AR-10 endured. Its long range capability, outstanding accuracy and ability to drop virtually any type of game found in North America kept it on the radar of gun enthusiasts.

Although ArmaLite continues to hold a trademark on the ‘AR-10’ designation, the patent on the platform long ago expired and today, dozens of firearms manufacturers around the world produce variants of differing quality. Below are the 10 best AR-10s for 2021.

1. Armalite AR-10TAC20

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 43.3” extended
  • Barrel Length – 20”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Hard Anodized Aluminum
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Flash Suppressing Compensator
  • Stock Material – Glass filled nylon
  • Weight – 7.25 lbs

What better way to start this list than to go to the source? ArmaLite gave the AR series its distinctive name and their AR-10TAC20 is a worthy descendent of Eugene Stoner’s original vision. The TAC20 features a 20” forged 7075-T6 aluminum barrel, a two-stage precision trigger and an MBA-1 lightweight precision adjustable stock. There’s an MOE+ pistol grip, a 15” tactical Keymod handguard, and an ambidextrous Raptor charging handle. If you are in search of a powerful, accurate, dependable rifle for self-defense or big game hunting, you would be hard pressed to find one better suited than the ArmaLite AR-10TAC20.

2. Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger 308

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 33.5″-37.75″
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Threaded
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8 lbs

Most contemporary manufacturers have attempted to address the weight of the AR-10 and Wilson is no exception. The AR-10 Ranger 308 tips the scales at a respectable 8 pounds, making it neither the heaviest nor the lightest AR-10 variant on the market. To their credit Wilson Combat has not thrown accuracy and performance out the window in an attempt to cut weight at all costs. They trimmed as much as they saw fit and called it a day. The result is an outstanding all-purpose hunting rifle that retains accuracy and features a proprietary grip on the stock, mil-spec bolt and carrier, and a tactical Armor Tuff matte surface treatment throughout.

3. Springfield Armory Saint Victor

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 34.5” – 37.75”
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 7.8 lbs

The holy grail of AR-10 design has long been producing a rifle with the power and accuracy of the 10 that is as light as its progeny, the AR-15. Many have tried but few have come as close as the Springfield Armory Saint Victor. At just 7.8 pounds the Saint Victor 308 is light and mobile like an AR-15, yet still packs the formidable punch Eugene Stoner intended his rifle to have when he designed it back in the 1950s. The 16” barrel allows for quick movement, the nickel-boron coated trigger is uber-responsive, while 20-Round Magpul PMAG Gen M3 magazine puts plenty of total power at your fingertips.

4. Daniel Defense DD5 V4

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 35 3/8″ – 39″
  • Barrel Length – 18”
  • Cartridge – 7.62 x 51 NATO
  • Finish – Matte Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Flash Suppressor
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8.3 lbs

The Daniel Defense DD5 V4 is an impressive 308 carbine that can chamber either a 7.62 x 51mm NATO round or a 6.5 Creedmoor. The Creedmoor helps extend the effective range of the rifle past 1,000 meters, which will appeal to a lot of hunters. Some of the features of the DD5 V4 include a flared magazine well for fast reloading, a non-slip DD5 pistol grip, a 4-bolt connection system that negates the need for a barrel nut, a long-lasting cold hammer forged barrel that will stand the test of time and a user adjustable gas block. While the DD5 V4 weighs a bit more than some competitor AR-10s, what you get in return is an outstanding hunting rifle with the ability to deliver your round with pinpoint accuracy time after time after time.

5. GGP Heavy 308 MKII

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 38”
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Hard Coat Anodized
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Threaded muzzle with GGP muzzle brake
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8.3 lbs

The GGP Heavy 308 MKII emphasizes practicality over long range accuracy. At 8.3 pounds the Heavy is pretty heavy, but weight is not likely what the designers were alluding to when they assigned it that name. Instead, they were referring to the fact that this rifle will do the heavy lifting in the field by being extremely dependable and by providing a short barrel and collapsible stock so you can fire, break the gun down, store it, and move on. That kind of portability goes a long way in compensating for the weight. And, if the 16” barrel is not to your liking you can always upgrade to something longer and restore that renowned AR-10 long range accuracy.

6. Brownells BRN-10 Retro

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 40.5”
  • Barrel Length – 20”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Retro Brown
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Threaded
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8.9 lbs

Many an AR-10 aficionado has mourned the fact that Eugene Stoner’s original AR-10 design seemed lost to the mists of time. Brownells heard these mournful voices and has done an admirable job recreating Stoner’s original battle rifle in stunning detail with their BRN-10. This is as faithful a replica as you are likely to find anywhere. Gone is the clutter that plagues many a contemporary AR-10, back are the simple, clean lines, straight magazine well and trigger-style chambering mechanism. The best part is that the rifle sacrifices nothing in the performance or accuracy departments. And it won’t cost you as much as some contemporary AR-10 variants.

7. Smith & Wesson M&P 10

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 41”
  • Barrel Length – 18”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Matte Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Flash Suppressor
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 7.7 lbs

The M&P10 AR-10 variant from Smith & Wesson is known for its versatility, accuracy, and wide applicability. It features a 6-position collapsible stock, an 18” barrel fashioned from 4140 low alloy chromium steel and a Troy hand guard with M-lok. With its 1/10 twist and 5R rifling the M&P10 delivers the round precisely where you want it over 1000 yards+. The engineers at S&W have somehow managed to craft a very versatile, powerful, durable, accurate weapon that tips the scales at a mere 7.7 pounds. That fact, combined with the relatively modest price point, make this an outstanding choice for value-minded hunters.

8. Bushmaster XM-10 308 ORC

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 38”
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Flash Suppressor
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 7.92 lbs

The Bushmaster XM-10 308 ORC is a dependable, compact rifle that delivers AR-10 accuracy and power at a reasonable price. The 308 ORC features a chrome-lined 16” barrel, a six position butt stock, lightweight MagPul MOE grip and stock, and tips the scales at just under 8 pounds. The two-stage trigger enables precision firing, the balance of the rifle is first rate, and the rifle comes with a 10 round magazine, which helps keep the weight down and will be plenty of firepower for most. As is, this is an excellent all-purpose hunting and self-defense weapon.

9. SIG 716i Tread

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 37”
  • Barrel Length – 16”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester, 7.62 NATO
  • Finish – Black
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Flash Hider
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8.5 lbs

The SIG 716i Tread is a slightly modified version of a SIG AR-10 recently sold to the Indian military. The most obvious difference is that the rifles received in New Delhi were fully automatic and the civilian version is not. Beyond that however, the 716i Tread continues the company’s admirable history of providing incredibly reliable, highly accurate AR-style rifles at very competitive prices. If you want a rifle that is going to deliver a wallop at significant distances and won’t jam on you at the worst possible time, here it is.

10. Aero Precision M5E1 Complete Rifle

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Specs

  • Overall Length – 37”
  • Barrel Length – 18”
  • Cartridge – 308 Winchester
  • Finish – Black and Stainless Steel
  • Front Sight – None
  • Rear Sight – None
  • Magazine Type – Removable
  • Muzzle – Standard AR 308 A2 Birdcage Flash Hider
  • Stock Material – Polymer
  • Weight – 8.5 lbs

The last of our best AR-10s comes from Aero Precision. Their M5E1 features an 18” stainless steel barrel with 1/10 twist and a bead blasted finish mated to the company’s reliable enhanced upper receiver. There’s a standard A2 birdcage flash suppressor, your choice of Gen 2 enhanced handguard, a Magpul MOE grip and Gen 3 stock as well as a 20 round Magpul PMag. The rifle is very dependable, (if a little heavy), predictably accurate and would be an outstanding choice for those who hunt from a blind.

FAQs

What Does ‘AR’ Stand For?

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (1) contained a provision called ‘the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act’ (2) that became commonly known as the ‘Assault Weapons Ban’. As debate regarding the bill raged a common misconception arose that the ‘AR’ in AR-10 and AR-15 stood for ‘Assault Rifle’. This misconception largely stuck in the public consciousness and has persisted to this day.

However, gun aficionados have always understood that ‘AR’ is short for ‘ArmaLite’, the company that designed and produced the first AR-10. As for the ‘10’, that is simply the model number assigned by ArmaLite to their rifle. (Typically, the company assigned a model number to any rifle that made it to the prototype stage.) Today, nearly 70 companies manufacture their own variant of the AR-10 with most using that designation simply because it is so widely recognized.

Why Choose an AR-10?

A question a lot of hunters have is “Why should I bother with an AR-10 when the AR-15 is readily available and often cheaper?” Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, the AR-10 fires the larger 308 Winchester round that will take down any game you will encounter in North America. Second, the AR-10 has an effective range of 2500+ feet, as opposed to the AR-15 with its 1900 foot range. And third, the AR-10 is more accurate over a considerable distance than its offspring. So if you are interested in taking down large game at a distance the AR-10 is clearly the better choice. If you don’t plan on hunting anything larger than deer, the AR-15 may be all you need. Although, keep in mind that the larger round of the AR-10 will help compensate for a less than perfect shot.

What Should I Look for in an AR-10?

Here are some of the factors to keep in mind when shopping for an AR-10.

Durability – As we mentioned above there are now some 70 manufacturers who produce their own AR-10s. Some of these are top-notch firearms produced by world renowned manufacturers. Others are the product of second or third-tier companies using cheap materials in an effort to produce lost cost AR-10s that will appeal to those who do not have $1,500 – $2,000+ to spend on a rifle. While the idea of making AR-10s affordable for everyone is, in theory, commendable, these low-cost rifles often suffer in terms of durability, and many wind up rusting away in a matter of just a few years.

Barrel material and anti-corrosion treatment – One of the main reasons cheap AR-10s rust away on their owners is that the barrel is made of cheap steel that is not corrosion resistant. A quality barrel will be fashioned from either stainless steel or carbon steel and also be subjected to an anti-corrosion treatment such as Parkerizing (3), FNC (4), or Cerakote (5).

Compatibility – AR-10s are built on one of two basic platforms: the original ArmaLite platform or the DPMS (Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services) platform. If you want to customize your AR-10 you might want to go with one that is based on the DPMS platform since it tends to be compatible with a greater number of parts from different manufacturers. There are, for instance, a greater number of DPMS compatible AR-10 magazines than ArmaLite-compatible magazines. That said, if you plan on enjoying your AR-10 as is, then you do not have to concern yourself so much with compatibility issues.

Trigger – There are two types of triggers you will typically find on AR-10s: the single stage trigger and the double stage trigger, often called the ‘two stage trigger’ (6). Most manufacturers use a single stage trigger on their production AR-10s because they require less engineering and are less expensive as a result. Many people, however, prefer the double stage trigger because it enables more precise control over the shot. It does this by increasing the amount of resistance in the trigger just before the trigger is about to break. In theory, this provides you an opportunity to make any last second adjustments before firing. If your AR-10 does not come with a double stage trigger you can always install one yourself.

Weight – Make no mistake, the AR-10 rifle is heavier than the AR-15. In some cases pretty significantly heavier. Then again the heavier AR-10 typically produces less recoil and so is more accurate. The 308 ammo is also heavier than the 5.56mm NATO cartridge chambered in the AR-15. That said, the larger round will enable you to take down larger game. If you are large and strong a few extra pounds may not be an issue. However, average guys and gals will need to consider carefully whether that extra weight is going to be an asset or a liability.

Adjustable stock – The adjustable stock is sometimes brought up as a kind of afterthought. But it can make a big difference in the comfort level of the gun. Especially when you change from standing to kneeling to prone positions. Also, if you are sharing your rifle with your young son or daughter, or a friend who is a different body type, having an adjustable stock can make the experience more enjoyable and comfortable for everyone.

A Short History of the AR-10

The AR platform has turned out to be one of the most important in the history of firearms and it owes its existence almost entirely to the AR-10. While the actual number of AR-10s sold is relatively modest, the AR-15 – which is little more than a slightly scaled down and lighter version of the AR-10 – has sold some 10 million units in the US alone.

Eugene Stoner is the father of the AR-10, having designed and developed it during the 1950s. While today’s AR-10s all chamber the same 308 Winchester cartridge as the original, other aspects of their design have deviated a bit from Stoner’s original vision. Though not so much that the weapons are unrecognizable.

The one exception is Brownells’ BRN-10 which is a conscious replication of Stoner’s original 1950s design. The BRN-10 removes much of the clutter you will find on contemporary AR-10s. For instance, there is no T-shaped charging handle and no case deflector. The BRN-10 also resurrects the trigger-style chambering mechanism, which is protected by the carrying handle as Stoner intended.

All that said, the AR-10 was designed to replace the M1 Garand which, by the 1950s, had become outdated. The armed forces needed a modern rifle that was magazine fed in order to keep up with developments in other countries, most notably the AK-47 (7) which entered service for the Soviets in 1947.

Long story short, the military chose the M14 over the AR-10, mostly due to the fact that it weighed less. However, few were impressed with the M14 as it was little more than an M1 with a detachable box magazine that had been rechambered for 308. Attention turned back to the AR, a scaled-down version of which became the M16 for the military and the AR-15 for everyone else.

Over the years, millions of the AR-10 and 15s were produced, including post-1994 versions that needed to comply with provisions of the Assault Weapons Ban we mentioned earlier. While that ban expired in 2004, the 2016 election raised fears that the it would be revived should Hillary Clinton win. This led to a rush on AR rifles nationwide.

Donald Trump’s victory enabled gun enthusiasts to breath a sigh of relief and AR-15 sales in particular dropped significantly. Manufacturers, however, were left with huge stockpiles of ARs produced to meet the demand of 2015 and 2016. As a result, in 2019 Colt announced they would suspend production of the AR-15 and focus on other firearms.

Recent events including coronavirus lockdowns, widespread violent protests, and the apparent victory of Joe Biden in the presidential election, however, once again raised the specter that the government might revive the Assault Weapons Ban (8)(9). As a result, AR-10 and AR-15 sales have once again skyrocketed.

The Bottom Line

The AR-10 can legitimately be called a ‘game changer’. The gun was lavishly praised upon its release and remains the progenitor of entire generations of weapons. It’s direct descendant, the AR-15, is one of the most popular rifles ever produced, and has seen yet another spike in sales due to recent events.

Despite its popularity, however, the AR-15 is no AR-10. The AR-10 chambers the larger 308 Winchester round, offers outstanding stability, better accuracy, and the ability to drop larger targets than the AR-15, as well as moderate size targets at longer distances than the AR-15.

The AR-10s we profiled above are all high-quality iterations of Eugene Stoner’s original concept and will serve you well for hunting, target practice or self-defense. Use the information in the above buyer’s guide to determine which AR-10 is right for you.

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