The modern era in military small arms was perhaps unwittingly ushered in when the US military decided to replace the M1 Garand with a new combat rifle. The SOF end-users provided the basic principle of a modern service rifle and it would sound like this: A good assault rifle has to be safe and straightforward, short and lightweight, with box magazines that should contain not less than 20 rounds.
The AR-10 Story
Some big-name firearms manufacturers have offered more or less traditional design proposals to enter the military’s rifle trials, but the prototype from the ArmaLite, an engineering subsidiary of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation was markedly different from anything seen before.
A team of engineers with a background in the aircraft industry led by George Sullivan and Eugene Stoner developed an initial AR-10 design in 1955, chambered for the 7.62×51 mm NATO round, as prescribed by the needs of the NATO program.
Using the inconceivable materials for that time ArmaLite`s AR-10 moved away from the classic wood furniture of the M1 Garand in favor of reinforced fiberglass stock, grip and handguards. Furthermore, the use of cutting-edge lightweight materials like the aluminum alloy receiver made the rifle almost a full pound lighter than other infantry battle rifles from that era.
An innovative firearm design also involved an in-line layout, the patented direct gas impingement system, recoil compensator and recognizable carrying handle with elevated iron sights.
Unfortunately, the new AR-10 rifle has experienced a disaster during testing at Springfield Armory due to using a composite barrel made of aluminum and steel that burst during a torture test. The rest is history; the Army selected the more conventional T44, which became the M14. Nevertheless, it was only for a short period, since the U.S. military, as their next service rifle, adopted AR-10`s smaller-caliber brethren named AR-15/M16.
However, the AR-10 has continued it military life “across the pond” in provenience of the Dutch group Artillerie Inrichtingen, who sold it to military forces of Sudan, Portugal, Guatemala, Burma, Italy, and Cuba. And as it usually happens, some military surplus of AR-10 that being sold to commercial customers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia spawned the world of small arms design bringing out various gunmakers offering a modern rifle platform similar to the AR-15 but chambered to accept the heavier .308 Winchester or 7.62×51 NATO round.
Even though ubiquitous AR-15 owes its development to its 7.62x51mm predecessor, an absurd is present today especially within first time buyers considering AR-10 style weapons as AR-15 rifles with components scaled up accordingly to handle the larger rounds.
There was undoubtedly a two-way impact, but in our humble opinion, the larger AR-10 platform is a better choice, since it is capable of ethically taking most North American big game, even at longer ranges.
Once, not so successful candidate for service rifle, today Eugene Stoner’s lightweight 7.62mm battle rifle is experiencing second youth in the hands of many shooting enthusiasts and AR aficionados for being highly effective as both a hunting rifle and a long defensive gun.
While the AR-10 can handle “long-action” cartridges, it is also pretty modular. It means you can buy a complete upper and complete lower or dozens of accessories to transform your .308 AR into a more versatile rifle than AR-15.
On the flip side, if you want to upgrade your AR-10 rifle you should know first that there aren’t as many aftermarket options for .308 AR rifles as for the AR-15, and second more important the meaning of the word “compatibility”.
Namely, two basic patterns of .308 ARs differ from each other by different receiver threads, profiles, thicknesses, widths and top-rail heights. These most-common types are the DPMS pattern which is also known as LR-308 and AR-10, which is trademarked by ArmaLite.
Whereas the ArmaLite-patterned rifles are often seen in military and law enforcement use, the DPMS pattern is more popular in the commercial market in the hands of civilian consumers.
Whether you are building an AR-10-size rifle, pistol or SBR there are many aftermarket options to upgrade your large-frame AR, but we will single out several of them with an accent on component compatibility to save you time and money.
List of the Best AR-10 Upgrades
Compared to flash suppressors and compensators, the muzzle brakes are likely the most valuable muzzle devices and one of the best AR-10 rifle upgrades.
As a mid-sized.30 caliber cartridge the powerful .308 Win. is not so easy to control during fast follow-up shots. Therefore the muzzle brakes that can reduce recoil by over 50% are extremely useful devices.
Constructed of solid steel, muzzle brakes are usually threaded for 5⁄8-24 TPI and connected to the muzzle by screwing it directly onto it. Muzzle brakes redirect propellant gases to the sides to counter recoil and unwanted muzzle rise.
On the negative side, a muzzle brake is loud and may be restricted from using on the public indoor ranges.
Arguably, the trigger is the main interface point on your gun, meaning that a quality trigger needs to be predictable, light and smooth with a crisp break.
Since most gun manufacturers keep a gun’s price down by embedding the inexpensively mass-produced triggers with a heavy and inconsistent trigger pull, replacing it with a high-quality trigger is the single biggest accuracy improvement you can do.
There are two main types of triggers called single-stage and two-stage trigger. The single-stage triggers are usually found in entry-level AR-10s whereas many experienced shooters prefer two-stage trigger for long-distance shooting.
The next step in upgrading your trigger involves choosing a drop-in trigger or regular trigger, often called a “Mil-Spec”. Unlike drop-in triggers where your fire control group is pre-assembled and is easy for replacement, standard triggers request more labor for installation, as parts are separated.
Compared to its younger brethren AR-15 usually chambered in sub-caliber cartridges, AR-10 rifles can handle “long-action” cartridges like more powerful .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO. That combination of the gun and caliber provides enormous potential, which can be exploited only by installing a quality and an appropriate optic, so the best rule is to spend more for your riflescope than the rifle you mount it on.
There are countless riflescopes available for the AR-10, and your decision will depend on your budget, style of shooting and how much you are informed
The AR-10 is a much more versatile rifle than AR-15, meaning you can use for both hog hunting and range shooting. Furthermore, you can use the AR-10 in closed quarters and for medium range, as well as for long-range shooting targets that are more than 1,000 yards away. For all those purposes you might need different scopes, but also you can make a compromise and opt for one universal riflescope with a wide variable magnification range.
The size of the objective lens is essential for hunters because inappropriate objective bell can dramatically limit your hunting experience. While you can use scopes with 30-40mm objectives for most target shooting and hunting, a larger objective lens is preferred by a lot of hunters who stalked their prey in the low light conditions.
Aside from these basic features, you have to consider the quality of optical glass, their coating and type of reticles.
As a final note, you should know that you can not expect the same performance of optics that performs nicely on your AR-15 because these scopes might not be designed for the substantially heavier recoil and bullet trajectory of the .308 Winchester cartridge.
Unlike the smaller and more popular AR-15 that was adopted for military service in the 1960s, the large-receiver AR doesn’t have a MIL-SPEC standard.
Due to the large and violent nature of this round, it was necessary to develop a Steel magazine that could survive the abuse inherent to this round. Highly reliable magazine for SR25/M110 pattern rifles that features true 25-round capacity, constant-curve body,
The large-frame, AR-10-size guns are widely known for component incompatibility because the large-receiver AR doesn’t have a MIL-SPEC standard. However, the story about magazines is simpler due to only two main types of magazines: Armalite AR-10 and LR/SR-25-compatible magazines. Whereas detachable box magazines (DBMs) for the Armalite AR-10 are based on the M14 design and manufactured only by Armalite, the other type commonly referred to as “SR” or “DPMS” pattern is most popular with SR-25-pattern rifles. You can also encounter FN FAL-pattern and Rock River’s LAR-8 magazines, but they are far less common types.
Quality magazines are usually made of steel, but the magazines are featuring resistant polymer construction are becoming more and more popular.
These magazines are not only for AR-10 pattern guns but also many bolt-action and semi-auto rifles platform take these AR magazines.
Along with buttstock and handguard, the grip is the primary furniture of the AR-10. It is called a pistol grip since it resembles the grip angle of the pistol as opposed to traditional rifle grip.
Although the classic A2pistol grip is made of durable synthetic material, it provides a cheap-feeling for most shooters, making it in the same time a little too skinny for average man’s hand.
Fortunately, there is a grip style for every personal preference and if you want to upgrade a pistol grip on your AR-10 rifle, you should take into consideration several factors such as comfort, material, hand size and orientation (left-handed and right-handed users), texture, finger grooves, and palm swells.
One of the most essential features to look for in a rifle is a barrel, and we still remember an AR-10 initial fiasco due to the barrel made of composite material. Today, AR-10 barrels are usually machined of high-grade stainless steel and most of stock 308 AR barrels are pretty decent, offering a better accuracy than a casual shooter.
However, if you still want to upgrade your factory barrel with a premium one, then you need to pay attention to a couple of features.
First, the AR-10 barrels are available in three construction types: chrome-lined, stainless steel and nitrided. Whereas the chrome-lined barrels are the current standard for the US military, stainless steel barrels are considered “match grade” or highly accurate. The third option, a nitrided barrel is a golden middle between chrome-lined and stainless steel barrels.
Upgrading your 308 barrel, also means you have to choose an appropriate barrel length which will suit your style of shooting and distances at which the rifle will predominantly be used for shooting.
While the AR-10 typical barrel lengths are ranging from sixteen inches up to twenty-four, some gun owners recommend a length of 18.5 inches for an optimal balance of maneuverability and accuracy.
The stock provides the perfect comb height for optics and overall length suitable for smaller stature shooters and NBA centers alike. Plus, it features a texturized rubber buttpad that helps reduce felt recoil while enhancing control by resisting movement on the shooter’s shoulder.
The perfect AR-308 stock needs to fit your shooting style and provide the optimal comb height for optics and overall length suitable for your stature. As for the other AR platform weapons, there are also many different types of stocks available for the AR-10.
- Resembling the classic M16 stock, the fixed stock is the primary type of stock for the AR-10. It is usually made of wood, composite polymer or fiberglass.
- Collapsible stock imitates one from M4 carbine and as its name implies it can only be adjusted to add to the length of pull.
- An adjustable stock unlike to the collapsible stock can be adjusted in ways other than the length of pull including buttstock length of pull and cheek height.
- Folding AR stock can be folded sideways to cup over the rifle from the side to reduce the length of the gun.
- There are also Minimalist and PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) stocks that are extremely lightweight and compact with a low profile.
Since the stability is the key to successful shooting, the basic function of a bipod is to provide you with a stable platform and confidence you need to take those difficult shots. Bipods can be made from aluminum or polymer materials. The lighter bipods are more suitable for lighter rifles like an AR-10 in 308 or an AR-15 because heavier bipods on one of these rifles will throw the balance off.
You can mount most of the bipods on your AR-10 style rifle via Picatinny rail platform, but there are also varieties of adapters that can add a sling swivel to a Picatinny rail.
Other vital criteria you’ll need to consider are the ability to adjust the legs independently of each other and pan and cant feature.
All of these features provide a stable platform for shooting and will make you comfortable with shooting your weapon especially if you are shooting across the unstable ground.
For the past few years, the large-frame AR that fires a full-power cartridge has become one of the most prolific centerfire carbines in America.
Today there are many aftermarket options for .308 AR rifle so it can be easily tailored to meet every shooter’s needs and desires utilizing parts and accessories that are specifically designed to work with your big-bore .308 AR platform.