The modern day AR-10 rifle has been existence over well over half a century. While many people believe that the AR-10 developed out of the AR-15, the reality is that the reverse is true. The AR-10 was developed a couple of years first, and the AR-15 is really just a scaled down AR-10 designed to accept intermediate cartridges such as the 5.56x45mm NATO.
Best Budget Pick: Ballistic Advantage AR-10 Modern Series Barrels
The Ballistic Advantage is an affordable AR-10 barrel that is also a great choice for an AR-10 pistol. Just make sure that your AR-10 classifies as a pistol and actually has a pistol brace rather than a rifle stock. If you want to use your AR-10 for home defense or close quarters use, this is a solid option to go with.
Best Value Pick: Faxon Firearms Big Gunner AR-10 Barrel
The Faxon Firearms Big Gunner AR-10 barrel is durable, well-made, and a solid choice for anything from target shooting to tactical use to hunting. It’s fully compatible with most .308 caliber AR-10s and is very durable and corrosion resistant.
Best Overall Pick: Criterion AR-10 Hybrid Barrel
The Criterion AR-10 Hybrid barrel is a solid choice for both the .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor rounds, and will help your bullets achieve flatter trajectories and superior ballistic coefficients than many other barrels on the market.
The AR-10, on the other hand, was designed from the beginning to shoot full power rifle cartridges such as the .308 Winchester or 7.62x51mm NATO. In today’s world, you can also find AR-10s chambered for a host of other rifle calibers including the 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, and the .338 Federal.
But regardless of what caliber your AR-10 is, one simple fact remains: if you want to improve your AR-10s accuracy and performance as much as possible, one of the best upgrades you can make is to change out the barrel.
In this article, we’ll dive into the advantages of the AR-10 platform as a whole, the best qualities to look for in an AR-10, and then our choices for the top three best AR-10 barrels on the market in 2020.
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Why Go With the AR-10?
The AR-10 is simply a larger version of the AR-15 that is designed to fire larger rounds such as the .308 Winchester. At first glance, the two rifles have the exact same profile, but upon closer inspection you will notice quickly how the AR-10 is the much larger weapon.
Both the AR-10 and the AR-15 use the same direct impingement gas systems, rotating bolt designs, and triggers. The manual of arms between the two rifles are identical, and both are relatively lightweight in contrast to competing firearms on the market while creating rather light recoil.
Speaking of bolts, if you are still looking for a bolt carrier group, we covered our favorite AR-10 BCGs in another article.
So why go with the AR-10 over the AR-15?
Simple: if you want a more powerful rifle and a rifle that can fire at longer distances, you need to go with the AR-10. The original caliber for the AR-10 was the .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm NATO, which are nearly identical. In fact, the 7.62x51mm will function in any .308 Winchester caliber rifle (but not vice versa).
The .308 Winchester has superior ballistics, range, and power to the standard 5.56x45mm NATO round of the AR-15. Of course, the .308 is more expensive to shoot, it kicks more, and the AR-10 will hold less rounds than an AR-15. A standard AR-10 will hold around twenty to twenty five rounds in the standard magazine, while an AR-15 will hold thirty rounds.
But a 5.56 also has much less range than a .308 and the .308 is also far more capable of bringing down big game such as deer or elk. This means that the .308 will be better suited for a wider range of applications than the 5.56 is.
In many regards, it could be reasonably argued that a .308 semi-automatic rifle with a detachable box magazine is the most versatile kind of rifle that you can own, because it can be utilized for tactical use, home defense, big game hunting, and long distance shooting. The AR-10 is one of the most popular .308 semi-automatic rifles on the market and is easily the most customizable. While competing rifles such as the Springfield M1A and FN FAL are solid and respectable rifles in their own right, neither are nearly as customizable as the AR-10.
In other words, if you want a highly versatile .308 caliber rifle that you can configure and build to your exact specifications, the AR-10 is the rifle to go with.
Of course, the AR-10 is also available in numerous other calibers besides the .308 as well. The most popular of these is the 6.5 Creedmoor, which actually has superior ballistics to the .308 Winchester and over the last few years has been taking the firearms market by storm.
Regardless of caliber, the AR-10 will excel at long distance shooting, and especially if you go with a high quality and high performing barrel to go with it. Assuming you’re shooting ammunition that offers flat trajectory, an AR-10 can offer you an effective range of between six hundred to a thousand yards (this also depends upon the proficiency of the shooter as well).
Some parts between the AR-10 and the AR-15 are also interchangeable. These usually include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Hammer Springs
- Castle Nuts
- Stock Assembles
- Trigger Guard Assemblies
- Trigger Springs
- Bolt Catch Roll Pins
- Bolt Catch Springs
- Bolt Catch Plungers
- Pistol Grips
- Pistol Screws
- Disconnector Springs
- Takedown Detents
- Takedown Springs
- Pivot Springs
- Pivot Detents
- Buffer Detents
The AR-15 may be less expensive, more compact, and carry more bullets. But at the end of a day, if you need or want an AR-style rifle that packs more of a wallop at long distances, you need to go with the AR-10.
One of the best ways that you can improve the performance of your AR-10 as well is to improve the barrel, which leads us into…
What Is The Best Barrel Lengths For An AR-10 and Why Should You Upgrade?
If you’re reading this article, it’s for one of two reasons: either you already own an AR-10 and want to upgrade it, or you’re building your own custom AR-10 from the ground up or with an AR-10 build kit. In case you are doing the latter, make sure to also read our article on the best AR-10 lowers.
When you purchase an AR-10, it will already come with a factory standard barrel installed on it. If it comes from most of the major manufacturers, this barrel is likely a solidly made barrel that functions well, but that could also be improved upon. In other words, it may get the job done and be made out of long lasting materials, but it may also not offer quite as tight of groups as a higher end barrel option.
Plain and simple, this cannot be enunciated enough: upgrading the barrel to your AR-10 is the number one way to improve its accuracy. This is ultimately the number one reason to consider replacing the factory standard barrel that currently exists on your AR-10.
But now the question becomes: what is the best barrel length for your AR-10?
AR-10 barrels are available in a wide variety of different sizes, including 12 inch, 16 inch, 18.5 inch, 20 inch, 22 inch, and 24 inch. A 12 inch barrel is for AR-10 pistols, which are very compact and a good choice for home defense or tactical use in tight conditions. However, AR-10 pistols must also have a pistol brace rather than a stock in order to be legal under United States law, unless if you have the appropriate licenses from the ATF.
A 16 inch barrel is considered a carbine length AR-10, an 18.5 inch is considered a mid-length, and 20, 22, and 24 inch barrel lengths are considered rifle length. Each of these may be owned legally in the United States without any additional licensing and with traditional rifle stocks installed.
The 16 inch barrel is more compact and wieldy in tight conditions, but has a shorter sight radius and slightly less bullet velocity than the 20 and 22 inch barrels. This means that, at least theoretically, it should perform slightly worse at longer distances. The 18.5 inch barrel is considered to be a good compromise between the two.
The best barrel length of your specific uses is dependent upon numerous factors including bullet weight, barrel twist rate, the type of the barrel, and your primary application for it. Longer barrels may offer you better muzzle velocity and bullet rotation, but at the same time, this does not always translate to better accuracy.
As a golden rule, for every increase in an inch of barrel length, you can expect an increase in between 30 to 40 feet per second of the round when it exits the barrel. In other words, the longer the barrel length, the faster the bullet will travel.
Ultimately though, the length of your barrel may not be as important as much as these other qualities that we’ll discuss next.
Buyer’s Guide For The Best AR-10 Barrels
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new barrel for your AR-10:
The best AR-10 barrels are built out of stainless steel or chrome moly steel. Both of these options are very durable and rust and corrosion resistant in their own right (although you would also be wise to go with a barrel that comes with an additional rust resistant coating).
Take note that when the AR-10 was first released, it utilized an iron/aluminum barrel that failed the torture tests set out by the United States military and by Springfield Armory. Fortunately, barrel technology has increased significantly since then so that they are now far more durable.
Rust Resistant Coating
While the barrel for your AR-10 should be made out of durable materials that can hold up well after many thousands of rounds of use, it’s also important for the barrel to come in a very rust resistant coating.
While stainless steel is a very rust resistant material, your rifle’s barrel could become even more rust and corrosion resistant with an additional coating such as Cerakote, Duracoat, or a nitride coated finish.
Also take note that just because your barrel comes with a rust and corrosion resistant finish doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take care of it. A rust resistant finish just means that your barrel is resistant to rust; it doesn’t mean that it is totally impervious.
Many individuals mistakenly believe that the contour of the barrel is purely an aesthetics issue and does not affect performance in any meaningful way. This is not true. A heavier contoured barrel means that the barrel will take longer to heat up, but also slower for it to cool all the way off. Furthermore, a heavier contoured barrel will reduce recoil as well.
Finally, the twist rate of the barrel is arguably what impacts the performance of the barrel the most. The twist rate refers to the number of inches it takes for the bullet to rotate at least once. For example, a twist rate of 1:10 means that it takes ten inches for the bullet to make one full rotation before it exits the barrel.
A standard rule is that for shooting round less than the standard 168 grain bullet, you should go with a barrel with a 1:12 twist rate. For heavier bullets than that, go with a 1:10 twists rate. A 168 grain round itself should theoretically function well with either twist rate.
The 3 Best AR-10 Barrels For 2020
Now that we’ve covered why you need to upgrade your AR-10 barrel and what to look for in one, here are our picks for the top three best AR-10 barrels for 2020:
Criterion AR-10 Hybrid Barrel
One of the top reasons to go with an AR-10 over an AR-15 in the first place is the ability to shoot at far distances, such as five hundred yards or greater. If you want a barrel that will for sure improve your rifle’s performance at those kinds of distances, you will want to give the Criterion AR-10 Hybrid barrel a close look.
This barrel is specifically designed to function accurately at long range of five to six hundred yards or more. Available in lengths of either eighteen or twenty two inches, the Criterion will help your rounds achieve superior ballistic coefficients and flatter trajectories than many other AR-10 barrels on the market.
Take note that while the Criterion is meant to be fully compatible with most .308 caliber AR-10s, is your responsibility to confirm that it is compatible with your particular AR. Generally speaking, it will be fully compatible with any DPMS-patterned AR-10.
All in all, the Criterion barrel is a solid choice for an AR-10 barrel that is very lightweight, accurate, and easy to install. This will be a solid choice of barrel to go with for most long range shooting and hunting applications, and it doesn’t matter whether you choose to go with the 6.5 Creedmoor or the .308 Winchester calibers either, because it will work with either.
- Very lightweight
- Works well with most rifle length gas systems
- Very accurate
- Is very easy to install
- Good for both hunting and target shooting
- Available in either 18 inch or 22 inch configurations
- Good for both the .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor applications
- A gunsmith will need to headspace it
Ballistic Advantage AR-10 Modern Series Barrels
If you are looking for a shorter and more compact AR-10, the Ballistic Advantage Modern Series barrel will be a superb option. A compact AR-10 is a better choice for home defense or any other conditions where a smaller and more maneuverable rifle is preferably, such as if you’re going to use it for close quarters tactical use or as a vehicle gun.
This barrel is specifically designed to be compatible with most AR-10 pistols. If you choose to install it on a non-pistol configured firearm, it will be prohibited unless if you have the right ATF licenses. Make sure that your AR-10 pistol has a brace rather than a stock, so it is legal under US government rules.
The Ballistics Advantage is specifically built out of 4150 chrome moly vanadium steel. It is also coated in a nice QPQ corrosion resistant finish and has a QPQ coated M4 feed ramp extension as well in order to ensure the reliable feeding of ammunition.
- Muzzle is threaded
- 1:10 twist rate is ideal for the .308 round
- Comes with CPQ corrosion resistant material
- Build out of very durable 4150 chrome moly vanadium
- Compact size is ideal for close quarters use
- Shorter barrel length is not the best choice for longer range shooting
- Must be installed on an AR-10 pistol rather than a rifle
Faxon Firearms Big Gunner AR-10 Barrel
The Faxon Firearms Big Gunner AR-10 barrel is a solid choice for an AR-10 barrel for anything from tactical use to hunting to long distance shooting to home defense and so on.
The Faxon is built out of 4150 chrome moly steel and also has a nitride finish. This means that the Big Gunner is not only durable, it is also very rust and corrosion resistant and will be safe to use in inclement weather and conditions.
Faxon intended for the Big Gunner to be compatible with most AR-10 rifles, but it’s your responsibility to confirm that it will work with your particular rifle. It will most certainly work with any DPMS-patterned AR-10. It’s also available in 16-inch, 18-inch, and 20-inch barrels for a carbine, mid-length, or rifle configuration.
Overall, the Faxon is fully compatible with most .308 caliber AR-10s and is also very accurate and easy to install. If you want a dependable and durable AR-10 barrel that just works well and can be used for anything from target shooting to hunting to self-defense, the Faxon is worth a look.
- Very easy to install
- Compatible with most .308 caliber AR-10s
- Very accurate
- Ideal length for most practical uses
- Has a nitride finish for good rust and corrosion resistance
- Built out of 4150 Chrome moly steel
- Available in several different barrel lengths
- Headspace must be checked first
And that concludes our list of the top three best best AR-10 barrels for 2020. Any one of the three barrels that we have covered here today will be a solid option for your AR-10, or alternatively, if you stick to the criteria that we laid out in our buyer’s guide you’ll be in great shape too.
Remember that swapping out the barrels is one of the best ways to improve the accuracy and performance of your AR-10, depending on the barrel that you choose. So, if you’re having difficulty getting tight groups out of your AR-10, consider a barrel upgrade and then see what happens.