Are you currently looking to buy a new AR-10? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Best Budget Pick: Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 Winchester
The Smith & Wesson M&P10 in .308 Winchester is a solid AR-10 rifle. It’s built out of aircraft grade aluminum with a high quality anodized finish for excellent rust and corrosion resistance. The adjustable high grade polymer stock, 5R rifling, and Picatinny rail located at the top of the receiver are also standout features.
Best Value Pick: Brownells BRN-10 Retro .308 Rifle
The Brownells BRN-10 Retro .308 Rifle faithfully recreates the original AR-10 that was designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1950s. Even though it lacks a rail for adding optics and a shell deflector and forward assist, it’s built out of very durable carbon steel with a rust resistant nitride finish. The 20 inch barrel also offers you 1 MOA accuracy right out of the box. If you want an AR-10 that combines high quality with a classic design, the BRN-10 is a solid pick.
Best Overall Pick: Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger
The Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger is an excellent choice for an upper tier AR-10 that will last for many generations. It’s built to be as durable as possible while adhering to mil-spec standards, and it also comes standard with a match grade barrel installed to make it as precise as possible. It may command a premium price point, but you’re also getting what you pay for with the Ranger.
The AR-10 is a highly versatile rifle because it can fulfill a wide variety of different purposes, including as a tactical rifle and a hunting rifle. But there are also so many different AR-10s on the market, as the AR platform as a whole is the bestselling centerfire rifle platform in the United States today.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the history of the AR-10 platform and how it came to be, the top advantages that the AR-10 platform has to offer, the top qualities to look for in an AR-10 rifle, and then our choices for the top three best AR-10 rifles on the market today.
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History of the AR-10
The AR-10 is a very important firearm in weapons history. It served as the predecessor to the AR-15 and the AR platform as a whole. Without the AR-10, the AR platform most likely never would have existed. In fact, the AR-15 is simply a scaled down AR-10 meant to fire intermediate rifle cartridges (the AR-10 fires larger rifle rounds such as .308 Winchester or 6.5 Creedmoor).
The ArmaLite AR-10 was first designed and developed by Eugene Stoner in the late 1950s. The AR-10 that was released back then bears a slightly different resemblance than the AR-10s you see on the market today. The Brownells BRN-10 AR-10, which we will discuss later, is an example of an AR-10 designed to replicate the appearance and function of the original.
When the AR-10 was first designed, it was at a time when the United States military was looking for a new rifle to replace the semi-automatic M1 Garand that had been in service since 1936. While a wonderful rifle that was also advanced throughout World War II when most military were relying on older bolt action rifles, by the 1950s the M1 was simply outdated. By then, more militaries had switched to magazine fed select fire rifles. Examples include the FN FAL, HK G3, and the AK-47.
A select fire magazine fed rifle that fired the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO was, at the time, seen as the future for military service rifles. The West German army had transitioned from the Mauser bolt action rifles to the HK G3, and the United Kingdom had switched from the Lee Enfield to the FN FAL.
The AR-10 was designed by Stoner as a potential new rifle for the United States military to replace the M1 Garand. And even though the military ultimately went with the M14 rifle, which was essentially an M1 Garand re-chambered for .308 and designed to use detachable box magazines rather than en-bloc clips, the M14 was also very short lived as the primary service rifle for the American military.
Later in the 1960s, the military switched yet again to the M16, which was simply a scaled down AR-10. The influence of the original ArmaLite AR-10 simply cannot be overstated.
The AR-10 was originally designed out of forged alloy parts, which made it much lighter in weight than most other infantry rifles of the day. The original AR-10 was produced in small numbers of only around ten thousand or so, but the rights were sold to Colt Firearms in 1959, who developed the platform further into more modernized AR-10s and the AR-15s like we know today.
Colt became the sole manufacturer of rifles in the AR platform until the patent expired, at which point a host of other manufacturers began to produce their versions of the rifle as well. Today, the AR platform is the best selling rifle platform in the United States, and one of the most successful rifles with militaries, law enforcement units, and civilians alike.
Why Go With An AR-10?
So why should you go with an AR-10 today? There are many advantages to doing so. First and foremost, the .308 semi-automatic rifle with a detachable box magazine is arguably the most versatile rifle you can go with. That’s because it can be used for both tactical use and hunting big game.
The .308 Winchester is capable of bringing down anything in North America, and it’s also the most common and widely distributed centerfire rifle round for civilians across the globe, as well as the most affordable. In other words, .308 ammunition is cheaper and more common than other larger centerfire rifle rounds like .30-06 or .270 (at least before the ongoing ammo shortage).
An AR-10 can be used for long distance shooting, hunting out in the woods, and as a tactical or defensive weapon. And while there are other semi-automatic .308 rifles like the FN FAL or the HK G3 or the Springfield M1A, the AR-10 has one significant advantage over each of these platforms: it is incredibly customizable.
In fact, the AR platform is one of the most customizable firearms in existence, which means that you can build or modify your rifle or carbine to your exact specifications. There’s a reason why the AR is considered to be the Lego of the gun world. If you want to build your own rifle from the ground up, an AR-10 build kit is a great place to start.
For these reasons, a strong argument can be made that the AR-10 should be the one rifle to own if you could only have one.
Next, let’s dive into the top qualities to look for in an AR-10.
Buyer’s Guide For The Best AR-10?
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new AR-10 rifle:
The first thing you want to look for in an AR-10 is durability. After all, you want your rifle to hold up well, right? The best AR-10s are built out of materials such as forged aircraft grade 7075 T6 aluminum with a hard coat anodized finishing for solid rust and corrosion resistance against moisture and the elements.
Of course, there are many other rust resistant finishes as well, such as nitriding, Armor Tuff, Cerakote, Duracoat, or Parkerizing. But you get the idea, make sure that your rifle is durable and rust resistant so it will hold up well against the elements.
This is especially important if you plan on building your AR-10 from the ground up or if you want to customize your existing one. There are basic types of rifles in the AR-10 platform: the DPMS pattern and the Armalite or SR-25 pattern. Both are excellent, and both will work. The Armalite platform was actually the original design and the one that the DPMS is based off of.
But the DPMS has greater parts compatibility. An example is in the magazines, as there are far more DPMS-style magazines floating around than there are SR-25/Armalite type magazines. Besides magazines, you also need to think about parts and accessories such as optics, rails, hand guards, sights, grips, and so on. There are even certain AR-10 DPMS components that are interchangeable with an AR-15.
AR-10 barrels are available in many different build designs. But as a golden rule, make sure that your barrel is available in either stainless steel or carbon steel (both are good but stainless is more rust resistant while carbon is usually a little more accurate), has a chrome lined finish for greater longevity, and any kind of mil-spec finish to improve corrosion resistance (such as nitride or Parkerizing).
Besides the barrel, the trigger of your AR-10 also has a major impact on accuracy and performance. There are two basic kinds of AR-10 triggers available: double stage and single stage. Both are adjustable (usually), but the primary advantage of a double stage trigger is that you can feel the point in the trigger pull when the trigger is about to break, allowing you to take a more careful shot.
The 3 Best AR-10s For 2020
Now that we’ve covered why you should consider buying an AR-10 and the top qualities to look for in one, here are the top three best AR-10s for 2020:
Brownells BRN-10 Retro .308 Rifle
If you want to get a classic looking AR-10 that looks extremely similar to the original AR-10 that came out in the 1950s but that is also built out of modern materials, you’ll want to take a very close look at the Brownells BRN-10 Retro rifle. This rifle is built to be a faithful reproduction of the AR-10 rifle that Eugene Stoner built. You will notice right away just by looking at it that it has a marginally different appearance compared to more modern day AR-10s.
Since this rifle is built to resemble the old school AR-10, it lacks a shell deflector, forward assist, and the charging handle is located upwards over the upper receiver and under the carrying handle. The presence of the carrying handle means that there is no rail for you to add scopes or optics.
These are ultimately sacrifices that you will need to be willing to make if you want the BRN-10, but on the bright side this rifle is extremely well made. It has a 20 inch barrel with a QPQ nitride finish for outstanding rust resistance, and the bolt carrier group is built out of a highly durable chrome line carbon steep. This rifle also offers a MOA accuracy right out of the box.
All in all, the Brownells BRN-10 is a classic design that faithfully replicates the look and appearance of the first AR-10 while also being built out of modern day machining methods and materials to ensure that it is as durable and accurate as possible.
- Classic look and design
- 1 MOA accuracy
- 20 inch rifle barrel design is optimal for the .308 caliber round
- Comes with higher tech upgrades combined with the classic design
- Has a very durable nitride finish
- Bolt carrier group is built out of chrome lined carbon steel
- Charging handle on the upper receiver does not permit the use of a rail to add optics
- Ships with only a single magazine
- Lacks a forward assist and shell deflector
Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger
The Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger is an excellent AR-10 to go with if you are willing to pay the high cost to get one. The Ranger stands out because it’s one of the most lightweight AR-10s out on the market, and yet comes with impressive features such as a match grade barrel, Armor Tuff coating over a hard coat anodized finish for excellent rust resistance, an adjustable gas block, and mil-spec grade quality.
The Ranger was built from the ground up to be a precision AR-10 that can be used for anything from competition shooting to tactical use to hunting. The Ranger comes equipped with an M-LOK rail, and the barrel measures 16 inches. This means that bullet velocity and overall range will be slightly less than an AR-10 with a 20 inch barrel or so, but on the bright side the Ranger is much more compact and maneuverable in tight conditions.
Overall, the Wilson Combat AR-10 Ranger is an excellent quality rifle that also commands a premium price point. It’s very durable, has an Armor Tuff coating over a hard coat anodized finish for excellent durability, is built to mil-spec standards, and comes standard with a match grade precision barrel.
- Mil-spec bolt and bolt carrier
- Has am Armor-Tuff coating applied over a hard coat anodized finish for superb rust and corrosion
- Comes with an M-LOK Rail with Rail Covers
- Has a Threaded Muzzle
- Gas Block is Adjustable
- Has a match grade barrel
- Very lightweight
- Very expensive for an AR-10
Smith & Wesson M&P10 .308 Winchester
The Smith & Wesson M&P10 in .308 Winchester is Smith & Wesson’s primary entry in the AR-10 market. The M&P15 Sport II in 5.56 is one of the best selling AR-15 carbines on the market now, and the M&P10 is designed to be built at the same level of quality.
The M&P10 has an 18-inch mid-length barrel with 1:10 twist rate and 5R rifling. It comes equipped with an A2 flash suppressor. The aircraft-grade aluminum upper and AR-10 lower receivers both feature a high quality anodized finish for excellent rust and corrosion resistant, while the upper receiver features a Picatinny rail so you can add flip up sights or optics.
This rifle also comes equipped with a shell deflector, forward assist, and dust cover to help aid in reliability. The 6 position adjustable stock is built out of high grade polymer. Each M&P10 rifle ships with just one twenty round PMAG, so be sure to purchase more.
The Smith & Wesson M&P10 is a solid choice for an AR-10. It is built out of aircraft grade aluminum with a high quality anodized finish for excellent corrosion resistance. The Picatinny rail located at the top of the upper receiver makes it easy for you to add sights or optics if you see fit.
- Has a direct impingement gas system
- Has a flash suppressor installed on the end of the barrel
- Lightweight for an AR-10
- Has a 1:10 twist rate
- Engineered with 5R rifling
- 18” barrel means it lacks the bullet velocity of a 20” barrel
And that concludes our list of the top three best AR-10s for 2020.
The AR-10 truly is a versatile rifle that is equally adept on the battlefield as it is hunting out in the woods.
Any one of the three AR-10s that we have covered here today will be an excellent option to go with, but remember that there are so many AR-10s out on the market or alternatively you can build your own by just purchasing all of the components separately and then assembling your own unique rifle.
With that in mind, remember to follow the buyer’s guide section that we listed before when making your decision.