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AR-10 vs AR-15: How Stoner’s Rifles Stack Up

When it comes to AR-10 vs AR-15 the right choice is a matter of application.

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There’s been no lack of digital ink spilled over the AR-10 and AR-15 rifles. We’ve done our fair share here. But side-by-side, how do the rifles stack up against each other and which one is right for you?

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Like anything firearms, it all depends on what you plan on doing when you’re behind the trigger. Given a master gun designer has yet to lay out the perfect all-around firearm that does absolutely everything demanded of it, we have to accept each one has its talents and limitations. Hopefully, we’ll clear up exactly what those are for the most popular members of the AR family here and figure out what wins for you when it comes to AR-10 vs AR-15.

Brief History Of The Rifles

ArmaLite, a division of Fairchild Aircraft, had moderate success designing special-purpose firearms for the military in the 1950s. Still known today, among their earliest achievements was the AR-5 survival rifle, adopted by the U.S. Air Force and meant to sustain downed airmen. In 1956, the company and its chief engineer — the legendary Eugene Stoner — set their sights on larger game — a contract for the U.S. Military’s battle rifle, replacing the then outdated M1 Garand. It’s entrant to the trials was the AR-10.

Designed a year earlier, the rifle was forward-looking enough to set any old breed ordnance officer’s teeth on edge. Instead of steel and wood, Stoner turned to aluminum alloy, brass and woven fiberglass for the ArmaLite Rifle (what AR stands for). There was barely a lick of cold-hard steel on the 7.62x51mm rifle, which proved its downfall. Against Stoner’s advice, ArmaLite insisted on an aluminum-steel composite barrel — one of the first such configurations attempted. Long story short, it ruptured during the torture-testing segment of the trials, and so did ArmaLite’s hopes at a military contract. The M14 would go on to eventually win the trials, besting not only the AR-10, but also the equally iconic Fabrique Nationale FAL.

Despite the setback, Stoner and company knew they had a winner on their hands. As gun writers at the time documented, the trial’s testers were impressed with his creation. Some even went so far as to say it was the best battle rifle ever put through the paces at the Springfield Armory. ArmaLite attempted to interest the world’s militaries in the AR-10, with limited success. The rifle then languished for nearly 30 years, until Knight Armament partnered with Stoner to resurrect the design. Reborn the Stoner Rifle 25 (SR-25), and configured for long-range operations, eventually the United States Special Operations Command adopted the rifle and designated as the Mk11 Mod 0 sniper rifle. Later, it replaced the U.S. Army’s M24 Sniper Rifle System with a varient designated the M110 SASS.

After the original Mk 12, the government used Knight’s Armament handguards for the Mod 1 version of the Mk 12. If that’s the one you want, then go forth and find Knight’s hardware to build yours.

As firearms history buffs are familiar, it didn’t take until the turn of the century for the AR-10 design to come into its own, however.

Reconfigured and shrunk down, ArmaLite submitted essentially a small-bore version of the rifle — the AR-15 — in 1958 for testing with the U.S. Army’s Continental Army Command. After studying World War I and II engagements, CONARC had the ambitious goal of replacing a laundry list of storied military arms with a single rifle. To achieve this, CONARC commander Gen. Willard Wyman requested a low-recoil 5.56 rifle, weighing 6 pounds, feeding from a 20-round magazine and the ability to penetrate both sides of a standard Army helmet at 500 meters. The AR-15 to a tee.


Learn More About The AR-10:


Initially rejected and the design sold to Colt, the rifle finally won a champion in General Curtis LeMay. In 1961, as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, he ordered 80,000 AR-15s, finding military personnel could fire the lower-recoil rifle more accurately and that soldiers tended to prefer them more than the 7.62 NATO M14. Army testing backed up these anecdotal accounts, finding 43-percent of soldiers qualified as an expert with the AR-15, compared with 22-percent shooting the M14. Furthering the AR’s case, the AK-47 proved a superior weapon compared the M14 in the early years of Vietnam. Despite all this, the Army’s brass remained unconvinced about the small-bore rifle. The AR-15 finally won the day in 1963, deemed the only rifle that could meet production demands, at which the M14 was faltering.

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In 1964, the military variation of the AR-15 —  M16 — went into production and was adopted. It continues to serve the U.S. military today along with its shorter M4 Carbine variant — both select fire weapons. Almost immediately after the adoption of the rifle by the military, Colt began producing the semi-automatic civilian version we know today as the AR-15. The name was retained to pay homage to ArmaLite’s original creation.

AR-10 vs AR-15 Range

Both the AR-10 and AR-15 come in a variety of chamberings, which affects the range factor greatly. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll confine our discussion to the most popular caliber for each rifle: the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO for the AR-15 and .308 Win., for the AR-10. Both are excellent options for AR rifles, but, generally speaking, each excels at different ranges.

For close to mid-range shooting, it’s difficult to beat an AR-15 in 5.56. It’s an intermediate-range cartridge, designed to shine 500-yards on in. And given its light recoil, even in a platform as lean as the AR-15, it is a simpler system to place multiple shots very accurately on a target. If it’s longer ranges you seek to master, then the AR-10 is probably going to fit the bill. There’s a reason why the Army chose a variant of the SR-25 as the successor to the bolt-action M24 Sniper System. The larger calibers with their heavier bullets are simply easier to get on target 500-yard plus.

An example. Say out of your AR-15, you were shooting .223 Rem. American Eagle 55-grain FMJ BT and from your AR-10 .308 American Eagle 150-grain FMJ BT, with a 10 mph crosswind. The wind would defect the small-caliber round a full 10-inches more than the .308 at 500 yards and more than 50 inches at 1,000 — 179.2 inches, compared to 120.2. And while the .223 drops less than the .30-caliber out to 600 yards, at 1,000 yards — with velocity waning — you’d have to account for an additional 70 inches of drop with the small-bore round compared to the .308.

As of late, the AR-15 has added more long-range options (discussed more in the calibers section) that keep pace with AR-10 standbys. Though, as discussed below, these are small-bore options. They’ll go the distance but might not have the energy you require for some long-range applications.

AR-10 vs AR-15 Size

Measured against the entire world of rifles, the brother ARs are extremely light. More than simply materials, this attribute is thanks to Stoner’s pioneering direct-impingement gas operation (what Stoner called an “expanding gas system”) that relies on little more than tubes, gas block and gas key to cycle the rifles. Gracefully sparse, there’s no piston to add extra weight to either rifle.

AR-10 vs AR-15 the latter generally has the advantage of being lighter and smaller

However, head to head, there is typically a notable difference in the heft between the AR-10 and AR-15. In general, most AR-10s weight in at about 7 pounds empty and the AR-15 right around 6 pounds. On paper, not worlds away. In an operation where either rifle would suffice, that one less pound has the potential to make the rifle more manageable. The AR-15 is also trimer in overall size.

Certainly, 14.5-inch barreled AR-10s are around, but they are not as common as the 18- and 20-inch variety. Given that most shooters have distant targets in mind when they load up the rifle, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The extra velocity the longer bore milks from the cartridge is worth the rifle being a bit more unwieldy. Conversely, AR-15’s with 14.5-inch barrels are legion, which also makes sense. Not only is its aim generally medium range in, it is also a favored for CQC. Opting carbine makes it all the easier to manage the AR-15 in the tight confines of a house or inside a building.

AR-10 vs AR-15 Compatibility

Not to knock diehard AR-10 shooters’ collective noses out of place, but the AR-15 has its big brother beat in spades in this facet.

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Given its long military service record, the rifle is much more standardized than its big brother. In turn, the platform is that much easier to build, upgrade and maintain. For the most part, it’s a pick and place procedure that involves little compatibility research, if the AR-15 is aligned with mil-spec standards. A latecomer to military service, the AR-10 had more time to be tinkered with, thus skewing how the gun is put together. In short, different brands of the rifle don’t play nice with each other.

Thankfully, there is some consistency with two patterns dominating the market — DPMS’s LR-308 and ArmaLite’s AR-10. The issue is, the receivers and the major internal components are not compatible. A DPMS upper receiver is not meant to go on an AR-10 lower receiver. An AR-10 bolt-carrier group is not designed to function with an LR-308 pattern barrel. Neither uses a barrel nut with the same thread count.

AR-10 vs AR-15, the larger gun has the advantage

This doesn’t mean there aren’t a multitude of parts and aftermarket upgrades available for the AR-10, LR-308 and other variations. There are plenty of them — though, LR-308s are more common and, in turn, tend to have an availability and selection advantage. Shooters who opt for the larger AR-style rifle must have their research caps on and show extra diligence when shopping to make sure they’re getting the right part for their rifle.

AR-10 vs AR-15 Calibers

Both rifles’ caliber choices have swelled over the years. It’s at the point now that if there’s a caliber you can think of, there’s most likely an AR-15 or AR-10 chambered for it.

Generally speaking, AR-10-style rifles — given their larger recievers — tend to shoot more larger and more powerful cartridges. Originally chambered for .308 Win./7.62x51mm NATO, there are examples of 6.5 Creedmoor, .45-70 Govt., and even .300 Win. Mag. rifles. If you’re willing to go proprietary, there’s hardly a cartridge the AR-10 can’t handle and, most likely, some entrepreneurial gunmaker has a rifle chamber for it.

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The AR-15 is nearly equally as deft in its caliber selection, with a host of options pouring out in the past two decades. However, since it was designed to fire the rather demure 5.56 NATO round, it faces some limitations. It’s never going to digest the more powerful fodder of its big brother.

This historically has meant the AR-10 was the more logical long-range option, but times have changed over the years. Through the work of Nosler with the 22 Nosler and Federal Premium with the .224 Valkyrie, the market has expanded to include some ballistically talented AR-15 rounds. Designed to give the likes of the 6.5 Creedmoor a run for its money, the small-bore thunder-bolts are capable of striking down range. That said, what they bring to the table in ballistic coefficients, they don’t make up for in energy when they reach a distant target compared with, say, a heavier AR-10-compatible round such as the .308 Win., or 6.5 Creedmoor.

Nevertheless, near or far and everything in between, the AR-family of rifles have you covered.

AR-10 And AR-15 Shared Parts

Disparate in many categories, there is some crossover between AR-10 and AR-15 parts, at least concerning the popular patterns of the larger rifle platform:

  • Bolt Catch (except LR-308)
  • Bolt Catch Spring and Plunger
  • Buffer Tube
  • Buffer Retainer
  • Buffer Retainer Spring
  • Buttstock
  • Castle Nut
  • Disconnect
  • Disconnect Springs
  • Forward Assist Assembly
  • Front Sights
  • Gas Tub
  • Gas Block
  • Gas Tube Roll Pin
  • Hammer
  • Magazine Catch (except ArmaLite AR-10)
  • Magazine Release Button
  • Magazine Release Spring
  • Pistol Grip
  • Pistol Grip Screw and Washer
  • Rear Sights
  • Receiver End Plate
  • Safety Selector
  • Safety Selector Spring and Detent
  • Takedown and Pivot Pin Spring
  • Takedown and Pivot Pin Detent
  • Trigger
  • Trigger and Hammer Springs
  • Trigger and Hammer Pins
  • Trigger Guard Assembly

Parting Shot

Who wins out when it comes to the AR-10 vs the AR-15? Easy: both. Though similar in design and operation, the rifles are essentially meant for different duties. This moots the point of which one should be preferred. Really, it comes down to your application and which rifle will execute it most efficiently. Honestly, if you had to choose, the best answer would be one of each.

For more AR-10 information check out:
The Fall And Rise Of The
AR-10
Decoding the AR-10 Lower Receiver
Understanding the AR-10 Upper Receiver


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Concealed Carry

Customization and Concealment: How to Modify Holsters for Perfect Fit

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Finding the right holster for your firearm is essential for comfortable and secure concealed carry. However, off-the-shelf holsters may not always provide the perfect fit for your specific needs and preferences. In this guide, we’ll explore the art of holster customization, offering tips and techniques to modify holsters for a personalized fit that ensures both comfort and concealment.

Understanding Your Needs: Identifying Areas for Improvement

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Before diving into holster customization, take some time to evaluate your priorities when it comes to concealed carry. Consider factors such as comfort, concealability, retention, and accessibility. Determine whether your current holster meets your needs in these areas or if there are specific areas for improvement.

Examine your existing holster for any discomfort or issues that may arise during daily carry. Common pain points include pressure points, sharp edges, or inadequate retention. Take note of these areas as they will guide your customization efforts to improve overall comfort and functionality.

Holster Modification Techniques: Tips for Customization

One of the most common methods for holster customization is heat gun molding. This technique involves using a heat gun to soften the holster material, typically Kydex or polymer, and then molding it to fit your firearm more closely. Be cautious not to overheat the material, as it can lead to warping or damage.

If your holster lacks sufficient retention or is too tight, consider adjusting the retention screws or adding retention devices such as adjustable tension screws or retention straps. Experiment with different settings until you find the right balance between retention and ease of draw.

To address discomfort caused by pressure points or sharp edges, consider adding padding or cushioning to your holster. Options include foam padding, adhesive-backed fabric, or leather lining. Apply padding strategically to areas that come into contact with your body to improve overall comfort during extended carry.

Concealment Enhancements: Tips for Discreet Carry

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Adjusting the cant and ride height of your holster can significantly impact concealment and comfort. Experiment with different cant angles and ride heights to find the optimal position for your body type and carry preference. A slight forward or reverse cant can help improve concealment and draw efficiency.

Consider adding concealment wings or clips to your holster to enhance concealment and stability. These accessories attach to the holster and help distribute weight more evenly, reducing printing and improving overall comfort. Choose options with adjustable angles and tension to customize the fit to your body shape and clothing style.

For added safety and concealment, consider modifying your holster to provide enhanced trigger guard coverage. This can help prevent accidental trigger access while ensuring a smooth and consistent drawstroke. Add-on trigger guard extensions or molded-in trigger guard covers are available for many holster models and can be easily installed.

Customizing your holster allows you to tailor it to your unique needs and preferences, ensuring a comfortable and secure carry experience. By identifying areas for improvement, exploring modification techniques, and enhancing concealment features, you can create a holster that fits you perfectly and provides reliable performance day in and day out. Remember to take your time, experiment with different adjustments, and prioritize safety throughout the customization process. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can transform your holster into the ideal companion for concealed carry.

Has this guide helped you to pick a holster? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Gear

Holster Materials Demystified: Leather vs. Kydex vs. Hybrid Options

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Choosing the right holster material is crucial for effective and comfortable concealed carry. Each material, whether it be leather, Kydex, or a hybrid of several materials, offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. This guide will help you understand the differences between these materials, aiding you in making an informed decision based on durability, comfort, maintenance, and functionality.

Leather Holsters: Traditional Comfort and Elegance

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Leather has been used in holster manufacturing for centuries due to its durability and the unique way it conforms to the firearm and the wearer’s body over time. A well-made leather holster can last for many years if properly cared for. Leather’s natural give ensures that it doesn’t scratch or dent your firearm, protecting the finish over long periods.

One of the primary advantages of leather is its comfort. Leather holsters tend to be more flexible than Kydex, which allows them to mold to the body’s contours, providing a personalized fit after a break-in period. Aesthetically, leather also has a classic look that appeals to many gun owners who appreciate its traditional appearance and craftsmanship.

The main drawback of leather is its higher maintenance requirements. Leather needs to be regularly cleaned and conditioned to prevent drying out or cracking. It is also less resistant to moisture compared to synthetic materials, which can be a consideration in wet climates or for everyday carry.

Kydex Holsters: Modern, Durable, and Low Maintenance

Kydex is a lightweight, thermoplastic material that is both durable and maintenance-free. Unlike leather, Kydex does not warp, crack, or require regular conditioning. It is highly resistant to moisture, making it an excellent choice for humid environments or active individuals who might sweat during carry.

Kydex holsters offer a firm, secure fit that doesn’t change over time, which means consistent retention and a reliable draw every time. These holsters are generally designed to offer an audible click when the gun is properly holstered, providing additional security feedback. Kydex is also easier to clean; usually, a simple wipe-down is all that’s required to keep it in good condition.

The primary disadvantage of Kydex is that it can be less comfortable for extended wear, especially directly against the skin, as it does not conform to the body the same way leather does. Additionally, the rigid nature of Kydex can sometimes cause wear on the finish of the firearm with repeated drawing and holstering.

Hybrid Holsters: Combining the Best of Both Worlds

Hybrid holsters are designed to offer the best features of both leather and Kydex. Typically, these holsters use a backing of leather (or sometimes a breathable synthetic fabric) that rests against the body, providing the comfort and flexibility of leather, coupled with a Kydex shell that holds the firearm. This combination ensures that the holster is comfortable against the skin while maintaining the structural integrity and easy re-holstering benefits of Kydex.

The leather backing of a hybrid holster conforms to the body, similar to a full leather holster, improving comfort for daily wear. The rigid Kydex shell keeps the gun securely in place and allows for smooth, consistent drawing and reholstering without the holster collapsing.

While hybrid holsters attempt to offer the best of both materials, they may also inherit some disadvantages. The leather component may still require maintenance, and the overall bulk might be greater than a single-material holster. Additionally, depending on the design, the sweat protection for the firearm might not be as robust as with a full Kydex design.

Choosing the Right Material for Your Needs

When selecting a holster, consider your personal needs, daily activities, and the environments in which you will be carrying. Leather offers a traditional, comfortable fit at the expense of greater care and potentially less durability under extreme conditions. Kydex provides excellent security and low maintenance but may sacrifice comfort. Hybrid holsters balance these factors but check that the design fits your specific requirements and comfort preferences.

Ultimately, the best holster material depends on your unique situation and preferences. Testing different materials and types can provide firsthand experience and help you make the best choice for your concealed carry needs.

Do you have a preferred material for your holsters? Why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Concealed Carry

Concealed Carry Essentials: Choosing the Right Holster for Your Firearm

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When it comes to concealed carry, choosing the right holster is as crucial as selecting the firearm itself. A good holster not only secures your weapon but also ensures comfort, accessibility, and concealment. Whether you’re a seasoned carrier or new to the world of concealed carry, understanding the different types of holsters and what makes them suitable for certain situations can help you make the right choice for your needs.

Understanding Holster Types

Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Holsters

IWB holsters are one of the most popular choices for concealed carry because they offer excellent concealment. Positioned inside the wearer’s pants, these holsters sit just behind the hip or at the appendix position. They are designed to conceal the gun effectively beneath a lightly draped shirt or jacket, making them ideal for those who wear casual or business attire regularly. The key is to find an IWB holster made from a comfortable material that minimizes discomfort against the skin.

Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Holsters

While OWB holsters are less concealable than their IWB counterparts, they are often more comfortable for extended wear, especially if you spend a lot of time seated, such as driving or working at a desk. These holsters sit on the outside of the pants, held close to the body by a belt. OWB is a preferred choice for open carry, duty carry, or when using larger frame pistols that are harder to conceal inside the waistband.

Pocket Holsters

For those preferring to carry smaller handguns, pocket holsters are a viable option. These holsters protect the firearm from debris and lint while ensuring that it stays upright and accessible in your pocket. The holster’s design also masks the shape of the gun, helping to prevent ‘printing’ (when the outline of the gun is visible through clothing), thus maintaining concealment.

Material Matters: Selecting the Right Fabric

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Leather Holsters

Leather is a traditional choice that combines durability with comfort. Over time, leather holsters can mold to the shape of your gun and body, offering a custom fit. However, leather requires maintenance to keep it supple and functional, and it might not perform as well in very wet conditions.

Kydex and Other Synthetics

Kydex, a type of thermoplastic, is a popular alternative to leather due to its robustness and low maintenance. Holsters made from Kydex are resistant to water and sweat, making them suitable for humid climates. They also retain their shape over time, which facilitates quicker re-holstering. However, they might be less comfortable against the skin than leather and can wear the finish of your firearm faster.

Hybrid Holsters

Hybrid holsters combine materials, usually leather or a soft fabric backing with a synthetic shell. This design aims to offer the best of both worlds: comfort from the backing material and durability and easy access from the synthetic shell. These are particularly popular among those who carry daily as they balance comfort and functionality.

Fit and Comfort: Ensuring a Proper Holster

Custom Fit

It’s crucial that your holster fits your firearm snugly. A good fit prevents the gun from shifting, falling, or being difficult to draw. Most holsters are built for specific models, which means a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the best when it comes to holsters.

Comfort

Comfort is key, especially if you plan to carry your gun daily. A comfortable holster should distribute the weight of the gun evenly without chafing. Padding can be crucial, particularly for IWB carriers. Test different holsters to see how they feel when sitting, walking, or bending.

Retention and Accessibility

Good retention keeps the gun securely holstered but allows for quick drawing when necessary. Some holsters offer adjustable retention screws to tighten or loosen the hold on your firearm. Moreover, ensure the holster does not obstruct your grip; when drawing, you should be able to get a full grip on the handle.

Concealment and Practical Considerations

Pistol in the holster.

Concealment

Choose a holster that keeps your firearm out of sight but within reach. The best concealed carry holster offers a balance between accessibility, comfort, and invisibility. Consider your daily activities and the type of clothing you wear when selecting a holster for optimal concealment.

Practical Considerations

Lastly, consider other practical aspects such as the ease of holstering and unholstering, the holster’s profile (does it add too much bulk?), and its compatibility with your wardrobe. Some holsters, especially those designed for deeper concealment, may require practice to achieve a smooth and quick draw.

Choosing the right holster is a personal journey and often a matter of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to test different types, materials, and positions until you find the perfect combination that offers safety, comfort, and confidence in your ability to carry concealed effectively.

Do you have any tips for people looking for holsters? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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