In the world of assault rifles, the ArmaLites are some of the most popular. While the AR rifles are currently popular with military, police, and civilians, they were designed for very specific purposes. They are all lightweight, compact, accurate, and reliable. There are also dozens of ways to customize the AR rifles to make the gun a one of a kind piece. This leaves us with the obligation of distinguishing the differences between the two most popular firearms in the line, the AR 10 vs AR 15.
Early in the 1950’s, an engine and aircraft company called Fairchild started working on the design of a lightweight paratrooper’s rifle. George Sullivan led the effort, and soon after the AR-1 was born. This para-sniper rifle was labeled ‘AR’ to show that it came from the company’s ArmaLite division. The AR-5 came shortly after, and was designed to protect Air Force pilots after their planes had been shot down. To further develop the line of firearms, Sullivan teamed up with Eugene Stoner to develop the design for the AR 10.
The AR 10 actually had a hard time reaching the sales numbers that were expected for the weapon. The ArmaLite division quickly released the smaller AR 15 to shoot for a quick rebound. The AR 15 has become one of the most widely owned assault rifles in the world, and was the basis for the design of the also popular M16 assault rifle. However, the AR 10 and the AR 15 were the backbone of the line. The rights for both models were sold to Colt in 1959. This forces us as consumers to consider the differences between the AR 15 vs AR 10.
The AR 10
Let us first look at the features of the AR 10. This weapon is a lightweight, air-cooled, gas operated 7.62mm assault rifle that fires the NATO standardized 7.62x51mm cartridge in a 20 round magazine. The firearm has been made lighter by the use of aluminum alloys and glass reinforced plastic in some of the parts. The weight was trimmed down to roughly eight pounds. The barrel, bolt, and bolt carrier are all still made of steel.
One of the biggest innovations of the AR 10 is its direct gas impingement. Most gas-powered rifles flow the propellant gas to a port in the barrel and then on to piston in a cylinder running alongside the barrel. The gases push the piston to re-cock the bolt, kick out the shell, and load the next round. The difference in the AR 10 design is that the gasses flow directly down the cylinder running parallel to the barrel and impinges the bolt carrier mechanism. The end result is a higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity. The AR 10 can cycle 700 rounds per minute (The “cycle rate” of the weapon assumes it could be fired as fast as physically possible and had a bottomless magazine) and fires a round at 2,772 feet per second.
The physical features of the AR 10 are some of the reasons why it is so popular. The firearm has raised front sights and a carrying handle that houses the rear sights. This carrying handle also helps to protect the cocking lever. The weapon is 40.5 inches long with a barrel length of 20 inches. Now that we know what the AR 10 has to offer, we can look at the other firearm to better compare the AR 10 vs the AR 15.
The AR 15
The AR 15 design was derived from the AR 10 and keeps many of the features of its predecessor. It maintains the same direct gas impingement system that was used for the AR 10. The biggest difference is that the AR 10 is full caliber while the AR 15 is a 5.56mm assault rifle that has been made lighter. The firearm uses the 5.56x45mm M193 cartridge in either 20 or 30 round magazines. One of the nicest innovations on the AR 15 is the use of nylonite material which drops the total weight down to about six pounds.
The direct gas impingement system on the AR 15 gives the weapon an even greater rate of fire and muzzle speed than the AR 10. This weapon runs at 800 rounds per minute and fires at a muzzle speed of 3,200 feet per second. This gives it an effective range of 600 yards, just slightly shorter than the AR 10. The overall gun length was trimmed down to 39.63 inches while the barrel length was kept the same at 20 inches. Next, we can make a side by side comparison between the AR 10 vs the AR 15.
Comparison – AR 15 Vs AR 10
Both of these firearms have a similar benefit in that the lightweight design allows for the user to carry more weight in the magazine. That means more rounds before you have to reload. However, each bullet has its pros and cons. The AR 10 round is heavier and can travel a bit further. However, the AR 15 round travels at higher speeds. The larger bullet of the AR 10 transfers more kinetic energy to the target. This means more stopping power with one round. On the other hand, the AR 15 has a higher rate of fire which could mean putting more bullets in a single target faster.
The biggest difference in the debate between the AR 10 vs AR 15 is the intended use. Both guns are purchased by collectors, hunters, sport shooters, military, and police. Both guns are light enough for practically anybody to use, no matter how small their stature. However, for big game hunters the stopping power of the AR 10 is a definite edge. You will need that stopping power to bring down a large animal. This weapon also has the edge for military snipers as the additional range is needed for longer shots.
On the other hand, the AR 15 is better for home protection, small game hunting, and police or private security work. It has plenty of military application for shorter range firing. The faster rate of fire, larger clip, lighter weight, and shorter overall length make it ideal for close quarters combat in urban settings.
In a SHTF situation, there are several advantages to the AR 15. There would likely be scenarios where you would have to hike long distances with the weapon. The additional weight of the AR 10 would limit the amount of ammunition you would want to carry. You would likely face some combat situations or have to deal with looters. The smaller size and larger clip would be helpful in those scenarios. While it is nice to think that you would spend your time hunting elk or deer, it is much more likely that you would be hunting squirrels, rabbits, or possums.
In addition, the AR 15 is a more common weapon. It is always much easier to find ammunition for an AR 15 versus finding ammunition for the AR 10. Also, finding replacement parts would be easier for the AR 15 if needed. The only real advantage of the AR 10 is its ability to turn cover into concealment. Cover in a combat situation is defined as an obstacle that hides your location and protects you from incoming fire. Concealment is defined and an obstacle that hides your location, but that cannot stop incoming fire. The additional weight of the AR 10 bullet allows it to penetrate structures that would normally stop the AR 15 bullet.
And the Winner is…
In the comparison of the AR 10 versus the AR 15, it was difficult to declare a winner. Both firearms are incredibly well made and popular. In general, assault rifles have gained significant popularity in recent years. Media coverage and the threat of new 2nd amendment legislation have caused gun enthusiasts to go running to the gun store to buy both assault rifles. In addition, tactical accessories for these rifles have been flying off of the shelves. The ability to quickly acquire targets is enhanced with red dot or reflex sights. Scopes, laser sights, and tactical lights can be used as well. Enhanced grips, bipods, and folding sticks can be added for more stability while shooting. These upgrades all help make either the AR 10 or the AR 15 a one of a kind piece for the owner.
There are obvious advantages for both of these weapons. To a great degree you must consider the winner of this debate to be based on the person buying the gun. For those that prefer a larger weapon with more range and more stopping power, the AR 10 is a better choice. For those that prefer a shorter, lighter firearm with a higher rate of fire, the AR 15 is a better choice. For big game hunters, snipers, and those that will be shooting through obstacles, the AR 10 works better. For those that are small game hunters or those engaging in close quarters combat, the AR 15 works better. You can see my dilemma.
In the end. I must make my decision based on my own personal preferences. If I had to pick one of these two weapons as my only firearm, I would choose the AR 15. I find that in the comparison between the AR 10 and the AR 15, the AR 15 is more versatile and covers more potential uses. You will have to make the decision for yourself, but I hope we have provided you with the information needed to make that decision.