If there’s one thing the average person is bound to think when they look at an AR-10 and an AR-15 next to each other, it’s “Well. Those look pretty much the same, don’t they?”
True, they look a lot alike, from easy-to-miss differences in size in the upper and lower receiver to the overall aesthetic of the rifle itself. But, tell a gun enthusiast one looks like the other, and you might get a stern look (if you’re lucky).
The truth is, their differences, from their capabilities and designs to their histories, really set these two rifles apart. In today’s article, we will be taking a closer look at the AR-10 vs AR-15, and the differences between them, and settling this issue once and for all.
The Difference Between AR-15s and AR-10s
At the risk of cutting this article short before it even begins, there is one super-quick difference to spot between the two firearms. The quickest way to tell the difference between these two iconic rifles is to look at the magazine well. The AR-10’s magwell is slightly larger than the AR-15’s, making this an easy tell, right off the bat.
The AR-15’s internal compartment dimensions are approximately 2.4 “x 0.9″, designed to work with cartridges up to 2.26 ” in length. The AR-10’s compartment is approximately 2.96 “x 1.16”, with a magazine sized to work with cartridges measuring up to 2.83 “, total. All of these measurements may differ, depending on your specific weapon.
Now, magwells aside, these two platforms look pretty much identical. Still, with a trained eye, there are some significant differences for the spotting. Actually, quite a few things.
Things that differ include:
- receiver size
- mag release
- pivot pin
- the actual size of the hand guard
- cylindrical nut
- bolt carrier group
- the loading handle
- damping tube
- shock absorber
Though some may argue with you, these elements all mostly look the same, only differing in their dimensions. The parts may play the same role in each firearm, but they have to be built according to different parameters in order to work properly.
But let’s take a closer look at these two firearms and what makes them unique.
AR-10: A History
In 1955 and 56, the U.S. Army commissioned engineer, Eugene Stoner, to develop an alternative to the M1 Garand. Though the Garand was (and continues to be) a treasured weapon to military and rifle enthusiasts, it was too heavy and held too few rounds for their purposes.
Stoner eventually produced what would be known as the AR-10, which held twenty rounds of 7.62×51 and weighed less than eight pounds. It was the breakthrough they’d been looking for, and became the new standard of its day.
AR-10 Design and Capabilities
The AR-10 featured a Waffle Patterned magazine and a newly designed charging device which looked like an inverted trigger. This charger traversed a cut channel through the top of the upper receiver, while a “transport handle” covered the loading handle, for a better place to position your rear sight.
When ArmaLite introduced the rifle, its light weight and more effective caliber were big news. So was its ability to fire rifle grenades without need for adjustments. Users could simply drop a rifle grenade, stem first, into the mouth of the rifle before using grenade propulsion rounds to launch the grenade.
Barrels were steel compounds wrapped in aluminum, with cylindrical bolt carrier groups to handle high pressure on the 7.62 x 51 rounds. Corrosion-resistant materials were the name of the game, with easy assembly and interchangeable parts helping to create a better overall firearm.
AR-15: A Closer Look
During the Korean War, American soldiers discovered that weight, fire rate, and range were becoming big issues in their combat rifles. Equipped with heavy M1 Garand rifles with only eight rounds to spare, this weapon was starting to weigh them down, and they needed that addressed in their next standard issue.
The AR-15 was designed as a solution to these problems, built lighter and with a smaller caliber round that increased combat effectiveness and carry capabilities. The weight reduction allowed American soldiers to enter a battlefield with less of a combat load. Not only this, but it gave those same soldiers increased defense capabilities, as they could carry greater amounts of .22 ammunition.
Though its introduction wasn’t exactly smooth, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara lead the charge for the military to adopt the rifle in and release it in Vietnam in 1965.
Design and Capabilities of the AR-15
Hunters often prefer to use AR-15 style rifles due to their versatility, precision, options for customization, and variety of sizes. Folding stocks are also great news for hunters who pack their rifles at remote locations. They are also a dream for “length of pull” adjustments, perfect for the exact specifications of each hunter.
Built with lightweight polymers and corrosion-resistant alloys, these rifles are perfectly ready for hunting in extremely humid environments. They don’t bring with them the concern for rust and warped wooden stocks that other rifles might.
AR-15 safety positioning is also an improvement new development over the AR-15’s more traditional cousins. As many states require hunters to use magazines with reduced capacities, a hunter who fails with a first shot may find him or herself out of luck pretty quickly. With the self-loading function of these firearms, rapid tracking shots can be made against dangerous animals that move quickly.
Finally, a hunter shooting larger game may use an upper receiver or barrel adapted for this kind of work, these kinds of bullets, and this kind of firing.