ArmaLite AR-10 Rifle

If you own an AR-10, you’d know what I mean when I say this:

It’s INSANELY reliable and accurate — especially if you attach a scope to the AR-10.

Now, you’re probably wondering:

Who made the AR-10 rifle? How did it come to be? 

It all started with the…

Birth of NATO

When NATO was formed after World War II, it allowed for research and development to happen between Global Allies. The military noticing a steep curve that was happening in firearm development decided to commission a new weapon. 

They were looking for a weapon that could not only shoot fully automatic and fire in quick bursts, but that would be lightweight and accurate.

Because of this, NATO created the…

Rifle Steering Committee

Their mission?

To develop a new rifle for the military and NATO nation forces. 

They started to send invitations to all of the major firearms manufacturers — asking them to submit prototypes for the rifle trials being performed by the military. 

This would effectively start a competition pitting the best designs against each other. The submitted prototypes were put through a battery of rigorous tests to determine which of the designs would be more efficient in the role that they were looking to fill.

While the competition consisted of HUGE gun manufactures like Fabrique National and Springfield Armory, it was one of the newcomers that submitted an entry to the trials that got the military’s attention…

Meet ArmaLite’s AR-10

The AR-10 was considered the holy grail of rifles. It was reliable, accurate and powerful. How? 

Well instead of using the wooden stock, it featured a straight-line design that incorporated fiberglass and aluminum — resulting in a MUCH lighter, yet durable build. 

Also, it used a proprietary gas system that collected the gas created by a fired cartridge and used it to unlock and propel the bolt backward. And by doing this, the expended round was propelled. 

Other AR-10 features included a recoil compensator and elevated sights which allowed them to fire in a more natural configuration.

In short: 

The AR-10 blew everyone away. It was THAT good. But, a problem occurred…

The AR-10 Disaster

George Sullivan, ArmaLite’s president, decided to submit an untested AR-10 design that had a composite metal barrel which consisted of steel and aluminum. 

Eugene Stoner (the Chief Engineer) was strongly against the idea — insisting Sullivan to not use the composite metal barrel design.

Instead of listening to Stoner’s advice, Sullivan submitted the prototype anyways. Here’s what happened after:

The US Army conducted a torture test on the AR-10 and during the test, the barrel suffered a critical failure and busted — causing the Springfield Armory to reject the initial design. Even though Stoner and ArmaLite quickly replaced the barrel on the prototype with a traditional all-steel one, the damage had been done. 

As a result, the Springfield Armory wouldn’t recommend the use of the AR-10. Regardless of objections that were voiced by ArmaLite, the Army saw the AR-10 as strictly a prototype firearm. 

This would not allow them to test and bring the unit field ready within the time restraints they had put in place. 

After this happened, the military started using the T44 that was produced by the Springfield Armory for its next service weapon. Later, the T44 would come to be known as the M14.

Not the End for the AR-10

Was the AR-10 a failure? Maybe…in the eyes of the US military during the torture test. But its legacy didn’t die that day.

In fact: it became well-known in other parts of the world. ArmaLite was able to license the AR-10 to manufacturers and nations outside of the U.S, including: 

  • Artillerie Inrichtingen
  • Portugal
  • Sudan
  • Cuba
  • Italy
  • Guatemala
  • Burma

That’s not all…

In 1956, ArmaLite used the AR-10’s design and introduced a masterpiece:

The AR-15.

The U.S. Armed Forces absolutely LOVED it and eventually adopted it as the M16 rifle. I could go on about the AR-15, but that’s another topic altogether. 

Today, the AR-10 is manufactured by various gun makers like Palmetto State Armory, DPMS, Smith & Wesson, and more. And despite the AR-15 being more popular than his older brother, the AR-10 legacy lives on in the hands of law enforcement, military forces, hunters and competitive shooters worldwide.

By Richard Douglas

Richard Douglas writes on firearms, defense and security issues. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, 1945, Daily Caller and other publications.

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