AR 10 vs AR 15: What’s the Difference?

Looking for the next firearm to add to your collection? Or perhaps you are purchasing your first ever firearm. If this sounds like you, then you know how important and demanding of a decision this can be. When it comes to choosing between different models of guns, things can quickly become complicated and confusing. That's because you're typically comparing them based on so many different levels and categories.

In the case of the AR 10 vs. AR 15, these firearms are both prevalent. With that, they both have their advantages over the other. They are lightweight, compact, reliable, and accurate models. Also, they feature dozens of options to customize them. This helps you transform them into a one of a kind rifle. This way, you can make sure they best suit your purposes, whatever those may be.

Originally designed by ArmaLite, the AR 10 was released following the AR 1 and AR 5. However, the model struggled to reach the projected sales numbers. As a result, ArmaLite quickly revised their design and released the AR 15 to shoot with a fast rebound. Since then, the AR 15 has grown into one of the world’s most widely-owned guns in terms of assault rifles. It even became the basis for the design of the M16 assault rifle, which would also become wildly popular.

The AR 10 and AR 15 were the foundation of the AR line. Today, the rights to both designs have been sold to Colt. With this, consumers must consider the differences between these two popular rifles before deciding.

That’s why we’ve gathered everything you need to know to choose between a AR 10 vs AR 15. There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision. It's essential to note that there is no single answer that fits every person. Depending on your goals and preferences, a different model might fit your needs.

Ready to learn the subtle AR 10 vs AR 15 differences? We've gathered everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

The AR 10

Let’s start with the AR 10. This assault rifle is lightweight, gas operated, and air-cooled 7.62mm (or .308in). This model fires the standardized NATO 7.62 x 51mm cartridge. The bullets load into a detachable box magazine of 20 rounds. Designed by Armalite, the AR 10 is true to its name by being very economical in terms of weight. It weighs in at 3.29 to 4.05 kg (from 7.25 to 8.9 lbs) without the magazine or ammunition loaded.

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If you don’t know much about gas-operated rifles, then it’s a good idea to make sure that you have a basic understanding of them. This is true especially if you are looking to purchase one like a AR 10 or AR 15. Simply put, most gas-operated firearms bleed the propellant into a gas port within the gun barrel. From there, it runs to a piston in a cylinder that runs parallel to the barrel of the gun. From there, the gas pushes the piston, and this enables the bolt to re-cock. Then, it releases the used cartridge and loads in a fresh round into the chamber to prepare the gun to fire.

The AR 10 design, however, is unique in that it differs slightly in this process. In it, instead, the propellant it has bled through a cylinder that runs parallel to the gun barrel. As a result, it impinges the bolt carrier mechanism. The resulting “direct gas impingement” gives the AR 10 model a higher cyclic fire rate. It boasts 700 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity right at 845 meters per second (or 2,772 feet per second). With these specs, few rifles can measure up to the power of the AR 10.

The external looks of the AR 10 have become absolutely iconic. The reason for this has a lot to do with the AR 15 (or, more specifically, the M-16). The design of the AR 15 incorporates an elevated sight. In addition, it has a carrying handle that houses the product’s rear sights. This component also acts as a protection to the charging/cocking lever. Similarly, the AR 10 measures in at 1,029 meters (40.5 inches) in overall length. The barrel length alone measures at .508 meters (20 inches).

The AR 15

Now you know the basics about the AR 10. Let's follow up with a brief overview of its popular counterpart, the AR 15. Like the AR 10, this model uses the same design in terms of the “direct gas impingement” like the AR 10. In addition, it carries most of the same developments. The AR 10 is marketed as a “full caliber” rifle—the AR 15 is an even lighter version of an already lightweight model. The AR 15 or the M-16 uses a 5.56x45mm M193 cartridge in either 20 or 30 round magazines.

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This model boasts an incredibly lightweight design. It is able to accomplish this as a result of the use of a lightweight material in its manufacturing. This material is called “nylonite” and helps to cut down on the weight tremendously. As a result, it can weigh anywhere from 2.2 to 3.9 kilograms, or anywhere from 5.5 to 8.5 pounds.

This rifle operates with a rotating bolt. The use of the “direct gas impingement” design feature offers a cyclic rate of fire of an impressive 800 rounds per minute. This is paired with a muzzle velocity of 975 meters a second (or 3,200 feet per second). This also comes with a maximum effective range of 550 meters (600 yards). In addition, the AR 15/M-16 measures in with an overall length of 1.006 meters (39.63 inches), with the barrel length at .508 meters (20 inches).

The Nitty Gritty: AR 10 Vs. AR 15
Now you know the basics about each assault rifle that we’re talking about in this article. That’s an important place to start when trying to get to know two different rifles enough to be able to choose between them. However, with that basic knowledge underway, it’s time to take a closer look into the specs, capabilities, and features of each different model. This should help you to pick and choose what are the most important aspects that you are looking for in your assault rifle. With that information in mind, you should be able to make the best possible decision.

So let’s get down into the details to compare everything you need to know about the AR 10 vs the AR 15. We’ll compare them on a number of criteria, so you can narrow down your selection to the best firearm for you, based on what matters most for your purposes.

Trigger

If the trigger of your firearm is a significant deciding factor in which one you choose to invest in – and we wouldn’t blame you if that were the case – then we understand why comparing the triggers on these two models would be important. In this case, however, the trigger should not end up being much of a deciding factor.

Between these two models, the trigger is mostly interchangeable between the AR 10 and the AR 15. In most cases, the entire group of triggers is interchangeable between the two platforms. The AR 10 vs AR 15 trigger being so similar provides users of either model with a variety of options to choose from. This includes a basic but consistent mil-spec trigger, all the way up to a high-end two-stage competition trigger.

Whatever you choose, your trigger should fit with the application of your rifle. For example, when looking for an accurate and long-range rifle, a two-stage trigger is the ideal choice. On the other hand, a standard mil-spec trigger would be an acceptable choice for users seeking reasonable accuracy as far as 500 yards.

Buffer Tube

It’s common for buffer tubes of AR 15s and AR 10s to be of an identical diameter. As a result, the same buttstock assemblies can be utilized regardless of which model you choose to go with. While it may be a simple component of your assembly, having a quality buttstock to pair with your assault rifle can improve your shooting abilities. In addition, it can make them more comfortable to use in general and for use in long periods of time. In short, if you’re looking to compare the AR 10 vs AR 15 buffer tube, then there’s not much of a difference.

Bolt Catch

With the AR 15 vs AR 10 bolt catch, this is where things begin to differ between these two popular models. A AR 15 bolt catch is, in most cases, incompatible with the majority of AR 10 lowers.

Weight

At roughly 8 pounds, the AR 10 is certainly a lightweight weapon. It allows users to carry their firearm with them for long periods of time without becoming bogged down by the weight of an overly heavy weapon. However, with the release of the AR 15, this lightweight quality of the AR model was even further improved upon. By using nylonite material in its construction, the weight of this design dropped down to around six pounds. This offers a completely new definition of the term “lightweight.”

If you’re not going to be using this gun for long periods of time, then this difference in weight perhaps won’t matter to you too much. However, ask yourself if you’re going to be using this firearm on lengthy excursions. If so, then the weight is likely a factor that is very important for you to consider. This 2-pound drop between the AR 10 and the AR 15 is significant. As a result, if one of your main considerations involves the AR 10 vs AR 15 weight, then the AR 15 definitely reigns supreme.

Magpul PRS

Wondering about your Magpul PRS stock? No need to fear. The Magpul PRS stock is compatible with both the AR 10 and the AR 15. Like so many other things you may be comparing these models on, when it comes to the Magpul PRS AR 15 vs AR 10, the two models measure up the same.

Bolt Carrier Group (BCG)

BCG, short for bolt carrier group, is a term most often used to refer to gas-operated weapons. This would include the AR 10 and the AR 15. If you want to compare the AR 10 BCG vs AR 15 BCG, we’ve got you covered.

There are BCGs for both the AR 10 and the AR 15. Concerned about ensuring that there is a compatible BCG for the rifle you are thinking about purchasing? Then you are in the clear with either model!

Recoil

You might remember from the introduction of this article what we mentioned about recoil. As a refresher, recoil is one of the important factors that was improved in the design from the AR 10 to the AR 15. With the AR 10, the recoil was significantly higher than the AR 15. The reason for this? It’s designed to fire more powerful rounds.

Think about it like this: The more weight, or mass, a bullet contains, the more gunpowder it requires to accelerate it through the barrel of your gun with a great enough force to hit your target. This means that bigger bullets will require a substantially larger amount of gunpowder. This is how the design is able to propel the bullet down your gun’s barrel. As a result, your shoulder will certainly feel the difference in recoil.

Fortunately, one of the largest advantages of the AR 10 and the AR 15 is the fact that they offer incredible recoil absorption technology. This feature is much more effective than in a bolt-action rifle, even one of the same caliber. As a result, the AR 10 vs AR 15 recoil is manageable either way to the average shooter. Regardless of which model you choose, you should be able to handle the recoil.

Bullets

Both these models have a lot going for them. They offer a lot of similar benefits. One example of this is their lightweight design. The fact that these models are so low in weight allows users to carry more weight in the firearm’s magazine. In addition, users are able to shoot more rounds before it’s necessary to stop and reload. However, the bullet for each model comes with its own pros and cons.

The rounds for your AR 10 are heavier, and they can also travel farther. With the AR 10, the larger bullet means that it is able to transfer more kinetic energy to your target. As a result, this means you harness more stopping power with every round. This means the AR 10 packs a powerful punch for when that is your aim.

However, the rounds for the AR 15 model are able to travel at higher speeds and has a higher rate of fire. The higher rate of fire that comes with the AR 15 makes a difference. With it, you can put more bullets into your target more quickly.

The most significant difference when it comes to considering the AR 15 vs AR 10 bullet? That will depend on how you intend to use it. In short, there is no single option that is best for every single use! This depends on what your purposes are. What are you going for in this new addition to your rifle collection?

Both these guns are popular with sports shooters, hunters, collectors, police, and military. If any of these describe your intended purposes with the product, then you will likely be satisfied with the results of either model. Both of them are light enough to be used by practically anybody, regardless of how small the user is in stature.

However, when it comes to big game hunters, the AR 10 offers a definite edge. This comes from its stopping power, which is necessary for those trying to bring down a large animal. The AR 10 also offers an edge for a military sniper. This is because it offers the additional range needed for the longer shots attempted by snipers.

At the same time, the AR 15 has advantages for other purposes. When it comes to small game hunting, home protection, private security work, and police work, the AR 15 is superior. It offers plenty of applications in the military with its capabilities for short-range fire. With a faster rate of fire, a lighter weight, a larger clip, and a shorter length overall, it’s ideal for combat in close quarters in an urban setting.

Building the Rifles

In today’s world, it’s much more common for gun users to choose to build their own AR 15. However, buying a top AR 10 already pre-built is much more common for those who choose to go with the AR 10 model.

However, of course, you can choose to buy either pre-built and ready to go – or choose to build your own of either model. It’s just important to note that it is easier to build a AR 15. This is because it is a more common rifle with easier to find parts. It also comes with more information available on how to accomplish the task at hand.

In short, if you want to build your own firearm, you are likely to find a lot more luck with the AR 15. You’ll avoid a lot of struggle trying to find compatible parts, and you will run into a lot less trouble overall. Are you leaning towards the AR 10 as your assault rifle of choice? If so, you might want to either prepare yourself for a challenge in building your weapon. Otherwise, you may want to come to terms with purchasing one that is pre-built. When it comes to building a AR 10 vs AR 15, it’s best to lean towards the AR 15 if building your own weapon is important to you.

Accuracy

When it comes to any firearm, accuracy is always of the utmost importance. Any gun owner should take the accuracy of any gun that they own very seriously. It’s not only helpful to you when you’re using the weapon but to others around you. It is also a matter of responsibility; This is because you do not want to take aim for one thing and end up hitting another thing altogether. With an accurate weapon, the only thing standing between you and hitting your target is your own skill in taking aim.

Fortunately, if you’re trying to compare AR 10 vs AR 15 accuracy, then you can rest assured that this will not be a major deciding factor. Both guns perform well in terms of accuracy, even in long range shooting scenarios. However, due to its lighter recoil, the AR 15 tends to produce more accurate (and faster) follow-up shots.

"SHTF"

If you haven’t heard the acronym before, SHTF is a term commonly used in the search for a suitable weapon. It refers to a proper gun for when “shit hits the fan.” This involves using the firearm in getting the user and their loved ones through the hard times in a disaster scenario.

Are you comparing the AR 10 vs AR 15 in terms of which gun will properly hold up in an SHTF struggle? If so, then you’re going to want to consider nearly every single aspect, component and feature of each model.

We’ve already gone over most of what you’ll want to consider when looking for your SHTF gun. With that information in mind, you will likely already know which model is best for you in this case if you’ve read through every other side-by-side comparison. At the end of the day, we tend to prefer the AR 15 as a SHTF gun although you truly cannot go wrong with either model. The AR 15 is the preferred choice because of its lightweight construction, a high cyclic rate of firing, quick recoil, and more. We believe all of these combine to make the AR 15 marginally better than the AR 10. If you’re comparing AR 10 vs AR 15 SHTF, then AR 15 is the most versatile for when you need to evacuate and be protected in a SHTF situation. However, both models make excellent candidates for your next SHTF firearm.

Here’s a more in-depth look at what we think makes the AR 15 your best choice when it comes to choosing your SHTF firearm:

In a SHTF scenario, the AR 15 offers several advantages. You will likely encounter situations that require you to hike for lengthy distances, bringing your weapon with you. The additional weight of the AR 10, although only two pounds, can really add up after many miles of travel. It would limit the amount of ammunition you are able to bring with you. You'll also want to keep in mind that you are likely to face combat situations in this scenario. You may also have to contend with looters. With the smaller size of the model and a larger clip, these features would really pay off. The AR 10 would be preferable if you think you’ll be spending your time hunting deer or elk. However, the much more likely situation is that you will be hunting down a smaller game. These might include possums, rabbits, and squirrels – in which case, the AR 15 is better.

Finally, the AR 15 is a much more common weapon. How does this benefit you? Because it’s infinitely easier to track down ammunition for your AR 15 versus a AR 10 when it is needed. Not only that but if it does become necessary, it’s much easier to locate replacement parts for your AR 15 than if you have a AR 10.

In a SHTF scenario, there is only one real advantage you have with a AR 10 over a AR 15. This lies in the fact that you transform cover into concealment. In a combat situation, the cover is the term used to refer to an obstacle that hides your location and also protects you from the fire that is incoming towards you. Concealment, on the other hand, is an obstacle that masks your location. However, it will be unable to hinder incoming fire. The AR 10 bullet’s additional weight allows it to penetrate structures that would typically stop a AR 15 bullet in its tracks.

In the video below you will see some reinforcement of some of the conclusions we came to. Also, they add on to some of the topics we touched on.

The Verdict

Choosing the right assault rifle for you can be a huge decision. Are you looking to purchase your first firearm or your first assault rifle? Are you simply looking for a new gun to add to your already existing and growing collection? Either way, the choice of which gun to get comes with a significant financial commitment. Not only that, it will affect you in a lot of ways for many years to come. But with the right decision, you will be able to enjoy and hold onto your new firearm for quite some time.
For these reasons, it’s important to take the decision of which firearm you choose to purchase quite seriously. You don’t want to purchase a model on a whim. If you do this, you may end up finding out that its counterpart would have suited your purposes much better. You especially don't want this to happen after it’s too late to change your mind. To help make this decision simpler, we have compared the AR 10 vs AR 15 on a number of different criteria, features, and capabilities. This is all to ensure that you have all the information you need. With all this in mind, you should be able to make an informed decision before pulling out your wallet. Whether you will be purchasing the parts to build your new gun, or to purchase one already pre-assembled, we want you to make the right decision.

We know you have a lot of things to consider to make the right decision. To make that easier, here’s a brief recap of what is most important for you to remember:

It’s difficult to declare an absolute “winner” between these two guns. Both have their own advantages and benefits over the other. At the end of the day, it all comes down to 1) what you’re going to be using the gun for, and 2) your preferences.

Gun enthusiasts have often purchased both assault rifles. Many people do this to ensure that they have the benefits of each on hand. Not only that, but the tactical accessories for these rifles have also been wildly popular. But the question remains: If you’re only to purchase one, which one should it be?

Do you prefer a larger weapon that offers more stopping power and a greater range? You will likely find better results and be more satisfied with the decision to purchase the AR 10. On the other hand, are you seeking out a lighter and shorter firearm that boasts a higher rate of fire? You might prefer the AR 15. Snipers, big game hunters, and those shooting through obstacles may find better results with the AR 10. Are you planning on using your assault rifle to hunt small game or those engaging in combat in close quarters? If so, the AR 15 will likely be your best option.

At the end of the day, the decision of which rifle you choose has a lot to do with what you’re going to be using it for. Keep in mind what your goals are with your new AR 15 or AR 10. It's always wise to clearly define those purposes and goals. With this, you will be able to make the right decision. So make sure you ultimately purchase a firearm that you will be satisfied with!

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