AR10 Vs AR15 – Ultimate Comparison

ar10 versus ar15

It’s easy to think that AR-10 and AR-15 rifles are pretty much the same thing, or maybe you assume that AR-15s are obviously ahead of the pack.

But, both of these types of rifles have their own advantages you should know about before you spring for either one, so choosing between them without first considering all the facts isn’t recommended. 

What’s really the biggest difference between AR-10s and AR-15s?

Their caliber! While AR1-10s were initially chambered in 7.62 x 51 NATO, the AR-15 was built to accommodate 5.56mm cartridges

With that in mind, let’s see what AR-10s and AR-15s are all about. We’ll start with some interesting notes about their origins. 

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the AR10 Vs AR15 comparison, we got you covered:

AR-10 vs AR-15

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Brief History Of The AR-10 And AR-15

History AR10 and AR15

You might be surprised to learn that the AR-15 came about as the AR-10’s failed design!

Let’s jump into the history of how these two rifles came about. 

It was in the 1950 when Fairchild Aircraft company came up with the idea of designing the AR line of rifles. The first one, the AR-1, was a paratrooper weapon. After that design, the company decided on starting a subdivision called ArmaLite. As you probably know, this is where the name “AR rifle” comes from – the AR stands for ArmaLite,  not assault rifle.

A man by the name of Eugene Stoner who worked at ArmaLite as their chief engineer took on the task of developing AR rifles. He produced the AR-10 and, later, the AR-15. Interestingly, the first AR-10 rifle he designed was one that he sent to the U.S. government because he thought it could replace the M1 Garand, but this suggestion was rejected. While he continued to work on the AR-10, he soon moved on to building the AR-15. 

The company was hoping that the AR-15 they were making would replace a bunch of other guns, such as the M3 “Grease Gun” and Browning Automatic Rifle, for the U.S. Continental Army Command to use. Sadly, it wasn’t chosen, despite its firepower. 

This major setback caused ArmaLite to send its AR-10 and AR-15 designs to Colt, who took them and made adjustments to them. These changes included putting the AR-15’s charging handle at the end of the receiver – a design that was incorporated on the AR-10. They then mass produced the rifle. The AR-15 guns were sent to the Air Force so that pilots could use them. The gun was said to give pilots better protection if their planes were shot down on enemy territories.

Around the same time, the Army was testing the AR-15 and discovered that the 5.56 rifle was easier to handle and shoot than the 7.62mm M14. Although adopting the rifle wasn’t something everyone was on board with when the M14 couldn’t be produced in high enough quantities to meet the demand for it, it was replaced by the AR-15 for the military. At a later stage, these AR-15 rifles would be re-designated as M16s. 

Where did that leave the AR-10? These were basically just upgraded versions of the AR-15 rifle. They are currently used by soldiers, but they’re readily available for civilians in semi-automatic models. 

What Are The Modern Guns Like?

modern AR10

You won’t be hard-pressed to find AR-10 rifles that have chambers for long-action cartridges.

But, it’s good to know that most of these rifles are still using 7.62×51 NATO/.308 Winchester chambers. AR-10s are, however, available in long-action chambers such as the 6.5 Creedmoor which is highly popular.

These guns are used in a variety of applications, such as in long-range situations like hunting game or when you want to compete against your friends at the shooting range. 

As for AR-15s, they are most often found to be chambered in 5.56mm/.223 Remington, but you’ll find that they can accommodate short-action centerfire cartridges, such as the AAC Blackout. That said, it’s interesting to note that the AR-15 has remained pretty much the same in design and parts. 

How Do AR10 And AR15 Guns Work? 

To an untrained eye, these guns look pretty much like the same rifle. Here’s what you should know about how they operate.  

The AR-10 is a gas-operated rifle. How this system works is that gas pushes the piston of the gun to enable the bolt to re-cock, the used cartridge to be released from the gun, and a new round to be loaded so that your gun is ready to fire.

What Stoner did with the AR-10 design, however, was ensure that its propellant gas could seep through a cylinder that’s parallel to the barrel to impinge the bolt carrier mechanism. This is known as direct gas impingement and it is valuable because it increases the AR-10’s cyclic rate of fire to 700 rounds per minute!  

The AR-15 is also a gas-operated rifle that also makes use of direct gas impingement. It has a rotating bolt that gives it a higher cycling rate of fire – 800 rounds per minute. This also means that the AR-15 has a higher muzzle velocity – you’re looking at 3,200 feet per second. By comparison, the AR-10 has a muzzle velocity of 2,772 feet per second.

Why does muzzle velocity matter? In case you don’t know, muzzle velocity is the velocity with which a bullet or shell exits the gun’s muzzle. If a gun has a high muzzle velocity, this has benefits such as a straighter trajectory downrange.

Since the bullet’s moving at a faster speed, it won’t fall as quickly as one that’s travelling slower. It’s also worth pointing out that a bullet that’s moving faster will probably also be able to penetrate its target deeper than a slower bullet.

AR10 Vs AR15: What Are Their Real Differences? 

differences between AR10 and AR15

The AR-10 and AR-15 are pretty much the same type of gun, but if you take a closer look at them you will see some interesting details. Let’s see how these guns really differ. 

The AR-10 is a little heavier and larger than the AR-15, but the differences are minimal. While the AR-15 has an unloaded weight of six to eight pounds, the AR-10 has an unloaded weight of between eight to 10 pounds.

The barrel lengths of the rifles are pretty much the same, with the AR-15 having a length of between 16 to 22 inches and the AR-10 barrel being between 16 and 24 inches. When it comes to the guns’ overall lengths, the AR-10 is quite a bit longer – 42 inches compared to the AR-15’s 39 inches. 

Now, when it comes to the guns’ effective range and fire rate (which can be defined as the speed at which a gun fires its bullets), that’s where things really get interesting. The AR-15 has an effective range of 1300 to 1900 feet and a fire rate of 60 rounds per minute.

By comparison, the AR-10 has a range of 2500 feet and more, and a fire rate of 40 rounds per minute. So, the AR-15 performs better when it comes to how fast it can shoot, while the AR-10 wins the battle when it comes to shooting at long distances. 

Another important difference to know about these rifles is their round capacity. The AR-15 has a capacity of 30 rounds, while the AR-10 can fire 25 rounds. The reason for this difference is because of their magazine weight. The AR-10 has heavier ammunition which not only makes it heavier all round, but this has the effect of reducing its magazine capacity. 

Should You Choose The AR-10? 

AR10 rifle

It’s not always easy to know which type of rifle you should choose because both the AR-10 and AR-15 have their advantages. Here are some reasons why you should pick up an AR-10 instead of an AR-15. 

  • The AR-10 is extremely valuable if you’re shooting it at long distances. The reason why it shines is because of its heavier ammunition and its flatter trajectory. These allow it to shoot at further ranges than what you’ll be able to achieve with an AR-15. 
  • Since the AR-10 has larger bullets, it has more kinetic energy and greater knockdown power.
  • The AR-10 is better for hunting. This is not only thanks to how it can be fired from a long distance, but because of its .308 caliber. This caliber is powerful enough to take out large game.

These points should steer you in the direction of the AR-10, provided that you don’t mind its lower round capacity, the fact that it’s heavier than the AR-15, and that it comes with a higher price tag. 

Should You Choose The AR-15 Instead? 

AR 15 rifle

On the other hand, the AR-15 is appealing to present and future gun owners because of its popularity and availability.

Most gun shops will have AR-15 ammunition available for you to purchase, and it’s usually a bit cheaper than the ammo for AR-10 rifles. You’ll also be able to find a range of accessories and magazines for your AR-15. 

There are other reasons why choosing AR-15s is a good idea. These include the following: 

  • The AR15 excels at shorter ranges. If you need a powerful rifle that can hit its target at a range of between 300 and 500 yards, the AR-15 is a good choice. This makes it valuable for hunting game such as deer, and its higher muzzle velocity definitely helps in this regard.
  • It’s comfortable. Since it weighs less than the AR-10, it’s easier to handle and shoot. This makes it ideal for beginners. Its smaller size is also beneficial if you’re in cramped areas. 
  • It has greater capacity. There are situations in which you need to have lots of rounds in your rifle, such as when it comes to home security purposes. With its 30-round magazine, the AR-15 will make you feel much more protected. 

Related Questions 

How do the AR-10 and AR-15 fare when it comes to recoil? 

You’ll feel more recoil with an AR-10. This is because of how it’s built to fire powerful bullets and because of its calibers. The AR-10’s calibers weigh more than the AR-15’s, which means that the AR-10 needs more gunpowder so that bullets can be pushed through the gun’s barrel. 

Can you use the same parts in the AR-10 and AR-15? 

interchargable parts

Many parts of these guns are interchangeable. These include the triggers and trigger springs, hammers and hammer springs, safety selectors, and bolt catch spring and plunger parts, to mention a few. It’s always worth checking with your gun manufacturer before going ahead. 

Which gun is better for plinking? 

Plinking is target shooting that’s done for fun. Since the AR-15 is a more affordable rifle and has cheaper ammo as well as lower recoil, this does make it more suited to this activity than an AR-10.   


If you want an AR rifle but you’re not sure if you should opt for the AR-10 or AR-15, this guide has hopefully helped you to have a better idea of which one will suit your needs because we’ve outlined the most important similarities and differences between these two rifles. 

When choosing between the two guns, it’s worth considering what you need them for. Choose AR-10s for hunting purposes, especially if you’re travelling over long distances, and opt for AR-15s if you want to jack up your home security.

Ultimately, they are both valuable guns to own, so you might want to choose to have both so you have them at hand whenever you need them!