Q & A: The difference between AR-10 & AR-15 Rifles

Quite often we get questions from our dedicated readers requesting that we shoot a little further on a topic that we have previously shot at.  Rob from Galveston, TX dropped us a round and wanted to know more about the differences between the AR-10 and the AR-15 platforms.  Well Rob…just know that we’ve got you covered like a blanket!!!

First of all we want to say thank you Rob for staying tuned to PSA for new posts!!!  The AR platform is one of the most loved and adored firearm platforms available to wacky shooters just like you!!!

For starters let’s start with the designation: AR.  Most commonly called AR for Assault Rifle, the correct explanation for the AR designation is actually for ArmaLite Rifle; developed by ArmaLite, a division of the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation.  The AR-10 was designed by Eugene Stoner in the mid-1950’s and was built to accept 7.62 x 51mm NATO ammunition.  This was a ground breaking design for firearms that unveiled many new firearms features.  From the newly designed straight line barrel, to new parts, to a newly designed “fun switch” (fully automatic controls), the AR-10 was groundbreaking!!!


The picture above gives a great illustration of the original AR-10 developed by Stoner.  Notice the wooden grips, hand guard, and stock.  This simple yet effective design made it possible for our veterans to complete mission after mission on foreign sands.  The stopping power of the 7.62 x 51mm round proved to be effective, although extremely heavy to carry in bulk in battle.  The flash suppressor, sling loops, and carry handle made this rifle a pleasure for soldiers, and gun enthusiasts alike to arm themselves with!!  As time progressed, so did firearms tech!!

The picture you see below is a good example of a modern AR-10 rifle.  Outside of the mounted scope (also called glass), this baby has tons of upgrades!!  From the lightweight polymer frame, to the pistol grip, to the match grade barrel, to the picatinny rails, this rifle is battle ready!!!  It still offers the same stopping power of the 7.62 x 51mm round with the added comforts of the advanced weaponry technology.  Now-a-days you can find this model, along with it’s little brother the AR-15, available from a number of manufacturers, and in a number of configurations.

Ar10tIn response to several requests from military consumers and private firearms owners alike, ArmaLite developed the AR-10’s little brother:  the AR-15.  As opposed to the 7.62 x 51mm NATO round in the AR-10, the AR-15 was chambered in the 5.56 mm round.  This lightweight rifle solved multiple issues.  For starters, the rifle itself was lighter.  Also, as soldiers needed to carry ammo in bulk for faster reloading, the 5.56 mm ammo was much lighter to carry in quantity as opposed to its larger cousin: the 7.62 x 51mm round.  One of the largest drawbacks to the AR-15, even to this day, is the effective stopping power of the 5.56 mm NATO round.  Many soldiers that utilize this platform in battle have complaints that the bad guys don’t fall from this round as effectively as they do from the 7.62 x 51mm round in the AR-10.


To the firearms novice, the AR10 and the AR15 seem to mirror each other.  The AR-15 started in it’s infancy just as its larger cousin, the AR-10.  They both came standard with wooden grips, stocks, and hand guards.  The picture above shows a modern variant of the AR-15 rifle.  As you can see, it looks pretty similar to the modern AR-10 rifle with a few subtle differences that would only be spotted by experienced shooters (many dealing with construction of the rifle).  For instance, in looking at the magazine, we can see that it is slightly longer and actually takes the shape of the magazines used most often in Kalashnikov (AK47) rifles.  Modern AR-15 rifles come equipped to handle all the bells and whistles as you can see!!!  This variant has both a pistol grip and pistol grips around the magazine well for easier handling.  This version has a rotating tactical front grip, and telescoping butt-stock.  This wonderful piece of machinery also comes with picatinny rails along the top of the rifle for accessory mounting.  This puppy has a reflex sight mounted for quick target acquisition.

To further muddy the waters for you Rob, the AR platform has many other smaller cousins as well…namely the:  AR-5 (chambered in .22LR), AR-7 (also chambered in .22 LR), AR-17 (chambered for shotguns), and AR-24 pistol (chambered in 9mm).  Although these variations exist they aren’t as popular as the AR-10 and the AR-15.  If you would like more information on these variations, shoot us an email and we will provide you with background information, and specs on those models.

***If you aren’t familiar with the AR platform, or just want more information on these rifle offerings, PSA suggests that you enroll in a comprehensive, reliable, reputable, firearms safety course.  Safety with firearms is of paramount concern.***

We would like to thank you for stopping by our lane at the range!  We hope that you enjoyed your visit and hope that you come back soon and often!  Please stay tuned to PSA for new posts and updates!!  If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns please don’t hesitate to shoot them our way.  We look forward to shooting the breeze with you soon!!!

And as always…..remember to watch your six and stay low!!!

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