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Armalite AR-10

Fortunately, many of today’s police administrators have come to understand the rationale for the police carbine. This was not always the case. When Platt and Matix were engaged in their bank robbery crime spree in 1986 that resulted in the infamous Miami shooting in April of that year, the suspects understood the effectiveness of long gun fire. The .223 rounds fired from a Ruger Mini-14 took a serious toll on the FBI agents involved.

But it would take more than 10 years and the hard work of serious firearms and tactics trainers and another infamous incident, the North Hollywood Bank Robbery, before some began to understand that the black rifle or so called assault rifle offered serious benefits to law enforcement as well.

Although more agencies nationwide are supplementing if not supplanting their trusty shotguns with carbines, there is still some reluctance. Some administrators are more interested in avoiding the paramilitary appearance of military rifles than improving the safety of officers as well as the community with the presence of a well-trained officer armed with a carbine.

The truth is that the pistol is a defensive firearm. If you know you’re going into an armed situation, you’ll want a firearm designed to deliver accurate fight stopping power. That is the reason for deploying rifles. They are inherently more accurate due to their longer sight radius and deliver a ballistically superior projectile.

ArmaLite AR-10 .308 Carbine

I recently completed a test fire of ArmaLite’s AR-10A2C in 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester). When ArmaLite asked what rifle I would like to test, I chose the plain short-barreled carbine version, which is very similar to the M-4 I am familiar with. The AR-10A2C has a 16-inch chrome lined barrel (1:11.25 inch rifling) with an aesthetically pleasing olive drab green forearm and collapsible stock and standard iron sights.

The overall length of this carbine is 37.1 inches and it weighs in at 9 pounds. When various tactical officers inspected the rifle in my office they focused in on the good looks. I had to tell them to look closer before they realized that the rifle was chambered for .308 Win.

The basic design for the AR-10 is not new. Indeed, the AR-10’s design goes back to the early 1950s. This was one of Eugene Stoner’s first designs to replace the M1 Garand. The rifle was originally to be chambered for the .30-’06 cartridge but was later modified for the new 7.62mm NATO cartridge. Design problems plagued the development of the AR-10 in its first years and it was never successfully developed at that time.

Over the years the design has passed through various owners until the current ArmaLite company was reorganized in 1995. Production of redesigned AR-10’s designated the AR-10B series commenced in 1996 and after a couple of subtle design changes have been produced since. With a lifetime warranty, ArmaLite is willing to stand behind its products.

.223 Rem Versus .308 Win

Although the .223 Rem (5.56 NATO) cartridge is the most popular choice for today’s law enforcement carbine, it is not the only cartridge. Frequently, we hear of military hardball ammunition in .223 failing to adequately perform in shootings involving our nation’s military. Whether on the streets of Mogadishu or the streets of Iraq, we hear of reliable debriefs of shootings in which terrorists have soaked up multiple hits of .223 and were still able to continue their attack.

True, this involves full metal jacketed hardball and not the superior ammunition currently available for law enforcement. However, this is a reason why some special teams are going back to the use of the M-14 in .308 Winchester. The .308 Win / 7.62 NATO cartridge is superior in terms of penetration against cover, is more accurate at extended distances and is more effective against human targets. The trade-off for these advantages is a heavier rifle, heavier cartridges, and more recoil.

You can carry approximately two times as many rounds at the same weight when using a .223 Rem rifle than you can with a .308 Win rifle. For a soldier humping over distance or all day this is a factor. For the police officer that deploys his long gun from his patrol car, rifle weight makes less of an impact.

Carried all day long, two pounds additional weight on sling can be uncomfortable. We should keep in mind, however, that our fathers and grandfathers carried this weight in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam with their Garands and M-14s.

In carrying the AR-10 on sling at the range during testing, I never really noticed any weight problems. Although this constituted only several hours, any weight difference was countered with the confidence of the size of the rifle cartridge involved.


Vance’s Police Supply in Columbus, OH supplied test ammo from Federal, Hornady, and Winchester. The rounds tested include Federal 168 grain HPBT Match, Hornady 168 grain TAP (Tactical Application Police), Hornady 155 grain TAP, Hornady 110 grain TAP, Winchester 168 grain HPBT Match, and Winchester 168 grain Ballistic Silvertip.

The Hornady TAP ammo is an excellent effort to produce a round that is effective against a suspect but will not over-penetrate. I experienced the best practical accuracy with the 168 gr. Hornady TAP round. All of these rounds were accurate and functioned well in the AR-10 and are worthy of your consideration. The AR-10 with good magazines gobbled up every round fired without a hitch.

Recoil and Shooting of the AR-10

The most frequent comment when coworkers inspected the AR-10 was, “what about recoil?” The answer is that this rifle does not produce excessive recoil. Based on simple physics, it does produce more recoil than its .223 Rem cousin. However, when proper technique is used even a fast cadence of fire did not prevent accurate fire.

I shot the rifle at distances inside 75 yards. This would replicate the urban environment I work in as well as be a reflection of the distances most police rifle shootings take place. Noted rifle authority Clint Smith stated that most police rifle shootings take place at handgun ranges…the width of a room, the length of a room, the length of a car.

After the first few magazines were fired, I focused on realistic tactical drills. The more I shot the rifle, the more I was able to adapt to the larger cartridge and the effects on recoil. I ran a mini-tactical course with rounds fired from prone, standing barricade, shooting on the move both on the advance and in recovery.

I was able to keep all rounds well within the scoring rings on a realistic bad guy target. Matter-of-fact, in all my shooting the only round thrown was a head shot fired on the move at hostage rescue speed. Although I feel I could improve the performance with practice, the rifle is not really designed for that type of operation.

The rifle was not cleaned or lubricated during testing and yet, no malfunctions were experienced in several hundred rounds fired. However, we did have one slight problem. From what I understand, ArmaLite had to modify the magazine designed for this rifle.

A plunger located at the rear of the magazine’s spine is depressed during loading. This plunger then pops out after the last round is fired to lock the bolt open. Out of the five magazines tested: three ten round magazines and two twenty round magazines, I had problems with three magazines. One ten rounder was clearly defective causing feeding failures after each round fired. Two other magazines, one ten and one twenty rounder, failed to lock the bolt open.

As I write this, the 20-round magazines are back ordered 30 to 45 days. Although only one magazine failed completely, I hope that ArmaLite is able to clear up whatever problems may exist with their magazines. It was truly the only negative aspect of this testing experience.

To wrap up this evaluation, I will simply state that I like this rifle…a lot. Every shooter commented favorably on the AR-10. My old police shooting instructor, Army Special Forces veteran and firearms mentor Norm Evans smiled like a kid at Christmas when he fired the AR-10, happy that ArmaLite had made a carbine in, “a serious caliber.”

Although ArmaLite indicates that sales of the 24 inch AR-10T and AR-10A4 with 20 inch barrel exceed those of the more tactical AR-10A2C that I tested, I believe the carbine has many attributes that make it attractive. Although not designed as an entry weapon, topped with a Compact ACOG or ACOG or even as is with iron sights, this weapon offers reliability with the ballistics of the .308 Win cartridge in a manageable weight package that most are familiar with in law enforcement.

The .308 Win has certainly proven itself over time and many battlefields to be a serious cartridge for the military or police. The AR-10 is a bigger dog in a fight and worthy of consideration in law enforcement where threats come more serious and life threatening than just sharp gnashing teeth.

Kevin R. Davis is a 23-year veteran of law enforcement. He currently works full-time in the training bureau as a firearms and tactics instructor. Kevin was a Team Leader and the Lead Instructor for his agency’s SWAT Team for 12-years. He is the Director of Training for Advanced Tactical Concepts a contract training company. Visit his website at he welcomes your comments at

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2006

Rating : 9.8

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