service=1960–1976 (Portugal) 1958–1985 (Sudan)
wars=Angola, Mozambique, Sudan,
Dominican Republic, Portuguese Timor
manufacturer=Fairchild ArmaLite, Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI)
weight=3.29–4.05 kg (7.25–8.9 lb)
length=mm to in|1050|abbr=on|precision=1|wiki=yes
feed=20-round detachable box magazine
sights=Adjustable aperture rear sight, fixed post front sight
The AR-10 is an American 7.62 mm
battle rifledeveloped by Eugene Stonerin the late 1950s at Armalite, then a division of the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation. The rifle had some innovative features at the time of its introduction (1956); it was over convert|1|lb|abbr=on lighter than most other infantry rifles, it was significantly easier to control in automatic fire, was more accurate in semi-auto mode, and arguably handled better than any other weapon of the period. The unique features of the AR-10 would eventually be developed into the U.S. Army's M16. Over its production life, the original AR-10 was built in relatively small numbers, with fewer than 10,000 rifles assembled.
Armalite first opened as a subdivision of Fairchild in 1954, specifically to bring new materials and designs to the firearms industry. Later that year they were joined by
Eugene Stoner, a talented small arms engineer. Armalite was a very small organization at the time (only nine employees, including Stoner). With Stoner as chief design engineer, Armalite quickly released a number of interesting rifle designs. The first prototypes of the 7.62 mm AR-10 emerged during 1955 and early 1956. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The Armalite AR-10" (1998), p. 30] At the time the United States Armywas in the midst of testing several rifles to replace the obsolescent M1 Garand. Springfield Armory's T44E4 and heavier T44E5 were essentially updated versions of the Garand chambered for the new 7.62 mm round, while Fabrique Nationalesubmitted their FAL as the T48. Armalite's AR-10 entered the competition late, hurriedly submitting two AR-10 rifles in the fall of 1956 to the United States Army's Springfield Armory for testing. Initial comments by Springfield Armory test staff were favorable, and some testers commented that the AR-10 was the best lightweight automatic rifle ever tested by the Armory. [Lewis, Jack, "The M-14: Boon or Blunder?", Gun World, April 1963] [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 39]
Unfortunately for Armalite, the rifle's
aluminum/ steelcomposite barrel (an untried prototype design specified for the tests by George Sullivan over Stoner's vehement objections) burst in a torture test conducted by Springfield Armory in early 1957. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 38] Armalite quickly replaced it with a conventional steel barrel, but the damage had been done. The final Springfield Armory report advised against adoption of the rifle, stating that "it would take five years or more to take it through tests to adoption". [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 39] While Armalite objected, it was clear that the AR-10, a brand-new rifle still in the prototype stage, was at a disadvantage compared to competing designs with longer development cycles, and by 1957, U.S. Army infantry forces urgently required a modern, magazine-fed infantry rifle to replace the old M-1. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 39,40] In the end the Army chose the conventional T44, which entered production as the M14 riflein 1957.
In 1957, Fairchild/Armalite sold a manufacturing license for the AR-10 to a Dutch arms manufacturer Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI). Firearms historians have separated AR-10 production under the AI license into at least four basic identifiable versions, along with various sporting,
carbineand other experimental designs and calibers. The four main variants have been termed the "Hollywood" model (Armalite prototypes and initial production), the "Sudanese" model, the "Transitional", and the "Portuguese" model AR-10. AI built the vast majority of these rifles, beginning with the Sudanese model AR-10. The Sudanese version was equipped with a lightweight, fluted steel barrel and weighed only convert|3.3|kg|abbr=on empty. Over time, AI would engineer additional improvements to the AR-10, including the provision of a heavier barrel with a chrome-lined chamber, a different cocking mechanism, and a simplified gas regulator. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 78,80]
AR-10 production was limited, though Guatemala, Burma, Italy, Cuba, Sudan and Portugal all purchased AR-10 rifles for limited issue to their military forces. Sudanese AR-10s were employed in frequent clashes with guerrilla forces and conflicts with neighboring countries, and a few captured rifles eventually turned up in unofficial service with various African armies, guerrilla forces, and even a few members of the
French Foreign Legionin Chad. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 81] The AR-10 remained in service with Sudanese Special Forces until 1985. In 1958, a special 7.62x39mmcaliber variant of the Sudanese AR-10 was produced in very small numbers for evaluation by Finland and Germany. The Italian Navy acquired the AR-10 for its COMSUBINunderwater commando teams. Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, and South Africaalso purchased small numbers of the AR-10 for test purposes, and Cuba's Batista government purchased 100 "Transitional" model rifles in 1958. Fidel Castro's forces eventually captured the AR-10 shipment intact. In 1959, Fidel, his brother Raul, and Che Guevara test-fired the AR-10 outside Havana, and were reportedly impressed by the weapon's firepower. Castro later apparently gave some of the AR-10 rifles to Communist revolutionaries in the Dominican Republic, where captured rifles from the Cuban shipment were found on the bodies of guerrillas killed in firefights with government forces. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 72,73]
The final AI design is known as the "Portuguese" model AR-10. This model incorporated all that had been learned to date about the AR-10, including infantry service rifle and field test reports. Most of these rifles were sold to the Portuguese National Defense Ministry by the
Brussels-based arms dealer SIDEM International in 1960. The AR-10 was adopted by Portuguese Hunter paratroop ("Caçadores Pára-quedista") battalions, and the rifle saw considerable combat service in Portugal's counter-insurgency campaigns in Angolaand Mozambique. [Afonso, Aniceto and Gomes, Carlos de Matos, "Guerra Colonial" (2000), ISBN 972-46-1192-2, pp. 183-184] In Portuguese service the AR-10 soon gained a reputation for accuracy (some rifles would group into 25 mm (1 inch) at 100 meters with service ammunition) and reliability despite rugged service conditions in African jungle and savannah. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 70,71,79,80] [United States Army Ordnance Department, Aberdeen Proving Ground, "A Test of Rifle, Caliber 7.62mm, AR-10, Report No. DPS-101" (November 1960)]
Some Portuguese-model AR-10s were fitted with AI-modified upper receivers in order to mount 3x or 3.6x telescopic sights. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 79] These rifles were used by marksmen accompanying small patrols to eliminate individual enemy at extended ranges in open country. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 80] Other AR-10s were used by the paratroopers in a secondary role to launch
rifle grenades. The Armalite's built-in gas cutoff design enabled it to fire Energa rifle grenades without adjustment of the gas system, and the self-loading action would even eject the spent blank shells and load the next one, allowing several grenades to be quickly fired. The enhanced recoil from this type of operation took its toll on rifle's stock, and some Portuguese rifles were retrofitted with all-metal buttstocks to better withstand the added recoil and strain caused by firing heavy grenades. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 80] Plans to order additional quantities of the AR-10 rifle were stymied after Holland embargoed further shipments of the rifle to Portugal, and paratroopers deploying to Africa in later years were subsequently issued a collapsible stock version of the German Heckler & Koch G3rifle. [Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10" (1998), p. 79] [Afonso, Aniceto and Gomes, Carlos de Matos, "Guerra Colonial" (2000), ISBN 972-46-1192-2, pp. 183-184] Nevertheless, the AR-10 continued in service with a few Portuguese airborne units, and was in use as late as 1975 in the Portuguese Timor (East Timor) emergency. [Afonso, Aniceto and Gomes, Carlos de Matos, "Guerra Colonial" (2000), ISBN 972-46-1192-2] In 1958, Armalite developed the 5.56 mm AR-15from the AR-10. The company continued its efforts to sell both the AR-10 and AR-15 to various military forces around the world. However, the AR-10 rifle marketed by Armalite after 1958 was not the product-improved AR-10 developed by Artillerie Inrichtingen, but was instead a design scaled-up from AR-15 plans and specifications, known as the AR-10a. All of the product improvements incorporated by AI over the years of development were missing in the new AR-10a. While interest in the AR-15 was considerable, the AR-10a failed to attract any orders from domestic or foreign military customers. In 1959, Armalite sold its rights to the AR-10/AR-15 to Colt, who successfully marketed the AR-15 to the U.S. military. Disappointed with Armalite's marketing efforts, Fairchild dissolved its association with Armalite in 1962.
By 1960, hampered by Dutch export restrictions and discouraged by the lack of arms sales to major national purchasers, Artillerie Inrichtingen decided to exit the small arms production business altogether, and ceased all production of the AR-10 under its license from Fairchild-Armalite. By that time, less than 10,000 AR-10s had been produced, mostly military select-fire rifles, with a few semi-automatic only rifles produced for civilian use.
With the rights to the AR-15 design sold and AR-10 production at AI discontinued, Armalite next developed a series of new rifle designs in 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm. These rifles utilized a more traditional gas piston design along with stamped and welded steel construction in place of aluminum forgings. The 7.62 mm AR-16 (not to be confused with the M16) was produced only in prototype quantities. The AR-18 was produced in limited quantities by Armalite and other manufacturers, and its basic operating mechanism was later adapted and used in several later assault rifle designs. By the 1970s, Armalite had essentially stopped all new rifle development, and the company became moribund.
In later years, some ex-military Sudanese and Portuguese model AR-10s were sold to civilian markets in the U.S.,
Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Nearly all of the rifles imported to the latter three countries had their full-automatic fire selector disabled. As many as 2,500 Australian AR-10 rifles may have been seized and destroyed as a result of anti-gun legislation in 1997.
Most of the AR-10 ex-military rifles shipped to the USA were in the form of parts kits, having been previously dismantled, though a few were legally imported as Class III weapons. Large numbers of AR-10 7.62 mm magazines were imported as well. Many of these kit rifles were combined with various semi-auto receivers made by civilian manufacturers in order to permit legal ownership.
In 1995, former Army Ordnance officer Mark Westrom, owner of Eagle Arms, purchased the Armalite brand and the company became Armalite Inc. Shortly thereafter, Armalite introduced a modern version of the AR-10. The new Armalite AR-10 was patterned after the AR-15A2, scaled up to take the 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Win) cartridge, along with various other design improvements intended to strengthen the rifle. Ironically, the original AR-15 itself was a scaled-down AR-10. The new AR-10 is offered in several versions including a carbine with collapsible stock, a target model, and one version chambered in 300 Remington SAUM.
The AR-10B prototype was composed of individual sub-components tested on a special lower receiver made of two slabs of aluminum fitted to a
Knights Armament Company SR-25upper receiver assembly. The full prototype AR-10B was the first rifle off the production line. [ [http://www.armalite.com/images/Library%5CAL%20HISTORY%20COPY%202.pdf "Armalite History"] ]
While Armalite holds a US trademark on the name "AR-10", other rifle manufactures currently produce .308 semi-auto rifles that are based on the AR-15/AR-10 design: the DPMS LR-308, KAC
SR-25, Rock River ArmsLAR-8, American Spirit ArmsASA .308, Fulton Armory Titan, RND Manufacturing's The Edge and the German Oberland Arms OA-10.
The AR-10 is a lightweight, air-cooled, magazine-fed, select-fire gas-operated rifle that uses the
direct impingementgas principle with a rotary bolt locking mechanism. The rifle has a conventional layout; it features an in-line stock, an aluminum alloy receiver and a reinforced fiberglasspistol grip, handguard, and buttstock. While mostly an original design, the AR-10 built upon previously proven concepts. From the FAL it took the hinged receiver system allowing the rifle to be opened for cleaning much like a break-action shotgun. The ejection port cover is similar to that found on the German WWII-era StG44. The bolt locking mechanism is similar to the M1941 Johnson rifle(itself an adaptation of the Browning-designed Remington Model 8 bolt). From the German FG42and Johnson light machine gun came the idea of straight-line stocks to reduce muzzle climb in fully-automatic fire. The AR-10's method of rotary bolt locking, straight-line recoil, and gas operation enhanced its inherent accuracy.
The gas system, bolt carrier, and bolt-locking design were novel for the time. Most gas-operated rifles divert combustion gases from a port in the barrel to a piston and cylinder arrangement adjacent to the port. In Stoner's design, the gas travels from a port near the middle of the barrel through a steel tube back into the receiver. The gas enters a chamber formed between the rear of the bolt and the inside of the bolt carrier. Once the bolt carrier moves to the rear a small distance, excess gas is vented through holes in its side. This use of the bolt and bolt carrier for the separate actions of a piston and gas cylinder simplified construction and saved weight. Movement of the bolt carrier was in-line with the bore, greatly improving inherent accuracy, as well as keeping the rifle on target as the gun fired. Since the straight-line stock placed the shooter's eye well above the barrel the rifle's sights were mounted high, with the rear sight contained in a carrying handle that also protected the cocking/charging lever.
The receiver is made from forged and machined aluminum to reduce weight. The bolt locks into an extension on the barrel instead of the receiver allowing for a lightweight receiver while not compromising the strength of the bolt locking mechanism. On a few prototype guns, an all-aluminum ("Sullaloy") or aluminum/steel barrel was fitted at the insistence of George Sullivan – Armalite's president – though all production AR-10s utilized a solid steel barrel. The stock is made from a plastic-reinforced fiberglass with a core of rigid plastic foam. The handguards and pistol grip are also fiberglass. Fairchild was an aircraft manufacturer, and the use of plastics, titanium, and aluminum were common in the aircraft industry at the time, though not generally used in firearms.
A belt-fed variant of the AR-10 was also offered; the belt was fed by a feed-chute connected to an ammo box carried on the user's back.
*Pikula, Sam (Major), "The ArmaLite AR-10", 1998
*Afonso, Aniceto and Gomes, Carlos de Matos, "Guerra Colonial", 2000, ISBN 972-46-1192-2.
* [http://www.ar10.nl/ Dutch site with lots of info and pictures]
* [http://www.armalite.com/ Armalite home page]
* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~harmar68/schieten/ar10/AR10%20frame%20pag.htm AR10 site: exploded views, pictures and movies]
* [http://www.sturmgewehr.com/bhinton/Armalite_AR10/ Buddy Hinton collection of AR10 photos]
** [http://www.sturmgewehr.com/bhinton/Armalite_AR10/AR10_FiringMine3cases.jpgFiring the AR10]
* [http://www.rediscov.com/spring/VFPCGI.exe?IDCFile=/spring/DETAILS.IDC,SPECIFIC=669,DATABASE=59121219, Springfield Armory Collection: details about the AR10]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/AR10_Promotion AR10 promotional video]
* [http://greenberet.no.sapo.pt/ar10.htm AR-10 Portuguese Armed Forces] (in Portuguese)
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