At a Glance: The Best AR-10 Barrels
Comparison of The Best AR-10 Barrels
Our Top Pick
|Editors Choice: Criterion Chrome Lined .308 AR-10 Barrel||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Runner Up: Brownells AR-308 Carbine Barrel Assembly||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Best for Hunters: Criterion Rifle-Length Hybrid AR-10 Barrel||View Latest Price|
The AR-10 is the high-caliber cousin of the AR-15, and it’s a spectacular platform for the high-powered .308 and 7.62 NATO round. Like the AR-15, the AR-10 is almost infinitely buildable.
There’s a huge aftermarket for the AR-10, and you can buy just about everything you need to put together the perfect rifle. But not all AR-10 parts are equal—especially barrels. Here are the best AR-10 barrels and how to choose the right one for your rifle build.
Our Guide to the Top 6 Best .308 Barrels
AR-10 barrels differ in many ways. Factors such as twist rate, overall length, and barrel weight can have a significant effect on accuracy. Also, these factors change the practical applicability of the rifle. Are you building a carbine or a long-range target gun? These sorts of questions can help you find the ideal barrel. Here are six of the best AR-10 barrels available today.
Editors Choice: Criterion Chrome Lined .308 AR-10 Barrel
Not into iron sights? In that case, here’s an AR-10 barrel that you might appreciate. Whereas the Brownells AR-308 carbine barrel works well for plug-and-play applications, the Criterion AR-10 barrel is ideal for serious gun builders. Criterion’s chrome-lined .308 barrel is a match-grade barrel for precision shooters and heavy-duty applications. Chrome lining is highly desirable in rifle builds, which is why we’re pleased to find it on this Criterion barrel. Here’s what makes it one of the best AR-10 barrels on the market.
The Criterion chrome-lined .308 barrel features an elongated M118LR chamber. The M118LR chamber’s throat is longer than standard AR-10 barrels, which helps increase the performance of heavier ammunition. But what’s the benefit of this? In short, it allows the shooter to effectively use either factory .308 consumer ammunition or cheaper surplus 7.62×51 NATO rounds. Additionally, the M118LR throat and chamber reduce wind drift downrange.
Chrome-lined barrels also offer additional corrosion resistance, which increases the service life of the barrel. Many gun builders recommend using chrome-lined barrels on rifles, especially when they’re used frequently and in harsh conditions. Criterion’s chrome-lined AR-10 barrels accept virtually all 5/8×24 threaded muzzle attachments. The chrome-lined Criterion barrel is available in 16-inch carbine-length, 18-inch mid-length, and 20-inch full-length configurations.
- Easy to clean
- Uses standard .308 and 7.62 NATO ammunition
- Chrome lined
- No iron sights
- No flash hider or muzzle brake installed
Runner Up: Brownells AR-308 Carbine Barrel Assembly
Brownells offers a lightweight AR carbine barrel with a new twist on an old design. Brownells based the AR-308 carbine barrel assembly on an old design by Artillerie Inrichtingen, a Dutch company once licensed by Armalite to produce the rifles. The AR-10 barrel based on the Artillerie Inrichtingen design features a ‘Sudanese-style’ front sight and gas block, which comes pre-installed on the barrel. This is significant, as it reduces the hassle of pressing on the block yourself.
The Brownells AR-308 carbine barrel assembly features a ⅝ threaded muzzle, which makes it easy to install any standard AR-10 flash hider, suppressor, .308 muzzle brake, or any other threaded accessory. The barrel also features a standard sling swivel, which is great for GI-style AR-10 rifle builds. And speaking of GI rifle builds, the Brownells barrel is available in standard 16-inch, 18-inch, and 20-inch configurations.
Like most Brownells products, the AR-308 carbine barrel assembly comes from a reputable factory that uses high-quality materials. The barrel is produced for Brownells by Faxon Firearms using hardened 4150 carbon steel. The barrel is parkerized and features a standard anti-corrosion Nitride finish, which Brownells claims match its Retro Rifles series of receivers.
Overall, the Brownells AR-308 barrel makes our best AR-10 barrels list due to its ease of installation, high-quality build materials, and good overall usability. It’s an excellent grab-and-go barrel for your next build.
- Easy to install
- Corrosion-resistant finish
- Sudanese-style front sight and gas block
- Threaded muzzle
- Not chrome lined
- Iron sight on the gas block may interfere with some tactical builds
Best for Hunters: Criterion Rifle-Length Hybrid AR-10 Barrel
Here’s another excellent product from Criterion. The rifle-length hybrid barrel is an excellent choice for rifle builders looking for a military-quality barrel for their AR-10. The Criterion hybrid barrel is a match-grade .308 barrel, which utilizes button rifling technology to ensure precise and true barrel dimensions. Like the previous Criterion barrel, this model works with consumer-grade .308 ammunition and surplus 7.62 NATO rounds.
Criterion uses high-quality barrel-grade steel for its barrels. High-quality steel is a must for gun builders, especially if they expect a long service life for their rifles. But what distinguishes the hybrid barrel from the chrome-lined Criterion model? For one, this barrel isn’t chrome-lined, but that alone isn’t a major mark against it. This hybrid Criterion barrel is designed with a unique contour, which provides strength in the necessary areas and reduces overall weight.
The Criterion hybrid AR-10 barrel is one of the best AR-10 barrels in the midweight category. Instead of reducing the quality of the steel, Criterion chose to remove excess material where it wasn’t needed. This model also features the M118LR chamber, along with an indent opposite gas port for fast assembly.
Like the previous model, this isn’t a plug-and-play barrel. It should be installed carefully or by a professional who knows how to set clearances properly. The hybrid Criterion barrel is an excellent option for match-grade guns and experienced gun builders.
- Lightweight profile
- High-quality steel
- .308 and 7.62 NATO compatibility
- Match-grade barrel
- Threaded muzzle
- Professional installation required
- No iron sights or flash hider installed
Best for Target Shooters: Faxon Firearms .308 Heavy Fluted AR-10 Barrel
Here’s one of the best AR-10 barrels for target shooters from Faxon Firearms. Faxon, who also produces barrels for Brownells, used nitride-treated steel and Teflon coatings to reduce wear and extend service life. The Faxon heavy fluted barrel is dense, which improves accuracy but increases the weight of the firearm. Like the Criterion barrel, this premium Faxon product uses button rifling for accuracy and precision.
The Faxon hybrid rifling system is designed to increase bullet velocity and reduce deformation, which contributes to superior accuracy at extended ranges. Additionally, the nickel Teflon-coated parts offer better dry lubrication and extended service life while simultaneously reducing the risk of premature corrosion. Match and competition shooters can appreciate these features, especially while practicing and expending large amounts of ammunition.
Overall, the Faxon AR-10 barrel offers numerous advantages for target-shooting applications but may not be ideal for carbine builders. However, size isn’t an issue, as this barrel is available in a 16-inch configuration. The overall weight is 2.03 pounds, which is on the heavier end for AR-10 barrels. But a heavy barrel is a must for many competition shooters, and it can have a measurable effect on accuracy.
- Stainless steel construction
- Nickel Teflon coating to reduce friction in vital areas
- Dense construction to increase accuracy
- Rifle-length gas system
- Magnetic particle inspected
- May require professional installation
- Heavier than some alternatives
BSF Barrels Stainless Shrouded AR-10 Barrel
Here’s an interesting AR-10 barrel designed with heavy use in mind. BSF Barrels produces a mid and rifle-length stainless AR-10 barrel with a carbon fiber shroud. But why carbon fiber? BSF chose a specially-formulated carbon fiber to match the expansion qualities of stainless steel and included holes for heat dissipation. Given the extremely strong nature of carbon fiber, this shrouded match barrel performs exceptionally well when hot.
Barrels tend to ‘walk’ when they get hot, bending and expanding slightly and reducing accuracy. The BSF carbon fiber shroud solves this problem by forcing the barrel to retain its rigidity when hot. Very few shrouded barrels are available today, which makes the BSF Barrels stainless barrel especially unique. Cold accuracy is also excellent, as this barrel is match-grade from the factory. The barrel itself is made from premium 416R stainless steel.
Stainless steel resists corrosion and is easy to clean. It features a 1:10 rifling twist rate, which is quite common with match-grade AR-10 barrels. Overall, this BSF Barrels shrouded stainless steel freedom tube is one of the best AR-10 barrels for rapid-fire events, target shooting, and custom rifle building. It could make an excellent addition to any go-to AR-10. This barrel is designed for consumer-grade .308 ammunition.
- 416R stainless steel construction
- Carbon fiber shroud improves rigidity when hot
- Superior heat dissipation
- Easy to clean and corrosion-resistant
- Gas block not included
- Not for beginner installation
Ballistic Advantage Premium Series 6.5 Creedmoor Heavy Contour AR-10 Barrel
Who says AR-10 owners only shoot .308 and 7.62 NATO? Here’s a premium AR-10 barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Ballistic Advantage offers an ultra-heavy premium barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, and it offers numerous perks compared to other barrels on the market. For one, Ballistic Advantage constructed the barrel with 416R stainless steel, which is the same material used by BSF Barrels on many of their products.
The Ballistic Advantage Premium Series barrel is machined from a solid block of stainless steel. It is specifically designed for target shooting and measures in at 22 inches overall for this purpose. Additionally, the heavy contour reduces ‘walk’ and increases accuracy in all shooting conditions. The rifling twist rate is 1:8, which is excellent for 6.5 Creedmoor. According to the manufacturer, this heavy-contour barrel works with most standard .308 components. With the 6.5 Creedmoor round, felt recoil is reduced 33%, and energy retention improves past 300 yards.
6.5 Creedmoor is a great choice for precision shooters, and Ballistic Advantage produces one of the best AR-10 barrels for the round. And while this barrel is a spectacular choice for a target or competition rifle, it’s not ideal for carrying. After all, it weighs in at a staggering 4.74 pounds. That’s great for shooting but bad for your back if you lug it around too much.
- Superior ballistics with 6.5 Creedmoor
- Heavy profile increases accuracy
- High-quality 416R stainless steel construction
- Compatible with most standard AR-10 parts
- Quite heavy (4 pounds 11.84 ounces)
- Only available in long 22-inch configuration
- 6.5 Creedmoor burns out barrels faster than .308
AR-10 vs. AR-15: What’s the Difference?
Many firearms enthusiasts have trouble choosing between the AR-15 and the AR-10. What’s the difference, and why choose an AR-10?
The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America today, and for a good reason: it’s durable, easy to use, and extremely effective. The ubiquitous AR-15 fires the .223 Remington cartridge, and many fire the visibly identical 5.56 NATO round. The .223 and 5.56 NATO cartridges are relatively small, and though effective, don’t pack the ‘punch’ many people require.
The AR-10 is functionally and visually similar to the AR-15, and some parts are interchangeable. The primary difference is that the AR-10 fires a larger .308 Winchester or 7.62×51 NATO round. It’s essentially an M14 in an AR-15 shell. People who are comfortable with the AR-15 platform will immediately feel at home with an AR-10, and vise versa.
History of The AR-10
When Eugene Stoner originally designed the AR-10, it was purpose-built for military 7.62mm M-80 ball ammo and a 20.8-inch barrel. The buffer system was designed for that combination. The AR-10 buffer was 5 3/16″ (5.188″) long and weighed 5.4 ounces. The use of a carbine buffer tube wasn’t considered. The three basic patterns of .308 ARs: SR-25, Armalite, and DPMS all have carbine variants. There is no standard, but we now have a lot of options to come up with the right match.
Why Choose an AR-10 over an AR-15?
There are a few notable advantages to purchasing an AR-10. Some areas prohibit the use of AR-15 rifles for big game hunting, as lawmakers decided that the .223/5.56 NATO cartridge isn’t sufficient for large animals. The AR-10 can sometimes circumvent these restrictions, as the .308 round is one of the most popular deer hunting cartridges available.
Additionally, .308 has ballistic advantages over .223 and 5.56 NATO. When comparing the rounds side-by-side, it’s easy to see why hunters trust the .308 over the .223 and 5.56 NATO round.
The .308 is essentially a shortened 30-06, and some .308 ammo can be extremely good for accuracy. Compared to .223, the .308 round has significantly more ‘bang’ powder behind a much larger bullet. If you want maximum stopping power in the AR platform, you’d be best served with an AR-10.
The AR-10 and the AR-15 differ in size and dimension. The AR-10 fires a much larger and more powerful round than the AR-15. This means that the AR-10 receiver is noticeably larger than the AR-15 receiver. The easiest way to tell the difference between an AR-10 and an AR-15 is to look at the magazine well.
The AR-10 magazine well appears noticeably longer than the AR-15 mag well, making the profile of the rifle unique to its smaller cousin. Here are some other clues to tell the difference between the AR-10 and the AR-15.
- AR-15 rifle barrels are often 2 to 6 inches shorter than AR-10 barrels
- AR-10 mag wells appear elongated
- AR-10 rifles appear ‘beefier’ overall compared to AR-15 rifles
- AR-10 rifles often use shorter and wider magazines
- AR-15 rifles are much more common
Additionally, AR-10 barrels tend to be longer than most AR-15 carbines. With the exception of the M16-style AR-15 with a 20-inch barrel, most AR-10 rifles you see will appear a touch lengthier. This is because the vast majority of AR-10 barrels are either 18 inches, 20 inches, or 22 inches long, whereas AR-15 rifles often come with 16-inch barrels. The barrel of an AR-10 is usually slightly thicker as well.
How to Choose the Best Barrel Upgrade for your AR-10
So, how do you choose the best AR-10 barrel for your rifle? First, consider its application. Are you a hunter? Do you compete with your rifle, or do you want a solid and standard replacement for your current barrel? If you ask yourself these questions, it’ll be easy to find the best AR-10 barrel upgrade for you.
Best AR-10 Barrel for Hunters
Choosing the best AR-10 barrel for hunting requires careful consideration of weight, length, and accuracy. In a perfect world (where you drive right up to the deer blind), barrel weight wouldn’t matter much. But in reality, there’s a good chance you’ll need to lug your rifle around quite a ways.
Depending on your endurance, a couple of extra pounds of the barrel can make or break a trip. That’s why a hybrid like the Criterion rifle-length AR-10 barrel is an excellent choice. It’s strong and accurate but shaves off excess metal where it isn’t needed to reduce weight.
But what about optics?
Most AR-based rifles with iron sights also work with optics, but hunters may never use the iron sights alone. This is why hunters often prefer barrels with non-sight gas blocks. Finding a match-grade barrel with an integrated gas block and without iron sights is easy, as most hunting barrels omit the front sight entirely. This makes it easy to mount scopes and other optics without a front sight post getting in the way of your sight picture.
Best All-Purpose AR-10 Barrel
What makes an ideal all-purpose AR-10 rifle barrel? Generally speaking, it should be high-quality, easy to clean, corrosion-resistant, and not too heavy or light. In essence, the all-purpose AR-10 barrel is anything better than a factory barrel. The Brownells AR-308 carbine barrel fits this description well.
It’s available in three common barrel lengths (16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches), mid-weight, and relatively easy to install. It comes from the factory with a gas block and a front sight post, which means you’re ready to shoot with or without optics. Overall, it’s a well-rounded barrel that’s as close to plug-and-play as it can get.
Advantages of Upgrading your AR-10 Barrel
What are the advantages of upgrading AR-10 barrels? Swapping barrels isn’t as easy as replacing a grip or a handguard, but it can have a drastic effect on your gun’s performance and improve your shooting skills.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider swapping out that old factory barrel or upgrading it from the start.
Replacing a Worn Barrel
Bullets and hot gasses traveling at 2,000+ FPS can do a number on a barrel. Over time, barrels wear out, and they’re often the first part of a gun that needs to be completely replaced. Criterion states that .308 AR-10 barrels last between 5,000 and 8,000 rounds, and 6.5 Creedmoor barrels last between 3,000 and 6,000 rounds. It seems like a lot, but it’s really not. Here’s an example to consider.
Let’s say you go to the range twice per month and shoot about 100 rounds each time. That’s 2,400 rounds per year and could be nearly half of your barrel’s average lifespan. Over time, round count adds up, and it’s easy to dismiss declining accuracy and reliability.
If you shoot regularly and you’ve used the same barrel for a few years, chances are it’s due for a replacement. The benefits of replacing a worn AR-10 barrel are immediate and dramatic. The accuracy of your rifle will improve, and so will its reliability.
The 308 was developed by Winchester back in 1952 and continues to be one of the most popular hunting rounds on the market. If you are hunting or shooting a match the .308 has the accuracy, low price, high power, and long-range you need.
Most commercial .308 ammunition fires a 150-165 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second. With soft point or polymer tipped bullets, the cartridge is capable of taking all but the biggest game with one well-placed shot. You’ll also find full metal jacket rounds for sale in bulk providing a less expensive alternative to feed your .308 ARs.
If you own an entry-level AR-10, you may be missing out on a lot of accuracy. With the right barrel, your existing rifle could match a custom-built match gun. What’s the point of precision training if your rifle won’t cooperate? Adding a match-grade barrel in .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor is the most dramatic step you can take towards improving the inherent accuracy of your rifle, with or without iron sights.
Are AR-10 and AR-15 Barrels Interchangeable?
Many parts of the AR platform are interchangeable between the AR-10 and the AR-15. The barrels are absolutely not one of them. AR-10 and AR-15 rifles fire vastly different cartridges, and most parts of the action are unique.
AR-10 Barrels and Carbine Compatibility
The two rifles fire different sized ammunition.
- The AR-10 usually uses .308 and 7.62 NATO ammunition, which is a member of the 30-caliber family. This is a full-size rifle round and considered high-powered.
- The AR-15 uses smaller (but effective) .223 and 5.56 NATO ammunition, the casing, and bullet of which is significantly smaller than .30 caliber.
These barrels cannot be interchanged as neither one would fit. The .308 AR receiver and bolt are longer than an AR-15 to accommodate the longer .308 cartridge. The careful balance of length of the carrier, the amount of travel required, the length of the buffer, and the compressed length of the buffer spring determines if and how well your rifle functions. I can recommend some solutions, but with all these variables, some experimentation is required. In fact, you might need more than one buffer and spring combination if you plan to change uppers or ammo.
Because the amount of bolt travel required for the .308 AR is longer, you cannot use an AR-15 carbine buffer with an AR-15 carbine buffer tube on a 308 rifle. You must have a specifically designed spring and extra short buffer.
Finding the correct buffer and spring will result in a high-functioning rifle with extended service life.
A lighter buffer to reduce lock time and increase cyclic rate while a heavier buffer will keep the rifle in battery slightly longer reducing bounce and transfer more inertia to the bolt providing reliable chambering when dirty. Adjusting buffer weights can accommodate different ammunition or reducing the recoil impulse. A heavier spring with a properly tuned gas system can often yield a faster, lighter impulse that feels almost like an AR-15, very easy to clear or load.
Interchangeable AR-10 and AR-15 Parts
You’re in luck if you have boxes of AR-15 parts laying around—some AR-10 and AR-15 parts are indeed interchangeable. You can purchase these parts and swap them between your guns using the same tools as well. Here’s a list of these interchangeable parts.
- Safety selectors
- Buttstocks and buttstock assemblies
- Magazine release buttons
- Magazine release springs
- Bolt catch roll pins
- Buffer detents
- Disconnector springs
- Hammer springs
- Pistol grips
- Reviewer extensions
You can find compatible and interchangeable parts for the AR platform in virtually any gun store. Plus, re-using some of these parts from your previous builds can save a significant amount of time and investment.
Improve the Accuracy of Your AR-10
Are you dissatisfied with the groups you’re shooting with your AR-10? Sub-MOA performance is well within the capabilities of a well-built AR-10, so there’s likely a problem somewhere in the system. AR-10 rifles should be extremely accurate, even past 500 yards (depending on your barrel, optics, and experience).
Experimentation will allow custom tuning of any given rifle. Here are a few tips to improve the accuracy of your AR-10.
Replace the Barrel and try different springs and buffers
Springs and buffers are cheap and they can keep your rifles healthy and happy. Replacing the barrel is an excellent and relatively easy way to improve the capabilities of your AR-10. Thicker barrels are ideal for target rifles, as they deform less from heat and tend to hold tighter groups. Plus, new barrels reduce accuracy loss from worn rifling, pitting, and other age and use-related issues.
Upgrade.308 Springs and Buffers
Springs and buffers are cheap and they can keep your rifles healthy and happy. Original manufacturers .308 AR springs and buffers spring should offer good performance over a wide range of configurations, but if you have any reliability issues, why not check a different buffer weight or spring? This alone can yield truly optimized performance, particularly for rifles without an adjustable gas block
In selecting a spring for your rifle, install a heavier spring if you feel the buffer head fully compress and bottom out while firing the weapon. If the bolt carrier will not lock back reliably on the last round fired, even when completely gassed (in the case of an adjustable gas block), select a lighter spring.
Dial-in your iron sights
Are you running iron sights on your AR-10? If so, when was the last time you spent an hour or two sighting it in at long ranges? Iron sights work very well, but many people never get them dialed-in and adjusted just right. A few hours at the range and some patience can get your iron sights in competition condition.
Invest in premium optics
Iron sights have their limitations and don’t offer the hair-splitting accuracy of precision optics. If your AR-10 has a Picatinny rail system, consider upgrading to a high-quality optic such as a scope or an ACOG. It’ll need to be dialed-in as well, but a competition-grade optical sight system can extend your accurate range well past 500 yards.
Shooting is a skill that takes years to develop, and even the best shooters find their skills fade with time. It’s essential to hit the range regularly. Over time, your ideal AR-10 platform will become second-nature, and muscle memory will make your shooting more accurate.
Conclusion: Best All-Around AR-10 Barrel
What constitutes the best AR-10 barrel upgrade? The answer depends on what you need it for, so I chose what I believe to be the best all-purpose AR-10 barrel available on our list. When it comes to finding the right balance for everyday shooting, I considered weight, ease of installation, and material quality.