Letter Re: The AR-10 as a Primary Rifle for a Retreat?

Dear Jim:
I have read time and again about .308 rifles on SurvivalBlog, and how you often steer people towards the HK and FN brands. What do you think about the Armalite AR-10 I have two, and like them very much, and have extensive spare parts and magazines. BTW, you won’t hurt my feelings if you do not like them, I just wonder why you [don’t often] mention them.
Sincerely, Mark in Albuquerque, New Mexico

JWR Replies: I have a personal preference for L1A1s, FALs, and HK91s, but I hardly rule out functionally equivalent rifles such as M1As and AR-10s. I only de-emphasize the latter because of the relatively high cost of extra magazines and spare parts. I particularly recommend AR-10s for readers that are prior US or Canadian military service–those that already have a lot of muscle memory invested in the AR platform–namely the US M16 series and the Canadian C7 series. (The sights and controls will seem familiar and “right” to them.) I also appreciate the light weight of AR-10s. (They weigh more than a pound less than most other .308 semi-auto battle rifles.) The only major drawback is that the AR-10 has the same dirty gas tube action as an AR-15. Just be sure to clean your rifles frequently and scrupulously.

OBTW, I strongly prefer the varieties of AR-10s that can use standard FN-FAL magazines. Specifically, I recommend the Bushmaster AR-10 (now out of production) and the RRA (Rock River Arms) LAR-8 . Standard metric FAL magazines can be found for as little as $7 each, versus up to $60 each for some of the proprietary AR-10 magazines. That may not be much of an issue to casual shooters, but it is is a big issue for well-prepared folks that want to salt away 25 or more spare magazines for a “lifetime supply.” At $40 each, a supply of 25 spare magazines would cost nearly as much as the rifle itself! If properly cared for, rifles using noncorrosive ammunition may last for three generations of regular use. But magazines are the most fragile part, and cannot be expected to put up with the vigors of regular field use. They are after all, very vulnerable when one drops to a prone position. Another factor to consider is the prospect of another Federal magazine ban. Based on the experience of the ill-conceived 1994-to-2004 ban, I anticipate that a new ban will probably bump the prices of FAL magazines to $20+ each, and AR-10 magazines to $120 each, or more. If the anticipated new law is permanent (with no sunset clause) then magazine prices might reach absurd heights.