Letter Re: Advice on AR-10 Rifles (Updated)

Mr. Rawles:
I’m thinking about buying a Bushmaster AR-10 type rifle that comes with with one clip. What features should I look for, especially these days? Are the magazines an issue? Thanks, – C. in Oregon

JWR Replies: Let me start with a pet peeve. The terms clip and magazine are not synonymous. A clip holds cartridges only at one end, whereas a magazine complete surrounds a cartridge. In the context of modern detachable magazine battle rifles, a clip is what is used to fill a magazine. Please do not call a magazine a clip, especially around children. They are impressionable, and I ‘d hate to see another generation growing up to use faulty nomenclature.

In today’s frantic market the over-riding concern for AR-10 buyers is interchangeability of magazines. Some brands of AR-10s will accept inexpensive metric FN-FAL magazines, while others will accept only purpose-built AR-10 magazines. Let me explain:

Only a few brands of AR-10s take the plentiful FN-FAL magazines. The brands that can accept FAL magazines are American Spirit, Bushmaster, and Rock River Arms (RRA) . (BTW the new RRA LAR-8 will take metric FAL mags and “inch pattern” L1A1 magazines, with the large forward locking lug.) FAL magazines are still fairly inexpensive–as little as $14 each. I recommend that you buy 25+ of them. Someday, you’ll be glad that you did.

The Armalite, Knight Armament (KAC), and DPMS brand AR-10s take only purpose-made AR-10 magazines. As reader “Mr. Smith” pointed out, the KAC and DPMS can use magazines interchangeably but the Armalite lower uses a magazine that is not compatible with the other two. M14 magazines can be converted, but only to fit the Armalite AR-10.

Mr. Smith also mentioned that CMMG is about to produce AR-10 lowers that will take very inexpensive German Army surplus G3 magazines! These are compatible with DPMS upper receivers. For anyone that plans to build a new AR-10, this is the lower to use! It is noteworthy that CMMG also makes a lower that is compatible with DPMS-type AR-10 magazines.

MagPul Industries announced 7.62×51 polymer magazines for the KAC and DPMS AR-10s at the 2009 SHOT Show. Based on the track record of their polymer 5.56 magazines, these should be great. They key question is: Will they make it into production before a new Federal; ban is enacted?

The going rate for 20 round Armalite, KAC, and DPMS steel AR-10 magazines is $65 to $75 each, and climbing. That means buying 20 spare magazines will nearly double the acquisition cost of a rifle. Yikes! If you know anyone that owns those brands of AR-10, tell them to buy plenty of spare mags, soon. After the upcoming ban, they will be $200+ each. I’m not kidding.

The bottom line: In today’s market, unless you are absurdly wealthy, you should buy only AR-10s that can accept standard metric FN-FAL magazines, or HK G3 magazines!