Throwback Thursday: 4 Alternatives to the AR-10

Black PTR-91 rifle

Depending on what you’re trying to put holes into, the venerable 5.56 isn’t always the right choice. Sometimes, you need that hard-hitting .308. While the AR-10 is a fine choice, here are four .30-caliber rifles you should try before pulling the trigger on the variant you’ve been eyeing. After all, there are a labyrinth of variations of the AR-10-style of rifle that make customizing them a real pain for the beginner.


Black PTR-91 rifle AR-10
The PTR-91 is much more affordable than its predecessor—the HK.

Ever since the SAS (Special Air Service) stormed the Iranian Embassy with the now iconic MP5—the HK series of roller-delayed rifles have been the choice of many top tier professional shooters. The ruggedly reliable G3 was produced by HK from 1958 to 1997. After HK dropped the rifle from production, PTR Industries picked production up in 2002. Thankfully, the PTR-91 is far more affordable than the HK rifles—making them a bargain. As for why you should give serious consideration to this rife, it has MP5 controls, excellent HK drum sights, an amazingly reliable action, and it throws giant .30 caliber pills down range. What isn’t to like? Couple all of that with super cheap surplus magazines (under $3) and you have the recipe for a really awesome rifle.


Black FAL rifle
Featuring an adjustable gas system, the FAL makes a wonderfully soft-shooting .308 that will work with just about any ammo, in any condition

The FAL has rightly earned the nickname of “the right arm of the free world” because it was adopted by so many NATO countries during the Cold War. The FAL has been largely forgotten by the shooting community in recent years because the parts kits have dried up, and there are no reasonably priced reproductions. Thankfully, DSA builds a bargain-priced FAL you can now seriously consider. Featuring an adjustable gas system, the FAL makes a wonderfully soft-shooting .308 that will work with just about any ammo, in any condition. Not considering one of these would be a disservice to yourself.

Springfield Armory M1A

M1A Loaded Series from Springfield Armory
M1A™ Loaded Series from Springfield Armory®

With the price of a quality AR-10 and a M1A being so very close, there is no reason not to think about the M-14’s offspring. There is just something charming and warm about the beautiful wood and metal construction of the M1A that makes me gravitate to this rifle. Maybe it has something to do with the M1A’s roots in a rifle that I am rather fond of and own several—the M1 Garand. After WWII, the military recognized the need for a magazine-fed rifle and the result is more or less what you see here, minus the fun switch of course. Now the M-14 did only serve five short years as the main line issued rifle, but it did live on in special roles. As a result, there is a whole host of parts out there that allow you to “tacti-cool” your rifle ’till you’re as operator as your heart desires.


Black FN SCAR rifle
The SCAR 17S has been reported to be the best battle rifle that money can buy these days.

The SCAR 17S has been reported to be the best battle rifle money can buy. The soft recoiling rifle has replaced the venerable M-14 in many military rolls largely because the M-14 is a bit long in the tooth after serving for 56 years. Not only is the SCAR a pleasure to shoot, but it also has almost as many accessories as the AR platform, allowing you to tailor this rifle to your exact needs. Now you might be asking, is it worth the premium over some of the other rifles? I think so. Boasting features such as a folding stock, built-in rails, adjustable cheek rest, and ambidextrous controls, it is hard not to see the value. Throw in the capability to convert calibers by buying the caliber conversion kit of your choosing, and you have a gun that really is something special.

As a result of the selection of interesting .308 semiautos being a bit on the thin side, I was forced to limit this to four options. If you have AR fatigue, like so many shooters do now, this list might help you along with the process of selecting your next .308 rifle.

If you, the reader, have any suggestions for an interesting alternative to the all too-common AR-10-style of rifles, please let us hear it in the comments.

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Comments (57)

  1. The first use of the Recoil-operated Roller-locking action was in the MG42. It proved to be a highly successful system, allowing high rates of fire and rapid barrel changes with extremely low maintenance and high reliability. The West German government had to license the G3 only because they were not allowed to manufacture arms after WWII until the United States and England allowed them to return to self-government and become a member of NATO. The actual action and operating system was developed during the early years of WWII and adopted in 1942 as the MG42. The weapon and its derivatives are still in use in the former Yugoslavia, Germany and Austria.
    As to the HK91, I have owned and shot one of these since around 1977. I have the claw scope mount and it works fine. The rifle digests pretty much anything, but brass has to be resized pretty carefully to get it to chamber in other .308/7.62X51 rifles. The recoil of my HK isn’t bad but the narrowness of the butt stock does not help. My brother has put a slip on recoil pad on it and that really tames it down. The trigger isn’t very good, but it improves with a little polishing. Accuracy is very good with good ammunition: on the order of 1″ to 11/2″. And in the manual I had, one of the cautions was that there should be a 1/8′ to maybe 1/4″ gap between the bolt and carrier when in battery, which kept the rifle from exhibiting excessive recoil. That gap allows the bolt to soak up energy as the roller bearings are forced out of their slots in the chamber. If the butt stock were wider than a hatchet blade, the recoil of this rifle would be no problem at all.

  2. ONE MORE THING: STEYR AUG (Arme Universal Gewher)
    I’ve owned my AUG since 1990 and still think it’s one of the most advanced assault-style rifles aver made. Plus it is accurate, utterly reliable and easily broken down for compact &/or concealed carry.

    When I look at my PS90 I see the AUG trigger group copied faithfully by FN. The AUG was innovative and I’d buy one in .308 in a heartbeat if it was ever offered. I love bullpups!

  3. I found the FAL the best alternative to the AR10. Haven’t had the inclination to get the SCAR (strikes me as the ultimate rifle for those who want the gear as much or more than the rifle)

    The HK pattern is reliable and strong, but much more difficult to add accessories or change it from the stock configuration. I never found the claw mounts satisfactory and there is no adding a rail to the top of the receiver without substantial permanent modification. Hard to do and easy to screw up.

    The M1A is venerable, tried and true, but similarly limited in accessories. I never liked the side mounted scope base, and the bases that replace the rear sight mean that you’re stuck with the scope no matter what. On top of that, the rifle is capable of great accuracy, but takes quite a bit to maintain if accuracy is what you’re after. It is the easiest to change magazines in a hurry if you don’t mind dropping the mag on the ground. The M1A also had the best trigger of the 308s that aren’t an AR (The M1A trigger is the basis for most AR two stage triggers)

    My FAL is built on an Argentine parts kit and DSA receiver. I cut the chamber with a .308 semi-auto match chamber (same as a match M1A barrel) and it’s as accurate as the best of the M1As but requires less maintenance to keep it accurate. A picatinny railed top cover clamped onto the upper receiver gives me a stable scope mount and an adjustable para style rear sight equals the M1A for wind adjustments. Elevation is not adjustable unless you go with the lower equipped with the AR style sights that DSA has (and that’s in the future for my rifle, but realistically, there’s not too much chance of needing to adjust elevation repeatedly on your backup sight). A railed forend gives all kinds of space for mounting additional accessories if you want them. I find a grip-pod is sufficient. Magazine changes are the slowest of the bunch if you’re using a metric pattern rifle, but still manageable.

    So my recommendation if you don’t want to follow the AR pattern (or if you want to go with a piston driven 308 battle rifle) is the FAL. It can take all the accessories you could ever want, but is perfectly happy in a plain configuration.

    **A final word on accuracy: The many cheap builds using timing washers and special locking shoulders in order to set headspace and gas system timing have given the FAL a bad reputation accuracy-wise. I highly recommend avoiding a rifle built with washers (but I’m certain you can find examples that use a washer that are fine rifles).

    1. WMurphy, I’d be interested to hear more about your chamber modifications for the FAL. I make some accessories for the FAL, so I always enjoy hearing people putting more into the platform.

  4. For those of us that are not independently wealthy, Zastava makes an excellent .308NATO PAP77 that is very good quality all around. Adjustable gas valve. Hold open. Off a rest I can shoot consistently one MOA at 100yds with match ammo or hand loads. On a see food diet – it eats whatever it sees. They can be had for under $500. You can get high quality 15 and 20 rd mags from CSSPEC.

  5. I have an Aero Precision FDE Enhanced AR-10 and a Ruger Precision AR-10 rifle that I wouldn’t trade for nothing.I have $2000 in both guns less glass that shoot sub MOA at 500 yards. Building an AERO CREEDMOOR right now as my long range. I’ll stick with technology, it wins everytime in the right hands.Just go to a shooting match and see for yourself.

  6. If I were to choose a .308-caliber Rifle, it would br 7.62x51NATO Mil-Std. not .308 Win Mil-Spec. Mil-Std. gives you the option of being able to use the 7.62x55Nato/SH cartridge, Mil-Spec. WON’T…

  7. Do all the rifles lock open after the last round is fired? My HK91 didn’t. Isn’t that a necessary feature for any combat type weapon?

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