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Buildsheets: Softening up the AR-10

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This build stemmed from the most primal of gun-owner temptations: “I don’t have one of those. I should probably get one.” In this case, one of those was a 7.62x51mm AR. While the author has a standard stable of 5.56mm ARs in varying configurations, a heavy hitter with some extended-range capability was missing from the safe. But we didn’t want just any AR-10 type. The idea was to create a gun that shot as soft as possible for the caliber, while maintaining accuracy at distance.

We started with an Aero Precision builder’s kit — receiver set and handguard. We then added a 20-inch stainless steel Criterion barrel. These feature rifle-length gas systems and M118LR-spec chambers, in order to optimize performance with heavier loads.

For the bang switch, we went with a TriggerTech Competitive trigger. TriggerTech utilizes an internal trigger mechanism that they call Frictionless Release Technology. The goal is to create a 1911-like feel with minimal overtravel, a tactile reset, and features an incredibly clean, snapping break. The Competitive model is a non-adjustable two-stage with a 0.75-pound first stage and 2.75-pound second stage, resulting in a uniform 3.5-pound pull weight. While most trigger companies claim to be chasing that “1911-like” experience, TriggerTech comes closer than most. Our test sample came with a straight shoe finished in black PVD coating. The cassette-style trigger unit made install a cinch. 

The AR is truly a system, in the sense that gas system length, buffer, buffer spring, and muzzle device all work together (or against each other) in order to provide the balance and “feel” of recoil when shooting. But Desert Forge Arms, the one-man-shop that helped us build this rifle out, added an X-factor product that dramatically enhanced our shooting experience. Desert Forge has developed a recoil dampening system that can be built into a wide range of firearms and AR-style buttstocks. We supplied him an old SOPMOD-style buttstock, and he built it into the battery compartments. Without giving away too much of their secret sauce, the Desert Forge Arms “recoil mitigator” uses a system of weights and springs to counteract the gun’s movement while firing. While it’s difficult to illustrate the point without video, we can unequivocally say that our Desert Forge AR-10 build shoots flatter with less muzzle rise than most of the AR-15s we’ve ever tested. You may also notice the muzzle brake is slightly off-center. Desert Force says that they specifically time the muzzle brake to negate rise based on whether the rifle is for a right- or left-handed shooter. Their three-chamber Bennie Cooley-style brake is neither quiet nor courteous to nearby shooters. But if you’re trying to build a pussycat gas gun that can still ring steel at 800 yards, some sacrifices will be made.

ar-10 buildsheet

We kept the control suite mostly standard, with the mag release, bolt release, and safety selector all being stock units. The charging handle is an ambidextrous number with an extended latch. Originally, the extended latch was very helpful in clearing a very low-mounted scope. But after a couple of range sessions, smashing our face into the enhanced buttstock became irritating to say the least. So we swapped to a newer optic more fitting of this rifle’s capabilities, and higher scope rings to match — specifically, we chose the Riton Optics X7 Conquer. With a 50mm tube, 3-18x magnification, and an illuminated T3 first focal plane reticle, the X7 Conquer is optimized for precision long-range shooting. We mounted the X7 into a set of mid-height rings from their all-steel “Riton By Contessa” line. For bottom-side stability, we bolted on a GG&G Quick Detach XDS Bipod. Finally, the multilayered blue paint job was also done by Desert Forge Arms using KG GunKote.

Getting to run the Desert Forge Arms recoil mitigator system was an eyebrow-raising experience, to say the least. Having said that, this is one of the heavier more cumbersome builds we’ve taken on. It’s absolutely possible to get spoiled shooting 5.56mm guns most of the time. But this rifle gives us some capability that light carbines don’t. Having the ability to reach out past 500 yards and penetrate a variety of barriers with match-grade accuracy is a potent force multiplier to have available in the safe.

[Editor's Note: This article first appeared in RECOIL #50.]


Aero Precision M5 Lower Receiver: $190
Aero Precision M5 Upper Receiver: $155
Aero Precision Handguard: $210
Criterion 1020S-HYR 20-inch Barrel: $305
B5 SOPMOD Stock: $95
Desert Forge Recoil Mitigator: $225
Riton X7 Conquer 3-18x: $2,000
Riton By Contessa Medium Rings: $120
TriggerTech Competitive AR Trigger: $225
GG&G XDS Bipod: $208
C Products AR-10 Magazine: $17

Total: $3,750



Buildsheets: Past and Present

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