A Bit of AR-10 History

While we think of the AR rifle as the ubiquitous .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO caliber carbine, the original AR model was a big bore version of what’s now America’s most popular rifle. Back in 1955, Eugene Stoner and George Sullivan were teamed up at ArmaLite, a new division of Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation. For some reason, they had a burning desire to make rifles out of then-new materials like polymers and lightweight metal alloys. The idea was to generate some success and cash with commercial products and use that momentum as a springboard to get into the world of big military contracts. You know the old saying, "a plan tends to fall apart at first contact," as did this one.

Right off the bat, the company got involved in producing a survival rifle for the Air Force chambered in .22 Hornet. The name? It was an AR-5 (which eventually led to the AR-7 Survival Rifle). No, the “AR” part of that doesn’t stand for Assault Rifle, Armageddon Riot, or even Apoplectic Ruin. It stands for ArmaLite. In fact, the AR-17 was a 1960s-era shotgun, so the AR letters have nothing to do with assault rifles and such.

Three AR models: The rifle on the bottom is a "Sudanese" model. The middle is a sniper variant of the "Protugese" model with no front sight and an integrated scope mount. The top is a later variant of
Three AR models: The rifle on the bottom is a "Sudanese" model. The middle is a sniper variant of the "Protugese" model with no front sight and an integrated scope mount. The top is a later variant of the AR-10 featuring a modified gas block and an AR-15 style charging handle relocated to behind the carry handle.photo from imfdb.org

In fact, the AR-10 design pre-dates the AR-15. ArmaLite originally submitted the design as an option to replace the Army’s famous M1 Garand battle rifle. The AR-10 got into the game too late to win the contract, but the design was solid, so, like the AR-15, it exists today—even though the Army ultimately went with the M14 rifle, which was essentially a box-magazine-fed update of the M1 Garand, chambered in .308 Win.

What does all this have to do with the Stag Arms 10S? Well, the Stag 10s is an AR-10 rifle.

The thing about AR-10s is that they are like super-sized AR-15s, chambered in .308 Win./7.62 NATO, would be the battle rifle of the future. They’re designed to handle bigger calibers like .308 Winchester or, more recently, 6.5mm Creedmoor. The receiver is bigger, the magazine well is larger, the bolt is heavier, and of course, the barrel has a wider hole in the fiery end. Now that you know the very quick and dirty history of AR-10 rifles let’s take a closer look at this one.

A Tour of the Stag Arms 10s M-Lok

I had an 800-yard range for testing with a solid concrete bench.
I had an 800-yard range for testing with a solid concrete bench.photo by Tom McHale

The first thing you notice about the Stag 10s is its light weight. AR-10s are not small rifles, and even though the original was less than seven pounds, more recent models appear to have gained weight. This one is quick to the shoulder, in part thanks to the very airy handguard.

Handguard

The forward handguard is long. At 13.5 inches, it almost extends to the muzzle—but it’s light. That keeps the rifle nicely balanced with most of the weight between your hands rather than out front.

The handguard itself features a full-length top rail that extends all the way forward from where the receiver rail leaves off. At the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, there are M-Lok grooves that extend almost the entire length, so you can easily add accessories such as lights, lasers, grips, or bipods wherever you like without carrying the weight of unused rails. There are three sling swivel attachment holes at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions about three inches forward of the magazine well.

Speaking of sling attachments, there are also two metal loops between the buffer tube and receiver, one on either side. These are handy if you like single-point attachment slings. There’s one more on the Magpul buttstock, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

The M-Lok system has attachment cutouts on all sides except the top.
The M-Lok system has attachment cutouts on all sides except the top.photo by Tom McHale

Controls

The controls are just as you’d expect on any standard AR-platform rifle. The magazine release button is on the left just behind the well, the two-position safety is on the left side of the receiver only, and the bolt catch/release button is on the left side just behind the magazine well. There’s also the forward assist button to help encourage the bolt into battery should things get gunked up and nasty. I have yet to need to use one of those, but hey, it’s there if you want it.

All the controls are just what you expect on an AR-rifle, everything is just bigger.
All the controls are just what you expect on an AR-rifle, everything is just bigger.photo by Tom McHale

Trigger

The trigger is a single-stage mil-spec. The motion has virtually no takeup; you’ll feel resistance immediately. After perhaps 1/8 of an inch of movement, it breaks. I measured the weight with a trigger scale, and it consistently came it at five and a half pounds of pressure to break.

It’s a nice production trigger—crisp, short, and has no detectable grittiness. Since we’re in the area, I should mention that the trigger guard is oversized, so if you want to shoot with gloves on, you should have no problem getting your finger in there easily. Since it was in the high 90s with 312% humidity when I tested this rifle, I skipped the glove test.

The top rail seamlessly mates to the receiver rail and extends all the way forward.
The top rail seamlessly mates to the receiver rail and extends all the way forward.photo by Tom McHale

Buttstock

The rifle ships with a Magpul ACS buttstock. This is nice. It’s got a wide and well-rounded comb (the top part that makes friends with your cheek), so it’s easy to get a comfortable and consistent cheek weld. The stock also comes with lots of internal storage and adjustment gizmos.

It has six positions of adjustment, operable by a lever that’s protected from inadvertent movement. There’s also a locking lever forward of that. Snap that down, and the stock won’t move until you release it. If you need to adjust on the fly, leave the locking lever open. If you have a favored stock position, snap the locking lever closed.

There are tubular water-resistant battery storage compartments along both sides of the stock supplemented by a small general purpose storage compartment just forward of the butt pad. All of these can be used for spare parts too if you want some redundancy in the field. By the way, there is a thin rubber butt pad. It’s not there to manage the already light recoil, but rather to prevent slippage. It’s also really handy because you can stand the rifle up and lean it against stuff without the buttstock slipping across the floor. Don’t judge; I find that a convenient feature.

I really like the Magpul ACS buttstock. It’s functional and has great storage compartments for spare parts and several points of adjustment.
I really like the Magpul ACS buttstock. It’s functional and has great storage compartments for spare parts and several points of adjustment.photo by Tom McHale

Muzzle Brake

The VG6 Precision Gamma 762 muzzle brake is a nice upgrade on this rifle. Like a traditional muzzle brake, it has generous ports that direct exiting gas backward and to the sides. This helps to mitigate the perceived recoil force against your shoulder. What’s different is that this brake also has ports on the top that help keep the muzzle on target. The whole brake is treated with a Black Nitride satin finish, so it’s easier to clean all that nasty carbon off later.

The VG6 Precision Gamma 762 muzzle brake also has cutouts on the top to prevent muzzle rise. That helps you stay on target during rapid-fire strings.
The VG6 Precision Gamma 762 muzzle brake also has cutouts on the top to prevent muzzle rise. That helps you stay on target during rapid-fire strings.photo by Tom McHale

The barrel is 16 inches long and features a one in ten-inch rifling pattern. It’s threaded to accept the muzzle brake, and the threading pattern is the standard 5/8x24, so it’s easy to attach aftermarket muzzle devices or suppressors.

Shooting and Accuracy

This rifle is a pussycat to shoot. Given the semi-automatic operation and muzzle brake, it’s not a rifle that’s tough to shoot all day. I didn’t experience any fatigue in my most recent high-volume shooting session.

I tested this rifle with the very fancy Steiner T5xi 5-15x50 scope. It was a great pairing that made sight pictures at 800 yards easy.
I tested this rifle with the very fancy Steiner T5xi 5-15x50 scope. It was a great pairing that made sight pictures at 800 yards easy.photo by Tom McHale

I did some accuracy testing by shooting multiple five-shot groups from 100 yards using four different types of ammo. I had the luxury of a concrete bench, a Blackhawk Sportster Titan III front and rear rest system, and a high-end optic - the Steiner T5xi 5-15x50 scope. That little baby will set you back about three grand, so you’d better believe it has amazing clarity. All in all, I had a good setup from which to get an idea of practical accuracy.

Oh, since shooting suppressed is way more fun, I removed the factory muzzle brake and added a SilencerCo Specwar 762 can.

Ammunition Avg. Group Size: 5 shots, 100 yards
Federal Gold Medal Match .308 Winchester 168-grain 1.91."
Federal Gold Medal Match .308 Winchester 175-grain 1.55"
SIG Sauer Match Grade OTM .308 Winchester 168-grain 1.57"
SIG Sauer HT .308 Winchester 150-grain 1.68"

There was some interesting variance in group size. The smallest of the bunch was turned in by the Sig Sauer HT all-copper 150-grain load with a five-shot group of 1.13 inches. That was followed closely by the Sig Sauer Match Grade OTM 168-grain with a 1.18” five-shot group. The most consistent load was the Federal Gold Medal Match 175-grain as all groups hovered right around the one and a half-inch mark.

Here’s a quick and casual group on the 600-yard steel plate.
Here’s a quick and casual group on the 600-yard steel plate.photo by Tom McHale

I had this rifle at an 800-yard range, so I was able to stretch things out a bit. Topped with the Steiner T5xi scope, I had a crisp and clear sight picture all the way out. Because there was a big and very tempting steel plate with sprayed-on bullseyes at 600 yards, I spent a little extra time on that one. Hits were a no brainer, and the rifle was easily printing hand-size groups on that target with boring regularity.

All in all, this is a nice rifle. It’s pleasant shooting, spiffy in appearance, and includes a transferable lifetime warranty. It's hard to ask for much more than that.

Stag Arms 10S M-Lok Rifle Specifications
Weight: 8.2 pounds
Length: 35.25" to 38.50"
Action: Semi-Auto Direct Impingement
Caliber: .308 Win. / 7.62x51mm NATO
Twist Rate: 1/10 button rifled
Muzzle Device: VG6 Gamma 762
Barrel: 16", 4150 steel, chrome-lined
Handguard: 13.5" Stag M-LOK Handguard
Receiver Material: Forged 7075 T6 aluminum with type 3 hard coat anodizing
Buttstock: Magpul ACS Stock
Gas System: Low Profile Gas Block with Mid-Length Gas Tube
Buffer: Standard .308 Carbine Buffer and .308 Action Spring
Trigger: Mil-Spec Single Stage Trigger
Grip: Hogue Grip
Magazine: 10-Round PMAG included
Safety Selector: Right Hand
SKU: SA800098
MSRP: 1,539.99