May 30, 2013

Weapons of Choice: Armalite AR-10

In this Weapons of Choice series, I choose the ArmaLite Model 10 using the military standard 7.62x54 (.308 caliber) ammunition to comply with NATO ammunition standard policy. It is a more powerful model of the AR-15 model that was developed for the US military as the M16 rifle that fires the 5.56mm round, also a NATO standard.
The ArmaLite Model 10 [military auto] fires 700 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,690 feet per second and with a telescopic sight has a kill range of 730 meters. It uses the standard 20-round detachable box magazine and has an adjustable aperture rear sight with a fixed post front sight.It has a flash suppressor that military models require in the AR-16.

AR-10, early model with wood stock & bayonet
The ArmaLite began as a small engineering company founded by George Sullivan under the patent counsel of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and funded by Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. In October of 1954 it became incorporated into the ArmaLite Corporation, a subdivision of Fairchild. 
ArmaLite was also testing at the time a survival rifle in a .22-caliber, and while at the shooting range, Sullivan met Eugene Stoner, a small arms inventor, and was immediately hired to be ArmaLite's chief design engineer. It was a small organization in 1956 that only had nine employees; however, when Stoner arrived it soon began to grow.
The company focused on producing small arms and after leasing a small machine shop in Hollywood, California, Sullivan hired more employees and began working on a prototype of a lightweight survival rifle for use by downed aircrew. 
The first 7.52mm AR-10's arrived between 1956 and 1956, while the US Army was testing several rifles to replace the WW2 M1 Garand. Springfield Armory was testing updated versions of the Garand chambered for the new NATO 7.62mm round used in the Fabrique Nationale (FAL) T48. The AR-10 was entered into the contest for a government contract late (fall of 1956), the AR-10 prototypes featuring a straight-line stock design, rugged elevated sights, an oversized aluminum flash suppressor and recoil compensator with an adjustable gas system. In the final prototype the rifle featured lightweight of only 6.85 lbs without loaded magazine and the initial comments by Springfield Armory testing staff were favorable, some saying it was the best they ever tested. 
Unfortunately the rifle's aluminum/steel composite barrel burst in a torture test conducted by Springfield Armory in 1957.  ArmaLite quickly replaced it with a conventional steel barrel, but the harm had been done. The final Springfield Armory report advised against adopting the rifle for the US military and stated: would take five years or more to take it through tests to adoption.
In the end, the M14 rifle (T44 Springfield) won the design in 1957 for the US military. In the same year, however, Fairchild ArmaLite sold a five-year manufacturing license for the AR-10 to the Dutch arms manufacturer, Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI). Also in 1957, an order was placed of 7.500 AR-10 rifles from Nicaragua with an initial delivery of 1,000 rifles before January 1958. However, when General Somoza, Nicaragua chief military commander, test fired the rifle, the bolt lug over the ejector sheared off and flew past the general's head – angrily he canceled the order. The remaining “Hollywood” rifles were inspected and refitted, fixing the problem – but the contract was lost. The AR-10T with high-powered scope and aluminum barrel is a favorite of sportsmen and has been used as a sniper rifle by Burma, Cuba, Finland, Guatemala, Italy, Nicaragua (they purchased upgraded models later), Portugal, and Sudan. It has not been a favorite in America, not because of its design or its quality, but because the AK-47 that is produced cheaper is more affordable in that caliber range and type of weapon. Despite ArmaLite owning the patent, the AR-10 and AR-15 model names have been used by other companies, like the Colt M16, that the US Army adopted during the Vietnam War as the standard military issue rifle.
Made in different configurations, like the SS .260 Remington Model AR-10T, the price runs from $1,800 to over $2,000, depending upon what accessories is ordered. The basic model is a little over $1,500. The M-14 Springfield was upgraded in the 1980s (added to inventory when Infantry company snipers were added to each platoon) and refitted for the US Army Sniper Rifle, M-24/M-25; which fires a heavy-load 7.62x54mm NATO-Match round (.308 caliber) complete with modern range-finding scope and night-vision; as well as built-in bipod and sniper stock. It is a semi-automatic sniper rifle that hunters and sporting shooters use and available from the Springfield Armory at about $3,600. It is the exact model I used in the military as a company sniper. 
ArmaLite also makes an alternative to a Beretta 94 (9mm) model - Beretta has contract for US military side-arms that replaced the M1911, 45-auto sidearm. However, the M1911 is making a comeback and recently the Marines and Navy SEALS are being issued the Colt Combat M1911. 
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, pp. 23-26
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, pp. 30-36
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, p. 36, 38
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, p. 38: Later changed to titanium.
Lewis, Jack (1963). "The M-14: Boon or Blunder". Gun World 3 (4).
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, p. 38: The experimental composite barrels used aluminum around thin rifled liners of 416 stainless steel.
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, p. 45
Pikula, Sam, The ArmaLite AR-10, p. 46

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