Gun Review: Stag Arms 10S M-LOK AR-10 Rifle in .308Win

I’m a big fan of the AR-10 — more so than the AR-15. Before we had a dozen caliber choices, when it was just 5.56NATO or 7.62NATO in Eugene Stoner’s design, the AR-10 was clearly superior.

From short range combat in the bush to long range sniping, the AR-10 has proven itself in combat. It’s also proven itself on hunting grounds all over the world, especially here in the US. In fact, if I go pig hunting and someone shows up with an AR-15 in 5.56NATO, I’m secretly hoping they’re a good shot. They’d better be if we’re recovering those hams. If someone shows up with an AR-10, I’m not worried. That pig’s not going far.

Unfortunately, the AR-10s are often much more expensive than AR-15s. That’s almost entirely down to the smaller platform’s popularity. In terms of materials, AR-10’s aren’t that much more expensive to manufacture. Stag Arms — a company that’s been making rifles so long I forgot about them — is now churning out a budget AR-10: the Stag 10S. SPOILER ALERT: It’s an AR-10 with a quality level well above its price point.

The Stag Arms 10S in .308 looks a whole lot like a standard-issue mil-spec AR-15s, just a bit bigger. The forged receiver is anodized. The 16-inch barrel is chrome lined. The furniture is a bit of a mixed bag, including Magpul’s adjustable ACS. I’m a big fan of that stock, if only because it has built-in storage space for batteries and ear plugs. While it doesn’t offer much in the way of a butt pad, the 10S doesn’t generate enough recoil to make you miss it.

The Stag Arms rifle comes equipped with a Hogue pistol grip with deep finger grooves and textured sides. I never like finger grooves; I like to crowd my hand up against the trigger guard as high as possible. But both the stock and grip have been a commercial successes for many years on other rifles and they work well together on this one.

The 10S’s charging handle is a “standard” small charging handle. That’s a mistake. First, that it’s the standard. Second that it’s on this rifle. The AR-10’s return spring is a little stiffer than most AR-15s; getting that bolt carrier group (BCG) moving backtakes more than a little effort. The small charging handle needs more real estate for a good grip, to get that BCG moving.

We can assume that most buyers will put a scope on their 10S. Chances are it will live right over the charging handle — making it even harder to get at the handle. A big boy latch would be more appropriate for this gun, and wouldn’t raise the price much. Of course, an aftermarket swap is simple and the first thing I’d do to a stock 10S.

The 10S’s 13.5-inch M-LOK hand guard looks kinda weird; every other horizontal rail section on top is missing in the middle. I assume it was designed that way to save weight. Or just look different.

The set-up affords a good view of the gas tube, but exposes it as well. That may help with heat, but I can’t imagine it reduces weight by much. If you’re one of those people who wraps their thumb or fingers around the top of the hand guard, the edges of the abbreviated rail sections will get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast.

The rest of the hand guard is skelotonized, with M-LOK compatible sections down each side and the bottom. There’s a built-in QD sling attachment point a couple of inches in front of the magazine well, but none in front. (The same hand guard is also available in KeyMod.)

Located on the left side of the 10S’s lower, the bolt lock/release button gave me a little trouble.

There’s a horizontal molded ridge circling on the top of the lower receiver. On the right side, that looks good and gives the user a good place to index the firing finger to keep it well away from the trigger. But that same line continues around to the left and goes a little too far back; the bolt lock/release is cut into it.

To lock the bolt back, you have to be careful to make sure you push the lever into the ridge — something I missed quite often. When the bolt is locked back, I could always get it to release with a solid palm slap — unless I was wearing hunting gloves. When that was the case, I missed it a few times as well, as the ridge shielded the lever.

The rear take-down pin is a good set up, with a recessed divot on a raised platform. There’s no problem pushing it out with your finger. The pivot pin requires some kind of object, like the point of a bullet, to help you push it through.

The 10S’s magazine well is flared quite a bit, funneling AR-10 size PMAGs with ease. Unfortunately, straight out of the box, the supplied Magpul magazine wouldn’t drop free. They required a bit of a tug to release them from the lower. After a few dozen runse, the mag began to spring out when I depressed the standard mil-spec right side release — as it should.

The supplied Gamma VG6 muzzle brake (previously reviewed by Nick), does an exceptional job of turning recoil into noise and blast. At 8.2lbs, the Stag 10S isn’t particularly heavy, but it still has enough heft to knock out much of the recoil. The Gamma brake does the rest. The .308 is pleasant to shoot even in fast fire, and there’s no challenge in keeping the muzzle down.

Hearing protection is an absolute must, especially for everyone else on the range. The 10S is much louder beside the shooter than behind the gun. To prevent death stares, I recommend yanking the brake off the moment you get the 10S and installing a decent silencer. Easy enough, as the Republicans in Congress and the White House have made buying a silencer simple, cheap, fast and easy. Oh. Wait.

I swapped out optics a few times, switching between a Sightmark Wolverine Red Dot, a Vortex Razor HD 1-6x and an Atibal Nomad 3-12. In this application, the Vortex is the one that shined. It offered a huge field of view, absolutely bomb proof reliability, a true 1X setting and enough magnification at its highest range to reliably take game out to 600 yards.

I ran all of the same drills with the Stag Arms 10S that I’d run with an AR-15. Shooting from the kneel, prone, turn and fire, barricades, walking and firing, the gun ran great. There were many times I thought “I wish I’d had this gun in-country instead of my M4”. I also remembered the reason I don’t have a mil-spec trigger on any of my AR pattern rifles: they’re not good.

Pulling the 10S’s trigger in slow fire, I felt some grit, a kind of catch (like a 2-stage trigger, but not quite), another wall, then a heavy release. I like single stage triggers in the 2½ to 3 lbs. variety. This is not that trigger. Stag claims the 10S’s trigger breaks somewhere between five and eight pounds. This one was closer to eight.

While the Stag’s gas pedal took some getting used to, I was rewarded with surprising accuracy. And accuracy is one of the biggest reasons to shoot an AR-10: to project your will at a longer distances than you can with the AR-15’s smaller, lighter round.This is where many cheaper AR-10s fall down. Good reliability, mediocre accuracy. Not so the Stag Arms 10S.

For accuracy testing, I mounted the Atibal Nomad 3-12 scope. Turning it all the way up, I sat down and got to work with 200 rounds of mixed ammunition, shooting off a rest at 100 yards. I used a wide variety of commercial ammunition, including cartridges from Hornady, Federal, and Fiocci. The rounds varied in weight all the way from Hornady’s Custom Lite reduced recoil 125gr SST, (all you would ever need for White Tail Deer), to the Federal Gold Medal 185gr Juggernaut OTM (which completely fills the the magazine).

The inexpensive Fiocchi 150gr FMJ round printed at 2″, on average for four five-round groups. The best of the bunch — Hornady Black 168gr A-Max round — printed at 1.2″, again on average for four five-round groups.

It should be noted that several other rounds, including the time-honored and practically ubiquitous Federal 168gr SMK, shot at 1.25 inches on average. The Fiocci was the outlier; none of the other seven different rounds I tried even shot as large as 1.4” on average.

Knowing that a commercial round is going to print you 1.2-inch groups is a good thing. Knowing that just about any hunting round you pick up at the store will put you in the vitals of deer and other game all the way out past 400 yards is even better.

I put a full 500 rounds through this rifle, with help from a couple of other willing assistants. I had zero issues with feeding, firing, extracting, anything. A few different shooters shot the 10S from different positions, mostly in hurricane Harvey’s rain. After an initial spray inside the action and barrel with Rogue American Apparel’s Gun Oil, the rifle was never lubed or cleaned in any way. I’m supremely confident in this gun’s ability to pour out rounds.

Stag Arms is famous for making left-hand versions of AR pattern rifles. By the grace of God I wasn’t born with that inconvenient birth defect, so this version is the standard right-hand AR-10. You can get the exact same rifle in a left hand configuration. Regardless of which hand you use to fire the rifle, the Stag 10S is a quality .308 at a great price.

Specifications: Stag Arms 10S AR-10 Rifle

Weight: 8.2 pounds
Length: 35.25″ collapsed, 38.50″ extended
Action: Semi-Auto Direct Impingement
Caliber: .308 Winchester/7.62×51
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
Bolt Carrier: .308 Nitride QPQ BCG
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 with a non-adjustable 5-8 lb trigger pull
Grip: Hogue
Magazine: 10rd PMAG
MSRP: $1,539.99

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and appearance * * *
It looks a whole lot like mil-spec AR-15, only bigger. The furniture is functional with no fancy finishes or flourishes. The 10S is a working gun and it looks like it.

Customization * * *
For those of you only familiar with the AR-15 pattern, the AR-10 is a little more tricky. For the Stag 10S, you’ll need to keep the upper, lower, takedown pin, pivot pin, and takedown pin detent. The rest of the rifle can then be swapped with DPMS platform parts.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect reliability over a wide range of commercially available rounds and weights, including shooting in soaking wet conditions.

Accuracy * * * *
Groups just over one MOA out of a gas gun is very good. It’s not the half-inch groups that some other guns will produce, but many of those are twice the price.

Overall * * * *
Perfect reliability, easy shooting, and better than average accuracy over a wide range of ammunition choices —  an exceptional value. With the 10S, Stag proves why they’re still doing business when so many other AR companies have come and gone.

comments

  1. avatar Renner says:

    Wish I had seen this Stag sooner. It is set up almost exactly how I want it out of the box. Instead, I took a DPMS and swapped parts to get it to this point, and probably ended up spending about the same money. I did drop in a better trigger and larger charging handle on mine though, two of the things JWT complained about on this Stag. If I needed another AR-10, I’d be willing to give this a shot.

    1. avatar T-Bob says:

      If you shop around online you can find Primary Weapons Systems masterfully designed and constructed MK2 rifles for around $1900 completely appointed with everything I would do to an off the shelf AR-10. For those not familiar PWS rifles use a long stroke piston, a beautiful and reliable design that has forever ruined direct impingement AR-10’s for me. It weighs in at about 8.5 lbs lbs and the recoil is exceptionally mild. It is well worth checking out.

      For the record I have zilch to do with PWS, but everyone who shoots the rifle has poured on the praise so I though I would share with my fellow TTAG’ers.

      1. avatar tfunk says:

        This…I have a PWS MK212 that I love, and made me want to buy many more PWS rifles. Cash flow has stopped me so far.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    MSRP: $1,539.99
    Can someone please explain that?!?!?

    As Mr. Taylor mentioned in the article, “In terms of materials, AR-10’s aren’t that much more expensive to manufacture.” Since this rifle weighs 8+ pounds and AR-15s weigh about 6+ pounds, the material cost of this rifle should be about 30% more … which is next to nothing since the materials are relatively cheap and abundant aluminum and steel. Obviously the lion’s share of the manufacturing cost is machining and that should be about the same as the machining cost of an AR-15.

    I just don’t get it. The upper and lower receivers are easily milled from aluminum billets with CNC machines. The front hand guard should be nothing more than a piece of stamped sheet metal bent into a tube. (If the keymod or whatever pattern is so expensive, just make round holes for ventilation.) The bolt carrier group does not involve any exotic or intricate machining processes. The butt stock and pistol grip are easy and cheap to make. And then you have some springs, pins, and the gas tube. Finally, the barrel itself should not cost much more than $300. How this adds up to $1500 is beyond me.

    Something like $600 to $900 I can see. Beyond that is beyond me.

    1. avatar Timothy says:

      AR-15s are sought after making demand high. In anticipation of a Hillary win driving that demand even higher, every manufacturer pumped out low end AR-15s just as quick as they could make them only to find a Trump win instead which drove down demand. AR-15s used to run closer to a grand and would have again if Hillary had won.

      The same anticipated production ramp didn’t happen with the AR-10s. If it had, this would have seen the same 40%ish discount and would no doubt have fallen right inside your stated price range.

      When I looked at getting a .308 in a semi auto, I went with the Century Arms C308. Century is buying surplus parts which makes for high supply and there’s low demand for the gun. This combo gave me a final price of $460. It’s not as accurate as this AR-10, I have to be picky about ammo to get my MOA down to 2. But the gun has been 100% reliable, magazines are like $5 each, the gun has a rail for mounting optics and HK has a website where you can buy aftermarket furniture (magpul) and even match triggers (which I bought one for $200).

      The crowd is buying ARs right now. I swam in a different direction and saved a thousand dollars.

      1. avatar Timothy says:

        It’s a good thing there’s aftermarket parts and triggers too. The factory trigger that C308 came with was atrocious. That said, I bought a surplus wood furniture set for only $25 and 10 surplus magazines for $42 and a single stage 4lb match trigger for just under $200.

        The gun’s ergonomics are mediocre at best and the bolt doesn’t hold open on the last round and there aren’t as many companies making aftermarket parts for it. But you can’t beat the base price, you can’t beat the surplus parts price, you can get modern furniture including keymod and Mlok rails and again 100% reliable so far.

        My total for the gun is $705 and that includes the match trigger, 13 magazines, and wood furniture. A person would struggle to convince me that an AR-10 what costs over twice that and comes with fewer magazines, boring furniture, and a crappy stock trigger has over twice the value of my gun.

        1. avatar Timothy says:

          Sorry, I’m bad at math. A second look shows I spent about $727.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          Shhhhh !

          Dammit man. Bad math is how we convince our significant others that these things are ‘affordable’. It added up to $705 to us too.

          : )

        3. avatar Ed says:

          For $200, bucks you can get a Williams set trigger installed in a C308. For a little more they’ll do it to an AR-15. All you have to do is send them the complete trigger group on the C308 or the complete lower of your AR-15. Brings your trigger travel into the thousands and lightens it to 1-1.5 lbs. I had a old stop sign Olyimpic arms ultra match with one….its amazing. Google Williams set triggers.

    2. avatar BDub says:

      Supply and demand.

    3. avatar neiowa says:

      upper and lower receivers are easily milled from aluminum billets

      Only in high end ARs are these “milled” from billet al. Typical is machined forgings.

      The tooling for AR10 upper & lower would slightly larger in size that AR15 so cost would be similar. Divide that by the production volume/life of the tool. IF assume that AR10 volume would be 10% of AR15 the cost of tooling per unit would be a multiple of 10. CNC time similar and material cost similar. So the delta is largely that cost of the tooling (forging die set).

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        “So the delta is largely that cost of the tooling (forging die set).”

        Now that I can see. Is it great enough to account for the difference? I have no idea.

        Nice insight neiowa.

    4. avatar T-Bob says:

      If you have ever operated a $600-$900 homebuilt AR-10 you have likely discovered that unlike an AR-15, the AR-10’s tend to be more than the sum of their parts. It generally takes some trial and error to get the rifle functioning as a well oiled system that will eat a variety of ammo without issue. It could just be me, but my homebuilt AR-10’s savings never added up to the misery I had messing with different buffers and springs, bolts, etc. I traded mine to my brother and spent the money on a system that had already had the kinks worked out. Personally I am partial to the PWS, YMMV.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    GOD BLESS TEXAS

    You testing that recently in the rain? Like, last few days?

    I like STAG too, (AND like this one even more than usual due to your review) but when you intoned a lower price point, I too thought it would be around ~ $1000.

    For $1,500 I would have thought you’d get a piston rifle. I think a gently used Sig Sauer 716 can be had at that price, and a new one for ~$1,700?

    I like one rifle that does everything. NOBODY makes those. I think, if you like to shoot your AR-15, you’d love the big bang of the AR-10, even if it’s more expensive to shoot. So get both. If I could (but I cannot), I’d buy you one.

  4. avatar colby says:

    I have a DPMS Sportical 308, which is stock except for a Geissele trigger and Magpul grip, which has been 100% reliable through 500rds and shoots 1″ 3-shot groups at 100yds with good ammo. I paid a little over $700 for it. It isn’t free floated, but since it shoots so well I don’t want to spend the money or add the extra weight. There’s a reason so many manufacturers follow the DPMS pattern for AR-10s: it ain’t broke.

    1. avatar T-Bob says:

      Thank Christ that there is finally some standardization on the DPMS platform. In the dark ages of civilian AR-10 builds it was a minefield of expensive gotchas for the inexperienced builder/tinkerer shopping on price alone building a Frankenstein gun from different manufacturers components.

  5. avatar Industry Guy says:

    The $1500 MSRP is dictated by more than the weight difference in components. To suggest that the cost calculation of a 30% increase based on weight is absurd. Manufacturers base component pricing on a number of factors which include total number of planned units – and the demand for AR10’s is far less than for AR15’s. There are also fewer suppliers for AR10 parts. Engineering time, projected sell-through rates, annual demand and machining time are all factors. It isn’t a linear calculation based on weight and dimensions, although raw material cost is another factor. Component price breaks are usually calculated in quantities of 5-10,000, so AR10’s don’t see the economy of scale their smaller and more popular counterparts do.

  6. avatar BDub says:

    I’ve had my eye on a PWS MK220 for a while now.

    1. avatar T-Bob says:

      A year into owning the MK216 I honestly think it was the best rifle purchase I ever made. I wish they would have had an 18″ version. After wielding a friends MK220 with an optic it was just too much weight and length for me. Though the 16″ with the FSC muzzle device will make people at the range want to choke you out from the concussion that is transmitted to anyone else on the firing line.

      1. avatar BDub says:

        Good to hear. I already own a PWS MK107 300BLK, so I am familiar with their quality and performance.

        Yes, the MK220 might be a bit much, but I am used to carrying around an M1A so… – a MK218 is probably needed.

  7. avatar Mike says:

    I like the article. But being left handed is not a birth defect. Maybe you should think before you insult such a large chunk of the population.

    1. avatar Timothy says:

      Ya! Get it! Being born lefty isn’t a birth defect. Not like being born a Ginger. Lefties unite against the oppression of the occasional joke!!!!

    2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Being born left-handed is not a birth defect.

      However, being born without a sense of humor might be.

    3. avatar T-Bob says:

      Go back to wherever you came from lefty. We don’t want your kind here.

    4. avatar Timmer says:

      Estimates are that lefties are about 10% of the population, hardly a large chunk. I’d like it to be more so I wouldn’t have such a hard time finding an off the rack holster! Damn you Righties!

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You modern lefties have it easy. My brother, we are in our 60s. was a lefty. In school when he tried to write left handed the teachers would correct him by smacking his left hand with a ruler.

        The good old days in America was only good if you conformed.

  8. avatar Vhyrus says:

    I just bought a nearly identical rifle from Palmetto State… for $600. Shipped.

    1. avatar T-Bob says:

      Well? Don’t keep everyone in suspense…. Does it run a variety of ammo flawlessly? Is it accurate? Is it lightweight? How is the build quality?

      1. avatar Vhyrus says:

        To answer your questions:

        Unsure, but it runs ZQi M80 with no problems.
        I was hitting plates at 300 yards with unmagnified optics, so I’ll say it’s good enough.
        I don’t know the exact weight. Definitely heavier than a similar AR 15 but felt close to the same as my Tavor.
        For $600 I really can’t complain about the build quality. It’s not fantastic but definitely good.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      My Palmetto PA-10 18″ stainless .308 runs like garbage. It chokes on 7.62 NATO and 168 grain Federal HMM. It runs Eagle Eye 175 grain BTHP somewhat. I can get to 10-15 rounds without a jam on that. There are lots of YouTube videos detailing Palmetto PA-10 mishaps. Buyer beware.

      I took an O-ring out of the extractor assembly and switched to a 5.5 ounce buffer / spring combo from heavybuffers.com. Not sure if that fixed the issues or not.

  9. avatar samuraichatter says:

    Serious question JWT. Does the DIY AK go swine hunting or was that just for fun?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      All the time. It’s a pig killing machine.

  10. avatar jimmy james says:

    Please take a look at the cam pin, firing pin and the pin that holds the firing pin in and report back. I had to replace all these parts on my PA-10 with less than 500rnds thru it. Those parts take a beating. I’ve settled on a load that runs about 2400fps at the muzzle to keep from tearing the gun up. White box Federal and white box Winchester too hot for my gun.

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