Brownells BRN-10

Retro-Reviving An Awesome "Archetype"

The original “Modern Sporting Rifle” arrived on the scene 60+ years ago as the AR-10.

Eugene Stoner’s AR-10 was the culmination of an idea so radical it wasn’t accepted — at first. Too many cooks spoiled the broth along the way, yet perhaps the biggest mistake was parent company Fairchild refusing to allow the U.S. Government to develop the rifle further, ensuring the project fizzled.

Sadly, the original 7.62 AR-10 lost out to similarly chambered M-14 in America and the FAL in most of the free world. It excelled in the few countries adopting it, and a reduction in size — not to mention caliber — led to the M16, the longest serving arm in U.S. history.
Now Brownells lets us experience the rugged simplicity of Stoner’s original creation.

Jeff experienced no gun-related malfunctions during his BRN-10 sessions.

Uncluttered Functionality

As re-imagined, Stoner’s ideal is light, slim, sleek and marvelously uncluttered from the snag points so prevalent in today’s ARs. Looking down from the top, the gun is remarkably narrow with the widest point being the back of the tapered fore-end. The BRN-10 is sans the normal projections giving an AR the look of an angry horned dinosaur: no case deflector, no forward assist and no fragile T-configured charging handle. Chambering a round is accomplished via a unique trigger-style lever located within — and protected by — the carry handle. The bolt release, magazine release and safety are in their usual places and just as convenient as originally conceived, albeit unprotected by raised fences, further simplifying the profile.

The trigger-style charging lever is the greatest gift, in keeping the parts count down and operation simple, since it doubles as a forward assist. It also proved to be the one fly in the ointment because you can only get one finger on it, and when the gun was dry, it was difficult to break the bolt free. Lubing with G96 RFG Grease loosened it up, and I suspect the problem will diminish with use as long as the rifle is kept reasonably clean and lubricated.

The bolt is made from 9310, a steel known for its core hardness and high fatigue resistance, given the period touch of the distinctive flat common to early AR-10s as seen through the ejection port. The bolt is then magnetic particle inspected and chrome plated. The trigger is similar to those found in most standard big-frame ARs — the pull averaged 4.5 lbs., gave a clean break and was consistent. Anyone already used to the stock AR-15 trigger will feel at home.

This model, the BRN-10A, is fitted with the heavy 20″ fluted barrel from Faxon Firearms with a diameter at the gas block of 0.750 and a Dutch-style 3-prong flash hider. Weight of the rifle is 9 lbs., 2 oz. unloaded. The BRN-10B comes with a lighter Faxon “pencil” barrel and catalog weight is about a pound less, closer to Stoner’s ideal.

The square, early-style magazine well will accept only Brownells, DPMS and SR-25 aluminum magazines but not others such as Magpul. All the available metal mags are of the current vertical-ribbed style rather than the unique waffle-style of the originals. The BRN-10 comes with one magazine.

SIG Match ammo, featuring a Sierra 168-gr. BTHP, delivered this 2-3/8" group at 100 yards.
Without the flyer, we’d be looking at 1-3/8"!

Sights, Sling

The huge carry handle houses the fully adjustable rear sight, although only elevation is adjustable without tools. Windage is adjusted by loosening a small Allen-head screw accessible through a round window in the back of the carry handle and manually sliding the aperture left or right. A small scale is provided for reference. Just below this window is a larger one allowing you to see what range the aperture is set to for elevation.

The front sight is cast integrally with the retro-style sight block. It’s a Patridge-style front, and proved too low to zero the gun at 100 yards — the only stumbling block I had during testing. As it turns out, this first batch of pre-production BRN-10s had a too-high front sight. The front is now machined taller on production models, and the rear sight has two settings higher so shooters can get a 100-yard zero if they wish.

The side-mounted front swivel is also integral with the front sight block and accepted an M-14 sling for range testing (to keep with the Retro look), but any 1 or 1-1/4″ sling will fit. The rear swivel is pinned to the plastic stock and does not rotate.

Brownells’ BRN-10 (above) offers the clean lines of Eugene Stoner’s original design.
The rear sight (below) is a fine, target-style aperture protected within the carry handle.

Range Results

Several .308 loads were tested from American Eagle (150-gr. FMJ), Black Hills (155-gr. TMK, 168-gr. TMK, 168-gr. BTHP) and SIG (168-gr. BTHP). Accuracy was better than average for a service rifle, with most match or target loads delivering 5-shot groups in the 2-1/2″ range at 100 yards, and the service-type American Eagle a bit more. Reliability was superb. One failure to lock the bolt open happened early and, after sidelining the magazine, no other malfunctions of any type occurred.

The best performing loads were topped with Sierra 168-gr. BTHP MatchKings. Black Hills Match delivered a 2-1/4″ group, and SIG Match a 2-3/8″ group. I honked one round with the SIG load or it might’ve taken the accuracy crown — four of the five shots were in a nice 1-3/8″ cluster. Black Hills Match loaded with Sierra 155-gr. Tipped MatchKings delivered a nice 5-shot group of 2-1/2″.

Recoil was very manageable. Velocities ranged from 2,565 fps (Black Hills 155) to 2,744 (American Eagle 150) from the rifle’s 20″ barrel.

The AR-10 came about at a time when the Cold War was pretty hot in spots. The jockeying for battlefield supremacy came down ultimately to Stoner vs. Kalashnikov but could’ve been so from the get-go. Had things gone this way, Brownells’ BRN-10 helps us discover which would’ve won hands down: Stoner.

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