A few weeks back I reviewed a Windham Weaponry .308 AR style rifle. When I finished the review I contacted my local gunsmith as well as Windham and asked if they knew of any standardization in the .308 AR market. I wanted to know if anyone had made a pattern for the upper and lower as well as the Bolt Carrier Group (BCG).
The question seemed straight forward, however the answer isn’t. Long story short, no. No one has made a standard to which everyone is following.
(Note: I am using the 5.56×45 and the .223 Remington interchangeably in the article even though they are not the same cartridge. AR stands for Armalite Rifle not Assault Rifle).
In 1955 and 1956 Armalite designed the first prototypes of the original AR-10 chambered in the 7.62×51 (.308 Winchester.) By 1957, the first AR-15 using the intermediate cartridge 5.56×45 NATO was designed and then sold to Colt due to financial problems that Armalite was having.
Is Anything New Anymore?
Since the AR-10 was designed before the AR-15 it would seem we haven’t taken a step forward but a step back in time. Thanks to Government bans, such as the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban that ended in 2004 and other set backs, the modern sporting rifle world has been trying to play catch up for the past 11 years.
Intermediate vs. Rifle Cartridges
I have never really been a fan of the .223 Remington (5.56x45NATO) and I know I am not alone in this distaste. I have always liked the 7.62x39mm or the newer .300 AAC Blackout when it comes to intermediate cartridges. The .308 win is a rifle cartridge that fits more than just the distance shooting bill. The fact of the matter is that the .308 and the 5.56 have been on the battle field for almost the same amount of time and yet we chose the less ballistically versatile round for civilian and military applications.
DPMS/SR-25 Magazines vs. Proprietary
When building a new firearm platform you have to consider the way your firearm is going to hold rounds. In the the bolt action world we typically use an in-stock style magazine, for the lever actions and shotguns we use a tube and elevator (shell carrier) system, for the semi and full autos we have a choice. Belt fed (seen mainly in past in full auto only but is making it way back in semi auto versions of full auto machine guns) or magazine fed.
The .308 ARs are all based on the smaller AR-15, so you would think after seeing the success of the AR-15 magazine market it would be smarter to stick with what works. But we are still in a relearning stage in the firearm world about supply and demand. The FN SCAR 17 uses a proprietary .308 mag but the SCAR 16 uses STANAG (AR-15 style magazines). When FN released the SCAR 17 to the general population they had problems keeping magazines in stock because they were trying to keep the military contracts filled and just they couldn’t keep up with demand. That’s a problem with proprietary.
The DPMS/SR-25 style magazines are now being made by a number of different magazine manufacturers which means I can order as many as I want.
The AR-15 is known as the Legos for adults. Everything is changeable. If I want a nickel boron BCG I can find a company I like and replace mine in my AR-15. If I want a new charging handle I get one. If I want to put a .50BMG bolt action upper on my lower I can. This seems to me like a great idea. However in the .308 AR world we have yet to reach an agreement as to what the specs should be.
Until they all come to an agreement about standardizing, the consumer market for the .308 AR is left with fewer options. To me, more options means more money back in the pockets of the firearm manufacturers. More money to the manufacturers means more money can be spent on R&D, which means more advanced guns in the future.