Skip to main content

How Wilson Combat Refined Their AR-10

How Wilson Combat Refined Their AR-10
Wilson Combat BILLet-AR, .308 Win.: $3,145

Photo by Mark Fingar

U.S. manufacturing is making a comeback in Berryville, Arkansas, the home of Wilson Combat. Every year, the company brings more of its manufacturing in-­house.

First known for building custom 1911s, Wilson Combat (wilsoncombat.com) is just as well known for its EDC X9 pistol, which was first reviewed in Guns & Ammo’s October 2017 issue. They’re also known to refine tactical shotguns and AR-­pattern rifles.

When Wilson Combat started making AR-­15s, they switched to billet machining so their upper and lower receivers, as well as handguards, could be made in-house. Wilson made this decision at great expense, but having hands-­on control of critical components was important to Wilson, ensuring that they get exactly what is needed.


The most recent manufacturing move was to bring barrel production to Berryville. Barrel making is one area of firearms manufacturing that takes a lot of tribal knowledge to do well. Barrels are difficult to make because small variations in the composition of the material can have a huge impact on how the barrel performs. Creating a straight tube with a straight hole down the middle for 16 to 24 inches is a lot harder than it sounds.


Perhaps the best indicator of how well Wilson Combat has executed the moves to bring production in-­house is illustrated by its recent success with a U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) solicitation. I’d heard from a friend still serving that a SOCOM unit in particular had selected Wilson Combat’s AR-­10 in .308 Winchester as their semiautomatic sniper rifle. A few months later while in a training facility classroom, I saw a number of Wilson Combat rifles in the rifle rack. As luck would have it, members of that same unit were there to train. That’s when I managed to pick up a few details of the selection process.

The unit in question required all rifles submitted to come with a suppressor. The two components would be tested together to check for compatibility. They had become frustrated with the process of finding a rifle they liked and then finding a suppressor only to find that the two didn’t play well together. Direct-impingement (DI) rifles — especially AR-­10s — need an adjustable gas block or need to be developed with a specific suppressor in mind. Adding and removing a suppressor changes how a rifle functions.

Testing for any special operations unit varies, but some things are a given. The unit will test for accuracy, reliability and durability to ensure the rifle will perform adequately under field conditions. Of all the rifles tested by this unit, only two survived through the accuracy testing phase and Wilson Combat’s submission was one of those rifles.

The durability testing was far more abusive than anything the civilian world would experience simply because no one has that much time or ammo. Full-­automatic fire was not required for a precision rifle, sensibly, but the firing schedule was still very aggressive.


At the end of all that testing, Wilson Combat emerged victorious. Not only was the rifle exceptionally accurate, it showed incredible durability during an intense beating. When interviewed, Bill Wilson would tell me nothing about the testing specifics or even confirm that it was a Special Operations unit conducting it. He did say that when the samples came back, they “looked like someone had thrown the rifle and suppressor on the grill and left them there for a few hours.”3

I asked Wilson what he learned from the process. He said the unit testing the rifles tore them apart often to inspect them for wear. The feedback was invaluable. Wilson has applied those lessons learned across the entire product line.

Wilson saw how his rifles fared when pushed through tens of thousands of rounds. Subtle changes to the geometry of the bolt radically changed the rifle’s timing and reduced wear, the number one cause for failure in an AR.


Every Wilson Combat AR-­pattern rifle now features those subtle bolt modifications extending that component’s life. The barrel that proved accurate enough to win the Special Operations solicitation is Wilson-made and is on every .308 and 5.56mm rifle they offer.

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle, the Impulse, with three hunting configurations.

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range to wring out the Umarex Air Ruger 10/22.

Cameras Don

Cameras Don't Lie: Subsonic 9mm vs. .300 Blackout

In this segment of "Cameras Don't Lie," a subsonic-ammo showdown, 9mm vs. .300 Blackout fired from AR rifles.

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don't Lie: 9mm vs .45 ACP

The age-old question, 9mm vs .45 ACP. For some, this has been asked and answered already. For others, the debate goes on. In this segment of “Cameras Don't Lie,” competitive shooters Patrick Sweeney and Jim Tarr head to the range to put the vaunted loads on record, and then consider the footage.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms How-To

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle Historical

The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle

Kyle Lamb - January 12, 2018

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.

Rugged and affordable, SIONYX color night vision cameras are a must-have for every hunter, shooter, and outdoor enthusiast. SIONYX Aurora Night Vision Cameras Review Optics

SIONYX Aurora Night Vision Cameras Review

Brad Fitzpatrick - December 23, 2020

Rugged and affordable, SIONYX color night vision cameras are a must-have for every hunter,...

The Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm has a unique and versatile multiple-­zero system and an erector assembly unlike any other on the market. The Z5(i) is an excellent choice for an all-­around hunting scope.Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm Scope Review Optics

Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm Scope Review

Tom Beckstrand - September 09, 2020

The Swarovski Z5(i) P BT L 3.5-­18x44mm has a unique and versatile multiple-­zero system and...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

The upgradable Tikka T1x .22LR rifle is a great place to start on the growth chart to precision shooting success.Tikka T1x .22LR Review Reviews

Tikka T1x .22LR Review

Tom Beckstrand - July 29, 2020

The upgradable Tikka T1x .22LR rifle is a great place to start on the growth chart to...

The new Savage Rascal Minimalist mirrors the stylish lines and laminate stock of its bigger brother, the Minimalist, yet retains the features and compact sizing that has made the Rascal ideal for teaching kids marksmanship and safety skills.Savage Rascal Minimalist – First Look Rifles

Savage Rascal Minimalist – First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - July 31, 2020

The new Savage Rascal Minimalist mirrors the stylish lines and laminate stock of its bigger...

In this segment of Air Gun Reviews: Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle Rifles

Air Gun Reviews: Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr...

Building on the Ruger American's success­ful foundation, Ruger, Davidson's and Magpul have teamed up to create an exclusive version of the Ruger American Rifle Hunter that is tailored to the long-range shooter.Davidson's Exclusive Ruger American Hunter Review Reviews

Davidson's Exclusive Ruger American Hunter Review

Cody Eardley - September 16, 2020

Building on the Ruger American's success­ful foundation, Ruger, Davidson's and Magpul have...

See More Rifles

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now