Firearms

Review: Ruger Small Frame Autoloading Rifle (SFAR) AR-10

Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle

Ruger’s introduction of a new Armalite-type rifle in .308 is among the most interesting announcements of the past few years. This isn’t Ruger’s first rodeo with a .308 caliber AR. The SR 762 was a good rifle, although the size, weight, and price were not popular.

The new rifle is much closer to a 5.56mm/.223 chassis. Yes, it is AR-15 not AR-10 sized. Handling and operation are pure AR-15 in every way that matters. The trigger action, pistol grip, and stock are interchangeable with the many AR-15 options found at Cheaper Than Dirt!

Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle, left, profile
A 20-inch barrel version may be desirable for some shooters.

The rifle compares favorably to any AR rifle in handling and appearance. Initially, the Ruger SFAR is offered in both 16 and 20-inch barrel versions. My 16-inch barrel SFAR weighs in at just less than seven pounds. While the 20-inch barrel has some appeal, the 16-inch barrel was the first version I was able to find. By the time this report hits, hopefully the rifle will be more available in either version you choose.

Ruger SFAR Features

Let’s look at the rifle’s features. The receiver is a high-quality aluminum unit manufactured from 7075-T6 alloy. A cold hammer-forged barrel features an effective muzzle brake. The barrel is free-floated and there is an M-Lok forend.

Ruger offers the Elite 452 trigger as an aftermarket option for some time. My rifle features this trigger as standard issue. Trigger compression breaks at just at 4.0 pounds. AR 10/.308 AR magazines are not standard like 5.56mm units are. This rifle takes the readily available Magpul PMAG SR 25 magazine.

The design envelope is a rifle that offers .308 punch and range without AR-10 weight. There isn’t anything close to the Ruger’s MSRP that offers similar features. Another point, with all respect due to small shop craftsmen, is that the Ruger SFAR offers the backing of a big company and a reputable maker.

As I field stripped the rifle, I found that much of the mystery considering the downsized rifle is in the design of the bolt carrier group. The bolt has dual ejectors and a robust extractor. The bolt carrier is lighter and more compact than any .308 Winchester AR rifle I have examined. Ruger tells us a great deal of research went into this ordnance.

Robust locking lugs on an AR-10 bolt carrier
These are robust locking lugs!

The locking lugs taper to strengthen the action lockup. The carrier — no surprises here — is a chrome-lined 8620 alloy unit. Locktime is rapid with a titanium firing pin. The bolt carrier group of the SFAR isn’t the same size and layout as a standard AR-15 bolt carrier group but neither does it differ significantly.    

While everyone has a favorite accessory, the Magpul ultralight handguard is a good option. There are no sights supplied. I may address back-up sights later. Fully-loaded with a magazine of Hornady Critical Defense and the Vortex red dot mounted, the weight was closer to 9 pounds. Still not too heavy for a .308 rifle. It is of interest that the rifle features an adjustable gas block, something .308 shooters need.

The gas regulator features four positions with the default setting from the factory handling most ammunition. This is position 3 as marked. If you mount a suppressor or use light loads, you may wish to adjust the setting. One setting pretty much makes the rifle a manually-operated piece. Be certain to study this feature and understand gas operation before adjusting the gas port.

Gas port selector on a Ruger SFAR rifle
The gas port was set on 3 during the entire test.

I learned why Ruger calls its muzzle brake a Boomer. This dual port cage redirects gas to reduce recoil. Just the same, when firing prone, the rifle doesn’t kick up dirt and rocks as the muzzle brake exits gas to either side.

For my use, a red dot sight seemed the best choice. My other AR rifles wear quality red dot sights, so compatibility was important. Vortex enjoys an excellent reputation spanning more than a decade. I have enjoyed good results. Quality seems good, and my circle of friends have put the Vortex product to extensive use in hunting, competition, and in personal defense.

I selected the FastStrike II. This is a 30mm objective lens with a 4 MOA green dot or red dot. Like all red dot sights, eye relief was unlimited. The lenses are coated, and the body is shockproof and waterproof. The scope is a middleweight at 7.2 ounces. The battery is the popular CR2 type.

Paper target showing 6 shots from a Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle with a box of Hornady Match ammo
That’s a 50-yard group with Hornady Match. Who knows where the odd bullet hole came from. Tip of the trigger finger in all probability.

The sight wasn’t difficult to mount and properly sight in. In fact, it was quite easy beginning at 25 yards. Elevation and windage controls were positive in operation.

I used a variety of ammunition in sighting the rifle in. While 100-yard shooting is the only true means of obtaining a 100-yard zero. If you zero the rifle to shoot 1.7 to 1.9 inches low at 25 yards, the rifle should be dead on at 100 yards — or close enough for an easy zero.

Vortex offers both a red dot and a green dot option. I chose the green dot for something different and due to past experience and excellent results with green dots. The sight features no less than 10 brightness settings. I used the least bright of the selection for initial accuracy testing.

Elevation and windage adjustment are simple and positive enough. A coin, small tool, or cartridge case rim may be used to adjust the elevation and windage controls. Once the mount was squared away, I fired the rifle for sighting in.

I have seen some reviews and opinions posted. I question whether some of these folks actually fired the rifle, as they don’t mention some of the points I have made after firing the Ruger SFAR. A glossy review without firing images gives me pause. Meaningful reports hinge on experience and observation.

Paper target showing grouping of Hornady Precision Hunter ammunition
50-yard group, right, with Hornady Precision Hunter, 100-yard group, left.

Range Results

While this rifle is in the realm of the familiar, it is also unique in many ways. I fired this rifle and I have definite impressions. First, the SFAR handles naturally — as quickly as any AR-15. It is well balanced. A magazine full of 168-grain loads balances well.

The stock and forend are nicely fitted. The cocking handle operates smoothly but demands more effort than a 5.56mm rifle. Of course, a heavier buffer spring is needed. The rifle is surprisingly docile in firing. There is more push than the 5.56mm but not so much you feel beat up.

The rifle kicks no more than a bolt-action .308 that weighs a little more. The muzzle brake is added to ensure comfort. It certainly does the trick. As for the Boomer effect, it really wasn’t much louder — if at all — than any other 16-inch barrel .308 rifle.

Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle with M Lok forend and Boomer muzzle break
An M Lok forend and Boomer muzzle brake make the rifle easier to handle.

A few words on the 16-inch barrel .308. For most uses, including all uses inside of 250 yards, the 16-inch barrel rifle makes sense. It is easier to handle quickly when hunting hogs or deer at moderate range. It is easy enough to deploy from a vehicle including an ATV. Fast handling and hard hitting, the 16-inch barrel is well suited to area defense.

For dedicated long-range use, a quality optic and a 20-inch barrel would be more suitable. You don’t lose as much velocity as you would imagine in the 16-inch barrel, far outperforming the .300 Blackout, 6.8 SPC, and 7.62x39mm. 150-grain loads average 2,600 to 2,700 fps and 168-grain loads are at 2,550 fps, while the 175-grain SMK runs 2,400 fps.

I experimented with handloads with good results. Be certain to full length resize all cartridge cases in handloading for a self-loading rifle. I use RCBS small base dies. They have been in service for decades.

3-shot group from .308 Win 147-grain FMJ bullets
At 50 yards, this handload proved an able performer.

Initial firing was accomplished at 25 yards. This is a good point to sight the red dot in and gain valuable firing impressions. I ran through a box of SIG Sauer Elite 168-grain loads when sighting in.

The sole malfunction was a last-cartridge malfunction. The spent case was fully extracted, but not ejected. It was laying in the magazine port. This case would have been dropped during a rapid magazine change and would not have impeded function. It did not repeat itself.

Several Federal American Eagle FMJ loads were expended with good results. I expanded the ammunition selection to Hornady 168-grain loads and Hornady Superformance 150-grain SST — an excellent deer load. I fired the Fiocchi 150-grain SST (my last box) with good results. There were no malfunctions.

Paper target with bullet holes from Hornady Superformance .308 Win ammo
Hornady Superformance with 150-grain SST bullet would be the author’s choice as a deer load.

Many of these loads were fired at 100 yards. Firing three-shot groups from a ‘hot’ barrel most groups were in the 1.5 to 1.8-inch range. A group with Hornady MATCH ammunition was the smallest at 1.25 inches average for three groups. This dog will run.

I did not feel limited by the Vortex red dot at 100 yards. A few offhand shots at a long 150 yards at range debris illustrated the rifle is plenty accurate for most uses. I think the Ruger SFAR has great promise. For anyone who appreciates the AR and the .308 cartridge this rifle makes a formidable combination.

Bob Campbell loading the Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle
Loading, handling, and operation are positive.

The handling, caliber, and accuracy make for a great choice for many types of hunting, particularly in dense cover and headlong pursuits such as hogs. It is larger than necessary for coyote or varmints, but remember the man with only one rifle? He can use it well. As for personal defense, you could do worse. It depends on what type of threat you posit.

Ruger SFAR Specs

Barrel length: 16.1 inches, 1:10 right twist
Overall length: 34 to 37.25 inches
Length of pull: 11 to 14.25 inches
Weight: 6.8 pounds (with magazine)

Conclusion

The testing and content points to the Ruger SFAR’s usefulness for hunting and that the .308 is too much for home defense. For area defense and rural defense, it would serve, but I think I would prefer a .223 or 6.8 SPC. Just the same, many a hunting rifle has been pressed into home defense and few are as formidable as the Ruger SFAR. In other words, this is a great sporting rifle with many uses.

Are you an AR-10 fan? How do you rate the the AR-10 for home or area defense? HOw would you use the Ruger SFAR? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Bolt carrier for an AR-10 gun
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle
  • 3-shot group from .308 Win 147-grain FMJ bullets
  • Vortex Strikefire II riflescope on a Ruger SFAR AR-10 gun
  • Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle with M Lok forend and Boomer muzzle break
  • Gas port selector on a Ruger SFAR rifle
  • Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle, left quartering, profile
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle with a Vortex scope
  • Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle, right, profile
  • Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle, left, profile
  • Paper target showing grouping of Hornady Precision Hunter ammunition
  • Bob Campbell loading the Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle
  • Paper target with bullet holes from Hornady Superformance .308 Win ammo
  • Robust locking lugs on an AR-10 bolt carrier
  • Paper target showing 6 shots from a Ruger SFAR AR-10 .380 Winchester rifle with a box of Hornady Match ammo

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. Wanted a replacement for my Rem 7400 (.308) this looked like an ideal candidate. Got mine at the end of Oct ’23 and tried it out at my indoor range – 75 yds (20″ barrel). I’m not an experienced shooter (so no Technical questions please), all I know is it doesn’t “kick” like the 7400 does and that means more time at the range. I found Bobs’ article to be really informative – Tnx Bob!

  2. I have watched a few videos on the sfar and have done some research. I have some ar 10s/lr308 and they are heavy but shoot just fine. I’m in my 60s and would like to lighten my load just a little. Seams like the ruger sfar would be a nice addition. Just my opinion.

  3. One question was left unanswered…. Will the new Ruger accept a traditional AR-10 upper in a different intermediate caliber from the .308… like maybe 6.5 Creedmoor or 7mm-08?

  4. I have this rifle in 16 inch and I also own the Ruger SR762. I consider both to be excellent rifles for different uses. The is Tom driven SR762 is heavy but mine is very accurate for a semi-auto. I usually shoot it fro m a bench with a suppressor. Great fun! I use the SFAR for busting feral hogs. I usually use soft point hand loads. I agree with the writer, this is a great gun!!!

  5. I love this rifle. I have a few AR/LRs in .308 and one in .243. I love them, but they are heavy pigs. I think they weigh more than an M1A, but I haven’t actually weighed them to be sure. Now, I assure you that the brake is called “Boomer” for a reason. Every muzzle brake is LOUD! So loud in fact, that you really don’t want to fire this without hearing protection (and what good is that while hunting?). That makes this a range and deer stand rifle. I remove the muzzle device from every AR I own and replace it with a thread protector. I got a hearing loss in the Army while training with the M16, mostly from being next to those flash hiders while firing. Enough hearing loss! Stay safe.

  6. This new Ruger .308 Armalite-type rifle has caught my attention! It’s exciting to see Ruger returning to the .308 caliber AR platform, and this time, they’ve made it more compact and lightweight like an AR-15. The availability of both 16 and 20-inch barrel versions adds versatility, although I’m personally leaning towards the 16-inch barrel option. Can’t wait to get my hands on one!

  7. Very nice review, sounds like another fine product made for us by Ruger. My only hesitation is the non-interchangable bolt and Carrier with my other AR-10’s. When you say Armalite, do you mean traditional type Armalite Lower receivers?, or DPMS type. Thanks for another quality review.

  8. Setting 2 is the normal gas setting.
    3 is adverse and 1 is suppressed.
    You’d have probably felt less recoil on 2 once it could cycle reliably cycle on it.

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