Few things in life rival time spent behind a very expensive rifle. Oh sure, time with loved ones, walks on beaches, and well marbled ribeyes can certainly vie for top billing, but there’s a special place for crisp two stage triggers and bolts that slide like two pieces of oiled glass. Like all good degenerate writers, ply me with expensive scotch and I will burn up endless electrons pontificating on expensive guns, expensive scotch, and rich walnut furniture. They’re all nice, and we must remind ourselves that the entire gun industry isn’t filled with cheapskates if companies can continue to stay in business cranking out rifles that cost more than my first car.
Roughneck Firearms, based in Crosby, Texas, makes expensive gas guns. The rifle pictured here is their Roughneck 10, which retails for $3799. Packed up with a couple boxes of Federal Gold Medal, that’s enough money to boost the value of the vehicle it’s placed in by double digit percentage points. And for that sort of money, all the boxes better be checked – and on paper, they are.
Each Roughneck rifle starts with a pair of hand matched receivers that ensure no wiggle or rattling about and no need for wedges or screws to tighten things up. The Roughneck 10 locks up tight enough to almost make you think that you have a bolt gun in your hands.
Those receivers are then filled with a veritable who’s who of the aftermarket parts industry. There’s an SSA trigger from Geissele that breaks at 4.2 pounds on my scale and a nitrided bolt carrier group. The charging handle is a mil-spec unit with a latch made in house by Roughneck. The rest of the lower parts kit is also unmarked but looks to be of high quality with no discernible flaws in fit or finish. The ambi safety is a Battle Arms Development CASS unit and the grip is most definitely a Magpul MOE+ unit. Out back, Roughneck utilizes a B5 SOPMOD butt stock on a six position receiver extension. Everything fits tight and right.
Forward of the receiver set is where the real work starts – with the beating heart of any rifle – the barrel. In this case, Roughneck starts with a three groove Lilja 1:10 twist blank that is profiled, chambered with a .308 Win match chamber, and threaded in house. Roughneck mates each barrel to the intended bolt for that rifle and serializes both parts so that they are forever a matched set.
Covering that barrel is an MLOK compatible rail. Under the hand guard is a pinned gas block, and the muzzle features a Lantac Dragon muzzle brake. In the case of my test rifle, which utilizes a 14.7″ barrel, the Dragon brake is pinned/welded to keep this rifle off the NFA registry. Roughneck also delivers this rifle in sixteen and eighteen inch barrel configurations. Give those a hard look. More on that in a minute.
Roughneck’s owner, Dustin Purvis, claims that the combination of Lilja blanks and Roughneck’s control over the barrel manufacturing process allows for a rifle that is capable of 1/2 MOA accuracy with quality factory ammo. Typically, accuracy requires tight tolerances, and tight tolerances can hurt reliability. Dustin also claims that their rifles are 100% reliable with their factory demo gun going 8500 rounds with cleanings every 1000 rounds or so. They claim zero failures at any point along the way.
All of this comes delivered to your FFL of choice in a foam lined hard case along with two PMAGs and a set of nice flip up iron sights from Troy.
All in, almost every single box is checked. The pedantic among us might point out the lack of KNS trigger pins and (egads!) an unstaked receiver extension castle nut, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
As this is a rifle that’s designed and built to be absolutely perfect out of the box, it’s a good sign that there’s very little I’d choose to change about the Roughneck 10. Aesthetically, functionally, and ergonomically, my only major gripe is with the length of the barrel. And truthfully, that’s an issue that the ATF and I need to talk about. It SHOULD be legal to ship a 14.7 inch barreled rifle without having to pin and weld the muzzle device. But until that changes, a 16 inch barrel with a removable muzzle device would be my preference, and that’s something that can easily be accommodated during the ordering process. I mention this because the second thing this rifle needs after a 20 round magazine of ammo is a silencer. More bitching to come.
The only thing that I’d like to see changed is pictured above. I’ve always hated the unsightly gap between the upper receiver and hand guard that seems to be endemic to the AR-10s I’ve seen on the market. More than just an aesthetic issue, this gap allows the dust cover pin to walk forward after a few rounds which allows the dust cover to flap in the breeze just a little. It will still open and close, but to quote Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right.” My preference would be to use a different barrel nut that closes that gap, or a hand guard that uses longer tabs to keep that dust cover pin where it belongs.
Out of the hard sided case, including the iron sights, the empty Roughneck 10 with a 14.7″ barrel weighs in at 8.8 lbs which is pretty much par for the course weight wise for AR 10s. A similarly configured 16 inch barreled DPMS GII Recon tips the scales at an advertised weight of 8.5 lbs.
With the exception of a gently fluted bolt, Roughneck didn’t take any aggressive steps to cut weight and the barrel profile is not a lightweight contour by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the first three inches of the barrel seem to be 1.250 inches in diameter tapering down to .750 inches after so the weight didn’t really surprise me. However, the NFA length barrel makes for a fairly nimble rifle, even by AR-15 standards. Sure, it requires a bit more oomph to muscle around, but it drives like a slightly heavier version of your favorite 5.56 carbine, and that’s a great thing. I handled the sixteen inch barreled version of this rifle back to back with the test version, and they feel nearly identical.
You’ll be instantly reminded that this isn’t your cousin’s poodle shooter as soon as you crack the first round off, especially if you’re in an enclosed space. I spent my first day with the Roughneck 10 on a rainy day shooting from the dry safety of a covered shop. I made it through about forty rounds before my sinuses told me to either head to an open flat range, double up the ear pro, or go home and have a beer. I elected for the latter.
On another outing, I stupidly decided to crack off a couple rounds at an indoor range. I made it through seven rounds before I felt physically ill from the violent assault on my senses. Did I mention that this configuration is an outdoor, flat range only sort of rifle?
The combination of the short barrel, full power cartridge, and notoriously concussive Lantac brake make for a potent cocktail of noise and fire. As long as you’re behind the rifle, and free of barriers to either side that might reflect pressure back your way, this is an eminently enjoyable rifle to shoot.
Yes, it has a bit more recoil than your AR-15, but the Lantac brake does a good job of converting escaping muzzle gas into rearward and downward blast. This mitigates recoil impulse and muzzle climb to an acceptable degree and allows for rapid double and triple taps that hit steel targets (or pigs) with authority.
Ergonomically, everything seems to be well laid out. There’s not much that can be done for the ergos of a the AR-10 receiver, but Roughneck has incorporated a very crisp ambidextrous safety, and a nice little slappy paddle for the bolt release. The charging handle is an oversized unit that keeps overzealous internet gun writers from slapping themselves in the face – much appreciated.
The hand guard incorporates the very sturdy MLOK mounting system at the 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 o’clock positions with a full length Picatinny section along the top. Included with the package are some bungee cord keepers woven in amongst the rail sections. The receiver and muzzle ends of the rail include female QD swivels on both sides for your sling of choice.
Roughneck makes no bones about their gun’s reliability. Dustin will flat out tell you that he builds one of the most reliable gas guns on the market.
Normally, I’d call bullshit on such a claim. However, I’ve spent the last two years as a range safety officer for the Texas Gun Fest where Roughneck has maintained a booth. Each year, a big pile of brass stacks up, and the guns just run and run and run. A very trustworthy friend of mine always volunteers to man their booth and each year, I look him dead in the eye and say, “Tommy. Did those guns ever fail?”
Each year, he looks right back at me and says, “Not this year.”
Looking at the distance spent brass flies, and the fairly prominent dents in the case bodies, it appears that Roughneck’s solution for reliability (in some part) follows along with the likes of LMT – gas it up a bit. Cases are kicked out of the rifle like a handsy patron at a gentlemen’s club and are soaring into the next county by the time the next fresh cartridge is sliding into place.
The gun that Dustin sent my way for review was clearly not a safe queen and was fairly evidently worn in. Roughneck has a corporate partnership with FrogLube, and the Roughneck 10 was liberally lubricated with it. Further tear down showed a bolt with a couple thousand rounds of baked on carbon. I asked Dustin when I returned the rifle what the total round count was for this rifle, and he told me he guessed it to be somewhere around 4000 rounds.
Dustin’s guarantees and my experience to the contrary notwithstanding, I did manage to get the Roughneck 10 to fail once in several hundred rounds with a failure to extract, but don’t ask me how I managed it as I couldn’t get it to repeat. I’m also not hopping up and down about it as it was some discount bin 308 Win of unknown provenance that happened to be in the gun when it failed. All the Federal Gold Medal, Norma, and Black Hills I threw at it ran like a top.
Kitted out with a bipod, a 3.5-21X Bushnell DMR scope, and a case of Black Hill’s finest, I was able to test out the accuracy of the Roughneck 10 and found it to be pretty much as advertised. I could never make the Black Hills stuff go better than about 3/4 MOA, but that’s plenty fine for my purposes.
The group pictured above is from a dandy lot of Norma topped with 168 SMKs that I picked up last fall. Remember the seven shots I took indoors that almost made me puke? They’re all up there. Two shots to get my scope fairly well aligned with where I wanted the bullets to go and five more to confirm it. That’s a sub 1/2 MOA five shot group shot from a table top with an Atlas bipod, and a rear bag.
The Roughneck 10 is every bit as accurate as advertised. And honestly, more than it has any right being. Gas guns just aren’t supposed to shoot ragged holes, and yet, here we are. But for nearly $4000, it better be pretty special no?
Your first instinct upon seeing such a short barrel on a full power cartridge like .308 Win might be to call foul and return to the 24 inch barrel you know and love.
Don’t look away. In fact, look closer, and read this excellent article from RifleShooter.com. In that article, you’ll find that Federal Gold Medal with a 168 SMK is still moving along at 2436 fps out of a fifteen inch barrel. That’s not breaking any world speed records, but it is enough to get out to 600 yards with a bit of velocity to spare. And inside of 250 yards, the deer, pigs, and steel won’t know the difference. I didn’t take the time to chronograph this particular gun, choosing instead to shoot it (outdoors) and enjoy it.
While the Roughneck 10 certainly can hang out at the bench and smack steel out past the quarter mile line, this particular configuration is much happier on the move, shooting off barricades or out of truck windows at pesky porcine targets. And while you can absolutely run a massive magnified optic, I found that an unmagnified red dot like an AimPoint PRO or Trijicon MRO would be just fine for most of the day to day duties of this rifle. Should you need more magnification, something like the 1-8X scope pictured here would be perfectly adequate as well.
Conclusions are always the hardest to write. A conclusion means goodbye, and the idea of having a gun this nice nearby at all times is too pleasant to pass up. Fed a high quality diet, the Roughneck 10 is as accurate and reliable as you’d ever need, and with a silencer attached to the end would make a fantastic hunting, duty (department policy permission required), competition, and do it all rifle for a good majority of today’s gun owners. At $3799, it better do it all pretty well because there might not be a lot of money left over for other guns!
What it is: A very expensive, reliable, accurate gas gun chambered in .308 Win.
How I got it: Roughneck loaned it to me for a couple months and then wanted it back. SAD!
Retail Price: $3799
Street Price: $3799
Who is it for: People who value hand fitted, nearly custom gas guns. Texans who want to shop local. People who like to look the guy who built their rifle dead in the eye.
What else could you buy: Literally every other AR-10 on the market and the undefined amount of money and time necessary to get it to go sub 1/2 MOA and run reliably.
What they claim: A sub half minute capable gas gun that’s also very reliable.
How I tested it: Shot a variety of ammunition from the cheap to the pricey at various ranges and from a variety of positions.
What I found: My experience said that it wouldn’t fail, but I got it to cough just once. I also found it to be a solid 3/4 MOA shooter with quality ammo, and when fed Norma and a solid rest, capable of going sub 1/2 MOA.
What I think: This is an undoubtedly expensive rifle. It’s worth more than my first car and less than my current truck. Unfortunately, an AR 10 ranks pretty low on my list of must have guns, so a price just north of free is what it would take for me to make room in the safe for one. That said, if you value gas guns in .308 Win that are hand fitted and feel like well oiled machinery, and have about $4000 earmarked for the above, this is the gun for you.