The AR-15 History Lesson Every American Needs to Read

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After yet another tragic shooting, the AR-15 is being demonized even further by liberal lawmakers. They claim that the modern semi-automatic rifle is the source of all evil when it comes to gun violence, and they’re spinning their own narrative about the history and purpose behind this type of gun.

Some of the false claims and misconceptions about AR-15 style rifles include:

  • They’re designed for military use only
  • They can fire hundreds of rounds per minute
  • The “AR” in AR-15 stands for “assault rifle”

Each of these things are patently untrue, along with all the other lies the media is spreading about AR-style rifles.

If you want to hear the real story behind the AR’s history and what it’s intended for, check out the article from AmmoLand below:

USA –-(Ammoland.com)- According to the news media, an AR 15 Rifle is any gun that someone uses in the act of doing something bad.

What is an AR-15 really? Technically speaking, AR-15 is a brand name, like Kleenex or Xerox. And, just as with Kleenex and Xerox, the brand name has been hijacked by the general public to describe a whole class of things.

Who in corporate America asks their intern to “make a photocopy of that document using the Canon copier?” Or at home, few parents tell their kids to “grab aCottonelle nose cloth before you sneeze!” Exactly. When a brand name is successful, we regular folks tend to commoditize it.

“Hey, will you Xerox the annual report for me?” or “Connor, I’m not telling you again! Don’t blow your nose on your sleeve! Grab a Kleenex!”

The AR in AR 15 Stands for ArmaLite

Before we dive into the history of the modern AR 15 Rifle, we need to look the “AR” part. AR does not stand for Assault Rifle. Or Automatic Rearming. Or even Apoplectic Ruin. It is a product naming convention from the company that invented it, ArmaLite. In fact, there were a number of rifles with “AR” names, like the AR-1, AR-5, AR-7, AR-10, AR-16 and AR-17.

Let’s do a quick review of AR15 Rifle history what got us from conception to where we are today.

1954

Eugene Stoner responsible for early development of the AR 15 rifle.
Eugene Stoner responsible for early development of the AR 15 rifle.

ArmaLite was founded as a division of Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation. While most people equate the AR 15 Rifle with military variants, the company was actually founded with the goal of developing civilian market guns using modern materials and manufacturing technologies.

The initial business plan called for establishing some success with commercial products, then using that momentum to get into the government and military business.

Eugene Stoner, a former marine and independent weapons designer, becomes Chief Engineer of ArmaLite. Stone meets George Sullivan, Chief Patent Counsel for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Sullivan has a super-sized bee in his bonnet about the possibilities of using advanced (at that time) materials like plastics and aluminum alloys in radical new weapons designs. Hold that thought…

1954 – 1956

Plans don’t last long once the action starts… Upon request from the United States Air Force, ArmaLite develops the AR-5 survival rifle. The AR-5 was a modular rifle chambered in .22 Hornet with a four round magazine and bolt action. The receiver and barrel disassemble and can be stored inside of the over-sized stock. This design not only makes the AR-5 waterproof, but also allows it to float. That’s handy for over water ejection scenarios, as downed Air Force pilots were not keen about scuba diving to retrieve their gear. The modern day version of this rifle is the Henry U.S. Survival Rifle made by Henry Rifles.

1955

Armalite AR-5 .22 Hornet Survival Rifle : This "AR" doesn't look much like a mythical "Assault Weapon" does it?
Armalite AR-5 .22 Hornet Survival Rifle : This “AR” doesn’t look much like a mythical “Assault Weapon” does it?

The U.S. Army began a search for a rifle to replace the M1 Garand. While the Garand served admirable in World War II, all that combat use uncovered some areas for improvement. For example, soldiers wanted more magazine capacity than the eight rounds offered by the M1 Garand. Also, weight was an issue, with the M1 tipping the scale at ten and a half pounds. With World War II soldiers carrying their gear for (literally) years at a time, every pound counted.

Front runners in the contest were an updated design based on the M1, the Springfield Armory T-44 and the T-48, which was based on the FAL design.

ArmaLite submits plans for the AR-10 rifle with similar caliber and performance characteristics as the T-44 and T-48. Unlike the others, the AR-10 incorporated radical design changes that allowed use of lightweight aluminum receivers and plastic stocks and hand guards. The key to the design was using a steel barrel extension to lock up the bolt rather than the receiver itself. This allowed use of lighter and less strong materials for receiver construction. The AR-10 weighed less than seven pounds – in theory allowing a solider to carry three extra pounds of ammunition and/or gear.

ArmaLite entered the contest too late in the game to work out new design kinks and ultimately the T-44 was adopted as the M-14 Rifle in 1959.

Armalite AR10 Rifle
Armalite AR10 Rifle Click here for more AR images

1956

Seeing possibility in the AR-10 design, the Army asks ArmaLite to work on a smaller caliber version to be named the AR 15 Rifle. The project is exploratory, as the military doctrine of the time called for large caliber rifles to be used in engagements at longer distances.

1956 – 1959

ArmaLite sells the AR-10 internationally through a licensing agreement with Artillerie Inrichtingen, the Dutch Arsenal. Not even the Dutch adopt the AR-10 and international sales are light. At this time, ArmaLite is only really selling the AR-5 aquatic survival rifle, so revenue pressures mount.

1959

ArmaLite licenses both the AR-10 and AR 15 designs to Colt Firearms. Robert Fremont, a key player in the design team of the AR-10 and AR 15 Rifle models, leaves ArmaLite for Colt Firearms to help with continued AR rifle development. ArmaLite launches the AR-7 Survival Rifle. The AR-7 was a .22 long rifle caliber rifle targeted at the civilian market, although a number of military organizations around the world bought it.

Colt Firearms sells the first AR 15 rifles to the Federation of Malaya, later to become known as Malaysia.

1961

Eugene Stoner leaves ArmaLite to serve as a consultant to Colt Firearms. At this point, ArmaLite was out of the AR-15 business – for the time being. The United States Air Force tests the AR 15 Rifle and purchases 8,500 rifles.

1963

The Air Force standardizes the AR 15 and designates the rifle M-16. 85,000 rifles are purchased by the Air Force. Also this year, the US Army purchases 85,000 more M-16 rifles.

Colt M16 Semi Automatic Rifle
Colt M16 Semi Automatic Rifle

1965

By this time, the M-16 had become the military’s primary service rifle, with over 300,000 purchased from Colt, now known as Colt’s Inc., Firearms Division.

1983

ArmaLite is sold to a Philippine company, Elisco Tool Manufacturing Company.

1987

ArmaLite operations in the US are ended by Elisco Too Manufacturing Company.

1988

Colt loses the government contract to supply M-16 rifles to the military.

1989

Jim Glazier and Karl Lewis of Lewis Machine and Tool Company (LMT), operating a new entity called Eagle Arms, begin producing complete AR-15 rifles for the consumer market. By this time, many of the earlier AR 15 Rifle related patents had expired, thereby opening up the market for complete AR-15 type rifles.

Eagle Arms EA 15 Rifle
Eagle Arms EA 15 Rifle

1992

Colt, now known as Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Inc., enters Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceedings and a period of litigation.

1994

Mark Westrom purchases Eagle Arms. Colt wins a contract to supply 19,000 M-4 Carbine variants of the M-16 to the US Army and Special Forces Command.

1995

Westrom and Eagle Arms purchase rights to the ArmaLite brand. Within a year, ArmaLite is producing the AR-10B rifle, chambered in .308. During this period, Knight’s Manufacturing produced an AR-10 derivative rifle, the SR-25. Colt wins another contract for 16,000 M-4 Carbines.

Knight Manufacturing SR-25 Rifle
Knight Manufacturing SR-25 Rifle

1998

Colt’s wins back the procurement contract for military M-16 rifles with an initial order for 32,000 M-16 rifles. An additional order follows to upgrade 88,000 M-16 A1 rifles to the A2 configuration.

2009 – 2011

With support from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the term Modern Sporting Rifle gains popularity as a more descriptive name for AR-style rifles.

Racks of new Modern Sporting Rifles. The AR 15 Rifle is well on its way to be America's most popular rifle ever.
Racks of new Modern Sporting Rifles. The AR 15 Rifle is well on its way to be America’s most popular rifle ever.

AR 15 Rifle Present Day

At last count, 16,973,489,012 companies are making AR-style rifles. Actually, I lost count at just over 12 million, so this number is really more of an estimate. Whatever the actual figure is, it’s a lot.

Kidding aside, the AR 15 Rifle has become the most popular general purpose rifle platform since, well, since ever.

Hopefully that sets the record straight. Share this article with your friends and relatives if they’re falling for the AR-15 fear mongering and give us your reaction in the comments.

18 COMMENTS

    • funny when you print the facts you don’t get a bunch of stupid comments to bad them lame brain law makers cant get it

      • AND the attempt to LIMIT a magazine to 10 rounds only will hurt out police. Most of them carry semiautomatic pistols that hold more than 10 rounds. The Secret Service can carry assault weapons like the MAC-10, TEC-9, and UZI, that are true assault weapons, (under their rain coats.

  1. With the US population at over 300 million people and the number of AR-15’s out there in public hands, two of the four semi-automatic rifles used were actually an AR-15. The other two were the AK-47 and the Sig Saur. My math may not be as good as some but this seems like a very low percentage of incidents using such weapons. The comedy in all this is that Obama does not want to use the term, Radical Muslim because he thinks people cannot tell the difference between a radical and one who is not. Where is there any logic in this concept?

  2. Thankyou for this article. I wished it was required reading. I’m so tired of hearing all the misconceptions of this firearm. So many people assume they are full auto. I had a 22 auto as a kid that held almost as many bullets and fired just as fast. More people have been killed with a 22. Than an AR15.
    Joe

    • The 0’bumma AGENDA, is to eliminate private ownership of firearms for legal American citizens. Killery Cli’ton said that, “Only crooks and cops should have guns”, when Slick Willy was POTUS. She is sponsored by foreign countries that promote radical Muslims and has been “investigated” for racketeering. 0’bumma gave Syrian (Al Qaeda) rebels guns, his Muslim Brotherhood HEAVY weapons, and paid the Taliban $5M and the “Gitmo 5” for the “exchange” of an Army deserter. Look up the “Efficiency of Militia Bill” (1902) and the “Dick Act” (1909) to fine the TRUE meaning of the word “militia” and the amount of firearms an American citizen CAN have. As with the American Constitution, the wording is specific. Don’t assume to know – look up the facts. <( cannot be repealed)

  3. The history lesson is nice and I own a few “sporting rifles” but your historical narration only strengthens the notion that the AR 10/15 platform was initially developed for military applications. To say anything else would be disingenuous

  4. I have already been educating people on the Web. By the way, I seem to remember the AR-15 SPORTER came on the market around 1964/1965. And when I was in the USAF in the 70’s, we STILL had some of the original lot bought in service!

  5. An assault rifle is a fully automatic weapon. The AR-15 is semi-automatic and uses a relatively small caliber cartridge. These are sold as a varmint rifles or killing small animals such as armadillos possums and raccoons. For personal defense I would use a shotgun or a larger caliber pistol

  6. No matter what term you use, Obama still thinks no one should be allowed to own firearms. Said so while running for office the first time, and he still got elected. We are screwed if he gets all the RINOs on his side, and it is starting to look that way now.

  7. It is interesting to see the face of anyone who is familiar with rifles but has never fired an AR the first time they shoot an AR. They very low recoil and the accuracy usually amaze them. I got into them because I was fascinated by their “Barbie for men” qualities. I now have a .22LR upper, the original 5.56 carbine upper. one for 6.8SPC ( a great deer/hog cartridge)and most recently, a heavy barrel target upper. There are a plethora of other calibers available; some as powerful as the .45/70 (i.e..458Bushmaster) and 30-06 (30 Olympic). These are all for the Ar 15 length action. Using the same lower for all these allows the trigger pull and controls to always be exactly the same.

    As far as the politics go, the anti freedom, anti self defense people do not give a hoot about facts but view these rifles a “low hanging fruit” ripe for banning.

  8. I have used from the m1-Grand to the AR-15 and have been a long time believer in the 2nd ammendment. It’s time to educate the people of the truth about weapons and the people who misuse them to include the ones that have them for sport and self protection.

  9. Excellent article for those who are willing (or able)to think. Unfortunately, too many people fit the statement: “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts”

  10. “At last count, 16,973,489,012 companies are making AR-style rifles.” Um, almost 17 billion companies making the rifle? Really? This number wouldn’t even work if that was meant to be the total number of rifles of all types made in history. Bad editing…

  11. I agree with what has been said.I am not very good with computers and I would like someone to forward this to every member of the senate.They must understand that the
    Armalite-15 rifle is NOT an assault rifle as they seem to think the AR in the name stands for.Thanks for all of your help.

  12. The AR-15 is a legal hunting carbine/rifle in many states. Just because it LOOKS military does NOT make it an “assault weapon”. Many thousands of military carbines and rifles have been used for hunting and general sport for decades = the 30-06 Springfield and M1 carbine as well as the .303 SMLE to name just 3.

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