ArmaLite AR-18: The Forgotten AR

by
posted on September 1, 2021
AR 18

The clever engineers at ArmaLite produced a variety of cutting-edge firearms during the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many live on to this day, including the military M-16, its M4 sibling currently fielded by our troops and the commercial AR-15. All cycle by direct gas impingement, but Eugene Stoner—who is credited for the original design—knew the method of operation wasn’t necessarily the final word in reliability and performance.

Likely he didn’t think the AR-16 he created during the same period was either, although the short-stroke piston driven design is largely recognized today as running cleaner. The rifle was chambered in 7.62 NATO and the company hoped the U.S. Military would adopt it as a less-expensive replacement for its aging fleet of M1s.

The sales pitch didn’t work, then ArmaLite sold the rights to the AR-15 to Colt’s Manufacturing, and Stoner left the company. Meanwhile, Arthur Miller and his team, still at the firm, improved on the AR-16 design, gave it a new 5.56 NATO chambering, and the AR-18 was born. A commercially available version, the AR-180, later hit the U.S. market.

Both guns are a far cry from the AR-15, though. The piston-driven method of operation uses a rotating bolt, but a pair of rods with springs guide the bolt carrier group during cycling. The reciprocating charging handle was located on the right side, attached to the bolt carrier group and the metal stock could be folded to the side.

Magazines were not compatible with AR-15 versions and the gun was built from stamped and welded steel. It’s a manufacturing approach not exactly known for tight tolerances, although that fact often ensures operation through miserable conditions.
In 2001, the new owners of ArmaLite reintroduced the rifle as the AR-180B. Its improvements included the ability to use AR-15 magazines, straight charging handle, polymer stock and more. Dave Campbell took a longer look at the history and the new gun—which was discontinued in 2007—for American Rifleman a couple years back.

When he wrote the story, in 2018, used specimens of the rifle were selling for between $900 and $2,500. Most guns for sale today command prices anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000, with many above that range.

Latest

Marlin firearms lever-action rifles left and right side quatering views
Marlin firearms lever-action rifles left and right side quatering views

Ruger Re-Energizing Marlin Enthusiasts

Honoring the legacy of a 152-year-old legendary gunmaker is no easy task, but Ruger’s remains squarely focused on that mission while it resurrects a brand that languished under Remington Outdoor management.

I Have This Old Gun: British Snider Enfield

Watch this American Rifleman Television segment of "I Have This Old Gun" from 2020 to learn about the British Snider Enfield.

Blast From The Past: Revisiting The 9 mm Magnum 'Super Cooper'

Follow Brad Miller as he takes a closer look at the 9 mm "Super Cooper" magnum handgun cartridge, which can have cases made for it from cut down .223 Rem. casings.

Smith & Wesson Model 10: A Legendary K-Frame Available Today

Today’s Model 10 chambers .38 Spl. and can handle +P loads. Cylinder capacity is six cartridges in the single/double action. Its frame, cylinder and barrel are carbon steel, blued in classic fashion and the grips are wood. It’s a timeless look.

Tips & Techniques: A Penny For Your Dry-Fire Thoughts

When performing dry-fire practice with an AR-15, there are a lot of reasons you might not want the bolt to lock to the rear. You can use dummy rounds, snap caps or other safety aids, but there’s another trick used in training circles requiring far less investment.

NRA Foundation Grants $252,000 For Ammo To USA Shooting

The NRA Foundation Board of Trustees has approved a $252,000 grant for USA Shooting to purchase the specific shotshells used by the National Team, National Development Team and National Junior Team.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.