Since the sunsetting of the so-called “assault weapons” ban in 2004, the popularity of the AR-15 has skyrocketed to unprecedented heights. Today it stands unopposed as America’s rifle, with millions in the hands of law-abiding citizens and nearly every major domestic firearm manufacturer, and countless smaller firms, offering their own rendition of the platform. Written by famed Special Operations veteran, combat marksmanship instructor and firearm industry consultant Larry Vickers, with photography by James Rupley, Vickers Guide—AR-15: Volume 1 tells the story of the early development of Eugene Stoner’s gun—while offering many insights into why the AR-15 has so thoroughly captured the attention of the modern American gun community.
AR-15: Volume 1 is a coffee table book to be sure, the 351 pages dominated far more by its 238 pieces of high-resolution photography than its text, but to simply dismiss it as a picture book would be a disservice. Photographed within are many guns of great historical significance—from each of ArmaLite’s original five AR-10 prototypes to Colt’s first production Model 601 to H&R and Hydra-Matic M16A1 variants made when Colt was unable to meet demand during the Vietnam War—and accompanying each entry is an informative passage either explaining its importance or relaying an interesting anecdote.
The first in a two-book set, Volume 1 focuses mainly on the origins of the design through the late 1980s, covering: the rifle’s pre-Stoner ancestors; the progression of the AR-10; the downsizing of the platform in order to accommodate the .223 Rem. cartridge; the growing pains associated with jungle warfare; the eventual developments of the M16A1 and M16A2 patterns; and curious variants like 9 mm Luger-chambered submachine guns and heavy-barrel, belt-fed prototypes. Volume 2, which will complete the timeline into the modern era, should reach bookshelves shortly.
Anyone remotely interested in the early development of the AR-10/15 platform will find Vickers Guide—AR-15: Volume 1 to be an engaging read; diehard collectors, historians and researchers will likely love it. Price: $95. Contact: Mott Lake Publishing; vickersguide.com.