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An Introduction To The AR-15 Rifle
Contributed by Ken Russo

Jeff Cooper has said that “Personal weapons are what raised mankind out of the mud, and he has referred to the rifle as the Queen of Personal Weapons”. What does this mean?

The AR15 based family of weapons are not a new weapon design since it dates back to 1959. Eugene Stoner designed and developed Armalite Rifle models 10 and 15 (where the “AR15” designation originates) and it was Armalite who first produced the weapons in both .308 Winchester (AR10) and .223 Remington (AR15) calibers. The creation and manufacture of the AR family of rifles was at the time a revolutionary concept since this
was the first US rifle made in an assault rifle format using aircraft grade aluminum and synthetic components.

Although the initial rifle warranted some improvements before being accepted by the US military, it was not initially well received. The US service rifle (M14) was only in service for a few years and was based on the successful M1 Garand action and fired the powerful .308 Winchester cartridge. Normal development of service rifles for the US Military went through government contract with established firearms manufacturers and the relatively unknown Armalite rifle company was a subsidiary of Fairchild Aviation. Eugene Stoner being a relative unknown in the military firearms industry was up against some resistance with his ultra modern design.

Military acceptance of the new modern rifle in the diminutive .22 caliber cartridge was a difficult thing for the US military establishment to warm up to. For over half a century, the US military had gone to war armed with either the 30-06 Springfield cartridge (1903 Springfield/1917 Enfield/M1 Garand) or the shortened version of the 30-06 Springfield known as the .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO) in the M14 developed after the Korean conflict. Due to the proven performance of the .30 caliber service rounds in use, the US military was very reluctant to drop the .30 caliber round from service. The Military believed very strongly in the stopping power and downrange capability of the 308 and its belief in the 223’s capability was hard won.

Helping the acceptance of the 223 Remington cartridge were studies during WWI and WW2 and Korea that revealed that most common soldiers had chosen to wait until the enemy was within 200 yards to engage them and the extended range performance of the 308 became a moot issue. In fact it wasn't until later that the military discovered that the 223 Remington was capable of causing severe tissue damage.  The advantage of the AR15 was that the infantryman assigned a rifle in 223 was capable of firing the AR15 in full auto. The M14 service rifle in 7.62 NATO was virtually impossible to handle in this capacity.

One of the deciding factors on the selection of the AR15 was the benefit of being able to carry nearly three times the amount of ammunition. Adding up the AR15’s lighter weight coupled with the added ability to fire it in full automatic mode with increased ammunition capacity per soldier, the eventual demise of the M14 was set into motion.

In 1959 Fairchild sold the rights to produce the AR10 and AR15 rifles to Colt. Eventually, after some refinements and acceptance by the US Air Force, the AR15 was adopted into the US Military arsenals. It was designated the M16 service rifle and variants like the shorter barreled “Commando” model became available to Special forces groups. During the following years the AR15 underwent some minor changes and was eventually adopted by the US military to replace the M14 service rifle and continues to this day as the US service rifle known as the M16. Many variants of the AR15/M16 rifle exist and have found themselves to be useful tools to the law enforcement community.

Article contributed by Ken Russo


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