Meet the first “AR”
ArmaLite started in Hollywood of all places in 1954 as a division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Company and long before the iconic AR-10 and AR-15 came along, their first rifle was the AR-1 (ArmaLite Rifle-1) better known as the Parasniper.
The gun was designed by George Sullivan and Charles Dorchester (both of whom went on to pitch in with Eugene Sullivan on the AR-15) between 1948-54 to be a super lightweight sniper rifle, presumably for airborne and air assault troops. It used a foam-filled fiberglass stock and an aluminum alloy barrel with a steel liner to prevent over pressure ka-booms.
The improved bolt-action (some used steel FN Mauser bolts while others have been seen with Remington 722 bolts) also made extensive use of alloys. Fitted with a commercial 4x Bushnell Chief scope, mount, rings, and sling the whole thing weighed in at 6-pounds flat. Now remember this was a half century before today’s fluted barrel polymer stock “light hunter” guns that still don’t come that close to 6-pounds when outfitted.
They were chambered in .308 and 30.06 Springfield and some models had a muzzie break to help tame the recoil.
What became of them?
Well just 25 were reportedly made and several were submitted for testing to Aberdeen Proving Ground where the Army found them lacking citing frequent extractor failures and poor accuracy. At least four test models were forwarded to Springfield Armory in 1961 where they remain today in the Museum’s extensive collection.
SN#158 weighing in at Weighs 5 lbs. 12 oz
SN#415 chambered for T65E3 with a Bushnell 4x scope
SN# 351533 (?)
As for ArmaLite? The biggest mistake the company made was when they sold the rights to the AR-15 to Colt, as their follow-on products: the AR-17 semi-auto shotgun (it had a gold finish with an aluminum barrel– no fooling) and the AR-18/180 never really caught on before the company folded its Costa Mesa location in 1973.
Eagle Arms picked up the rights and trademarks in 1995 and carries on as ArmaLite today, based out of Geneseo, Ill. and has since introduced the AR-20, 30, 50 et.al.