Tag Archives: AR-15

Common use and the 223

A lot of folks feel that the .223/5.56 cartridge only became a thing in consumer gun culture in 2004, the year the Federal Assault Weapon Ban expired and the masses who had been forbidden from picking up such “evil black rifles” surged forward and purchased something like 20 million of them since then.

The thing is, the round and the rifles had been popular long before that moment. In fact, they have been on the consumer market since 1963– now some 60 years ago.

First developed from a commercially available sporting cartridge, the .223 Remington and its 5.56 NATO cousin, along with the guns that use them, are among the most popular in circulation.

The story began in 1950 with the rimless, bottlenecked .222 Remington, an accurate and flat-shooting varmint and target cartridge that “Big Green” introduced with a companion Model 722 bolt-action rifle chambered for the new round. That well-loved and still viable round by May 1957 had been tweaked to become what was dubbed the .222 Remington Special and was soon tapped by upstart rifle maker ArmaLite for its prototype new AR-15 rifle – with the “AR” standing for the first two letters in the company’s name. 

The lightweight carbine was based on Eugene Stoner’s AR-10 of the same manufacturer.

In March 1958, ArmaLite submitted 10 new AR-15s chambered in .222 Special to Fort Benning for the Infantry Board field trials, but the Army wasn’t enamored with the gun.

Soon the company sold the rights to the handy little carbine to Colt, which started making the guns in late 1959, with small orders filled with Malaysia and India.

The first consumer review hit the stands in the October 1959 “Guns” magazine, with the testers using ArmaLite AR-15 Serial No. 000001, chambered in .222 Rem Spl. During roughly the same timeline, the .222 Rem Spl became known as the .223 Remington, to avoid confusion.

Then, at a now-famous Fourth of July party in 1960, General Curtis LeMay, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, was given a chance to zap watermelons with a new-made Colt AR-15 and soon recommended that the service purchase enough of the new guns to replace aging WWII-era M2 Carbines used by the Air Force’s Security Police. In December 1961, the first contract for 1,000 guns was issued by the Pentagon, and just two years later, the Army was onboard for adopting the rifle in select-fire format, dubbed the XM16E1 and then later the M16.

By 1963, Colt was advertising the AR-15 Sporter, later dubbed the Model R6000 SP1 Sporter Rifle, to the consumer market.

“If you’re a hunter, camper, or collector, you’ll want the AR-15 Sporter,” reads the circa-1963 ad copy. By 1969, something like 15,000 SP1s had been made.

In 1969, only a few years after the SP1 was introduced, ArmaLite was selling a completely different semi-auto AR chambered in .223 – Eugene Stoner’s AR-180– to get around Colt’s patents. Already the AR-15 was getting competition.

Besides the SP1 and AR180 semi-autos, in 1973 – just a decade after the first .223 sporters hit the consumer market –Ruger introduced the Mini-14. Styled on the M14 but downsized to use the smaller .223 round, one of the Ruger’s rifle’s chief engineers was L. James Sullivan, a man who had done lots of work on the AR-15 previously.

About $50-$100 cheaper than other .223s on the market in 1973 dollars, and not as “scary looking,” Ruger’s downsized Garand/M14-ish rifle was a big hit with both police and consumers. Well over 3 million Mini-14/Ranch Rifles have been made since 1973.

In the early 1970s, if you were looking for a .223 sporter, you could get a side-folding ArmaLite AR-180 for $294, a Colt SP1 for $252, or a Ruger Mini-14 for $200, as seen in this vintage Shooter’s Bible.

And that was 50 years ago…

A North Star AR?

When I do a gun review, I typically only have a chance to kick it around my local climes– the swampy Gulf South, where humidity is as thick as the gumbo and sand is only something you find on the riverbank or the beach.

Well, I had a special chance recently to hammer away on a test carbine in a class at Gunsite in the high mountains in Northern Arizona during monsoon season, where the moon dust turns a unique bubblegum consistency and sticks to everything.

Then, switching gears, I was able to bring said carbine back home and continue the T&E period with another 700 rounds in between Sazeracs and crawfish boils.

The gun was a Northstar NS-15.

This thing…

You may not have heard of them, but North Star has some pretty interesting sister companies.

An offshoot of RSW Aviation, North Star Arms is the second and more commercial firearms endeavor that has sprouted from the Arizona company. The elder RSW-related gun company is the better-known Profense, a maker of improved M134 Mini Guns in 7.62 and its downsized 5.56 little brother that started when RWS was looking for gun pods for its aircraft.

And I have to admit, the NS-15 proved super accurate and durable for a mid-length carbine with a 16-inch barrel.

North Star uses Ballistics Advantage barrels and ships with a sub-MOA guarantee

More in my column at Guns.com.

Mr. Stoner, at 100

Indiana’s own Eugene Morrison Stoner cut his teeth in small arms as a Marine Corps armorer in World War II and left the world some of the most iconic black rifles in history.

Born on Nov. 22, 1922, in the small town of Gosport, just outside of Bloomington, Indiana, Stoner moved to California with his parents and graduated from high school in Long Beach. After a short term with an aircraft company in the area that later became part of Lockheed, the young man enlisted in the Marines and served in the South Pacific in the Corps’ aviation branch, fixing, and maintaining machine guns in squadrons forward deployed as far as China.

Leaving the Marines as a corporal after the war, Stoner held a variety of jobs in the aviation industry in California before arriving at ArmaLite, a tiny division of the Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation, where he made soon made his name in a series of ArmaLite Rifle designs, or ARs, something he would later describe as “a hobby that got out of hand.”


Kimber Sending Makos to Ukraine

Alabama-based Kimber is donating 9mm pistols and .308 Winchester-caliber rifles to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

The company announced on Wednesday it is inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people in their struggle against an ongoing military invasion from neighboring Russia and is ready to help.

“The people of Ukraine are enduring tremendous hardships and are in need of support from around the world,” said Leslie Edelman, Kimber owner and CEO.

In terms of support, Edelman says Kimber is sending 200 R7 Mako 9mm subcompact pistols (my current EDC for the past several months), 10 Advanced Tactical rifles in .308 Win., and 10 bolt-action rifles in .308 Win. Each rifle will include two magazines and a replacement firing pin assembly while the Makos will ship with 800 extra 13-round magazines.

While shipping such pistols to a modern European combat zone seems curious at first, handguns are in common use as sidearms for officers, specialists, pilots, and heavy weapons operators.

Of note, the Mako is roughly comparable in size to the PM Makarov, long a standard pistol in Eastern European service, while offering a higher magazine capacity and a more effective cartridge.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

SUB2000s in Ukraine?

Florida-based firearms maker KelTec made the most of a sudden surplus of 9mm carbines and donated them to Ukraine. 

Adrian Kellgren, director of industrial production at KelTec– and son of the company’s legendary founder, George Kellgren– told local media the company was recently left with a $200,000 order for SUB2000 carbines. The original order, to a longtime vendor in the Black Sea Ukrainian port city of Odesa, was unpaid for, and the vendor was unable to be contacted.

The 400 9mm carbines had been ordered last year, but by the time the red tape cleared the client was unable to accept them and Ukraine is now fighting off a Russian invasion– with enemy troops closing in on Odesa. The solution hit on by Kellgren was to donate the guns to the Ukrainian government to aid in the resistance to the invasion. 

Introduced in 2001, the KelTec SUB2000 9mm pistol-caliber carbine is now in its second generation. Lightweight at just 4-pounds while still retaining a 16.1-inch barrel, it folds in half for easy storage and transport, able to be carried in a pack.

The SUB2000, while not a frontline weapon by any means, can for example fill a role with static defense/home guard-style units posted at local infrastructure to keep an eye out for sabotage, or in guarding POWs, of which there seems to be an increasing amount.

More Vulcans

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a 10-year contract to General Dynamics-Ordnance & Tactical Systems for new M61A1 Vulcan 20mm guns.

The firm-fixed-price award, for $88,275,000, was granted to Gen Dyn by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, based at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Classified as an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract, it will cover the purchase of new M61A1s in support of the F-16 fighter aircraft. Of this amount, some $7.8 million in funds set aside for Foreign Military Sales were obligated. Notably, 25 overseas allies fly the aircraft along with Venezuela, which probably doesn’t rate FMS dollars anymore.

Battlefield Vegas’ 20mm Vulcan nicknamed ‘The Hand of God’ at the Big Sandy Shoot October 2018. (Photo: Ben Philippi / Guns.com)

More on the Vulcan contract, and Gen Dyn’s work on the Next Generation Squad Weapon for the Army, in my column at Guns.com.

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig: Next-Gen Weapons Delivered to the Army

Sig Sauer this week announced it has completed the delivery of the company’s Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army.

The company is one of three contractors who in 2019 got the nod from the Pentagon to continue with the NGSW program. The sweeping initiative aims to replace the Army’s 5.56mm NATO small arms – the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Sig’s program consists of an in-house-designed lightweight high-performance 6.8x51mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition, NGSW-AR lightweight machine guns, NGSW-R rifles (based on the MCX carbine), and next-gen suppressors.

They certainly look the part and, if selected, would give Sig the small arms hattrick as their P320s have been adopted as the DOD’s standard handgun to replace everything from the USAF’s lingering K-frame 38s to the Marine’s M45 CQB railguns and everything in between. At that point, the only man-portable system used by the Army not made by Sig would be the M240 and M2, which FN still has a lock on.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Go ahead, spitball how many guns are in circulation

Of course, this is a moving target and in most cases would be considered something of a wild ass guess in most cases, but the NSSF, working with industry and regulatory data for the past couple of decades, came up with some interesting figures when it comes to the number of guns in private circulation in the U.S.

The big numbers: 434 million firearms, 20 million “modern sporting rifles” such as AR-15s, and 150 million magazines which are considered in eight or nine states to be “high capacity.”


More in my column at Guns.com.

« Older Entries