The Rise of the AR-15: A Brief History

AR-15

The Armalite 15, also known as the AR-15, is a rifle that is both revered and feared, for good reason. This rifle has a long and storied history of development and implementation that stretches back in time all the way to the 1950’s.

The AR-15 is a weapon that was developed to fit a need, as most innovations are. In fact, hardly any other firearm has undergone such a struggle to find its place in the market as the AR-15. It was the topic of many a debate, until eventually it found its place.

The Need 

The M1 Garand was the rifle of choice during WWI and WWII, and performed admirably. However, towards the end of WWII complaints about the M1 Garand circulated, bringing attention to several flaws:

  • The .30-06 had inferior stopping power
  • The weapon and ammunition had a hefty weight, limiting the amount of ammunition a soldier could carry.
  • In prolonged conflicts the M1 could not maintain superior firepower over other modern weapons.
M1_Garand_rifle
M1 Garand Rifle

So in order to fill the expanding role of payload, delivery, efficiency, and lethal capacity of their soldiers, they began to experiment with their favored instrument of divine intervention, the M1 Garand. So the U.S. military began to suss out a replacement for the M1 Garand and the M2 Carbine, both weapons using the .30 caliber. 

The Dark Horse, the Armalite 10

So, the Springfield Armory hosted a competition, according to the standards set forth by the U.S. military. 

In 1956, ArmaLite, a new firearm manufacturer, rushed to submit a series of designs designated as AR-10, sporting the 7.62x51mm. Despite the Springfield Armory’s reviews of the AR-10’s performance, the military approved the firearm later known as the M14 for production. The M14 was simply the M1 Garand retrofitted for the new 7.62 caliber and built with selective fire.

M14
M14

However, the M14 fell short in actual combat.

So, ArmaLite, hungry for success, immediately put out a rendition of the AR-10, the AR-15 designed for .556 caliber. Which, while the AR-15 fulfilled all of the design specifications, and even found favorable reviews, was ultimately neglected.

Armalite, frustrated and in financial straits, sold the rights of the AR-15 and AR-10 to Colt.

The Windfall of the AR-15

The United States Army continued testing the AR-15, which found that a significant number of shooters achieved higher marksmanship and control over the weapon, especially due to the .556 caliber rounds. This choice of caliber allowed much more versatility in range and allowed troops to carry more ammunition into combat.

AR-15
AR-15

 

If you are the owner of an AR-15, you are more than likely already familiar with its infamous accuracy. As far as its versatility, you are really only limited by what your intended use for the weapon is. With the ability to be modded for practically any situation, and capable of being fitted with a quality AR-15 sight for any range, the sky’s the limit.

It doesn’t stop there either. With over 50 years in production the aftermarket upgrades for this weapon are tried and tested and varied. You can take your standard AR-15 and upgrade every part to make a truly effective long-range rifle.

The-Black-Rifle-AR15-M16

Back to the story at hand, in 1961 the USAF, being impressed with the rifle’s performance, made an order of 8,500 AR-15’s. While an additional batch of 80,000 AR-15’s were requested that summer they were denied acquisition.

This back and forth went on to the degree that the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had the Secretary of the Army Cyrus Vance test the M14, the AR-15, and the AK-47. Reportedly, the M14 was found the superior of all three rifles. 

This report didn’t satisfy Secretary McNamara, so he went on to order that the testing methods themselves be tested for bias by the Inspector General, who confirmed that the testing methods involved were biased towards the M14.

The next year, Secretary Mcnamara ordered both a halt to the production of the M14 and the adoption of the AR-15. Since Colt had previously redesigned the weapon for mass production, they had set themselves up for success.

The Success of the M16

After a few alterations to the AR-15 design, the firearm was produced in two variants, designated the M16 and the M16A1. In 1963 Secretary McNamara ordered 85,000 M16A1’s for use by the Armed Forces.

 

M-16
M-16

Shortly after this Colt began to manufacture the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle for civilians and law enforcement that we are so familiar with today. Now established in production for the U.S. armed forces, law enforcement, and civilians, the AR-15 platform was here to stay.

Today, the AR-15 is the most trusted and utilized rifle found in the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement alike, and current advances in firearm technology continue to improve its performance.

1 comment
  1. Your article mentions multiple times that the AR15 is .556 caliber. This is INCORRECT. It is .223 caliber or 5.56 MM. A .556 caliber would be larger than a 50 caliber machine gun

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