Work on the AR-1 “Parasniper” rifle begins breaking new ground by using a foam-filled fiberglass stock and an anodized aluminum barrel with a thin steel liner. In 1954, Armalite was established as a Division of Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. The AR-1 was one of the first rifles produced at Armalite’s location in Hollywood, CA, and paved the way to the development of the AR-10. All rifles were designated AR, short for Armalite Rifle. Shortly thereafter, Armalite submitted the AR-5, .22 Hornet Survival Rifle to the U.S. Air Force as a replacement for their then-standard survival rifle. The AR-5 was adopted and designated the MA-1 Survival Rifle.
Under the guidance of former Marine and former Army Ordnance technician, Eugene Stoner, the AR-10 became the main focus of attention. Army officials asked Armalite to develop a smaller version of the AR-10 in 1956 as a potential replacement for the M1 Garand. The ensuing rifle was called the AR-15 and was produced with aircraft grade aluminum receivers, weighing less than seven pounds. In 1959, the AR-10 was licensed to the Dutch Arsenal, Artillerie Inrichtingen, for sale on the international market and then to Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, along with the AR-15. Shortly thereafter, Armalite began development of a new rifle, the AR18. Development of the AR-16 (which was later dropped due to the Army’s adoption of the M-14) and AR-17 12-gauge shotgun begins. The AR-7 Explorer becomes the first commercial rifle produced by Armalite. It is the civilian version of the Air Force adopted AR-5 Survival Rifle.
The Capital Southwest Corporation of Dallas, Texas funded Armalite development programs. Armalite arranges testing of the AR-18 with the hope of attaining DOD and State Department endorsement of the rifle toward filling the void existing for a modern combat rifle for friends and allies around the world. With sales shifting towards the commercial market, a semi-automatic version of the AR-18 was created—the AR-180.
Production of the AR-18 started at the Howa Machinery Company of Nagoya, Japan (1967). For Japanese political reasons the Howa rifles were allowed to be sold only to non-combatant nations, and even then, only to non-Asian nations. During the Vietnam War, the AR-18 could not be exported to the United States. In mid-1968, Armalite set up pilot production in its Costa Mesa plant for AR-18s and AR-180s. The Japanese government subsequently eased restrictions and allowed the commercial semi-automatic AR-180 to be exported to the U.S.. By the late 1970s, U.S. production halted.
1980 - 1987
Armalite was sold to Elisco Tool Manufacturing Company, of the Philippines. Inventory, tooling, and machinery were dispatched from the U.S. plant to the Philippines. The process fell apart due to political events in the Philippines. The political and economic links of the government were dramatically shifted, and Elisco was unable to carry out the AR-18 production. The U.S. arm of the operation was closed in 1987. Independent of Armalite, Karl Lewis and Jim Glazier formed a company named Eagle Arms in Coal Valley Illinois in 1986. Eagle Arms initially marketed M16 and AR-15 type rifle parts. The early Stoner patents had expired, and Eagle was able to build both parts and complete rifles. In 1989, Eagle commenced production of complete rifles, with LMT serving as the major supplier.
The M-15™ is introduced as direct competition with Colt’s trademarked AR-15. Mr. Mark Westrom purchases Eagle Arms where he continued to produce the Eagle Arms EA-15 rifle. Product focus turned toward high-grade target rifles. Shortly thereafter, a design for a .308-caliber AR-10 type rifle was initiated and designated the M-10. Westrom purchased all rights to the Armalite trademark in 1995, and production of Armalite rifles resumed in Illinois. The planned M-10 rifle series was designated the AR-10B series and was developed using unusual reliance on computer design and simulation. Armalite drastically expands the AR-10 line with new featured rifles and carbines, including the AR-10 SuperSASS™, which features an adjustable gas system to accommodate suppressed and unsuppressed fire.
The AR-20 was introduced and was the initial designation of Armalite’s .50-caliber rifle. The designation was later changed to the AR-50 to emphasize the caliber of the firearm. This period also brought the introduction of a few devices to help test and train the Mk 19: the AR-22—a Blank Firing Device for the Mk 19 Mod 4 40mm Grenade Machine and the AR-23—a Sub-Caliber Training Device for the Mk 19 Mod 4 Grenade machine gun. The AR-30 was also introduced during this time and is based on an aluminum stock that merges a machine rest with a rifle stock for stunning stability. This design is immune to changes in temperature or humidity.
Armalite introduces the AR-180B made of a high strength polymer, and features the trigger group and magazine well of the AR-15. It uses standard AR-15 type magazines and repair parts are readily available.
Over the years, Armalite had developed and produced a wide variety of firearms. However, the Armalite brand had never been applied to a pistol. In 2005, Armalite met with representatives of Sarsilmaz, one of the premier firearms manufacturing companies in Turkey. Starting with their basic CZ 75 pistol, Armalite made changes that they felt would appeal to the American consumer. The result, in 2006, was a set of four 9mm pistols that bear the Armalite name.
In July 2013, Armalite is purchased by Strategic Armory Corps, and celebrates 60 years of manufacturing. The product line is expanded to meet the needs of the market and include a wide variety of entry level, tactical, and competition rifles. During the 2016 U.S. election cycle, Armalite revives the Eagle Arms brand, introducing a entry level M-15 platform rifle. The brand experiences their largest period of growth and record sales during this period.
The Strategic Armory Corps is purchased by a new owner. The group invests heavily in new technology and research/development of cutting edge product. Armalite moves operations from Geneseo, IL to join its sister companies in Phoenix, AZ. The Armalite brand image is refreshed to reflect the significant investment in its new state-of-the-art facility, machinery, and R&D, while paying homage to its beginnings in the Aerospace industry.
What will come next?