Country of origin
5.56x45 mm NATO
Length (with folded stock)
Cyclic rate of fire
Practical rate of fire
40 ~ 100 rpm
Range of effective fire
the late 1960s by the same company that devised the ubiquitous AR-15
the AR-18 was developed by Armalite to compete with Colt's M16. It
was not a marketing success, but nonetheless left its mark on the
development and history of military firearms.
The AR-18 was an evolution of Eugene Stoner's AR-16, which
was the last weapon designed by Stoner before leaving the Armalite
firm, and it was a marked departure in design principles from his
previous work on the AR-10 and AR-15. While the AR-16 retained the
familiar gas operation and rotating bolt, it replaced the direct
impingement system in the gas tube with a more conservative
short-stroke gas piston. The AR-16 had also dispensed with the
5.56x45 mm caliber in favor of the larger 7.62x51 mm round, added an
integral folding stock, and dispensed with the familiar AR-10
Though the AR-16 program was soon abandoned, other personnel
at Armalite were assigned to develop an additional rifle based on
its design. This effort was undertaken by a team led by George
Sullivan, Arthur Miller, and Charles Dorchester, who were some of
Stoner's partners in the design process of the AR-15 and AR-16. The
end result of these efforts was the AR-18, which was essentially a
simplified, scaled-down AR-16 re-chambered in the 5.56x45 mm round.
Having lost rights to manufacture the AR-15 and the later M16 to
Colt, Armalite intended to market the new AR-18 as a direct
The AR-18 is similar in form and function to the ubiquitous
AR-15, to the point where casual observers often confuse them.
However, there are several marked differences in the design.
Rather than the machined forging techniques employed in the
M14, AR-15, and M16, the AR-18 was instead constructed using stamped
and welded sheet steel, giving it much looser mechanical tolerances.
The geometry of the receiver section has more in common with the
AK-47 than the
M16, with a reversed slant on the underside, and no
carrying handle. However, the rear sight post is mounted on the back
end of the receiver, not the front as on the AK-47. Unlike the M16,
whose sling swivels are mounted on its front sight assembly and
its stock, the sling swivels on the AR-18 are attached to the front
slight assembly and the pistol grip; a design decision undoubtedly
made due to the AR-18's integral folding stock. The magazine well
accepts STANAG-type magazines.
The stock is slimmer and lighter than that used on the M16,
and is hinged at the base, allowing it to be folded. The foregrip is
straighter and slightly broader than that used on the M16, and
extends directly from the front of the receiver (there is no slip
ring) to the back of the front sight assembly. The AR-18's pistol
grip is angled like that on the M16 but more curved in shape. All
three of the furniture components are made of plastic.
Although the AR-18 is gas operated just like the M16, the
former employs a short-stroke gas piston in its gas tube, rather
than a direct impingement system. The AR-18's action also employs a
rotating bolt, a feature widely-associated with the AK-47 family of
rifles (and oddly less so with the AR-15 and M16, even though they
use rotating bolts as well). Like on the M16, the AR-18 has a
spring-loaded dust cover to prevent debris from entering the action,
which opens automatically when the bolt carrier moves. Though unlike
the M16, the cocking handle on the AR-18 moves with the bolt carrier
via a slot on the side of the weapon during firing; this allows the
user to force the breech open or closed by simply pushing or pulling
it, which is a much more difficult task in the M16.
The barrel of the AR-18 is manufactured using a ferritic
nitrocarburizing process, eliminating the need for chrome plating in
its construction. A three-pronged cylindrical muzzle brake is
fitted, much like that on the early M16s.
There is no bayonet lug on the AR-18; one presumably would
have been fitted if it had been adopted by the US military.
The rear sights of the AR-18 are flip-up type with two range
settings (0 m and 200 m), while the front sights are a conventional
post. A proprietary 3x telescopic sight may also be quickly fitted
or removed, without any tools.
Ultimately, the AR-18 was not accepted into service by the US
military. Following a lengthy evaluation in the late 1960s, the
official findings did concede that the AR-18 was in fact a superior
and less expensive rifle than the M16, but it was rejected anyway on
grounds that it was not enough of an improvement to overturn the
procurement program for the M16, which the Pentagon had become
heavily invested in (both financially and politically).
Owing mainly to Armalite's failed offering to the US
military, no nations have ever adopted the AR-18, but the AR-180
civilian model has ended up in the hands of non-state groups.
Especially well-known for its use of the AR-180 in combat is the
Sales efforts for the military models of the AR-18 were
abandoned in the early 1970s, while the civilian models were
produced from 1969 to 1985, and then briefly once more in the early
2000s. Though AR-18 variants have been manufactured by other
companies, the original AR-18 series is no longer offered by
Though as outlined below, the AR-18 gave rise to a long and
very successful series of assault rifles manufactured in other
Prototype 7.62 mm assault rifle derived from the AR-15, and early
design basis of the AR-18. Did not enter service.
AR-18: Improved AR-16, most notably in the addition of a gas
piston into its action. Did not enter mass production or service.
AR-180: Semi automatic AR-18, made primarily for the civilian
market. Production ran from 1969 to 1985.
AR-180B: Modernized AR-180 with many new features and several
different chamberings. Produced from 2001, but also discontinued due
to poor sales a few years later.
M17S: Bullpup AR-18 made in Australia by Bushmaster.
Manufactured from 1992 to 2005.
T65: Taiwanese copy of the AR-18. Used by Taiwan and the
armed forces of 10 other nations.
T86: Further development of the T65. Used by Taiwan and
T91: Further development of the T86. Used by Taiwan and the
armed forces of 6 other nations.
K2: South Korean copy of the AR-18, made by Daewoo. Used by
ROKA and the armed forces of several other nations.
AR-100: Civilian version of the K2, also a Daewoo product.
Type 89: Japanese copy of the AR-18 made by Howa. Used only
by the JSDF.
SAR 80: Singaporean copy of the AR-18, made by ST Kinetics.
Used by Singapore and 3 other nations.
SAR-87: British copy of the AR-18, made by Sterling. Did not
enter mass production or service.
SR 88: Singaporean copy of the AR-18, made by ST Kinetics.
Used by Singapore and Slovenia.
L64/65: British prototype rifle, chambered in an experimental
4.85×49 mm round. Did not enter service.
Soviet assault rifle with a similar operating principle. Used by
Enfield L85/SA80: British assault rifle employing the AR-18
action, with an otherwise completely original weapon built around
G36: Has a very similar system of operation, though it is not
actually an AR-18 derivative. Used by many nations.
and HK417: Modern M16-based rifles, made by Heckler & Koch in
Germany. Though not derived from the AR-18, the addition of a gas
piston made this weapon a spiritual successor.
Masada: Rifle developed by Magpul Industries in the US,
borrowing some design features from the AR-18. Replaced in
development by the Bushmaster ACR.
ACR: Improved Masada, manufactured in the US by Bushmaster. Used
by Poland, and under evaluation by several nations.
T2: Australian rifle similar to the AR-18, made by Leader
Dynamics (later, by Australian Automatic Arms). The T2 was offered
for sale to the ADF, but never found a military buyer. Civilian
semi-automatic versions were manufactured from 1978 to 1996.
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