An All-American Rifle: A Brief History of the AR-15
Both America’s foundation and its rise can be largely attributed to the effects of firearms and the men and women who used them. Guns were integral to the shaping of this country before it became a nation, and they carry a history of both salvation and subjugation for the peoples of America. To this day, they remain a point of heated contention regarding whether more harm or good comes from their possession and operation.
From the time that Europeans first landed on American soil, the gun has drastically influenced the course of events. Guns helped establish the original thirteen colonies, with early muskets giving settlers an advantage over Native Americans. “The shot heard round the world” that sparked the American Revolution was the first of many Brown Bess muskets to be used during the war against the tyrannical British crown. Then, during the American Civil War, the Springfield Musket played a large role in the liberation of people who were enslaved. Those same muskets were also used to defend the Confederate Soldiers against the assault on their State’s rights on an over encroaching federal government.
Later, the gun that won the West–the Winchester repeating rifle–was used to defend the American settlers from lawless bandits and Native Americans. As time has progressed, so has the weapon. American soldiers, with the aid of the Thompson submachine gun, heroically stormed the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe and defeat Hitler. This is the same weapon that was identified as an essential part of the Prohibition-era gangster uniform that led to the unconstitutional National Fire Arms Act of 1934.
This historical role of firearms throughout American history is unequivocally highly significant. Firearms are the KEY factor in establishing and maintaining freedom. Given that long and important history, as well as the full meaning of the second amendment are still hotly contested. Though it is clear that the founders intended that all citizens had a right and a duty to bear arms and that it should not be infringed upon by the government in any way shape or form.
As of late, one weapon has come to be the centerpiece for the modern American firearms debate: the AR-15. Built to resemble the military-issued M-16 automatic rifle, the AR-15 is an American icon that is internationally recognized as a symbol of freedom. The continued discussions concerning whether or not the AR-15 should be protected by our constitutional right to bear arms have increased sales and demand for the firearm in recent years. People on both sides of the argument have rallied behind the AR-15 both as their symbol for gun control and for gun rights. It is frequently carried during both protests and counter-protests–as a symbol or as a warning. Though the news and main stream media would like to you believe there has been an increase in shootings of both innocent victims of police and police officers themselves, the facts are that shootings with any type of rifle, especially an AR-15 are extremely rare. Despite this the AR-15 has continually found a place on American news channels.
This mass popularity and exposure revolving around political issues has given rise to the AR-15 being seen throughout American culture. Since its inception, the AR has been viewed on the silver screen in dozens of movies that amassed millions in revenue. War documentaries, gangster flicks, and others feature this weapon. John Wayne carried this weapon in several of his movies. The AR is not only featured in movies, however. References to it are made throughout all types of popular media and modes of self-expression. It has been written into literature and song. It can be seen in internet memes and pictures, on clothing as a symbol of Freedom when used by patriots or a symbol of an over reaching tyrannical federal government when used by anti-gunners in political messages.
The AR is not only seen as a symbol; it is indeed one of the most customizable firearms available as well. The aftermarket supplies for the weapon are nearly endless, benefiting from the lower base price of the firearm because more people want to express themselves by making it unlike others. Inversely, this ability to customize the weapon is also cited as a major reason they are such a popular commodity. The AR-15 offers a full personalization of the rifle through the ability to switch out both AR Uppers and AR Lowers.
So what exactly is this icon of American weaponry? The AR-15
The AR-15 is, technically speaking, a model name, like an F-150 or a C-1500 in Ford and Chevy trucks. Similar to F-150 and C-1500, the AR-15 has come to symbolize a specific market, and the term is used to represent all semi-automatic guns that look like the AR.
Contrary to what some believe, “AR” is NOT an abbreviation for Assault Rifle. Instead, it stems from the company that conceived it, ArmaLite. ArmaLite has produced several other weapons as well, including the AR-1, AR-7, AR-16, and AR-17, but none have achieved the popularity that the AR-15 has. Since ArmaLite was founded in 1954, it has strived to manufacture civilian weapons with modern technologies and materials. In the company’s initial business plan, ArmaLite also laid out their intentions of crafting weapons for government and military use. In other words, from the outset, the AR-15’s history is interwoven with the concept of military-grade weaponry.
Between 1954 and 1956, ArmaLite developed the AR-5 survival rifle for the U.S. Air Force. It was a .22 caliber bolt-action, modular rifle with a four-round magazine. The weapon was designed to not only be waterproof but also to float. It was ideal for downed fighter pilots and has been adapted to the Henry U.S. Survival Rifle. Simultaneously, the U.S. Army began to search for a replacement rifle to the M1 Garand, which saw a lot of action during World War II. The magazine capacity needed to be improved while also making the weapon lighter. The AR-10 featured a lightweight aluminum receiver and plastic stocks and handguards, weighing in at about seven pounds. The military saw the potential in the design and asked ArmaLite to produce a smaller-caliber version of the AR-10 design.
The end of the 1950s would see the sales in the AR-10 not doing well and most of ArmaLite’s revenue being generated from the AR-5 aquatic survival rifle. In 1959, ArmaLite licensed both the AR-10 and AR-15 designs to Colt Firearms; Colt then sold the early AR-15 rifles to what was then the Federation of Malaya (know known as Malaysia). In 1961, the U.S. Air Force performed tests on the rifle and made a mass purchase. By 1963, they standardized the AR-15 and referred to it as the M-16. The U.S. Army entered the market of the AR-15 that same year. By 1965, the M-16 was the military’s primary service rifle, with over 300,000 purchased from Colt. During the 1980s, ArmaLite was incorporated into the Elisco Tool Manufacturing Company out of the Philippines and ended operations in the U.S. Around that time, Colt also lost their government contract to supply M-16 rifles to the military.
The late 1980’s would see AR-15 Rifle patents expire, and a weapons manufacturer known as Eagle Arms begin to produce complete AR-15 rifles for the everyday consumer. Colt would make a reemergence in the late 1990s and attain another contract to supply the military with M-16 rifles. The 21st century would see some of the most heated debates surrounding the AR-15 and its uses for civilian life. It continues to be one of the most popular rifle platforms ever created, though some current progressive liberal and unconstitutional legislation would halt its production and sales in certain models and calibers. Even though liberal anti-gun politicians continue to try to outlaw them, there has only been an increase in the amount of AR-15s for sale. The AR-15 has been, and will continue to be, a highly sought-after weapon, though it is uncertain what government officials will try to mandate (if anything) in its future. To find out more information regarding purchasing, owning, or operating an AR-15, check with a trusted retailer.
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