There’s a reason why the AR-15 is deemed “America’s rifle”—one out of every five firearms purchased in the country is an AR-style rifle. This is the main reason that the AR-15 is Amercas Rifle. The development of the gun was a pivotal moment in American firearm history, and it’s since captured the hearts and minds of gun enthusiasts for almost 60 years now.
While the semi-automatic weapon was originally designed as a military weapon, it has now found a prominent spot in the civilian market. With its sleek design, customizable features, and versatile use, it remains one of the most popular rifles in the country.
Its history is full of twists and turns—from its development in the late 1950s to its deployment in the Vietnam War—and now its overwhelming popularity in the modern era. The AR-15’s design underwent various changes and modifications to meet the changing demands of soldiers and civilians alike. Due to this, it has continued to rise in popularity and remains the go-to rifle for many gun enthusiasts.
If you want to explore AR-15 history, parts, and upgrades, this guide is for you. We’ll explore the evolution of the AR-15, tracing its development from the early days to its current form. Then, we’ll explore the technical details, design features, and the factors that prompted its use.
The AR-15 rifle holds a special place in the hearts of firearm enthusiasts worldwide. From its humble beginnings in the 1960s, this firearm has come a long way. The AR-15 is evolving into one of the most popular rifle in America today.
Additionally, many misunderstand the true beginnings of the AR-15 gun. For example, did you know that the AR doesn’t stand for “assault rifle” or even “automatic rifle?” Instead, it stands for ArmaLite Rifle (ArmaLite being the original gun manufacturer).
For more interesting firearm history, let’s dive into AR-15 history, from the initial birth of the AR-15 gun to modern-day iterations of the original design.
The Birth of the AR-15
The story of the AR-15 begins with Eugene Stoner, an American firearms engineer who designed the rifle in the late 1950s. Stoner developed the AR-15 rifle for the ArmaLite division of the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation. ArmaLite designed it as a small arms solution for the US military. It was searching for a lightweight and versatile firearm that could easily replace the M1 Garand.
Stoner’s design incorporated several cutting-edge features. It was chambered in a 7.62x51mm NATO originally. However, when submitted to the military for review, they requested a downsized version, which was ultimately chambered for the revolutionary 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. This provided excellent stopping power despite its small size.
The gun was also built with high-quality materials, including an aircraft-grade aluminum receiver, making it significantly lighter than the M1. While they initially designed it for military operations, the company had little success, and in 1959, they sold the design to Colt.
Gun History Fact: The first AR-15 guns were sold by Colt to the Federation of Malaya.
The AR-15 Goes to War
One of the key innovations of the AR-15 was its use of lightweight materials like aluminum and plastics. This made it possible to create a rifle that was both lightweight and durable, with a high rate of fire. Many military officials were skeptical of the new design at the time, but others recognized its potential and pushed for its adoption.
Although the US military did not immediately adopt the AR-15, it saw action on the battlefield soon after its development. In the early 1960s, the United States Air Force commissioned 8,500 AR-15 guns for Air Force use.
In 1963, the US military selected Colt to manufacture the automatic rifle that soon became a standard issue for troops, and a few were even sent for use in the Vietnam War. You’re likely familiar with the model, as it was the well-known M-16.
The Rise of the Civilian AR-15
As mentioned, in 1959, Colt acquired the rights to the AR-15 design. In 1963, they began producing a semi-automatic civilian AR-15 for the civilian market. Civilian models of the AR-15 were marketed under the name “Colt AR-15 Sporter” in .223 Remington with five-round magazines. Due to its pure power, it quickly gained popularity among civilian shooters.
Over the years, AR-15s have become increasingly modular, allowing shooters to easily modify and customize their firearms for their specific needs. These customizations included adding accessories like red dot sights, foregrips, and detachable magazines.
The AR-15 Today
AR-15 history is rich, but what’s most impressive as it relates to firearm history is that today, the AR-15 rifle is still one of the most popular firearms in America. It is prized for its versatility, reliability, and accuracy and remains a favorite among gun enthusiasts and hobbyists.
The modern AR-15 has come a long way since Eugene Stoner’s original design, and today, major manufacturers like Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger continue to expand upon what is now affectionately referred to as “America’s Rifle.”
If you’re a firearm enthusiast, simply learning about gun history related to AR-15s might not be enough. As you can see, this firearm has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 1950s.
Today, various AR-15 parts can make your shooting experience all the more enjoyable and personalized. With so many configurations and add-ons available, it’s no wonder the AR-15 has been a favorite among gun enthusiasts for so long.
AR-15 Upper Receivers
An AR upper receiver is part of the AR-15 that contains the barrel, bolt carrier group, and other essential components. Many types of upper receivers are available, but two of the most popular options are flat top and carry handle uppers.
Flat-top uppers are equipped with a Picatinny rail, which allows you to install a wide range of optics and other accessories. If you want to add a red-dot sight, a magnified scope, or any other type of optic to your AR-15, a flat top upper is the way to go.
Carry handle uppers, on the other hand, feature a fixed rear sight assembly on the top. This can be a great option if you prefer to use iron sights and don’t want to invest in a separate optic. Remember, though, that carry handle uppers are not as customizable as flat-top uppers—if you want to add an optic down the line, you’ll need to swap out your upper receiver for a different version.
Another important consideration when choosing an AR-15 upper receiver is the A1, A2, A3, and A4 designations. These terms refer to different generations of upper receivers, with the main difference being whether or not the receiver has a permanently attached carry handle.
An A1 or A2 upper will feature a fixed carry handle, which can limit your customization options. An A3 upper will have a removable carry handle but will still have a built-in rear sight assembly. The A4 receiver is the only flat-top version, so you can easily install any type of optic you want without needing an adapter.
If you’re looking for a high-quality AR-15 upper receiver, you might want to consider a Daniel Defense upper. This brand is known for its precision engineering and attention to detail, and its uppers are among the best in the industry.
The lower receiver is the part of the AR-15 that contains the trigger, magazine, and other important components. While it might not get as much attention as the upper receiver, the lower is still a critical part of the rifle.
Regarding AR-15 lowers, there are two main options: stripped and complete (although it’s worth mentioning there are other types too, we just don’t have space to dive into the specifics).
A stripped lower is exactly what it sounds like—an empty lower receiver without any internal parts installed. This option is ideal if you’re building your AR-15 from scratch and want to customize every aspect of the rifle fully.
On the other hand, a complete lower comes with all of the internal parts already installed. This option can be a great choice if you’re looking for an easy way to upgrade your existing AR-15 or if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to build a new rifle.
One of the best things about the AR-15 platform is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can customize it to suit your needs. If you’re interested in adding an optic to your AR-15, there is a wide range of options available, including:
- Red-dot sights
- Magnified scopes
- Holographic sights
When choosing AR-15 optics, there are a few key factors to consider, including the type of shooting you’ll be doing, the range you’ll be shooting at, and your preferences. For example, If you plan to shoot at longer ranges, you might want to choose a magnified scope. A red-dot sight might be better if you want a faster, more streamlined option.
Finally, no breakdown of AR-15 parts would be complete without talking about AR-15 accessories. This category encompasses a wide range of products, including:
Some accessories, like magazines, are essential components of the rifle. Others, like slings and bipods, can be great tools for improving your accuracy and stability. Accessory pieces such as foregrips and other attachment points, are all about customization and personalization.
Since its inception in the late 1950s, the AR-15 has undergone significant transformations to become one of the most versatile and customizable rifle platforms to ever exist. The rifle’s original design was a thing of beauty, but the ability to modify it with aftermarket parts and accessories has made it even better.
One of the most popular AR-15 upgrades is the handguard. The handguard is part of the rifle located at the forestock and is used to protect the shooter’s hand from the barrel-generated heat. With the introduction of modular handguards, AR-15 owners can easily upgrade or swap out the handguard to fit their specific needs.
The AR-15 trigger is one of the easiest parts to upgrade. Plus, a good trigger can take your shooting to the next level. Aftermarket triggers come in various pull weights, shapes, and materials and can significantly reduce the trigger pull and improve accuracy.
BCGs (Bolt Carrier Groups) are another popular upgrade for AR-15 enthusiasts. BCGs consist of the bolt carrier, bolt, extractor, and firing pin, and they’re responsible for feeding, firing, and extracting rounds from the rifle. An upgraded BCG as part of general AR-15 upgrades can:
- Increase reliability
- Reduce recoil
- Improve overall performance
Finally, the gas block is the part of the AR-15 responsible for managing the pressure that propels the bullet out of the barrel. Upgrading the gas block can significantly improve the efficiency of the rifle’s gas system. This should lead to less recoil and a better overall shooting experience.
If you know your gun history, you’ll know there have been comparisons between the AR-15 and AK-47 for decades. Most notably, people claim AR-15 maintenance is much more difficult than the AK-47. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, when it comes to the AR-15, proper firearm maintenance is crucial.
First and foremost, always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and firearm maintenance guidelines. This will help prevent malfunctions and prolong the life of your firearm. A few key areas to pay attention to during your cleaning routine include the barrel, bolt carrier, and trigger groups.
Regularly inspect your AR-15 for any signs of wear or damage. This can include checking for loose or worn-out parts and ensuring your firearm is properly lubricated. Remember to always follow safety precautions during AR-15 maintenance, including properly storing your firearm when not used.
For those who use their AR-15 regularly, it’s recommended to perform firearm maintenance after every use. This helps to maintain the accuracy and reliability of your firearm.
Gun History: Looking Toward the Future
Exploring AR-15 history doesn’t feel right without talking about what the future holds for this iconic firearm. What’s in store for the AR-15?
As you likely know, one potential change in the industry is the push for stricter gun laws. This may lead to limitations on sales and ownership of the AR-15. However, this could also lead to new technologies that make the rifle safer and even more secure.
Another possibility is the advancement of modular designs. This allows for easier customization and personalization of the firearm. We may see more manufacturers embracing this trend, allowing for more consumer options. We could also see improvements regarding portability and reliability, making it even more versatile in different scenarios.
Overall, the future of the AR-15 is uncertain but exciting. To stay up to date on more AR-15 news, check out our other blog articles. Or, start browsing our firearms to find your next setup.