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ArmaLite AR-18

Automatic Rifle

The Armalite AR-18 was a complete redesign of the classic AR-15 automatic rifle and meant for simplified Third World license production methods.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/9/2019
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Year: 1969
Manufacturer(s): Armalite - USA / HOWA Machinery Company - Japan / Sterling Armament Company - UK
Roles: Frontline/Assault;
Action: Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt; Short-Stroke Piston
Caliber(s): 5.56x45mm NATO
Sights: Iron; Optional Optics.
Overall Length: 940 mm (37.01 in)
Barrel Length: 457 mm (17.99 in)
Weight (Unloaded): 6.61 lb (3.00 kg)
Muzzle Velocity: 3,250 feet-per-second (991 meters-per-second)
Rate-of-Fire: 700 rounds-per-minute
Operators: Australia; Botswana; Haiti; Ireland; Japan; Singapore; Swaziland; United Kingdom; United States
With Eugene Stoner's AR-15 rifle design firmly entrenched as the M16 under production by Colt, his Armalite firm turned to the design and production of a similar yet simplified version of their AR-15 design, moreso to license this version out for production in Third World markets. As the base AR-15 proved to be too difficult to manufacturer without the need for complex production facilities (it relied on aluminum forgings in its construction), the AR-18 was to be the "budget" assault rifle alternative in a market where the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge was becoming as readily-available as the 7.62x51mm NATO type.

The gas-operated AR-18, looking every bit like its AR-15/M16 cousin, was produced with simplicity in mind utilizing plastic components and steel metal pressings throughout. Along with this cost-cutting approach, general operation of the weapon was kept to minimal expectations resulting in a reliable weapons system that was easy to maintain. The AR-18 was chambered to fire the 5.56x45mm cartridge and came with a foldable plastic butt. Magazines were also offered in 20-, 30- and 40-round counts with the system reporting a cyclic rate of fire of 700-800 rounds-per-minute.

As the United States military had already settled on the M-16 (AR-15) as its primary assault rifle, this left the AR-18 to attempt to find success on the global stage. The rifle would find a market niche through the UK-based Sterling Armaments concern and net its first quantitative sale. From then on, more foreign outlets began producing the system in more localized forms ensuring that the AR-18 would live on with various forces around the world.

AR-18 manufacturing spanned from 1969 to 1978. Armalite brought the AR-18 back into the fold in 2002 under the designation of AR-180B.

Variants / Models

• AR-18 - Base Production Model.
• AR-18S
• AR-180 - Semi-Automatic Model.
• AR-180B - Updated AR-180 model appearing in 2002.
• SAR-87 - British produced variant.
• SAR-80 - Singaporean produced variant.
• HOWA Type 89 - Japanese produced variant.
• SA-80 - British produced variant; bullpup configuration.
• Bushmaster M17S - American produced variant; bullpup configuration.
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