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ArmaLite AR-18

Automatic Rifle

United States | 1969

"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 | Last Edited: 05/09/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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The physical qualities of the ArmaLite AR-18. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
940 mm
37.01 in
O/A Length
457 mm
17.99 in
Barrel Length
6.61 lb
3.00 kg
Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt; Short-Stroke Piston
5.56x45mm NATO
20-, 30- or 40-round detachable box magazine
Iron; Optional Optics.
Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the ArmaLite AR-18. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
3,250 ft/sec
991 m/sec
Muzzle Velocity
Notable series variants as part of the ArmaLite AR-18 Automatic Rifle family line.
AR-18 - Base Production Model.
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.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the ArmaLite AR-18. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Armalite - USA / HOWA Machinery Company - Japan / Sterling Armament Company - UK
National flag of Australia National flag of Ireland National flag of modern Japan National flag of Singapore National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States

[ Australia; Botswana; Haiti; Ireland; Japan; Singapore; Swaziland; United Kingdom; United States ]
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Image of the ArmaLite AR-18
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Image of the ArmaLite AR-18
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Image of the ArmaLite AR-18
Side profile view of the Armalite AR-18 automatic rifle.
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Image of the ArmaLite AR-18
Bodyguard armed with an Armalite AR-18 automatic rifle; note foregrip and scope attachment.

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The ArmaLite AR-18 Automatic Rifle appears in the following collections:
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