AR-180 questions


October 31, 2007, 10:37 AM
I'm interested in acquiring an original Armalite AR-180 rifle. It appears the Costa Mesa rifles command a bit of a premium over the Sterling or Howa versions. Is one particularly better than the other? Are the barrels and chambers on these guns chrome lined?

Lastly, I think I know the answer to this question but.......what is parts availability like? I was looking at Numrich's site and it looks like most of the critical parts are out of stock. Is parts availability as bad as I suspect?

If I buy one of these rifles it will mostly be a safe queen and might get shot once every 6 months or so. Even though it won't get shot a ton, it would be nice to know that parts are at least obtainable if something breaks.

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October 31, 2007, 12:26 PM
Much fewer Cosa Mesa guns were made adn they were made first and in the USA.

Some of the early Sterling imports to the US had problems with the pins that hold the tigger mechanism in place "walking" out one side or the other. Later guns hace little "C-clips" on longer hammer and trigger pins to avoid this problem. Using a center punch to peen the shorter pins on the early guns tends to work, if you don't mind never taking out the hammer and trigger.

I have no idea if the barrels one each or any model are chromed or not.

At one point there was one old guy out west that had basicaly cornered the market on AR-180 parts.

WHen the AR-180 was fairly new a number of Police agences tested it alongside the COlt Sporter 1 (what was available) and many found the -180 better than the old early AR Sporters. Time went on and ARs saw much more development and the AR-180 just drifted from maker to maker and morphed into worse guns than the original (like the Austrailian Leader, Chartered Arms of Singapore rifle and such)

I used a Sterling made AR-180 in my two last club "tactical shoots" and to take Bill Jeans' Morrigan Counsulting's three day ( one night) Carbine Operator Class. The only issues I had were in using "home made" magazines converted from AR15 mags and a set of three ancient Ramline three ways (when bought they could be used in AR-15s, AR-180s, and Mini-14s but age takes it toll on plastic). No failures after lunch the first day when I changed to purpose built AR-180 mags for the rest of the course. One of the great things about taking such a course is wringing out your rifle and showing you its problems and showing you some of your notions may well be the sort of thing best spread around the roses.

-Bob Hollingsworth

October 31, 2007, 03:02 PM
The Japanese manufactured Howa AR-180s are generally considered to be the nicest of the lot. The earlier manufactured (produced earlier in time than any of the other versions) American made Costa Mesa rifles are a close second (and they are rarer).

The last-produced British manufactured Sterling AR-180s are the roughest of the three, with a fair amount of variability in 'quality' over the production run. The Sterling guns are also the most common, with many more manufactured than either of the other two 'versions.'

I have a relatively early Sterling AR-180, SN 154xx, and it's one of the nicer Sterling guns that I've seen. I've been very happy with it.

In spite of my comments about UK manufacture of the AR-180, they are generally still quite good guns.

Some parts are available for the AR-180, probably coming from that old-guy-out-west's stash. I haven't looked for parts availability information in a long time. Then again, I've never needed a part. But I do like to keep spares for some things.

The original 20rd mags that came with the Sterling AR-180 rifles were covered with a very glossy black paint, and the magazines were manufactured from a very soft aluminum. They worked well, but wore rapidly.

Thermold also manufactued a 30rd synthetic magazine for the AR-180 that usually worked reasonably well.

Several manufacturers offered magazines that fit the AR-180, with differing levels of reliability. Many decades ago, I purchased ten steel 30rd magazines (parkerized) that were cut for both the AR-180 and the AR-15 (but without the bulge in the side near the AR-15 latch-cut in the magazine). These magazines have always functioned flawlessly in both guns. I have no idea who made the mags, as they are unmarked. They still work perfectly after all these years.

I also have some of the Ramline 3-in-one plastic magazines mentioned by kBob. The somewhat flimsy plastic has held up better than I originally expected. The plastic is flexible enough that the feed lips can spread apart when the magazine is fully loaded, consequently, I don't load them to their capacity most of the time. I have found the Ramline mags to be excellent performers in the Mini-14 and the AR-15. They don't work for crap in my AR-180, with constant feeding problems.

Since the production of the AR-180 was relatively small and since the AR-180 was touted as a perfect light assault weapon for survivalists (and it is) back in the 1970s, many of the AR-180s have seen quite heavy use and are in less than sterling (:)) condition.

If you can find any of the three in decent condition and for a decent price, snap it up...

Good luck..


October 31, 2007, 03:25 PM
Thanks for the info guys. This is the kind of stuff I'm looking for. :)

I would like to find the right price on a Costa Mesa gun, simply because being a native southern Californian I'm very familiar with Costa Mesa and the Orange County area. For purely sentimental reasons it would be nice to have a gun that was manufactured in California. It was a different time in California before things swung so drastically to the left. :barf:

I guess the only question that remains is whether the barrels are chrome lined or not?

Bartholomew Roberts
October 31, 2007, 04:13 PM
Only had experience with a Sterling AR-180; but the folding stock had a lot of wobble to it even when extended and the forearm heated up rapidly. Otherwise a very likeable gun...

Anyone know if Armalite has ditched the original proprietary scope mount on the AR-180B and replaced it with a picatinny rail?

October 31, 2007, 08:05 PM
They produced some prototypes with a rail that I saw at the Last Shot show here in Las Vegas. I gather that the response was not favorable (I know my and my friends wasn’t).

A much better answer IMHO is to go with a rail that fits the original mount and is detachable and swappable with another sighting system.

They are available from Stormwewerkz.

October 31, 2007, 08:34 PM
The early Armalite Inc. AR-180B that I have (purchased in late 2002) has the original type of scope mount...

The Sterling manufactured AR-180 did not have a chromed bore. I'm assuming that none of the AR-180s had chromes bores, but I have assumed wrong before :).


wayne in boca
November 1, 2007, 05:03 AM
I just looked down the bore of my Costa Mesa AR180,and it does not appear to be chrome lined.But I'm old and blind.

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