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What happened to the AR-18?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Balrog, Mar 24, 2019.

  1. Balrog

    Balrog Member

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    As I understand it, the AR-18 was developed after the AR-15. The AR-19 was piston operated not directed impingement and from reading about it, seems superior to the AR-15 in some aspects. Why did the AR-18 not catch on? If it was reintroduced now, would be it be a hit or a flop?
     
  2. rbernie
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    rbernie Member

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    https://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2018/8/9/a-look-back-at-the-armalite-ar-18180/

    You can still find them on Gunbroker and similar. I've come close to buying one several times, but the aftermarket for them is / was sufficiently constrained that I passed.
     
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  3. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    Piston AR's offer no advantage for added complexity and reciprocating weight and lower firing rate and can harm accuracy. Operating rods are weak points on some rifles. That's why AR's don't have them in the first place. Some folks add them, I think they still sell piston AR's, just because some folks think they are better. Just another myth that is slowly dying.
    The AR 18 never proved itself superior in any meaningful way. I think it was in part a good idea but too late and too many issues and mistakes. The very issues that the AR solved by not having an operating rod came back in the 18.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  4. gotboostvr

    gotboostvr Member

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    The AR-180's were pretty popular in Ireland once upon a time.

    Even inspired a song "Little Armalite"
     
  5. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

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    They are not just "a piston AR", they are different in many ways.

     
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  6. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    Interesting that you bring this up. I have two AR-180's, that I bought new back in the day, and so I may be in a position to comment.

    The AR-18 was designed as a lower-cost alternative to the AR-15, using stamped-and-welded sheet metal instead of forgings. The idea was to sell to third-world countries which couldn't afford AR-15's for their militaries. The obvious roadblock there was that the Soviets were practically giving away AK's to those countries at the time. The effort to sell the AR-18 overseas ultimately failed.

    Armalite's opening to the U.S. civilian market came circa 1970, when Colt temporarily pulled the AR-15 off the market to address the hammer follow-down issue. (Removal of the disconnector could result in sporadic automatic fire.) During that hiatus, Armalite had some success selling the semiautomatic version of the AR-18, the AR-180. When the AR-15 returned, sales of the AR-180 dropped off.

    There were three manufacturers of the AR-180: the original Costa Mesa,California, plant, Howa in Japan, and Sterling in England. Of the three, Sterlings are the most common and also the worst in quality. I have a Costa Mesa and a Howa, but I refused to buy a Sterling (at the time) because of the dropoff in quality.

    Overall, the stamped-and-welded AR-180 is inferior to the AR-15. Especially now, with AR-15 prices being so low, it's hard to see how a reintroduced AR-180 could compete.

    The main advantage of the AR-180, as I see it, is that the bolt carrier and the buffering mechanism are entirely contained within the receiver, and this allows for the folding buttstock. The piston mechanism may or may not be an advantage. On the minus side, magazines are proprietary. Standard AR magazines can be modified to work, but this is a kludge. (I have to say that Sterling did make some good dual-use steel magazines. Their 40-rounders are some of the few 40-rounders that function reliably. You would have to pay at least $100 for a Sterling 40-round magazine, if you could find one.) Also, the bolt catch is fragile. If it breaks, it's almost impossible to find a replacement.

    If you want a piston-operated gun, with a folding stock, that takes standard magazines, the Korean Daewoo K2 is what you should get. However, one that I saw this weekend at a gun show had an asking price of $2,500.

    If someone wants to re-introduce a retro design, they would do better to bring back the Daewoo than the AR-180.

    ETA: The AR-180 has a unique dovetail mount for a scope spot-welded on the top of the receiver. (On my Howa, this is misaligned so as to be unusable.) This was originally for a dedicated scope with an integral mount, similar to the original handle-mounted 3- or 4-power scopes for the AR-15. Aftermarket rails are now made that mount on that dovetail.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
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  7. MTMilitiaman

    MTMilitiaman Member

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    The AR-18's biggest feature may be its contribution to other designs. Apparently many of the short piston designs borrow heavily from the AR-18, notably the G36.

    Also Brownells just introduced a modernized AR-180 upper that fits on a standard AR-15 lower.
     
  8. Mosin Bubba

    Mosin Bubba Member

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    The AR-18 was almost as forward-thinking of a design as the AR-15 IMO, but it just never got the institutional adoption its predecessor did. As other posters have said, Armalite tried to beat the AK at its own game and it didn't go great.

    That being said, a lot of people were taking notes on it. The top is a SCAR rifle bolt, the bottom is the AR-18. See a little resemblance...

    hSQBtf9.png

    And this is the G36 bolt group as well.
    SL-8Bolt.jpg

    And if you go back to the future to the old XM8s, this is what their bolts look like. Look center of the picture, just above the lower and pistol grip.

    XM83.jpg

    So any time you see a "new assault rifle, best of the AR and the AK, fit for the 21st century tactical operating warfighter!" - chances are it's just an AR18 with a bunch of plastic.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  9. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

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    I owned an AR-180B for a while, this took regular STANAG mags (AR mags), and functioned quite reliably. The AR-18/180/180B is basically a pencil barreled 20" AR, and shot as such. It is a perfectly capable rifle, but not necessarily anything that is today revolutionary.
     
  10. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    The AR-18 piston design is an almost direct copy of the SVT 40 and Gew 43.
     
  11. carbine85

    carbine85 Member

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    A lot of what you said can be disputed easily. Armed forces around the world are switching to piston AR platforms.
    I personally prefer the DI step up but piston systems have been the preferred system in a lot of platforms for a long time.
    As far as the AR18 /180 goes, it probably has the most copied piston and bolt carrier group out there.
    The AR18 suffered from bad timing issues and was never awarded any major contracts. Broken hammers and bolt hold catches could have been easily fixed but the lack of contracts didn't warrant the upgrades.
    I bought mine around 1980 and still have it. I just can't let go. It's ugly but I love it.
     
  12. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Had one. [​IMG]
     
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  13. entropy

    entropy Member

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    They're (almost) all rusting in barns in Ireland.;)
     
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  14. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    Eagle, after buyingthe ArmaLite trademark released a version of the AR-18 which it labeled the AR-18A, and AR-18B. Because of the timing (just at/during the FedAWB) it had no folding stock, nor provision to add one. The AR-18B was modified to accept AR mags.
    Sales were flat after the floodgates opened in 2004.

    The stamped, simple spring version is not as simple and elegant as an AR-15, despite weights being similar.

    The very real problem was that, by '04, the whole "lego" thing was expected out of MSR/EBR, and that was not a feature the '18 was designed around.
     
  15. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    BTW, the AR-18 was developed from an earlier prototype designated the AR-16 (not to be confused with the M16), which was basically the same design as the AR-18 in .308 NATO. As with the AR-10, Stoner preferred the .308 chambering over .223 and that may be why the company started there.

    The old Profile Publications series gave a brief rundown of the entire Armalite product line in their Small Arms Profile #22 in 1973.

    https://www.amazon.com/Armalite-Wea...file&qid=1553476861&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2019
  16. bds

    bds Member

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    I am surprised set up like Daewoo K2 (AR lower, AK upper) did not proliferate further ... Until SCAR.

     
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  17. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    If I could find more Daewoo K2's at a reasonable price, I would buy them. I can't say the same about the AR-180.
     
  18. greyling22

    greyling22 Member

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  19. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    I had one that I traded for a Springfield Armory TRP operator plus the guy threw in $500. They are not accessory friendly, they are a flimsy design, there are no spare/aftermarket parts available, and mags are difficult to source unless you modify AR15 mags. They were reintroduced some years ago in a slightly different design that used AR15 mags (AR!*)B) and flopped.
     
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  20. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    I was going to say this. If you pick one up next to an AR-15, it just feels flimsy. One reason they didn't do well, in pre-adoption tests by foreign countries, is that they tended to beat themselves to death on full automatic.

    The Brownells attempt to introduce an AR-180 lookalike upper doesn't make much sense, considering that for the price you could have a complete AR-15.

    NoDak Spud, likewise, is making a replacement lower receiver (presumably for the AR-180B) out of billet aluminum, with fake spot welds. Again, this doesn't seem to make much sense. (I guess you might be interested in this if you have an AR-180B with a broken polymer lower, that otherwise couldn't be rescued.)

    The attempts to resurrect the AR-180 remind me of the attempts to build a new Titanic. The required/desired changes make it too unlike the original. And ultimately there's not a lot of underlying demand.
     
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  21. kBob

    kBob Member

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    In the late 1970s a couple of Police magazines thought highly of the AR-180 even the Sterling ones. They had side by side test that showed them more accurate at 100 meters than the AR 15 and M16A1 available at that time with its pencil barrel.

    Mine bought at that time never got its dedicated scope but I scoped it with a Bushnell 3x9 on the one inch scope mount then available. It was low enough that I had little difficulty using the scope and high enough to see under and use the irons. I soon replaced the Bushnell with an unpowered Single Point and later a Beta Light (H3 Tritium) light source now long since to weak to light things up. Interestingly about a year after I got the unpowered Single Point and made a light source for it I got access to the Prison Camp raid then classified videos ( my job in the service then had a need to know) and found that Ft. Bragg and I had much the same Idea....but mine was better even if it did not involve Hunnered Mile an Hour Tape.

    During my brief stint working for the Worst of the Gun Rags I got about a half hour interview via phone with Burt Miller and we had a nice talk abut the AR-18 and AR-16. He laughed when I said I wanted an AR-16 and said basically "So you're the one?" He said that light weight and thin butt plate on the folder about beat him to death when ever he demonstrated it and that the wider wood butted fixed stock model was marginally better but that the short 7.62 NATO barrel was a teeth rattler....something I think about when looking longingly at the PSA AR10 18 inch kits.

    He thought the AR18 SMG was fun though when set up with the wire stock a bit rough on the shoulder.

    Coming off three years with the M16A1 day in and day out in those bad old petroleum lubricants only days and ammo of questionable powder I really LIKED a rifle that did not fill its chamber area with boiling hot crud with each shot and was astounded that I had no feed issues the first six months, at all. Of course by then the main fault of the Sterling guns showed up and the hammer pin walked out of one side of the receiver.

    I suggested to my smith we make over length pins and c ring them but he thought peening the actual pins would work as well. No one was offering the long pins and Crings in 1978 to my knowledge though I understand they were factory issue soon afterwards. Mean while my center punched peened pins are to this day still in place and I just never actually take apart the trigger group....thus pipe cleaners and Q tips were invented. Along about 2000 or so I had the gun apart and the ball detent and spring in the take down pin took off for parts un known. Like NO ONE had a replacement. Remember those adaptor pins for Colt Sporter Lowers to Use Mil Spec uppers? Turns out the center pin of that fits just fine and as with the SP1 with upgraded upper the little lock works just fine.

    Only issue I have had has been magazines and once I find one that works I keep it. Mine are mostly GI M16A1 mags with AR18 mag cut and some flattening of the AR mag stop. For a bit until the plastic got old I had some of the RamLine Triple Threats that actually did work in the AR15, AR18, and Mini 14. It was fun to have all three rifles at the range and let people talk about mag issues and then run each on the same mags! Main reason I used GI mags was I like 20 (18 and don't tell me how well they work fully loaded) rounders and few AR18 ones were out there. Shoot for a bit about all I could find were 40s! Silliness.

    I once got to shoot my AR-180 along side a Daewoo and a Leder and while both the Pacific guns seemed sturdier still liked my Sterling best

    Yes next to the bed today sits a 16 inch barreled M Forgery Middy. But that is not the M16A1 of the late 1960s through early 1980s, it is not lubed with LSA or PL Special and it does not have Vietnam "Error" US M193 ball in it....and has a red dot on its flat top. Still 20 round mag though....

    Simply put I can replace the PSA AR15 kit gun more than twice ( just checked on line make that three times) what it would cost me to replace the AR-180 and AR 180 parts are not to be found so Ms. Sterling only comes out to play these days and leaves the drudge work to younger folks.

    -kBob
     
  22. kBob

    kBob Member

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    Oh yeah myself and two buddies had Sterlings and a forth had a Cosa Mesa (what got the rest of us interested). All four of us had paid experience with the M16A1 and wanted something else and at the time that pretty much meant an AR-180 or a Mini. I had a Mini and it was fun but.....

    So we all got AR-180s. Once Marine Buddy made O4 it occurred to him he would be unlikely to need a rifle much and like a line in an excellent movie "If I need and M16 there will be plenty laying around" So he traded his to an enlisted friend on a Recon Team for a Winchester 52C to teach his kids to shoot with. Recon guy reported back in a year that the AR-180 had done well by him and his team and drew oos and ahs from allied folks around the Med

    West Pointer got out and got hungry and his AR-180 left the building in the late 1980s to help fund Cancer research as it were...did not work and we miss him.

    Zoomie still has his Howa after the full slam and comfy O6 retirement....but has gone uber cheap on the day to day bed side mouse gun with a light and scope mounted KelTec

    My AR-180 would likely be one of my last center fire rifles to go while I am alive (memories don'cha know) and after I am gone perhaps the first to go to pay some bills because it would bring fast cash most places.

    -kBob
     
  23. Iggy

    Iggy Member

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    One rode under the head rests in my Patrol car for 10 years, then in gun rack in my pickup on the ranch for 20 years.. It's still loaded and standing behind the door in my house in town.
     
  24. shoobe01

    shoobe01 Member

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    Mosin Bubba got it. The AR18 is the father or grandfather of practically everything that isn't Russian or is a 100% clone of an AR15. SA80, G36, SAR80, SR88, CZ805, SAR21, MSBS, Rem ACR, FN F2000, Howa Type 89, QBZ03, B&T APC, and more I am sure I forgot. It influenced the design of another half dozen I can think of, which use long-stroke pistons or have way more bolt mass forward, like the QBZ95, VHS, or SCAR!

    Here's a photo of just four different guns' bolt carrier assemblies
    AAA-SAP_bolt_004.jpg

    It was, in a pretty solid sense, hilariously successful. These guns are issued to a hell of a lot of people. The basic rectangular bolt carrier on two rails with a round rotating bolt at the bottom, is gonna be a core design for centuries. It solves so many problems of design, and manufacturing and leaves room to tweak the gun to work well.

    Sad I no longer own my Howa. Never figured out why the AR180B was so badly done, or why no one ever made a more straight up 180 clone these days.
     
  25. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    The AR-180B wasn't really badly done, they're done about as well as could be expected given the laws at the time and the price point.

    The only weakness was they did not beef-up the front pivot.

    A straight up copy of the AR18 would be prohibitively expensive, unless you could guarantee an order of a few hundred thousands.
     
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