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GUNS Magazine September 2009 - Page 44

ith a history of impressive design innovation, ArmaLite has succeeded in matching their rugged AR-10 platform with Federal’s versatile .338 Federal cartridge. The resulting combination gives the hunter a refined, big-bore AR with sufficient power and accuracy to handle just about any big game anywhere in the world. So move aside you little AR-15 whimp. Your famous father in 8.58mm has just rolled into town. Stretched across the cover of the March 1957 issue of GUNS was a rifle unlike any ever seen before. To most readers, it was right out of the era’s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comic books. That GUNS cover and the accompanying story was the first look most of us had at the revolutionary, new AR-10. It somewhat reminded us of a German Fallschirmjager Gewehr FG42 crossed with a Johnson light machinegun. Little did we know then it would eventually morph into the AR-15/M16. At the conclusion of WWII, the US retained a Belgium arms dealer, J.S. Michault, to rearm the German Border Police. Michault became intrigued by Germany’s development of advanced small arms late in the war, like the StG 44 “Sturmgewehr” and others, extensively using stampings and lightweight alloys. One of Michault’s acquaintances was an American engineer, George Sullivan, who worked for Lockheed Aircraft and was well versed in the application of highstrength plastics, fiberglass and non-ferrous alloys to aircraft fabrication. Together, Sullivan and Michault brainstormed the idea of designing and manufacturing technologically advanced arms, using modern materials and production processes. By 1952, the partners had set up a machine shop in Hollywood, California, to begin the development of the prototypes of their dreams. The following year, Sullivan met with another gun enthusiast, George Boutelle, President of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corp. Boutelle was looking for ways to diversify Fairchild and convinced his board to underwrite ArmaLite as a Division of Fairchild in 1954. Shortly thereafter, Eugene Stoner, an W Holt Bodinson Photos: Robbie Barrkman The AR-10 (T) in .338 Federal comes without iron sights, but with a Picatinny rail installed. As befits its hunting purpose, a 5-shot magazine is provided. Higher capacity mags are available should you want this rifle to double for self-defense. ordnance expert and designer, was hired as ArmaLite’s Chief Engineer as well as Melvin Johnson, designer of the Johnson M1941 rifle and light machinegun, as a consultant and publicist. ArmaLite introduced the familiar “AR” designation for each of its prototype designs. It wasn’t long before the essential elements of ArmaLite’s design philosophy came together in the bolt action AR-1. The AR-1 was conceived as a lightweight, sniper or hunting rifle in 7.62 NATO featuring an aluminum receiver, an aluminum barrel shroud encompassing a steel barrel liner and barrel extension into which the bolt lugs locked and a foam-filled fiberglass stock. With a scope, the overall package weighed a mere 6 pounds. The AR-1 proved to have no commercial or military viability It was ArmaLite’s takedown, AR-5 “Survival Rifle” in .22 Hornet that put the company on the map for future military procurements. Fairfield president, Boutelle, was encouraged by his friend, USAF General Curtis LeMay, to cook up a new survival rifle for the Air Force. In concept, the resulting AR-5 strongly resembles the now familiar AR-7 Explorer .22 LR survival rifle (see “Rimfire”). In both designs, the lightweight barrel, action and magazine are stowed inside their large, fiberglass stock with the total package weighing only 2-1/2 pounds. The AR-5 was adopted by the USAF in 1956 as the MA-1 but soon thereafter the contract was cancelled while the AR-7 remains in production today by Henry Repeating Arms. Stoner’s AR-10 prototypes in 7.62 NATO begin appearing in 1955. From the March, 1957 issue of GUNS, those prototypes are pictured here sequentially on the pegboard wall beside a smiling Stoner. Note that the first prototype at the top is fitted with a set of sights from the Johnson light machinegun. Note also Stoner’s AR-10 design uses a multi-lugged, rotating bolt locking into a steel barrel extension just like the earlier Johnson semi-auto rifle and LMG. Also note the absolutely straight, inline design 44 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER 2009

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