European AR-15 rifles

Recently two European firms, Hera Arms in Germany and Astra Arms in Switzerland, have entered the AR-15 market. I have been told that US Department of State export regulations have made it increasingly hard to import firearms from the US. Even Canadians have problems getting certain types of AR-15 rifles across the border and so have resorted to importing AR-15s from China.

Hera Arms AR-15 prototype. Copyright REMOV
Astra Arms STG4 Carbine

[ Many thanks to REMOV and Saburo for sending me info and photos. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • First, I’m not currently living in Canada so I’m not 100% on this but I don’t know how difficult it is to get any AR15 in Canada. They don’t allow short barreled rifles but as long as the rifle is within the legal length, it’s not a problem as far as I know.

    Norinco and other foreign makers are able to sell to the Canadian population because they have no laws prohibiting foreign arms (unlike the US). I don’t think it’s any easier or harder for Canadians to get a Norinco AR over something else. The magazines over 5 rounds are the prohibited part of the AR puzzle.

    Congrats to the Euro countries for making those rifles. Importing to Canada is challenging but not impossible. Importing to Europe… well… I’ve no idea.

  • LoneSniper

    If people are after an excellent built AR rifle in the UK check out

    I have one and it’s superb. Service is great as you’ll always find Mark at the range if you need him 🙂

  • Clodboy

    Oberland Arms is another German manufacturer of AR-15/AR-10 pattern rifles, boasting extremely tight tolerances for their CNC-milled, bead-blasted receivers and Lothar-Walther match barrels.

  • Amuse Bouche

    It’s much the same here in Australia. Barring our histrionic firearms laws, things that are otherwise legal here are becoming more expensive and harder to export from the US because of the export licencing. Even those of us who can still own more exotic firearms (AR-15’s are a prime example. They have become so rare the artificial market is amazing) can’t get them out of the states even with import licences allready in place.

  • Marc

    Schmeisser is also relatively new

  • Vojscak
  • TCBA_Joe

    Good for them!

  • Phil

    Here’s whats coming in to Canada from China in June. Two of my shooting buddies that never would
    have thought of buying an AR are jumping
    in at that price.

  • D

    great so because we like to ban stuff, china gets to make them and they get the money instead.

  • Nooky

    Swiss Made on Astra Arms M4 is fucking bullshit.

    These gun are made in vietnam and “fitted” in switzerland. Don’t be a fool thinking it’s real swiss quality.

  • Lance

    Awsome the quality will beat Norinco by 100 miles. What countires in europe can you own a AR? I know Switzerland any others Steve?

  • uzim16

    maybe not m4 profile rifles. but, I’m sure you can buy short barrel upper from US in Canada.

  • Likvid

    Other ones from Czech Republic (both with piston):
    (sorry, web page is in czech)
    Proarms actually uses US imported forgings but they planing own receivers in future.

    And second, really nice one:

    There are also ARs from british company IDS (Imperial Defence Services).

  • AJ

    I do live in Canada, and can tell you that you can buy short barreled AR’s, I own a 10.5 inch Noveske barreled upper and an Armalite lower, so it’s not that difficult at all to get AR’s up here. Most dealers here have a various assortment of LMT, Spikes,Armalite,KAC, etc.

    Barrel length laws do not apply to the AR class of rifle up here,we don’t have to follow NFA laws for SBR’s like the US does. Up here the AR is considered a Restricted rifle, which means you can only shoot it at a Gun Range, you cannot go hunting with it. So it doesn’t matter whether the barrel is 5 inches or 20 inches, it’s still classed the same in Canada.

    Here’s a simple explanation, AR’s and pistols are classed as Restricteds, swo you can only shoot them at gun ranges.

    Hunting rifles and shotguns are classed as Non-Restricteds, meaning you can shoot them wherever you like, and go hunting with them.

    Oh, and as for Norinco brand AR’s, they are not as popular up here as name brand AR’s.

  • A.g.

    It’s possible to buy AR-15 in France with valid shooter licences and Federal authorization after free background check. You have to proove too that you posses a fortified storage in home.
    Price are high like all other firearms due to small market.
    My M4 made by Sabre defence was at 1800 €, works well without any faillure. See Astra in hand at same price I was not totaly conviced about Swiss made superiority for this rifle.
    Oberland was overpriced for an AR-15 with 2400-2600 € and thight tolerance was, it seem’s, not a good idea for realiability after some shots.
    Another sample SIG 551 : 3000 €…
    You could find more easily weapons at fair price in Luxembourg, with less paperworks due to their membership of European community.
    I have tried to import from Us, total waste of time due to customs difficulties (Equals from US than France).

  • snmp

    In Europe :
    * Sabre Deffens UK
    * HK 223
    * Norinco CQ311
    * Astra (Spanish name, Italian shareholder and Swiss location of the legal HQ) with nobody found vaild indication of the factory location in Switzerland
    * Oberland

    but For less price than AR15 Rifle you could own an FASS90/SIG 550, and if you want pay cheaper the right way => FAL L1A1 or G3

  • thomas

    what are the magazine restrictions are there in Canada, France, and Italy?

  • Carl

    Lance, IPSC rifle is getting started right now in Sweden, so you should be able to get a license for an AR or similar rifle as soon as the IPSC bodies get their stuff together. The usual restrictions apply obviously: the license will be specific to the use (target shooting), specific to the firearm, you need a certified safe, and the license is time-limited to five years (then you need to renew it).

    Whether that constitutes “ownership” can be debated, of course.

    Oh, and the police get to inspect that you are storing your guns in accordance with the law whenever they feel like it.

  • AJ

    Our prices in Canada are on par with the US in most respects. For example a Norinco brand M4 copy goes for $699 at Marstar. And if you want a name brand AR, you can get a Smith & Wesson M&P brand AR15 for $1399.

    We also have the coveted new rifle, the SCAR made by FN, it’s the new rifle being used by the US Special Forces community. A company here in Canada imported some in, but they were not cheap, it was a one time import so they cost in the 3 grand range.

  • A.g.

    @ Thomas. In France : You don’t have restrictions about mag capacity.
    But since 1789 and the dark age after WWII with many milicia and insurgency peril, governement are afraid about armed people.
    So laws are sized to limit the stockpile of gun’s and ammo you can have at home :
    You could only buy 1000 ammo by guns in the caliber of each guns possessed by year. You have no limit about the number of rounds you can buy in the shooting range if it this one sell it but you can go back home with.
    Auto weapons strictly and fully prohibited for civilian use. Even for police officer off duty. If you hear someone in the range in full auto mode, problem somewhere, perhaps your not in the good range with the good people.
    You have to renews your shooting licence every year and your ownership authorization every three years after delivrance otherwise you have to secede your weapons or their will be seized. Reinforced method since a shootout in a city hall made by a psyco who detain his guns without pass the médical exam necessary to obtain the licence. The prefecture didn’t react when the date was outpassed.
    You could reload all round possessed only limited by the total of gunpowder you can possessed in one time at home (unknow for me at this time).
    You just have to declare suppressor to the Prefecture (administrative hq district office) trough you local police office. This rules apply for night vision device too but that only theorical, price and no real needs for civilian would immediately make you suspect for police services.
    Authorisation delivrance depends on gun friendly tendencies from the official in prefecture depending the area you live,but and it’s fortunately my case no problems at all for police officer constituting large part of sport shooters (2/3).
    Control at home could be made by police services to verify if you dispose gun safe.
    About the amount of gun you could possess, it’s depend about their classification. An extremely complex rules made with caliber, barrel lenght, purpose, mag capacity, rimfire or central etc… who is really difficult to master even for police service. Fews samples :
    Class 1; war product : ar-15, 92FS, 1911, FAL, glock
    Class 2; war podcut : tank, armored vehicules, jet fighter…
    Class 3; NRBC product.
    Class 4 ; defense product : Semi-auto shootgun, revolver (depending caliber 9mm para and .45acp would class the weapons on 1st Class…)
    Class 5; shooting product : Shotguns (but you can hunt with the two first too if your a barbarian or well equiped)
    Class 6 : Blade, knife, club, tear gaz, everything use to cause body damage by opportunities.
    Class 7; playtime gun : manual .22 carbine etc…
    Class 8; black powder, antique and all weapons neutralized.
    12 for max : 7 first class max. Class 8 no limit, only the weigth of powder at home limited.
    Marginal hobbies due to lack of knowledge from the population, totaly surrounded by lefty-médias and french fiction who could raise “Lethal weapons” as a documentary.
    Huntings is better due to their traditional character but discipline decline with new generation. All materials are expensive.

  • Phil

    Hi Thomas

    In Canada we are restricted to 5 shot mags for
    semi auto rifles(Garands are exempt this)

    However, Rock River Arms LAR-15 10 shot mags are legal….

  • AJ

    We are allowed to use 30 round mags though, as long as a metal rivet is stuck into the spine of it limiting it to 5 rounds. I use PMAGS with a rivet in the back just because AR15’s look better with a 30 rnd mag inserted in them.

    Just to give you a complete idea of our mag laws, I’ll add that pistols are only allowed to hold 10 rounds as well up here in Canada, kinda similar to California’s laws on pistol mags.

  • Raj

    Does the HERA Lower System (HLS) look like the limited edition Magpul Billett lower to anyone else?

  • Calimero

    A.g’s description of French gun laws is indeed quite accurate.

    Categories (or Classes, as AG calls them) are somehow inconsistent and based on some pretty weird aspects.

    A semi-auto shotgun can be either considered Category 4 (defense weapon which requires a specific authorization to be renewed every 3 years) or Category 5 (hunting weapon) depending on barrel length and magazine capacity …

    You can only own 12 weapons requiring authorizations (Categories 1 and 4). Only 7 of them can be centrefire.

    Manufactured ammo purchase is restricted as A.G said: 1000 rounds per weapon per year. So if you own three 9x19mm guns, you can purchase 3000 rounds per year. You can ask for a extension (another 1000 rds) but this requires the same cumbersome process and paperwork required for buying (and keeping !) the gun …

    Buying reloading components (power, brass, bullets, primers …) can be bought once you have the authorization for you weapon. No restrictions on the amount you can buy each year, but you can only buy 9mm bullets if you have a 9x19mm ou .357Mag gun.

    Almost all weapons are registered. As far as I remember, only weapons firing a single cartridge per barrel (single shot weapons, or a break-barrel two shots gun) are unregistered.

    Suppressors are unregulated and unregistered.

    Category 1 or 4 have no restrictions in terms of magazine capacity and barrel length (but you of course need to have an authorization per weapon). So once the paperwork is done, you can have an M4 commando with suppressor and BETA C-Mags….

    To remain in Category 5 (hunting gun) an rifle must have a rifled barrel longer that 47cm (18.5″). A smooth-bore gun must have a 60cm (23.6″) barrel … unless it’s as single shot shotgun or break-barrel two shots gun … then it can as “short” as 47cm …
    Oh … and overall length must be 80cm (31.5″) whether rifle or shotgun.

    There are other oddities: some weapons are Category 1 because the rounds the fire are considered “weapons of war” …
    – Remington 700 7.62x51mm / .308W : this is evil ! you need prior authorization, only 1000 rds / year, must be stored in a safe. Every three years you have to apply for a new authorization to keep your gun
    – Remington 700 .300WM : no problem, this is just a hunting weapon, no paperwork required (just join a target shooting club or get a hunting license), no need to store your gun in a safe, buy all the ammo you want

    We all agree that .300WM won’t kill anyone while .308W will easily kill 20 innocent people with every single bullet……

    There’s going to be some change because European regulation only has 4 categories. Gun law in France is really complex and inefficient: cops, target shooters, people handling authorization requests at the Prefectures… no one really gets it.

    Let’s hope that there will be good changes with the new laws…. Not very optimistic though …

    Anyway, to get back on topic, guns are outrageously expensive over here.

    Mainly because the market is very narrow. I guess that when you’re a gunshop asking SwissArms, Sabre, H&K for a mere 5 rifles, you can’t get the same discount as Wal Mart buying thousands of shotguns from Mossberg or Remington … But that means we have less and less shooters (read: they are getting older, cause when you make 1500EUR/month, buying a 3000EUR gun is probably not a top priority). And less shooters means an even narrower market …

    US export restrictions don’t help either.

  • A.g.

    @ Calimero : un grand merci pour vos corrections de traduction…

    “a big thank you for your translation adjustments”

  • If you are looking for an European AR15 manufacturer, WFC Proshop make CNC upper, lower, barrel and Monolithic upper. All made in Switzerland

  • Calimero

    Ha ha ha WFC Proshop ! Good luck with them.

  • BallisticCz


    to comment on the V-AR “Likvidon 22 May 2010 at 11:49 ” mentined: actually it is a PISTON operated AR-15 remake, produced aiming at the reliability of an AK47 or SA58 (both piston operated too) and featuring the ergonomics of the AR-15 and using AR-15 compatibility standards. Piston means a bit bigger recoil than standard AR-15, compensating with potentially greater reliability in harsh conditions. If its fact is questionable. The gunsmith who makes them is REALLY good, but its a small manufacture and there are probably not many of these around (I’d say not enough to view this as an extensive test of reliability by the public on many separate weapons) and it’s hard to get any first-hand info on performance.


  • BallisticCz

    Followup: I believe the news is that a 7,62×39 version of the V-AR is ready for release. (?)

  • David/Sharpie

    We have TONS of ARs here in Canuckistan, who doesn’t sell to us? Armalite for awhile didn’t have permission from your State Dept. to sell up here, but now for certain rifles they do. Norc rifles, from what I’ve heard from friends and others at the range, the finish is the only sub-par part of the gun, the working mechanism is still high quality, and sell for half what everyone else charges. Short barreled rifles are 100% okay, as long as you hare an RPAL (Restricted Possession [and] Aquisition Licence, what you need for a pistol, or AR, M1 Carbine etc)

    RRA has their 10 round pistol mags which are okay to own, so for ARs the highest cap is technically 10, as long as you’re using a pistol mag.

    uzim16: Yes we can, but it needs to be bought buy a dealer, you can’t go online and give them your credit card number without the import docs.

    AJ: Then it’s not a 30 round mag, I hate when people say high cap mags are legal here, as long as they’re pinned…….sometimes I hate our laws!!!