The Armalite AR-18 is arguably one of the most influential guns of the 20th century. Many of its gas, bolt and recoil spring features continue to be appropriated in new gun designs. The rifle was a commercial failure, although some of its direct descendants did well. Armalite never produced many AR-18 themselves but licensed the design to the Sterling Armaments Company and other companies around the world. One of the little known variants produced by Sterling was the compact carbine AR-18K. A reader spotted the Sterling AR-18K in a photo, taken in the 1970s or 1980s, of high ranking Royal Malaysian Air Force officers. This is the first photo I have ever seen of the AR-18K “in the wild”.
The AR-18K resembles the Colt CAR-15 Commando and the later Colt M4 Carbine. It featured a shorter barrel, a shorter more rectangular handguard with forward pistol grip and a cone shaped flash suppressor instead of the multi-pronged style flash suppressor.