GunLab’s Next Project: Reproduction AR-16

We’ve covered a little bit of the AR-18 here before, and in passing mentioned its ancestor, the 7.62mm AR-16. For those uninitiated to this relatively unknown rifle, there is a brief but instructive article on the rifle at Wikipedia. GunLab’s Chuck has posted before about the AR-16, which he got to examine in Reed Knight’s collection last year. On Friday, though, he mentioned his intentions to replicate the rifle:

In my off time, work has been completed on the AR-16 upper receiver right side. In case you don’t remember this rifle it is a 308 predecessor of the AR-180. Only 4 were made and of those only 2 are known to exist. I had the opportunity to photograph one a while back at the Reed Knight collection.

Mr Knight was nice enough to let me look at and photograph them, however I doubt he will let me have one. As I really want one of these in my collection I have taken it upon my self to reverse engineer it to make me one. This is what I worked on this weekend between everything else.

right upper receiver short1

right upper receiver short 4c

right upper receiver short 3cMore to come

[emphasis mine]

I will be watching this project closely. The AR-16 is one of the last major attempts at an American full-power infantry rifle until the commencement of the SCAR program. I am awaiting the completion of the reproduction (or, if he’s so inclined, reproductions plural) very eagerly!

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • While it would not be true to the original, it would probably be a better idea to add a conventional magazine well for use with SR25 magazines. ArmaLite’s Art Miller criticized the AR16’s lack of support for its magazine.

    • Frank

      It would probably make more sense economically to give it a polymer lower reciever too. I think armalite did that when they did a new run of AR-180s back in the day.

      • Sam Schifo

        Armalite did do that, and the AR-180B had problems because of it.

      • I don’t think the folks at GunLab are set up for plastic molding.

  • Al

    Very neat project. But the even rarer DI AR12 would be really impressive…

    • I think, given the time, Chuck would be one to make reproductions of all the prototype Armalites.

  • Micki

    If anyone is interested, the 1965 Gun Digest had an article called “The M14 Rifle… Hail and Farewell” where the authors test-fired the AR-16 against the AR-10, AR-18, AR-15 and a civilian FN FAL. (In conclusion: “Any one of the guns tested could profitably be substituted for the discredited M14.”) With an empty mag, the AR-16 apparently only weighed 8.75 lbs, which was lighter than both the AR-10 and the FN. Apparently it was also licensed to Erma-Werke, although presumably nothing came of it.

    • If you emailed it to me, I’d be much obliged!

      • Micki

        I’ve only got a (very battered and yellowed,) physical copy, but I’ll photo the pages with the DSLR tomorrow and send them over if you like.

      • Colin

        Nathaniel, if you’re not allowed to post them – due to copyright – could you forward a copy to me please.
        Also, without design drawings how do they know what sizes and lengths to have? Did he go over Mr Knights example with a tape measure, note pad and pencil?

        • I’d be happy to, Colin, but I’m afraid I don’t have your email.

        • Micki

          Anyone who wants a PDF copy can shoot me a mail at: micki[NOSPACE]mahoney (hat) gmail dot com.

          Without the [NOSPACE] bit and with the appropriate email grammar, of course.

  • Phillip Cooper

    This sort of thing seems to me to be a perfect example of the need for 3-d printing to become commonplace.

    I wonder if 3-d printing out of low-temp thermoplastic, then going all “lost-wax process” with said plug in a suitable resist medium (casting sand?) would be strong enough? It works for engine blocks after all…

    • Phillip Cooper

      Bonus points that it makes the antis soil themselves. 🙂

  • MountainKelly

    Handsome rifle. Of love a repro ar16 or 18