Weekend Photo: Inside A Dagenham Gun

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Rufus writes:

This is a picture of my original Armalite AR-180 manufactured in England by Sterling.  I saw it in a shop next to one of the new ones produced by the current Armalite (which is the same company in name only) with the polymer lower.  I fell in love with the spot-welded, industrial ugliness of the original.

The rifle is popped open for field stripping and the moving parts can be seen above.  They’re quite similar to an AR-15, except that the firing pin is held in by a pin instead of a cotter pin.  Additionally, the cam pin rides on the side of the bolt carrier opposite the ejection port instead of on top of the carrier in the AR-15.  A similar arrangement is used in the G-36 and SCAR.  The firing pin is spring-loaded.
You can see a bit of a gap between the upper and lower handguards because the return spring guide rods are responsible for holding on to the upper handguard!
Interesting rifles to be sure.”
The American AR-180 was the first alternative to the AR-15 among .223/5.56 rifles offered on the civilian market, and one of the first serious competitors to the M16 in the military sector. The original rifles are now uncommon finds in gun stores, not in the least because their owners invariably have a special keenness for them.


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  • hikerguy

    Despite its demise, its operating system lives on in several military piston carbines and rifles today. Its closest descendant is Japan’s Type 89 rifle. I had the pleasure of firing one a few years back and it was enjoyable to shoot.

    • The Type 89 is not so closely related to the AR-180, actually, though they do share the bolt design.

      • MR

        How about Masterpiece Arms’ MPAR? Or am I mis-remembering?

        • Panfried

          Yes, but not directly. The MPAR is a descendant of the Australian Leader T2, an otherwise forgotten design that was a proposal to replace the Australian military’s service rifle, but was dropped when Australia decided to select the AUG. However, the T2 does borrow some design elements from the AR-18 such as its bolt carrier.

          • MR

            Thank you. So many toys that I’d like to pursue, it always seems to be more practical to stick with the AR15 design that I already have parts, tools, and experience for. Someday the right deal might wander unto my path.

        • Indirectly related, via the Leader T2. The bolt configuration is very similar, although bolt rotation is backwards to an AR-180, and the piston is the same.

      • hikerguy

        I was thinking the piston design was the same as well. Not so?

        • Nope, the piston is totally different. It uses a fixed extension and a really fat tappet, unlike the slender short-stroke rod of the AR-180.

  • janklow

    you’ve got to love the AR-180s

  • MR

    NoDak Spud offers aluminum replacement receivers for the AR180B’s. Apparently, they can also be used on the earlier models, though they require some fire control group parts from the B model.