AR180 Field Strip

The Armalite AR180 is the civilian version of the select-fire AR18 rifle. Chambered in 5.56, they were intended to allow nations with limited machining capabilities the ability to manufacture modern military rifles in the spiffy new 5.56×45 cartridge. While the rifle did not enjoy much success or proliferation, its gas system serves as the basis for more modern designs.

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Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey guys it’s Alex C. with TFBTV and for today’s field strip we’re going to be doing an Armalite AR-180.

The Armalite AR-18/AR-180’s were designed by Armalite in Costa Mesa, California and made in three places, that’s going to be in the United States by Armalite, in Japan by Howa, and in England by Sterling, the same company that made the Patchett Sterling SMG that everybody likes with that weird side feeding magazine but, basically these guns were marketed as a cost-effective version of the AR-15.

They have similar pattern magazines, not identical.

They fire 5.56, and they have some really nice ergonomics for the time period of course.

However they are very crude, you can see it’s stamped and you know, you can see the welds on the outside and everything, so not exactly the most handsome or well-finished firearm, but they had some cool features like a nice folding stock on there which is actually quite nice, not the most solid, but definitely not the worst.

The rear sight is stamped, but has the nice AR-15, F16 flips, features and is similarly adjustable, with a reasonably standard front sight post, nothing spectacular there, but the ergonomics, if you shot an M16 AR-15 will be pretty familiar to you, the magazines like I said, are not interchangeable because of mostly the way that the magazines are retained.

They do have a reciprocating charging handle, and they are right-side charging, but as you can see they do have a dust cover reminiscent of one found on an M16 AR-15 which is kind of nice.

The safety is also ambidextrous which was kind of unusual in the 60’s so, that’s a plus for this gun.

Now of course to begin the field strip process, you’re going to press this little D tent located on this arm behind the rear sight, and push that in, and open the receiver up.

This will allow you to separate the two halves, and at this point it’s easiest to remove the front pivot pin.

Now it is not captive like an M16’s front pivot pin, so be careful and don’t lose that.

What I like to do is pull that out of there, and then stick it right back in the lower, so it doesn’t roll off whatever surface you’re working with.

Now here you’ll notice that even the ejector is stamped, the hammer is stamped, I mean this gun made very liberal use of stampings to give countries that didn’t have appropriate milling technology the ability to basically produce a comparable rifle in terms of performance.

Now at this point remove the recoil springs and guide rods, plural, which is kind of unusual.

Pull the bolt to the rear, and then remove the charging handle once it is stopped.

At this point you can go ahead and push the bolt carrier and bolt out from the rear of the upper receiver.

Now here you’re going to remove the firing pin, retaining pin, usually you would use a bullet tip, however I didn’t have one handy, kind of hard to believe I guess, but I just used a pin and pushed it right out of there.

At this point remove the firing pin and spring from the rear, push the bolt in, and you can pull the cam pin right out of there, at which point you can pull the actual bolt out of the carrier assembly.

So not wildly different than taking a M16 AR-15 bolts apart.

Now to remove the gas system, first pull off the top hand guard, pull the actuator/op-rod to the rear, remove the connecting rod, pull the piston out, and then pull the op-rod out.

Now this is this weapon’s greatest feature, you hear a lot of people say XYZ gun has an AR-18 derived gas system.

And it is true, the Howa 89, the SA 80, and a lot of guns like that pretty much copy this directly.

Very, you know, simple guns, relatively speaking, nowadays it seems ludacris that stamping was inexpensive, because nowadays milling aluminum is cost-effective which was a far cry from what they thought would be possible in the 60’s but, this gun was a product of circumstance.

People needed a rifle that had the capabilities of an M16 AR-15 but was also cost-effective and can be made on older tooling, in the days when stamping was king, and the AR-18 was born, unfortunately it never really found a lucrative military contract, they are actually reasonably hot civilian firearms, but they never really caught up to the AR-15 M16’s despite being cheaper so.

Big thanks to Ventura Munitions for helping us out with our shooting videos guys.

This is Alex C. with TFBTV, hope to see you next time.


Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV. A native Texan with a penchant for gun collecting combined with a degree in History from Baylor University have contributed to a passion for both early and modern firearms. You can reach Alex at acapps@gocapps.com.


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  • gunsandrockets

    Not fast enough. I saw that!

  • Cal.Bar

    me too

  • Your sling is on backwards. The clip goes on the pistol grip ring. This is so you can unclip it and use it for sling supported position when shooting. Letting your gas system rust, shame on you, get some oil on that sucker.

    • I like the sling that way though.

      And the rust was on there when I got it πŸ™

  • Bigbigpoopi

    Long live Ichihachi

    • borekfk

      She really needed more screen time.

      • Anime is weird.

      • Tied

        REMOVE ANIMEA

        ANIMEA IS CANCER, ANIMEA IS RAT. ANIMEA IS VILLIANOUS INCARNATION OF SATAN’S DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS

    • Cynical_Asshole

      definitely one of the most likable side characters in the show.

  • Lance

    Hay Hay no Army wanted it wel…. Didn’t need to Arnold and his one hand shooting made the AR-18 awesome in my book!!!

    Ohh the L-85 is a AR-18 action wish they imports a semi auto one…… Darn anti-gunners.

    • Anonymoose

      They did import semi-auto L85s way back in the day, along with semi-auto FAMASes, but they did not get the sales they needed to keep bringing them in.

  • MPWS

    Why is this “nations with limited machining capabilities” line repeating over and over? Tell you what: I am a person with experience in field of both engineering/manufacturing and firearms. I will spill it: AR15 with its 1inch tightly enclosed into forging bore bolt (not to mention direct gas into close compartment) is testimony to defective way of thinking.
    AR18 in contrary is very straightforward and logical, regardless of “level of machining capabilities”. You still have to machine bunch of parts on AR18 regardless. I take the latter to former 10 times more likely. After all – the “15” got stuck in its development while “18” has been replicated in multiple versions and continues to be grandpa of all new rifles.

    • ArmaLite’s proposal for its foreign customers was that they would buy surplus automatic screw machines and then ArmaLite would fit the necessary tooling. The concept was that the machine operators could simply add the raw blanks for the bolt and bolt carrier, moving the pieces from fixture to fixture until the part was complete. Deburring would be done by hand.

      • MPWS

        That may be so and I appreciate your input Daniel W.

        However, you know and much as I do that to erect industrial plant it needs solid foundations, roof, power, water, drainage, supply and processing of coolants, chips disposal, septic and many other things. In other words this needs certain level of infrastructure and “culture” in general.
        Then of course it would require blessing of State department. Lots of fuss!

        In addition, who would go thru pains of building all that (lets throw in case of country like Ghana, for sake’s argument) if they can just simply purchase set of x number of guns plus spares and manuals?

        I personally do not believe the sales pitch (see Alex’s argument) was for real. But true, the show is nicely done. πŸ™‚

        • MPWS

          Oh, did I mention punch press tooling maintenance; i.e. setups, grinding, replacement of broken sections, etc. ? Where you gonna get qualified people and equipment to do that in ‘developing country’?
          And how about consistent supply of sheet stock, before it gets rusty in humid and hot climate?
          Maybe now, but not 50 years ago.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Sigh. Thailand has had a domestic automobile manufacturing industry since 1961, and the Philippines were the second wealthiest nation in Asia, and quite adequate skilled labor, until Ferdinand Marcus ran the country’s economy into the ground. They both could have easily managed the production of AR-18 rifles. Your objection is entirely without factual basis.

          • MPWS

            Read what I mentioned about time-capability factor. And of course, with foreign assistance the possibilities open up.
            I merely reacted onto traditional assertion about “countries with lesser machining capabilities”. I do not take it for valid.

          • George

            Your argument would suggest that the AK could not be produced a lot of places it is.

            Interesting would be thinking about an AR-18/180 with modern manufacturing, extrusions and composites etc, but not to the G36es extreme where composites could fail… More of a SCAR or Masada receiver say.

          • MPWS

            Lets consider time space George. What was 50years ago is not what is now. Time has changed and so did capabilities.
            I do not have complete list of countries making AK clones, but I know that quality versions which fill the market are from Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria. They do and will likely to continue to do brisk sales.

            Regarding updated version of AR18 I agree; this may be well worth it. And yes, the German version is a bit extreme (they are traditionally “plastic-fanatic”) and recent inquiry suggests there is a reason for concerns.

          • George

            AK production is or has gone on in: Albania, Armenia, Azerbajan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Columbia, Croatia, East Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Hungary… I am just going to stop here. Places with no other industry to speak of included. A lot of them since the 60s.

            If we view the AK and AR-18 as tech equivalents (roughly right in any case), which design would you prefer?…

            Out of curiosity has anyone got an AR-18/180 bullet button system? Unfortunately I never picked one up earlier and I live in California…

        • I didn’t say that they thought it through. There is a reason that ArmaLite was in constant financial trouble.

          Part of the sales pitch was the fixtures could be easily stripped off once the nation’s rifle requirement was met, in order to repurpose the machinery to civilian production.

          It is true that the US DOD and State Department routinely discouraged its allies from rifle coproduction schemes during the 1960s and ’70s. Most of the documentation that I’ve seen involving Colt and ArmaLite’s sales effort involve Asia. The US ultimately relented with South Korea and the Philippines, helping them foot the bill for building their M16A1 factories. However, after deals with the US fell through, Thailand ended up licensing the HK33, and Indonesia licensed the FN FNC.

          • When ArmaLite first demonstrated the prototype AR-18 to the military and press in January 1964, they claimed that they’d be able to produce the AR-18 for half the cost of the M16. Tooling cost was estimated to be a quarter of that required for competing rifle designs. Of the 66 major parts, 26 were stampings, 31 could be completed entirely via automatic screw machine, 4 were screw machine parts that would require additional machining, and 5 would require machining from forgings or blanks. Of course, these numbers varied in later brochures.

          • MPWS

            That is insightful information and fills the picture lot better. Named Asian countries, with U.S. assistance were able to handle the project; that’s quite conceivable.
            Thank you!

    • Take a look at the old Armalite sales pitch πŸ˜‰

      • MPWS

        A bit for you Alex too :-)))
        I am most impressed with your collection and vast practical knowledge of variety of firearms not to mention shooting skills. Please keep on doing fine job!

  • Thanks!

  • guest

    There came a British soldier,
    he said “You are a swine!”
    Hit me with his rifle
    And kicked me in the groin
    I begged and I pleaded
    Oh, me manners were polite
    And all the while I was thinking
    Of me little Armalite!

  • John Snow

    One wonder if time effort that went make Ar15 in quality firearm that is today. Had went in make Ar180 would had better future than does now.