Saw this photo online. However I am not sure about the provenance behind it.

The very first AR15 sales ad ever, marketed to the public as a sporting and hunting rifle. Note this was before the military adopted the full auto version, the actual assault rifle, the M16. People are trying to rewrite history and claim the inventor never intended it for civilian use.
Well, it was sold for civilian use first!


I cannot find any information that backs up the claim that this is the first Colt AR-15 Ad. The most interesting thing about this ad is the price of $189.50 and the old Colt logo.



  • tt_ttf

    there certainly is evidence of these being made and sold in ’63 and ’64 for civilian used well before the XM-16 existed and that “civilian” spec AR-15’s were being used by special forces on a trial basis again before the XM-16 existed.

    M-16’s weren’t issued until 1965

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      Really? Where? The first USAF M16s were ordered in 1963 [edit – USAF classified the M-16 in 1962, same year as Project AGILE]. The AR-15 was conceived first and foremost as a military rifle from its 1957 prototype (which was select-fire).

      • Yep, absolutely. The AR-15 was designed in the late ’50s at the express request of CONARC.

      • Anonymoose

        The top-charger AR15 prototypes were semi-auto-only. The AR-10 was conceived as a military rifle. The AR-15 was developed because the Army asked companies to develop some prototype rifles in .222 Remington Magnum for use as a light rifle to go up against the SKS and AK47. The .222 Remington was designed for hunting prairie dogs and coyotes. The AR15 was then modified to safe/semi/full, and sold to Colt after the Army decided to stick to the M14. Colt marketed the select-fire AR-15 to nations in Southeast Asia and made the first sales there in 1959. The distinction between the AR15 and M16 came in 1963, when the USAF designated their select-fire slab-sided AR15s as “M16s” (there was no XM16, until the Army decided to get some too, and that quickly led to the XM16E1 and then M16A1) and Colt decided to brand all the select-fire ones as M16s and start selling semi-auto ones on the civilian market as AR15s. Hunters in Europe had been using the .222 Remington on small and medium game since the early 1950s, and Colt realized that the AR15 would be a hot seller for hunting and target shooting. Commercial AR15s have never been modified from full to semi, as cutting a semi-auto lower to be able to install the full/burst sear would be constructive intent.

        • Incorrect; no Armalite rifles were chambered for .222 Rem Mag.

          • Anonymoose

            I looked it up. The Springfield Armory (not the Inc) came up with the .222 Mag and was rejected in favor of the .223, which was made for the AR15.

          • Juanito Ibañez, TopCop1988

            In the past, Colt manufactured an AR-15 SP-1 Sporter in .222 Remington (not ‘Magnum’) as an export model for countries which ban ‘civilian’ weapons that chamber ‘military’ cartridges. It was never readily available here in the U.S.

            They currently manufacturer the AR-15A2 Sporter II in .222 Remington – again, only as an export model – the Model R6510.

        • McThag

          Lots of commercial AR lowers have been modified to take the auto-sear. Before ’86 you just filled out your Form 1 and waited. It’s less common to see it done to a Colt from that era, but it was not “never been”.

          • Anonymoose

            Yeah, but what I mean is that it’s a further step in the design to mill out the space for the auto-sear.

        • Jonathan Ferguson

          First I’ve heard of the “top-charger” prototypes being semi-only. Their lowers are visibly marked “Safe Semi Auto”.

      • tt_ttf

        there is more to this story and a lot of subtle details and timing, but the gun having been requested in ’57 sat fallow because of the M-14 crowd and Colt was not sitting around waiting – so whilst the design was military, its lack of formal adoption in the US, foreign select fire sales and concurrent semi auto sales to civilians over 50 years ago certainly shuts down the claims purely military use then flowing into US civilian use.

        That is VERY different from what many trying to ban purely cosmetic features today try to argue that the AR-15 is some modern occurrence only despite half a century of sales to civilians and certainly before any real volume by the US Army of it’s select fire big brother. You can attempt to try and argue the M4 reset the bar but that is hard to do, especially since the profile is a pub;ic domain design which is a big reason for the popularity due to lack of license fees and NRE.

        • DataMatters

          But what strikes me even more is the Browning BAR is from 1918–almost a century ago! The tech is older than dirt!

          • Anonymoose

            The Browning BAR hunting rifle was designed in the 1970s. The M1918 BAR has no relation to it, other than being designed by one of John Browning’s sons.

      • Donnie Buchanan

        I hated the M-16 that I carried in Nam. EVERY time that I cleaned it good it would jam. I quit cleaning it and carried a can of WD-40. Giving it a liberal spray occasionally kept it shooting like it was meant to. The only cleaning I did after this was to swab out the bore. Of all the guns I now own, exactly none are AR style.

    • Well, to add a little detail, the first US Air Force order for the AR-15 came in May of 1962, and the first Army contract in November of 1963 (the “one time buy”). The first instance of that ad I am aware of was November of 1964 in Guns magazine:

      The first review of the civilian AR-15 that I am aware of was Guns magazine’s December of 1964, here:

      It’s also worth keeping in mind that the AR-15 was designed in 1957 at the express request of CONARC, a command of the US Army, who wanted to tap Armalite to develop a small caliber high velocity rifle based on the excellent performance of their 7.62mm AR-10. One of the myths flying around is that the Army hated the AR-10 because it threatened the T44/M14, but so far as I recall that narrative was pushed by Melvin Johnson (yes, THAT Johnson, of M1941 and Spitfire fame) who already had a sour relationship with the Army going all the way back to the late 1930s. In reality, the AR-10, despite bursting a barrel in testing, so impressed the testers at Aberdeen that it led directly to the CONARC request for the SCHV version that became the AR-15.

      Now, does that mean the AR-15 was designed as a military rifle first? Yes, but it also doesn’t mean that Armalite and Stoner and Sullivan never wanted the AR-15 to be a civilian rifle. Armalite in fact designed many guns for the civilian market, including variants of the AR-10, the 7.62mm older brother of the AR-15.

      So either narrative is too simplistic, I think.

      • DataMatters

        The whole bit about the “inventor never intended the rifle to be used by civilians” is some much horse crap. Does anyone care what Eugene Stoner wanted in the 1960s? You’re talking about a time period where most people owned bolt actions rifles, shotguns of various types, the first of the surplus WWII rifles, and that’s about it. And the 1960s were an extremely violent period in domestic US politics with two Kennedy’s murdered, Martin Luther King, and a host of other bombings, shootings, etc. All brought to us by terrible government policy-making, just like today.

        I’m sure Stoner would be pleased that his rifle has become so popular and that many people have used it to defend themselves and their nations from harm.

  • Tahoe

    $189.50…honestly, I’m shocked that you can pick up an AR15 for not much more these days. Granted, it won’t be a Colt, but it will be an AR.

    • SirOliverHumperdink

      Inflation calculator almost always shows how the good old days are actually the ones we are living today.

      • Tahoe

        In some ways, true. Inflation alone makes that rifle $1450 today; but then, wages didn’t climb nearly as fast as that cost did…

    • Anonymoose

      Pick up? Maybe build, but buying one already made for under $600 might be a bit difficult, especially when we’re nearing “Obama’s End-Run Gun Ban” panic-buying season.

      • DataMatters

        I used to make my mom buy me SOF magazine at the grocery store when I was a kid in the ’80s! It was awesome.

    • DataMatters

      I’m not–CAD/CAM technology has made that all possible.

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    This advertisement appears to actually date from 1964 (see Field and Stream for 1964 on Google Books, p.149).

    • First appearance I know of is from the Nov. ’64 issue of Guns magazine.

  • Lance

    Makes you wish they where $189 still a A1 parts kit will set you back $350.

    • BryanP1968

      No thanks. $189 in 1963 $ is $1484 in 2016 $.

    • DataMatters

      People earned like $50 a week back then…

  • Calvin Plumley

    just picked one of these up (USGI M16A1 upper, DMPS National match 1:9 barrel, USGI furniture, and a bushmaster XM15 lower) for $750. im pleased as punch.

  • DataMatters

    Did it only come with just the one mag? Must have not been that big of an adventure, then. But I bet it wasn’t blocked to 5rnds. like the Blue Label “Sporter” I just had to have years ago! I eventually grew up and figured out how to assemble my own copies. I also figured out how to remove those 5rnd. blockers.

    • leewardboy

      First Colt AR15 we got was $199 plus tax NIB at a sporting goods store in Waipahu, HI. Came with two “blocked” 5 round mags but it was easy to pull out the “U” shaped sheet metal blocks to restore the 20 round capacity. YMMV.

  • B-Sabre

    The amusing part is that on page 6 there’s an article about new “FN Sporters” (semi-auto FN FAL rifles) for sale to the public!

  • Kivaari

    They were priced at $125 locally, circa 1965.

  • Don Ward

    It’s not that hard to look up ads in old Shooter’s Bibles and gun/hunting magazines in order to find these adverts. Heck, many of them are available online and have even been written about by TFB staffers.

    So there is ZERO excuse for any writer claiming he can’t find out more about this.

  • William M Durham

    The designer developed the rifle as a sheep hunting rifle, light weight and hard hitting for climbing in the mountains. Outdoor life did a great article on it. It was also cover in some outdoor magazine when the air force first started trying it out for the air police dog handlers, then some where the Army got the idea to use it, light weight ,hard hitting. But first it was a sheep rifle.

    • …What?

      • Looks like @williammdurham:disqus has taken a liking to bath salts.

      • CountryBoy

        He’s certainly had the wool pulled over HIS eyes!

  • Ralph Napier

    Will they price match this ad at Cabelas?
    God-d*£n Gander Mountain wouldn’t. 🙁

  • Hurri Cane

    I have had a few old timers laugh at my M4. “.223 is a varmint round, son!” “You are correct, sir. It does very well against nuisance bipeds of Middle Eastern or US Urban origin.” They think about that for a second, then agree its pretty good for that. One of these days i’m going to shoot a wild hog with it, though!

  • g. cheney

    Well, all the point, counter point. This much I do know. It was at a July 4th event, a pvt. one, and Colt set up some water melons, as there was a senior line officer there, and his thing was SAC, and he wanted some light rifles to guard standing aircraft.
    After many melons were sacrificed, the “MAN” decided, he wanted some and he didn’t care if Army Ordinance didn’t like any non-thirty cal. bullet. It was so, and it was done.
    That man was the last great warrior we had in uniform, save for maybe Stormin’ Norman…I knew his top aide…Our melon man of the hour was one cigar chomping General, later the running mate of George Wallace, that great General was Curtis LeMay….He was the person who put the signed contract into reality for Colt.
    We had an interesting discussion years ago at Offit about this at the range simulator…saves brass….

    • g. cheney

      I want one of those 189.00 guns…..

  • Zebra Dun

    Folks bought these to hunt with back then but soon swapped them off for calibers in .30.
    Seems the knock down was not there they said.
    I think it was more peer pressure by larger caliber buddies or bad aiming.
    Things change though.
    I know people who regularly take whitetails with AR-15 rifles with never a problem.
    Bullet placement at the proper range brings home the meat.

  • Jakob

    The XM16E1 as it was nomenclatured and stamped on the lower receiver, was issued to The 82nd Airborne Div. at Ft Bragg around the Feb-Mar 65 time frame, The weapons were new and came in cardboard boxes, The Div. units turned in their M14s which was then stored in ConEx containers in the Division’s Military Police Motor Pool in event the M16 didn’t meet our requirements I was in the Division from Feb 64 until Aug 65……We used that weapon in the Dominican Republic Apr. 65…….I believe the Civilian version, the AR-15 came on the market around the summer of 65…..I bought one from Kline’s Sporting Goods in Chicago via mail order that summer……

  • That’s something like $1400 in today’s dollars. Glad the patents have expired.