POTD: Charter Arms Explorer II

Charter Arms used to make a pistol version of the Armalite AR7. They are being made by Henry Repeating Arms as the U.S. Survival AR7. Unfortunately they are only made as rifles and not pistols like this one. It sort looks like the DL44 Blaster used by Han Solo.


With a little bit of dressing, I think you could make something look similar. A shame Henry doesn’t make the AR7 into a pistol.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • ArkhamInmate

    That is cool as crap, and I’d buy one right now if they made it. Star Wars fan or not.

  • Hoplopfheil

    Looks awesome. Far more intrinsically desirable than an AR7.

  • Rick O’Shay

    My dad had a Charter AR7 rifle. As a kid it was the coolest gun in existence. I had no idea there was a pistol version of it… looks like it’d be a fun gun to shoot.

  • Red Eye Robot

    Its not so unfortunate, These were awful guns. Failures to feed, failures to eject, terrible magazines, Cocking handles that just fell out. Garbage sights. The Ruger mark2 was about 2x the price for 1000x the gun. You could take the barrel off, For what? You couldn’t store it in the stock like the rifle. In the 80s I had both the rifle and the pistol. Both were poor quality. The pistol was worse. At least the rifle functioned fairly reliable for about 2500 rounds. I was never able to make the pistol fire a complete magazine. The explorer pistol made that Zip22 look like a quality gun.

    • DataMatters

      These days, the removable barrel would be a great feature since integrally suppressed barrels would theoretically be possible.

    • DataMatters

      Sure, but could a modern design fix all that? It seems do-able. 9x19mm.

      • Sam

        A 9mm AR7 might be doable but I don’t think there would be a large market. Look at the KelTec SU2000.

      • Red Eye Robot

        The problem with fixing all of the myriad of flaws with this gun is that when you are done you have a a gun that is priced like its competition and its still an awkward design. Part of the appeal of this gun was its price. When I bought mine in 1987 it was like $107. A Ruger mk2 cost less than $200.

        The rifle was marginally better quality, You could buy all kinds of replacement parts to make it kind of a mini assault rifle. I had parts from Ramline, Choate different magazines. Some of the after market magazines were far better than the CA mags. I had a shrouded barrel and a AR pistol grip and telescoping stock. However after a few thousand rounds reliability started to drop off. It didn’t matter how much you cleaned & oiled it.

    • gunsandrockets

      I had one of the Charter Arms AR-7 that was made around 1976. Mine worked well enough. Though it would get sluggish without cleaning and lubrication.

    • Lou

      I got my Charter Arms Explorer II Pistol for Christmas 1982 in the “stainless” look finish. It was a cool looking gun but jammed a lot as you have also experienced. I encountered two of these, including my Christmas present, which developed hairline cracks in the front of the magazine well. Its a shame that they didn’t make the pistols work better (or their rifles for that matter) as the concept was good with the interchangeable barrels. Also, the triggers were terrible – if someone would have made a quality fire control group that would have helped. My rear sight also broke and I never abused it – never had the handle fall out unless the barrel was not screwed in all the way but that is believeable. I only shoot mine for nostalgia purposes.

  • Justin

    I’ve got one of the charter arms AR-7 rifles and I’m lucky if I can get through half a magazine with out some sort of jam or cycle failure. I wonder if the pistol version was any more reliable.

    I just consider mine a straight pull bolt action that has mediocre accuracy and poor ergonomics.

    • Red Eye Robot

      Nope, it was crap.

    • gusto

      I don’t get why a survival rifle should be semi-auto anyway

      less moving parts, less mass as a bolt action or even single shot

      • Bull

        Yeah. One part less…

        • 9911kelly

          I’m thinking more than just one part less, especially compared to a single shot…

          Regardless, a bolt action or single shot would function fine no matter what ammo, unlike an AR-7.

          Some AR-7s are better than others, but even a cheap bolt action or single shot has less to wear and go wrong, with very little to no chance of function problems. I’ve heard of a LOT of problems with AR-7s, although the Henry versions are pretty decent.

          I like the concept of the AR-7, and may end up getting one anyway, but I wish someone made the same concept with a bolt action.

          When I was considering a takedown .22 survival rifle, I considered the AR-7. I ended up buying the Marlin Papoose. Although I wish it was bolt action, I haven’t had any problems with function with different ammo…yet. But from doing the research, the Papoose is still more reliable in the long run than the AR-7.

      • Justin

        I personally don’t think a survival rifle has to be semi-auto but my AR-7 is minute of paper plate when I was trying to hit squirrels. I’d trust a cricket bolt action 22 before my AR-7, At least I don’t have to check the barrel every 5 or so shots to make sure it’s still tight.

  • Ark

    I have to admit, that gave me a reasonable chub.

    Not as much as the prospect of an affordable Broomhandle, but still.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    Wanted one till I read the reviews some time back. Apparently they’re junk.

  • LazyReader

    Going somewhere Han Solo!?

    • LCON

      Han Fired First… Just Ask Princess Leia, Han always fires first…..

  • .45

    Looks cool, but I think based on reviews and such I’ll stick with my Little Badger.

  • Kevlar226

    I mistakenly purchased a Survival Arms AR7 in the early 90s. My dad convinced me to buy it instead of “that cheap commie rifle”. Yea…so glad I didn’t buy the Russian SKS for the $100 I had to spend at the time…

    • .45

      I shot a couple of Appleseed shoots with a Mossberg Plinkster, a cheap semi auto .22 with what seems like a poor chamber design to me, enabling wonderful stovepipe jams where the rimmed base can get caught behind the chamber protruding into the receiver, something that made me glad I carried a Leatherman in my range bag.

      Later I shot a Appleseed with my AK instead. Didn’t do as well score wise, but when it was wrapping up and someone loudly mentioned their .22 jamming repeatedly I suddenly realized that over the entire shoot I had only a couple of FTFs from a crappy mag with the AK, as opposed to regular stoppages with the Plinkster. At that point I decided I was never going back. AK for the win!

      • Sgt. Stedenko

        Cool story bro

    • Nicks87

      My dad did the opposite. We went looking for a crappy cheap .22 for my brother but ended up buying a couple $150 SKS’s instead. I think he made the right choice, we still own the SKS’s.

  • BigR

    My Ruger 10-.22 is my survival rifle, until something better comes along!! I’m open to suggestions???

    • 9911kelly

      When I was considering a takedown .22 survival rifle, I considered the AR-7, the Marlin Papoose takedown, and the 10-22 takedown.. I ended up buying the Marlin Papoose.

      The Papoose cost less (think about $140 less at the time). But the biggest selling points for me was the lesser length when taken down and assembled, less weight, and a stock that could be used for storage.

      The 10-22 takedown does have the advantages of way more aftermarket, has a higher quality feel and look, and has more stock ahead of the magazine to grip when firing. So it was a hard decision. But I don’t regret my purchase.

  • mike

    The pistol does look cool, if they worked I would consider one if they remade them.
    The rifle looks cool, used in “From Russia with love”. Several times I have thought about buying one, until I read the reviews.

  • Devon Cartwright

    I have the current Henry survival rifle and have never had a fail to fire, fail to feed, fail to eject, or really any issue when I use the right ammo. Shoots around 1-2 MOA when I use a scope. Seems like all the comments below are about the Charter Arms AR-7 but I love my Henry Survival Rifle.

    • valorius

      Do they sell higher capacity mags for the AR-7?

    • lurpy

      Same. I don’t love the sights, and I don’t want to put a scope on it because I like the packability, but it’s “minute of squirrel” at a reasonable range so I guess that’s the job.

  • gunsandrockets

    There is just something neat about the Broomhandle pistol layout.

    I’m waiting for the PLR-16 in .300 caliber…

  • Sam

    Bought an AR7 in 86. First lesson, read directions. Use standard velocity ammo. Groups about 2 inches at 25 yards.

    Always wanted a pistol. Henry said they wouldn’t make pistols. Then they made the Mare’s legs.

    Pistols are available on the web sales sites from time to time.

    I never thought of dressing one up like a blaster but it would work.

    ETA:. Never had good luck with the Butler Creek 25 round mags.

  • Giolli Joker

    Nicholas, the Hudson Mfg H9 you talked about last month has been revealed…

  • Tassiebush

    Reading the comments I feel like a lot of dreams have been shattered by this gun and it’s carbine sibling.
    There is absolutely something very valid a useful about economical light and stowable guns. It’s a shame so few measure up!

  • JoshCalle

    Apparently the old ones ran like crap, but I have a current production AR7 and it’s awesome, seriously great .22

  • valorius

    Han Solo approves, and so do I.

  • slimsummers

    If you want to see an AR7 pistol done up as a Blaster, watch any ep of the old Gil Gerard Buck Rogers TV series from the 1970s. The standard Earth forces blaster pistol was a gussied up AR7. Based on the rear sight they cut down rifles instead of using the pistol version though.

    The removable bbl was retained because various length bbls were offered for the pistol. The notch to locate the bbl in the proper position was moved 180 degrees from the rifle though, to prevent someone from installing a short bbl on a rifle.

    As for lack of reliability/wear after thousands of rounds fired, you have to remember the design was from the early 1960s and intended as a “survival rifle” based on the needs of that era. Namely, a small lightweight rifle that could be stowed in a pack or an airplane and only used in a true emergency or for bagging lunch while out on a trail hiking. As such, it was made of lightweight materials that are not very durable.

    Not an issue when a “survival rifle” of that era was figured for something that maybe got taken out and a magazine put through it every few months to years while being stored most of the time.

    Enter the late 70s/early 80s increase in interest in the “survivalist” movement. Now a “survival rifle” was figured to be what you fended off hordes of radioactive mutants with, not something you shot a rabbit with after a crash landing. Thus the introduction of extended magazines, “dress up kits” to make it look more like a military rifle, and numerous other accessories. The result was now a rifle that was designed to fire few rounds in it’s lifetime was being taken out on the weekend and bricks of ammo run through it. Guess what, parts broke and wore out.

    The Charter Arms versions were also not made very well, the original Armalite rifles were well made and so are the Henry versions. Just don’t expect them to hold up to thousands of rounds of ammo without wearing out.

  • kreatin