Blast From The Past: Miss America Shooting A Cutting-Edge Rifle

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

In late 1963, photographer Arthur Rickerby snapped photos of a Colt demonstration of its new AR-15 rifle. The photos appeared TIME Magazine, and their focus was on more than just the rifles themselves: Present at the shoot was 1962 Miss America pageant winner Maria Fletcher. The photos give an interesting look back to a rifle that was cutting-edge in the early Sixties:

The Colt representative shows Maria how to shoot the AR-15. Though it is considered bad form today, Maria's exaggerated "chicken wing" hold was standard practice for riflemen and women at the time. Note the "LIFE" stamp on the photo; I have been unable to locate a LIFE issue which used these photos, but since TIME and LIFE are associated magazines it is possible the "LIFE" stamp was added much later when the photos were added to archives.

The date of the photos is an irony in and of itself: TIME ran the article and its photos in the 21st issue of their 82nd volume, on November 22nd, 1963; the same day President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot. Kennedy’s assassination, and the others that rocked the Sixties afterward, led directly to the passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act and the general souring of popular media towards the firearms hobby.

Many thanks to Daniel for his help researching the background of the photos in this article.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at

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  • RPK RPK on Jun 09, 2015

    It was refreshing to see a "public figure" not wrapped up in anti-gun ownership rhetoric who appeared to be enjoying the activity she was engaged in and not just the noteriety of her "crown". As they say here in Texas, she was hotter than a $2.00 pistol! I agree that a "retro" story should surface asking her about the experience and ascertain if she is currently a gun owner or otherwise, and what she thought about the "evil black rifle" at the time the story ran and her present feelings about that same "frightening rifle" so villified in the media.

  • B. Young B. Young on Jun 10, 2015

    This follows a certain 3 step blog formula:
    1.Girl,comma cute
    2. Gun (or guns!)
    3. Cute girl