POTD: When An Airline Bought AR-10s To Kill Polar Bears

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

It’s 1958. You work as an executive for an airline that has just opened a route across the dangerous arctic, where any crash landing means a game of survival. You need a survival weapon, one that is light, versatile, and powerful, and the Army has just adopted a rifle that might fit that bill.

This was the situation the Dutch airline Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V., (Royal Dutch Airlines), or KLM was in when it adopted a variant of the Artillerie-Inrichtingen produced Armalite AR-10 rifle, a survival weapon devoid of weight-adding military features such as a flash hider or grenade launcher, and sporting a compact 16″ barrel. The rifles were, of course, fully automatic.

Matt of the Historical Firearms blog has written more on the unique weapons:


In the same year as ArmaLite began seeing interest in their AR-10, the Dutch airline KLM began offering a new air route. KLM began flying the transpolar route between Europe and Tokyo via Anchorage in November 1958, because of the dangerous route the flights took each plane carried an Arctic survival kit (see image #2).

In all some 800 lbs / 400 kg of survival equipment was carried by KLM’s Douglas DC-7s and later DC-8-53s. This included: sleeping bags, tents, a raft, a shovel, snow shoes, a camp stove, cold weather clothing, a hatchet and a 7.62x51mm chambered, select fire, ArmaLite AR-10. KLM bought five16-inch barrel AR-10s from the Dutch small arms company Artillerie Inrichtingen. They were intended for use against polar bears in the event that the aircraft was forced to land or ditch on the Arctic Ice. No doubt they would have been quite a handful for an untrained member of the plane’s cabin crew, especially if they made the mistake of switching to full auto. It is unknown how much survival and weapon training KLM gave transpolar flight crew.

I highly recommend our readers click through and read the whole article, and take a look at the excellent photographs, as well.

EDIT: Commenter Jas informs us that these rifles were not full auto, and were based on civilian sporter models of the AR-10.

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 nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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  • Gordon533 Gordon533 on Jul 25, 2015

    These AR10 where purchase by Allen Lever back in the early 1970s. Allen traveled the world buying surplus & forgotten Firearms, I know of one still in British Columbia but not the location of the other 3. Allen spoke about these firearms in passing, it is to bad that at least one was not sold back to the Netherlands.

  • Disqus_XlYouOiadt Disqus_XlYouOiadt on Jul 27, 2015

    Hi folks, I did a feature on the gun in a 1975 article in Soldier of Fortune. I only recently sold the selective-fire gun pictured. Collector's Grade Publications is working on a book on the AR-10 and has referenced my long-ago article. I've written a few pieces for Small Arms Review recently and have a video about Herbert W. McBride on YouTube. The AR-10 was probably the most fun assault rifle I ever owned! Terry Edwards.