Top 5 AR15 Alternatives… That Failed

    For decades now, companies have tried to release firearms to dethrone the mighty M16/AR15 rifle. While some attempts have been more successful than others (some enjoying even moderate success), all the ones on this list have fizzled out or seem to be losing most, if not all factory support. While these aren’t necessarily bad firearms, they sure have not outsold the venerable AR15 on the American market (and abroad in most cases).

    Transcript …

    – [Voiceover] Hey guys, it’s Alex C. with TFB TV, and the topic of today’s video is going to be five AR-15 M16 alternatives that failed.

    We’re excluding guns that have been banned by import.

    Otherwise, there’d be some actually really good guns on the list like the Beretta AR-70 and things like that.

    But, we’re going to focus on guns that petered out for one reason or another.

    And the free market basically took care of the problem, and that’s why the guns are no longer with us.

    So, we’re going to kick the list off with perhaps the most coveted and most famous of the guns on the list.

    That’s just going to be the AR-180 AR-18.

    You can tell how crude these are.

    They’re basically stamped steel.

    You can see the welds there which is pretty ugly.

    This is an original Armalite Costa Mesa gun.

    It’s also got patents pending written on there.

    It’s kind of hard to film that roll mark because it’s so shallow, but the AR-180s were designed in the early 60s, and they enjoyed limited success, mostly in the civilian market actually.

    They feature things like a folding stock that were quite nice.

    And realistically, they’re actually well put together guns so far as a stamped gun.

    They have proprietary 20 and 30 round magazines.

    Large capacities are also available.

    The reason they don’t fit an M16 is because the magazine catch hole is slightly different, but they have a reciprocating charging handle attached to the bolt directly.

    They also have a folding dust cover that’s very, very reminiscent of the AR-15 M16s.

    The safety is also ambidextrous, and the sights are also stamped.

    Very crude here, but effective and easily adjustable.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with stampings in a firearm application, especially when you consider that this gun was designed basically to give countries that couldn’t stamp, or excuse me, milk aluminum and whatnot, the capability to produce 5.56 caliber more modern rifles.

    Even the trigger group is stamped which is kind of interesting.

    Very liberal use of stampings which resulted in an affordable platform back then.

    Now, this gun’s true legacy is in it’s gas system.

    It’s got a unique short-stroke gas piston that really has influenced a lot of guns like the British SA-80, the Howa 89.

    You can even see some of it’s influence in guns like the modern G36 and ACR and things like that.

    Here’s a nice closeup of the gas system so you can see the components here.

    There’s basically a piston, a connector and then kind of an operating rod.

    And you’ll see this in all kinds of different firearms.

    But all in all, the AR-180 is a gun that should have taken off, and I’ve never really been able to figure out why.

    They enjoyed more success on the commercial side of things than actual military sales, but like I said, the gas system soldiers on today in many platforms.

    So next up is one that I wasn’t sure whether to include or not, and that’s going to be the ACR.

    This is a Bushmaster ACR.

    These are still technically in production and for sale, but they just haven’t gone anywhere.

    They’ve been on the market for a long time, and it almost seems like Remington’s forgotten product.

    You know, they promised caliber conversions.

    They promised an MSRP below $1500 and both of those things didn’t happen.

    Especially the caliber conversion.

    That’s actually why I bought this is I was thinking it would be cool to have a rifle where I could, you know, have all of that kind of capability, but what I do like is it has a non-reciprocating charging handle which is something I like better than the star which has quite a slap around there.

    It is ambidextrous in pretty much every aspect of the firearm which is nice.

    It’s also got a built-in cheek riser.

    And a nice adjustable folding stock which is pretty decent in the way of folding stocks.

    They can always be a little flimsy on some designs, but the ACR actually did it quite well.

    Now, of course, you’ve got a bolt release in a very nice location, and then your magazine release is also ambidextrous.

    The controls of this gun are something that I would never complain about.

    They’re actually quite good, and I also like that it has the setting for suppressed and one for unsuppressed.

    Now, my favorite thing about the gun actually is the way that you change the barrel.

    You just pop off the fore-end, and then it’s basically got a built-in lever that allows you to torque the barrel right on there and remove it, and in theory put a 6.8 SBC barrel on there, but it doesn’t look like Remington’s going to deliver on that promise.

    So, until then I’ll be very disappointed.

    But, you know, it’s kind of sad that this, this rifle didn’t deliver on what was expected of it.

    I really like it.

    It looks cool.

    It shoots well.

    It just hasn’t really been a success on the marketplace.

    Hopefully the Polish MSBS will fill the void as they do look similar and kind of function similar.

    But we’ll see.

    Now, next up is going to be the original Bushmaster.

    This is Gwinn Firearms Bushmaster rifle.

    Not the most handsome firearm on the list.

    I would say it’s actually probably one of the uglier guns I own.

    It essentially just milled slap-side aluminum with a stainless steel barrel, but you know, form follows function.

    So, to understand the history of the modern Bushmaster company, you kind of look at stuff like this and the Bushmaster ARN pistol, and they actually had some native, unique, if not bizarre designs.

    This being one of them.

    It is a long-stroke piston gun, and this whole top assembly’s how you charge it, and it reciprocates which is, I can see that causing a problem for a multitude of reasons, but the folding stock’s actually quite nice.

    That is actual wood on the fore-end for whatever reason.

    And it’s even got a lot of components in common with the M16 AR-15 including the take-down pins and so on and so forth.

    And then it just clam-shells open which is nice for cleaning.

    Now you can see it’s got an AR-15 M16 basically trigger groove with a M16 hammer which is weird.

    Kind of unusual to see although not illegal.

    And the rear sight removes to field strip the gun which is strange.

    Now, to pull out the piston bolt carrier and bolt assembly, remove that little piece, and then it all slides out from the rear which is pretty cool actually.

    It’s a very heavy bit of mass that reciprocates inside the gun.

    And it is a long stroke piston.

    Looks a lot like an, kind of American-ized AK bolt and carrier, I guess.

    And all in all, it’s not a bad gun.

    Pretty decent actually.

    Not attractive, but they work.

    They shoot well, and I don’t see this being a high cost firearm.

    Everything’s quite simple.

    And in the 80s when these were introduced, I’m not quite sure why they took off or why they didn’t take off rather, but who knows? So, this next one is another one that definitely has failed on the American marketplace.

    This is a Benelli MR1.

    These are gas-breathing rifles with a rotating bolt.

    They seem to be a little bit more popular in Europe and Canada, but I can’t even find these for sale new anywhere in the U.S.

    I checked before making this video to verify that, and I only found used ones for sale.

    So, it seems like Benelli almost has just given up entirely.

    Now, there are hunting rifles that use the same action and gas system and everything, but this is the MR1 tactical version, marketed as a home defense gun.

    One of the reason’s I think it fails the controls are terrible.

    I have very large hands.

    You can see I have trouble actuating the bolt release.

    The safety’s somewhat intuitive, but I can’t even reach the magazine release with my pointer finger.

    I have to actually remove my hand from the grip which to me in this day and age is absolutely unacceptable when you have every other gun on the market where you are basically able to do that.

    It also doesn’t shoulder very well.

    You can see, to put your, you naturally want to put your eyes as closet to the sight as possible, but it’s configured with essentially a shot gun stock that doesn’t allow you to do that.

    The sights leave a little bit to be desired.

    There’s a not very adjustable rear one and a front sight post, but I think I would say that I’m kind of glad that the MR1 isn’t that prolific.

    They’re not terrible, but they’re not good guns.

    Realistically, I would even take a mini 14 over this.

    These are a nightmare to disassemble and clean.

    The controls aren’t that great, and yeah, I wouldn’t really recommend that you guys buy one, but they’re not the worst option you could take, I suppose.

    So lastly, we have probably my favorite gun on the list, the FN Tactical Tuna.

    I’m just kidding, this is FS2000 rifle.

    It is a Bullpup rifle, chambered in 5.56 like the other rifles on this list.

    And, you know, they look very strange, but they’re probably the best shooting gun on the list.

    They’re very cool.

    They handle oddly, but nothing that you can’t get accustomed to after one day at the range or so.

    And they look really bulky when you see a picture of one, but they’re really not that bad.

    The thing most people have trouble getting accustomed to is how you check the chamber by lifting the toilet seat and visually inspecting it.

    Not ideal, but at least it’s there.

    The safety is nice.

    It’s ambidextrous because it’s mounted where your trigger finger is inside the trigger guard which is pretty nice.

    Now, they eject out the front or you can store about four or five shots in there with the door closed before they eject which is kind of a neat feature actually.

    So, they’re kind of weird, the older models, in that they have an optic that’s hidden under the shroud.

    And you’re going to laugh when I take it off.

    It looks like a cheap BB gun optic, but it’s actually quite decent.

    Now, of course you can remove that and mount an acog or whatever eotech if you’re into that.

    And then go with it.

    I just think it looks so cool with the shroud and the old optic on there.

    And then of course, it also has an adjustable gas regulator, making this a very modern, very cool gun.

    So this was a tough one to list because while the FS2000 is on FN’s website, they haven’t really produced them or imported any in a while, although they kind of insist that it’s not down and out, however it does seem like they have turned their back to it.

    And when you click the link, it actually goes to the military version.

    So, I’m pretty sure that they’ve given up on this, but hopefully I’m wrong because they’re very cool.

    Anyways guys, big thanks to Ventura Munitions.

    Big thanks to you for watching.

    I really hope you enjoyed this.

    Hope to see you next time.


    Alex C.

    Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.