While the late R. Blake Stevens‘ Black Rifle may still be considered the bible when it comes to the origins and history of the AR-15, the new second edition of ‘AR-15 (Volume 1)‘ from Vickers Guide is an accessible, aesthetically pleasing way into the history of one of the world’s most famous firearms.
Expanding on the first edition of the book printed four years ago, in 2016, this new 648-page book is certainly bigger and better, with a heft surpassing a loaded XM16E1 – its substantial body of work. The weight is understandable with Vickers Guide selecting a large 12.5x11in format which shows off the brilliant photography which is featured throughout the book. The book covers the genesis of the AR-15 with a look at the early ArmaLite and Colt prototypes right through to the M16A2 and less known Advanced Combat Rifle trials prototypes.
James Rupley’s beautiful photography gives us glimpses at firearms we’d rarely see such as the ArmaLite XAR1501 or the carbine variant of Colt’s entry to the US Army’s Advanced Combat Rifle trials. As with the other entries in the Vickers Guide series, the photos capture the details that gun guys want to see. Brilliantly clear close-ups of markings, muzzle brakes and magazines – full-length profile photos of rifles that are rarely accessible and beauty shots of astonishingly rare pieces ranging from half a dozen early ArmaLite prototypes to obscure Colt SMG prototypes.
Contributors to the book include Chris Bartocci, who wrote Black Rifle II, Larry Vickers, Daniel Watters, a noted firearms scholar who curated the 5.56 Timeline, Alex MacKenzie of the Springfield National Historic Site, David Lutz and Reed Knight, to mention a few. They bring together concise but authoritative sections on various aspects of the AR-15/M16’s history.
Looking at both individual early prototypes and also at aspects of the rifle’s development including the reliability issues encountered in Vietnam, the inclusion of the forward assist, early conversions to gas piston operation, sections on changes to the barrel, sights and furniture and even a photo essay on early attempts to develop a lightweight magazine. Sections also cover ammunition development, the carbine models and foreign production guns like those produced by Chartered Industries Singapore.
Some of my favourite parts of the book look at the AR-15’s lesser-known developmental dead ends and other oddities like the Rock Island Arsenal improved M16A1 concept, the piston-driven Colt Model 703 and the M231 Firing Port Weapon. At times I wish the book went into more detail about some of the more obscure parts of the AR-15s developmental and service histories but overall the Vickers Guides offer a good introduction to their subject matter, something that can be poured over or dipped into occasionally.
Described by Vickers Guide as a “premium quality, collector’s grade, coffee table reference book” the book leaves little to be desired in terms of content and production quality. The book is printed on premium quality paper stock and has a gorgeous Vietnam tiger stripe hardcover modelled after the camouflage pattern used by USMAAG advisors, South Vietnamese and later US special forces during the Vietnam War. The hardcover is protected by a dust jacket but a tiger stripe slipcase is also available as an extra.
Find out more at VickersGuide.com