History Of The Colt AR-15 Rifle

History of the Colt AR-15 Rifle

A lot of iconic firearms have undergone a period of slow development over the years. Most of the time, it is just at the beginning, in their definitive years. This is because market acceptance does not come easily and automatically. In fact, some rifles were great in features but never quite became popular. A good example is Johnson rifles. Others like the GLOCK pistols and Beretta 92 first started off with a lot of resistance but managed to catch up.

Many users are not familiar with the journey behind modern rifles. In fact, the history of the Colt AR-15 rifle is so intriguing. Most guys who are using it today have no idea how old its original prototype really is and how it has been a tough journey in development to get to this level. The truth is, good and efficient rifles always outlive their counterparts. What is important is that improvements to AR-15 are fresh and innovative, which helps them to stay relevant. 

History of the Colt AR-15 Rifle
History of the Colt AR-15 Rifle

Early Development of Colt AR-15 History

The AR-15 rifles have always been the weapon of choice for militaries and law enforcement. It was never to be sold to civilians, and this was possible only at a later date in the 1970s due to its lethality and disastrous consequences. Most users that have access to other types always prefer the AR-15. The AR-15 types were developed and designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1950s. The contract was awarded to Colt Manufacturing Company in 1959 to manufacture the rifle, taking over from Armalite, mostly for use by the US army during the Vietnam War. The new features in the new AR included a cartridge that was designed from the .222 Remington, a super high-velocity varmint round. It also had a lower recoil and longer range than most carbines. One other important feature of Stoner’s design was the level of control in completely automatic fire.

Initial Errors and Problems

As a gas-operated rifle, the gas in the AR goes directly to the bolt in the gas system. When first issued, the AR was light in weight, quite accurate, was easily controlled and had easy firepower. All this was a major plus. This first issue had 5.56mm loading and well designed for high efficiency in terms of burn and energy. However, a wrong specification made afterwards resulted in rifles that had a varying pressure curve and dangerously clogged gas ports. This specification needed the rifles to use ball powder ammunition which was not necessarily the best option. Furthermore, these consequent issues were never accompanied by cleaning gear to clear out these clogs. This was another mistake since other rifles also needed cleaning frequently and came with some sort of mechanism to assist in this. To correct this, cleaning kits were issued together with a cleaning manual.

Improvements and Modifications

To mitigate the mistake in specifications, Colt then altered the firearms to operate with ball powder ammunition. This was met with yet another challenge. It resulted in a recoil device that had several moving parts internally designed for the ball load. It, however, also led to an increase in extractor tension that helped in the removal of the cartridge. Regardless, there were reported cases that the said cartridge would still stick inside the chamber, even during dire situations in combat. The whole system was compromised by the wrong choice of ammunition and the lack of proper cleaning gear. This was a firearm that was supposed to be reliable, but at the time, it was not as highly esteemed as today.  

The Modern Version of Colt AR-15

Over the years, the Colt retrieved severally but continued to produce the AR-15 rifle for civilians. They were the pioneers in this market that has kept growing since. Cold first began marketing a semi-automatic prototype of the M16 rifle as the Colt AR-15 in the year 1964. This civilian version was so well received because of its military appearance, ease to manoeuvre, high firepower and durability.

The popular ones that were mass-produced included the HBAR and the Colt Sporter. One surprising fact is that the Colt Expanse, which is an inexpensive version, was not well received by the market. It was believed that a cheap product from a reputable name was not always the best one being put out. On the other hand, the Colt M4 SOCOM is one that has standards that match military-issue rifles in terms of precision and performance. Overall, the standard of being reliable and having a high level of performance has been maintained by Colt for years.


Patents made by Colt expired in 1977, and this resulted in manufacturers copying the design of the Colt AR-15. The term AR-15 is still a registered trademark that belongs to Colt and Colt itself uses it to refer to the semi-automatic rifles that it produces. The generic ones by other manufactures are often referred to by this same name in the market though. These various AR-15 styles are produced in a wide range of calibers and configurations too, some of which are not even close to the AR-15 design.

20th September 2019

Quite recently, on 20th September 2019, Colt announced that they are pulling back on sales of AR-15 rifles to civilians based on slow sales. This is mainly because there are other cheaper AR-15 weapons available that compete for the same market share. As a result, the reasonable way forward would be to cut back on production. There are numerous high-end, high-performance, well-fitted accurate rifles from competitors too. These tough times are not new; Colt has withstood them before, having faced bankruptcy in 1992 and recovered through a new patent. It was faced with bankruptcy later again in 2015. It will probably make a comeback in the civilian market in the future. Nevertheless, it still produces weapons for law enforcement in police and military units. The Colt AR-15 history will always hold an important part in the progress of rifles.

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