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What Does the AR in AR-15 Stand For?

What does the AR in AR-15 stand for? Hint - it’s not Assault Rifle. It’s also not standing for automatic rifle or Army rifle.


The letters "AR" were designated to rifles produced by the guns original manufacturer, ArmaLite Inc. ArmaLite developed the semi-automatic AR-15 in the 1950s as a prototype for the U.S. Military. ArmaLite had only limited success in selling the rifle to the military, and sold the design to Colt in 1959. So, that's a short history of where the letter designation of "AR" came from; ArmaLite Rifle.

The New ArmaLite Logo

COLT's M-16 and AR-15

In 1963, the U.S Military contracted Colt to produce an automatic rifle for the U.S. Troops fighting in the Vietnam War. The automatic rifle became standard issue for the soldiers on the front line of the war. Colt named this rifle the M-16. With the popularity and success that Colt gained from producing the M-16 for the military, they began manufacturing the semi-automatic ArmaLite rifle design for Law Enforcement, and eventually the public. Colt named this rifle the AR-15, and it was marketed as the counterpart to the military's automatic rifle, the M-16.

The Armalite M-15 Tactical Rifle


As all patents do, Colt’s patent for the AR-15 rifle expired in 1970. Other gun manufacturers then began producing semi-automatic rifles very similar to Colt's AR-15. Although manufacturers gave names and model numbers to their semi-automatic rifles, the term AR-15 stuck in the public's head as the name for all semi-automatic rifles, although popular belief still deemed the letters "AR" as standing for Assault Rifle. The term AR-15 became the umbrella term when describing semi-automatic rifles. To correct everyone from calling all semi-automatic rifles AR-15, firearms enthusiasts, as well as those in the firearms industry, have adopted the term "AR-15 Style" rifles, and now recognizes semi-automatic rifle manufacturers designated rifle names and models for the semi-automatic rifles specific to that manufacturer.

The Core AR-15 Scout Rifle


The public majority who are not familiar with AR-15 continue to think that the "AR" stands for Assault Rifle. The Colt AR-15 is not an assault rifle. Assault rifles are "selective-fire" rifles. Selective fire means that a rifle would have the capability to switch from semi-automatic to fully automatic with the flip of a selector switch. That feature is what makes a rifle an assault rifle. The Colt AR-15 and other AR-15 style rifles do not have this option, therefore are not assault rifles, they are semi-automatic rifles. 

The Silver Shadow Gilboa Double Barrel AR-15


AR-15 Rifles and other AR-15 style rifles are wildly popular in America. They are at the forefront of political minds, who are either for or against the general public having access to purchase these semi-automatic rifles. Right now, we have the freedom to purchase these rifles, but that freedom is not guaranteed as generations and elections evolve. But for now, we love our AR-15 style rifles.

The National Rifle Association has estimated that there are 8 million AR-15 and AR-15 style rifles in circulation in the United States. They are so popular, it has been suggested that the "AR" should stand for "America’s Rifle"!

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