I have now taken my AR-15 rifle to a shooting range more times than I can count. Shooting this majestic weapon is satisfying. It’s rewarding.

And the knowledge that I have the means and ability to defend myself and my family from someone wishing to do us harm is even more satisfying, more rewarding. I even used it once in a home defense setting…well, almost.

One night I heard a loud rumble coming from downstairs. I grabbed my AR-15, feeling almost excited to show it to an unlucky intruder. 

As it turned out, it was a neighbor’s cat, Misty, who snuck into our house during the day and remained hidden until it finally decided to show its face sometime in the middle of the night.

No cat or human got hurt in this incident. But the feeling of almost complete absence of fear in a potentially life-threatening situation when I held my AR-15 made me fall in love with it. And when you love something, you want to know everything about it.

How the AR-15 came about is a remarkable story. To think about how many random series of invents had to align so that we can enjoy this rifle today makes me appreciate it even more. Feeling intrigued? Read on to find out the complete history of the AR-15 rifle. 

We will begin our journey with the man himself – Eugene Stoner.

The Man Behind the AR-15 Rifle

Eugine Stoner (1922-1997), a self-made American man, was born in Geosport, Indiana. His first job was at Vega Aircraft Company, where he worked as a mechanist. Once World War II started, he enlisted for Aviation Ordnance in the U.S. Marine corps. 

During his time in the army, he got a chance to do a bit of experimenting on different types of machine guns. However, after WWII ended, Stoner went back to what he knew best – the aircraft engineering field.

In 1945, he began working for Whittaker, a small company that specialized in aircraft equipment. It was here that he started making his first weapon prototypes using lighter materials like aircraft-grade aluminum and fiberglass. Around this time, he developed the AR-10 rifle. 

This rifle came with a recoil compensator, straight-line stock design, elevated sights, and adjustable gas system.

At this point, he still considered weapon-making to be his hobby, a hobby that got out of his hands, as he stated in one of his interviews

But as faith would have it, he met George Sullivan, one of ArmLite’s original founders, completely by chance. Stoner was out in the rifle range, shooting one of his prototypes when Sullivan approached him with a proposition to start working as the engineer for the ArmLite company. 

This event marked the beginning of Eugine Stoner’s career as a weapon maker.

The AR-15 Early Stages And the Battle With the M14

Around the 1950s, the U.S. Army set up a “lightweight rifle program” in pursuit of a conventional caliber lightweight weapon. 

The AR-10 participated in this program but ended up losing to the M14 rifle. Which was ironic, as M14 was almost the same weight as the rifle they were trying to replace – the M1.

A few years later, a four-star general, Willard G. Wyman, paid an unannounced visit to the ArmLite company. He asked Stoner if he was willing to go to Fort Bening in Georgia and discuss the development of the new weapon with the Infantry Board.

Of course, Stoner didn’t want to miss this opportunity. So, he met with the Infantry Board, and they told him they wanted a six-pound weapon fully loaded with 20, smaller than .30 caliber, rounds of ammunition. 

It has to be able to penetrate a steel helmet at 500 yards and go through a 10-gauge steel plate at the same distance. 

It wasn’t long until Stoner realized that the .222 cartridge could be the perfect round for the job, but it required some changes. Luckily, Remington agreed to remake their .222 sporting cartridge and designed the new cartridge that matched  Stoner’s needs – the .223 Rem.

Stoner then scaled down the original design of his AR-10 to chamber the .223 Rem cartridge, and the AR-15 was born.

The AR-15 met all the criteria, and the ArmLite company was set up to build around thirteen AR-15 rifles that were going to be tested at Fort Bening by the Infantry. So, once again, Stoner and ArmLite went into battle with the M14.

Sometime later, Stoner received a telegram saying that his AR-15 rifles developed all kinds of operational issues during the testing at Fort Greely, Alaska. 

When he went up there to see what was going on, he witnessed questionable handling of his weapon (parts that were misaligned, sights that were moved from their original position), almost as if someone deliberately wanted the AR-15 to fail at all tests.

But none of that mattered, and it wasn’t long before the U.S. Army “pulled the plug” on the AR-15 and once again went with the M14 rifle. The AR-15’s short existence came to an end. Or did it?

The AR-15 Resurrection

In 1959, ArmLite sold both the AR-10 and AR-15 designs to Colt Firearms. Two years later, Stoner left ArmLite and joined the Colt company as a consultant. The same year, the U.S. Air Force tested the AR-15 and commissioned 8,500 rifles for Air Force usage. 

From this point on, things started to develop more quickly. And in 1963, Colt Firearms was selected to manufacture a standard-issue model of the AR-15 for soldiers in the Vietnam War, which was then dubbed the M-16. This is one of the most iconic weapons ever made and is still used by U.S. military forces.

After the war, Colt started to produce a semi-automatic version of the M-16 rifle for civilians and law enforcement officers, changing its name back to AR-15.

Where is the AR-15 Now?

Today, the AR-15 is one of the most popular firearms used for just about any purpose you can think of – hunting, shooting competitions, home defense, and practice shooting. 

Now you can buy the AR-15 rifle and completely customize it for your needs. There are numerous accessories available on the market that you can add to your AR-15, including a drop-in trigger, a custom drop-in handguard, a mounted LED tactical light, and more. 

Closing Thoughts

The AR in the AR-15 stands for ArmLite, but it might as well stand for American Rifle because that is what this rifle truly is. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip together down memory lane and learned a thing or two about this iconic weapon along the way.