ArmaLite Incorporated was an American firearms manufacturer. Formerly a division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, ArmaLite is best known for having developed the AR-15 rifle.

History[edit | edit source]

ArmaLite was founded by Charles Dorchester and George Sullivan in the early 1950s as a private venture, but did not establish itself as a company proper until late 1954, when Sullivan convinced Richard Boutelle, president of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, to invest in ArmaLite. Consequently ArmaLite became a subsidiary of Fairchild. Eugene Stoner was appointed as ArmaLite's first chief designer.

Dorchester & Sullivan's original business model was to produce low-cost, lightweight rifles that made extensive use of plastic and fibreglass components. Their first products, the AR-1 and AR-3, reflected this, but proved commercially unsuccessful. In 1955, ArmaLite achieved early success when their AR-5 survival rifle was accepted into US Air Force service. ArmaLite also attempted to capitalize on the civilian market with the AR-9 shotgun, to little success.

In the ensuing years, Fairchild instructed ArmaLite to focus their attention on achieving a military contract. The Stoner-designed 7.62×51mm AR-10 was the product of this new policy, and although it was not adopted by the US Army, it achieved sales abroad. Development of the AR-10 rifle led to the conception of ArmaLite's most famous design, the .223-calibre AR-15, which was adopted by the US Air Force as the M16 in 1961. The US Army soon followed suit, accepting the M16 as the official replacement for the M14. ArmaLite lacked the manufacturing capacity to supply the high numbers of rifles demanded by the Army, so they sold the AR-15's production rights to Colt in January 1959, thus losing out on the bulk of the profit that the rifle made. ArmaLite attempted to recuperate their losses by producing the affordable AR-16 for the international market, but the weapon failed to achieve any sales.

In 1961, Fairchild dropped ArmaLite, which then became an independent company. Eugene Stoner left the company and was replaced by Arthur Miller, who designed the AR-18 rifle. ArmaLite licensed the production rights of the AR-18 to Howa in Japan and Sterling in Britain. The AR-18 also proved to be commercially unsuccessful, despite attempts to market the weapon internationally throughout the 1960s and 70s. During this period, ArmaLite downsized considerably due to financial concerns, and Sullivan left the company to work at the Lockheed Corporation. The company found itself unable to produce new designs and thus ceased to exist. In 1983, the company's holdings were sold to the Elisco Manufacturing Company of the Philippines, who briefly produced the AR-18 in the 1980s.

Today, the ArmaLite brand is owned by Strategic Armory Corps, who continue to market guns under the ArmaLite name.

Personnel[edit | edit source]

  • Charles Dorchester - Co-founder, president
  • George Sullivan - Co-founder
  • Burton T. Miller - Vice President
  • Richard Boutelle - Financial controller (1954 - 1961)
  • Eugene Stoner - Chief designer (1954 - 1961)
  • Arthur Miller - Chief designer (1961 - 1983)
  • L. James Sullivan - Designer
  • Robert Fremont - Designer

Products[edit | edit source]

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