What a 150-Year-Old Gun Tells Us About the Finish of Colt’s AR-15

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SLATE.COM October 24, 2019 –  Guns outlive their
designers, makers, and initial customers. When they retire from military service,
they nonetheless have a lot of death in them.

I held the proof of this in my hands in April, in the Gun Space of the military collection at the National Museum of American History. Thanks to valuable and knowledgeable curators, I was in a position to operate the loading and firing mechanism of item No. 222,349: a breech-loading Peabody-Martini rifle developed nearly 150 years ago. It was in excellent operating order.

I believed back to that rifle when I heard in September that U.S. arms manufacturer Colt has suspended production of its AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Some view Colt’s choice as a victory for gun-manage activists, but it barely diminishes civilian customer option or access. There are currently 16 million AR-15s in the United States and their modular style, and broadly readily available and interchangeable components, make them practically immortal. Although the AR-15 owes its existence to Colt, it has carried out what military technologies has carried out all through history: It has escaped the manage of its producers.

The
AR-15 was primarily based on the M-16, developed by Eugene Stoner and financed by ArmaLite
for service in Vietnam.* Colt acquired the manufacturing and licensing rights
in 1959 and became the supplier for a number of military contracts, making five
million M-16s by the mid-1980s. The enterprise started marketing and advertising the civilian
variant, the AR-15, to the U.S. public in 1964. The privately developed rifle
was straight away well known for its ease of use, higher price of fire, and durability.

The extremely appeal and the longevity of the M-16 and the AR-15, even though, have place Colt below persistent stress in each the civilian and military marketplace. Given that the expiration of Colt’s initial exclusive rights in 1980, and the company’s 1988 Supreme Court defeat in its try to sue competitors, hundreds of U.S. firms have developed variants of the AR-15 for the civilian marketplace. Colt even suspended AR-15 production as soon as prior to, in March 1989. As with this year, the choice earned praise from gun manage advocates who named it an “act of civic duty.”

Gun
rights supporters, on the other hand, had been outraged, and inside a year below
new ownership, Colt resumed production for civilians. But the episode, combined
with labor difficulties and losing the cornerstone U.S. military M-16 contract,
forced Colt into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. The enterprise recovered, largely
via its 1994 patent for the new M4 variant of the M-16 style. When that
patent expired, Colt once again lost its military contract to competitor FN and
filed for bankruptcy as soon as a lot more in 2015.

Whilst today’s press interest has focused on Colt’s civilian production choices, Colt has reentered the military marketplace. The enterprise has an $88 million contract to provide approximately 150,000 new M4s and variants—the military equivalent of the AR-15—to the U.S. Army by September 2020. On top of that, the Division of Defense not too long ago announced the award of a new $42 million contract to Colt to provide M4s to 13 foreign countries—all existing U.S. allies. [Read More]

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