Vulcan V18: Chicken Shit to Chicken Soup

Meet the Vulcan V18.

Vulcan V18 with AR-180B Shorty Project
Vulcan V18 with AR-180B Shorty Project

Against almost all advice I have ever read I decided to buy a Vulcan. This particular “Weapon” (I use that term lightly) was sold as a parts gun. It was said to have light primer strikes and failure to extract. It also had no locking mechanism for the folding stock. For the price I considered this gun to nothing more than a collection of spare parts.

I decided to field strip it and see if it was as bad as the one the guys at GunLab had.

Well, it would not come apart and I had to resort to removing the large allen screw that is loctited in the rear of the lower receiver. Turns out that they did not completely remove the weld slag form one of the holes that the guide rods slide in and you could not push it far enough forward to open up the action.



This was as far as they would go.


I cleaned up the hole and now she works better.


I put it all back together and it still wouldn’t come back apart. The railed hand guard also interfered with the guild rods and had to be massaged to clear. Now at least I can take it back apart.

Before we move on I wanted to point out how Vulcan made this rifle. It appears that a standard AR-15 barrel was modified then pressed into the trunion and welded in place. The trunion is not as complex to machine as the AR-180B and is much simpler than the original AR-180. It is worth studying for the home builder or someone thinking of building a derivative. I would hope that the workmanship quality shows improvement over these guns. That should not be too hard.

Also something positive to say about Vulcan is the design of the bolt carrier to charging handle interface. It looks like a much easier way to manufacture both pieces with the use of an end mill to cut the slot on the bottom then the hole. I think others could learn something from this design as well.



I then wanted to see if the NDS-18S lower would attach to this upper and it did. There were some misgivings however. The AR-15 lower that Vulcan modified is shorter than an AR-180 and the distance from the pivot pin to the hammer pin is the main problem. To counter this Vulcan modified the bolt carrier by machining a slot and grinding a new radius in the bottom.


Even with this, the hammer was not striking the firing pin on the face. When I installed the NoDak lower it did. The relationship of the magazine to the barrel extension seemed to be about the same to my eye so even though there was a gap at the rear of the receiver where the lower attached, I decided it was worth trying.

I took it out shooting when I went to test fire the AR-180B Shorty and with the original lower it had failure to fire, failure to extract, and failure to eject on about 4-5 out of 10 shots.

With the NoDak lower you can see the results in this video.

Next when I got home I decided to make an adapter to install a VZ-58 folding stock on this lower while it was on the Vulcan. A little lathe work and file work and she is ready to roll.





I then saw my abandoned AR-180B lower sitting in the corner of the safe and decided I needed to put these two together. As bad as some have bad mouthed the Bravo lower, I have never had a problem with it. And it is vastly superior to the Vulcan lower.

The only problem with the Bravo lower is it uses different safety and bolt hold open parts. I decided that there was enough meat on the safety that I could modify it until can make or buy something different. Again a little dremel and file work and I had a functional safety.



Next problem is that the bolt hold open also holds the safety retaining spring in position. I didn’t have the proper size steel on hand to make a complete bolt hold open but I had some aluminum that I made into a spring retainer.


The gun has no bolt hold open but thats not a deal killer for me. I’l fab up a complete bolt hold open out of steel next time I make it to the metal supply house.

You can see that the safety is not as long as the original but it does just catch the hole so it stays centered. My original intent was to center drill the safety and turn up an extension that bolted on. It just laughed at my center drill. I’m either going to weld an extension on or anneal the safety so I can drill it.




For now it works on the NoDak lower and I just have to get to the range to test it on the AR-180B lower. I don’t foresee any problems but these are all the parts out of the original Vulcan lower that had so many issues. I will keep you posted.






AR-180B Shorty Project Pt. IV

Things have just been crazy but I was able to get to the range and test fire the AR-180B Shorty and it ran like a champ.

The original plan was to start with a .062″ gas port and work up from there. I decided to start with a .059″ and I am glad I did. It worked great and no further drilling was required.

Here is a quick video I shot when we had it out for the first time.


I also built a box to hold it when taking it to the range and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

I still have a couple of things I want to do before I call it “finished”. (Are projects ever really finished?) A new end cap that would fully retain the hand guards. This would allow them to be cut and installed with little fuss. And to get my paperwork and turn it into an SBR.

I hope you enjoyed following this project so far and please don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you want to make your own or have me build one for you.

Heads Up: Interesting Costa Mesa AR-180

While making my daily scan of I can across this interesting Costa Mesa AR-180.

Click Here

I had seen it before and dismissed it as a mixmaster gun with a Howa lower or it was using a former AR-18 lower.

You will notice the markings around the safety selector and the fact that the safety stops would allow for 180 degrees of movement.

I was able to figure out the serial from this picture as S3803.

AR180 Serial

I had to blow it up but I believe it is legit.

I surmise that the Costa Mesa plant was using up all the parts on hand and they used a lower that was originally intended for an AR-18 on this gun. This makes sense when you consider that the last Cost Mesa AR-180 serial was S4067 so this was probably built in the last month of production.



First Generation AR-180 Scopes

The first generation AR-180 scopes are easy to identify if you know how.

They are marked in meters.

AR-180 Scope Meters


The reticle is of the inverted post style.

AR-180 Scope Inverted Post

The practical uses of this style reticle is mentioned in the manual.

AR-180 Scope Manual

To quote from the manual. “The sight incorporates an inverted post as well as fine cross-hairs. When “holding over” at extreme ranges, this precludes the post from blotting out the target.”

The final distinguishing mark that this scope features is a serial number on the bottom of the base. These will all start with 67 followed by four digits.

AR-180 Scope Serial 670037

My good friend and AR-180 mentor, Rich, has collected all the scope serial numbers he has come across over the years and has found none that are higher than 671000. He has further deduced that these were originally produced for the first 1000 Howa rifles.

Armalite never wanted to go into production and make guns as much as they wanted to design them and then license the rights to others to actually produce.

The fact that they had Howa Machinery produce the rifle is documented in the January 31, 1966 issue of U.S. News and World Report. One small paragraph under the heading “Rifles for Asia” reads.

“Armalite, Inc. the Costa Mesa, Calif., firm that took over the former Fairchild gun division, has developed a new combat rifle, the AR18. This model is to be produced by Japan’s Howa Machinery, Ltd., under a provisional agreement. It would be the first mass production of this rifle, with the Japanese expecting to export some units to such Southeast Asia customers as Thailand and the Philippines.”

Original article found hereĀ 

After Howa produced the first 1000 rifles but before they could ship, Japan became neutral and would not ship any guns to nations that were in active conflicts.

“Adopted in 1967, the three principles originally prohibited arms sales to Communist nations, countries under United Nations sanctions and countries in armed conflict, but it eventually grew into a blanket ban on all weapons exports.”

From NY Times article.

Early Howa AR-180’s are known to have been converted from AR-18’s so this is the series of events as I have come to understand them.

Howa produced 1000 AR-18 rifles in 1967. They were complete with serial numbered scopes and flash hiders. The Japanese government changed policy and they were not allowed to export them. The Costa Mesa plant was forced to ramp up production and in order to offer scopes as add on accessories, they imported the scopes from Howa as these were not under any sanctions. These scopes were offered up, in plain cardboard boxes, to any who ordered them with no thought given to matching the serial numbers.

AR-180 Scope Box

Picture found via Google Image Search

In conclusion, this makes for a pretty firm number of these early scopes not counting losses over the years. Less than 1000. Identifying and distinguishing them from the later scopes is pretty straight forward, marked in meters, inverted post reticle, and a serial number starting in 67.

Good hunting and please let me know if you have any pictures of original scope boxes you would like to share.

Please note I have manually added a few email addresses to my subscriber list, let me know if this is a problem and I will gladly remove them.


Armalite AR-180 Owners Manual Variations

After chatting with my friend Rich today, he mentioned that the Armalite AR-180 Owners manual he is selling is from the Sterling era and the early manuals are different.

I dug my original manual that came with my Costa Mesa gun to see for myself. There are definitely variations in these manuals that we can use to see what guns they would have came with originally.

First, the covers. The only thing notable on the front is the outline runs off the bottom of the page on the early manual and creates a box on the late manual.

AR-180 Front Cover

The rear covers are much different and should be a perfect indicator for those who are looking to get the correct manual for your gun. The early manual does not feature a picture of the rifle as the later manual does.

In the first two pictures the late manual is on the left, in the remaining pictures it is on the top.

AR-180 Back Cover


The inside front cover is different as well. You will notice the outline forming a box just like on the cover. This is consistent throughout the manual. There are also several things added to the late manual. A warning about the use of reloaded ammunition on the inside cover. A congratulations paragraph at the top of the first page. Finally the logo and address added to the bottom of the page.

AR-180 Inside Front Cover


On page one the logo is added and the lower left picture appears to be inverted on the late manual.

AR-180 Page 1


On page five the picture in the lower left is a slightly different version noted by the thumb position on the magazine release.

AR-180 Page 5


On page 7 all the pictures except the lower right are slightly different.

AR-180 Page 7


On page nine the picture in the lower left corner is completely different.

AR-180 Page 9


On page 11 all the pictures show some differences.

AR-180 Page 11


Page 13 has different pictures and section 5-2A is added dealing with steel magazines. Page 14 has different pictures and the wording in section 5-4 is changed to reflect the different reticles in the late scopes. Crosshair vs. inverted post.

AR-180 Page 13


The rest of the pages remain unchanged until page 22, it has three extra items listed, 20,30,40 round mags, as well as a picture.

AR-180 Page 21


The inside back cover is blank on the early manual and features added safety precautions and address on the late manual.

AR-180 Inside Back Cover


I believe there are some transitional manuals as well where some of the info was added in the form of inserts or glued onto the pages as well.

If anyone has any other versions please let me know via the contact page or comment below this post.

Thanks again and sorry for the lack of updates lately but I caught a cold from hell flying back from Orlando after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t collect my thoughts enough and put together a coherent post.