Why Finish One Project When You Can Start Two More

Work progresses on the AR180S Pistol Grip and I am almost happy with the result but in between test prints I do other stuff to keep my mind busy.

How about a 9mm blowback version of the AR180? Sounds like fun! I think this could be an easier way to build a 180 since bolts and carriers are hard to source. I think this bolt could be made with less sophisticated machines and from less expensive steel.

The pistol that got me thinking about this some years back , the 9mm Australian Automatic Arms SAP 9mm.

What do y’all think? AR15 magwell adapter, Slightly modified. (Shown with my long neglected square tube prototype)

3D printed prototype bolt that uses an Uzi extractor and retaining pin.

Trunion design that has the barrel entering from the rear and utilizing a press fit. Although there would be room to fit a cross pin if needed.

What I am thinking it would look like. Maybe a DOE style hang guard retainer and front sight?

Got a 9mm barrel blank from Green Mountain and a chamber reamer from MidwayUSA.

Still have some work to do on the bolt design as I discovered it would not lock the hammer onto the disconnector. I really love being able to print some stuff and test fit it before making stuff out of metal.

Project 2? Selling some stuff to finance all these projects.

I have a very limited supply of Sterling 20 round steel mags for sale. $120 each shipped with tracking. PayPal gladly excepted if you kick in a bit to cover the fees.

Other spare parts as well, just ask for my price list.

Shoot me an email through the contact form if you are interested.


What’s Happening at AR180S.com

Work has been keeping me busy and when I am home I like to relax and get out in the shop. I have been building several different weapons besides those related to the AR180 but I hope you are still interested.

Some time back I got a flat and weldments for my Cetme LC from HMG

I also got the bending jig and the build went pretty smooth considering I’m still using a cheap flux core wire feed welder from Harbor Freight.

Got it to the range a couple weeks back and it ran great. Time to give this ghost gun some paint.

The AR-180S is done after 3 years of gathering parts and building and rebuilding. Runs like a top.

I am currently in an UZI kick. I picked up a Micro kit and I am in the middle of building this as a pistol. I plan to make a folding brace using a Tailhook on the original hinge.

Still a work in progress and more welding and grinding before I’m happy enough to try and shoot it. The wire feed wasn’t working too well for the fill in so I broke out the gas torch with my smallest tip #0. I think I need a smaller one.

I really need to get a TIG but every time I get close enough to having the money together a great deal comes along on a gun or parts. The struggle is real.

Latest acquisition.

New in Wrapper Sterling 20 round mags. I think I have more than I need so I will be willing to share.

I also discovered Zib-Militaria.de

They are the place the AR-18 parts kits are being sourced from. 499 Euros Click Here

They also have some awesome parts for sale. Just click around and drool.

Now I need a friend in Europe who would ship them to the states. Anyone got a cousin over there? I would make it worth their while.




Early HOWA AR-180; One of the First 1000

As luck would have it, after writing the article about The First 1000 Howa AR-180 I came across one and it has now joined the collection. Special thanks goes to one of my readers (you know who you are) that stayed out of the fray and let me take a run at it. I certainly could not have competed against him for this rifle.

Other than sling swivels and original Howa magazines, this Howa AR-180 is complete. Condition leaves a lot to be desired for many. For me it is perfect. Everything rattles and is loose. There is a slight hint of rust in a few places. It has “Patina”. I love it. Best of all, I can shoot it and have fun with it.

In addition to having one to help round out my collection, I wanted it because I was curious about the differences between these rifles and later versions.

This is the picture that first caught my eye.


If you look closely you will notice a difference in the bolt carrier compared to any others that I know of.

Here is the bolt carrier next to the one from my early Costa Mesa rifle. (The one shown on the splash screen at the top of page and in your emails from me)


Both of these early 180 bolt carries started life as AR-18 carriers but there are differences. The most striking and the reason I wanted this example, was the extra machined cutout on the right side of the carrier.


The left sides are very similar with only a few distinctions. A radius on the cam pin and the quality of the machine work, with the Howa coming out on top.

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The firing pins differ as well. The early Costa Mesa using an AR-18 firing pin and the Howa using what I think is a modified AR-18 pin.


This is just one of the unique features of these fine weapons. Stay tuned for more in-depth articles soon.

Now some more pics for you, the Early Howa and the Early Costa Mesa.

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The First 1000 Howa AR-180s

In the world of AR-180 collecting one of the top prizes could be considered the early Howa AR-180s.

Several notable features are readily apparent but some subtle clues to it’s origins are hiding just below the surface.

The most obvious feature of the rifles is the placement of the serial number, on the upper receiver as opposed to the lower.


The second is the 180 degree swing safety, which is unique to the Howa.

Some examples show a distinct misalignment of the 0 in the 180. This our first clue that these guns started life as AR-18s.

Further clues can be discovered when looking at the bottom of the upper receiver.

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It is obvious when compared to the underside of an AR-18 that the part that held the auto sear has been removed.


The firing pins also look different and it looks to me like these Howas used modified AR-18 firing pins.


The really interesting thing about these guns is when they were actually made. I think the evidence makes a strong case for 1967. Much earlier than many thought.

The first piece of the puzzle is an article in the January 31. 1966 issue of U.S. News & World Report. It states that a provisional agreement was reached and Howa would undertake the first mass production of this rifle.


Japan then, during the Diet session of 1967, introduced the “Three Principles” which forbid the exportation of arms to nations in active conflict. Anyone remember what the US was doing in 1967? In southeast Asia? That’s right the Vietnam War. Howa would not have started production of a rifle they could not export so it makes sense that they were built sometime between Jan ’66 and the passing of the law in 1967.

Yet another clue, and the one first postulated by my friend and mentor, Rich, was that the earliest scopes sold in this country were originally matched up with these first 1000 Howa AR-18s. These particular AR-18s were known to have matching serial numbered flash hiders and Rich speculated that the scopes were matched as well. All the first scopes have serial numbers that start with 67 and do not go above 1000. After the rifles were banned from importation, ArmaLite ramped up production themselves and since there was no ban on the importation of the scopes, there separated from the rifles and sent to the US. These were sold as accessories with the Costa Mesa rifles.

I would like to thank all the generous folks on the retro forum at AR15.com and all those who have helped with the gathering of this information.

Like I said when I started this site, I want it to be a central depository for information about these cool guns.



AR-180B Shorty Project Part VII

It’s been far too long since I updated y’all on the project that launched about the same time as this blog, The AR-180B Shorty Project.

I was not entirely happy with the VZ-58 stock and although I want a folding stock, I could not resist attaching an original AR-180B butt stock to see how it looked and handled.

I could not be happier. I’m hoping to get it to the range now that it has cooled off and put it through it’s paces.

As shown, with an empty magazine, it is weighing in at about 6.5 lbs.

Shown with the GunLab lower completion kit, which should be ready to ship soon.

Make sure you hit me up and get your name on the list to save your spot. Just use the Contact form at the top of the page.

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I need to make a hand guard cap and park the flash hider (it is painted currently) and I will call this one done.

Lessons learned by taking on this project?

I actually found an original AR-18S lower hand guard and discovered that my reverse engineered from pictures attempt was off by about 3/8″.

The placement of the front sight block is further back than it should have been and I can’t replace these hand guards with 180’s because of where the stiffening ribs are.

I guess I will just have to build another one!

Much thanks to those who helped make this project possible.


NoDak Spud

Retro Arms Works

And a special mention to Ian at Forgotten Weapons for the inspiration to write about these cool weapons. I ran into Ian and Karl at the last gun show and I have to say, they are a couple of really nice and knowledgeable guys. I hope to get this particular gun closer to completion and let them shoot it. If anyone can find it’s flaws, they can.