Proof! Howa AR-180’s Made in 1966

I first talked about this in and article in 2015

It was speculated that the Early Howa AR-180’s actually started life as AR-18’s that were first produced prior to 1967. They were blocked from export to the US and that forced Armalite to step up and make them in Costa Mesa. Later this initial order of 1000 rifles were converted to semi auto and then imported in the early 70’s.

I was contacted by Jonathan Ferguson who is the “Keeper of Firearms & Artillery” at the Royal Armouries Museum ,UK. He is researching a book on the evolution of the British Bullpup rifles. One of the early concept rifles used an AR-18 that was converted to a Bullpup.

The best pictures of this converted AR-18 are on the Armament Research site.

From these photos I could tell it was a Howa but it had been scrubbed of markings. Jonathan was able to find a serial number on the flash hider and my earlier article led him to some interesting documents.

Assuming the flash hider had not been changed he found the the rifle had been acquired for testing in January of 1967. It was only later converted to a bullpup after testing had concluded. This is the first definitive PROOF that these guns existed before 1967! Very exciting news. This is the kind of primary source documentation that prompted me to start this site. It is critically important that these sources be found and the dots connected.


Jonathan has given permission to post this info but he will be going into much more depth on the subject in his book. I will certainly keep you abreast of any updates I get as to it’s release date.

Project SA80 L85A2: Update


Lots of modeling in Fusion 360 and I got myself a 3D printer and started building my own stuff!

Here is the one I picked up Amazon Click Here

It is the Monoprice Maker Select Plus. I’m loving it.

Some stuff I have been playing with.

AR180C front sight base.


AR180B trunion.

SA80 L85A2 Airsoft bolt carrier

AR180S Hand Guard Retainer and fixture.

AR180B Upper Receiver



Project SA80 L85A2: Trunion Mock Up Part 4

SA80 L85A2 Trunion

Still making progress on the trunion and I am hopeful I can make it work.

Progress so far.

I even got the bolt carrier to sorta feed and eject. The green one is the latest version and I made a couple tweaks and I should have it printed by the time I get back in town.

Then a present showed up in the mail.

Two reasons I wanted to see this original AR180B trunion, first to actually measure the ID of the hole so I could find out the amount of press fit. Second I want to build some. Before I can do that I need to model it right?

How did I do?


Project SA80 L85A2: Bolt Carrier

Project SA80 L85A2

Had my daughter’s friend 3d print me some parts to mock up and it sure is easy to find your mistakes that way.

I have the firing pin retainer hole in the wrong spot as well as the charging handle. The outside dimensions are too big and the bolt carrier rubs on the inside of the upper receiver shell.

The design has been updated and I will get them printed up soon.

I also took the opportunity to model the original bolt carrier that I borrowed.

It is much slimmer than what I was building and it actually will ride on the airsoft guide rails since the holes are larger. This is where the frustrating part starts. When putting the original bolt and carrier in the gun it won’t strip rounds from the magazine. Either the original guide rails are lower in the receiver or the magazine is higher. I’m working on getting some more original parts to try in this shell and see where I am at.

I’m not giving up but I am having that nagging feeling that I might be stuck turning this into a .22LR instead of a 5.56.

Regardless of how it turns out I have learned a lot just from teaching myself Fusion 360 and from the study of these original parts.