As of January 1, 2023 all Costa Mesa AR180’s are C&R eligible!
AR180 production in Costa Mesa CA took place from 1969 to 1972 but since production records no longer exist it was impossible to exactly date a particular gun by serial number. That is no longer the case as all of the 4018 rifles produced fall under the Curio & Relic classification.
A regulation implementing federal firearms laws, 27 CFR § 478.11, defines curio or relic (C&R) firearms as those which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons.
To be recognized as C&R items, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, state, or federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.
Personally I think all of the original production AR180’s (Howa & Sterling) should be considered C&R, but I don’t make the rules. For those that don’t know all AR18’s are considered C&R. There is a separate list that you can download at the link above that lists them. The AR18’s were not yet 50 years old when they made it on the list. I’m not sure why they left out the 180’s.
Why does this matter? If you get yourself a C&R FFL license for $30 you can have a C&R weapon shipped right to your door.
My postal carrier delivered my AR18 right to my hot little hands. It was an awesome experience. Now we can trade our 180’s the same way!
Reader Alex sent me this link. Jump to the 22:03 mark to see the AR18S.
You can definitely see the unique flash hider on this gun. If you need one for your shorty project head over to AR180Parts.com. I just got a batch back from John Thomas at Retro Arms Works and they are ready to ship.
Well at least a few of them. According to the accepted timeline (Click Here) the first 12 AR-180 rifles were made in July 1969. 50 years ago this month.
As time marches on more and more will become Curio & Relics. Time to get your C & R FFL so we can start selling and trading these among each other. Best part, they can be mailed directly to your house!
The real question is, how do we get those who are selling them to agree they now fall under the C & R classification and it would be perfectly legal to ship them to me?
One thing is for sure, in 3 years all Costa Mesa AR-180’s will qualify for C & R status.
I welcome you comments on this. What do you think?
Lets look at the more interesting side of AR-18 serial number 057.
There are early features everywhere over here!
Of course like the other side you see no reinforcement at the front of the mag well. The most obvious difference is the lack of a dust cover. Early testing showed that there was just too much space for dirt and debris to get into the action. This was fixed during later production.
No curved charging handle on these early models, just like the AR-16 that proceeded it. To my understanding the spent cases would sometimes hit the charging handle and bounce back into the ejection port. To remedy this they changed the design to act somewhat like a shell deflector.
Reminds me a lot of the AR180B.
Other features that may not be so obvious, the reinforcing ribs in the upper extend all the way to the rear. They stop short on regular production models.
Finally we move onto the lower receiver. Compare the front of the trigger guard to the one in your gun safe.
(What do you mean you don’t have one?) (Go get one.) (You know you want to.)
On regular production models the front of the trigger guard serves double duty as a guide for the rear of the magazine. Not so on this example.
Let me know what you see that is different. There is at least one more thing that can be seen in the above photo. Can you spot it?
Friend of the site Andrew Huber had the opportunity to look over more than a few weapons at the West Point museum and one of them is a very early example of the AR-18. Serial number 057.
Lets look over a few of his pictures and compare those to later production examples.
The most notable feature from this angle is actually what it is missing, the reinforcement around the front of the mag-well. While not as strong I think it has a sleeker look to it. Next would be the roll marks. They certainly made a few changes when they went into production. Unlike the first prototype that is shown in early literature this example uses the traditional folding stock retention stud. Like the first prototype this one does not have a dovetail scope mount on the upper receiver.
It also features an inspection mark on the upper that I have never seen before.
Do you see any other interesting details that I missed?
Make sure you respond, share and subscribe. I’ll dig into the other side of the receiver in the next article so stay tuned. Awesome stuff and I can’t thank Andrew enough for doing the hard work gathering these pictures?