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.


Armalite AR-180 Accessories: Sterling Magazines

As you would expect with any gun that is produced, Armalite tried to provide accessories for you to purchase with your new AR-180.

Taken from this pdf available at Small Arms of the World we see many accessories that were available to outfit your new rifle.

Sterling AR-180 Accessories

The subject of this article are the steel Sterling Magazines.

Sterling Mags 4

These rifles shipped with two 5 round or 20 round aluminum alloy magazines and one of the first things many owners did was buy more. These particular steel magazines had an excellent reputation for reliability and durability. Something many aftermarket magazines did not. I’ve had confirmation from several sources that these were the magazines of choice for those lucky enough to own select fire AR-18’s. The original alloy magazines had a reputation for feed lip problems during sustained full auto. They were also advertised to fit the AR-15 as well and if you own both guns, it made sense to buy these magazines.

Here are some examples I own.

Sterling Mags 1

Sterling Mags 2

Sterling Mags 3

They can be identified by several features, the most notable of which is the base plate. Unlike the original Costa Mesa 30 round steel magazine, the base plates are marked as shown. They also feature a single hole, near the top, on each side.

You will also note that the 20 round magazine is unique in that it curved as well. All original alloy magazines are of the straight design.

Now is my time to speculate a little about the 20 round Sterling magazine.

They are very hard to find and I believe that is because many did not buy them. Put yourself in the mindset of a new AR-180 owner. Your rifle came with two 20 round magazines. If you wanted to buy more, would you order more 20 rounders? I wouldn’t, and I think this is why so few are found today.

This example is the only one I have seen in person and you can see from the picture that the condition is not pristine. It actually looked much worse than this when I got it. Covered in rust. I rubbed it down with some gun oil and steel wool and I was able to knock most of the rust off. I don’t know if I will try to get it any cleaner at this point.

Please comment and let me know if you have any more information about these magazines.


AR-18S Inspiration for the AR-180B Shorty Project

For those not familiar, the AR-18S was the sub-machine gun version of the select fire AR-18. This was the inspiration for my shorty project.



These two pictures started it all.

Pete Fleis did a handful of these conversions and there are some factory made guns.

There are even a very few semi auto AR-180S guns floating around.

While mine will be a pistol to start, I fully intend to sbr it and have it turn out a close match for these two guns.

I have subsequently found a few more pictures of the cool little guns but have yet to come across any documentation about production numbers.

AR-18S Sterling

I believe this to be a factory Sterling AR-18S.


I believe this is a factory AR-180S but the jury is still out.

You will note that there are three types of flash hiders used on these guns. Small conical, Large conical, and standard three prong.

I will leave you with this scan from Small Arms Review that shows the very first carbine prototype. I wonder where this one is now.

First AR-18 Carbine