The NRA celebrates the spirit of the holiday season in our 12 Days of Firearms series! To kick off the month of December, we’ve handpicked 12 legendary firearms found in the galleries of the NRA Museums, showcasing one each day for 12 days.
While the name Eugene Stoner is most commonly associated with the AR-15 rifle, Stoner’s work at ArmaLite Inc., also produced the AR-7, a small, lightweight survival rifle. The story began in 1957 with the design of the AR-5. This rifle was a bolt-action breakdown rifle chambered for the .22 Hornet cartridge and was intended for use as a survival arm by U.S. Air Force crews. The gun's barrel and receiver could be stored in its hollow fiberglass buttstock that, in addition to its ability to float, also provided a storage place for fish hooks, matches and other supplies. The AR-5 was accepted for military use, but expected sales failed to materialize because the Air Force had already purchased a large inventory of Harrington & Richardson M4 and M6 survival guns.
The AR-5's design became the basis of the civilian AR-7. The gun was chambered for the popular .22 long rifle cartridge and employed a semi-automatic blowback action rather than the bolt operation of its predecessor. ArmaLite briefly manufactured the AR-7 before selling production rights to Charter Arms Corporation, who manufactured the AR-7 until 1990 when Survival Arms, Inc. took over production.
The AR-7 survival rifle concept originally had an offshoot where the barreled action could be mounted in a wooden stock rather than fitting inside a polymer buttstock that was light enough to float. The example located at the NRA National Firearms Museum bears the “NRA TEST” marking denoting its original evaluation by the NRA Technical Staff before its arrival in the museum collection. A reversible pair of magazines was another unusual aspect of the wooden stock AR-7 rifle.