Type Survival rifle
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1959–Present
Production history
Designer Eugene Stoner
Designed 1958
Variants Armalite AR-7 Explorer;
Charter Arms AR-7 Explorer;
Charter Arms Explorer II Pistol;
Israeli Pilot's Survival Rifle;
Henry U.S. Survival .22
Weight 1.13 kg
Length 889 mm
Barrel length 406 mm
Cartridge .22 Long Rifle
Action straight blowback-operated
Rate of fire Semi-automatic
Muzzle velocity 1,080 ft/s (329 m/s) to
1,280 ft/s (390 m/s)
(varies by type of .22LR cartridge)
Effective range 100 m
Feed system Standard 8-round magazine. 10, 15, 25, 50 round magazines available.
Sights Aperture rear and drift-adjustable front.

The ArmaLite AR-7 Explorer, designed by Eugene Stoner, is the civilian-commercial version of a rifle developed for the US Air Force as a pilot and aircrew survival weapon. Its intended markets are backpackers and other recreational users as a knockabout utility rifle. AR-7 is often recommended by outdoor users of recreational vehicles (automobile, airplane or boat) who might have need for a weapon for foraging or defense in a wilderness emergency

History & Design

The prototype of what would become the AR-7 was designed by Eugene Stoner at ArmaLite Inc., a division of Fairchild Aircraft. The rifle shares some of the features of the bolt-action AR-5, another rifle designed by Stoner for ArmaLite and adopted by the United States Air Force in 1956 as the MA-1.[1] The MA-1 was intended to replace the M4 Survival Rifle and the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon which was a superimposed ("over-under") twin-barrel rifle/shotgun in chambered in .22 Hornet and .410 bore, using a break-open action. The AR-5 had the advantage of repeat fire over the then-standard M6, using the same .22 Hornet cartridge.

The AR-7 uses a blowback semi-automatic action in .22 Long Rifle but retains the AR-5/MA-1 feature of storing the disassembled parts within the hollow stock, which is filled with plastic foam and capable of floating.[2][3] Like the bolt-action AR-5, the AR-7 was designed as a survival rifle for foraging small game for food. The AR-7 is constructed primarily of aluminum, with plastic for the stock and buttcap. Even the barrel is aluminum (in later production composite material), using a rifled steel barrel liner.[4] The AR-7 measures 35 inches overall when assembled. It disassembles to four sections (barrel, action, stock, and magazine), with the four parts storing inside the plastic stock measuring 16 inches long. The rifle weighs 2.5 pounds light enough for convenient backpacking. The rear sight is a peep sight, which comes on a flat metal blade with an aperture (in later production two different size apertures), and is adjustable for elevation (up-down). The front sight is adjustable for windage (side-side). Accuracy is sufficient for hunting small game at ranges to 50 yards.

[edit] Criticisms

Reliability of the AR-7 is highly dependent on the condition of the magazine and on the ammunition used, perhaps more so than with other models of semi-automatic .22 rifle. The feed ramp is part of the magazine and subject to damage from mishandling. The transition of cartridge from magazine to barrel can be smoothed by minor beveling of the chamber of the barrel, by using round-nosed as opposed to flat-nosed bullets and by paying attention to condition of the feed lips and feed ramp of the magazine. All iterations of the AR-7 from the Armalite to the Henry use bolt and recoil springs that are heavy compared to most other .22 semiautomatics, requiring high velocity ammunition for reliable functioning. The barrel nut tends to loosen after firing and may need hand tightening to maintain both accuracy and reliability.

Armalite sold the design to Charter Arms in 1973. According to some accounts posted by enthusiasts, this is where quality began to deteriorate.[5] Barrels were said to have a tendency to warp. Other sources state that the first production at Charter had problems which were corrected in later production runs.[6] Since Charter Arms sold the design and rights to Henry Repeating Arms in 1980, the Henry AR-7 has regained a reputation for reliability.

[edit] Production History

(Summary of information available in The Blue Book of Gun Values)

* 1959-1973: ArmaLite
* 1973-1990: Charter Arms
* 1990-1997: Survival Arms, Cocoa, FL
* 1997-Present: Henry Repeating Arms Co., Brooklyn, NY
* 1998-2004: AR-7 Industries, LLC, Meriden, CT (bought by ArmaLite in 2004)

[edit] AR-7 Variants

[edit] Armalite AR-7 Explorer

Armalite barrels had a steel liner in an aluminum shell. The Armalite stock did not accept the receiver with a magazine in place and the gun was normally sold with one magazine. The receiver did not provide for a scope mount. The rear sight was a peep aperture adjustable for elevation. The front sight was drift adjustable for windage.

[edit] Herter's Outdoor Supply

Herter's used AR-7 receivers and barrels to make .22 replicas of the Broomhandle Mauser, Thompson Submachine Gun and M1 Carbine.

[edit] Charter Arms AR-7 Explorer

The Charter Arms AR-7 Explorer rifle basically replicated the Armalite AR-7 Explorer with variations in finish.

[edit] Charter Arms Explorer II Pistol

Explorer II was a pistol version of the AR-7[4]. It resembled a Broomhandle Mauser. The receiver had a built-in pistol grip with no provision for the rifle stock (the internal parts are interchangable between rifle and pistol). The rear sight of the pistol was an open notch adjustable for windage and elevation. The Explorer II front sight was integral with the barrel shell and was not adjustable. The magazine well in front of the trigger guard would accept any magazine designed for the rifle. A spare 8 round magazine could be carried inside the grip. The most common barrel was eight-inches. Optional barrel lengths included six- and ten-inches.

[edit] Legal Note

Due to NFA 1934 regulations setting minimum rifle barrel length at 16 inches, the barrels on the rifle and pistol are not interchangeable to avoid installing the pistol barrel on the rifle. The AR-7 barrel has an alignment lug that mates a notch in the receiver. The receiver notch and barrel lug for rifle are on top; for the pistol, they are on the bottom. If a pistol barrel were installed on a rifle (or vice versa), the extractor on the bolt would be opposite the extractor slot in the barrel, preventing the bolt from closing (plus the front sight would be upside down). Modifying the pistol barrel to fit the rifle, or cutting a notch in the rifle receiver to accept the pistol barrel, would legally be "making a short barrel rifle" requiring federal registration on an ATF Form 1 with payment of a $200.00 tax.

[edit] AR-7 Industries

AR-7 Industries made solid steel barrels much heavier than Armalite, Charter or Henry barrels.

[edit] Henry Survival Rifle

In 1980 the design and production rights passed on to Henry Repeating Arms and the compact rifle was slightly revised. The AR-7 is now (2009) known as the Henry U.S. Survival rifle. An ABS material replaced the original plastic, which was prone to cracking and failure. The receiver recess in the Henry stock allows storage of receiver with a magazine in place and the rifle is normally sold with two magazines. The Henry U.S. Survival has a standard 3/8 in. rail milled into the top of the receiver for mounting a wide variety of optics.

[edit] Israeli Pilot's Survival Rifle

Another variant was made by Armalite and sold to the Israeli Military for use as pilot/aircrew survival weapons [5]. The Israelis further modified these rifles, adding the telescoping stock, a pistol grip from from a FAL-type rifle, shortening the barrel (to 13.5 inches), and adding a front sight based on the K98k Mauser.

After Israeli service, some of these rifle were re-imported into the U.S. by Bricklee Trading Company (the barrels are marked with the BTC identification) for sale on the civilian market, and command a premium among collectors. In order to comply with US Federal law, a 3-inch muzzle brake had to be permanently attached in order to meet the minimum 16 inch barrel requirement.

[edit] Operation

The AR-7 functions as a simple or plain blowback semi-automatic. The AR-7 is a light firearm with heavy bolt and twin recoil springs and must be firmly held for reliable blowback operation.

[edit] Range safety issue

In common with many blowback .22 rifles, the AR-7 bolt cannot be locked open to demonstrate the weapon is in a safe unloaded state. Firearms without a built-in bolt open device may be banned from use at some ranges. Other firing range operators allow use of an open bolt indicator to prop the bolt open so that the chamber is visible. The yellow plastic flag for CMP range use is recommended or a spent cartridge case can be used.

[edit] After-market Modifications

The fact that both the barrel and stock are detachable has led to a plethora of after-market accessories, similar to those available for the Ruger 10/22. Barrels, stocks, and grips, of varying finishes and utility, can be added to the rifle. These include collapsible stocks, wire-framed stocks, pistol grips, flash suppressors, shrouded barrels, high-capacity magazines, telescopic sights, reflex 'red dot' sights and other occasionally fanciful-looking hardware, usually at a cost greater than the rifle. The accessories almost always make it impossible to use the original floating stock for storage of accessorized parts.[7]

Henry U.S. Suvival AR-7 has a 3/8" rail integral with the receiver. For earlier variants, B Square supplied the Charter Arms AR-7 Explorer Scope Mount, an accessory bracket with a 3/8" rail to accept tip-off riflescope rings. The scope mount attached by the receiver side plate screw. This scope mount can be used on the Armalite and the Charter Arms Explorer rifle and Explorer II pistol. However, with the bracket in place, the rifle receiver will no longer fit the recess in the stock for storage.

A complaint sometimes heard about the AR-7 is its lack of a sling, apart from the highly modified Israeli models, although some users have attached slings that do not require modification to the rifle in order to use. A 20-gauge shotgun sling swivel meant to clamp to the magazine of a 20-gauge shotgun and a universal sling work well for the purpose. An appropriate length of parachute cord with a slip knot at either end makes a usable lanyard, given the light weight of the AR-7.

Another issue that was common with the AR-7 was failure to reliably feed flat-nosed .22 Long Rifle cartridges. After many tests, standard and hyper-velocity, round-nosed .22 Long Rifle cartridges were recommended for flawless action. Due to fears of possible illegal use, Henry installed a stronger recoil spring in the action to ensure that subsonic ammunition would not be able to cycle properly in the firearm. However, the hyper velocity (or even normal) loads could warp the barrel of the Henry US Survival variant.

[edit] The AR-7 in popular culture

As opposed to the original hunting and survival weapon envisioned by its creators, the .22 calibre AR-7 was used as an assassination weapon in several films.

The AR-7 features prominently in From Russia With Love where Q Branch issues James Bond with one as part of his attache case. Q Branch's AR-7 is unique in that Q said it was of .25 caliber (the cartridges appear to be .25 ACP). Bond uses the AR-7 to assassinate a Soviet agent with a suppressor and infrared telescopic sight on the weapon.[8] Bond also uses the AR-7 to shoot a crewman of an attacking helicopter causing the crewman to drop a hand grenade that destroys the helicopter. The AR-7 returns in Goldfinger being used by Tilly Masterson in unsuccessful assassination attempts. In the pre-credits sequence of On Her Majesty's Secret Service Bond has a wooden stock AR-7 in his glove compartment.[9]

In the 1972 movie "Rage", George C. Scott uses an AR-7 in his revenge campaign against those he believes are responsible for his son's accidental death.

Charles Bronson's hitman character used an AR-7 in Città violenta to assassinate a person in a moving car.

In the second season of Magnum, P.I., a "sick kid" uses a scoped AR-7 in an attempt to kill his sports hero, a football quarterback, in the episode "One More Summer."

In the 10th Episode of Season One of Boston Legal, "Hired Guns", the character, Denny Crane wounds a hostage taker with an AR-7.

The AR-7 with various accessories such as a wooden stock, front and rear grips, and an extended barrel was used in such superspy films as The Ambushers and television shows as Get Smart. [10] The Matt Helm film Murderers' Row features a forerunner of the Explorer II with the weapon turned into a long barreled pistol with the gimmick of only firing several seconds after the trigger has been pulled.

Because of its ease of concealment and low price, the AR-7 is the recommended rifle for usage by hitmen in Paladin Press's controversial book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors (the book also mentions the Ruger 10/22).

In countries which restrict possession of handguns the AR-7 was/is popular with criminal element due to the ease with which it can be cropped into an easily concealable weapon. For this reason New Zealand classes it as a handgun, with far greater restrictions on ownership.

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8 years 6 weeks ago, 6:23 PM


runawaygun762's picture

Vice President
Join Date:
Nov 2008
Richland, MO, United States
I like this gun

I have the Henry Survival Rifle, basically the same thing, and it's a neat little gun. If I had my druthers, I'd have an M4 in my survival kit, but it's a bit big. I got mine mainly for the fun of having a gun that floats, but since I carry a rifle and handgun anythime I go camping anyway, not much need for it as a serious survival piece.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
8 years 2 weeks ago, 7:11 AM


traderjac's picture

Major General
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Va, United States
I like mine

It is very picky about what brand of ammo I use. It is a Charter Arms.
It does what it suppose to, kill small game at a close range.

If a man can make you mad just by talking, then he is far brighter than you.
Anonymous's picture
Posted by: Anonymous
8 years 23 weeks ago

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