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ArmaLite, originally ArmaLite Division, Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, is one of the most influential corporations in the history of 20th century small arms. Established October 1, 1954, ArmaLite is responsible for many of the infantry weapons in service worldwide today, including the m16 and m4 assault rifles.

ArmaLite's first success came shortly after it was founded with the introduction of the AR-5, a survival rifle chambered for the .22 Hornet cartridge. The AR-5 (AR stands for ArmaLite) was adopted as a U.S. Air Force as the MA-1 Survival Rifle.

In 1954 Eugene Stoner became Chief Engineer at ArmaLite. Stoner was a Marine in World War II and an expert with small arms. His design for the AR-10 assault rifle was entered into the U.S. Army trials in 1955 as a possible replacement to the venerable yet outdated M1 Garand. It met stiff competition as it was pitted against the Springfield Armory T-44, and updated M1 Garand design that became the M-14, and the T-48, a version of the famous Belgian FAL rifle. The AR-10 lost the trials to the T-44, mainly due to the AR-10's unorthadox appearance and configuration.

The famous AR-15 rifle was developed as a smaller version of the AR-10. Both designs were liscensed to Colt in early 1959. You can read more about the AR-15 at the M-16 article. With both the AR-10 and AR-15 designs sold to Colt, ArmaLite was left without a viable product. So, in 1963, development began on the AR-18 assault rifle, an "improved" AR-15 with a new gas system that did not violate the Colt held patents. The AR-18 is an excellent rifle, but it did not gain any military support. It is most famous for being adopted by IRA terrorists in Ireland, who dubbed the rifle "The Widowmaker." The AR-18 did serve as the basis for the current British assault rifle known as the L85, which is essentially an AR-18 in bullpup configuration. Other designs, such as the Singapore SAR-80 and German G36, are based upon the AR-18. ArmaLite has changed hands a number of times throughout its history and most recently was reorganized in 1995. Today, ArmaLite produces a number of AR-15 and AR-10 based rifles, as well as 50 BMG rifles.

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