The ArmaLite AR-7, designed by Eugene Stoner, is the civilian-commercial version of a rifle adopted by the US Air Force as a pilot and aircrew survival weapon. Its main market is as a knockabout rifle for carrying in a backpack, car trunk or pickup truck.

History & Design

The AR-7 shares some of the features of the bolt-action AR-5, a rifle adopted by the U.S. Air Force in 1956, as a replacement for the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon which was a superimposed ("over-under") combination weapon, with a rifle barrel over a .410 shotgun barrel. While there is an advantage to such a combination, the AR-5 had the advantage of rapid fire, using the same .22 Hornet cartridge used in the M6. The AR-7 is a different design, with the greatest difference being that the AR-5 was a bolt action rifle, the AR-7 is a semiautomatic rifle Like the AR-5, the AR-7 was designed for shooting small game. The rifle can be disassembled to its component parts: barrel, receiver, magazine, and stock. All its parts are designed to be stored in the stock. Both weapons were constructed primarily of aluminum with plastic for the stock and buttcap. Even the barrel is aluminum or composite with a rifled steel liner.

The AR-7 is chambered for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, and measures 35 inches overall when assembled. It disassembles to four sections (barrel, action, stock and magazine), with everything stowing inside the ABS stock. It measures 16 inches long when configured for storage. The rifle weighs in at a mere 2.5 lb so this is even light enough to take along backpacking. Drop it in a lake and it will float, as did the previous AR-5/MA-1 design. The rear sight is a peep sight, which comes on a flat metal blade with two different size apertures. It 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.


The design was sold to Charter Arms in 1973. According to some accounts posted by enthusiasts, this is where quality began to suffer Barrels were said to be prone to warp. Standard aperture sights provided less than accurate shot placement.

By all accounts, jamming could be markedly reduced through minor reprofiling of the receiver to smooth the transition from magazine to barrel, but reportedly never 100% consistently eradicated. As the rifle is likely incapable of being used in self defence situations, this jamming might be classified as frustrating rather than dangerous. Similarly, since a jammed weapon wouldn't make a particularly loud noise, small game being hunted might not be alerted and make escape if the gun failed to fire, allowing for a followup attempt.

Since Charter Arms sold the design and rights to Henry Repeating Arms in 1980, the AR-7 has regained its reputation for reliability, provided that high-velocity .22 Long Rifle cartridges are used to ensure proper cycling of the action.

Production History

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


The rifle functions as a blowback semi-automatic. This means the force of the fired cartridge will push the bolt backwards against a spring, ejecting the fired cartridge and the spring then pushes the bolt forwards, loading another cartridge from the magazine for every pull of the trigger. The AR7 is a light firearm and must be positively shouldered for reliable blowback operation. This is a time tested simple and very reliable operating system for a firearm which is expected to see use in less than desirable conditions. On the other hand, the simplicity of the mechanism in the AR-7 has caused some consternation for range operators, since the bolt does not lock back at any point. This means there's no easy way to demonstrate the weapon is in a safe, unloaded state without manually holding the bolt back.


Explorer II Pistol

One variant of the AR-7 was the Explorer II pistol It was essentially the receiver of the rifle, an eight-inch removable barrel, and a non-removable pistol grip in place of a stock. It came with two eight-round magazines, though larger capacity magazines could be found (see table above). It resembled a Broomhandle Mauser.

Note: Due to NFA regulations the barrels on the rifle and pistol are not interchangeable. The rifle receiver has a notch for the barrel on the top of the fitting whereas the pistol has the notch on the bottom. The rifle barrel notch is wider than the notch on the pistol barrels. The barrels could be used on the opposite platform but the fit may affect proper functionality and the barrels would be upside down. Doing so may also violate local or federal laws.

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 known as the Henry U.S. Survival rifle. An ABS material replaced the original plastic, which was prone to cracking and failure. The sights were replaced with peep style sights for improved accuracy. Present versions also have a standard 3/8 in. rail milled into the top of the receiver for mounting a wide variety of optics. AR-7s manufactured by Henry are the only ones with this last feature.

Israeli Pilot's Survival Rifle

Another variant was made by Armalite and sold to the Israeli Military for use as pilot/aircrew survival weapons 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.

Following Israeli service, some of these rifle were re-imported into the United States by the 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 (film) 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. 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 (film) being used by Tilly Masterson in unsuccessful assassination attempts.

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 and television shows as Get Smart.

An AR-7 action modified into a pistol configuration (remarkably like the later real-life Explorer II pistol version) was used by Dean Martin as Matt Helm in the spy spoof Murderer's Row (1966). The "gimmick" in this version was that when the trigger was squeezed, there was a "click", as though of a misfire, that was in fact a timer activating, which fired the weapon ten seconds later. The "gimmick" pistol was used several times in the film to trick enemy operatives into shooting themselves with it (usually by stupidly pointing the weapon at themselves or a companion while trying to determine why it wouldn't fire), including the head villain, played by Karl Malden. Note that such a modification of a rifle action into a pistol was and is prohibited under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA34) and the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act of 1968 (aka the "Gun Control Act of 1968" aka "GCA68"), and required a special waiver from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division of the U.S. Treasury Department, the predecessor of the present-day Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

George C. Scott uses the AR-7 in Rage (1972 film) to revenge himself on the US Army. The weapon features on the film's poster with Scott using the rifle's butt as a weapon.

William Shatner assembled, loaded and used the AR-7 to shoot a hostage-taker in the offices of Crane, Poole & Schmitt in a first season episode of the television series Boston Legal.

The AR-7 was the recommended rifle in Paladin Press's controversial book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors.


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