Saturday, September 21, 2019

Featured Gun: The AR-7 Explorer II Pistol


The AR-7 Explorer II pistol was a variant of the Eugene Stoner designed AR-7 Rifle.





Eugene Stoner is mostly known for his rifle design that became the most popular sporting rifle in America: the AR-15.

While at Armalite Stoner designed a few other guns, one of them a survival rifle dubbed the AR-7.

The concept was to build a rifle that could be stored in a small package, was light, would float if dropped in water and was inexpensive to build.

In order to make the rifle as compact as possible, the gun was made to be broken down into four major components that could be stored in the foam filled plastic butt stock.




Like the AR-15 the receiver is made of aluminum, the barrel was aluminum with a steel liner and as stated the butt stock as made of foam filled plastic.

In 1973 Armalite sold the design to Charter Arms of Stratford, CT.



Sometime around 1980 Charter Arms developed a pistol version, calling it the Explorer II pistol



An 8" barrel came standard, but due to the take down system it adopted from the rifle, 6" and 10" barrel were options. 
It should be noted that Charter Arms indexed the pistol barrels 180 degrees out from the rifle barrels, to prevent anyone from installing the shorter barrel on their AR-7 Rifle. 
Any attempt to install a pistol barrel on a rifle would be futile as the sight would be on the bottom of the barrel and more importantly the cutouts in the chamber for the extractor would not line up, preventing the bolt from chambering the cartridge.

The rear sight was adjustable for windage and elevation, the front was a simple ramp.

The plastic grip panels have a shape that is reminiscent of the C96 Mauser "Broomhandle" and are designed to hold a spare 8 round magazine inside them.




a comparison of the C96 "Broomhandle" Mauser and the Explorer II






An "all-weather" version was offered with what appears to be an electroless nickel plated finish, although I am told it was just a argent colored painted finish. The standard models had a black "crinkle" or what is also known as a "camera" (because it looked like the finish that used to be put on cameras) finish on them



The 8-round magazine was standard but the factory offered magazines with 10, 15 and even 30 round capacities. The rifles and pistols share the same magazine.






Ramline also made some high capacity magazines for the guns 




Specs:

Action: Blow back semi-automatic
Caliber: .22 LR
Feed System: Under-barrel, single stack, box magazine
Weight: approx. 1.5 lbs. 
Length: approx. 16" (with 8" barrel)
Barrel Length: 6, 8 & 10 inches
Materials: light weight aluminum castings, steel and plastic
Finish: Painted in black crinkle or argent silver




The Argentinians produced a copy of the AR-7 with some upgrades like a pistol grip, collapsible stocks and vented hand guards. It was known as the Sistema de Armas .22LR Fire di Brenta


and without pesky NFA rules, they made a SBR version



In the 60's Israel took a liking to the AR-7 and ordered some up to be modified to suit their needs. Pistol grips were added (from an FN-FAL possibly?) along with a collapsible wire stock. Again the Israelis didn't have to worry about the NFA, so they made the barrels a handy 13" long. The ones that were imported back to the U.S. had a 3" long, vented muzzle brake welded to the end of the barrels.




In 1990 Charter Arms sold the rights to the AR-7 (and presumably the Explorer II pistol) to a company from Cocoa, Florida called Survival Arms. 
Survival Arms went under in 1997, that same year Henry Repeating Arms began manufacturing the rifle. The patent having expired many years prior.

A year later a new company was formed in, of all places, Meriden Connecticut, to build the AR-7.
Called AR-7 Industries, the company was ironically acquired by Armalite in 2004. 

The AR-7 is currently being produced by Henry Repeating Arms in Bayonne, NJ. 

Of all the domestic makers of the AR-7 Rifle, only Charter Arms produced a pistol version.

AR-7 Industries called their version of the rifle: "The One, The Only, The Original", which was a triple lie. There was more than "one" version of the rifle, they were not the "only" manufacturers of the rifle (even at that time) and the "original" would have been the Armalite version.





Time Line:
1958-1959: Eugene Stoner develops the prototype for the AR-7 Survival Rifle
1959: Armalite begins producing the AR-7 for the civilian market
1973: Armalite sells the design to Charter Arms 
1979-1980: Charter Arms develops the Explorer II pistol version
1988: Charter Arms gets new ownership, new name (CHARCO) and moves production to Ansonia, CT
1990: Charter Arms sells the AR-7 (and presumably the Explorer II pistol) to Survival Arms
1997: Survival Arms goes bankrupt, Henry Repeating Arms begins production
1998: AR-7 Industries begins production in Meriden, CT
2004: AR-7 Industries is purchased by Armalite
2007- present: Henry Repeating Arms relocates to Bayonne, NJ, continues to produce the AR-7

 

As with all of my Featured Gun posts this one was inspired by a gun I came in contact with. A friend gave me this Explorer II pistol frame, no other parts came with it. I may attempt to find a parts kit and put this back together.






Sources

Wikipedia
Military-Today


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