Armalite AR-7 Rifle (.22)

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After work I stopped by the pistol range tonight to shoot the revolvers. I started talking to some nice young guys there who were just getting started in shooting. I let them shoot the long-barreled .357 and the snubby .38 equipped with Crimson Trace LaserGrips.

In turn, they let me shoot their AR-7 .22 rifle. Eugene Stoner designed it for the Air Force as a survival rifle for downed pilots. The barrel unscrews from the action, the action detaches from the stock, and all of the parts then fit into the plastic stock. The rifle is light enough at two and a half pounds to float whether assembled or disassembled. The magazine holds eight rounds.

I don’t think I’ve ever shot the AR-7 rifle, but when I was a little kid in the ’70s my older brother had the pistol version, the Explorer. With its magazine in front of the trigger guard it looked vaguely like a broomhandle Mauser (or Han Solo’s blaster, in my mind at the time). The Explorer’s trick feature was that it held an extra magazine in the handle.

The AR-7 has a crude peep sight. Stock fit was odd, and despite being short felt too big when I had to hunch over it to look through the sight. True to its reputation, this one jammed twice in the course of shooting one magazine. Accuracy at the short range we were shooting at was just OK, and pretty poor really by the high standards of .22 rifles.

Armalite was the original manufacturer or AR-7s. Century Arms later took over production, and now Henry Repeating Arms makes them.

If for some reason I ever needed a takedown .22 rifle I’d probably try the Marlin Papoose 70PSS, which has a good reputation. It doesn’t float by itself, but it will float when stored in the padded nylon case, if you’re an Alaskan bush pilot or canoeist or some such and flotation is part of your requirements. Every Marlin .22 I’ve ever shot has been accurate and reliable.

Beyond the Transformers gadget factor, these kind of rifles don’t appeal to me at all. I can’t imagine a time when I’d want a sometimes-assembled, sometimes-disassembled rifle rather than a holstered handgun that’s always ready to go. A good Ruger or Browning .22 pistol is more accurate, reliable, and handy than the AR-7, and a centerfire handgun is much more powerful.

Another gun to consider for wilderness or survival use would be a Remington Nylon 66. The Nylons don’t have removable barrels, but because of the polymer receivers and stocks they’re extremely lightweight at four pounds. They have a good reputation for accuracy and reliability. The Nylon 66 is the rifle Chris McCandless carried into the Alaska wilderness, as told in Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild. He used it for small game, but also managed to kill a moose with it.

The Nylon 66 was discontinued in 1989, but there are lots of them out there. A revival of interest in them has driven up prices, but if you find one for less than $200 grab it. it’s easily worth it for shooting and collecting value.

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