VIDEO: Advanced Manufacturing at Lowest Cost with the AR-7 Survival Rifle

Despite a turbulent 57-year history, The AR-7 from Henry Repeating Firearms is an exemplar of low-cost efficiency.

Sometimes a product can be designed with excellence, yet fail in the marketplace because of poor manufacturing. I can’t think of a better example of an outhouse-to-penthouse manufacturing-driven resurrection than the AR-7 survival rifle.

Designed by the legendary Eugene Stoner – the man who designed the AR 15, which later became the M 16 – the AR-7 was originally built to compete for a U.S. Air Force contract for a lightweight, compact rimfire survival rifle to allow downed aircrew to hunt small game for food.

The rifle was first marketed by the ArmaLite company for civilian use in 1959. The company built it in its original form until 1973, when the original Charter Arms Corporation built it until 1990.

From 1990 to 1997 the rights were then held by Survival Arms and then in 1998 through 2004 by AR-7 Industries and finally then from 2007 on by the current manufacturer, the Henry Repeating Arms company.

This little rifle has been manufactured by five different companies over 57 years, for one simple reason: manufacturing build quality didn’t live up to the clever design of the product.

Early production AR-7’s, particularly the Charter Arms units, were famous for jamming issues, warped barrels, cracked stocks and other maladies that seriously damage the reputation of Stoner’s clever design.

For lightweight, compact and functional design, nothing beats this takedown .22 for its intended purpose. It’s that outstanding design that kept this little rifle in production despite a well-deserved reputation for poor build quality.

This unit, built by Henry Repeating Arms works reliably due to modern assembly and quality procedures combined with modern materials, such as ABS plastic and a Teflon coated receiver.

Close tolerances on the magazine’s integral feed ramp, good machining finish on the internals of this simple blowback design and a barrel that threads in smoothly but doesn’t loosen with repeated firing make it work.

And the MSRP? USD$290. That’s advanced manufacturing folks: quality than the original at the lowest possible production cost. We can learn from this. 

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.