Based on sales figures and some good, old-fashioned SWAG math, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million AR-15 rifles floating around the country, give or take a couple of million. And guess where all that AR popularity started? Armalite. That’s right, the AR in AR-15 AR doesn’t stand for Assault Rifle, Apocalyptic Rampage, or even Alpaca Rabies. Instead, the letters “AR” represent an abbreviation the original company’s name. Let’s take a quick look at how we got to the subject of today’s rifle review, the Armalite M-15 Light Tactical Carbine.
It all started back in 1952, or 1954 if you count from the production date of the AR-1 Parasniper rifle. Even back then, light and handy was the design goal of the day – that rifle had an anodized aluminum barrel with a steel sleeve. One of the founders, Eugene Stoner, had a big bee in his bonnet about the possibilities of using space-age materials like polymer and aluminum to make rifles lighter without sacrificing durability and performance.
The AR-1 was followed by the AR-5 .22 Hornet Survival Rifle, adopted by the Air Force as the MA-1 Survival Rifle. In the late 1950’s, Armalite worked on the AR-10. Army officials asked for a smaller version of that rifle as a potential replacement for the M1 Garand, and the AR-15 was born.
In 1959, the rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 designs were sold to Colts Manufacturing, who assumed responsibility to manufacture and sale of the AR-15 design to the U.S. Military and others. Over the next 30-some years, things got a little confusing as the Armalite brand passed through Elisco Tool Manufacturing Company and later Eagle Arms. The final resolution came about in 2013 when Strategic Armory Corps (SAC) purchased Armalite, and that’s the company you know today. Just to keep the big picture straight, SAC also owns OWC (suppressors), Surgeon Rifles, Nexus Ammunition, and McMillan Firearms. The bottom line is that Armalite is back and in the business of producing AR-type rifles, bolt-action guns, specialty weapons like integrally suppressed rifles and pistols, and a slew of other stuff.
The first thing you notice about the M-15 Light Tactical Carbine is the handling. It’s light, weighing in at just six pounds flat. Part of the “feel” is related to the weight, but the slim handguard also contributes to the perception of “handy.” The anodized aluminum handguard is a very narrow, free-floated, 10-inch Key-Mod compatible model. Without the built-in rails, it’s not only svelte, but smooth on the hands. I really like the feel.