This one is a big deal. A commenter flagged us to it, and we took our time getting to this “Original Armalite AR-10″ because we figured: “Ho hum, Dutch Artillerie Inrichtingen AR-10, interesting but we’ve written about ‘em already. A lot.” And… well, when we finally looked at the AR, it wasn’t a mass-produced gun from the Portuguese or Sudanese contract at all, but one of the earliest, hand-built prototypes, a gun that would not only be a centerpiece in an AR collection or modern military arms collection, but would be a centerpiece in many museums.
Several things mark it as a prototype, including its front sight base without any gas cut-off, and especially the pepper-pot flash suppressor, but there are other markers as well.
It’s up for bid at the James D. Julia fall firearms auction, of which more in a moment. Julia accepts bids by phone, email (using a bid form available on their website) or, of course, in person. First, here’s what Julia says about it:
**ORIGINAL ARMALITE AR-10 MACHINE GUN (FULLY TRANSFERABLE).
SN 1038. 308 cal. 21″ bbl. This extremely attractive and early AR-10 includes one 20 round magazine and has light brown hand guards, hand grip and buttstock. It also has a perforated muzzle break giving it an extremely unusual, yet attractive, appearance. Marked on left side of magazine well with the Armalite winged horse logo and model designation as well as “Hollywood, Calif. U.S.A.” address. Firing mechanism functions smoothly when operated by hand. This weapon appears fully functional. PROVENANCE: The class III weapons formerly on loan to Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. CONDITION: Overall appearance and finish is 98% with virtually no loss of finish on metal parts and perhaps just the very slightest of handling marks and slight brassing at the muzzle. There are some small places on the stock and hand guards where there has been a scrape, revealing black material underneath. Bore is shiny and bright with some slight frosting close to the muzzle. Bolt face is extremely fine. This weapon has been fired, but not very much. 4-51756 JWK73 (15,000-20,000) – Lot 10
The Julia firearms staff, like rival auction house Rock Island’s, are true professionals. They seldom make an error; they tend to extreme conservatism in their descriptions, which is probably why they’re not using the word, “protoype.”
We use the word with confidence for the following reasons:
- There was no true production of AR-10s in Hollywood or Costa Mesa. All were toolroom jobs, built by hand, and no two were quite the same (same is true of California AR-15s).
- The serial number, “1038,” is almost certainly gun number 38 produced, with a leading 1000 inserted to provide an aura of maturity around what was, in 1955, a very radical design.
- The gun lacks some of the features of all production AR-10s from Artillerie Inrichtingen.
- The furniture is clearly hand-poured. A contemporary Guns Magazine article showed some “production” photos from the Hollywood shop, and one of them shows hand-mixed resin being poured from a Dixie cup. (We wrote about the process here).
While original AR-10s, meaning the production guns from Artillerie Inrichtingen, are exceedingly rare (only a few thousand were produced), enough that both transferable pre-68 imports and US-receiver semiauto conversions are very rare, prototype ARs almost never see the light of day. They are all in private collections or museums. Many of the most historic guns are in Reed Knight’s Institute for Military Technology, and you can expect, if you’re bidding on this, museums and the most advanced collectors will be bidding against you. That makes Julia’s pre-sales estimate of $15,000-20,000 seem low; we’d be shocked if this historic rifle didn’t go for half again Julia’s top estimate.
Yes, we do like the original AR-10. As we’ve said:
- In May 2012: GunBroker Rarity: Semi AR-10, then About that AR-10… and Some AR-10 News and Views.
- In June of that year: an AR-10 in Photos (this is the same gun in the May posts. We also started a second photo essay on this gun but didn’t finish or post it; it molders in the queue).
- In November, 2012, we dealt with a t-shirt that was a great idea, badly implemented, by announcing that We Hate Bad History. Principal beef was that the artist displaced the AR-10 from its proper place as the grandsire of the AR line.
- In September, 2013 we mentioned the early AR-10 experiments with composite barrels in an article on a new composite AR barrel: Composite barrel: old idea, but this time it works.
- In November, 2013: We can’t buy ‘em all: Original Portuguese Armalite/Sendra AR-10
- In January, 2014: we explored How Armalite (1955-60) Made Stocks & Furniture, and covered An intriguing scope mount (on a Dutch AI AR-10 in the Springfield Armory museum).
- In July, 2014: Jerry Miculek meets the Original AR-10 (this was an original AI full-auto gun).
- We also posted (thanks to a commenter) a 1960 Aberdeen Proving Ground Report On: A Test of Rifle, Caliber 7.62-mm, AR-10. (.pdf naturally).
Yes, we want it. However, we need to color within our budgetary lines here.
The gun was one of the Evergreen Ventures Class III collection. The collection was a separate corporation, but displayed the same vision of the fantastic Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville, Oregon (which we’ve been privileged to visit). The funds for all this flowed from a large and successful air freight company, Evergreen International, which didn’t survive the transition from the entrepreneurial to professional management.
Some other highlights of the collection, which is now being auctioned by the James D. Julia auction house in Maine as part of the house’s annual Fall Firearms Auction (they also have a Spring Auction) in early October, along with other firearms treasures, such as an eye-popping Winchester Model 21 shotgun collection, a collection of gorgeous Colts, Sharps and other frontier guns, the third installment of the Dr Geoffrey Sturgess European pistol collection, the Dr Douglas Sirkin collection of early firearms, and the former Springfield Armory, LLC, artillery collection. Some celebrity pieces are at the auction, also, including Eleanor Roosevelt’s revolver, presentation pieces for Napoleon III and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tom Custer’s Spencer repeater. Here’s a sort of highlights reel. The auction is so richly provisioned with fine and rare firearms that this AR-10 prototype didn’t even make the highlights!