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Sterling Armament Ltd AR 180 Semi Automatic Rifle
Rifle marked as made in Costa Mesa, CA, but by serial number falls into production range manufactured in Great Britain. Less than 20,000 AR-180 rifles were ever manufactured. The vast majority were imported to the USA for sale from the two firms licensed by Armalite - Howa (Japanese manufacturer) and Sterling (UK manufacturer).
Armalite's AR-180 was a semi-automatic .223 model intended to compete with the earlier AR-15 for the military rifle market. The AR-180 offered an innovative gas piston system and a folding stock as standard, while also providing for an adjunct telescopic sight. Despite these impressive features, the Armalite AR-180 failed to gain any military acceptance due to production issues. The advent of the Vietnam conflict occurred while production facilties were being licensed/transferred to Japan.
Pledged to neutrality, Japan did not permit sales of manufactured munitions of war to any parties involved in this war, meaning Armalite AR-180s could not be fielded. Ultimately, the AR-180 was to be purchased and used by only Botswana and Swaziland for military applications. The British SA-80 infantry rifle owes much of its design and components to the AR-180. With the advent of the AR-180B, a updated version is being marketed by Springfield Armory of Geneseo, IL which now provides the capability of using standard AR-15/M16 magazines instead of proprietary AR-180 magazines.