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The AR-180 is poised to make a comeback

The AR-18 was ArmaLite’s rifle that just never caught any traction, failing to score a major military or law enforcement buyer from the moment of its launch to its eventual demise.

Developed by the company as a viable competitor to the original select-fire AR-15, at the time licensed and produced by Colt, the AR-18 was also chambered for 5.56 NATO, but was vastly overshadowed by the other ArmaLite design which was adopted by the US military as the M16A1.

Eventually, the AR-18 began hitting the commercial market in the United States as the semi-automatic AR-180 in 1969.

But after a three-year production run, the rifle dropped off the map for a while, save for a few production restarts here and there. When the ArmaLite brand was revived in 2001, the rifle made a 6-year comeback as the AR-180B until poor sales made shuttering the line a necessity.

An ArmaLite AR-18 on display at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA (Photo Wikimedia Commons by Darkhelmet322)
An ArmaLite AR-18 on display at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA (Photo Wikimedia Commons by Darkhelmet322)

Fast forward to 2019 and the AR-180B is poised to make a return, but unlike its predecessors, this one seems to having the makings of a successful long-term run.

Oddly enough, this rifle comes from Canada of all places, eh!

Dubbed the WK180-C and manufactured by Kodiak Defence of Windsor, Ontario, Gear Scout got a close look at the new rifle and had the chance to put a few rounds downrange at this year’s Gat Show, held in Southern Ontario.

At a first glance, the WK180-C looks more like an AR-15-style rifle with its buffer tube stock and full-length handguard with an upper rail. The differences become immediately apparent with the aluminum receiver, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the AR-180B.

Commissioned by Wolverine Supplies, the WK180-C features ambidextrous controls and the ability to field a AR-15 barrels, muzzle brakes, triggers, and... well, basically an extraordinarily wide variety of AR-15 accessories and parts suited towards the end user’s preference, except for the purpose-built safety.

You can also swap the charging handle from the left to the right side of the rifle without considerable effort.

The WK180-C's receiver up close (Photo Wolverine Supplies)
The WK180-C's receiver up close (Photo Wolverine Supplies)

Like the AR-18, the WK180-C uses a piston operating system, and can be easily broken down for maintenance and cleaning before being just-as-easily snapped back together.

The move from an AR-15 receiver layout to the AR-18-style layout has a very shallow learning curve attached.

The magazine release is a relatively similar position to where you’d find it on the AR-15, as is the fire selector. The only major difference is the absence of an upper charging handle and the lack of a forward assist.

Chambered for .223 Remington with an 18.7 inch barrel, the WK180-C handles like a dream on the range with minimal effort. The recoil is highly similar to that of an AR-15 (i.e. virtually negligible with a good grip), and the overall ergonomics of the weapon make for a pretty comfortable rifle for a day at the range or a day in the deer stand.

If you’re a Canadian firearms enthusiast or hunter, and you’re reading all of this, you’re probably shaking your head at the mere thought of having to get a Restricted Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) so that you can own this gun.

You can stifle that groan, because the WK180-C is considered an unrestricted rifle, meaning that you can buy it with just your basic Possession and Acquisition License.

For US buyers, the rifle has already generated considerable interest, so you might find yourself on a bit of a back order.

You can order the rifle, at the moment, via Wolverine Supplies by putting a $200 deposit down due to the large back order. The full retail price is CAD $1,095 or approximately $830 US.

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