Legendary small arms manufacturer Colt has officially bowed away from producing long guns for the civilian market.

The Truth About Guns reported that the move came to light after one of Colt’s numerous retailers, RSR Group, announced to their customers that the company had made it known that they would cease building and selling rifles to the civilian market in order to pay more attention to regaining lost ground on vital military contracts.

Colt’s current lineup of rifles is all based entirely on the AR platform.

Colt made waves in the long gun market in the 1960s after buying the design and trademarks associated with ArmaLite’s select-fire AR-15 and AR-10 rifles, the former of which was adopted by the US military as the M16 assault rifle.

By the mid-1960s, Colt began selling a semi-automatic version, dubbed the Colt AR-15, to the civilian market, and the rifle began steadily ascending in popularity among a variety of consumers, from recreational shooters, hunters, and law enforcement.

Soldiers using the M4A1 SOPMOD Block II during a raid in Afghanistan circa 2012 (US Army photo by Spc Justin Young)
Soldiers using the M4A1 SOPMOD Block II during a raid in Afghanistan circa 2012 (US Army photo by Spc Justin Young)

The semi-automatic AR-15 platform has become a mainstay of the long gun market, though Colt no longer holds the near-monopoly it once did. After the company’s various patents on the AR-15 expired in 1977, other firearms manufacturers seized the opportunity to begin producing their own takes on the highly popular AR, dealing a weighty blow to Colt.

Though the US military bought (and still uses today) a massive number of Colt-made rifles, the company suffered large setbacks in the federal procurement arena, losing its primary contract with the US military to produce the M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine to competitors including Fabrique Nationale Herstal and Remington, while incurring major losses.

In mid-2015, the company filed for bankruptcy and reemerged the following year after an internal overhaul and reorganization.

Colt's King Cobra revolver (Photo Colt)
Colt's King Cobra revolver (Photo Colt)

Colt moving away from selling ARs to civilians isn’t a sign that the company wants to stop selling guns to civilians altogether, however. Instead, the company will ramp up sales of pistols and revolvers, including its 1911 models, Cobra, King Cobra, and Single Action Army collectible series.

In a statement to NRA’s Shooting Illustrated, Colt’s senior vice president for commercial business, Paul Spitale, said that the civilian AR production cut was based on consumer feedback and a close analysis of the market’s ebbs and flows.

According to Spitale, rifles aren’t heavily favored by the civilian market, resulting in lower profit margins for Colt while the company continues to go full steam on producing rifles to fulfill outstanding military and law enforcement contracts.

The move away from the civilian market isn’t permanent, Spitale says, noting that the company would be willing to make a return to building and selling rifles to retail customers should the demand return and profit projections increase.