The big contribution Charter Arms made to the AR-7 story was the addition of the Explorer II pistol version of the AR-7. It resembled a broom-handle Mauser. The receiver had a built-in pistol grip with no provision for the rifle stock (the internal parts are interchangeable between rifle and pistol). The rear sight of the pistol was an open notch adjustable for windage and elevation. The Explorer II front sight was integral with the barrel shell and was not adjustable.
The magazine well in front of the trigger guard would accept any magazine designed for the rifle. A spare eight-round magazine could be carried inside the grip. The most common barrel was 8 inches. Optional barrel lengths included 6- and 10-inch versions. The Explorer II was not as popular as the AR-7 rifle. Without the store-in-the-stock feature the gun was a bit large and oddly shaped to carry around in an assembled state. There were no sling swivel add-ons or holsters made for the Explorer II pistol.
Because NFA 1934 regulations set minimum rifle barrel length at 16 inches, the barrels on the rifle and pistol are not interchangeable to prevent installing the pistol barrel on the rifle. The AR-7 barrel has an alignment lug that mates a notch in the receiver.
The receiver notch and barrel lug for the rifle are on top; for the pistol, they are on the bottom. If a pistol barrel were installed on a rifle (or vice versa), the extractor on the bolt would be opposite the extractor slot in the barrel, preventing the bolt from closing (plus the front sight would be upside down). Modifying the pistol barrel to fit the rifle, or cutting a notch in the rifle receiver to accept the pistol barrel, would in the eyes of the law, make it a short-barreled rifle and would require federal registration on an ATF Form 1 with payment of a $200 tax.
In 1990, the design and production rights passed on to Henry Repeating Arms and the compact rifle was slightly revised. The AR-7 is now known as the Henry U.S. Survival rifle. An ABS material replaced the original plastic, which was prone to cracking and failure. The receiver recess in the Henry stock allows storage of receiver with a magazine in place and the rifle is normally sold with two magazines.
The latest versions of the Henry allow for storage of three magazines total, with two in the stock recess, and one in the receiver. The modern Henry U.S. Survival rifle is also waterproof (all prior versions were known to leak water inside the stock). They now include a full Teflon coating on the outer surface. A 3/8-inch rail milled into the top of the receiver for mounting a wide variety of optics is now a standard.
During its 53-year production span, the AR-7 has inspired a number of companies to offer after-market parts. The fact that both the barrel and stock are detachable has led to after-market accessories, similar to those available for the Ruger 10/22. Barrels, stocks, and grips of varying finishes and utility, can be added to the rifle.
These include collapsible stocks, wire-framed stocks, pistol grips, flash suppressors, shrouded barrels, high-capacity magazines, telescopic sights, red dot sights and other fanciful-looking hardware, usually at a cost greater than the rifle. Such accessories usually make it impossible to use the original floating stock for storage of modified parts.
This article appeared in the November 5, 2012 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to learn more and subscribe.
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About the Author: Phillip Peterson is a federally-licensed firearms dealer with more than 20 years' experience in buying, selling and trading antique and collectible military weapons. He is also a popular columnist for Gun Digest the Magazine.
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