The gun news grapevine reports that Colt will no longer be making semiautomatic AR-15s for the civilian market. The rumor was recently confirmed by Paul Spitale, Senior Vice President of the company’s commercial business line. He told The Truth About Guns that Colt will instead focus on its revolvers and 1911s.
The news broke when RSR Group sent out an email to dealers stating, “We have just been notified by Colt Firearms that they will be discontinuing production of all Colt long guns to focus on regaining military contracts.”
Once the pinnacle of civilian AR-15s, Colt’s popularity has waned for years. After purchasing the AR-15 design and trademark from ArmaLite in 1959, Colt had produced semiautomatic ARs for 55 years and been supplying the U.S. military with select-fire M16s and M4s for 54.
Established in 1855 by one of the Founding Father’s of Firearms, Samuel Colt, the company has been through some major wins and losses throughout its 164-year history. Samuel Colt invented the first revolver and the firearms manufacturer based its early reputation on producing reliable firearms. Only one year after establishing Colt, the company built the largest privately-owned firearms factory on the planet.
Two of the world’s most iconic firearms are a Colt—the Single Action Army (SAA) revolver and the 1911. From 1873 to 1941, Colt made about 310,000 SAA revolvers. The U.S. Army purchased 30,000 of those. Another one of firearm’s founding fathers, John Moses Browning, designed the 1911, which Colt produced. But even after establishing itself as one of the most prolific firearms manufacturers in the world, Colt couldn’t escape serious problems.
The design patent for the AR-15 expired in 1977, opening the market for anyone to make their own version of the rifle. Colt was always proud of itself and never introduced a price-point AR. After 2012, there were so many companies, big and small, producing ARs that Colt couldn’t compete with a market saturated with build-it-yourself and super low-priced ARs.
Once the leader in AR sales, Bushmaster took over as the top AR-15 producer. In response, Colt attempted to sue Bushmaster for trademark infringement. Colt lost its case and was made to pay for Bushmaster’s legal fees.
Colt faced serious trouble and made history in 1985 when union employees went on strike. The strike went on to last five years—one of the longest in United States history. During this time, quality took a serious blow and in 1988, Colt lost its military contract to FN Herstal.
In 1989, after the introduction of the GLOCK, Colt fought to keep up and introduced the polymer Colt All American 2000, which ended up a total failure. In 1992, the company declared bankruptcy for the first time (yes, there was a second.) Colt invested in better production and came out with the M4 carbine and the 22 pistols—regaining half of the market share. The honeymoon wasn’t to last, though.
Another huge blunder in 1998 occurred. The CEO at the time, Ron Stewart voiced support of a “federal permit system,” leading to a boycott of Colt.
Another blow came in 2013, where after 50 years of supplying rifles to the U.S. military, Colt again lost its primary contract to FNH and Remington.
In 2015, the company filed bankruptcy again; reorganized and came back in January 2016.
Speaking to the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated, Spitale said, “We listen to our customers. The whole basis for our reorganization was consumer feedback. What’s true today is the MSR market is much more price-driven. We’ve seen a pretty sharp decline in the rifle sales, give our price points, resulting in significant inventory build-up held by distributors.” He also said, “We’re going to focus on the products that our consumers are asking for. We’ve expanded our 1911s and our revolver line, and that market has been very positive for us.” Spitale also made it a point to say the decision may not be permanent.
Will you miss Colt’s AR-15? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.