Interview with Reed Knight on Eugene Stoner and the AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 1 month ago

My regular readers know that in these parts, we speak the names of John Moses Browning and Eugene Stoner with hushed reverence.  As an engineer, I have a special appreciation for fine engineering as was performed by both of these men, as well as by Jim Sullivan.

There have been indications in the past that Eugene Stoner’s family was opposed to civilian ownership of the very weapon he designed and built.  This article points to that.

“Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47,” the Stoner family told NBC News late Wednesday. “He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events.”

But their comments add unprecedented context to their father’s creation, shedding new light on his intentions and adding firepower to the effort to ban weapons like the AR-15. The comments could also bolster a groundbreaking new lawsuit, which argues that the weapon is a tool of war — never intended for civilians.

Eugene Stoner would have agreed, his family said.

Of course, this is supposition and hearsay, with his family attempting to leverage the reputation of their father for their own political ends.  But you see why nerves are sometimes a bit on edge when someone like Reed Knight speaks about these issues.  Reed knew him better than virtually anyone else and worked with him at KAC before Stoner passed away.

Along with (on the same day as) the shooting in Tennessee, no less than four hit pieces came out in the legacy media on the AR-15.  It’s not my intent to rehearse the details of the shooting (nor to tackle every hit piece).  That has been done elsewhere, from the rapid response of the police (versus in Uvalde), to the need to harden schools, and finally to the fact that she chose this school because it was a soft location whereas other potential targets had too much security.

My intention is to fisk one of the hit pieces from The Washington Post.  In this piece, Mr. Knight is quoted.

Eugene Stoner, a World War II veteran who invented the AR-15 in the late 1950s while working at Armalite, a small engineering firm in Hollywood, had no interest in civilians using his invention, said C. Reed Knight, who owns a Florida gunmaking company and considers Stoner his mentor.

“He looked at this thing as only for the military side of the house,” Knight said. Stoner, who died in 1997, thought his invention was past its prime by the mid-1990s, Knight said. He added that Stoner would have been horrified by the idea that “he invented the tool of all this carnage in the schools.”

I figured that this was a response to a very specific chronological question, and so I contacted Mr. Knight for clarification.  He graciously allowed me to spend some time with him over the telephone.  Since there is no transcript (I didn’t do this interview via email), I’ll try faithfully to reproduce some of the things he conveyed to me.  You’ll have to trust that I got it right.

First of all, Reed began a rundown of the history of Eugene’s work on the AR platform.  I knew all of this anyway, but it was nice to here Mr. Knight reminisce about his relationship and Eugene’s work.  He began in the late 1950s on the design.  It is of course correct to say that Eugene didn’t design the rifle for civilian use, since his work was targeted towards the military, and it was a military contract under which he worked.  He was paid to work on a rifle for the military.

There is a great gulf between saying that his work was done for, and financially supported by, the U.S. military, and asserting that civilians shouldn’t own the rifle, or that Eugene would have been opposed to such ownership.  That’s what’s being implied in The Washington Post.  Both Mr. Knight and I agreed on this point, and Mr. Knight made it clear that he was answering a very specific question on chronology, not politics or liberty and rights.

As an editorial point, I’ll observe that what Mr. Reed stated to me and what I recalled as the next events dovetail together.  Eugene sold the patent for the AR platform rifle to Colt in the early to mid 1960s.  Reed said to me, “… and colt immediately wanted to market the rifle in the civilian community, which of course is their right.”

Also as an editorial point, for more evidence of both the timeline here, and ATF malfeasance, my friend and colleague David Codrea sent me this article (which I had read before but forgot), in which Len Savage worked with Stephen Stamboulieh to obtain original classification letters through FOIA.  The results are interesting.

“Colt sent a pilot model rifle (serial no. GX4968) to the BATF for civilian sale approval on Oct. 23, 1963. It was approved on Dec. 10, 1963, and sales of the ‘Model R6000 Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter Rifle’ began on Jan 2, 1964,” one critic of the article contended. “The M16 wasn’t issued to infantry units until 1965 (as the XM16E1), wasn’t standardized as the M16A1 until 1967, and didn’t officially replace the M14 until 1969.”

Civilians had this rifle before the troops in the field did.

“There are several things that are interesting,” Savage told AmmoLand News about the classification letter. “One, it shows pre-Gun Control Act ATF policy on the AR-15 system,” He noted. “It also shows why the most likely reason an AR lower is considered a ‘frame or receiver’ is that from 1962-1968 Colt marked the lower receivers with the information (flat surface as the upper is round). Meaning the regulatory scheme used by ATF  1968 to present is based on what Colt marked pre-1968 and not the statute. Willfully and knowingly.”

“Len hit the nail on the head,” Stamboulieh weighed in. “The current notice of proposed rule-making reads as if there was just no way the ATF could have known that the AR-15 split modular design was a thing. Back in 1968, the agency promulgated the definition of frame or receiver, post-dating the classification letter of the AR15, and that shows why they should have originally known what they were making a definition for.”

He and Savage also cleared up a point of potential confusion on why the classification letter refers to the AR-15 as an “automatic rifle.”

“It is because (my thoughts) that they sent two rifles,” Stamboulieh offered. “One was an automatic rifle, and the other was the modified rifle made to be not a machinegun (a semi-automatic version). So the ATF said, yes, this modified ‘automatic rifle’ is not a firearm under the NFA (therefore, not a machinegun and in other words, a semi-auto).”

“Bingo!” Savage replied. “They sent an ‘Unserviceable’ M16 so ATF could compare it and the new rifle and were told it was still considered an MG even if unserviceable since it was not properly destroyed. I laughed when Colt was told ‘file a Form 2’ in order to get it back… Wonder if it is still in National Firearms Collection?”

“In 1968 firearms industry terminology ‘automatic rifle’ means the same as ‘auto-loading rifle,’ i.e., a rifle that loads itself for the next shot,” he recalled. “Even in 1979-1980 when I took my hunters’ safety course the State of Michigan used the two terms interchangeably throughout the course.”

Thanks to David for reminding me of this article, and to Len and Stephen for the work on the FOIA.

Returning to Reed Knight, I continued with him on what Eugene thought about firearms ownership by civilians.  He told me that Eugene had a large collection of firearms and was a strong supporter of the second amendment.  Just to close the loop on all of this, I asked Reed if he believed that the rifle he currently builds at Knight’s Armament should be prohibited from civilian ownership?

I was met with an unequivocal ‘NO’.  He did opt to clarify that he firmly believes that, but most of the work they do at KAC is for the military since they focus their efforts on military contracts.  But that doesn’t change his beliefs about and support for the 2A.

Reed went on to discuss the current state of affairs concerning schools, shootings, etc.  We both believe in firmer security including armed resource officers and armed teachers, and he mentioned cultural changes that might have led to the situation we see today, including video games (I don’t happen to agree with that assessment concerning FPS gaming), unaddressed mental health issues, and other things.  I mentioned that my own readers might strongly add spiritual and moral problems as the primary cause, and he agreed with me that those issues play a role.

I’ll close my interview report by conveying two quotes by Reed: “I can’t blame the thieving that goes on in the jewelry store on the hammer that broke the glass.”  “It’s terrible to piss on Eugene’s grave because of what evil people do.”

That’s common sense, but not so common today.

I’ll also leave a few more editorial remarks.  If we’re going to consider chronology, it’s a fact that the Remington .223 was designed before the NATO 5.56mm, and in fact, Eugene based the 5.56mm on the .223, making a few minor changes to the casing before adoption as the standard NATO round.  So civilians had both the cartridge and the gun before the U.S. military did.  I won’t go into detail on the minor differences between the .223 and 5.56mm cartridge.  That’s not within the scope of this article.

I’m left wondering how writers like Philip Bump continue to be employed, who stated flatly that …

It is estimated that there are 20 million AR-15-style rifles in the United States at this point — a powerful, deadly type of weapon that didn’t exist as a consumer product two decades ago.

First, I think this estimate is quite low.  But note that he puts the commercial availability as 2023 – 20 = 2003.  How on earth do these writers get paid unless the pay master knows they’re writing pure bunk and wants it that way?

Now, one might criticize Mr. Knight for even agreeing to interviewed by The Washington Post.  But that’s his business, not mine.  But it must be noted that there are two ways to write things: truthfully and with the complete story, or twisted so that every remark, every comment, every [partial]fact, every half-truth, and every quote feeds a narrative, that narrative being the one the publisher wants to push.

That’s what you see when you read The Washington Post and similar publications.  Legacy media indeed.  I repeat: there is a world of difference between making observations and statements in response to questions of chronology (even if the writer is too stupid to know that’s what the question and answer is really about), and world and life views concerning liberties and rights.  It’s easy enough to string hearsay together with false implications of chronology and make a narrative.  It appears to be much harder to tell the truth.

I’ll say the same thing I did to Reed Knight.  Over these pages, we value the truth above all else.

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  1. On March 29, 2023 at 3:02 am, Nosmo said:

    “…. Reed said to me, “… and colt immediately wanted to market the rifle in the civilian community, which of course is their right.” “

    The civilian market is where the money is; the sales volume of the US civilian market dwarfs the volume of the military market by orders of magnitude, and civilian market response is infinitely faster. In fact, with only military sales and without civilian sales not many firearms companies could exist and those that did would be considerably smaller and a great deal less innovative. Were the desires and demands of Sarah Citizen, Joe Sixpack and Randy Rancher not driving the market I doubt the AR-15 platform would be available in a caliber other than 5.56X45 / .223. (although the SEALs did drive development of J.D.. Jones’ 300 Whisper, which few people have heard of, but everyone has heard of .300 Blackout), nor would things like LVPOs, Vickers slings, PMags et al exist outside a military armory, and certainly not in the wide variety of offerings available today.

    What is often missed is that militaries rarely are at the leading edge, usually closer to the trailing edge, while the adventuresome types out in Flyover Country are always looking for The Next Better Thing which gets developed, tested and proven because of the potential money flows in the civilian marketplace.

  2. On March 29, 2023 at 3:53 am, WiscoDave said:

    Nicely done, Herschel. Great read.

  3. On March 29, 2023 at 5:07 am, Joe Blow said:

    I said it before, I’ll say it again:


    Every conversation like this is stupid and anyone who takes the bait and enters into a debate with anyone like this is stupid. ITS A TRAP, don’t do it!
    I don’t give a flying fuck if Eugene Stoner thought the Easter Bunny was straight. His personal feelings on any matter are entirely irrelevant to my GOD given right to defend my life and liberty by any means neccessary.
    But go ahead and walk down that slippery slope and see if they don’t get you to agree to concede some seemingly reasonable portion of your rights on your own, go ahead. Fragment the entirely winnable debate so that you lose the argument.
    Fucking morons.
    Weapon of War only reinforces the argument behind the 2nd amendment! It absolutely should be in civilian hands, handed to you the day you turn 18 with 3 boxes of ammo.
    People that do not understand the 2nd Amendment, why it was written, and what it means, will help you to build your prison quite gleefully. Never, EVER debate away a portion of your right to self defense. 30 rd mags, short barrels, foregrips, bump stocks, any of that is an attempt to get you to willingly concede your rights given to you by your creator.


  4. On March 29, 2023 at 7:52 am, James Laubacher said:

    In 1968, I made it to the Toledo, Ohio gun show and Mr. Stoner had an AR-15 for sale. It had a milled steel upper and lower and a nice wooden stock. It was also $2000 which was a lot of money in 1968. In 1978, I worked as a low level employee at Ares, Inc. when he was also there. He was a great man.

  5. On March 29, 2023 at 8:19 am, Jay Dee said:

    I note with some bemusement that the Washington Post “estimates” that there are 20 million AR-15s. Big Gun Control invariably underestimates the number of whatever. It’s about money. BGC thinks that they can sell banning AR-15s to Congress because there are “only” 20 million guns. Should the legislation be enacted, the DOJ will “discover” that there are a whole lot more AR-15s and come begging to Congress for more money. It’s always about the money.

    So how many AR-15 style guns are there? Invert the assumptions made to come up with the 20 million number. That number is about 60 million. The actual number lies somewhere in between.

  6. On March 29, 2023 at 10:50 am, Frank Clarke said:

    Quoted from “A Letter to a Liberal Colleague”, by L. Neil Smith:

    “First, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.”

  7. On March 29, 2023 at 11:38 am, Nosmo said:

    RE” “….. the Washington Post “estimates” that there are 20 million AR-15s…”

    I wonder how that figure was determined; is it “assembled and fully functional firearms,” total number of lower receivers produced, or what? I know several people who have a “quantity” of stripped receivers on hand, and enough spare parts that within an afternoon the count of “assembled and fully functional” would grow by double digits.

  8. On March 29, 2023 at 11:48 am, Ozark Redneck said:

    I agree with WiscoDave, nicely done!

  9. On March 29, 2023 at 6:00 pm, Mens Bellator said:

    It did not use an AR15 – in the videos it was wielding a KelTec Sub2K in 9mm, looked like compatible with Glock magazines. That is clearly not a “weapon of war” or an “assault rifle” using those deadly 5.56 rounds that make bodies explod….so all this “assault weapon ban” BS is off-point.

  10. On March 29, 2023 at 6:00 pm, X said:

    This is a very nice and interesting post, Herschel, and your conversation with Reed is very helpful.

    Ultimately, though, the point is moot. If AR-15s did not exist a psychopath could kill schoolchildren with an M1 Carbine and a Remington 700 — like Charles Whitman did in 1966. You could kill schoolchildren with an 870 loaded with 00 Buck. If no guns existed at all you could kill dozens by running them over with a Kenworth diesel tractor.

    I went to grade school in a rural school surrounded by cornfields. Had someone wanted to kill us on the playground they could have done it with a Remington 760 or a 700 or a 788. Hell, even with a Ruger No. 1.

    The point is that the gun banners are not interested in logical arguments. They are not even interested in saving lives of schoolchildren. They are interested in creating a police state, and the M-16/AR-15 pattern rifle has been the arm of the Global Satanic Sodomite American Empire for sixty years.

    THAT’S why they don’t want US to have them. Because they regard us as subjects to be ruled over.

  11. On March 30, 2023 at 12:29 am, Mike Hendrix said:

    “How on earth do these writers get paid unless the pay master knows they’re writing pure bunk and wants it that way?”

    DINGDINGDINGDINGDING WE HAVE A WINNAH, FOLKS!!! Explains a helluva lot, doesn’t it?

  12. On March 30, 2023 at 12:35 am, Mike Hendrix said:

    Oh, and nice work, Joe Blow. You said a mouthful there, buddy. Sorry, libtards, but my God-given rights are NOT up for debate, no matter how long you hold your breath, how loudly you scream and wail, or how wildly you wave your chubby little fists around. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Period, full stop, end of story.

  13. On March 31, 2023 at 5:34 pm, Phil Ossiferz Stone said:

    You guys are really, really gonna enjoy this:

  14. On April 4, 2023 at 9:35 pm, Robert Vance said:

    Stoner designed the .223 Remington from the .222 Remington specifically for Army standards. The original AR-15s were in .222 until the Army pushed the helmet penetration standard from 300 to 500 yards. The .223 was then adopted as the 5,56. The AR-15 was developed at the express request of the Commander of Continental Army Command for a scaled down AR-10 as a candidate for the Army Small Caliber High Velocity program. Years prior to Colt’s release of their Sporter, erroneously called AR-15 by many, the Army and Air Force had extensively tested the AR-15, the Air Force adopted it as the AR-15, DARPA deployed the AR-15 to Vietnam, and multiple foreign militaries bought the AR-15. The Second Amendment specifically relates to weapons suitable to military use and the neutered AR-15s currently available are as close as citizens can get as long as the NFA stands.

  15. On September 28, 2023 at 3:25 pm, Sean Woods said:

    I just want to clarify one thing. First, though, let me say: “shall not be infringed,” because I want you to understand where I’m coming from.

    You state that civilians had the AR15 before troops in the field. This is incorrect.

    The AR15 was first used by troops in the field in Project AGILE, in 1961, in Vietnam. This was expanded in 1962 with over 1000 rifles in total, in combat, in the field. They were used by ARVN troops and “advisors” including Rangers. These weren’t regular-issue rifles, but rather a combat test. But let’s be clear and honest: it was troops in the field, in combat, using the AR15.

    The nest important issuance of the AR15 was to the Air Force, which designated the AR15 its “standard basic weapon” in 1962. And while the Army hadn’t standardized on the M16 yet, it adopted the AR15 – and designated it as the M16 – on December 11, 1963. All of this was prior to Colt beginning sales of the AR15 to civilians.

    And do not let anyone tell you otherwise: the M16 is an AR15, and no, the AR15 we civilians use is not a completely different rifle (the differences are far, far less than the similarities, as evidenced by the initial ATF letter in the Ammoland article you linked to).

  16. On September 28, 2023 at 3:30 pm, Sean Woods said:

    One more note: at the time Colt sent the two rifles to the ATF for approval of the R6000 SP1 as a non-NFA item, the term “M16” did not yet exist. Coincidentally, the ATF approved the SP1 on December 10, 1963, the day before the Army designated the AR15 as “M16”.

  17. On October 31, 2023 at 9:51 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Project AGILE began in 1961 (and ran through 1974) but began as a number of subprojects, including the potential use of the Stoner weapons systems.

    The Stoner weapon systems wasn’t deployed in 1961.

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You are currently reading "Interview with Reed Knight on Eugene Stoner and the AR-15", entry #34493 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) AR-15s,Firearms,Guns,Second Amendment and was published March 28th, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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