A Blast from the Past … Today


Brownells’ Retro Line of AR Rifles Brings History Alive & Fun


Grabbing one of the first Brownells Retro Rifles was being transported back in time and thinking I could have been in the same room as firearms’ Hall of Famers and pioneers Eugene Stoner and Jim Sullivan as they inspected their first production rifles. You notice the dimensions, the balance, and even the feel and sound the plastic makes, relishing the end result of all the design work.

While I have not had the pleasure to handle a first-generation M16, handling one of the Brownells’ first retro rifles was a wow moment in this writer’s experience. You could almost hear the echoes in history of the men who not only designed it but who got to use these first rifles as I opened the box.

Yes, many of the early echoes would be pooh-poohing it as a “toy” as some called it (among other things). But from a historical point of view, the Stoner/Sullivan rifle was truly state-of-the-art in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Being made of steel, aluminum alloy and composite plastics, these first rifles were the forerunners of the guns we have today (long guns and handguns) that boast of the same materials and the advantages these materials give them.

Brownells’ time machine has recharged the paradigm for retro firearms with its introduction of its Retro Line Series of all American-made AR rifles. Four are chambered in 5.56mm: the BRN-601, a mirror image of the initial M16 that was first issued to U.S. airmen and Navy SEALS; the BRN-16E1, a copy of the M16 transitional-model XM-601; the BRN-16A1, that mimics the M16A1; and the carbine variant XBRN-177E2 of the military’s XM-177E2

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