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Troubleshooting the Atchisson Type AR15/M16 .22 Conversion Kits

By J.M. Ramos

I had the privilege of meeting the great gun inventor Maxwell G. Atchisson at his residence in Doraville, Georgia, back in the late 70s through Donald Thomas. Don was Atchisson’s business agent at the time and is also SAR’s archivist. Visitors to Max’s residence were received via strict invitation only, since it was also his private research, development and testing facility. His guest book (to which I had the honor of adding my name) contained the names of dignitaries and high-ranking military officials from around the world—proof of his status as one of America’s best in the 20th century. The lower section of the house had an indoor range facility where guests were allowed to shoot Max’s inventions (except guns in the prototype stages with patentable features), many of which had never been shown to the public before. Some of the guns he presented and tested were his Vietnam-era M16 rifle containing his .22 conversion kit and three .22 semi-autos he converted to select fire, namely the H&R Reising M65 “Leatherneck” rifles and Jager AK22 (just introduced to the U.S. market at the time). The biggest surprise of my visit was seeing and firing his revolutionary full-automatic shotgun with a 20-round drum magazine. I also glimpsed a prototype 40-round drum in the works but was unable to test and examine it. Although Remington did come up with a select fire conversion of their M1100 shotgun, which earned the U.S. military designation M7188, it was Atchisson who truly revolutionized the concept that inspired many of the modern combat shotguns we see on the market today.

Although Atchisson’s inventions were mostly geared toward military and police purposes, such applications proved quite elusive, including for his much-touted full-auto shotgun. His AR15/M16 .22 conversion kit, on the other hand, became a commercial success years after he sold the rights to others. It was one of the most copied devices in existence and constantly improved upon by others, primarily by CMMG, the leading producer of these types of kit, who came up with various set-ups and related...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017

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