Gun Review: ArmaLite AR 24-15C

Back in the day, stoners contemplated life’s mysteries from a tetrahydrocannabinol-enhanced perspective. So enabled, they’d confront cosmic karma with a simple statement: “that’s heavy.” Heavy was deep. Heavy was good. Even when it wasn’t. “Dude, your landlord’s here to throw you out.” “Whoa. That’s heavy.” Heavy was important. And then Japanese products invaded the America. Suddenly, small was beautiful. The Sony Walkman was infinitely better than the ‘rents entertainment center and the Honda Accord could run circles around a Buick. But something important was lost. Stuff became insubstantial. Cheap. Disposable. I first experienced the unbearable lightness of being when the computer guy threw out my Apple II’s motherboard, shoved in another one and called it good. Thank God for the AR 24-15C. In a world of cheap plastic guns (now including revolvers), it’s heavy, man.

An unladen AR 24-15C tips the scales at a Biggest Loser early episode-like 34.9 ounces. That’s 2.18125 pounds or 989.398357 grams. Now I could compare the AR 24′s poundage to another, infinitely more popular full-size 9mm gun, like, say, the Glock 17L. That wouldn’t be fair. Glock’s largest polymer pistol is a bantamweight ballistic bruiser at just 23.6 ounces. But the contrast would highlight the fact that the AR 24 is as much of a concealed carry weapon as a Louisville Slugger, which weighs some 3.9 ounces less than ArmaLite’s imported pistol.

But before I do the right thing and compare the AR 24′s heft to the gun whose design inspired it (the CZ 75) let’s switch to the world of “Health Optimizers.”

Vega is a Complete Wholefood Health Optimizer – an all-in-one, natural plant-based formula that provides 100% RDI of vitamins & minerals per serving . . .

Over the past 50 years, our Western culture has managed to complicate matters concerning diet and its relation to health. Obesity and malnourishment exist simultaneously while the over-consumption of calorie-rich but nutrient-poor foods drain our energy. To make matters worse, we treat obesity with drugs and fad diets and combat fatigue with refined carbohydrates, sugar and caffeine. These are short-term solutions that eventually render us energy depleted, over-stimulated, chronically stressed and vulnerable to illness and premature aging.

A $57.69 bottle of Vega weighs exactly the same as the AR 24-15C: 34.9 ounces. Question: which one of these products is more likely to save your life? Despite its mental association with the worst car ever built this side of the Iron Curtain, I’m thinking Vega. Unless someone other than the fast food industry is trying to kill you. Of course, you could use both. Pop a Vega to combat combat fatigue and shoot a life-or-death attacker with the ArmaLite AR 24-15C. In the reverse order, obviously.

I digress. But only slightly. The point I’m making here: the AR 24 is a gun. Yes, it’s heavy. But it’s a gun. Which is a whole better than a bottle of really expensive vitamins or a baseball bat when you need a gun. If you live in a place where you can open carry a small boat anchor in a hip holster, you’re good to stow. OK, you’d probably want a .45 in that case. And yet . . . 15 rounds of 9mm is pretty damn helpful when push comes to shove.

Bottom line: the AR 24 may be (i.e., is) too heavy for daily carry, but it’s an extremely useful thing to have as a home defense weapon. And it’s feels right at home, home on the range.

Where was I? Right. The handgun manufactured by the artist formerly known as the Czech Republic, the CZ 75, weighs an incredibly hefty 39.52 ounces, beze projektil. That’s 4.62 ounces heavier than the ArmaLite (by name, not by nature). So is it Czech mate for the AR 24? I’m going with yes. The CZ’s some heavy shit. But Mark Westrom’s AR 24 is some seriously heavy shit.

Why wouldn’t it be? ArmaLite’s CEO is OCD, in a good way. The AR 24 traces its roots to Mark Westrom’s visit to gun maker Sarsilmaz Silah Sanayi in Istambul (no you can’t go back to Constantinople). When the American AR-meister had a close encounter of the Turkish Army-spec 9mm kind, and clocked the corporate cleanliness of the company’s factory, Westrom thought “what the hell’s a croissant got to do with the Turks?”

No wait; it was something about “the last one to tool-up gets the best machines.” Bonus! The proto-AR 24 was made from forged steel, baby. Cast aside your preconceptions: forged steel may be old-fashioned, but it’s completely  bad ass. If you want a handgun that takes a lickin’ and keeps on shootin’, I say forge ahead.

Sure, the result is a heavy gun (did I mention that?). But Westrom grooved on the firearm’s silky smooth action and the fact that it’s a perfect pistol for pistol-whipping. I mean, it makes the AR 24 an incredibly stable, reliable weapon. Needless to say, Mark modified the Turkish design. He added a new grip and some obscure bits and pieces and a non-legend was born. For reasons that have nothing to do with quality and everything to do with image.

Not to make light of the Geneseo gunmaker’s marketing mavens, ArmaLite is known for its “modern sporting rifles.” Stretching the brand to include pistols was, well, a stretch. To really light a fire in the market, the light arms maker needed to create a handgun with as much of a kick-ass Unique Selling Point (USP) as their AR 15-based weaponry, whose stap-line is “the style of technology.” In keeping with the motto’s mantra, Westrom told me the AR 24′s USP is “elegant design.” It’s a beaut all right, but I respectfully disagree.

The really cool thing about the AR 24 is . . . its weight. More weight = less recoil = muzzle flip = more accuracy + faster target re-acquisition. In other words, wIth so much gun in your hand, the AR 24′s barrel doesn’t leap about like a freshly landed marlin. Follow-up shots are plenty damn quick. That’s a good thing when you’re trying to hit something/someone more than once (highly recommended), and have so many bullets at your disposal. Accuracy makes each bullet that much more useful.

It’s worth repeating: whether it’s a polymer pistol or a Howitzer, hitting what you’re aiming at is the name of the game. The shooters who sampled the AR 24 at the American Firearms School all managed to achieve nice tight groupings—and they placed the bullets close to each other (ba-doom-BOOM).

About that grip. I love it. It feels as good in my hand as, uh, things that feel good in my hand. The AR 24-15C adds 20 lpi checkering on the forestrap and backstrap. One of the American Firearm dudes was not a fan of the grip or the special effects, but Wayne’s got huge mitts. One of my non-pro cohorts also frowned at the AR 24′s love handle, but Alex has tiny hands. Everyone else struggled to express their pleasure without deploying ye olde glove fit analogy. As I indicated above, I’m not going there. Cough. Condom. Cough.

Also on the positive side, you can [barely] carry the AR 24 1911-style: “cocked and locked.” Unlike the 1911, you can retract the slide and extract the bullets with the hammer cocked and the safety engaged. In case you were wondering. Meanwhile, there’s another consideration: trigger reset.

There’s a lot of slack in the AR 24′s go button. And it’s not the world’s smoothest trigger. Westrom made a conscious decision in this regard. He views “instant on” guns like the Glock as inherently dangerous, and offers a YouTube link to an accidental police discharge to prove his point. But the AR 24′s trigger reset adds another mental element to the firing process. Your friendly neighborhood gunsmith awaits.

Suffice it to say, make sure the AR 24′s grip and trigger action feel right to you before plunking down $631. Yes, there is that. The AR 24 may “only” be a hundred bucks or so more than the CZ 75 (which is not nearly as well made), but it’s still a pricey piece in a market with a farrago of more useful (i.e. smaller, lighter, cheaper) 9mm guns. Customizability? Nada. If you did want to throw your hip out by dropping this bad boy into an existing, custom-fit holster, you’re SOL.

ArmaLite reports that the shorter-barreled, slightly lighter versions (the AR 24K-13 and 13C) are outselling the full-size AR 24-15s. The customer is always right. Sacrificing a couple of bullets shouldn’t significantly degrade the gun’s aesthetic appeal, accuracy or feel—even as it vastly increases the weapon’s utility.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that ArmaLite’s having another go. By the end of the year, the Illinois importer will be selling a Westrom-designed .45. After that, expect a scaled-down .40 caliber variant. Both in full-size and short-barreled iterations.

Go short. A compact ArmaLite 40-cal AR somethingorother will provide its owners with a tankelegant design (those .40 bullets can be pretty spicy), hand-happy heft, ballistic stopping power, concealed carry compatibility and a lowish cost of operation. As for the AR 24-15C, it’s a firearm that hearkens back to the days when weight indicated solidity and, equally important, long-term durability. It’s a quality that seems to have been lost in a world birthed by a single word: “plastics.”

I reckon the weight’s been worth the wait. Or vice versa. In any case, the AR 24 is a welcome addition to the ArmaLite canon. So to speak.

Model: AR-24 Full Size Pistol with serrations on front & rear strap, fixed sights
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel: 4.671″ Machined from Alloy Steel Forging
Rifling Twist: 6 Groove, RH 1:16″ Cut Rifling
Rear Sight: Fixed, 3 Dot Luminous
Trigger: 12 lbs Double Action, 5.5 lbs Single Action
Overall Length: 8.27″
Weight: 34.9 oz
Finish: Manganese Phosphate, Heat-Cured Epoxy

RATINGS
(Out of five stars)

Style * * * * *

If you like this sort of thing, you’ll love this design.

Ergonomics (carry)

Only Turkish soldiers need apply.

Ergonomics (firing)  * * * * *

Smooth as a baby’s arm holding an apple. Wait, I mean, a baby’s butt. Extremely easy to achieve accuracy.

Reliability * * * * *

Built like a brick shit house by a company that knows the meaning of the word quality.

Customize This

Nope.

OVERALL RATING * * * *

Not sure what the AR 24′s for, exactly. Your go-to nostalgia piece? A Harley-Davidson-like deal (only it doesn’t break down all the time). But I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who’s carrying one.

[Click here to link to ArmaLite's AR 24-15C page]