Test: Armi Jager AP 75 – The 1970s AR-15/AR-18 style semi-automatic rifle from Italy

At first glance, the small Jager AP 75 manufactured in the 1970s makes one think of a poor copy of the AR-15. This design was the godfather of Colt's M16 development in the 1960s, but the US company Armalite had to sell the patents of the AR-15 to Colt due to a lack of money. 

Some 50 years ago, the AR-15 was by no means as well known as it is today, and it was not alone: Armalite had already developed an inexpensive alternative to the AR-15 in the 1960s, the AR-18. This was manufactured using stamping technology, used a conventional piston instead of the dirty direct impingement system, and had neither the characteristic forward assist nor the case deflector of the AR-15/Colt M16. In addition, the stock of the AR-18 – unlike the Colt M 16 – could be folded down. A folding stock instead of a fixed stock was also available for this Italian wannabe rifle.

the old Chinese scope even looks coherent on the Armi Jager AP 75
Coincidentally almost contemporary, the old Chinese scope even looks coherent on the Armi Jager AP 75.

Similarities between Armi Jager AP 75 and AR-18?

the AP 75's aperture rear sight is adjustable to the side
Full view: the AP 75's aperture rear sight is adjustable to the side, and the front sight is adjustable in height. The case deflector and forward assist have been dispensed with.

Compared to the AR-18, other similarities of this gun quickly become apparent. For example, the conspicuous, high front sight and sights protection ears, but also the central charging handle borrowed from the AR-15. The fairly generous gap dimensions immediately reveal the prototypical two-piece receiver design, which is also connected with a hinge screw at the front end. Even the typical dust cover is not missing. Inconsistent with both designs is the rear end of the upper receiver: it is a long, thick hollow cylinder with a large knurled nut. The recoil spring and part of the bolt are hidden in this tube. This works according to the blowback system, so it is not mechanically locked – with the forces of a 7.65 mm Browning cartridge, a coil spring is quite sufficient to keep the bolt closed.

the magazine release is in front of the middle finger
Finger pointing: the magazine release is in front of the middle finger, the index finger points to a control that is only cast on.

The safety of the AP 75 replica consists in a push-button instead of a rotating lever. Upon closer inspection of the magazine, it quickly becomes clear that it is merely a molded-on body. Even the release button, which appears to be in the usual place, is non functional because it is just cast on. The actual (pistol) magazine holds 10 rounds of 7.65mm Browning and sits inside the false magazine. The release is the mundane head of a slotted screw. The receiver and box magazine are one piece, made from some non-ferrous cast metal. The surface is painted black instead of blued. After disassembling the buttstock, the wood used gives the impression of being beech, broomstick type, carelessly stained. The overall visual impression of this gun, which is only 30.3”/77 centimeters long, could be that of a toy rifle, even considered in contemporary terms.

Why did Armi Jager decide to use the 7.65 mm Browning caliber?

The lower part of the magazine
The lower part of the magazine well simulates an inserted AR magazine. Note the actual magazine protruding from it.

For a recreational rifle, the 7.65 mm Browning was a challenging choice around 1975, costing significantly more than the .22LR caliber rimfire cartridges normally used for such purposes. Even in 2021, if 50 7.65 mm Browning cartridges were purchased instead of .22LR, the price would be about four times higher. Why Armi Jager made some of its replicas – there were models, the AK 47 Kalashnikov, the FAMAS, the Colt M 16, and even the English SA80 – in this centerfire caliber could not be determined, unfortunately. Perhaps more effective terminal ballistics were more important to some buyers than inexpensive training ammunition, since the 7.65 mm Browning produces more than 250 joules.

How many Armi Jager AP 75s were made?

Despite the serial number being in the high five digits, this rifle is a rarity – and rightfully part of a collection. Also, Armi Jager may have used consecutive serial numbers for all products, so the number of AP 75s made is much lower. A large proportion of the guns would have been intended for the USA. Unfortunately, at the time of going to press, no information was available from Armi Jager's successor, Nuova Jager, regarding production at that time and its variants.

Armi Jager AP 75 specs

Armi Jager AP 75
To be negotiated
7.65 mm Browning
Magazine Capacity:
10 rounds
Overall Length: 
30.3”/770 mm
Barrel length:
11.8”/300 mm
Trigger Pull Weight: 
5.29 lb/2400 g approx. 
4.73 lb/2150 g
Blowback action, beech stock, 11 mm prism rail, push-button safety, double aperture rear sight, height adjustable  front sight.

How does the Armi Jager 7.65mm Browning semi-automatic rifle shoot?

The blowback bolt of the AP 75
The blowback bolt of the AP 75 is surprisingly massive and heavy. Upper and lower resemble those of an AR.

On the range, the AP 75's 11mm prism rail paid off – as did a simple Norconia riflescope that had been in the editorial office for many years. Since a mount suitable for air rifle scopes was also found, the shooting performance could be determined with an optic. To everyone's surprise, the small pistol cartridge did very well. With the GECO load (No. 3), the tightest grouping circle and the highest performance were achieved. There were no problems either in the cartridge feed or in the case ejection. Without a scope, some sacrifices in accuracy would be inevitable – the detent of the rear sight leaf is relatively coarse. What range the two apertures are configured for is shrouded in historical obscurity for lack of markings. The front sight is infinitely height-adjustable via its screw base – the AK 47 sends its regards.

Armi Jager AP 75: wrapping up

In terms of workmanship, the gun ranks below: meh... Visually, it fits into the category: oh, well... Technically, it becomes interesting due to a caliber rarely used in long guns and the idiosyncratic design in detail. 

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