by Dan Shea
Q: I'm in the process of buying an American 180 M-1 from one of your advertisers. My rational being, that, although I want to shoot full auto, I really can't face the chore of re-loading 300 or more cases after a session of shooting with a Thompson 28, which would otherwise be my first choice. Also, the 180 will be cheaper to shoot and I won't have to spend half my shooting life separating brass from mud, sand, clay, etc.
The 180 is my first full-auto piece and I have a few questions:
A: You don't want to spend your time reloading? Wait until you have five 275 round AM-180 drums sitting in front of you and the urge to shoot. Seriously, it's a fun choice for a machine gun. Parts are available from E&L Manufacturing. American Arms is out of the business. The genealogy of the AM-180 is fascinating. Someone should do a book on it. The first AM-180's were made in Austria and imported into the US around 1972 as dealer samples. American Arms tried several sub-contractors to manufacture the receivers before manufactuiring them in house. Most natable were around 24 prototypes by S&S Arms of Albuquerque, NM. These were serial numbered X-00*, and such. Some were made in odd colors- blue, red, green. American Arms manufactured the Transferable AM-180's and the semi-auto version, with some small runs in .22 Magnum. They had their own ammunition planned. There were some briefcase guns, six as I recall, that had suppressors and lasers built in. There was an original run of suppressors, and some short barrels. The suppressors threaded in underneath the front sight on specially threaded barrels, and used wipes. The original laser used was very powerful, and hung below the barrel. It was quite large and rectangular in shape. Stocks were a gross discolored brown plastic, or a read nice walnut. Some chrome guns were made, some were silver plated for about $6,000, and there were some gold plated offered for $16,000 each. The BATF confiscated a run of 750 AM-180 receivers in 1986 that were registerd right before Black Monday (May 19, 1986) and allegedly manufactured after that date. There were about 2000 more receivers that were granted status as Post 86 Dealer Samples, but, I believe, destroyed. American Arms was bought out by the Illinois Arms Co (Ilarco). Ilarco, after 1986, manufactured a post 86 dealer sample with a black stock, and was under the impression that they could sell to dealers all day long. Time for a rude awakening. The dealer sample restrictions killed the viability of that part of the project. The rest of the Ilarco vision for the AM-180 included a Twin AM-180 on one buttstock, a Quad mount on an M-2 tripod-yes, that's four AM-180's in tandem, and a Quad AM-180 on an Ultra-light Airplane. They sent me a video of the ultra-light strafing a beach, and it was kind of neat. I wrote back asking that, since the 165 round drums expended in less than six seconds, who was climbing up to put fresh drums on. No response. Sorry guys, the ultra-light idea may have flown, but I think a 12 year old partisan hiding behind a tree with an AK-47 might have a different view of the project. Something about a duck? Ilarco sold pre-laoded 165 round drum magazines for a reasonable price. Nex, Feather Industries got involved, but backed out quick. This is the point where Val Cooper with E&L Manufacturing stepped in and bought out the old inventory. E&L has introduced a new replacement walnut stock, larger capacity drums including a 275 rounder, and a drum loading tool that is a great help. Stan Andrewski fixes sprund winders for about $25 each, and that's handy to know for any AM-180 owner.
Small Arms Review Magazine