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The man most associated with the design of the AR-15. It was adopted by the US military as the M16. He is regarded by most historians, along with John Browning and Mikhail Kalashnikov, as one of the most successful firearms designers of the 20th century.
Stoner was born in the midwestern United States in Gosport, Indiana, in 1922, to a middle-class family. They moved to California where he graduated from Long Beach Polytechnical High School. Without funds it was impossible to attend university. Vega Aircraft, the forerunner of what became Lockheed Airplane Company (now Lockheed Martin Corporation), hired Stoner just out of high school as a machinist. When the United States entered the Second World War he joined the Marine Corps in Aviation Ordance, and fought in the South Pacific, Okinawa, the Philippines, and northern China. He served from 1942-1945.
As an armorer in the Marine Corps, eventually reaching the rank of Corporal, he had his first experience of working with heavy-calibre automatic weapons. The early work experience and training during the war served him through his weapons designing career.
While he had no formal engineering education, Mr. Stoner was widely regarded as one of the world's foremost designers of and experts on small arms. His M-16 has been standard issue for the United States armed forces since 1963, and he designed a wide range of weapons of various types and caliber as well. He held some 100 patents on his inventions, and was a co-founder of Ares Inc.