Professional Ordnance Carbon-15: A Super-Light AWB AR-15

The Professional Ordnance Carbon-15 was developed during the assault weapons ban in the United States as a way to market a pistol version of an AR15 action without exceeding the weight limit imposed by legislation. While Olympic Arms achieved this goal through extensive skeletonization, Professional Ordnance did it by using polymer (not woven carbon fiber, as the name implies) for the upper and lower receivers. What we are looking at today, however, is the full size rifle version of this weapon that was also produced.

With a very thin barrel and polymer upper, lower, and buttstock, the Carbon 15 is an exceptionally lightweight rifle – it weighs just 4 pounds unloaded. This could have made a compelling rifle were it not for the numerous reliability and durability problems that dogged the guns. In addition, the bolt and several other parts were made to proprietary designs and not interchangeable with standard parts. Professional Ordnance folded around the end of the assault weapons ban, and its assets were purchased by Bushmaster, who would continue to market guns under the Carbon-15 name but not in the proprietary and super-light configuration of the Professional Ordnance production.



  1. Because they are so light, the Carbon 15 has a noticeably greater recoil impulse to the shoulder compared to a lightweight Colt.

    The hand guard has no heat shield, so it starts to get very warm very quickly.

    The muzzle device has a quick detach feature, as the muzzle is not threaded. Grasp the knurled surface of the device near the barrel and pull forward, it is a separate sleeve held reward by spring tension, so after the sleeve moves forward about half an inch the entire muzzle device is freed and pops straight off of the muzzle.

    In 1999, these were quite expensive rifles, selling for $1,000 wholesale.

  2. “numerous reliability and durability problems that dogged the guns”
    Typical outcome if you want make design light too much

    “it weighs just 4 pounds unloaded”
    That is 1,8 kg in metric if I am not mistaken.
    9А-91 is also 1,8 kg heavy:
    and have not problems with reliability as far as I know. However it has shorter barrel and metallic stock, but on the other hand it fired 9×39 cartridge which is dimensionally bigger.

      • With introduction of new 5,45-mm it was decided to exploit possibility of creating small avtomat, competition started in 1973 and was codenamed «Модерн», requirement were as follow:
        mass no more than 2,2 kg
        length no more than 750 mm / 450 mm (stock extended/collapsed)
        sights scaled to 500 m
        one of competitors was TKB-0116, which has description in English here:
        It mass with 20 round magazine was 2,31 kg (although 30 round magazines from AK-74 will also be accepted), interestingly unlike most Soviet avtomat it used short-recoil(rotation) principle – in this regard it was similar to KPV and KPVT.
        Eventually AKS-74U was adopted, main reason was high commonality with AK-74.

  3. A different perspective on AR-15 pistols… they seem to fall into two categories.

    First are the ones that are actually trying to be pistols — the ones with 7″ barrels, non-standard recoil spring/buffer arrangements to reduce or eliminate the long buffer tube, and so on. Of course, anything trying to meet the ’94 AWB’s requirements falls into this category. And I agree with Ian that these are basically range toys, and I’m not particularly into them, either. (Of course I don’t begrudge anyone who does find them interesting.)

    The second category, though, are sometimes called “poor man’s SBR”, and that’s exactly what they are — a way to avoid the legal category of an SBR (short barreled rifle) as defined by the NFA*. These guns, with 11-14.5″ barrels, and standard carbine-length buffer tubes, look and handle a lot like a Colt Commando or M4, and are legitimate weapons for home defense — they have the short length to easily negotiate hallways and doorways, and with a cheek weld on the buffer tube, shoot very nearly as well as rifles. I’m not saying they’re the best weapon for home defense (certainly a genuine SBR with the buttstock is a better choice for those willing to tolerate the tax and delay of an NFA item, and there are good arguments for the shotgun and handgun as well), but they’re certainly a contender; a serious choice of weapon subject to legal considerations, not just a range toy.

    • * For those unfamiliar with US gun laws, the NFA (National Firearms Act) is one of two main bodies of nation-wide law concerning firearms. The GCA (Gun Control Act) covers “ordinary” guns (rifles, handguns, etc.) that you can walk into a gun store and buy. The NFA covers machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, silencers, grenades, and the like. In general, to buy NFA-regulated items or to make them from non-regulated items (e.g. swapping to a short barrel), you have to pay a $200 per item tax ($5 per item on some things), and the paperwork associated with that tax takes (depending how busy they are) 3 months to a year to go through, during which you can’t take possession of the item you’ve bought. For some people, $200 and 6 months is a hurdle they’ll never put up with; for others, it’s no big deal.

  4. The buffer only weighs 49 grams (or 1 5/8 ounces). That seems very light. Is it possible that Professional Ordnance made the buffer too light in an effort to keep down the overall weight of the rifle? Could an incorrect buffer weight be the cause of the rifle’s reputation for breaking parts?

    • Interesting. The weight of an ordinary AR-15 complete bolt carrier group is 325 grams (11.5 ounces). The weight of the Carbon 15 complete bolt carrier group is 291 grams (10.25 ounces).

  5. I bought one of these used a couple years ago and still own it. I still find it funny to watch people’s faces when i hand it to them for it is incredibly light, it honestly feels like a toy.

    I did have a few reliability issues, nothing more than an occasional jam… I think the feeding issue was caused by some old mags. I actually had some know-it-all ex-marine tell me that he thought the gun was completely unsafe and wouldn’t recommend firing it because he had “never seen an AR like it” and “it appeared to be missing parts.”

    Not that I plan on selling it but I was wondering if anyone foresees these being worth anything in the future?

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