A key moment in the history of the AR-15 rifle — an event that led to the gun’s ultimate adoption by the U.S. military — came on July 4, 1960, at the country estate of an aircraft company executive.
Richard Boutelle’s “Pleasant Valley Retreat,” was located just west of Hagerstown, Maryland, and not far from Washington. Boutelle, who had launched ArmaLite, the small-arms maker that created the AR-15, invited one of his close pals, Air Force General Curtis LeMay, to the party. LeMay loved shooting guns, and Boutelle hoped the AR-15 would impress the cigar-chomping commander.
An AR-15 salesman came to the party and brought one of the guns and three watermelons. He set up two of the watermelons in a field, one fifty yards away and the other 150 yards. Then he handed LeMay the gun.
“He shot both of them and put his hand down in there and picked this stuff up, and I won’t say what he said, but it was quite impressive—he was impressed,” the man later told a congressional subcommittee. “So I asked him, ‘Do you want to shoot the other one?’ He said, ‘Hell, no; let’s eat it.’ So that’s the way we did.”
Within days, LeMay was at the Pentagon demanding a large order of AR-15s for Air Force personnel.