March 10, 2013

Olympic Arms OA 98 223 Rem

The OA 98’s frame was aluminum. Olympic Arms told us the grip was also fashioned from aluminum, but the one on our pistol looked more like polymer. To make the gun lighter, both the grip and the magazine housing were skeletonized. The grip did not look comfortable, and we saw shavings from the cuts. Nonetheless, when we handled the gun, we found comfort was not a problem, and we thought its design was effective. The heat shield that draped over the gas tube, recoil system, and barrel was relieved in the same manner as the magazine housing. The cuts in both areas gave the gun a distinctive appearance.

This model did not come with a case or with a magazine. In fact a manufacturer’s note on the website (olyarms.com) said that Olympic Arms is still negotiating with a supplier for a suitable case.

Chambering a round was accomplished via a charge bar accessible from the left side of the weapon. This bar offered a loose-floating fit and rode atop the weapon just below the scope mount. This arrangement made charging the weapon easy, but if you wished to lock back the bolt, a juggling act was required. Because the OA 98 could not be braced against the shoulder, locking back the bolt meant pulling the charge bar back with curled fingers of the left hand and holding the bolt rearward by placing the left thumb behind the end plate. Then the shooter had to reach over the top of the weapon with the right hand to set the bolt catch. The safety was similar to a standard AR-15 design, situated on the left side just above the grip.

Courtesy Gun Tests

Courtesy Gun Tests

The OA 98’s frame was aluminum. To make the gun lighter, both the grip and the magazine housing were skeletonized. The heat shield that draped over the gas tube, recoil system, and barrel was relieved in the same manner as the magazine housing. The cuts in both areas gave the gun a distinctive appearance.

There were no supplied sights on the OA 98, and the Picatinny rail was split into two sections. This rail would favor mounting a tube scope with rings front and back, but we chose a Bushnell Holosight electronic scope that included an integral mount. The Holosight was extremely rugged, very easy to zero, and the displayed reticule (a small dot in a circle) suffered from zero parallax. This meant the reticule did not have to appear centered in the scope to represent point of impact.

The last preparation we made for firing was to choose proper hearing protection. We would be conducting our tests outdoors, but from a covered bench with the aid of a sandbag rest. However, we found this gun to be very loud, even when fired in open spaces. For our safety and comfort, we opted for wearing earplugs and earmuffs. We used a pair of electronic muffs from Walker’s Game Ear, ($239, [800] 424-1069). Over the course of this test they protected our shooter’s hearing by gating out high-decibel noises, but amplified normal conversation as desired.

Given the sound and blast from the OA 98, how and when would this gun be used? We’re not sure. In the middle of the night a home-defense scenario without hearing protection would likely mean permanent hearing loss. Nighttime muzzle flash would also be significant. And we don’t think the 98 is the right gun for hunting, though the .223 cartridge is suitable for taking game. Thus, we had questions about what it would be used for, other than plinking.

Remembering that the OA 98 was not shipped with a magazine, we tried a variety of AR-15 magazines. The Bushmaster was shipped with a 10-round magazine with a green polymer follower, and we tested the OA 98 with this component as well as several surplus 20-round magazines and some English made 30-round models ordered from Dillon Precision, (800-223-4570) for $20. We found that neither gun digested any of the hollowpoint ammunition we tried, including the Winchester USA 45-grain JHP rounds. However, the OA 98 always cycled ball or softpoint ammunition.

Courtesy, Gun Tests

Courtesy, Gun Tests

Because the OA 98 could not be braced against the shoulder, locking back the bolt meant pulling the charge bar back with curled fingers of the left hand and holding the bolt rearward by placing the left thumb behind the end plate. Then the shooter had to reach over the top of the weapon with the right hand to set the bolt catch.

The OA 98 did not come with open sights, so we shot for record with the Bushnell Holosight in place. The most accurate round proved to be the Georgia Arms remanufactured loads. But we did notice that the point of impact on each target was significantly different. Standard deviation of this ammunition was much higher than our other two test rounds, and velocity was significantly lower, averaging below 2000 fps on our Oehler 35P chronograph ($345, Brownells, 800-741-0015). The Federal and Black Hills ammunitions both shot 1.4-inch five-shot average groups, but the Black Hills V-Max bullet traveled at nearly 2100 fps and produced much more muzzle velocity than the Federal rounds. With finer optics we think we could have achieved better accuracy with both of our guns.

In terms of reliability, the OA 98 continued to run without problem, and it never seemed to get dirty. It did collect a lot of scuff marks just behind the ejection port (from spent shells), but ejection did not seem to cause a problem for the shooter. In fact, we weren’t even aware of this until we got home from the range.

Comments (7)

This is an AR handgun from the ban years. That's why it has the lightening cuts.

Posted by: Zach B | March 12, 2009 9:13 PM    Report this comment

I bought one of these (thanks a lot, Gun Tests) and love it to pieces. Growing older doesn't mean that life has to be all about practicality and no fun and this is a fun gun. Great reactions at the range, too.

Posted by: RJ H | March 12, 2009 5:14 PM    Report this comment

I have had a OA-98 for about 4 or 5yrs. I have a EOTEC-552 on top and once you get use to holding it, you should have no problem having fun shooting it. I have had no problems with HPBT ammo from 55 to 75gr ammo. - have found benching it with Sierra 75 HBPT match kings have given me the best group out to 100yd. But that is not how I shoot it. I either hold my left hand up by the mag well or holding on to the hand guard, by putting my left hand over the top. - find this the best since you are able to subdue the recoil. The gun wants to jump up. Now the problem with that method is Heat from the barrel. I have also shot it with a Beta-Cmag and had no malfunctions. So what is it good for? Having fun plinking. True you need good muffs, glasses and suntan oil. After sometime you feel like your getting a sunburn from the muzzle blast. Self defense not my first go to gun and hunting, guess what your hunting for and how humane you want to be. Under Cover or Covert use? Interesting man from UNCLE brief case gun, and who knows with a silencer what it might be used for. In NYS it is the only gun that meets weight limits for a pistol. The PLR-16 is not able to be used in NYS and I am not sure if it could be put down has a AOW. So the reality is you want something to have fun with or a conversation item. Buy one and have a blast. I don't even see a PLR-16 being a gun you could use except for the same reason.

Please excuse spelling errors I am sending this from my BlacBerry Bold and have tried to make sure my grammer is correct.

Posted by: Marc W | March 12, 2009 12:33 PM    Report this comment

Building an AR-15 type pistol, without the need of a buffer tube, provides for some interesting capabilities in a long range handgun. I purchased a Kel-Tec PLR-16 for the same design advantage of no buffer tube. In addition, however, the PLR-16 provides a polymer frame/receiver resulting in a lightweight gun that is pretty impervious to the elements. Some other features of the PLR-16 that make it very attractive, are the gas piston action, which makes the gun fire more cleanly than a gas impingement system, plus the PLR-16 provides a bolt hold-open device that is very conveniently located in front of the trigger guard. From what I can see, I'm glad I got the PLR-16 instead of waiting for the OA-98.

Posted by: canovack | March 12, 2009 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps I need to reconsider what a 'handgun' is. Too big, too clumsy, no sights, no chance of carrying it in a holster. This thing is ridiculous. The same thing could be made from an existing AR rifle - and smaller - with proper NFA licensing. If you want a short barreled rifle, then get one, but to call this thing a handgun is silly.

Posted by: Markbo | March 12, 2009 11:00 AM    Report this comment

I KNOW THE REVIEW OF THE OLYMPIC ARMS AO98 IS SOMEWHAT DATED, PERHAPS EVEN BACK TO LAST YEAR, BUT I SERIOUSLY THINK THAT ALL MANUFACTURERS OF AR TYPE RIFLES SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON MEETING THE NEW AND EXPANDED DEMAND FOR THEIR EXISTING MODELS, RATHER THAN ALLOCATING EVEN A PART OF THEIR BUDGET FOR R/D. AFTER THE DUST SETTLES, AND THE INDUSTRY SETTLES DOWN, THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF TIME TO DEVELOP NEW TOYS.

Posted by: TW3 | March 12, 2009 9:47 AM    Report this comment

Keep up the great work. Thanks always look froward to your emails. Wm

Posted by: Wm R | March 12, 2009 9:30 AM    Report this comment

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