Olympic OA96 Pistol: A Loophole in the Assault Weapons Ban

The pistol in this video is up for auction here.

In 1993, Olympic Arms introduced an AR-15 with a side folding stock, as well as a stockless – and buffer-tube-less – pistol version. They did this by relocating the recoil spring of the AR to a tube running above the barrel and receiver. It was a clever modification (although the execution left something to be desired), but it came at a very unfortunate time. The very next year, in 1994, the US Assault Weapons Ban was enacted and Olympic’s pistols were prohibited from production.

However, Olympic recognized that the definition of “assault pistol” was based first on a semiautomatic handgun with a detachable magazine. If the magazine were not detachable, the gun was not an “assault pistol”, regardless of any other features it might have. So they introduced the OA-96 in 1996, with a 30-round fixed magazine, as well as a barrel shroud, pistol grip, and flash suppressor. In order to reload it, they incorporated a button to easy hinge the upper receiver open, allowing access to the magazine.

This was a slick workaround, but of course what they and their customers really wanted was a detachable magazine. Olympic went immediately to work on that, and introduced the OA-98 two years later…

37 Comments

  1. Just curious, but can you hit anything with it? Looks too bulky to be a decent pistol and too small to make a decent rifle.

    Looks like something more useful on the set of a Terminator movie.

      • That’s one of the workarounds for current Californian rules. I forget the manufacturer, but they make a magazine that locks into an AR and loads via stripper clips as an alternative to opening the action to reload

        • “workarounds”
          Other solution to not have detachable magazine might be PTRS-41 style, where clips are loaded from bottom into magazine.

    • “Looks too bulky to be a decent pistol and too small to make a decent rifle. ”
      To start assault pistol sound ludicrously to me, as automatic pistols are almost always defensive weapons, with (sole?) exception being Offensive Handgun Weapon System [Heckler & Koch] MK 23.
      Interestingly there existed Sturmpistole [which means assault pistol in Deutsch] which was hand-held AT weapon (launching HEAT shells): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmpistole
      Anyway, there were many times when plans of law creators were dodged by technical detail.
      Notice for example that NONE aircraft carrier was build for Soviet Navy. So you might now wonder about Kuznetsov – well, it is not aircraft-carrier but heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser? You might think it makes difference, but it make – it can freely sail through Turkish straits without breaking Montreux Convention:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreux_Convention_Regarding_the_Regime_of_the_Straits#Aircraft_carriers

      • OK, as I understand the arguement put forward by gun rights advocates like the NRA for decades (if not longer) is that guns (I believe “guns” includes pistol as well) are inanimate objects which have no intelligence or will of their own. If this is so, then guns are solely under the control of humans which control how they are used. So, at what point in the mechanical lifespan of a pistol(s) is it given artificial intelligence in order for it to become a “defense” weapon? I dunno how many times I heard Cooper back when he was running Gunsite categorically put shotguns/pistols in the defensive box and rifles in the offensive box.

        Does this sound like a silly a point to make? Not really. I don’t trust absolutes. While some objects are better suited for some tasks than others it is ultimately the human who determines how it will be used. No such thing as an “assault pistol”? Having trained Iraqi’s and seen their level of skill/mindset ten SFAUC trained 18’s armed with M-9’s could attack, NOT defend against and defeat ten average Iraqi’s armed with AK’s. Yep, they could. BTW, hold a seance and ask Mosby’s raiders and Missouri bushwackers such as Quantrill and Anderson how well pistols worked in the OFFENSIVE combat mode.

        • “ask Mosby’s raiders and Missouri bushwackers such as Quantrill and Anderson how well pistols worked in the OFFENSIVE combat mode.”
          Now I know what I forgot about: I should write assault automatic pistol instead of assault pistol, sorry for that.

          “If this is so, then guns are solely under the control of humans which control how they are used.”
          Ok, then I should correct my statement to: most automatic pistols are optimized for defensive usage

          “SFAUC trained 18’s armed with M-9’s could attack, NOT defend against and defeat ten average Iraqi’s armed with AK’s.”
          Ok, weaponry is designed to be used together with some doctrine, if someone fail to deploy said doctrine and fail, it is not weapon fail.

          • Weaponry is designed to be used “with some doctrine”-really? Now that you have made an absolute statement…….. sez’ who? Have you ever seen how most people at a typical shooting range use their guns? Almost nobody shoots a military semi-auto rifle irrespective of the type/design/ or model from anything other than a shooting bench. Was bench shooting something Stoner, Garand, and Kalashnikov had in mind when they designed these weapons based upon “doctrine”? What was the “doctrine” that created the matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap etc?

            Seriously, do you deny the irregular Civil War cavalry units I named did NOT use handguns in an offensive mode? Are you telling the world that US cavalry troopers never charged an enemy and fired their revolvers when doing so? Was Seung Hui-Cho using his handguns in a DEFENSIVE manner? Do you actually believe when a cop draws his duty pistol and enters a building in pursuit of an armed suspect he is not using his weapon in an offensive manner?

            “Most automatic pistols are optimized for defensive usage”. My gawd do you really believe that!? Which weapon would you rather “defend “ yourself with: a rifle or a pistol? Obviously an automatic pistol as you state it is “optimized for defensive usage.

            Logic dictates some tools and weapons are better suited for tasks than others but the intent of tools use is solely determined by humans. In your world a person who stabbed another with a screwdriver could not be charged with assault with deadly weapon because a screwdriver was not designed to be a deadly weapon.

          • “Seriously, do you deny the irregular Civil War cavalry units I named did NOT use handguns in an offensive mode?”
            Not so fast. I did not say that. My error was that I wrote pistol when I have in mind automatic pistol.

            “Was bench shooting something Stoner, Garand, and Kalashnikov had in mind when they designed these weapons based upon “doctrine””
            Not and thus their weapons can not be blamed to be inferior in that usage than weapons designed specifically for that role.

            “person who stabbed another with a screwdriver could not be charged with assault with deadly weapon because a screwdriver was not designed to be a deadly weapon.”
            Wait, where I made any claim about penalization?

            I might agree that offensive-defensive role division is not clear, as shown by:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Disarmament_Conference
            If something is optimized for some role it does not mean it can not be used in other role.

        • “categorically put shotguns/pistols in the defensive box and rifles in the offensive box. ”
          I don’t agree with treating shotguns as defensive. For me most automatic pistols are defensive, as they are rarely weapon of choice [with exception of suppressed weapons] – they are carried together with another weapon and are second in priority of usage (are used when main weapon can not be used easily)

    • Since-the-OA-AR-15-line-came-out-in-the-mid-1990s, it would be highly anachronistic for the first two Terminator films (released-in-1984-and-1991), but period-accurate for newer versions including the upcoming remake.

    • I honestly believe all the front weight and the welded magazine would help with stability and recoil. I’m not a pro but just from observation it seems super fun to hit the range with

  2. What prevented Mr. Stoner to locate the recoil spring in other places than the butt stock was the “ln line recoiling masses philospy” which formed the original AR15 rifle. The closer lay out for recoil spring location matching with that approach should be around the barrel and this would rise another difficulty of locating the gas tube through the action spring coils. High over the barrel location of recoil spring and its guide would create a respectable moving masses and this of course spoil the working balance of the gun but for the manufacturer of this gun, this seemed not a problem and for other piston strike action makers as well.

    • Extremely small bore diameter in AR receiver (1.000 inch) does not allow other possibility. This is in addition to very short Receiver (just 7.0 inch); therefor buffer must go someplace else. It was not so much Stoner who is responsible for this “boxing himself in”, but his followers who designed the AR-15.

      The irony is that this worldwide predominant design has this cardinal design flaw, in addition of direct gas requiring extensive maintenance. I have difficulty to see “greatness” contained in it. This was corrected almost immediately in form of AR18 which became progenitor of all other (save for AK) assault rifles designs. But, AR18 itself came too late into the game in the US.

      For another example how to treat placement of return spring/ buffer assembly may be Korean service rifle (it was once shown on FW). So, fix is clearly here, but inertia in military procurement is way, way too big.

      • “AR18 which became progenitor of all other (save for AK) assault rifles designs”
        Wait, what about FAMAS?

        “fix is clearly here”
        I must one thing here: Soviets from beginning planned to have two versions of avtomat: one with fixed stock and one with folding stock, so AK and AKS adopted. This requirement for duality was in action also later, so AKM and AKMS.
        U.S. forces apparently failed to realize importance of that, which taking in account fact that Soviets did so in 1940s and U.S. were making decision 1960s, lead to conclusion that Soviets were more foresighted, at least in that regard.

        • I do not consider Famas as well balanced rifle; it is clumsy, rather heavy for its caliber and has cartridge limitation. But, it was decent attempt in unchartered territory. (Pls note that AA52 GMPG was hit with same fate.) No one is trying for transitional locking weapon for high pressure cartridge any more.

          Effort of Soviet armaments industry was fundamentally different that in the Western (and notably US) countries. In SU the direction was consistent with long term plans as in West (and again most notably in US) it was momentary private industry ventures which lead to new directions. I’d compare it to steady snail movement as opposed to frog leaping. Both arrived to similar end as we see in case of 5.45×39 cartridge adoption.

          • “transitional locking weapon”
            Wait was is that? I always though FAMAS belongs to delayed-blowback category. Still independently from ergonomics FAMAS is assault rifle and was not spawned by AK and was not spawned by AR18, thus saying that all assault rifle [created after AR18] were spawned by AK or AR18 is not true.

            “steady snail movement as opposed to frog leaping”
            What I would say Soviet development was just more convergent and also more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, taking for example AK: gas-operated (already known to Soviets), stamping (already used in sub-machine gun, although proved be harder to implement than excepted, it was known) and intermediate cartridge (and this was something new).

          • I do not want to sway too far from topic, which is what constitutes a pistol and what is rifle and how to trick the rules; so just quick response to be fair.

            To me, typical gas operated (or manually for that matter) weapon is positively locked. Nothing alters state of breech lock until some force from outside arrives. There is a positive dwell. Typically it takes gas piston input to alter this state. With transitional locking (whatever you wish to call it, it is basically same) the opening force is acting on ‘locking’ (or rather resisting) surfaces right from cartridge ignition. These systems are tricky to get them right for majority of circumstances. I appreciate the thoughts behind them, but do not have faith in them.

          • Ok, I should guess that taking in account chaos is well liked in U.S. terminology.
            Anyway I would stay with delayed blowback or retarted blowback, as for me there is not locking in that system, only slow-down.
            Anyway, while maybe less popular, there existed successful designs, like for example Schwarzlose machine gun or H&K G3. First one is interesting in that it was adopted for various cartridges, including 7,9 mm Mauser (těžký kulomet vz. 7/24)

      • ““greatness” contained in it”
        I would not discuss if it is or is not inside, but I want to note that when it was introduce into service it was great leap forward in U.S. weaponry. It introduced intermediate cartridge for general usage, it had polymer parts, it was first small-bore weapon. And what weapons U.S. forces used until then? M14 – more or less M1 Garand (weapon of WW2-vintage) with added file selector and chambered for bit different cartridge, M2 Carbine – weapon of WW2-vintage, M3A1 Grease Gun – also WW2-vintage.
        Also unlike Soviet Union where there were first full-caliber intermediate-cartridge (namely 7,62×39), U.S. omitted that step and go to small-bore intermediate-cartridge.

        • “It introduced intermediate cartridge / it was first small-bore weapon”

          Please choose one or the other, not both for same. This (M193) was pronouncedly small bore caliber on par with .22LR. True, when first applied in Vietnam, its effects were deadly and that aroused wave of “humanitarian” protests around the world.

          • Being chambered for intermediate cartridge and being small-bore are not mutually exclusive.
            Maybe I should rather write it was first small-bore intermediate-cartridge weapon in general usage by U.S. forces which mean smaller bullet diameter than then-default rifle cartridge (7,62×51 NATO).

      • Thanks for your comment Denny. Stoner’s related patent(US2951424), states that the aims of invention;

        _ Giving double duty for bolt and carrier as both locking the rear of breech and as a gas cylinder and piston,

        _ lighter gas operation system by means of this double purpose construction,

        _ Self adjusting gas meter by means of long gas vent channel which is cut after a slight backward of bolt carrier,

        _ Balanced follow up shoots by means of joining all recoiling parts in line with barrel axis…

        From these explanations, one might say, the purposed function shapes the construction, that is, the thin receiver radius should be the result of used functionality. lf someone repuires to put another functionality into the set, it would spoil all other working spaces and functions.

        All of the approach might be accepted fully philisophicial and unpractical if this construction should not fill the required service rifle needs and appearently, Mr Stoner also had seen some points and gone to design the. basics of AR18. lMHO.

        • I distinguish between Stoner’s work up to and including AR10 which is sound design. Also, his effort on model 63 system is near to phenomenal (although he took on too wide task while including GPMG in it).

          On general note – patent descriptions nearly always boast without any proof. They can say whatever they want; lawyers get paid. When comes to “lightweight” AR15/ M16 I consider this argument largely invalid since this rifle is not any lighter than any other in this caliber, with minor exceptions (both ways). I suggest however comparison with vz.58 which is around half kg lighter than M16.

        • This said however I like to add that the in-line concept at time of its inception was revolutionary one and deserves a credit. One step up in this direction is gas piston variation which celebrates success in form of HK416 and 417 version of which is also new Turkish service rifle.

          I have seen recently rifle for Azerbaijan produced by an Israeli company – basically AR15 in 7.62×39; it looks really good.

    • Another problem with placing the recoil spring around the barrel is firing heat destroying the temper and “springiness” of the spring over time. This was a problem with the Oerlikon/Hispano type 20mm canon during WW2.

      It’s rarely a problem with self-loading pistols, simply because they don’t get fired rapidly enough to cause that much heating most of the time.

      Also, pistol rounds don’t generally cause as much heating of the barrel, even in full-auto fire, as rifle rounds do. This is why while the MP-5 in 9 x 19mm’s manual includes warnings about cookoffs, the “5” is much less prone to same than its cousin the HK53 in 5.56 x 45mm.

      So I wouldn’t recommend a recoil-spring-around-the-barrel arrangement for a 5.56mm weapon.

      cheers

      eon

  3. At one point, Indian-made SMLEs converted to .308 NATO were classed as ‘assault rifles’ because their (fixed) magazines would hold 12 rounds rather than the 10 they held in .303.

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