Nature, Exploration, Tools and Weaponry, Bushcraft, History and Related Musings.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Target shooting is a favorite pastime of mine, and I have the fortunate opportunity to shoot a wide variety of firearms, many of which I personally own. The last weapon I purchased was one I'd been eager to get for some time: the venerable AR-15 semiautomatic rifle chambered in 5.56 (.223). As a full-time college student, my funds are extremely limited, so I shopped around for a compromise between low cost and quality. After going through with my customary obsessive reading of product reviews, I decided to purchase the "Plinker Plus" standard model carbine from Olympic Arms.

FORM: This firearm is nearly identical in appearance to the classic M-16 military rifle. Since it is a carbine, the barrel length is a shorter 16 inches, though with the classic style buttstock the firearm still feels like a standard rifle in the hands. I've fired other ARs with various setups, like the M-4 style multi-position stock, but I purposely opted for the classic form. I am a rifle man, and I wanted the "bare bones" option with A1 iron sights and limited options for adjustment. In terms of aesthetics and ergonomics, this rifle was exactly as I expected: simple, comfortable, and proven.

CRAFTSMANSHIP: As far as the basic construction goes, nothing too surprising. The rifle arrived in a decent plastic case with interior padding. It came with a nylon sling and a basic aluminum 30-round magazine. The Plinker Plus is made from 7075 T6 forged aircraft aluminum (same as the military M-16), with anodized receivers and parkerized steel. The barrel is Olympic Arms' 4140 chromemoly steel with "long-life" bore and a permanently attached A2-style flash suppressor. The twist is a standard 1x9. The non-metal parts consist of a durable fiberglass material; the handguard performs well in allowing the barrel to vent and does not itself seem to retain much heat. I like that the A2-style stock has a trapdoor, allowing for a decent amount of storage inside (see photo 4 below).

There was one major manufacturing problem with my rifle upon arrival, that was not evident in the initial inspection and function check. When I first test-fired the rifle, it would successfully discharge one round, but fail to eject the casing. This caused a jam as the next round attempted to chamber and consequently collided with the lodged empty shell. After stripping the gun and closely examining the bolt, I noticed that the extractor pin seemed to jut out from the bolt slightly and seemed to have no compression leeway. After further disassembly, I discovered the problem. As you can see in photos 2 and 3 below, the pin was not milled/chamfered properly. This is an unacceptable failure which could have been easily prevented. Perhaps more worrisome, this proves that Olympic Arms never test-fired this weapon before they shipped it. Had they fired even one test round, the stuck shell would have indicated the operational failure. I attempted to discuss the problem with the company, but after being given the phone transfer runaround and leaving multiple polite voicemails, I never heard back from them. It's bad enough to ship a firearm prone to potential catastrophic failure, but then to not even address the valid concern? Well, that's just poor business.


Reliability - Since carefully performing my own gunsmith work on the extractor pin with a bench grinder, the function of my Plinker Plus has been outstanding. I've experienced no further failures of any kind. Cleanup is easy, due to the straightforwardness of stripping the weapon (a boon that I've found comes with most military-developed weapon styles). Everything on the rifle appears to perform as it should, though I caution the reader to remember that this firearm is still like new, and due to cost I am stingy with ammo. Thus, only about 200 rounds have gone through my rifle, so I'll likely follow up with subsequent reviews after a thorough break-in.

Accuracy - Olympic Arms is renowned for having very accurate barrels. I'm extremely happy with the accuracy of my Plinker Plus, and I have no problem holding tight groups at 100 yards with the iron sights (I'd say typically around 3 inches). As I lack any authoritative claim on expert marksmanship, I'll reserve further judgment.

Ammo - So far I've fired this gun with several different types of ammunition, including Wolf, Brown Bear, PMC brass, PMC X-Tac, Remington UMC and Federal. All have performed flawlessly. I've shot a few brief "rapid shots" (emptying a magazine in quick succession) without any difficulty, but generally I fire this rifle like I would any other, with carefully considered, slow single shots.  

- Low Cost 
- Similar materials to more expensive AR-15 models
- Overall solid construction
- Accurate

- Quality control issues
- Poor customer service from manufacturer

Apart from the unacceptable initial extractor pin problem, this is a fine rifle. It is fairly light, has low recoil, cycles cleanly, has not yet had any ammunition issues, and is easy to break down and clean. Though I am personally very fond of my AR-15, I will not currently recommend it to others without caveat. Olympic Arms has an obvious need for improvement with regard to their quality control on manufactured parts and customer service. If they can improve those two areas, I think they'd have the best entry-level AR-15 rifle on the market.

86/100 - B

I want to make special mention of J & S Gun Parts, which is where I purchased my Plinker Plus for the incredibly reasonable price of $580.00. I've since bought two Magpul magazines from this company (to be reviewed in the future). Their prices and service have been consistently outstanding, and I highly recommend them! 


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