Olympic Arms vs. The Jacksonville FL Sheriff’s Office

 JSO turn in their [allegedly] defective Olympic Arms AR-15s (courtesy actionnewsjax.com)

“Action News first reported Thursday a number of [Jacksonville Sheriffs Office] officers had to turn in their Olympic Arms AR-15 rifles due to several incidents in which the weapon discharged on its own,” actionnewsjax.com reports. In a previous report, JSO Dir. Tom Hackney said “one of the weapons went off a few months ago as one officer handed it to the other,” blaming a trigger assembly malf for the discharge. And then, at the firing range . . . “The last pull resulted in multiple firings of the gun.” The JSO told taxpayers the problem would cost the agency $50,000 to fix. Olympic Arms is up in arms. They attributed the discharges to “worn, aged parts that simply needed replacing” on the JSO’s ten-year-old rifles. Which they would have replaced under warranty. [Statement from Olympic’s Sales Director Tom Spithaler after the jump.] Fifty-grand to fix trigger assemblies for AR’s deployed amongst a force of 3,200? How many AR-15s do they have anyway?

Let me begin by saying that Olympic Arms is concerned when any report is given that one of our firearms has acted in a manner that is atypical to proper function, or acts in a manner considered unsafe. Any incident where an Olympic Arms product causes the user concern, is of the utmost importance to us. This concern is increased when incidents are reported from within our substantial Law Enforcement and military customer base.

Today is the first that Olympic Arms has been made aware of a recall of our firearms from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. While we were aware of the two incidents in question that caused the JSO to issue the recall, details provided were extremely limited, and Olympic Arms was not given the opportunity make inspections, recommend solutions, or to effect repairs or make corrections. Additionally, no product related to these incidents was returned for replacement repair or inspection under the Olympic Arms Lifetime Warranty, still in effect on these rifles.

[Video: JSO news conference on rifle recall]

In watching the full press conference linked above, there are several statements made by Director Tom Hackney with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that I’d like to bring to your attention:

1.While communications were made about a month ago by JSO to our in house AR15 technician Mr. Andrew Wilson that these incident had occurred, the JSO armorer was unable to specifically identify the problem. Some low-resolution images were sent via email to Mr. Wilson, and examination of those images, in conjunction with considering the verbal explanation for the issues and inconsistencies lead Mr. Wilson to the conclusion that the incidents occurred because of worn, aged parts that simply needed replacing. In other words, our conclusion, based on the evidences provided was that no failures in parts had occurred, simply that, as with any 10 year old mechanical device, some parts needed replacing. Mr. Hackney seems to agree with this assessment as he states in his Press Conference, “This is normal maintenance. Guns are machines. They do have parts that break…”

It is important to note, that at the time of his conversation with JSO’s representative, that Mr. Wilson reminded the JSO representative that the Olympic Arms products they owned and issued were sold with a limited Lifetime Warranty, and that if he were to simply send the units in question back for inspection and/or repair or maintenance, that repairs may have been covered under the warranty, at no expense to the Jacksonville taxpayers. At the very least, all weapons could have been inspected for proper and safe function, and returned to JSO in a condition suitable for deployment with the agency at a fraction of the cost JSO spent of their own fruition and without our consultation. The JSO representative chose not to take advantage of this opportunity.

2.Dir. Hackney states that his armorers were “specifically trained by each manufacturer”. This is not accurate. Lengthy discussions were made with the JSO Deputy, Sgt. Scott Allen about performing an armoerers course for the purposes of training their designated employees and armorers assigned to and/or employed by JSO. Discussions were made offering to have Olympic Arms Staff travel to Florida and offer these classes, or to have JSO designated employees come to the Olympic Arms factory for training. During these dicussions, a quote regarding the costs for training was submitted to JSO via Sgt. Allen on 10/28/2009 via fax. These fax communications remain in my possession. Despite these lengthy discussions that spanned several months, JSO passed on this training and NO TRAINING HAS TAKEN PLACE AT ANY TIME.

3.Dir. Hackney speaks of the “discussions had with the manufacturer, Olympic Arms”, leaving the Press Conference audience to presume that these discussions were to seek resolution to the issues they had experienced. The problem is, at the time Mr. Wilson had his conversation with the JSO representative, the JSO representative informed him that replacement trigger parts had already been ordered. Apparently, the decision to repair and/or replace these rifles had been made well before discussions with Olympic Arms, without consulting us for a solution.

Some of the firearms sold to JSO are as old as ten years, and as firearms age, just like automobiles or any other mechanical device, parts will wear. As these parts wear, if proper maintenance is performed, and proper functions checks performed on the rifles, normal wear and tear that may cause reliability concerns would be detected BEFORE they are issued or deployed for field use. A “Functions Check” is common to all AR15’s and the process to perform a Functions Check is covered in the Owner’s Manual issued with each and every AR15 sold by Olympic Arms. These Owner’s Manuals were provided with the JSO firearms. Apparently, functions check protocol has been ignored.

In closing, Olympic Arms offers a limited Lifetime Warranty with every firearm it manufactures. The firearms sold to JSO would still have been covered under this warranty at that time. Had the JSO taken advantage of this Warranty, some if not all repairs would have almost certainly been made for free as a service of the Lifetime Warranty. Even if as Dir. Hackney states, “an abundance of caution” were used and he chose to replace the parts in question on Olympic Arms units sold to JSO, it would most likely have been done for between $5,000 and $6,000, not the $50,000 spent by JSO to repair many rifles that most likely needed no repair at all. Had JSO taken advantage of this warranty, Olympic Arms could have saved the Jacksonville taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

In closing, Olympic Arms would have loved to have had the opportunity to inspect, repair and or replace parts on these rifles under our Lifetime Warranty. Unfortunately, this opportunity was not provided, and instead the fire-control component parts have been replaced with component parts from other unknown vendors, and installation made by technicians not trained by Olympic Arms. This action has thereby voided the remaining Lifetime Warranty.


  1. avatar Crunkleross says:

    Sounds like the SO found an excuse to put some HSLD trigger systems in their guns.

    1. avatar Andrew says:

      English, please.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        High Speed Low Drag.

  2. avatar Matt in SD (soon Maine) says:

    Money to burn in these times?

  3. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    My first AR was an Olympic arms. At about the 1,000 round fired point it started to fall apart. Failure to feed, ejecting issues, whent full auto once. I spent hundreds taking it back to Olympic Arms trying to get these things fixed. Ended up trading it on a bushmaster. IMHO they make a POS ar.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Agreed! Olympic arms are one of the worst AR platforms in my opinion. They are about maximization of production, not quality. After all… we can’t have quality control slowing down production can we?


      Customer testimony:
      “…With my Oly lower, that jerk blamed the magazines even though my cast Oly lower was so out of spec that the back of an inserted magazine hits the bolt and keeps the bolt from closing. This was after trying about 30 different magazines at a gun show.”

      1. avatar Rabbi says:

        Olympic is probably the worst AR available. Friends don’t let friends buy Olympic.

        1. avatar Avid Reader says:

          A friend of mine had one with a defective trigger group. It had a nasty habit of going full auto. Needless to say, he fixed it and ditched it.

        2. avatar C says:

          are we talking full auto full auto, or firing out of battery full auto? Because if it’s the former, just have fun and keep quiet about it.

        3. avatar William Burke says:

          If it happens at a range, you’ll have a hard time keeping it secret.

  4. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    IMHO, I personally would not own an Olympic. I owned one once. Ive also had bushmaster, colt and rock river.
    Our department kept great records of quarterly checks of all firearms carried by any member. Personal or department.
    Me thinks the JSO has made some really inexcusable mistakes and is trying to cover their rear.

  5. avatar William Burke says:

    3200 cops in JACKSONVILLE? The metro’s 1.3 million, but 3200 still seems like cop oversaturation to me.
    It IS geographically very large, though.

    1. avatar Ken says:

      It was (maybe still is) the largest city square-mile-wise in the country. Basically, the city (Jacksonville) and county (Duval) consolidated years ago. It’s humongous

    2. avatar Ed Ranger says:

      Its the Sheriff’s Department so in addition to any patrol and investigatory function, it has Jail administration, Court Security, warrant service and providing patronage to the Sheriff’s political friends and backers….so if the Sheriff is a democrat, it really seems a little low on the employee count.

  6. avatar JoshinGA says:

    Every bad experience I have heard about Olympic Arms starts out with, “they were the cheapest option, and I was just going to use it for plinking…” If you were going to go this route, you can buy a complete upper of better quality and a complete lower of better quality seperately, put two pins together yourself, and get a vastly better gun for the same low price (~$700 pre-panic).

  7. avatar In Memphis says:

    The AR went off on its own as it was being handed from one person to another? Im curious.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Sounds like a short between the trigger group and the ground to me.

    2. avatar MacBeth51 says:

      The TurboHydramatic made M-16 I was issued in ’76 would fire if you lightly slapped the stock. In fact we were cautioned about them doing it in basic, and every M-16 I was issued would do it

  8. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Stupid is as stupid does.
    You get what you pay for………..most times.
    Seems to me to not take advantage of a warranty is pretty stupid.
    To not inspect a weapon is stupid.
    To not have trained Amours is well beyond belief.
    To spend 50 grand is just plain dumb.
    Shame on the JSO.

    1. avatar Blue says:

      Deduct it from the pay from the A-holes that opted to go with Olympic instead of Colt, SIG, S&W or any number of other makers. That said, maybe the Florida National Guard can borrow some rifles if they get in a jam.

  9. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Well, the oh-so-terribly-smart public servants probably bought these weapons from the lowest bidder.

    Right here, we have an example of how the lowest bidder stays in business at those low-low prices.

  10. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Woah. The competence, character and professionalism of the JSO are, er, outstanding.


    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Yeah, I understand Olympic rifles are a bargain brand, and that’s fine as long as you know that’s what you’re getting. But it sure seems like JSO backed the bus up for a running start on this one, for no obvious reason other than to cover their own maintenance and administrative issues.

  11. avatar Jeff says:

    Huh that’s sad to hear. I always knew Olympic was considered a bargain brand, but had never really looked into it much further than that. I briefly entertained the thought of buying one as an entry level AR, but never got close to making the purchase, so I didn’t research it.

    Shame.. Their factory is probably a half hour drive from my house too.

  12. avatar cigr says:

    Chances are the Sheriff’s Brother-in-law just opened up a gun shop specializing in AR parts.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      I don’t know if it’s the sheriff’s brother-in-law, but at fifty grand, someone sure saw these guys coming.

      1. avatar Blue says:

        I bet the top guy t the ‘armory” that got that contract’s name is Ben Dover.

  13. avatar Hasdrubal says:

    My department issues Olympic Arms. Our firearms staff is competent enough that they are as well maintained as you can get, for the brand. However, I still built my own as soon as I could. Anyone who carries a weapon they may need to entrust with their life (and I don’t just mean police, I mean any American who chooses to exercise their rights), needs to know deep down in their bones that the weapon will not fail them.

  14. avatar Chaotic Good says:

    Speaking of cheap AR-15’s, what would you guys recommend as a good, affordable AR-15 kit? I bought a lower and now I’m looking for a kit for under $700 to complete it without having to worry about it falling apart or morphing into an NFA item.

    1. avatar Andrew says:

      I bought a del-ton upper and slapped it on an 80% lower, and have never had an issue with it. As a bonus I shoot the reeally cheap, nasty russian ammo and it eats it up.


      Check out Brandons post below – PSA has had some really great deals on upper and kits lately…


      1. avatar Chaotic Good says:

        Much appreciated. PSA looks like the best option.

    2. avatar Old Air Force says:

      I’ve Bushmasters and they are OK for and entry level but my go to upper for a service rifle will be either Bravo Company http://www.bravocompanyusa.com or White Oak http://www.whiteoakarmament.com . They both make superior uppers. The White oak might be a wait but is worth it.

  15. avatar Joe Grine says:

    I own a pre-ban (1992-93 era) Olympic Arms CAR-15, and at some point the darn thing started firing full auto before jamming after 2-3 rounds. Oly fixed it at no charge, but I suspect that the parts used in the build are fairly low quality.

  16. avatar Brandon says:

    Mobile won’t let me reply to posts. To answer Chaotic Good: Keep an eye on http://www.palmettostatearmory.com and their daily deals. As a matter of fact I think this weekend they have a pretty good one for a build kit. PSA makes quality products and it is a buyer’s market right now.


  17. avatar Andy says:

    Yep they wanted better than stock triggers,so they got the money in their new budget to get it done,then put the bad name on a very good company,this Sheriffs Dept needs to be treated by gun manufacturers like the states that implemented severe gun control laws!Don’t do business with them!Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  18. avatar Charles5 says:

    I was at a range a while back and the folks in the lane next to me were doing a one handed reload drill with their AR’s (you know, strike the butt of the rifle against the ground to release the bolt and chamber a round). I should add that this may or may not have been permitted at the range. Anyway, one of the guys had an Olympic arms rifle and on the fourth or fifth time he did the drill, the bolt slammed home and the rifle discharged, putting a nice little hole in the ceiling. Note, his only point of contact on the rifle was the hand guards, there was nothing in the trigger guard, and the safety was off. That told me right there that Olympic was not the way to go.

  19. avatar mlk18 says:

    While I have no experience with Oly Arms, I never hear anything good about them except the price. Just the same I would never own one because of their BS antics with steel core ammo and their 7.62x39mm AR15 pistol.

  20. avatar Wood says:

    Gee, problems with Olympic Arms products not behaving as they should. Where have I heard this before? Right, Mr. David Olofson was persecuted by the ATF and subsequently convicted of transferring an unregistered machine gun. Which was in fact a malfunctioning weapon, but don’t let that stop a good railroading.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Then there was the “shoestring machine gun”.

    2. avatar Charles5 says:

      When I first heard about that case, I really got my blood boiling. Then, I actually researched and read the court documents and affidavits for the case. It is pretty clear to me from the testimony and evidence that David Olofson deliberately modified the Olympic Arms rifle to fire in a three round burst. The friend that he loaned the rifle to knew it would fire in three round bursts (and so attempted, which got the police called) because Olofson told him the rifle was capable of firing in that manner. So, Olofson illegally modified the rifle to cause it to fire this way. Yes, there is a lot of emphasis out there on the rifle jamming which lends credence to the story that the rifle just malfunctioned. In reality, Olofson just sucked at do-it-yourself gunsmithing. And yes, the BATFE and prosecuters did act like a bunch of d*cks through the whole process, but that doesn’t change the fact that Olofson DID break the law and was so convicted.

      I have learned that you can’t believe the first (or even the second or third) version of a story you hear, even when it seems to be coming from the “good guys.” There is always more to the story.

      1. avatar JFP says:

        You actually trust what the ATF and Feds said in court? Even CBS/60 minutes did a piece on national tv about this case.

        1. avatar Charles5 says:

          You trust what CBS/60 Minutes says?

  21. avatar Will says:

    $50,000/$70= 714 lower parts kits. That’s a LOT of rifles.

    1. avatar Lars says:

      We are talking government here, so there are three or four middlemen in between those lower kits and the dept, try about $50,000/300=$166 and change per.

  22. avatar Southern Cross says:

    And I was thinking the faulty “part” was the nut that pulls the trigger.

  23. avatar Ryan says:

    Oly Arms’ account of what happened with JSO sounds completely plausible.

  24. avatar Patrick Henry says:

    The $50000 figure was the cost for new rifles so they could shit can the olympic arms

    1. avatar Lars says:

      No, the 50k refers top fixing them, not replacing them. One of the largest counties area wise in the nation with only 50 AR15s? I think not.

  25. avatar Lars says:

    Olympic Arms are garage to begin with, you get what you pay for.

  26. avatar gary sheldon says:

    Paid good $ for my Oly and it is accurate and has not failed in any way. I like the firearm. If it ever wears out I may change brands but mine operates very well.I would bet every manufacturer has produced a lemon from time to time.

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