W4: Ohio Ordnance Works

Our Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week for Week 13 of 2012 is less a website where you can learn cool stuff (which is our usually preferred Wednesday morning target) but rather a website where you can get cool stuff. Ohio Ordnance Works (OOW for short) went, over the years, from Class III dealing to automatic weapons and accessory manufacture, to, the thing that makes them interesting to us, making semi-auto, legal clones of historic and current machine guns.

This is a market that was only created by an artifact of Federal law, the 1986 ban on production of new machine guns for civilian users. Unless that law changes — and it had then and has now the full-throated support of the NRA, which ostensibly represents shooters and gun owners — the supply of legal machine guns is frozen at the current level. There are about 180,000 weapons on the NFA registry, but many of them are “dealer samples” that can’t be transferred to mere citizens, and weapons held by law enforcement agencies, who are exempt from the law’s restrictions — with the supply frozen, the demand coming from tens of thousands of new shooters every years can do nothing but drive price levels up — beyond the reach of all but the richest of those new shooters.

Enter OOW and other companies that do the same thing: make semi-auto clones of legendary machine guns. OOW’s current big hits are the M1918A2 BAR, a weapon usually associated with WWII that was taught in Special Forces Weapons School until the 1990s, and the M240, the belt-fed general purpose machine gun that replaced the problematic M60 in US service. The M240 is a civilian version of the FN MAG, a weapon in use since the 1950s worldwide. It wormed its way into US service as a tank coaxial gun, and there established such a good record that the infantry finally got their own.

Here’s an excerpt of OOW’s own take on their history, then we’ll say a few more words about the semi-auto guns they make.

During the years 1981 – 1990, OOW engaged primarily in buying and selling military firearms, parts and accessories in the commercial market. Qualified employees and manufacturing machinery were added which facilitated the development of a repair department and the ability to build small orders of firearms from scratch for the commercial market.

Beginning in 1990, OOW began manufacturing firearms and ordnance for supply to different foreign and domestic government agencies. This capacity has expanded steadily over the years….

Over the past 15 years, OOW developed and patented its own line of semi-automatic firearms and related accessories. These firearms include the 1918A3-SLR, M240-SLR, and the VZ 2000. This process led to the formation of our own Engineering and Quality Assurance Inspection departments.

See, you learn something in everything you read: we didn’t know that OOW had patents on some of its weapons. Now, a few more words about the semi-auto rifle versions of famous machine guns. As well as the BAR and M240, they have regular and extended-barrel versions of the Czech Vz58 rifle and make semi-auto AK receivers for folks who’d build from a kit. (You can make your own AK receiver, but then the resulting semi-auto rifle, although legal to possess, can’t be sold — ever. An AK built on a factory receiver from OOW or NDS transfers like any other ordinary rifle).

Some people have sticker shock when they see the prices of OOW’s semi-autos. The BAR goes for over $3,000, a build-it-yourself 1928 Maxim is $4,000, and the M240-SLR is an eye-popping $14,000.

But two things drive these prices: one is the rarity of the product. Supply and demand… it’s not like the quality and price race-to-the-bottom that’s happening in the AR-15 market, there’s not many other places that can hook you up with a BAR or M240.

The next price driver is the quality put into the guns, the unique parts, the machining operations (there’s one reason that the USA dropped the BAR with its 79 parts and thousands of machine operations to manufacture). Because of the high quality, and because OOW’s weapons fire from a closed bolt (a BATFE requirement for semi-auto weapons), they’re actually capable of much greater accuracy than their GI counterparts. The M240-SLR has, in fact, demonstrated MOA accuracy, and that in a weapon that can be fired from a tripod and T&E for sniper accuracy — and then deliver fairly high rates of fire — and that should be worth something.

Is it worth $14,000? Shhhh. Don’t interrupt us while we’re counting our money.