If you ask a dozen gun designers to each label one singular aspect of Eugene Stoner’s AR-15 design as the “most important part,” chances are good that you’ll get a dozen different answers. They may vary from the gun’s light weight to its ease of operation to its modularity, but at the root of all of them will be this: That Stoner’s design allowed the entirety of the force of the rifle firing to be contained by the barrel extension, bolt head, and bolt carrier alone. This means the rest of the gun can be made from almost anything.
Which brings us to the Lightweight Modern Sporting Rifle 2, or LMSR2. Created by O’Dell Engineering and manufactured in Ontario, one only needs to take but a quick look at the LMSR2’s lower receiver to see that it’s a bit different from the average AR-15. That is because instead of the milled aluminium shape that one usually finds pinned to an AR-15 upper, the LMSR2 uses the uniquely shaped Omni Hybrid lower produced by American Tactical Imports… and it is uniquely shaped because it is made up almost entirely of fibreglass-reinforced, injection-molded polymer.
And just as Glock experienced, the use of polymer in firearms will always be a bone of contention, especially in the early days of its adoption. But when one considers the ramifications of using polymer in the construction of an AR-15 lower receiver it begins to make a lot of sense. First off, polymer does not deform in the same manner as aluminium; you cannot dent polymer. It simply springs back to its original shape. Also, because polymer parts are molded rather than machined, the ability to mold in features like heavily bevelled magazine wells and textured panels does not come at the cost of increased machine time and wasted material. As a result, the Omni Hybrid lower that underpins the LMSR2 benefits from a huge magazine well with a contoured front panel (for those that like to grip the magazine well), a trigger guard that provides more clearance than probably any other on the market, and big threaded bosses for the anti-walk pins holding the fire control group pins in place. It’s also even lighter than even an aluminium lower.
There are also areas in which polymer proves inferior to aluminium. Buffer tubes, for example, typically do not do well threaded into all-polymer lowers. As the bolt recoils towards the rear, the force it imparts on the buffer and buffer tube has been known to snap most polymer lowers at the very rear of the rifle. The Omni Hybrid lower addresses this by incorporating a block of zinc allow in the rear of the receiver. This block is machined to accept the buffer tube threads, and is also drilled for the passage of the rear takedown pin from left to right, so it essentially connects the buffer tube back to the upper receiver through that rear takedown pin. When the rifle is assembled, the buffer tube is threaded into the metal block and the rear takedown pin is inserted through it as well, so that when the bolt recoils to the rear all the force it imparts on the rear of the buffer tube is fed through the metal block and back into the upper receiver through the takedown pin. The only downside to this system is that the rear takedown pin must be fitted quite tightly to ensure there’s no play between the pin and lower, as that would lead to more of the recoiling force being imparted on the polymer frame. We should note, however, that even without an upper receiver fitted, the Omni Hybrid lower receiver is still impressively strong. Supported by the magazine well the lower can support up to 285 pounds hanging off its buffer tube, and even survives being run over by an 11,000 pound forklift in a video provided by the manufacturer.
Obvious the LMSR2 is more than just a lower though. A 16″ barrelled rifle made in the image of the famous M4 carbine, the LMSR2 marries the polymer Omni Hybrid lower with a conventional aluminium upper, and from there splits into two models: The aptly named “Intro” and “Premium.” The difference between the two is the barrel and front sight block. In the case of Intro model, which is the one we have on hand for testing, the barrel is a visually distinct by virtue of its standard straight profile and blued finish. Internally, it has a 1:7 twist rate, and has been treated to a Melonite finish for durability, wear resistance, and corrosion protection. No flash suppressor nor brake has been fitted, nor is the barrel threaded for it, but the muzzle has been machined with a recessed crown. Finally, a low profile railed gas block is fitted and standard GI furniture fitted. In the case of the Premium model, the government profile barrel is parkerized externally, chromed internally, and fitted with an A2 flash hider. The gas block on the Premium is a conventional cast front sight block.
After getting the rifle into the office for testing, the first thing we did was do a complete field strip and cleaning, as we were warned that the uppers were shipped with an abundance of grease within. While the lower receivers are assembled by O’Dell Engineering in Ontario, the upper receivers are procured from either High Standard or Head Down Firearms. The Premium model is fitted with the High Standard assembly and Intro models like this use the Head Down upper receiver. In any case, all uppers are assembled and proof-fired by their respective manufacturers to ensure they work prior to being shipped to O’Dell Engineering and in the case of Head Down Firearms, it’s safe to say they are judiciously greased beforehand. After the bolt carrier and its various parts took a trip through the ultrasonic cleaner, and the entire upper receiver and barrel were hosed out, we lubed and reassembled it. While we wish there was more to relate about the gun’s internals than that, there just isn’t; this is an entry-level AR-15 and the bolt carrier and various sundry parts are exactly as you’d expect. From stem to stern it’s pretty much entirely comprised of proper GI-issue, mil-spec components from the Carpenter No. 158 steel bolt carrier body to the standard two-stage trigger group. So, while not terribly flashy, you know it’ll all work well together.
Which is exactly what we found. We slung roughly seven hundred rounds through our tester over a few range visits, we encountered absolutely zero stoppages of any kind, and we weren’t exactly kind to it. Thanks to some very entertaining new steel targets from Flipping Targets that actually walk away from you as you hit them, we found ourselves shooting the thing until it was uncomfortably hot, largely due to the addictive and almost insulting reaction of the little walking targets. Using a mix of PMags, 5/30 round aluminium GI magazines, and O’Dell Engineering’s own LAR-15 10-round pistol magazines, everything we stuck into the Omni lower’s magwell seated, fed, and dropped free just like one would expect. Accuracy is about on par with other entry level AR-15s, and using 62- and 77-grain match ammo shrank our groups significantly over the 55-grain cheap bulk ammo we used for function testing and steel whacking. Even so, on a cold day with some very serious wind and rain, we just couldn’t crack below the 1″ mark at 100 yards. Close, but no cigar. Chances are, most LMSR2s are somewhere around the 2 MOA mark, but like all AR-15s you can expect that group to shrink significantly with the addition of free-floated handguards and better triggers. And of course, we probably could have done better if we just gave up and clamped the thing into a rifle rest… but that’s cheating, isn’t it?
Speaking of triggers, the one on the LMSR2 is, like so much else about this gun, entirely predictable. Your average two-stage affair, it has a pretty nice clean break that only got better with some wear, although serious shooters will be glad to hear that the Omni lower accepts any and all aftermarket trigger groups. The only thing different about the LMSR2 is that changing trigger groups requires unthreading the trigger group pins from their anti-walk bosses molded into the receiver, as opposed to driving them out with a punch as one normally would. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
But there’s something else about shooting the LMSR2 that’s hard to describe. Having various other AR-15 owners sit behind the thing and pull the trigger confirmed it for us, but we’re unsure as to how to put it into words beyond simply saying that it’s somehow more smooth than most AR-15s. Everything about it just feels incredibly slick. And even with its light weight and bare muzzle, the thing is a real pleasure to shoot; what little recoil there is seems to sort of dissipate in a silky-smooth push more than the sharp snap usually associated with fast-moving rounds. Like we said, it’s hard to explain, but the best way we can is to say that when you fire the thing it sort of feels like the bolt is moving rearward through a bath of butter. Combine that with the LMSR2’s light weight and lack of deafening muzzle brake and you have a great centrefire rifle for those of small stature and who may be new to shooting.
As its name would imply, the Intro is intended to be an introduction to the AR-15, which is precisely why it has no muzzle device and a railed, low-profile gas block. This ensures the owner doesn’t waste any money paying for a flash hider or front sight block they may not want. In the case of our gun, this came in handy as it allowed us to remove the bolt-on front sight and fit a large optic for accuracy testing, giving us an unimpeded view without a giant sight block shadow in the field of view. We also replaced the black six-position GI stock, black hand guard, and standard pistol grip with pieces from Mission First Tactical. And although we had initially figured on stopping there, after putting hundreds of rounds through it without a hitch, chances are good this may be just the beginning for our Intro… we’ll make a conclusion out of it yet.
Like many of you probably are, we initially looked at the LMSR2 as something of a novelty gun; a featherweight AR-15 with a fancy polymer lower. We were wrong. We had expected the fancy polymer lower to offer a some benefits in the way of light weight and things like the giant magazine well, but we also expected those benefits to come with a cost; as consumers we’ve been trained that if one object has the same price tag as another object but offers more features it must be also worse somehow. But this logic falls down when you consider the work required to turn a chunk of aluminium into a receiver versus the amount of work required to injection mold one. By reducing the manufacturing costs by using an entirely different manufacturing process, the LMSR2 has more features than similarly priced rifles, but isn’t force to compromise elsewhere to meet its price point. And while there will undoubtedly still be those stalwart hold-outs that AR-15s should be aluminium, consider this: The polymer frame of a pistol takes more force during firing than does the lower receiver of an AR-15, and yet somehow Glock is considered by many to be the most reliable pistol on earth.
So how much is an LMSR2? Well, the MSRP for the Intro model (obviously sans all the Mission First eye candy pictured on ours) is $899, but a quick perusal of retail prices show over-the-counter prices hovering around $800 or so. For the Premium, the addition of the chrome-lined government profile barrel, flash hider, and sight tack a couple hundred dollars to the MSRP, bringing it to $1099. Again, dealers are selling for less. That means that, in the case of our Intro rifle here, it’s up against very few rifles even in this thoroughly well-stocked buyer’s market. Coming in a few hundred dollars over the ChiCom offerings and slightly below those from Smith & Wesson and DPMS, it makes a solid case for itself as a Canadian-assembled gun that leverages modern manufacturing and materials to Eugene Stoner’s design, and gives up nothing over its competitors in doing so. Could the age of the plastic fantastic AR-15s be upon us?