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Ohio Ordnance Works’ .338 REAPR: Backpack Belt-Fed

It was 1981 when Ohio Ordnance Works was first established by Robert Landries II. Not in a backyard workshop, like so many small American businesses, but inside a basement. President of OOW Robert Landries III, son of the founder, literally grew up with the deep bass of machineguns blasting from the basement while he ate his Cheerios. “My mother was a very patient woman,” Landries explains.

In addition to the gunfire, those early years largely consisted of buying, selling, and swapping military items on the commercial market, but quickly bloomed into wholesale manufacturing in the 1990s. The following years saw large expansion and ISO certification, but OOW is still a nimble affair with the ability to turn on a dime, especially relative to some larger manufacturers in the defensive sectors.

OOW has a good reputation for their guns and their mounts. And well, OOW has always been a little — let’s not say weird — eccentric. For example: in the mid 2010s, OOW released the Heavy Counter Assault Rifle (HCAR), which is essentially an updated M1918 BAR, chambered in .30-06 and all. Needless to say, it’s a lot of fun. 

OOW brings this attitude along with their latest, the REAPR (Recoil Enhanced Automatic Precision Rifle).

REAPR

When the engineers at OOW started to design the REAPR in March of 2020, they didn’t start with a blank sheet of paper — they started with the .338 Norma Magnum round itself. 

While it would probably be possible to beef up their 7.62N designs to deal with the increase in pressures, at the end of the day it would have been a half measure — a gun adapted to the ammo, not made for the ammo. No, it was going to have to be original. 

After just nine and a half months of gestational development, the first rounds were being sent down the barrel. 

Still, the REAPR has a lot of old mixed with new. Or as OOW would say, “engineering the future while preserving the past.” 

When we asked about the operating system, we were first told what it wasn’t. The REAPR isn’t gas-operated, because OOW didn’t want to deal with gas systems bleeding pressure, gas ports wearing down, or adding more points of failure. 

The Reapr is meant for optics right out of the box with an integral Picatinny rail rather than one cludged onto a topcover.

The REAPR is and is not a lot of things. It’s recoil-ish operated. It’s blowback-ish. There are rollers but it’s not a roller-locked system. You’d probably technically call it a roller-delayed blowback with reciprocating barrel, but the barrel doesn’t reciprocate rearward. 

Like any proper belt-fed, the barrel on the REAPR is quick-change — materials science has greatly improved, but we still have to deal with heat. It can be done single-handed with a twist and a pull. This is also why the REAPR operates from an open bolt, to keep that heat down. 

The receiver is all-steel; there are no screws or fasteners holding it together. One of the adaptations made during America’s two decades of war in the Middle East has been optics on machine guns. Hinged top covers with Picatinny plastered on. Oversized red dots to bring new capabilities. But if you’re making something new, and this new thing has an effective range of more than a mile, you want the ability to easily mount an optic capable of seeing that far. 

The fire control group can be removed and swapped even when mounted on a pintle.

The REAPR is optics-agnostic and accomplishes this not only with an integral Picatinny rail on the receiver and handguard, but with one of their patented features: the MDOF (Multiple Degrees Of Freedom) feed system. If the optic over-hangs the feed tray, you can slide that feed tray right out of the way when you need to. When the tray cover is flipped up it can clear and accommodate optics with a 56mm objective. No more wobbly optics. 

The REAPR ejects from the bottom. While standard feeding is from the left side of the weapon, OOW has right-side feeding systems for special purposes as well. Bottom eject simplifies these conversions.

For familiarization and ease of training, the REAPR has the same crossbar safety as the M240 and M249. The trigger group can be removed with a single, retained pin, even while riding in a cradle. Speaking of, the REAPR fits into standard M240/M249 mounts and cradles as well. 

All of the operating guts can be removed from the REAPR by pulling a single captive pin. 

The BCG and recoil springs are attached to the adjustable, folding stock but they don’t go into the stock. The charging handle rides in a channel on either side of the receiver and it can be removed or swapped once the recoil assembly is removed. For the off side, there’s a protective shield that doubles as a cable router if you have any electronics up front. 

The whole-ass machine gun can be broken down into three main components: the receiver with stock folded, handguard, and barrel. The real limiting factor on overall length is the barrel itself — and the whole thing fits snugly in a pack. 

In terms of the name, the words “precision” and “belt-fed” don’t usually line up. And indeed, the REAPR is designed to be a machine gun first and a precision rifle second (and the selector system shows us this intention as well). But Landries says, “with the select-fire capability and the patented barrel mounting system, it’s quite accurate — provided the ammo [and shooter] is good.” Which does make some sense, seeing as how .338 Norma Magnum was originally developed for long range. 

But just because it was designed with .338 Norma Mag in mind doesn’t mean 7.62x51mm NATO was left behind. Right from the start, the REAPR has NATO conversion barrels and kits. 

Thanks to the quick release barrel and the folding buttstock, the whole thing fits into a backpack.

Not only does this allow for less-expensive training at the small unit level and allows the use of the REAPR at more ranges — most of the world is still running on 7.62N. The conversion is toolless and the parts are clearly marked by caliber to prevent mistakes, but we all know mistakes can still happen. To that end, OOW designed the conversions so that it doesn’t work if you mishmash 7.62N and .338 Norma Mag components. 

THE NEAR AND FAR FUTURE

OOW put the REAPR up for the USSOCOM LMG-M contract and, at the time of writing, is still going for it. Regardless of who takes home that win, the future of modern machine guns is a paradigm shift from the past. A lightweight, long-range, armor-defeating belt-fed, that fits in your backpack. 

But longer-term? OOW will have a civilian model for sale. It’s going to be a while (especially if they win the contract), there’s some engineering to do, and it’ll cost as much as a car —but it will be available. Not too bad for a company that started in a basement. 

SPECS: Ohio Ordnance Works REAPR

  • Caliber: .338 Norma Mag
  • Capacity: … how long is the belt?
  • Weight: 26.8 pounds
  • Barrel Length: 24.4 inches, mission configurable  
  • OAL: 54.5 inches (stock extended), 44.25 (stock folded)

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