American Tactical’s Omni Hybrid 5.56 is the pocket-knife of the AR-15 world…affordably priced and ready-to-go anywhere, any time.
by the Shooting Daily staff
Most of us have one AR that receives the bulk of our attention. It’s our high-speed baby. Buying it put a dent in several paychecks, and several more paychecks took a beating as the modifications and accessories began to add up.
But where is that rifle at this very moment? Most likely it’s snug in its case, under the bed or in the closet, waiting for the next trip to the range.
Keep it stowed behind the truck seat for emergencies?
“No, someone might steal it.”
Although ensuring your firearms stay safe from thieves is wise, your premium rifle won’t do you any good sitting in mothballs when a state of emergency has been declared. When rioters and looters have blocked your normal routes home, and alternate routes may be just as hazardous, you’re going to wish you had an AR on your lap, not in your home vault.
After all, what’s a bug-out rifle good for if it’s not with you when it’s actually time to bug out?
This is where the Omni Hybrid 5.56 rifle comes in. With an available retail price of between $530 and $560, depending on your dealer, this is one rifle that won’t bust your budget and you won’t mind keeping stashed in your vehicle, on your ATV, or anywhere else you would like to have an AR handy but wouldn’t want to leave your more pricey rig.
The Omni Hybrid 5.56 is a basic AR-15 platform designed to be both affordable and lightweight. The “affordable” part means there’s nothing fancy going on here—just your basic MILSPEC-type components assembled with purely Spartan function in mind. From the A2 flash hider and M4-cut barrel back to the bolt carrier group and charging handle, the Omni Hybrid 5.56 upper receiver assembly is as reliable as vanilla. And that, of course, is exactly what you want in a backup or primary bug-out weapon: nothing to think about or nothing to baby…just grab, run, and gun.
That’s not to say the Omni Hybrid 5.56 doesn’t have some surprises. It does, but we’ll get to those later.
The Omni Hybrid 5.56 operates on a carbine-length gas system, which is just right for this 1:7 twist 16-inch Black Nitride barrel. The one exception to the otherwise “vanilla” upper is the 10-inch free-float quad-rail hand guard our test-model came with. With this hand guard, we have the option of adding a tactical light and either sticking to our high-end red dot or going with a more cost-effective (for a backup rifle) open sight system. As a designated bug-out rifle, a tactical light and flip-up backup sight combination makes the most sense to us.
In addition to having a place to add a few accessories, there are other advantage to this hand guard. First, this is a free-float unit, which means it does not touch the barrel. Eliminating the potential for barrel torque improves accuracy when compared to a non-free-float hand guard design. Second, the free-float design, coupled with the generous slotting along the hand guard tube, assists in keeping the barrel cool during extended shooting sessions.
As you can see, the Omni Hybrid 5.56 upper receiver assembly is not a member of the drama club. The same can’t be said about the lower receiver assembly. This is where the rifle gets its name and its claim to fame.
For several years, assorted manufacturers from around the country have worked to develop a polymer alternative to AR-15 cast and billet aluminum receivers. The idea behind this “plastic push” was to reduce weight and manufacturing costs (and subsequently retail pricing). The trick to success was producing a lower receiver from polymer that would not only fulfill the lightweight mandate, but at the same time exhibit the stability and durability of aluminum receivers. During the polymer receiver development process, American Tactical learned that while a 100-percent polymer receiver was not feasible due to specific stresses inherent to the AR platform, a hybrid receiver could combine the light weight of polymer with the strength of metal.
Enter the Omni Hybrid multi-caliber lower receiver.
From the pivot pin bosses to the buffer tube collar, the receiver consists of one-piece high-strength polymer with strategically placed “ribbing” for added reinforcement. Included in this robust foundation is a machined metal block, which provides added strength to the critical area of the takedown pin holes and the buffer tube collar. Another area of reinforcement is found at the hammer and trigger pin holes. To ensure that the hammer and trigger pins do not “walk” during extensive firing sessions, additional polymer material is built up around the pin holes and retaining screws are inserted into both sides of the receiver. American Tactical calls this patented configuration its Inter-Lock hammer and trigger pin retainment system.
Another unique design feature of the Omni Hybrid receiver is the oversized trigger guard. While not as large as a MILSPEC “winter” trigger guard, it does provide ample room to accommodate tactical or winter gloved trigger fingers.
Forward of the enhanced trigger guard is a beveled mag well. American Tactical designed this to allow easy insertion of both steel and polymer magazines, but in particular the Magpul PMAG, which is included with all Omni Hybrid rifles.
Backing up the rifle is a Rogers Super-Stoc. With a six-position feature similar to a Magpul CTR stock but with a cam-lock lever to eliminate the rattle and “play” found in most collapsible models, this stock blends perfectly with the Omni Hybrid 5.56 theme of minimalist functionality.
On the firing line, the Omni Hybrid 5.56 performed for us as we expected from a bare-bones AR-15. In other words, it shot where we aimed it and fired every time we pulled the trigger.
The only hiccup we encountered was operator-induced. The beveled mag well seems to be just a tad oversized when compared to other rifles we’ve tested. While this makes for rapid magazine changes, it also means the magazine can be tipped forward and backward, left and right just enough that, under certain conditions, the bolt catch may miss the follower after the last round fired, or create a failure-to-feed condition. This happened a couple of times during our testing, and in each case it occurred when we had the magazine pushed up against our shooting block. The lesson here is don’t use the magazine as a drop grip (of course, this is something you should not do with any AR-15).
Because of the light weight of the polymer lower, experienced AR shooters can certainly feel and hear the cycle of operation of the Omni Hybrid 5.56. That’s not a problem, just a characteristic of this rifle that veteran AR owners need to be aware of.
Speaking of light weight, in its unmodified state (no add-ons such as grips, lights, lasers, optic mounts, or optics), the Omni Hybrid 5.56 is a flyweight. Our scale registered six pounds, four ounces without a magazine—a BIG difference when compared to our decked-out premium AR. There’s no question as to which rifle we’d prefer to carry lashed to an assault pack.
And in reality, this is precisely what the Omni Hybrid 5.56 seems to have been designed for. This is not the go-to platform for the pell-mell action of a 3-gun match or the precision accuracy of a 300-meter target competition. Rather, the Omni Hybrid 5.56 is a viable option for anyone who’s looking for a low-cost, lightweight AR to keep at the ready…whether that is in your truck, in your horse scabbard, or strapped to the bug-out bag behind the garage door…ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice.
SPECIFICATIONS: Omni Hybrid 5.56 AR-15
- 5.56 NATO chamber (accepts .223 Remington)
- Multi-caliber polymer lower receiver (with metal reinforcement and beveled mag well)
- MILSPEC trigger group (with Inter-Lock hammer and trigger pin retainment system)
- Black Nitride bolt carrier group
- MILSPEC charging handle
- MILSPEC aluminum flat-top upper receiver
- 16-inch M4 cut barrel, Black Nitride finish
- 1:7 twist
- Carbine-length gas system
- A2 flash hider
- 10-inch aluminum quad-rail hand guard
- A2 pistol grip
- 6-position collapsible stock
- 6 lbs, 4 oz (without magazine)