Pinellas sheriff seeks refund on faulty AR rifles made in Odessa

SWAT officers need reliable guns. Many times, their lives depend on it.

In Pinellas County, the sheriff has pulled hundreds of rifles from service and is demanding a refund from their maker after a series of problems, including some firearms failing to fire.

Those rifles are manufactured at Adams Arms in Odessa. The sheriff’s office has been buying from the company since 2014. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the issues started out small, but began almost immediately.

"It was repeated things, over and over again, problems with the triggers, then problems with a few other things," Gualtieri said. "Then we started having some major issues."

At first, the problems with the new AR-15s could be solved, but soon they turned dangerous. During training, the semi-automatic rifles would slip into fully automatic mode, according to the sheriff, on multiple occasions.

"Fully automatic mode is a problem because you can empty the entire magazine when you only meant to fire one shot," he said.

In another instance, a gun failed to shoot at all.

“A deputy pulled the trigger and it didn't go 'bang,'" he said. "That's a big problem. So that's when I said, 'I'm done.' We're not going to do this, we're not going to put someone at risk because they can't get it right, and because they have manufacturing issues because they don't have the appropriate quality control procedures and mechanisms in place."

Last month, Gualtieri pulled 309 rifles out of service and is seeking a roughly $300,000 refund from Adams Arms.

"We're going to get our money back because they sold us a product that was inferior," he said.

A competitive bidding process is not required for purchases made by sheriff's offices, but Gualtieri says the evaluation of the AR-15 purchase went up the chain of command and they settled on the local vendor for three reasons:

"It was piston-driven versus gas-driven, and the local vendor, and the price. So there was a lot that was taken into account making that decision," Gualtieri said.

Five years later, he wants every penny back.

"We've told them, I've told them, either refund the money or we're going to sue you," he said.

At this time, attorneys for both parties are in conversation. Meanwhile, the sheriff's office has turned back to the company it purchased rifles from previously, Rock River Arms in Illinois.

FOX 13 reached out to Adams Arms for an interview or comment but did not hear back.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office also purchases semi-automatic rifles from Adams Arms. They told FOX 13 they have not had issues with their rifles.