(ED NOTE: Regular readers might be wondering why I seem to be endorsing a rifle product, especially one involving a fancy AR-15. How would the old cedar rat even know about it, right? Well – I’m friends with Ian McCollum. And when Ian gets excited about something, all his friends are going to hear all about it. In detail. With working models and free ammo. So I’ve been following this with interest from the beginning. ‘Nuff said.)
Ian and Karl’s What Would Stoner Do Project back in 2017 got a lot of attention at the time but ran into a roadblock on its journey to fame and fortune when it turned out that the lower receiver they chose wasn’t being manufactured and wasn’t going to be.
WWSD, as the name implies, is an attempt to answer the question, ‘what if Eugene Stoner had developed the AR-15 in the 21st century?’ Stoner & company made what at the time were outlandish material choices: Aircraft aluminum and polymers instead of the traditional steel and wood. They came up with a carbine that was arguably ahead of its time – the original SP1 was not at first an ideal military weapon and that’s why later generations gained so much weight. Your typical AR or M-4gery today is a qualitatively better rifle than a typical AK, but not any more pleasant to carry and shoot.
But that was over fifty years ago. Metallurgy and materials science has come a long way, and so Ian and Karl decided to see whether a better AR-15 could be assembled using off-the-shelf parts, abandoning some features that have become traditional but don’t make a lot of sense in context like the M4 contour barrel and regaining the virtues of the SP1.
Anybody who uses rifles regularly would agree that they succeeded brilliantly. When the first WWSD showed up at the Gulch, everybody who had it placed in their hands reacted with a lustful “Ooooh.”
It’s like 5.5 pounds before you start hanging gadgets on it. It’s wonderfully accurate, absolutely reliable, and damn near carries like a heavy pistol. It does, alas, come with a Gucci price tag but that didn’t stop serious match shooters from wanting one Right F’ing Now.
Unfortunately the WWSD’s gallop to ubiquity came to an abrupt halt because only a few thousand of the polymer lowers existed in the wild. As I remember the story: Most polymer lowers imitated the original aluminum ones exactly and that left you with something that was far too fragile. The buttstock attachment tended to break right off the receiver. A small company called Cav Arms redesigned the whole thing with polymer in mind, incorporating the buttstock and grip in one molded component. That worked much better. They sold out to another company called GWACS Armory which wore out the molds and then eked out a small income selling their inventory a few hundred per year. GWACS got a sudden burst of popularity with the publication of the WWSD videos, sold out their inventory more or less overnight and then slunk soddenly out of business.
And there the whole sad affair would have ended, except Ian and Karl partnered up with Russell Phagan of KE Arms who’s involved in actually making rifle components. Between them they got Brownells interested in producing the rifle commercially. And the first step toward that was producing new (and allegedly much improved) polymer lowers. Everything else is available but the receivers were vaporware…
This was all supposed to happen six months ago, but … you know the drill. 2020 happened. Brownells isn’t selling complete rifles yet, and when they do they’ll be priced for people with Gucci-sized wallets. But the unique lowers on which the rifle is based are now for sale, either complete or stripped. I notice that the salesman in the video says they’re available with either milspec or match (which he rather comically calls “DMR”) trigger. If you really like to shoot and you order one, get the match trigger. You won’t believe the difference.