(I Wish This Were A Full) Gun Review: Wild West Guns Custom AR-15

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About Guns Unlike Senor Farago, I’ve never owned a Porsche or a Ferrari or anything like them. I’ve never driven one. I’ve never ridden in one, and (sad but true) I’ve never even sat in one. But for a few hours this weekend I got to shoot one, in a manner of speaking. Weather and politics and economics conspired to keep my trigger time short, but it was oh so sweet.

Courtesy Nick Leghorn

Wild West Guns has been one of the country’s premier lever-action custom shops for years. They can turn a Marlin factory reject into a cowboy race gun, and they can turn a .45-70 Guide Gun into an object of such beauty, versatility and power that even a 3-Gunner like Foghorn wants one.

After pretty much conquering the lever-action world and even starring in their own TV Series (premiering January 13th on Animal Planet) WWG decided to take on the burgeoning AR market with a super-custom race gun. Their first AR is built from a mil-spec lower (machined to order for Wild West Guns with “WWG-XXXX serial numbers) and a raft of high-speed, low-drag components.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About Guns

Starting at the muzzle, it features a Miculek-style muzzle brake, which is integral with a deeply fluted stainless 16″ match barrel. A low-profile gas block peeks out from beneath the free-floated carbon fiber handguard.

A chromed bolt and carrier ride inside the A4 upper receiver, and the lower receiver sports a custom single-stage speed trigger with a low-mass hammer and a 3.5-pound letoff. And no overtravel. And no creep. And a short reset. And…you get the picture. A Hogue pistol grip and a Magpul CTR stock round out the package, which tips the scales empty at under 6 pounds.

These are pretty trick components, and the $2500 MSRP doesn’t seem unreasonable in these dark days when stock M&P-15s are selling for $1800 if you can find them at all.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About Guns

As I mentioned, the gun gods themselves conspired against me in my quest to test this exotic super-AR. It arrived at my FFL a few hours after the Sandy Hook atrocity broke across the national media. I thought I was set for ammo, but I only had a handful of brass-cased 5.56mm rounds to my name. Multiple expeditions to gun shops, big box sporting goods stores and even a gun show didn’t yield any more brass 5.56, so we had to shoot what we had on hand.

Which consisted of (formerly) cheap steel-cased ammo. Unluckily for me, race guns like this simply hate the stuff. Sloppy steel cases don’t like to wedge into match-sized chambers (especially when they’re full of carbon blowback from other recently-fired steel cases) and armor-plated Russian primers just shrug off the lighter hammer strikes from low-mass speed hammers.

But with those few magazines of brass-cased ammo the WWG AR ran like a gutshot cat, taking me to brief heights of ballistic ecstasy in the video clips above. (I apologize for the tilt in the middle clip; just lean your head a little and it looks much better.) Joe Grine was ripping out double-taps so quickly that the flying empty brass was only a few feet apart in midair. I’m pretty sure he was shooting the WWG AR faster than the unloved 3-shot burst mode from an old M16A2.

(BTW, this video was made with a Replay XD720 sports camera I’m testing right now. This $200 camera is the size of a 12-guage shell and runs at 60 fps. I’m loving it so far, although I’ve got to be more careful how I rotate is on my earmuffs. And the Picatinny rail mount is freaking awesome.)

Snowpack kept us from reaching our favorite shooting areas, and we had to settle for a short-distance spot near Estacada, Oregon. We didn’t have the distance or the right ammo to test for accuracy; suffice to say that even with sloppy steel-cased ammo it shot the crap out of everything we pointed it at within 40 yards.

Recoil was just the tiniest nudge, and muzzle climb just didn’t exist. Side-blast was pretty severe if you were standing next to it, but that’s what double hearing protection is for, right?

Our handful of brass ammo allowed me to have my gun-guy equivalent of a hot lap at Laguna Seca in a rented track special. Sadly, with the rest of my steel-cased ammo it ran more like an Indy car in the Baja 500. The gun’s handling and ergonomics were still out of this world, but the steel ammo plagued us with feeding and ignition failures.

I wish I could have put this gun through its paces in a real ‘gun review’ format, with hundreds of rounds of decent-quality ammo, and entire range days for scoped accuracy testing and ‘run & gun’ shooting fun. The world just wasn’t wired that way this time. 5.56mm ammo is rarer and pricier than narwhal tusk right now, and winter snows kept us from our favorite longer-range shooting quarries, and Wild West Guns needs their rifle back pronto so they can show it at the SHOT Show.

So I’m saying goodbye to this exotic AR. I’ll see it again at WWG’s SHOT Show booth (without its firing pin) but it will be like running into a super hot ex-girlfriend at a coffee shop. We could have been great together, but it just wasn’t meant to be. C’est la vie.

As Bogart said, we’ll always have Estacada.

Accuracy: ????? (out of five ?????)
It hit every rock and soda can and cardboard box we pointed it at. Multiple times. Really quickly.

Reliability: ??? (out of five ?????)
Awesome ????? with brass ammo, horrible ? with steel. It’s a race gun, not a truck gun.

Ergonomics/Handling *******************************  (out of five *****)
It’s so good you’ll need a scotch and a cigarette afterwards.

Price: $2500

28 Responses to (I Wish This Were A Full) Gun Review: Wild West Guns Custom AR-15

  1. avatarGregolas says:

    Under the current catch-as-catch-can situation with ammo, wouldn’t a rifle that could eat anything and go”bang”every time be preferable to a precision machine that’s fussy about it’s diet?
    Just a practical thought from a boring guy who had 4-door cars even when he was single.

    • avatarspeedracer5050 says:

      Hey don’t feel bad!! When I was 15 my favorite car was my dad’s(used to be my granpa’s) 1972 Ford LTD 4 door, pea green paint, dark green vinyl top and interior.
      But the RealLove was under the hood: Ford 400cid Modified, 4bbl carb(tuned), dual exhausts and a full manual comp C6 tranny behind it with a 9″ Ford rearend!! Wasn’t quick in the quarter but ate many a camaro, Trans am, and nova’s for lunch on top end. Got my second worse speedin ticket in that car racing from LR to home(96 miles)!! Got clocked at 132 mph and got Two, not one, free nights all expense paid sleepover in the pokey!! Plus the $250 ticket!! Miss the car a lot!!!

      • avatarGregolas says:

        Envy,Envy!
        Covet,Covet!(Heavy on the covet.)

        • avatarLongBeach says:

          Haha this reminds me of my 95 F250. Good-looking? Well, I think so. Gonna win any drags? Probably not many. But when you stab that 5.8 it’s like surfing a molasses wave of torque and you’re GONE. It’s that bulletproof, over-built, run-through-walls American powerhouse that gives you the feeling that nothing short of a locomotive can stop you. Sure, 6 MPG gets old, but they’re the best feeling 6 miles I get. Much to be said for a vehicle, and by extension gun, that just goes, and goes, and goes.

    • Sure, and my argument is that if I can take a nice match barrel with a 5.56 chamber and shoot it just as accurately as one with a match .223 chamber with the same ammo, is there an advantage to the tight, less reliable match chamber? Only If I was a competitive shooter looking for every possible slight edge for that particular purpose.

  2. avatarJonathan says:

    Personally, I would rather go with a JP rifles JP-15 for that kinda coin.

  3. avatarSaul Feldstein says:

    That 500.00 Delton that shoots Wolf no problem is looking better than ever.

  4. avatarBrian S says:

    when I saw the pics, I was excited to see what looked like the Clackamas river valley :) Hwy 224 is one of my favorite drives in the summer and some great hiking up there

  5. avatarAharon says:

    Many TTAG regulars know that I’m not into modern sporting rifles and tactical stuff. Guys, Chris let me shoot the test AR this weekend and it was great. Whether I kept the rifle butt firmly tucked into my shoulder or not there was very little felt recoil and the muzzle stayed on target. The Wild West AR was very comfortable to hold.

    • avatarJon says:

      So did the WWG Custom AR-15 change your mind about modern sporting rifles, or will you be sticking with more traditional firearms?

      • avatarAharon says:

        For my personal use ie what’s right for me, I still prefer more traditional firearms. However, shooting the AR on Sunday did give me more appreciation and respect for modern sporting rifles. In the event of major social or political civil unrest, a SHTF scenario, etc I will then probably be criticizing myself for not preparing with an AR and a 9mm semi-auto. I suspect that if I lived on a ranch in border-state Arizona I would probably own a number of semi-autos. I stand in complete solidarity with my fellow gun owners for their right to own high capacity semi-autos.

        • avatarWA_2A says:

          Of course, if it ever comes to using an openly displayed firearm for survival, I personally will use the privilege of using an AR-15 or AK-47, or any tactical semi-auto, living in/near the city.

          Why? Simple. The city is full of sheeple. The AR-15′s reputation as the Baby-Killing, Military-Style, Evil Black Rifle makes it me a target if I carry it, as I will look suspicious. My rule: if the average person could identify it, not too great. If someone with no firearms experience who plays lots of Call of Duty can recognize it, there’s no way I’m choosing it. A traditional rifle will draw less attention due to innocent looks. For that reason something like an SKS or a lever-action works perfectly; all the high firing rate of a tactical semi (lever actions will require practice) without the sketchy looks.

        • avatarLongBeach says:

          Aharon, I must ask. Is your tag pronounced Aaron with an H in it, or is it more like Aha! It’s Ron! I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I love language and I’d be interested which you intend it to be. Please indulge my childish phonetic obsession!

  6. avatar16V says:

    When all one has ever driven is 70s Camaros, and someone gives you one that’s been thoroughly pro-streeted with real brakes, suspension that works, 6 speed, and an engine with actual output, it seems like an amazing car. Especially when one only has enough gas for a few track-day laps.

    But it’s still a highly tuned, highly strung Camaro.

  7. avatarMatt in FL says:

    Short, but entertaining. I give it an 8.

    I was really impressed by the lack of recoil and muzzle rise, and by extension impressed by the little camera that showed them. Can I assume we’ll see a writeup on the camera itself sometime soon?

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      Yes. A full camera review in the works, even though we might have to use .22s for the rest of the testing :(

  8. avatarHal says:

    Carbine length gas system and handguard? Loud brake with no ability to switch it out? No readily apparent way to mount a front sight? Picky on ammo to boot?

    PASS.

    That takedown lever action on the otherhand…

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      That, and the carbon fiber forearm.

      Here’s what lots of people don’t know about carbon fiber: It hurts like a *(&*&^ when it gets under your skin and into your flesh.

      Oh, so you’re wondering how it does that?

      Easy. Scuff up that foreend on something and abrade the outside of the finish… and sooner or later, some fibers will be exposed and severed. When you pass your bare hand over the severed end of a fiber that’s sticking up slightly, guess what happens?

      You get stuck.

      Unless it’s completely encased in some sort of plastic or epoxy stock material, I have less than no use for carbon fiber.

  9. avatarspeedracer5050 says:

    Am looking for a good AR10 lower(.308). Any suggestions on a good fair priced one?? This will not be until after the AWB Bullhockey is done with.
    Shot plenty of the M16A1/A2′s and M4′s in the Army but want to buil me a AR in .308.
    Local shop has suggested the Delton’s, S&W, Armalite, and others but his personal is a Delton and am wondering about reliability mainly. Can build it and maintain it but can’t afford a jillion dollars for a stripped lower!!
    Already promised my GF I would buy all the parts and frame and build her a Nighthawk lady Hawk in 9mm when I get my taxes back!!!
    And God Bless Her she want’s it done in heat treated color like mine is!!!(not done with it yet)!!

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      Unlike AR-15′s, there is no single “standard” for AR-10′s, so the first thing you have to decide is which one you want. It’s kinda like mil-spec vs. commercial spec for AR-15 parts. There are three major ones: Armalite 10 parts are not always compatible with DPMS, and neither of those are compatible with the third one, whose name escapes me at the moment. So it’s not just the maker, but the style, that you have to take into consideration. I don’t have one yet, I just started reading about them, but it’s something you have to think about early on.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      As MattInFL mentions, magazine compatibility is the big thing.

      My AR-10 shopping list starts with a PMAG-compatible stripped CMMG lower, but that’s only because I’d want to build it with a premium aftermarket trigger. You could certainly start with a fully-built CMMG lower/buttstock combo to start and go from there.

      All on hold for now, of course. I haven’t even been able to find 80% lowers of either variety, which kills me because I have a mill in my workshop and could easily do the finish work to a high level of quality.

    • avatarHal says:

      Once the AWB business is over and supplies return to pre-retardedness levels I would advocate for you getting a complete AR-10. .308 semi’s are the new black… rifles.

      It would be so much easier for you to go with a complete rifle and frankly I am not sure you are going to glean a significant cost savings by building your own.

      I have two that I have been shooting side by side for over a year. The first is an LMT MWS and the second is a SCAR 17. I truly have no favorite between the two. Both have functioned without malfunction. The SCAR beats the pants off of the LMT for weight and recoil while the LMT beats the pants off of the SCAR for trigger/accuracy and sex appeal. The LMT is also more convenient for mags and to some degree parts. The LMT is also cheaper.

      Once I decide on a gun I typically purchase three of that model; one for heavy daily use, two for backups. While my LMT MRPs made that choice easy over my other AR’s, I am not so sure with my two .308′s. I know I will never get rid of either of them, but which do I get clones of? I refuse to get three of each, wife would never buy into that. In the end it will come down to whether or not Armalite makes their new .308 fixed front sight tower available as a part that I can have pinned to my MWS barrels. I am a believer in rugged fixed iron sights always being an option and I don’t like to bolt a screw-on sight to the top rail because it is not free floated. If I can get that then I will rock the LMT(s) as 308 battle rifles. The SCAR would then be the “one” doomsday walking rifle. However, don’t be fooled by that front sight on the SCAR because it is not the correct height for interfacing with AR-15 fixed or folding rears, so I don’t use it. The sight that comes with the SCAR 17 is garbage. BUT… if armalight doesn’t start selling that part then I will accept a top rail fixed iron sight on the SCAR in exchange for the weight savings and adjustable gas system.

      So I went on a little journey there sorry about that. Just get a complete semi .308 made by the factory. Tons of great options these days… very little advantage to building your own.

  10. avatarspeedracer5050 says:

    DPMS would probably be best for the money then. Seems a lot of people have reccomended those for the AR15 builds they want to do.
    Love the .308 and well I guess if I am going to join the AR crowd it might as well be with something that goes thump instead of pop!! LOL!!!

    • avatarWA_2A says:

      Of course, you could just go with an AR-15 and buy an upper in a “thump” caliber. Ammo cost/availability would be a problem but the exotic cartridges are reputed to have superior performance.

      • avatarAimon says:

        You can always chamber them in .300 AAC or 7.62×39. But both are intermediate rounds without the thump of a .308.

    • avatarLongBeach says:

      I love my DPMS. Have nothing bad to say about them.

  11. certainly like your web site but you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I’ll definitely come again again.

  12. avatarjimmyjames says:

    what the OP said…ditto. I’ll put my S&W M&P15 Sport up against that gun for accuracy and reliability any day. $650 out the door back in November. I have a $1300 race gun AR that is not one bit more accurate and probably not as reliable. Screw a match chamber on a 3 gun AR in this day and age unless you have a match ammo mfr as a sponser.

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