(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