We’ve all seen it. A new AR company marketing a rifle based on the latest widget that’s going to revolutionize the way we shoot. There are usually bold claims, followed by a lot of debate on the virtues, practicality and science of the premise. Sometimes, the widget makes sense and is useful; sometimes, there’s no good reason to spend your hard-earned Benjis on the hype. Either way, the AR world is not rocked, and no one’s shooting is revolutionized … maybe refined a little, but the fundamentals remain the same.
Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply (SMOS) out of Merlin, Oregon, is not one of those companies. You won’t see it “launch” the newest, earth-shattering AR with some unobtainium parts, trendy colors or newly re-engineered platform. What you will see from this company are top-tier ARs that help you do what you love a little bit better. Unlike those marketing companies that just so happen to be in the gun business, SMOS is a gun manufacturer, not a gun builder. While some companies are figuring out how to create trends, source parts and how to assemble a rifle cheaply and get the highest margins, the guys at SMOS are getting dirt under their nails and actually building some damned fine rifles.
SMOS founder Matt Morris started his career as a boat builder. Not unlike manufacturing ARs, making boats requires taking common materials and using proven designs to create a highquality final product. What differentiates a great builder from an ordinary maker of boats is the X-factor—a passion, an attention to the finer points that others miss. It’s this X-factor that moves the process from merely assembling a kit of parts to the alchemy of creating a piece of functional art from raw material.
A little more than 10 years ago, Matt, an avid hunter, decided to start making .22 barrels, carrying over the skills and craftsmanship of boat making to the firearms industry. The new business quickly moved from making .22 barrels to manufacturing AR components. Soon, those components were sought after by some of the best-known names in the industry. If you ever stared, wide eyed and lustful, at one of Noveske’s top-end rifles, then you’re familiar with SMOS’s work.
IT’S THIS X-FACTOR THAT MOVES THE PROCESS FROM A MERE ASSEMBLAGE OF PARTS TO THE ALCHEMY OF CREATING A PIECE OF FUNCTIONAL ART FROM RAW MATERIAL.
Ask Matt about those companies that rely on his and his crew’s craftsmanship as part of their final products, and the discussion humbly turns to the parts, themselves, the work that goes into them and the crew that is more like a family than a collection of employees.
SMOS is all about the product, not the accolades. Its stated mission is “to construct top-of-the-line firearms so we can do the things we love better.”
But how does a gun and gun parts company get the name, Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply?
Remember when I said Matt was an avid hunter? That was an understatement. Matt loves to hunt and takes pack mules deep into the Oregon woods to bring back big game. As I was told, “Mules are … rad, they are calm, loyal, patient. They do what they want, and so do we.” Hence, “Stubborn Mule.” The “Outdoor Supply” comes from Matt’s original intention to provide fellow hunters with all they needed to enjoy the Oregon wilderness.
As Matt got more into ARs, he decided to machine his own lowers. The demand for these lowers grew, as did the company’s ability to manufacture other AR parts. The SMOS team’s desire to continually challenge itself naturally progressed into manufacturing (from scratch) complete rifles—not just any rifles, but the kind of rifles that center on meeting the needs of the shooter and not some corporately driven marketing objective or high-margin-driven pricing model. It’s all about the rifle, not the hype.
Earlier this year, my friend Eric Andersen and I were talking about his buddy Matt and SMOS. We chatted about shooting, what we were looking for in an ARD and what each of us liked and disliked about the industry as a whole. The more I learned about SMOS, its culture and philosophy, the more I knew I had to buy one of its products.
A few weeks later, I had my GFY15 in hand and on the range. That was more than four months ago, and I’ve enjoyed every trigger pull.
Simply put, Gulf Foxtrot Yankee (GFY) is an an acronym for “Go F– Yourself.” This a declaration to those companies that, with little passion and inspiration, market inferior, overhyped, overpriced rifles. SMOS decided that rather than “sell out” to the the firearm marketing machine and set its prices as high as the market will bear (equivalent rifles are easily $4k), it would place quality over margins and integrity above cash. SMOS believes shooters ought to have a shooter’s gun. Everyone on its team pours their heart and soul into manufacturing these rifles—and it shows. You can’t put a price on that.
Because this is my personal, bought-and-paid-for GFY15, it didn’t have to be sent back. I had an unlimited amount of time to work the gun under “real-world” conditions, rather than the controlled conditions of testing and data collection. I also didn’t have to worry about keeping it in pristine, like-new condition. Rather than take a rifle fresh out of the box to spend an afternoon throwing some rocks down range, only to rush home, write a review and take photos, I was able to put some wear and tear on it. Most rifles will perform well out of the box, but the real test is how well they perform after a couple of thousand rounds. I want to know how good they are when the shine has worn off and the “new gun smell” has faded.
When I first picked up my GFY15, I immediately noticed how tight the rifle was—there were no rattles, loose connections or ill-fitting components. After a little more than 2,000 rounds down range and a less-than-diligent cleaning routine, the GFY is still as tight as it was on day one. If I didn’t know that this rifle retails for just under $2,000, I would have guessed it to be twice that.
The lower, where the shooter and firearm become one, is machined in house from a solid billet of 7075-T6 aluminum, which has a strength comparable to many steels with a lower density and overall weight. The T6 tempering, a series of heating and quenching the billet, further increases the overall tensile strength of the raw aluminum, so it’s less likely to flex under heavy use. Being cut out of a single billet of aluminum not only allows for unique profiles such as the GFY’s flared magwell and integral contoured trigger guard, it also fully capitalizes on the low weight/high strength properties of 7075-T6. Clearly, SMOS is using the best possible materials in the best possible way.
A lower of this quality needs to be filled with equally top-end components. A Battle Arms ambi-safety is a comfortable go/ no-go flipper with positive finger feel and a solid click between “safe” and “fire.” The standard bang switch is a Geissele SSA two-stage trigger with a 2.3-pound first stage letting off to a 1.2-pound second-stage pull for a total pull of 3.5 pounds. (If you prefer another trigger assembly, SMOS is easy to work with and, in most cases, can accommodate your preferences— within reason.) The company is also developing a new relationship with Trigger Tech out of Ontario.
SMOS IS ALL ABOUT THE PRODUCT, NOT THE ACCOLADES.
Rounding out the complete lower assembly is an aluminum buffer tube housing a MIL-SPEC spring and H2 buffer. A Magpul SL grip and Magpul SLK stock complete the furniture package. A nice touch is the QD end plate (also made in house by SMOS), into which I put a Magpul QD sling mount with a Vickers sling.
The billet 7075-T6511 aluminum upper receiver with integral rail provides a stable platform for mounting a Leupold VX-6, which I’ve been using on this rifle since day one, because this rifle deserves quality glass. The upper marries into the lower with in-house-fabricated SMOS combat takedown pins.
A 13.6-inch 6061 aluminum M-Lok rail is bolted snuggly to the receiver for a near-seamless transition between the upper rail and hand guard rail. An inner diameter of 1.35 inches and weight of 11.2 ounces (with hardware) allow your support hand to easily transition between targets.
Rounds are sent down range from a black nitride BCG through an SMOS-made, button-rifled, ultra-match 1:8 barrel made from 416-R stainless steel with a bead-blasted finish. Not wanting to wait for the tax stamp needed for an SBR, I chose a 16-inch barrel. The well-thought-out mid-length gas system allows for decreased gas pressure. Not only does it cause less wear on the BCG, it also reduces recoil (compared to a carbine-length gas system). To further flatten out my follow-up shots, I chose a Dead Air muzzle brake. However, SMOS offers other muzzle devices to match your preferences.
The barrel is chambered in .223 Wylde. This was my first experience with this chambering, and I was pleasantly surprised at its performance. Honestly, until I shot my GFY, I thought the .223 Wylde was just another trend du jour. However, by accommodating the slightly different necking of both .223 and 5.56 NATO cartridges, there’s a difference in both the accuracy and feel when shooting a .223 round through a .223 Wylde versus the same round through a strict 5.56 barrel.
AT THE RANGE
After I mounted my Leupold Custom shop VX-6 to the upper and grabbed a few P-Mags, the GFY was range ready. I wanted to put some rounds down range to get a feel for its preferred “diet” before testing its accuracy. Although SMOS recommends Black Hills Ammo, the rifle devoured everything I threw at it. After going through thousands of rounds at my range, I have yet to have any feeding problems, failure to go into battery or ejection problems.
I was also curious to see how the rifle would perform when dirty. My range is an old motocross track, so there was plenty of dirt to use. I covered the rifle with a thin layer of dirt and slipped in a P-Mag, fully expecting there to be some problems. The rifle ran just as smoothly after a dirt bath as it did prior.
Shooting off hand, the rifle is well balanced and easy to keep stable. Transitioning from close in (25 yards) to 100 or 150 yards was easy. The rifle held true to the holdover stadia shown on the Leupold. It was comforting that the reference standards in my optics were tracking true to what the rifle was spitting out.
SMOS claims sub-MOA performance, and I’m not going to argue. In testing, any inaccuracies were clearly my fault. With the rifle held in place on a Caldwell’s Lead Sled Solo, I was ready to find out how accurate this bad boy is. The results speak for themselves.
Some might think I’m a little partial to the GFY15 because I actually own one and I’m trying to justify a purchase. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s because I own one that I can give a more through evaluation.
I’m much harder on my own gear that I am on a loaner. I don’t buy a firearm so it can sit in the safe. I drop coin on guns and then squeeze every last penny of value out them. The GFY15 is priced at half of what it is worth, so you’ll get more than your money’s worth.
If you want to diversify your stable, stay tuned to SMOS and keep an eye out for its 7.62×51 and 300BLK offerings.
- CALIBER: 5.56
- MATERIALS: Solid billet 7075-T6511 aluminum
- ACTION: Direct impingement
- CAPACITY: Varies per magazine
- OVERALL LENGTH: 33 inches (stock collapsed); 36.25 inches (stock extended)
- BARREL: 16- or 14.5-inch stainless Ultra Match (.223 Wylde)
- BARREL LENGTH: 16 inches
- BARREL FINISH: Black nitride
- BCG STOCK: Magpul SL-K GRIP: Magpul SL
- TRIGGER: Geissele SSA
- TRIGGER GUARD: Integral, contoured
- MAGAZINE: Magpul P-Mag, 30 rounds
- CHARGING HANDLE: BCM Gunfighter
- SAFETY: Battle Arms, ambidextrous
- FORWARD ASSIST: Invisible
- END PLATE: QD
- TAKEDOWN PINS: SMOS combat
- GAS SYSTEM: Mid-length
- GAS TUBE: V7 extreme environment
- COLORS: Factory Cerakote Sniper Grey or Patriot Brown
- SIGHTS: Flat top
STUBBORN MULE OUTDOOR SUPPLY
|Barnes Vor-TX 5.56, 62-grain TSX||3000||0.84|
|Remington Premier Match .223 77-grain Match King||2768||1.02|
|Double Tap .223 69-grain Boat Tail Match||2800||0.82|
|Colt National Match .223 62 grains||2950||0.98|
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.