What Would Eugene Stoner Do? Build the WWSD 2020 Rifle

Eugene Stoner
Eugene Stoner

Iowa –-(AmmoLand.com)- I was surfing the net for a Sunday School class and ran across something unexpected.

I should probably stop right here and give props to Al Gore for having invented the internet.  Without his vision, men would probably still be clubbing chicks over the head and dragging them by their hair back to their caves.  Culture cannot evolve and technology can’t stumble forward without the brave actions of the progressive social elite.  Thank you Al, you’re the best.

That said, I ran across Ockham’s Razor inadvertently, which I thought I understood.  The simplest explanation is usually the best one, right?  Wrong…  Ockham isn’t actually quoted as having written that anywhere I can find.  But the principle of parsimony IS attributed largely to William of Ockham.  And it reads like this:

“Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” 

What does that mean to you and me?  We should avoid making things complex when they don’t need to be.

I have spent some time now applying Ockham’s Razor, correctly I might add, and you’d be surprised where this principle fits in daily life. Fast forward to the silly notion of, let’s say…  A rifle.  Having refurbished, rebuilt, and built from the ground up, most of the common machine guns in history, some are undoubtedly more complex than others.  For the purposes of simplicity, I’d choose an Uzi over an MP5, any day.  That doesn’t mean they’re equal in performance.  But once you really ponder the guts of an Uzi subgun, you naturally tend to question why there needs to be anything else.

AR-15 KP-15 What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle

KE Arms AR15 KP-15 What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle
KE Arms AR15 KP-15 What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle

I was zipping through Brownell’s website one day and the “WWSD” acronym kept popping up all over the place.  Honestly, I didn’t know it stood for “What Would Stoner Do?” but figured it out pretty quickly.  I took the time to watch a series of videos and paid close attention to some of the principles put forth by the consultants and design crew.  Frankly, there seemed to be an “Ockham’s Razor” idea permeating this design.  Stoner must have been interested in “KISS” just like most of us.  The Keep It Simple Stupid notion, is often used properly, especially in our circles, so I found that congruent to Stoner and Ockham, as well as the folks involved in the What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle project.

I had an idea of what I was going to experience during the unboxing of the WWSD rifle based on the pics and vids on the brownells.com site.  But those only go so far.  Sure, it was slick and simple.  I liked that.  But it was also very light, and I really loved that.  It didn’t take me long to decide that I either wanted very light sights or a single small optic for this package so I could keep the “light and simple” motif alive.  I decided to toss on a Trijicon MRO Optic I had in the parts bin.

I’ll admit freely, I have not been a friend to the polymer lower receiver industry.  Sure, I have no problem with a Glock frame and all the other polymer handguns.  But, when the polymer frame AR-15 stuff first started making the rounds a decade or more ago, a friend brought one into my shop to show off.  He just put it together with a super light trigger that had very little take-up.  I placed it in my magazine vise block, took the upper off, set the hammer, rotated the safety to “Fire” and twisted the buttstock.  The lower receiver flexed so much in the pocket, relieved to accommodate the fire control group, that the hammer fell just as if the trigger was pulled.  My buddy immediately peed a little, looked at me, and I said, “Get this junk out of my shop.”  The materials used and the designs have come a long way since then.  Frankly, I’m long overdue to reassess my thoughts on a polymer lower receiver for the AR-15.  So, the WWSD rifle is checking several boxes for me all at once.

The WWSD rifle is great for people like me that have long abandoned the truck axle-sized barrels in carbines.  Yes, I will admit, I owned a bull barrel 16” DPMS carbine.  I also drove a Geo Metro for a while in college.  I’m not really proud of either, but we live and learn.  In pooch chamberings like the 5.56, 16” carbines don’t need big barrel diameters or heft.  I am really glad to see the trend towards lighter weight, and the WWSD delivers.

The entire lower receiver into the A2-ish buttstock is polymer and features an integral trigger guard and a really large and beveled mag well.  It also has cutouts for things like sling attachments or the use of flush cups.  Can you say “ambi” Mr. Stoner?  An ambi-safety with a 45-degree throw, ambi-bolt catch, and ambi-mag release really make this lower shine.  The modular drop-in trigger is pretty darned good, and I even liked the grip size, angle, and texture.  I even liked the captive buffer assembly – smooth…

The take-down pins?  The jury is out on them.  They’re like a lot of the HK products and my KRISS subguns in that they can be pushed out completely and have self-captivated detents.  Yes, you can take them out and lose them.  But, let’s also be honest.  Do you make a habit of taking these pins out in the dark or in the mud?  How likely is it they’ll get removed and lost in the dark or muck?  I did, admittedly, lose one at the range, and in a hurry, I swapped the short for the long pin, which looks silly but still allows complete functionality.

The upper is aluminum.  No forward assist is present, while it does use a shell deflector.  A standard trap door can be found and the top end is Picatinny.  Pretty simple and straightforward stuff.  A nicely chromed bolt and carrier assembly is part of the rig, and in keeping with the ambi-theme, the charging handle is ambidextrous.

What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle side profile
What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle Side Profile

The front end is carbon fiber.  The carbon fiber handguard has MLOK slots for adding whatever you may need.  The barrel is a pencil configuration from Faxon and is tipped with an oldie, but goodie, flash hider.

When I say this thing is light, I mean it.  I topped it with a Trijicon MRO with the standard aluminum mount and nothing else.  People talk about balance in a rifle as if they know what they’re talking about.  …But they often don’t.  This rifle literally does balance out from front to rear.  This is one of the least nose-heavy carbines I’ve ever shot.  And when you’re saddled with guns to shoot all day like the Tommy Gun (they’re crazy nose heavy and have a ridiculous length of pull), you truly appreciate a well-balanced, and light rifle overall.

Trijicon MRO
Trijicon MRO

Ramming and slamming mags isn’t a problem with a magwell this big and tapered.  Also, of all the ambi-bolt catches I’ve EVER used, this was the best yet.  It requires very little force, as a right-hander, to rake that lever down with my trigger finger, and the carrier slams into battery.  Granted, most instructors are moving away from fine motor movements and toward gross motor movements in your training, but the function is solid and the idea of true ambidextrous use is genuine.

I was hoping to shoot quite a bit with this, but rain and the supper plans of my wife conspired to kick me off the range.  I did get a shade under 100 rounds downrange in the first trip, though.  The very first round acted as it stuck, and I immediately shoved my thumb forward onto a forward assist that didn’t exist.

I’ll admit, that was pretty weird.  When you’ve done that instinctively for so long, it throws you off to not follow through with the motion.  So then what? 

Drop the mag, buttstroke the weapon on the bench, inspect the round, and try it again.  I didn’t find anything wrong with the ejected goods, so I stuffed it right back in the mag, jammed it home, dropped the carrier and all was well.

Lancer Systems L5AWM Smoke 30 Round MagazineLancer Systems L5AWM Smoke 30 Round Magazine
Lancer Systems L5AWM Smoke 30 Round Magazine

I was running my favorite Lancer L5AWM Mags on the first range trip but tried a few others I had around on trip #2.  The Brownells mags, PMAGs, and Troys all ran fine.  The second time I was able to get nearly 200 rounds down the stick.  It shot great. The Trijicon MRO worked great.  I knew it would.  I’ve never had a lick of trouble with those yet – knock on wood.  And while I could have chosen something else, I really wanted to stay true to the Stoner idea of simplicity coupled with versatility and reliability.  I think I only had 3 rounds that didn’t fall into the 8” center plate at 100 yards.  That might not sound like great shooting to you, but I shot that carbine standing, sitting, proned out, and improvised without magnification, on a bright setting, just as I would have if carrying it in a defensive mode.  If you’re going to only drop 1% of your rounds outside a pie plate at 100 yards while going through rapid loading, shooting, and various shooting positions, that isn’t too bad.

Yes, many can best my shooting abilities, but I’m not going to shoot all day, take a picture of the tiniest group, and print that as a writer.  Why?  Because it isn’t reflective of what you can continually expect.  This rifle will pull MOA, but that isn’t really what you’ll be buying it for.  This is a battle rifle, home defense rig, coyote gun, etc. rolled into a light and well-balanced package, and I liked it.

Brownells KE Arms WWSD 2020 Rifle ~ My wish list?

I’d gladly accept a different stock configuration, seen here: KE Arms AR15 KP15 Complete Lower Receiver, but this one works just fine and there’s no reason to be unhappy with it.  I’d also injection mold a recess on both sides of the lower so you can put the take-down pins in from either side.  Granted, you can, and I did, just to see if it would work, and it does.  But it looked goofy when they were poking up a little ‘proud’ after having been put in from the right.  I liked the ambi-charging handle but it was a tad large for my taste and got caught across my sternum a few times.  Keep in mind none of these things are reasons to avoid buying a WWSD rifle, and I don’t hold an expectation my tiny gripes will be changed.  However, a thorough evaluation demands the critique be honest.

What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle Bottom Line?

I think Stoner would be proud, as would Ockham.  Hell, even Al Gore deep down in places he won’t talk about would be proud.  This lower might be made with recycled Coke bottles for all I know, and Al invented recycling along with the internet, so what isn’t to love?  I dig a light, no-frills, solid carbine and this checks all my boxes.  I’m going to lend this out to a couple of local buddies and see what they think.

I haven’t heard a lot about this offering from Brownells and I think there ought to be more buzz, personally.  If you’re looking for really well-done parts, put together into a congruent package, this is worth your time.  I think the polymer bottom end throws the marketplace off a bit.  For some reason, there is a mystique of “cheap” when people see polymer AR stuff, but that just isn’t true here.  Polymer was chosen for the advantages it brings, same as with Stoner’s offering into the marketplace back in the day.  Folks were used to carrying big heavy iron and wood contraptions, and the space age move to aluminum and plastic had a lot of people back on their heels.

Don’t judge the What Would Stoner Do 2020 Rifle based on the reflection of one material, but rather the sum of the parts.  They add up to a lot.

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About Michael Ware:

Michael is a Christian husband and father to two children. He owns and operates Controlled Chaos Arms, a premier custom weapons shop in the Midwest. He serves as Chairman of the board of Directors at the Iowa Firearms Coalition. The pursuit of truth drives him in research and his writing.

Michael enjoys shooting, hunting, and fishing throughout the Midwest and Rockies. An avid outdoorsman and tireless supporter of all Second Amendment virtues, he can be found in his gun shop, in a tree stand with his kids, or on Capitol Hill lobbying in support of Freedom and Liberty at any given time.

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