IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GUN
STUBBORN MULE OUTDOOR SUPPLY’S STRATEGY: GREAT GUNS, AFFORDABLE PRICES
Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply's strategy: great guns, affordable prices.
Not long ago, a friend wanted to tell me about a small company manufacturing top-notch ARS in the wilds of Oregon. It wasn’t the Oregon builder I thought he was going to tell me about, but as I’d find out, it was something better. Soon, I got the chance to shoot a 5.56 built by Merlin-based Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply. I liked it and bought it immediately.
I called the company to find out a little bit more. (Yeah I know I did it a little backwards). Instead talking to customer service, however, I spent a couple hours talking to Eric Andersen, the head of marketing and sales. He, like everyone at SMOS, is passionate about making guns and shooting them.
TW: Tell me a little bit about how SMOS (pronounced Sm-ah-ss) came into being. With a name like Stubborn Mule, there’s got to be a good story.
SMOS: A little more than 10 years ago, SMOS founder Matt Morris, an avid hunter, decided to start making .22 barrels, carrying over the skills and craftsmanship he had learned as a boat maker 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 bestknown names in the industry.
As Matt got more into ARS, he decided to machine his own lowers. Long story short, 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 themselves 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.
TW: Boat building, huh? Is there a lot of carryover from crafting boats to crafting rifles? In one, the end product better not have holes – but the other needs to make ‘em.
SMOS: Building boats is a balance between precision and art, creating
“WE BRAINSTORM AND COME OUT WITH A BADASS GUN FOR A GREAT PRICE.”
something uncommon using common materials and components. 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.
TW: How does a high-end rifle manufacturer get the name Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply?
SMOS: 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. Mules are F-in’ 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 need to enjoy the Oregon wilderness.
TW: What is your design philosophy, and how has that helped develop the company?
SMOS: We’re not driven by market trends. We don’t sit in a boardroom figuring out how to make certain margins off what we sell. Simply put, we brainstorm and come out with a badass gun for a great price. We design and build a gun we’d want to buy ourselves, something that would make us better shooters, a high-end rifle that doesn’t bust your wallet. We developed a custom shop, and the team focuses on all the builds and custom modifications.
We also sell components to folks who know what a great gun is but don’t want to bend over and buy one $2,000 gun all at once. We are all big boys now but, let's face it, ARS are just Legos. Matt makes some badass Legos that aren't all busy with hyped up bullshit that serves no purpose but to separate you from your cash. Matt doesn't want the customer to pay for some exotic marketing campaign or finance some brand ambassador’s wages and free guns by rolling those expenses into the gun or parts.
TW: Would you consider yourself a lifestyle company?
SMOS: We aren't a lifestyle company but we have lives, and that’s what helps build some damn good rifles. Matt is the leader of our rough country-ass crew. If you go looking for him, nine times out of 10 you’ll catch him in the machine shop making parts and changing tooling. We’re all like that. We love what we do just for the sake of doing it. If you love what you’re doing, it’ll show up in the end product. The gun and gun parts are made with a good amount of hand finishing to maintain the extra smooth appearance that Matt wants to display for no other reason than he takes pride in what leaves his shop.
TW: The GFY is great blaster. After test-driving it several months ago, I had to buy one for myself. What can I look forward to in the near future?
SMOS: The Triggertech trigger is our newest addition. It gives the end-line user our version of the best trigger we shoot in our personal guns. As with all our rifle parts, we’re starting to make our own billet dust covers, locking castle nuts, forward assist buttons, and mag catch and mag release buttons all while continuing to make, in house, our clean, refined AR components for the customer.
Matt also has a dream to make unique high-quality bolt guns that have a reasonable price. If you’re a betting man, place your money on Matt to achieve his goal. At the end of the day, the GFY Nation is growing, and MP5 parts are already in the works. Matt and everyone under the SMOS ruff are just down-to-earth people making a living. This summer, Matt will have his range completed out at his beautiful cabin in the southern Oregon mountains, and you’re always welcome to come enjoy a day of shooting and a cold beer around the fire pit under the stars. Just leave your pen and camera at home.
Looks like I’m heading to Oregon this summer! TW
With an aggressive profile, the GFY- 15 looks as good as it shoots. Everything is designed and machined in house, giving SMOS complete control over its quality.