Tactical World - - Contents - By Gor­don Meehl

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


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.

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