In a buyer’s market, with a plethora of options to choose from, we are fortunate to have a veritable cornucopia of readily available AR components. With this in mind, a conscientious builder and end-user should research what they can before plunking down their hard-earned cash. There are a lot of amazing manufacturers out there, and oftentimes, we simply go along with the crowd, or gravitate towards the brands we see at the top of our newsfeeds of Facebook and Instagram, seldom looking into the companies behind the brand names.
For those of us normal folks like you and me that are on a budget, sometimes we’ll settle for what is the most cost-effective at the time, only to replace an item later on when it doesn’t measure up to real-world use. Buy one cry once…or do your research and you might not cry at all.
Such is the case with Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply, or SMOS. Or Smahss. I don’t know how to pronounce it correctly. I was first introduced to Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply by my buddy and fellow LEO, UWone77. UW does a lot of behind-the-scenes-work with manufacturers in the industry, and has introduced me to a lot of gear that I like to use in real life. As always, I prefer to get to know the people behind the company, and what a company is all about.
With so many options out there, it’s not too long before the wheat gets separated from the chaff. For those that remain standing with comparable levels of quality, it can come down to craftsmanship, work ethics, aesthetic details that resound with consumers, and customer service. I recently had a chance to chat with Chris from SMOS, and this is what he had to say about Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply.
CT: OK, first things first. Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply. Where does the name come from, and how do I properly pronounce the abbreviation? "ESS Moss?" "Smahss?"
SMOS: Glad you asked. S.M.O.S. is an acronym for Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply. You pronounce it S M O S. We use the abbreviation for engraving and media stuff. Matt Morris, the owner came up with our company name. He chose Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply because of his favorite pastime. Matt loves hunting and uses pack mules on his hunts. Locally he has become know as the go to guy to retrieve big game out of hard to get spots.
CT: How did the company get its start? How long has SMOS been in the game, and what do you bring to the table?
SMOS: Originally SMOS was going to be an outdoor supply store. The plan was to sell hunting/camping gear for like minded people in our area. He wanted to stock guns and ammo and got curious about the AR15. Matt decided to machine his own lower and truly enjoyed the process. This was happening in late 2006 early 2007. A demand for black rifle parts kept Matt and his crew machining AR receivers and other small parts. The SMOS crew saw potential in the firearms industry and geared up to grow the company.
We bring the ability to make anything we want the way we want to. We are an enthusiastic crew that is always looking for a new challenge. Our biggest strength is our ability to evolve and stay relative to the new trends of our industry.
CT: Oregon is a unique state in my limited experience. How does Oregonian culture meld with SMOS’s mission, overall company and design philosophy?
SMOS: Southern Oregon is an area full of hunters and firearms enthusiasts. SMOS is ran by native Oregonians that were born here. Everything we do reflects the area we grew up in. The SM15 rifle was designed with our family and friends in mind. We spoke to the enthusiasts in the area and paid attention to what they were doing with their carbines. We listened to what ammo was preferred and what was readily available to them. We run our company in the same way that our grandfathers ran theirs, and are proud of that. We stay true to our word, have pride in everything we do and have no fear of hard work.
CT: Let’s talk products. What items are in SMOS’s main product line, and why do they stand out?
SMOS: We have two distinct sets of AR parts. There is the SM line and the new GFY parts both have matching rails. The SM parts are what I would consider to be our main product line.
Our work ethic shows in our parts and you can see it in the quality of our pieces. This is what makes our parts stand out next to another. We are literally signing our name on every piece. We refuse to let a blem or problem leave our door. The end user will appreciate the fine finish and fit of our receivers. We control every aspect of the parts we make as we make them all 100% in house.
CT: It is no secret that SMOS OEM’s for some other great companies out there. How did those partnerships begin, and how are you able to keep up with the demand?
SMOS: Sorry bro.
CT: Dang. OK, what does SMOS have in the pipeline for 2016? What can we expect from you in the near future?
SMOS: We just started selling our own line of parts and complete rifles. We need to get packaging worked out and shipping a little more efficient. As far as parts go, we already have new rail lengths on the website and will have a quad rail soon. We have two big projects but, I am not ready to hint at anything yet. That being said I hope to see one of them this holiday season.
The main goal right now is to expose what we already have. We are getting the word out so people know where to find us and how to get our product. Last year we focused on our local customer base and this year we want to expand that.
You can always expect the best parts for your money, great customer service and a crew of people that love what they do.
Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply SM13 Rail
UWone77 got me hooked up with a SMOS SM13 Rail back in August of 2015. The SM13 is actually about 13.75" OAL, which makes it a great option for 14.5" carbine builds where the end user wants the rail to extend as far forward as possible. The inner diameter rates at 1.355", so you won’t be able to tuck a can under it. Constructed from 6061 T6 Aluminum, the SM13 comes with a proprietary barrel nut that does not require shims and is pretty easily timed. Although the nut itself is proprietary, it does not require a special barrel nut tool to add to the toolbox, rather, it can be torqued down into place using a standard 1 3/16" wrench.
The handguard itself is bolted into place over the barrel nut, comes with integral QD points, and weighs in at about 13 oz. The SM13 is MLOK-compatible, and is an eye catcher with its butter-smooth anodizing, forward-angled cutouts, and a unique SMOS-stamped tab on the 12 o’clock picatinny rail that certainly grabs the eye.
For this build, I went with another Pacific Northwest manufacturing giant, Mega Arms. I used an older forged receiver set that needed an upgrade. After filling the internals with a Geissele SSA, and controls by Battle Arms Development and High Velocity Arms, I mounted the SM13 over the Mega Arms 14.5" middie barrel I’ve been checking out for a season or so.
I found that timing the barrel nut itself wasn’t too difficult, however it did take a few tries to make sure that the set screw holes were lined up properly to maintain a flush upper rail profile. The handguard installation itself was simple, however I noted two points. First, the rail did not snug up completely against the upper receiver. While this has no bearing whatsoever on the functionality of the handguard itself, it triggered my OCD a bit and was a minor annoyance. I just prefer an uninterrupted top rail look. Also, due to the inner diameter of the handguard, I would recommend mounting and test-fitting any accessories such as a B5 Systems Gripstop or my Blacksheepwarrior Megiddo Rail Covers before locking the handguard down into place.
Once on, the rail is solid – not just in look, but in feel. I don’t abuse my gear, but I’m not terribly delicate with it either. I’ve kicked the build around in all weather conditions for the past 7 months, and the handguard continued to remain rock-solid. I think in large part to the Blacksheepwarrior Megiddo Rail Covers, I’ve noticed negligible heat transfer from the handguards, even after multiple rapid-fire mag dumps.
So there it is; a beautiful rail, made by solid people, with excellent performance with a MSRP of $150. I’ve broken big name rails that cost more, in less time, with the same hard-use-but-not-abusive stressors. Stubborn Mule Outdoor Supply thus far has come through in spades. I am excited to say that I just picked up a non-forward assist upper from them, and it is as beautiful as the SM13 – really looking forward to building it out, and then beating it up.
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