As pointed out in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a well-made and finely maintained motorcycle is more likely to have the subjective quality of “excellence” than an expensive one that no one cares to keep up. Excellence can be hard to define, but you probably know it when you encounter it.
If you’re looking for this virtue in an AR-15, you could do a lot worse than to look at Warrior Systems Manufacturing’s WSM15.
Everything about this 5.56 NATO, 16-inch-barreled rifle meets or exceeds military specifications. Its single-stage trigger, controls and charging handle are what one would expect on a modern AR, though the trigger creep feels slightly better than MIL-SPEC.
The billet-machined upper and lower receivers have fine detailing. The integrated trigger guard is larger than standard, allowing more room for gloves. Its Cerakote throughout is smooth, and makes the rifle look sharper. Five coating options are available: Cerakote Armor Black, Tungsten Grey, FDE, Midnight Bronze or Type III Anodized Black. The bolt carrier group has a black nitride coating, making it easier to clean.
The floating hand guard with a full-length M-LOK rail system is, again, more than a slight upgrade that adds to the overall excellence; in fact, the 15-inch rail is a major selling point, as you can mount just about anything—multiple anythings in a row, in fact.
Both the stock and the pistol grip are from B5 Systems—again, a small step up that makes a big difference. The latter, B5’s Type 23 P-Grip, gives you a steeper grip angle, which both adds distance from the trigger and puts less stress on the supporting wrist. That angle felt just right to me while shooting. The grip texturing is good without being abrasive. Its ambidextrous, integrated sling quick-disconnect sockets are another nice touch.
The WSM15 comes with one Mission First Tactical 30-round magazine and sports a slightly flared magazine well to help seat it. You can easily change the bolt catch, thanks to the threaded bolt-catch roll pin. Screws are staked on the carrier key, but the castle nut is not staked in place. The gun uses a mid-length, direct-impingement gas system.
My review copy came with WSM’s Viking 1 muzzle brake. The company offers four proprietary stainless-steel muzzle-brake variations—and this one is really a looker. All of the muzzle brake options were, of course, designed for optimum redistribution of gases exiting, and this seemed to do its job well.
The WSM15 comes with an FDE (tan) case. It’s nicely padded, and hook-and-loop-closure straps help to secure the firearm within the padded corners inside the case; however, there are no regular pockets (i.e., ones that zipper closed), making it difficult to secure smaller items. Additionally, there’s no easy way to tell from the outside which way is “up” without peeking in. Sometimes subtle is just too subtle—perhaps a spot for a patch would’ve been nice, or even a small logo. Finally, it lacks any shoulder-strap attachment mechanism, so you’re stuck carrying it by hand. The case, however, wins me back over somewhat by having a removable pad attached via hook-and-loop fasteners in its center, which is nice to have for prone or kneeling-position shooting.
Shooting this rifle only made me like it better. The gun functioned smoothly even as it got hot. It felt good and is very accurate.
Overall, what do you get with this rifle? In my opinion, about as much excellence as you could likely pack into this price. It’s a solid, accurate choice with great aesthetics—a nice step up from the norm without too steep a price.