KE Arms Civil Defense Rifle: What Would Stoner Do (On A Budget)?

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KE Arms has released a budget version of their WWSD carbine called the Civil Defense Rifle or CDR. It follows the same design principles that went into the original project but with some omissions to cut costs.

What The CDR Tries To Accomplish:

  • Project how Eugene Stoner would have evolved the AR-15 with modern materials.
  • Utilizes a polymer lower and pencil profile barrel to cut weight.
  • Based on the WWSD rifle, but with fewer amenities to cut its price tag.

The Original WWSD

The What Would Stoner Do carbine was the brainchild of YouTubers Ian McCollum and Karl Kasarda. The idea first came to them while shooting an original configuration M16A1, and the rifle’s balance and low weight reminded them of what an AR15 truly should feel like as intended by Eugene Stoner. Part of what made the AR platform so revolutionary for its time was its use of modern manufacturing techniques and materials like aluminum and polymer. Some aspects of the AR were limited by contemporary manufacturing methods, such as the pencil-profile barrel that originally had subpar heat-treating.

KE Arms Civil Defense Rifle.
KE Arms Civil Defense Rifle.

Now that technology has had time to catch up to the design, the developers of the WWSD decided to take things to what they viewed as the logical conclusion of Stoner’s mindset, expanding the carbine’s use of polymers and other modern materials like carbon fiber.

At the core of the design is the new KP-15 monolithic polymer lower receiver from KE Arms. While attempts at polymer lowers have mostly resulted in failure in the past, the KP-15’s design has supposedly corrected any strength issues plaguing the material. So far it seems the KP-15 is a great improvement over previous plastic lowers, having survived strenuous full-auto endurance tests. The new lower helps reduce the carbine’s overall weight, one of Stoner's primary goals when he designed the AR.

The Civil Defense Rifle

The WWSD concept piqued many shooters’ interests, but at an MSRP of $1,699.99 it was a bit pricey for such a novel concept. A large contributor to that price tag was the development and setup cost of molding a new polymer lower, something that was integral to the WWSD concept. Because of this, the KP-15 lower is also included on the new Civil Defense Rifle.

Because so much of the cost stems from this new lower, the Civil Defense Rifle still has an MSRP of $1249.99 despite being the “budget” version. Both versions are sold exclusively through Brownells.

The Civil Defense Rifle is very similar in form and function to the original WWSD, but omits certain “luxury” features to cut the cost by about $450. The resulting CDR is a rifle that's almost as nice as a WWSD, but is marginally heavier and slightly less ambidextrous.

CDR 2

Is It Worth It?

The WWSD project was certainly an interesting thought experiment. I agree with its general premise—if Stoner were alive today, he would have used the most modern techniques and materials available to design his rifle to be as lightweight and handy as possible. But at what cost?

The WWSD carbine’s MSRP is actually comparable to that of a Colt AR-15 Sporter in the 1960s after adjusting for inflation. While the government may have been willing to spend that much for the most cutting-edge tech, ARs did not catch on with civilian shooters until decades after this.

You will have to decide whether the WWSD or CDR bring enough to the table to justify the price tag for you. In my opinion, they don’t. I think the greatest improvement found in either of these designs is the return to a pencil-profile barrel. One of the first changes made to the M16 after its adoption was the switch to a heavier profile barrel to allow for more sustained fire without shifting the point of impact. With modern heat treatment techniques, pencil barrels like the 16” Faxon used in the WWSD and CDR can achieve the same thing while retaining their slimmer profile.

I don’t deny that the other features of the CDR are improvements as well, but I would argue that a pseudo-M16A1 or CAR-15 clone using a modern Faxon pencil barrel will be almost every bit as handy and usable as either of the new designs utilizing a KP-15 lower, and they will cost less too. Personally, I’d rather abide by what Stoner actually did than what some speculated he would have done. But what the hell do I know? I’m an AK guy.

For more information on KE Arms, please visit kearms.com.


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