AR-15s

Wilson Combat Protector: A Quality AR-15 Without the Price

Wilson Combat Protector AR-15 with logo underneath

The 1911 people in Berryville, Arkansas offer excellent adaptions of the Beretta and SIG pistols, high-quality AR-15 rifles, and Remington 870-based pump-action shotguns. A few years ago, I gained extensive experience with the Wilson Combat AR-15 rifle in .224 Valkyrie. This was among the finest shooting experiences I have enjoyed. Today, I am reviewing the Wilson Combat Protector.

You will not find fault with any Wilson Combat product on quality of manufacture, material, reliability, or accuracy. Cost, on the other hand, is another story. Quality, tight tolerances, and precision manufacture are not cheap.

Ar-15 rifle right profile
Wilson Combat offers a number of AR-15 variations with the introduction of the Protector.

The Wilson Protector is a version of the AR-15 intended to sell for less than the standard Wilson Combat rifle. It isn’t a cheap rifle — far from it. The Protector will set you back about $2,000. The rifle retains the immutable traits of the AR-15 including reliability, superb handling, and excellent ergonomics. The Protector has some corners cut but remains an amazing rifle.

The Protector is offered in multiple versions and calibers including 5.56 NATO, .300 Blackout, and the fantastic new .300 HAM’R.

Wilson Combat Protector Specifications

Type: Direct-gas impingement AR-15, mid-length gas system
Caliber: 5.56 NATO, .300 HAM’R, .300 BLK
Capacity: 30-round D&H magazine (supplied)
Barrel: 16-inch stainless; button-rifled 1:8 twist; Wilson Combat Q-Comp compensator
Overall Length: 33.25–36.5 in.
Weight: 6 lb., 5 oz. w/o mag
Finish: Black Armor-Tuff (as tested)
Furniture: Free-float aluminum M-Lok handguard; Bravo Company Gunfighter grip; Rogers Super-Stoc stock
Trigger: Wilson Combat M2 TTU
Sights: None; optics rail
MSRP: $2,000

Features of the Protector

Some folks prefer to build rifles with Wilson Combat match-grade barrels. The barrel is stainless steel and sixteen inches long. The rifle’s high-grade aluminum upper and lower receivers are finished in Armor Tuff — a coating developed by Wilson Combat.

Among the rifle’s best features is the slightly oversized Wilson Combat grip. This grip has a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. Gas systems are often debated. The shorter type seems harder on the action. The Wilson Combat Protector uses a mid-length system. This is what I normally use on my own rifle builds. The gas impingement system, bolt, and two-stage trigger are all standard AR-15 fare — done well, but standard.

When you handle an AR-15 rifle, it is like an old friend. No matter how many ARs you have handled in the past, regardless of whether they were high or low end, muscle memory takes care of details, and you feel a sensation of comfort. Of course, the controls may be crisper with a more expensive rifle, the trigger may be better, the stock may shift less etc., but the handling remains the same ergonomic marvel America’s rifle is known for.

Forend of the Wilson Combat Protector AR-15 showing the muzzle brake
The author predicts the Protector will be a successful offering from Wilson Combat.

The Wilson Combat Protector features crisp controls including the safety, magazine release, and bolt release. The rifle weighs in at 6.5 pounds — ideal for most uses. The barrel is free-floating. The Wilson Combat handguard features M-Lok attachments. This allows slick, comfortable handling when a device or two is mounted. It isn’t rough like some Picatinny types.

The flat-top receiver offers plenty of room for mounting optics. The rifle is supplied with a single magazine. It accepts all AR-15 magazines I tested. My example, in .300 HAM’R, uses standard 5.56mm magazines. I used primarily Magpul magazines during the firing evaluation of this rifle.

The rifle features a flash hider that works well enough but isn’t really an effective muzzle brake. The rifle features a well-finished bolt with properly staked gas keys. The six-position stock is like other AR-15 stocks. However, the stock was more rigid and did not rattle like most.

One Stage, Two Stage — Trigger Talk

The rifle is supplied with a Wilson Combat Trigger (TTU) that was specified to break at four pounds. Some may go a little less, some a little more. The trigger was very useable as the rifle was issued.

partial view of the bolt carrier from an AR-15
Attention to detail and superb fit and finish was obvious on every part of the rifle.

The trigger demands some further discussion. Some prefer a single-stage trigger for the straight-through trigger action. A two-stage trigger is different. Taking up the slack, the first trigger press meets a wall. The continued trigger press then fires the rifle. In my opinion, the two-stage trigger is a good choice for higher stress situations. It’s important to note, it takes a well-trained shooter to get the full benefit of either trigger type.

I don’t like missing on the range. In a critical defensive situation, the miss may hit an innocent person. The prepping of the first stage of the trigger is an important part of many shooters’ training. I find the difference in fast accurate shots minimal for all practical purposes — especially when firing a single accurate shot. A string of shots is only needed in competition — fire, recover, and fire again.

.300 HAM’R: Paper vs. Real World

The rifle’s chambering is always a matter of great interest. The .300 HAM’R was designed as a cartridge for taking deer and wild boar at moderate range. The cartridge is similar to the .30-30 WCF in range and energy — at least on paper. In the real world, the AR-15 rifle offers far superior shot placement and accuracy potential when compared to the lever-action rifle. The problem with the .30-30 isn’t power but rather shot placement and design features of the lever-action. Open sights limit the rifle’s accuracy, and the tubular magazine limits the cartridge to RN bullets or the ingenious Hornady LEVERevolution bullet.

300 HAM'R - Case Lineup
Left to right: .223 Rem., .300 BLK, .300 HAM’R. The HAM’R has a 1.603-inch case, 30 degree case shoulder, the same body diameter as .223 Rem. and Blackout — with a whole lot more power!

Lever-action rifles are good, but the AR-15 is gooder as my long-departed friend Jimmy would say. The .300 HAM’R may jolt a 130-grain JSP bullet to 2,500 fps. While the 150-grain bullet seems most accurate. Several loads I tested provided 1 to 2-inch groups at 100 yards.

Performance

The rifle is comfortable to fire. I cannot say the .300 HAM’R is more difficult to handle than the 5.56mm. It certainly packs a greater punch. For most of us, the 5.56mm is the more practical choice. However, the .300 HAM’R cartridge is based on the .223 Rem., so conversion is easy enough for those with an interest.

Optic Selection

Among the finest optics of any type (for the money) is the TRUGLO Omnia 6. I have extensive experience with TRUGLO products. Most are inexpensive and some, such as the Omnia, are middle of the road. This scope may be used at 1x and fired with both eyes open, allowing the scope to perform like a red dot sight. Crank the magnification up, and you have a scope well suited to precision fire past 200 yards.

TruGlo Omnia 6 riflescope
The Omnia 6 may be used at 1x and fired with both eyes open, allowing the scope to perform like a red dot sight. Crank the magnification up and you have a scope well suited to precision fire past 200 yards.

Conclusion: Wilson Combat Protector

As for myself, and most shooters, the 5.56mm rifle will be the better choice for all-around plinking fun, serious target shooting, and personal defense. I have fired a good number of Wilson Combat’s rifles. The Wilson Combat Protector, regardless of caliber, is a credible choice for all-around use. I like the rifle very much. Don’t let the lighter tariff (price tag) fool you. This is a true Wilson Combat rifle.

Sure, $2K for an AR-15 is still expensive, but it’s also a spectacular price for a Wilson Combat AR-15. How do you rate the Protector? Share your answer in the comment section.

  • Wilson Combat Protector AR-15 with logo underneath
  • Adjustable butt stock from Wilson Combat
  • Ar-15 rifle right profile
  • partial view of the bolt carrier from an AR-15
  • TruGlo Omnia 6 riflescope
  • AR-15 rifle with six position stock and magazine inseerted
  • Forend of the Wilson Combat Protector AR-15 showing the muzzle brake
  • Wilson Combat Protector AR-15 shown vertically with the muzzle brake pointing up

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. @ron
    Yeah… no joke.
    My thin profile bbl non chromed lined 1:9 twist does fine handling .223 Rem Steel cased cheap Russian garbage ammo all the way up to brass M193 55gr and M855 62gr if I decide to push it out to a few hundred meters. Not %100 sure who made the bbl though. It’s stamped DPMS… but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s from back when before Cerberus bought out all of it. Ya know, when stuff was made decent before Luth sold his soul to the folks in NY.

  2. The review was fine if all you want to know is what Wilson parts were used to build a Wilson AR. For my money, I want to see some objective results. What size groups were shot with this Wilson “Match Barrel”? I have seen way too many so called Match Barrels that will not consistently shoot groups under 1.5″ MOA. For 2 Grand, that’s not good enough. Show me the targets.

  3. $2k is concidered the “cheap” version of Wilson Combat….? Yeah, one of those will never be in my possesion… I know WC is expensive and all but I can’t even afford a WC keychain or sticker, let alone their new “budget” AR. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to stick to my crappy $600 DPMS Oracle with carry handle iron sights that’s served me just fine for almost a decade and several thousand rounds. Not exactly the latest and greatest but it’s functional and reliable. Guess it helps that I actually assembled the ENTIRE thing myself though. Part by part, piece by piece… down to assembling the BCG.

  4. Being LEFT EYE dominant, especially looking at the Latest Greatest Gizmo AR, which miraculously look just like ALL the rest of the AR’s at a store, or show, if it doesn’t AT THE VERY LEAST have full ambidextrous controls, I stop reading and looking, as the AR REALLY needs to get with the program, DO A FULL REDUE to become AMBIDEXTROUS!!!! It is no longer “wrong handed people”, BECAUSE any GOOD tactical training will FORCE ambidextrous situations. I love watching “the RIGHTY ONLY” crowd when forced into the “wrong hand ambidextrous” world. Seriously, the DATED AR platform (which I love) is OVERDUE for an upgrade. A fine example of what I am suggesting would be the LWRC IC DI Standard in 5.56. Once made like this, it only requires a few parts to make a TRUE LEFT HAND version as well, and both still being AMBIDEXTROUS.

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