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Maker of Child-Sized AR-15 Rifles Rebrands — For Hiking?

Wee1 Tactical’s founders have created a new company to once again sell scaled-down, .22-caliber AR-15s

Wee1 Tactical — a gun maker that gained notoriety in 2022 for manufacturing and selling the “JR-15,” a .22-caliber AR-15 scaled down for children that, according to the company’s marketing materials, “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun” — has rebranded as Mountain Billy Gun Lab to reintroduce the JR-15, now called the “GOAT-15.”

To learn more about the gun industry’s attempts to market firearms to children, click here.

A Wee1 Tactical advertisement for child-sized AR-15s marketed as "JR-15s."

Shortly after Wee1 Tactical introduced the JR-15 at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2022 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, with a website and ads featuring “skull and crossbone” cartoons with pacifiers to match engravings on the JR-15, the company was heavily criticized. Not only are firearms the leading cause of death among children and teens, but AR-15-style assault weapons have also been used in several mass shootings at schools, including in Nashville, Newtown, Parkland, St. Louis, and Uvalde.

A Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity filing for tax incentives shows that Wee1 Tactical dissolved before it could sell JR-15 rifles — and the company’s website appears to have shut down last fall — but its founders formed Mountain Billy Gun Lab to bring the JR-15 to market as the GOAT-15.

A Shift in Marketing Strategy

According to Mountain Billy Gun Lab’s website, the “GOAT-15 is meticulously designed for those with an active lifestyle looking for a lightweight, compact gun to carry while hiking or camping,” including “survivalists” and “nature lovers.” To that end, the site features photos of people hiking and camping — and several of a man with a GOAT-15 strapped to his backpack — and claims the rifle “makes target practice, plinking, and even hunting small game much more fun and convenient.”

It’s unclear why someone would need a .22-caliber AR-15 styled after a military rifle for those pursuits. But the website still emphasizes that the GOAT-15 can be used to train new shooters, including children, in how to use an AR-15. The site describes the GOAT-15 as the “perfect training gun” and states, “Friends and family with little to no experience shooting a gun will enjoy learning with this specialized, lightweight rifle.”

One of the company’s co-founders is quoted on the site next to a photo of two young women hiking in the mountains: “My daughter has always loved the outdoors and she met a lot of friends in college with similar interests. She had the opportunity to introduce the GOAT-15 to some of them who are first time shooters. They were shocked by how light the gun is and how easy it was to learn!”

The other co-founder is quoted as saying, “I had so much fun shooting cans, bottles, targets — whatever I could get my hands on when I was younger and still learning how to use a gun. I remember taking my whole family camping in the Uinta mountains and all enjoyed target shooting. I specifically designed the GOAT-15 to be light, compact, and to fire quickly so you and your family can have even better experiences doing these things!”

more rifles on the way

Because of its light recoil, the .22 Long Rifle (LR) caliber is a popular choice for teaching children how to shoot. According to one NRA publication, a .22-caliber “rimfire rifle is the perfect way to start a youngster down the path of a lifetime” of gun ownership. Mountain Billy Gun Lab is not the first company to produce a .22-caliber AR-15 for that purpose. For example, Smith & Wesson has sold .22-caliber AR-15s — and shown children using them on social media — for years. But the JR-15 and GOAT-15 are the first intentionally designed to be approximately 20-percent smaller than a typical AR-15 to fit children.

During an interview at the National Rifle Association’s recent Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas, Texas, where Mountain Billy Gun Lab was an exhibitor, a spokesperson said the company is already shipping GOAT-15 rifles to distributors like Palmetto State Armory and plans to release a scaled-down. 22-caliber version of the AK-47, another type of assault weapon, next year.

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