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Harrington & Richardson XM177E2 Review: The Lion Eats The Pony

Harrington & Richardson XM177E2 Review: The Lion Eats The Pony
The H&R XM177E2, featuring a reproduction canteen strap sling and a knockoff Colt 3X scope.

The author checks out a Harrington & Richardson XM177E2 clone, one of the excellent retro AR options in PSA’s H&R line.

Retro AR-style rifles are incredibly popular right now. The last time the industry saw this many carry handle uppers, the general wisdom when it came to buying one was still to “mind your ABCs.”  That meant that of the already limited AR-15 options on the market, you were best off getting one from either Armalite, Bushmaster or Colt.

The AR market is obviously very different today, but some things never change. When it comes to clones and historical reproductions, collectors will still pay a pretty penny for the right rollmark, especially that damn rampant pony.

Yes, despite contemporary Colt being connected to the Colt of old by name only, that’s the brand that many retro AR enthusiasts still want. Slightly understandable, given that Colt manufactured the vast majority of M16 rifles for the American armed forces during the Vietnam War. But there was another—Harrington & Richardson.


Colt was unable to meet the government’s production demands on its own, so H&R was contracted alongside GM’s Hydra-Matic Division to tool up as well. Between 1968 and 1970, H&R would manufacture about a quarter-million M16 rifles. This was the lowest number of all three companies, making original Harrington & Richardson M16s some of the rarest and most desirable.

Originals, of course, remain hard to get, regardless of what company manufactured them. Reproductions and clones are therefore what most casual collectors rely on these days, as they’re close enough to scratch the itch without breaking the bank.

Thanks to Palmetto State Armory’s recent acquisition of the Harrington & Richardson brand as well as NoDak Spud, H&R-marked retro ARs are now one of the options on the market. I’d also argue that they’re currently the best available.

While Harrington & Richardson only ever made M16A1 rifles, the new H&R brand under PSA offers many reproduction models outside of that and more are promised to be on the way. Most of these are based on the excellent reproduction parts that NoDak Spud made when it was operating independently. To check out the new H&R line, I requested one of my favorite AR configurations to review—the XM177E2.


Harrington & Richardson XM177E2

For those who aren’t aware, the XM177 series was made by Colt as an answer to the U.S. military’s request for a shortened M16. In those days, these compact guns were considered submachine guns, but today we’d describe them as carbines and as the granddaddy to the M4. Called the Model 629 by Colt but designated as the XM177E2 once adopted by the military, it’s simply an improved version of the Colt Model 609 or XM177E1. The biggest difference between the two was the barrel being lengthened from 10 inches to 11.5 inches.

Now, if the H&R XM177E2 had the correct barrel length, it would need to be registered as an SBR. This is the first area where the reproduction departs from the original design, but it’s an understandable concession.

This was made easier of course due to the real XM177E2 featuring a massive 4.5-inch moderator. It allowed Harrington & Richardson to use a 12.7-inch barrel with a pin-and-weld job to bring the total length of its repro to the legally necessary 16 inches. This makes H&R’s clone only a bit more than 1 inch longer than the real deal.

The pencil barrel with its pin-and-weld faux moderator. Notice the bayonet lug has been appropriately removed as well. The carbon streaking of this BLEM model is especially visible here, but it’s barely noticeable in person.

Unfortunately, the original moderator design slightly reduced the decibel level of a gunshot, making them legally suppressors by the ATF’s rules. Accordingly, the H&R XM177E2 moderator only looks the part and otherwise functions like a standard flash hider.

Besides those little details, to my eye, the H&R XM177E2 is a near-perfect clone. It features the correct rubber-coated aluminum telescopic buttstock, 2-hole buffer tube and even the correct profile lower receiver. The bayonet lug has been appropriately shaved off as well, and it ships with excellent reproduction furniture and a 20-round magazine. Of course, the rifle is also sporting the correct gray finish on its metal parts. Put together, when you pick one up, it feels like it’s fresh off the line from 1969. That said, there are a few other small inaccuracies that keep it from being a perfect clone, but H&R did an impressive job of getting so many little details correct while keeping the price affordable. It even has the right A1-style dust cover port, something that few buyers would likely even notice.

The XM177E2’s A1-style lower vs. a modern A2 style. Notice the different profile of the fronts near the pivot pin. You can also see the H&R’s retro gray finish here compared to standard black.

I should also mention that I received a BLEM model. When people buy BLEM guns from PSA, more often than not, they can’t even find the imperfection that got it labeled as such. That’s not the case with the example I was sent, but the issues are still barely visible. In the right light, some minor carbon streaking can be seen in certain areas of finish, but it’s incredibly subtle. If you’re in the market for an H&R AR, I’d recommend going with a BLEM model to save some money unless you’re incredibly particular. It’s a military-style rifle after all, and if you shoot it the way it deserves, the scratches will overshadow any blemishes anyway.

Run Through The Flat Range

Frankly, I have nothing special to report from my range time with the H&R XM177E2. It performed exactly as it should—boringly reliable. I didn’t even clean or lube it out of the box, and the only malfunction it had in over 500 rounds was caused by a magazine.

It shot just as one would expect of a lightweight AR with a carbine gas system. That’s to say—not as smooth as a full-size M16 rifle but still an incredibly soft shooter. The iron sights were dead on out of the box as well, at least good enough to ring steel at 200 yards.


Given that this gun’s barrel features the correct 1:12 twist, one should stick with 55-grain ammo for the best results. Huge shoutout to for supplying the Fiocchi Range Dynamics .223 Rem. 55-gr FMJBT that was used for this review. The XM177E2 ate through 500 rounds of it without a single issue, as well as 20 rounds each of Tulammo and Lake City M855 just for the sake of variety.

As for magazines, I tested the included reproduction 20-round GI mag, an original Vietnam-era Colt 20-round mag, aluminum STANAGs, P-Mags and an old Orlite mag. The Orlite was the only one that didn’t work and caused the singular malfunction of the review.


Parting Shot

For military history enthusiasts with an interest in the Vietnam War, it’s hard to not love this rifle. I couldn’t find a single thing to complain about. Besides the addition of a sling, the only change I plan on making is replacing the reproduction pistol grip with an original surplus one I already have lying around. I may also remove the front sling loop just to copy the cool guys that ran around with these back in the day.

The best part about the Harrington & Richardson XM177E2 (and the other guns in H&R’s catalog) is its price. BLEM models like mine have an MSRP of only $1,149.99, making them far more accessible than other clone guns and reproduction parts on the market.


For example, Colt offers its own XM177E2 reproduction that’s very similar to H&R’s, but it has a whopping price tag of $2,599. While I’ve only briefly handled one in person, there was nothing about it that suggested it’s worth over $1,000 more than H&R’s take on the concept.

While once a great American firearms company, Colt isn’t even owned by Americans anymore, and it’s pretty clear that the rampant pony has lost its steam. While the H&R lion rollmark may be a minor historical inaccuracy when it comes to XM177E2 clones, it’s close enough, and all the other correct details more than compensate for it.

Whether you want to LARP as MACV-SOG or you just want a classic, well-built and lightweight 5.56mm carbine, the H&R XM177E2 is more than worth checking out. As mentioned, there are plenty of other models to choose from as well.

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Hardware Talk: Dillon Wrench Rack Set

Hardware Talk: Dillon Wrench Rack Set
The Dillon wrench kit comes complete: All you have to do is assemble it onto your press. They are press-specific, so make sure you get the correct one.

Do you ever say to yourself you’ve had enough? More specifically, have you had enough with the litter of tools on your loading bench?

I have.

I’m regularly swapping toolheads to change calibers on my presses as I test this or that, trying something new or swapping calibers. I tried to keep the Allen wrenches for those adjustments in a plastic box, but they always ended up on the bench.

And then, where on the bench were they? Mumble … mumble … mutter.

I finally had enough, so when I saw the wrench rack from Dillon, I knew my 550 and 750 were each going to get a set. The rack is simple: It’s a heavy-gauge stamping that you bolt to the top back of your strong mount, behind your press. You don’t use a strong mount? We’re going to have to talk about that in the next issue.

Dillon has it all covered. You bolt the plate by means of the rear bolts on your press/strong mount setup. The kit comes with the Allen wrench sizes you need to work on your press, plus a die ring wrench as well. They all slide right into their reserved spots. And, just to make it even easier, Dillon includes a strip of label, with the sizes already printed on it, and they’re spaced to line up with the spot for each of them.

The Dillon wrench kit bolts into your strong mount, on the back of your Dillon press. Once there, it’s in easy reach to put each one back when done.

Hot tip: Install the label before you bolt on the plate to save yourself the stretching and reaching to get the label in place after you’ve bolted things together.

Wait, there’s more. The wrenches come with the angle to the short leg of each one pre-dipped in vinyl, so you have a good grip and can see the wrench clearly when you go to pluck it out of the rack. As an extra bonus, the working end is a ball-end wrench tip, so you can spin the wrench even when you approach the screw you’re tightening from an angle.

Of course, gear doesn’t come cheap. The kit runs $46 from Dillon.

“Ouch,” you say?

You can buy the wrenches for a buck each. Yes, you can. But then you’ll still have them scattered on your loading bench or in a box you have to find. Once you lose one or use it someplace else and leave it there, you’ll buy another. And another. You’ll end up with three, four or five sets of them scattered to the winds.

With the Dillon kit, you have a place for them. And the Dillon blue vinyl coating lets you know “This is a loading room wrench; I have to get it back there.”

I’m not saying you need to go full-on Marie Kondo on your loading room, bench and components storage, but keeping the tools that get things properly adjusted is a smart thing to do. And when you can make a change by simply grabbing the handy wrench and put it back right where it was, your loading process will be less distracted, more focused and more productive.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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Practice Or Panic: Team Tactic Basics For Couples And Families

Practice Or Panic: Team Tactic Basics For Couples And Families

If you and your loved ones expect to keep cool in an emergency, you need to practice team tactics.

When most think of team tactics, they envision highly trained Delta Force operatives—or a SWAT team—breaching a door and conducting a dynamic entry. That’s a good example of team tactics in action … but few of us will ever participate in an activity like that.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop your team tactics. Well, unless you’re a hermit who has no friends and has moved to the mountains to live alone and write a manifesto. Most normal humans have other humans they often hang with, whether they’re their good friend, a spouse or children.

I’ve had some team tactics training. As a soldier, and back in my badge-wearing days, it was part of the curriculum. I’ve also attended a team tactics course at Gunsite Academy that focused on civilian teams, like a husband and a wife. Recently, I also did some work helping Benghazi survivor and master firearms instructor David “Boon” Benton, who was portrayed in the movie 13 Hours, train our local SWAT team.

You’ll learn tactical theory at a team tactics class, but most learning occurs during after action reviews following tactical simulations.

Regardless of the group or situation, there are two things that team operations—whether they involve a six- or two-man team—have in common: A tactically proficient and successful team must have a plan, and they must have good communication.

Determine Your Team

If you’re a loner, you’re your own team (and hopefully someday you’ll find another human who finds you moderately tolerable). For the rest of us who are at least semi-normal, we’ll have a good friend and/or a significant other with whom we’re commonly around. This is your team, and it might also include children.

A good civilian team tactics course will address common situations like you might experience around vehicles and in parking lots.

Each team member should also have a job. These jobs could be as simple as following your mother, calling 911 or holding on to the hands of your siblings. A job for a team member could be as simple as being armed and making sure an emergency first aid kit is present and accessible, and all team members should be responsible for not forgetting to have their cell phone with them.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s best when kept simple and generic, and don’t put excessive responsibility on the backs of untrained or juvenile team members. However, every team member should know what the job of the other team members are. At a minimum, this tells them who to look to for guidance, and if capable, others know what each team member is responsible for and then they can assume that role if necessary.

A team tactics course isn’t a shooting course. It’s primarily a course to teach you and your partner how to work—stay alive—together.

In fact, establishing a team chain of command is important. If you’re identified as the team leader, but your wife and kids are out without you, generally your wife would assume that role. This means one of the kids—if capable and of a responsible age—can assume the duties of your wife. This goes a long way toward answering the question, “Dad’s not here. What now?”

Have A Plan

It’s impossible to develop a comprehensive plan for every situation that might develop. However, you can institute operating guidelines for common tasks that might occur. These are established tactical responses, predetermined to deal with things that have a high probability of happening.

Dealing with doors is a perfect example.

During one team tactics course, my partner and I were presented with various reality-based scenarios we had to react to. This was during force-on-force exercises where all the participants were armed with handguns that fired Simunitions. During the prior day while under the guidance of an instructor, my partner and I were given an opportunity to establish some operating guidelines: make a plan.

Don’t go to team tactics course planning to learn how to shoot or to run your gun. You need to know that before you get there.

One of our plans was how we’d deal with opening closed doors that led into the unknown. Just before the Simunition training began, I told my partner we should deal with every door just as we had decided during the previous day. This worked well and eliminated unnecessary communication and possible confusion. When we approached a closed door that we had to go through, each of us knew—without a word—what we were supposed to do.

This same concept can apply to a lot of situations.

Let’s say you want to establish a plan to tactically exit a location by vehicle. In this instance, you could identify the person who will drive, where each team member shall sit and how to access the vehicle depending on the direction of approach and even the direction of the potential threat. Sure, when the time comes to implement the plan there may be extenuating circumstances—the pre-identified driver might be injured—but you can plan for that as well: If team member A is injured, then team member C will drive.

What do you do if your partner gets hurt? You should have a plan for that.

If you have children, it’s very important to include them in these plans. It’s also important to dry run the plan to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you have an infant, who is going to carry him or her? It could be your wife or an older sibling. If you’re planning a response to a home invasion or burglar, the kids need to know what to do when the alarm sounds.

You should also always have at least one contingency; if you cannot do plan A, execute plan B. Similarly, you should also have a rendezvous point established outside the home, and you should also do the same for commonly trafficked locations such as malls or shopping centers.

Instructors at a team tactics course not only evaluate your tactics, but they also critique and help you learn to communicate with your partner.


More than anything else, communication is the most important aspect of team tactics.

Let’s say, for example, you and your wife are engaged in a gunfight and you either need to reload, have a stoppage or maybe you dropped your gun. Your wife needs to know about this while it’s happening; she needs to know why you aren’t shooting or why you’re hiding behind the car. And she needs to be made aware of this without having to watch you or look to see what you’re doing.

How will you and your partner handle a corner like this? You need to know beforehand, and that’s part of planning.

Screaming, “I’m reloading!” or “I’ve lost my gun!” takes too many words and might not be a good idea. Establish simple and direct communications for potential issues ahead of time. You could simply yell out, “Working!” and your wife would know you’re temporarily unavailable. To let her know the problem has been solved, your communication could be as simple as “Up!”

You and your partner should know how to solve simple tactical problems with minimal communication.

Talking while shooting or while responding to a lethal encounter doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that needs to be practiced. Also, if you’re in a face-to-face encounter with a potential threat, having an action word that’ll key your partner in on an action you’re about to take is a good idea—kind of the opposite of a “safe” word, if you know what I mean. But in some situations, your communication can and should be non-verbal.

You should have hand signals that help convey actions or actives like to cover or watch, to move or maybe even run. Similarly, you should be able to convey the direction you want to move or the location of a potential threat. Think these communications through, keep them as simple as possible and limit them to the obvious. This isn’t a time to establish a new and comprehensive sign language; you simply want to be able to convey highly probable observations or instructions without words, as clearly and quickly as possible.

Team tactics should be developed with your partner and include the weapon systems you’ll be using.

Go To School

The best way (of course) to learn team tactics is to take a class from a reputable school. But keep in mind that most team tactics courses aren’t shooting courses: Don’t expect to attend a team tactics class to learn how to shoot. In fact, many schools offering team tactics training have a training prerequisite so that they know you can shoot and handle a firearm safely before they’ll let you in the class. Yeah, you’ll do some shooting in a team tactics class, but you won’t learn to shoot in a team tactics class.

Gun-handling skills should be learned before attending a team tactics course.

This might seem overly stringent, but it makes perfect sense. It takes about five, 8-hour days of training to go from a non-shooter to someone who is safe and reasonably competent with a defensive handgun. A basic team tactics course should be, at a minimum, 2 to 3 days long … and ideally 5 days. To learn to shoot and to learn team tactics could consume 2 weeks, and most of us can’t take 2 weeks off from life to do that. It’s just like with any other firearms discipline—you learn to shoot and then you learn the tactics.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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New Guns And Gear March 2024

New Guns And Gear March 2024

Looking for a new iron or piece of kit to enhance the one you already own? Check out these 7 new bits of guns and gear to grow your firearms wish list.

The New Guns And Gear:

WOOX Titano

Heirloom looks with state-of-the-art performance, the WOOX Titano stands out in competition stocks. Tailored for Benchrest and F-Class shooters, the stock boasts a stunning American walnut stock and an aircraft-grade aluminum chassis. With a 3-inch fore and wide barrel channel supporting up to 1.20-inch diameter barrels, it accommodates large fire tubes common to comp rifles. Furthermore, WOOX’s Suspense weight system allows you to precisely balance the system with six 2.5-ounce weights. The buttstock is fully adjustable for both the length of pull and cheek rise. Other notables include a smooth-bottom bag rider butt and Integrated thumb rests to enhance grip comfort.
MSRP: $999

Taylor’s & Company 1875 Outlaw Revolver

Taylors 1875
A collaboration with Uberti, Taylor’s & Company offers up a faithful reproduction of a classic Remington single-action, but with a modern twist—it’s chambered for 9mm. While no Old West outlaws pitch Parabellum, the modernization effort makes it easier on contemporary cowboys’ pocketbooks. Available in 7.5- and 5.5-inch barrel lengths, the 1875 Outlaw features smooth walnut grips, a forged blued steel frame, a rear frame notch and a fixed front blade sight. Also, the webbed ejector rod helps the wheelgun cut an unmistakable profile. It’s enough to make Frank James envious.
MSRP: $698

StopBox Chamber Lock

chamber lock
New or old, it’s wise to stop the unauthorized use of a firearm. That’s where the Chamber Lock comes into play. At once, it keeps a firearm safe, yet at hand. Construct-ed from Type II hard-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum, it features a patented mechanical hand gesture code lock, ensuring intuitive use even in low-light or high-stress situations. The lock offers six configurable combinations, expandable to 16 with the Actuator Accessory Pack, although preset combinations are recommended for optimal security. Compatible with most AR-15s and shotguns.
MSRP: $150

MTM Case-Gard Bull Rifle Rest

MTM rifle rest
Dialing in a rifle is the key to a solid shooting platform. MTM Case-Gard provides just this with its affordable Bull Rifle Rest. With an adjustable length between 18.3 and 26 inches, it accommodates nearly any long-gun you shoulder. Additionally, the lightweight rest features slip-free rubber feet and a wide stance, for a wobble-free shooting base. And front elevation adjustments are easily made on the rest, thanks to a screw system allowing you to get a rifle or shotgun situated just right.
MSRP: $43

Mission First Tactical Leather Hybrid Holsters

MFT holster
What a looker! Too bad it’s meant to be kept under wraps. This Kydex and leather gem offers exact tolerances, secure retention and easy re-holstering. Plus, the hanger requires no break-in time compared to its traditional leather cousins. Versatile for AIWB, IWB or OWB use, it accommodates right- and left-hand positioning. Additionally, the American-made hybrids are red-dot compatible and have an audible “CLICK” when you re-holster.
MSRP: $70

Ruger Diamond Anniversary Limited Edition SR1911 Pistol

Ruger Diamond 1911
In celebration of its 75th year, Sturm, Ruger & Company presents its limited-edition 75th Anniversary Ruger SR1911. This iconic pistol features a finely detailed, laser-engraved slide and custom grip panels with intricate scrollwork. Ruger’s CNC-controlled machining ensures precision, while the classic 1911 fire control and positive barrel lockup enhance accuracy. You’ll have to act fast on these beauties, only 750 units are being produced in 2024, and each pistol bears the special R75 serial number prefix and ships in a marked case with two stainless-steel magazines.
MSRP: $1,800

Federal Premium Hydra-Shok Deep .32 Auto

Federal 32 Auto
In the day and age of deep carry, good ol’ .32 ACP is making a bit of a comeback. Federal Premium is supporting its renaissance with the introduction of Hydra-Shok Deep in the pocket caliber. Rigorous testing and stringent manufacturing processes ensure superb accuracy and consistent ballistic performance of this ammo. Furthermore, the notched copper jacket of the Hydra-Shok bullet ensures consistent controlled expansion and adequate stopping power trigger pull in and out.
MSRP: $35, box of 20

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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