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 AmmunitionToGo.com 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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