The H&R Handi-Rifle for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.
AAC’s 300 Blackout cartridge has been fairly inescapable in the last couple of years. As much as I try to avoid trends, this one caught up to me. Admittedly, the appeal of a rifle cartridge that’s capable of taking deer, hogs, and smaller game while also offering the option of quiet, subsonic loadings is hard to deny. Especially when the rounds fit in a standard AR-15 platform in the same magazines at the same capacity. Of course, chambering a single-shot H&R Handi-Rifle for this tacticool caliber is bucking the trend, at least a little . . .
And handy (handi?) it is! While the barrel length does just barely exceed the NFA-mandated minimum of 16″, it sure doesn’t look it. This break-open, single shot rifle doesn’t have a lot going on behind the chamber — nothing reciprocating to get rid of empty shells (unlike a bolt action or semi-auto) and no room needed for recoil assemblies, bolt clearance, etc. The result is a barrel that starts right in front of the trigger instead of some 3-or-more inches forward, making the whole gun look extremely compact.
Also contributing to its abbreviated appearance is a youth-sized stock – length of pull is only 12″. For reference, an adjustable AR-15 stock will usually have you at just under 11″ when fully collapsed and reaching 14.5″ or a tad more for the trigger when fully extended. In a more powerful caliber I’d probably want to make some adjustments, but I found this perfectly comfortable for shooting the 300 BLK.
Tipping the scales at a hair under 5 lbs. and measuring only 30″ long, it’s easy to pack around. Front and rear sling studs are there to help. Basically, all of these things combine to make the “Handi” moniker much more than just marketing-speak.
Marketing may be partially responsible for a price tag that’s $75 higher than the rest of the Handi-Rifle line, though. I won’t whine too much, as this rifle has a threaded barrel with thread protector and a phosphate finish instead of H&R’s standard bluing, so you’re getting more for your money than just an AAC logo and a hip caliber.
Those threads are cut 5/8-24, which is more or less the standard for AR-10’s and other modern .308/7.62×51 rifles. They’re nice and clean and the shoulder is plenty sufficient to solidly mount your suppressor.
Side Note: In my case, that suppressor is my Liberty Mystic. It’s technically a 9mm pistol suppressor, but the sweet things about the Mystic are that it’s “overbuilt” and that there are lots of mount options for it. I run a booster for recoil-operated pistols, a fixed mount for 1/2-28 pistols with fixed barrels (e.g. most .22s), that same mount for ARs, the Tavor, and .22 rifles, and a 5/8-24 mount for this Handi-Rifle. Yes, “overbuilt” means that this pistol silencer can stand up to 5.56, 7.62×39, 300 BLK even on full auto, every pistol caliber 9mm or smaller in diameter, and a handful of other rifle calibers. The huge list on Liberty’s site isn’t even inclusive. It’s a little on the large side for a 9mm pistol can, but it’s one of the very quietest on the market, it’s easy to take apart and clean, and it’s also one of the quietest on the market for nearly every other caliber it handles.
AAC’s specs for a Handi-Rifle didn’t include iron sights. Instead, a nice picatinny rail resides on top of the receiver. It put a 4-12×50 scope in just the right place for proper eye relief, and a red dot worked perfectly as well. While the scope was good for accuracy testing, the rifle was an awful lot of fun with the red dot.
Pushing on the tab to the right of the hammer unlocks the action and allows the barrel to tip forward.
As the barrel tilts, an extractor extends out from the breech and pulls your brass about a centimeter away from the chamber. This makes grabbing the empty case easy, and all of the rounds I shot slid out nicely. When you insert a fresh round, the spring tension on that extractor pops it into the case rim and holds the round in place. Lift up on the forearm to close the action and it locks solidly by way of the large locking lug that you see under the extractor in the photo above.
Since the Handi-Rifle is a single action firearm, nothing happens unless you manually cock the hammer back first. Neither opening nor closing the action has any effect on the hammer — if it’s down it stays down, if it’s cocked it stays cocked. In addition to requiring manual input, the other primary safety on this firearm is a transfer bar. It must be up and between the hammer and the firing pin for the hammer to effectively reach the firing pin. As this only happens if the hammer is cocked and the trigger pulled, you can safely carry the rifle with a live round chambered and the hammer down. A blow to the back of the hammer can’t cause it to touch the firing pin. Should you then want to fire, it’s just a cock away.
A scope may very well impede your access to the hammer (see video above), much like it will on many lever action rifles. H&R does make a hammer spur, which extends off the hammer to one side or the other so you can more easily reach it. Another option is cocking the hammer before you close the action. This is great if you’re going to shoot right away, but wouldn’t be recommended otherwise as it leaves only a short trigger pull to a fired round.
In the black corner, weighing in at a hair under 4 lbs, nice and wide with smooth curves, is the Handi-Rifle trigger. I suppose engineering a really good trigger in a single shot, single action firearm is about as simple as it can get, and H&R didn’t drop the ball here. It’s dead solid with zero pretravel. Even more of nothing happens as you approach the break weight — it doesn’t creep at all. Then, a clean break.
For really precise shooting I’d like to lighten it up a bit, but fundamentally it’s awesome, especially considering the purchase price. I’ve been trying to include a slow, close-up trigger pull in my videos to give a better feel for these things, and you’ll find that in this one.
Armed with two supersonic and two subsonic 300 Blackout loads from Gorilla Ammo, plus a box of 147 grain Armscor, I settled down on a sandbag for accuracy testing at 36 yards. That’s right, 36 yards. I broke my dang foot a week before heading to the woods to film the video and do the accuracy groups, and that’s simply as far as I could hobble up into the trees.
With a 1:7 twist rate and 5R rifling, the Handi-Rifle stabilized bullets from 110 to 220 grains, from fast (~2,300 fps) to slow (~1,000 fps), and shot them all accurately. Five-shot group results were as follows:
- Gorilla 110 grn Hornady V-Max: 0.995″
- Gorilla 125 grn Nosler Ballistic Tip: 0.80″
- Armscor 147 grn FMJ: 1.175″
- Gorilla 208 grn Hornady A-Max: 0.91″
- Gorilla 220 grn Sierra MatchKing: 1.454″ (0.44″ w/out flyer)
I’m fairly certain that “flyer” with the MatchKing was my fault — I remember anticipating the trigger break on a shot and pushing the stock with my shoulder. A better shooter with a better rest and a better scope (it’s time I upgrade…this old, cheap one was harassing me with parallax at 36 yds) could almost certainly put some really impressive groups on paper with the Handi-Rifle. Again, especially considering the cost of entry.
The Armscor provided the most solid thump to the shoulder, but, generally speaking, supersonic 300 BLK is in the same power level as 5.56 and you get just a little more felt recoil out of it due to the extra bullet mass. This is still a very light recoiling rifle round and is great for youngsters, beginners, etc. Putting out about 500 ft-lbs of energy, the subsonic loads are pussycats. While the rubber recoil pad on the Handi-Rifle is cushy and nice, it doesn’t much matter in this caliber.
Though the box of Armscor was a good deal — that is, relatively speaking for 300 BLK prices — at $19.99 for 20, I should point out that one of the rounds refused to insert all the way. As far as I could tell, there was something wrong with the brass sizing that prevented it from fully chambering. Bullet depths varied, which was obvious from the amount of cannelure visible, but rounds with a longer overall length than the trouble one chambered just fine (they were all still under the SAAMI max OAL spec) so I think it had to do with the neck sizing.
Now that I’ve shot a bunch of it, I’m glad to see that the Gorilla Ammo appears to live up to its appearance. In response to this post, Gorilla offered TTAG readers 10% off until June 6th if you happen to be in the market. I did pick up some of their .223 and will be adding that to another ~dozen companies’ loads from 40 grain to 79 grain for a full-on Tavor accuracy test (at 100 yards, conducted by a local long-range shooting instructor, then moving out to maybe 400 yards with a couple of the best-performing loads) coming in the not-too-distant future.
Big thanks to Kentucky Gun Company for loaning TTAG the rifle, but big, sarcastic “thanks a lot” to them also since I’m now breaking out my wallet to buy it.
Single shot is actually pretty cool. It’s a lot of fun to shoot, it keeps you from meaninglessly burning through ammo, and it makes saving your brass really easy. The AAC H&R Handi-Rifle is compact, lightweight, and incredibly maneuverable. Well…fine, I’ll say it again: it’s handy.
I’m fairly certain it’s capable of better accuracy than I was on that day, but either way it’s more than accurate enough for hunting and for fun on the range. Great trigger.
Plinking with a red dot was a blast, made even better by the lack of blast. Any 9mm suppressor on the market will handle subsonic 300 Blackout, and it’s definitely a fun round to shoot. Sure, it makes about the same power level as a .45 ACP would out of a rifle like this, but it’s a much sleeker bullet that can stay accurate out to a few hundred yards. Plus, pop in a supersonic round and now you’re deer hunting and extending your accurate range way out there.
That said, I’m still not entirely on the 300 BLK train. Frankly, in a rifle like this (i.e., not a semi-automatic), I’d rather have it chambered in .308. Loading .308 to subsonic velocities would result in identical ballistics to 300 BLK (the same bullets at the same speed) and it wouldn’t change a thing as far as suppression goes. But obviously, the difference in the full-power loads is fairly substantial. Plus — at least as I write this today — .308 is actually less expensive than 300 BLK.
Especially if you already own an AR in 300 Blackout, I think you should give the Handi-Rifle a serious look. It would be a great addition. If you don’t own a suppressor, there really aren’t any reasons I’d suggest this caliber over basically any other one you might want. If you do own a suppressor, a versatile rifle cartridge with commercially-available subsonic ammo is pretty darn cool, which I guess explains why it’s so fashionable.
The H&R Handi-Rifle for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.
Caliber: 300 AAC Blackout
Capacity: 1 round
Action: Break action, hammer-fired
Build: Phosphate finished steel. Synthetic stock and forearm
Weight: 5 lbs
Barrel: 16.1″ low profile. Threaded 5/8-24 with 1:7 twist, 5R rifling
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Due to the break-open action, there’s no way to free float the barrel. If you’re a better shooter than I, this will be a limiting factor and you’re likely to experience some vertical stringing if you shoot rapidly enough to heat the barrel up.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The length of pull is pretty short, but it works. You could very easily swap the recoil pad for something thicker if you want to. I found the comb perfect for a nice cheek weld without needing a riser on the red dot, and it worked great with the scope on normal rings as well.
Reliability: * * * * *
Single shot, hammer fired. Giant locking lug. Good machining. Yeah, it’s going to work.
Customize This: * * * *
Threaded muzzle and picatinny rail. Stocks can be changed for others from the Handi-Rifle line. H&R will fit a different barrel to your receiver, and there are lots of barrels to choose from — including shotgun barrels — priced from $60 to $145.
Style: * * * ?
Honestly, I have no dang idea how to rate the 300 BLK Handi-Rifle for style. The thing has a pretty cool SBR-like look to it — it really does. Nobody believes the barrel makes the legal minimum. It looks pretty sweet with a suppressor attached and some sort of tactical optic on top. It’s all black. But, on the flip side, it’s pretty pedestrian in many ways, too. A very normal plastic stock attached to a straight barrel. It’s all black. Not much of interest happening. Yes, this is all contradictory in my own head also. It looks both tacticool and boring to me at the exact same time.
On The Range: * * * * *
Much more fun than I would have expected. With 300 BLK prices what they are, it’s even more enjoyable to load each round one at a time. The extractor works great, it’s accurate, it has light enough recoil that anyone can enjoy it, it has a great trigger, and it’s mechanically very simple.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
You have to knock it down a star or two for being single shot, right? But it’s going to make that up by being lighter and shorter than anything with a moving action can be. Plus, that mechanical simplicity pays off in reliability and a low MSRP. I’m hitting it just a touch for the price being $75 higher than other Handi-Rifles, though. I also think it would be cool if it came with spacers for the recoil pad so you can adjust that short length of pull. Still, this thing is better in many ways than its ~$339 price would suggest, and it’s a very handy and versatile little rifle that will probably last generations.