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Gun Review: Bushmaster XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD

When Remington Outdoor (nee Freedom Group) bought Bushmaster in 2006, they moved manufacturing from Windham, Maine to Ilion, New York. When Remington Outdoor opened their Huntsville, Alabama plant, the brand moved again. There, Bushmaster found itself rubbing elbows with Remington subsidiaries like Advanced Armament and DPMS. The proximity presented an opportunity for Bushmaster to develop a rifle incorporating some of the more interesting tech lying around the shop. The result: the Bushmaster XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD.

To take full advantage of the opportunities Bushmaster chambered the XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD in .300 AAC Blackout — almost always the right caliber for really cool stuff.

The most obvious addition to a standard Bushmaster AR: an AAC 51-tooth flash hider mount. The AAC 51T adapter is one of the more popular designs, but it does mandate a commitment to AAC products. The 51T adapter accommodates AAC’s popular 762-SDN-6, for example, but won’t work for rival brands’ silencers. Just like Apple, Remington Outdoor seems determined to keep buyers in the AAC ecosystem.

The three-prong flash hider works extremely well for flash suppression, but it comes with a minor annoyance. Whenever you fire a round, cycle the action or dry fire the gun, the flash hider prongs act like a tuning fork, producing an audible “PING.” Some owners might find the sound a minor annoyance or even cool, but enthusiasts dedicated to maximum hush will be disappointed.

Another addition from the AAC side of the fence: the SquareDrop handguard.

For the longest time Bushmaster used standard AR-15 furniture. Their clam shell handguard and M4-style stock looked bulky and out-of-place in the modern AR-15 market. Addressing the issue, Bushmaster added Magpul MOE furniture to the line-up. But that’s just window dressing. Previously, there was only way to own a Bushmaster AR-15 with a modular free-floating handguard: buy one smothered in Picatinny rails, a setup that treats your support hand like a cheese grater processing fine mozzarella.

Bushmaster’s Minimalist-SD catches up with the times (this is the modern modular free-floating handguard you’ve been looking for). With AAC’s SquareDrop design SD owners can use either Keymod or Bushmaster’s proprietary KeyDrop system to attach lights, lasers, cigar holders, etc. on a reduced diameter handguard. A full-length Picatinny rail sits on the top of the handguard for your optic mounting pleasure.

The SD’s upper and lower receiver are unremarkable. That’s not a bad thing. The receivers are solidly built and assembled; I didn’t see any machining issues or find any noticeable wobble. That’s a solid win in my book. The SD’s trigger, however, is remarkable.

Normally, a entry-level AR-15 ships with an inexpensive “mil spec” trigger group so awful that pulling it makes Todd Hodnett weep sad, bitter tears. For the XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD, Bushmaster popped an ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger into the lower receiver. Given the price difference between mil spec meh and the quality and accuracy improvement delivered by the $69 MSRP ALG go-pedal, this was a no-brainer. And a slam dunk.

Capping off the accoutrements, Bushmaster threw out the usual “mil spec” stock and grip in favor of Mission First Tactical models. MFT’s gear is an ergonomic delight. The grip is comfortable to hold and the stock is solid yet lightweight. It’s another welcome upgrade from the standard Bushmaster offering.

Out on the range I tested the Bushmaster XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD with a variety of 300 BLK loadings, including supersonic and subsonic. I didn’t have a single issue with reliability. The gun ate everything I fed it, without hesitation.

For accuracy testing, I ran a couple of different loads to figure out what the gun likes best. The 16″ 1:7 twist barrel didn’t like heavy fast loads, delivering three- to four-inch groups with the 147-grain and 150-grain flavors I had on hand. In contrast, the lighter loads (e.g. Barnes TAC-TX 110 grain projectiles) reliably achieved 1/2 MoA groups at 100 yards. Given Bushmaster’s positioning as the value-priced tactical AR-15, that’s a highly impressive feat; due in no small part to that trigger.

I’m sitting here trying to think of things that could be improved on the Bushmaster XM15-E2S Minimalist-SD. The list is very short: an upgraded bolt carrier group, a nickel boron coating (given the fact that it’s intended to be suppressed) and a nicer charging handle. But in terms of value for money, you can’t fault its $1169 MSRP. (AAC’s version of this configuration runs in the $1,500 range.) In short, if you like this caliber, you’ll love this gun.


Barrel: 16 inch 1:7 twist heavy contour
Overall length: 35 inches
Available calibers: 5.56 NATO, 300 AAC Blackout (tested)
Weight: 6.3 lbs
Coating: Hard Anodizing, FNC barrel
MSRP: $1,169

RATINGS (Out of Five Stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
For a 300 BLK rifle this is about as good as it gets.

Ergonomics * * * *
Extra points for swapping the usual Picatinny forend for a proper modular handguard system. The Mission First Tactical furniture works and feels great.

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues, even when I threw in some rounds I found laying on the ground.

Overall * * * * 1/2
Buy it. Words I never thought I’d say about a Bushmaster.


  1. avatar EU says:

    Is the snake machined into the lower now, as opposed to a roll mark?

    What other lighter (~110 grain) loads did you shoot and groups besides the Barnes?

  2. avatar Mike Betts says:

    I think I’ll make a pizza tonight and use the handguard to grate the mozzarella, just to see if my bride registers her disapproval. I’ll probably have to take all of the do-dads off of the rails – but the cigar cutter stays.

    1. avatar Nigel, maker of things says:

      Fire a few rounds. You’ll have grilled motz 😉

  3. avatar Anon in CT says:

    There are actually adapters available to make other cans work with AAC’s 51T system. An additional expense to be sure, but if you have, say, a Liberty Cosmic, you’ll need some sort of mounting device anyway.

  4. avatar Ed says:

    Never buying anything from a freedom group company EVER. The commitment to quality is non existing and customer service is crap. No thanks.

    1. avatar Tony O. says:

      Honestly, I would never buy a Freedom Group AR-15 to shoot it as is. But the prices we’ve been seeing on DPMS Oracles have been extremely tempting. I work at an LGS and seeing one at work has got me thinking. I’ve got spare parts lying around, all the components I would want to swap out on the rifle. Goodbye, wrong height gas block! Later, oversized hand guards! Adios, mil-spec trigger! Never again, weird adjustable stock! And I’ve got a muzzle brake I’ve been wanting to try.

      Of course, I would need to buy a mil-spec tube, but other than that, not much. And I’d have the opportunity to do my own, proper, quality control. Making sure the barrel nut and castle nut are properly torqued, proper installation of other parts, etc.

    2. avatar Tony O. says:

      Honestly, I would never buy a Freedom Group AR-15 to shoot it as is. But the prices we’ve been seeing on DPMS Oracles have been extremely tempting. I work at an LGS and seeing one at work has got me thinking. I’ve got spare parts lying around, all the components I would want to swap out on the rifle. Goodbye, wrong height gas block! Later, oversized hand guards! Adios, mil-spec trigger! Never again, weird adjustable stock! And I’ve got a muzzle brake I’ve been wanting to try.

      Of course, I would need to buy a mil-spec tube, but other than that, not much. And I’d have the opportunity to do my own, proper, quality control. Making sure the barrel nut and castle nut are properly torqued, proper installation of other parts, etc.

  5. avatar T Parsons says:

    Does it have a carbine or pistol length gas system?
    What’s the deal with this “SquareDrop” holes?

  6. avatar Bob says:

    Seems as though this rifle is customize unto itself. Not a fan of companies that take a universal device and manufacture it so it draws you to use their other lines of products.

    Example, love the mini14 but refuse to own something that takes a specific mag when a NATO mag would have worked.

    1. avatar T Parsons says:

      The Mini14 was designed off the M14/M1A. Hence its mag release.

      1. avatar Bob says:


        But they were ok with miniaturizing the dimensions but not changing a mag release? Just seems like a tiny detail that could then allow it to share AR15 or AK mags.

        1. avatar NorincoJay says:

          The Mini was designed in the late 60’s early 70’s. That’s probably the best reason for the mag they use. They could change it now, but why there are tons of mini mags out there. Even if a little pricey.

        2. avatar Bob says:

          Yea, no reason to change now.

          My thoughts are along the line of their advertising, they’re trying to sell it as if its going to military and police units, if I were adding it to my lineup I would want the same mags used in my teams AR’s to interchange with it. I think sales may have been 20-50% greater if they were interchangeable, but that money was made up by selling a proprietary magazine.

  7. avatar Buzz Word says:

    I have the Bushmaster XM-15 E2S QRC chambered in 5.56/.223… about a thousand rounds or so through the gun without issues except lack of ammo: I’m new to the AR world and found the gun so fun to shoot I keep running out of $$$ for ammo! A few weeks later, I bought a Ruger AR-556 which I feel is a bit more ruggedly built than the Bushmaster.. again, no failures of any kind. I keep these two weapons nearby at all times to keep home invaders at bay. I like the 300 AAC round but my next AR will be in .308 Winchester for added defense against intruders wearing body armor. I will keep the other two hidden inside the walls as just-in-case guns. You would be well-served by almost any AR… just keep it clean and rest assured that your castle is well-defended.

    1. avatar Soylent Green says:

      dual wield for home defense!!

    2. avatar jake says:

      IDK man. if you are being attacked by cyborgs you will need EMP grenades..

    3. avatar NorincoJay says:

      The .308 will not do anything against someone wearing hard body armor. Both 5.56 and .308 will penetrate soft. Even black tip 30-06 won’t penetrate hard armor.

      1. avatar Buzz Word says:

        Quite correct. However, as ‘Demolition Ranch’ or some such YouTube channel pointed out, there are certain rounds that will penetrate hardened steel, some of which are legal. Some .223 rounds will too, but these are illegal as far as I know. If memory serves, velocity kills armor, even AR-500 steel plates, with the key velocities being about 3400-3700 feet per second. I will build a ballistic shield for home defense using AR-500 plates soon which will buy me the time to hit any home invader in the head.. the head is unlikely to be as well-protected as the torso. Most home invaders with body armor would pick Type IIA to Type III but I suspect steel plate will become far more common as the price drops into a more affordable range. Gangs in certain locales, such as LA, are now commonly using body armor to give them an edge in home invasions.

  8. avatar Kap says:

    Bush Master’s are Junk, DPMS made a better AR which is why Remington bought them out, too avoid competition! a 300 black hawk is nothing but an under powered .308 so the wussies can handle it! if you wanted an AK 47 round why not just buy an AK? do nothing to tarnish the name of Curtis Lemay who first pushed the buying the M16. and the crooked SOB Johnson who ordered the incursion into the North Vietnamese waters to set off the Vietnam War, which made his family rich because of investment into the War Machine Industries; start a war to get rich off of 58000+ lives, these two are responsible for the wussy .223 anyway

    1. avatar ai338 says:

      Nobody cares. Don’t like .223, don’t shoot it. Go be a manly man and dry hump your M1A.

      1. avatar Dan in CO says:

        Hmmm. What brand and caliber do you like? Accuracy International 338 Lapua?

        Go be a manly man yourself. Can’t handle the comments section? Get outta the kitchen.

    2. avatar FlamencoD says:

      Yeah, because nothing says “junk” like 1/2 moa at 100 yards. Piece of crap AR can’t shoot worth a darn!

  9. avatar Mister Fister says:

    300 AAC Blackout – less ballistic energy than a 7.62×39 for twice the price.

  10. avatar Jeremy S. says:

    Kind of weird to downplay it by calling it the “minimalist” with all that nice furniture on it plus the trigger, muzzle device, etc! 1/2 MOA from 300 BLK is impressive indeed!!!

  11. avatar Hannibal says:

    Serious question- what the hell does ‘minimalist’ mean when it comes to guns, now?

    Or is it just one of those buzzwords that gets thrown in to justify a price tag?

    1. avatar lupinsea says:

      Not sure about anyone else but I prefer to keep my guns relatively spartan without a lot of unnecessary stuff. If I don’t have a need for it, off it comes.

      For instance, my MPX is running sans BUIS since I put on the red dot. Ditto my AR that I set up way back in the day. My USC, MP5-22, and PTR 91 run the iron sights as I think HK’s diopters are awesome. Love them and don’t see the point of a red dot for those carbines. My ACR has BUIS right now only because it doesn’t have a red dot and I specifically got the basic version because I didn’t see the point of all the rails on the enhanced if I wasn’t going to add stuff to the rifle.

      None of these have any angled for grips, rail covers, lights, bipods, or any cosmetic doodads. Heck, they don’t even have slings (I drag these to and from the range or shooting pits in my rifle cases in the back of my car, I don’t sling them over my shoulder and go off into the hinterlands).

      So to me, I guess it means just a simplified, basic, no-nonsense rifle.

      But “minimalist” sounds more sophisticated. I suppose.

  12. avatar Jack says:

    Anyone wonder why Remington is so ashamed of Tapco? I mean they go out of their way to use Magpul and MFT furniture on their guns.

    Not saying tapco is good, but if I owned Tapco and Bushmaster DPMS why am I giving money to my competition?

  13. avatar Mark N. says:

    I’ll vouch for the ALG trigger. I have the low end QMS (Quality Mil Spec) trigger in my rifle.The QMS is a very crisp single stage trigger with no take up, indistinguishable creep, no overtravel, and a very short reset. There is no grittiness. The only issue with it is that it has a pretty heavy trigger pull, I’d guess around 7 lbs. The ACT is essentially the same, but with nickel boron coatings. A low power hammer spring to drop the pull weight to 4.5 lbs is available of $6.

  14. avatar Dark Man says:

    Really Hate Gun Snobs. I have BushMaster XM-15 E2S With 2000+ down range. Not 1 problem. Hits 1 MOA @ 50 yards with original iron sights. Same @ 100 yards with Leopold Mark AR 3x9x42. I’ll put it up against any $1,000 to $1500 dollar rig out there. It isn’t always the fault of the weapon but, more likely the person shooting it.

  15. It looks so smooth, I love the matt black finish.

    Wonder what’s it like when doing precision shooting in a shooting range, I love to use guns like these when knocking out targets.

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