By Jeff Johnston
If you haven’t heard of Yankee Hill Machine Co. and you’re a fan of American-made guns, you should check it out. The third-generation, Massachusetts-based machine shop has been doing one thing and doing it well since 1951: Producing guns and gun parts for the military and civilians.
In a sea of AR-15 clones—many of which the only difference is the handguard style—I find YHM’s 57XL Billet Carbine to be among the best in terms of features and performance, thanks to the company’s expertise and attention to detail.
For starters, the 57’s upper and lower receiver are not stamped, cast or forged, but rather each is machined from a solid billet of 7075 T6 aluminum. While it’s difficult to badmouth guns that aren’t machined from solid bar stock-–because in my experience they don’t have many problems—YHM’s more expensive process allows its engineers to machine anything they want into the gun, including fluting for weight reduction and heat dissipation as well as custom-like features such as the grooves in its mag well. The result is a smoother operating, better performing rifle whose upper and lower mate together perfectly—almost giving it a seamless look when Cerakoated.
Machining metal precisely is the company’s forte; but where it can’t do better—like triggers and polymer furniture—it buys from the experts in those fields, hence the 57XL’s 5-lb. Geissele trigger and Magpul grip, stock and magazines. Everything else, including the barrel’s flutes to the angled, i.e. “Slant,” key-mod handguard and Slant muzzle break are YHM’s own.
I chose a 57XL chambered in 6.8 SPC, because I prefer to hunt deer and hogs with something with more ass than a .223. Often however the next bigger caliber is .308, and most AR-10-framed rifles are heavy as hell. The 6.8 fires a 115-grain bullet at 2,500 fps, delivering roughly 400-ft.-lbs. more energy than the .223 while sharing the same short action length. It’s got much less recoil than a .308, and it’s easy to suppress, thanks in large part to its carbine-length gas system and YHM’s impressive offering of silencers for it—but that’s another story altogether.
Using Federal’s Fusion 115-gr. ammo and topped with the super-versatile EOTech Vudu 1-10x scope, my rifle averaged 1.1-inch groups at 100 yards. That stat, combined with the fact that it’s handy, tough as shit, and easy on the ears, it quickly became my go-to truck gun while riding around the ranch. I shot numerous hogs with it, a doe, two coyotes and a skunk that was acting more like Ole Yeller than a nocturnal, harmless rodent. Everything just died, whether I shot it at 25 yards or 250.
I’ve got plenty of ARs, all of various makes, but none I use more than my Yankee Hill.
Pros: precision build; custom-like features and looks; excellent trigger, reliability and accuracy.
Cons: Did they have to name themselves Yankee Hill? (Asking for a Georgia buddy.)