I received a Liberty Hill Tactical (LHT) LHTM4 carbine from Russell Allen a year ago for an extended test and evaluation. I wanted to get this review done and out there sooner than I have, and for that I have apologized to Russell. Moving a bit slower has allowed me to run it in almost every weather condition in my locale, from rain, to temps in the upper 90s with matching ungodly humidity, to snow and temps in the low teens. Russell has been gracious on the time involved. There was no expectation of anything but honesty on my part and no incentive, as I fired my own ammo and only recently told him to work me up a quote to keep the gun instead of returning it. Bottom line up front- he turns out a good product. So here is the review.
Russell is a partnered owner of FMJ Armory and Liberty Hill Tactical LLC in Lagrange, GA. He was the host and team instructor of a “Build and Blast” weekend conducted with Ash Hess. This carbine was built on day one of the weekend. I won’t bore you with the full parts list, especially since part of the service LHT provides is customizing to meet a customer’s specifications and need, but will say that parts selection is key and it shows in the work.
I watched Russell inspect the parts before assembly and watched him assemble the carbine as he explained the process. Everything is properly torqued and staked. This is not indicative of a cherry-picked piece in my opinion as I have had the opportunity to examine and fire 5 or 6 other LHT guns, both suppressed and unsuppressed, during classes on 3 separate trips to Lagrange- all showed the same workmanship and performance.
After the carbine was built we test fired before my receiving it for the T&E. I zeroed it immediately after. It has been in my possession since and has seen 5,132 rounds fired. I’ve fired it in good weather, in the rain, in the NC and GA heat, and in 16⁰ cold in snow. I’ve fed it both .223 and 5.56x45mm ammunition. Ammunition has been of widely mixed quality, including Brown Bear, Tula, Privi Partisan, Winchester, Hornady, Nosler, PMC, IMI, Barnes, Silver State Armory, and Federal. Bullet weights were 40, 55, 62, 64, 69, and 77 grain. Most of the ammunition was of three makes- 1,000 rounds each of Brown Bear 55 grain .223, Magtech M193 55 grain 5.56, and Federal Lake City XM855 62 grain 5.56. I fed it through Gen 1-3 PMAGs, a Troy mag, and USGI mags with black, green, and tan followers. It ran on all. The carbine is, simply put, a great performer.
I intentionally ran it through over 4,000 rounds without any cleaning of any kind. Lubrication was solely Slip 2000 EWL applied sparingly. I have treated this rifle with borderline abuse, including 14x 30-round magazines within 30 minutes one day. I’ve run it through the Build and Blast, an Appleseed, a Warrior Industries Effective Carbine class, and a one day carbine class with a local trainer. I’ve used it on my own and have used it to train a few shooters.
I’m not one for charts and tables but I do like statistics. I’ll simply say accuracy depends on ammunition. Considering myself a consistent 3 MOA shooter, I did initial accuracy testing with a vetted friend who missed earning the President’s Hundred by two points- twice- and has been a sponsored shooter on the PRS circuit with good results. With a vetted precision shooter behind it, we were able to produce consistent 1 MOA groups at 100 yards using Federal Gold Medal Match and Hornady Black ammunition. It liked some loads more than others as any rifle does, but most loads were consistent 2-3 MOA performers. It didn’t seem to like IMI Razor Core 77 grain, giving us right about 4 MOA. I fired it in classes and on regular range days out to 500 yards. Accuracy was never an issue. I got consistent hits on a 12” plate at 400 yards using Winchester Varmint-X 40 grain; this was nice as I wondered what would happen with such light bullets. It also gave me consistent hits on F Type and IPSC steel at 500 yards with almost boring regularity using 55, 62, and 77 grain loads.
The only cleaning this gun saw until today was cleaning the bore at a little over 4,000 rounds. It was losing accuracy with fouling and needed some attention. After cleaning the bore it came right back. At the end of the test I shot a few groups for record just to get some readings after seeing the use I gave it. I recorded 10 round groups of 2.05 MOA with IMI 69gr BTHP, 2.1 MOA with Hornady Black 75gr BTHP, and 3.58 MOA including called fliers (1.81 MOA excluding) with Nosler Defense 64gr Bonded at 100 yards. These groups were fired benched and from a bipod. I have no doubt that a better shooter would have had better groups.
I didn’t experience a single failure to feed, failure to extract, or failure to eject stoppage. Brass ejected consistently between the 3 and 4 o’clock. I did experience 4 failure to fire stoppages, one each with Tula and Brown Bear, and the other two with XM855. At least two of those (Tula and Brown Bear) were bad primers. The others could’ve been bad primers, light strikes, or a combination (the primers looked like they should’ve gone), and one of the XM855 did indeed fire on a second attempt. The mean stoppage rate was 1:1,283 rounds, counting the two known bad rounds.
The LHTM4 weighs 9.3 pounds as used with a Mk-VI 1-6x, sling, and a Harris bipod. I thought this seemed a bit heavy for a carbine then remembered the M16A2 I carried for a while weighed 8.79 pounds loaded with no enablers. The trigger breaks clean at a consistent 5.5 pounds. The balance is nice and it feels good in handling. It’s treated in Cerakote and presents a nice appearance. Given that my BCM is rattle canned, pretty appearances aren’t a big deal to me but this is a good-looking piece. The SLR rail with Magpul AFG2 provides a great purchase on the weapon and the MLOK attaching surfaces are obviously a plus.
I looked hard at this carbine and told Russell I would look for something to complain about. If there’s anything I hate about reading reviews in gun rags, it’s the glowing praise without reservation one typically finds. To Russell’s credit, he said good and that finding things in the rifle would help him build a better product. I can say I had two initial complaints that became zero. The first was the short throw selector that he installed. Being a guy who has used traditional selector levers on AR-pattern rifles for over 22 years, it didn’t feel right at first. I can say, however, that it has grown on me and was a good choice. The second is the pivot and takedown pins being a bit too tight. Russell explained he likes them a little tight for a tighter rifle but agreed they were too tight and fixed it while saying he will keep an eye on that in the future. I would add that I wouldn’t use the VG6 brake installed for certain applications due to muzzle blast and noise; if running unsuppressed for operational use a flash hider may be a better fit.
The best part about LHT is that Russell is the only person that touches a gun bearing the LHT name and logo. If it comes out of his shop for a customer, he did it. Quality control is very consistent considering that fact. He is easily able to communicate with the customer and customize the build considering the customer’s needs. He also stands by his work.
This gun was built based on a carbine Ash had spec’d out and had Russell build as an assaulter’s gun. It certainly fits that role. It also works as a DM rifle as I have personally taken it to DM distances and seen others do the same with it. I dislike putting a “duty-grade” label on things. This is especially so given some of the stuff I’ve seen with duty tools. However, I would carry this rifle in harm’s way, on duty or not, without hesitation.