SHOT Show 2024: The Carry Handle Comeback

What’s old is new again at SHOT this year and it isn’t just lever guns. Classic carry handle AR uppers are back with a vengeance, too. Some were brought back by companies that used to make them, and some were brand new. While Brownell’s sparked a retro rush a few years back (and still supports that market) it didn’t seem to take off with other manufacturers like we’re seeing now.

Carry handle uppers could be tough to come by for a while, especially until mid to late 2023. Companies that do the forgings that most manufacturers use seemed to be focusing on flattops so carry handles became fairly scarce. I suspect that Harrington & Richardson’s startup had a lot to do with getting those forges dropping carry handles again.

We started seeing rifles and parts from them, and then uppers from other folks began to be more available last year. Now it looks like a number of manufacturers are taking advantage of that availability, hence the interest in offering retro complete guns.

Why the Carry Handle?

So why are we back to carry handles? I talked with some of the manufacturers reps at SHOT and we came up with a few reasons. Some of it is just nostalgia. Guys like me who are in their 50’s or older, used carry handle M16’s, M16A1’s and M16A2’s when we went into the service in the various branches. There’s always an interest in having the type of gun you were issued amongst gun buffs.

There’s also some general historical interest, even amongst folks who aren’t vets. The M16 platform is has been around for over 60 years now so the carry handle guns now qualify as classics. Amongst younger enthusiasts, a lot of the attention probably comes from video games like Call of Duty. There’s a lot of representation of older M16 and M4 variants in games, and and guys that are both gamers and shooters are looking to see what their favorite in-game guns are like in real life.

Finally, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a carry handle gun. It’s ready to go out-of-the-box, with no need to buy add-on sights or optics, and it’s a time-proven, rugged set up. As a retro rifle enthusiast myself, I’m okay with whatever the reason(s) behind the comeback is.

I probably didn’t catch everything at the show, but I saw a good number of carry handle designs so let’s take a look at what was out there.

Harrington & Richardson

I’m starting with H&R since they’re at the forefront of the carry handle movement. They’ve been putting out a wide array of complete guns and uppers and they had quite a few at the show.

There was an M16A1 and M16A2 clone, a Model 635 9mm carbine and pistol, as well as a prototype Model 633 9mm DOE (Department of Energy) pistol. Also a Colt 733 clone in pistol form like was made famous in the movie ‘Heat.’

The pistols are made possible by a slick CAR style brace which will be available soon from H&R. My favorite carry handle model was the M16A1 clone with gray anodizing and wood furniture from American-Icon. They also had another prototype based on the Colt M16 LMG but I didn’t get a good picture of that one.


Right next door to H&R at the show was DPMS — also owned by PSA — and they featured the return of the Kitty Kat. The Kat is chambered in 5.56mm and has a 7.5 inch barrel with a pistol-length gas tube, and a fixed front sight block and carry handle upper.

DPMS Kitty Kat

The new DPMS version uses the same CAR style brace as the H&R pistols. It’s an extremely compact, charming package which probably packs plenty of bark. A .300 Blackout model is planned as well, which should be much better suited to the short barrel platform.

DPMS is also listing the DR-15 in a 16 inch M4 type rifle but with a fixed buttstock on their website as well. Other fixed carry handle models are planned for the future too.


Del-Ton had both an M4 carbine variant called the Echo 216 and an A2 rifle called the Alpha 216H on display.

These two are pretty classic styles emulating their military brothers. The Echo 216 has a 16 inch 1-9 twist, M4 profile barrel, A2 upper and M4 buttstock.

The Alpha 216H has a 20-inch 1-9 twist, heavy profile barrel, A2 upper and fixed A2 stock. The Del-Ton SHOT booth listed the rifle as the Alpha 216H, although their website has what looks to be the same rifle as the Alpha 220H, which I suspect is the correct designation, indicating the barrel length.

Anderson Manufacturing

Anderson Manufacturing recently brought back their version of the Dissipator Carbine; a rifle with a 16 inch barrel and full length gas system and fixed front sight block.

They first released it with a flattop upper but now they have one with an A2 carry handle upper and fixed A2 stock as well.

I’m fan of that set up and may need one of these myself at some point.

They’re also releasing a full-sized 20 inch barrel A2 style rifle and a braced A2 style pistol with a 10.5 inch barrel.


Bushmaster had their M4A2 Patrolman’s carbine on display in both an engraved 50th Anniversary Silver Edition model, as well as a standard version.

The M4A2 is pretty classic A2 with a fixed carry handle and 16-inch M4 profile barrel. It was interesting to see, though, that it uses a CAR stock like the early military M4’s, rather than the now more common M4 stock.

Bushmaster also has a 20-inch A2 rifle, the XM15A2, available in 50th Anniversary Silver and standard editions as well. The rifle uses a 20 inch barrel, A2 upper and fixed A2 stock.

Springfield Armory

I somehow missed the Springfield Armory SA-16 A2 but luckily Travis Pike caught it in his rounds at SHOT and you can see his post on it here.

It looks like another classic A2 rifle variant with 20-inch barrel, A2 upper and fixed A2 buttstock.

I probably missed a few more carry handle models out there since it’s virtually impossible to get to every booth during SHOT. What I saw, though, was clearly a trend, and if you’re intro retro rifles, it’s a great one.

I’d love to see some more slick-side, C7 or A1 variations out there, or even some mix master builds like I saw growing up in the 90’s. Maybe something like Canadian C7’s. Or the M16A1’s my old Reserve unit have come back from depot refurb with C7 uppers, A1 barrels, A2 handguards and grips and A1 buttstocks.

There’s still a lot of ground that could be covered and I’n excited to see where the industry goes with the trend.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *