“I want this with select-fire capability.” That’s the first thing James Scavetta said to me when I walked in to his shop to pick up the Yankee Hill Machine 8020 9mm AR pistol. James was grinning as he handed me the gun to examine. As I did, he verbally explored various ways of outfitting the gun to make it the ultimate self-defense tool.
As the owner of Shadow Hawk in Spring Hill, Florida, James has seen a lot of different firearms come through his store, but this one caught his immediate attention as a personal defense weapon (PDW) that could be both practical and cool. After having the gun for testing for a few weeks, I agree with his initial assessment.
The look of the YHM pistol is clearly eye-catching. From the aggressively styled muzzle device to the short buffer tube, the 9mm YHM-8020 megapistol begs to be held and fired.
Yet, James was also right in his assessment of the pistol as a practical defensive tool. A PDW is something that is typically much more compact than a rifle, yet larger than the typical handgun. Frequently, a PDW will be chambered in a specialty cartridge or even a rifle caliber. However, this gun is chambered in 9mm, a cartridge more commonly associated with handguns and submachine guns. Even so, the 9mm can be a potent round that’s more than adequate for self-defense.
Yankee Hill Machine built this handgun in a package smaller than some of the 9mm AR pistol alternatives that are on the market. This makes it much more practical than the others when discreet carry is needed. It can easily slip into an overnight bag when staying in a hotel. If you are about 6 feet tall, it can be concealed under a jacket with an appropriate carry harness. However, I think it has a more practical role in home defense.
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For home protection, consideration must be given to things like caliber, controllability, ease of use while moving, magazine capacity and compatibility with lights and supplementary aiming devices. This handgun compares favorably to other firearms in many of these areas.
The 9mm cartridge, especially with modern self-defense ammunition, is very capable of stopping an armed aggressor. Since this pistol has a longer barrel than is normally found on a duty pistol, the ammo will tend to run a little faster and potentially offer more effective performance than you might otherwise expect.
As a general rule, the 9mm caliber is not considered a hard-recoiling cartridge. Add in the additional barrel length and weight of this pistol and the round becomes a real pussycat to shoot. Follow-up shots can be very fast and accurate. The 32-round magazines certainly allow for as many follow-up shots as you might need.
Even with a buffer tube, the gun is a compact package that allows for easy maneuvering around corners and other tight areas. In a home where you might have to move through small rooms and hallways to get to children, a smaller gun can be easier to work with than a rifle or shotgun.
With the top Picatinny rail, a shooter can add a red-dot optic for fast target acquisition. The handguard uses KeyMod attachment points and allows for the addition of accessories like a white light or laser aiming device.
The Yankee Hill Machine 8020 is a pistol variant of the YHM-15, Yankee Hill Machine’s take on the AR-15. This specific model uses a straight blowback design, which is typical in AR-style pistols chambered for the 9mm. If you have any experience with the AR-15/M4 platforms, the controls of this pistol will be very familiar to you. The bolt release, magazine catch and safety are all in the normal locations.
Both the upper and lower are forged 7075-T6 aluminum. The receivers are held in place by the company’s own EZ Pull Takedown Pins. These pins protrude on the right side of the gun and have a head on them that makes disassembly of the gun exceptionally easy. There is little play between the receivers.
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The barrel is made of 4140 steel and has a Melonite QPQ finish. YHM threaded the barrel and topped it with the Phantom 5C2 flash suppressor and compensator. This muzzle device has five ports to reduce the flash signature, but none face downward, which helps avoid kicking up dirt when firing from prone.
Colt-type stick magazines are used to feed the YHM-8020. Magazines drop free and the bolt locks back on an empty mag. A single 32-round mag ships with the pistol. YHM sells additional 32- and 20-round magazines. Additionally, the gun should accept any of the Colt-type mags already in circulation.
The YHM-8020 is light and well balanced. Shooting the pistol with only one hand is possible, though two hands make the job much more accurate. It is quite possible to use a traditional two-handed hold on the pistol grip for accurate fire. However, to improve accuracy even more, I used my off-hand to support the pistol forward of the magazine well. The buffer tube is far too short to use as an improvised stock. However, it is covered with a foam pad and it can be used to get a cheekweld for additional stability. Using this configuration, I was able to get the best accuracy during testing.
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With the tested ammunition, accuracy was very good. Since the gun does not ship with sights, I added a set of the Precision Tactical Sights from XS Sight Systems. This folding sight set uses a front post with a white stripe and a tritium insert. The rear uses the Troy CSAT that has both a large and small aperture with a pistol-style notch for close, fast engagement.
In the past, I’ve found these sights work very well for me. Combined with the ammunition, they did exceptionally well again. Unsupported, I managed a best five-shot group of just over 0.5 inches with the Winchester 115-grain JHP at 25 yards. The HPR 124-grain JHP also shot sub-1-inch groups.
As I stated earlier, longer barrels will frequently produce greater bullet velocities. Running these standard-pressure loads through the gun at the range confirmed this presumption. Compared to my prior testing in duty-length barrels (4 to 4.5 inches), these loads were running about 50 to 100 fps faster in the YHM-8020 pistol. All of the loads ran flawlessly and I experienced no malfunctions of any kind with this gun.
Ready To Defend?
When it comes to home defense, everyone should examine their own personal circumstances and make a decision about what works best for their specific needs. What works well for me may not work nearly as well for you.
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The YHM-8020 offers a 32+1 capacity of 9mm, and is able to deliver those rounds accurately and with little recoil. Alternate sighting systems such as a red dot or laser mount easily to the gun, as will a powerful white light. Additionally, a single-point sling can quickly be added to the gun for additional flexibility.
This gun is well built and ran flawlessly for me. If the features make sense for your needs, I wholeheartedly suggest taking a look at this pistol. Even if you don’t want it for a defensive application, it is a fun gun to shoot and that’s as good a reason as any to buy one.
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