Throwback Thursday: Colt M4 AR-15 .22 LR — A Must Have

M4 AR-15 .22 LR Rifle

The AR-15 rifle is America’s rifle and a very good choice for small game, personal defense, and general target shooting. A .22 caliber version of the AR would be a good understudy. I have tried .22 conversion units. While they are OK as far as it goes, I prefer having two guns to one with a few accessories. Plus, .22 Long Rifle bullets tend to leave lead deposits in the .223 Remington barrel.

The Colt M4/SOCOM type rifle is my favorite AR-15. The LE6920 is as close as we can get to the military M4 rifle. The Colt M4 .22 caliber rifle is manufactured under license by Walther. Colt has a long history of licensing manufacture of parts (and even firearms) dating back to Eli Whitney and continuing with Adcor today. The Walther rifle is first class in every way and a worthy rifle to bear the Colt name.

M4 AR-15 .22 LR Rifle
Only the .22 caliber magazine is a giveaway in a casual look at the Colt M4 .22. Otherwise, it looks like a typical AR-15.

Colt M4 .22 Features

The Colt M4 .22 is a simple blowback operated, semi-automatic rimfire rifle. It is intended to operate as closely as possible to the AR-15 rifle. The appearance is excellent. The real giveaway is the long .22 caliber magazine. The safety, trigger, sights, magazine release and cocking handle operate in the same manner as the Colt AR-15 rifle. This makes for an excellent rifle for inexpensive training for those that use the AR-15 rifle. Internally, the Walther operates much differently than the AR-15, but the controls are identical for the most part.

An important feature is a match-grade barrel. The barrel rides inside a sleeve that mimics the standard AR-15 carbine contour. The barrel is authentic even down to the A1-style flash hider. The sights are standard AR-15 type. There is plenty of adjustment in the sights.

The quad rail is free-floating. The Picatinny rail allows mounting lasers or combat lights, even a side-mounted red dot sight. The receivers are aluminum, just the same as the AR-15. They are marked Colt and M4 Carbine. Walther’s markings are out of the way on the right lower receiver.

Walther Rimfire - Colt M4
The Walther-built rimfire bears a strong name.

Feel and Function

When examining the rifle, the fit and finish get high marks. All of the controls are standard AR-15 and feel very much like the “real thing” Colt used for comparison.

A primary difference in function is the bolt throw when racking the bolt to make it ready. The .223 version moves about three times the length of the .22 Long Rifle. It only feels odd after the first few tries and not at all if you have never fired an AR-15 rifle. The five-position stock offers good adjustment.

The carrying handle/sight is easily removed. The flat-top-type receiver allows mounting a rifle scope or red dot. I have used iron sights for the most part and I have also used the TruGlo Eminus scope with good results.

I think that while it is OK to stress the training aspect of the Colt M4 . 22 for those that own a centerfire AR-15, the M4 .22 is quite a rifle in its own right. As a standalone, the M4 has great appeal whether or not you own a centerfire rifle. So, the small differences in handling don’t mean that much as a training rifle or a standalone.

Colt M4 Bolt
A lightweight, adjustable bolt makes for good reliability.

A quick note… when you take the receiver apart, you will note a knob for controlling bolt velocity. Clockwise, high speed; counterclockwise, low speed. This will allow the use of high velocity .22 Long Rifle — about 90 percent of what most of us will use — and standard velocity, which some like to play with.

Standard velocity is slower and, on average, is more expensive. It is a good option to have, but I don’t use the setting. In most cases, the rifle will run well with all high-velocity loads and will function with most standard velocity loads as well.

In an extremely dirty gun setting, the bolt speed for low-velocity loads may keep it going for a while longer between cleaning. I have never reset mine and you probably won’t have to in the general course of firing the M4 .22.

Magazine Follower Tabs
Note tabs on magazine follower; these make for easy loading.

Capacity and Performance

A word on the 30-round magazines. They are well-made of good material. They are a single-column design. There are tabs on the follower to make it easy enough to load the magazine to full capacity.

Like all long magazines, the magazine may interfere with prone or other firing positions that put the rifle close to the ground. When handling the rifle quickly, the balance is as AR-15 like as you would expect. At just over six pounds, the rifle isn’t as light as many .22s. It is a good handful and very AR-15-like in weight and handling.

The trigger action breaks at seven pounds even, which is in the middle of the road for AR-15 trigger actions. Aftermarket trigger actions do not fit the Colt M4 .22.

Colt M4 Magazines
Colt’s magazines are well made and designed for easy loading.

Accuracy Testing

On the firing range, the rifle was a joy to fire and use. The magazines were not difficult to load to full capacity. I used the Winchester M22 loading. This is a specially designed load intended to perform well in AR-15-type .22 Long Rifle firearms. The M22 is accurate, reliable, and burns clean.

I loaded four magazines and began firing at man-sized targets at 15 to 25 yards. It is great fun to rip off a magazine at a target with no real purpose. Slowing down a little, I was able to put five to 10 rounds into the X-ring on demand.

Settling down to test absolute accuracy, I fired both the Winchester M22 and the Winchester Super X hollow-point. The Super X is a hot number. At 1,260 fps, there is plenty of velocity for good expansion. Firing from a standing braced barricade I put five rounds into 1.1 inches and 10 in 1.8 inches at 25 yards.

Colt M4 Stock
The five-position stock is a good feature.

This is a good shooting rifle. After firing a full brick of 500 rounds of Winchester M22 and 100 rounds of the Super X hollow point, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject.

The Colt M4 .22 is a fine recreational rifle and also a good trainer. While it may not look the part, it is also a great small-game rifle. In other words, if you own only one .22 rifle, this one is a credible choice.

What do you think of AR-15-style rifles chambered in .22 LR? How does the Colt M4 stack up against your favorite rimfire? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April of 2020. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (33)

  1. AR platform is nice for .223/5.56. If you want to shoot .22 cal LR just buy a Ruger 10/22 and never look back. I also have a Marlin mod 60 I paid $35 for used. After a good cleaning it shoots as good as the Ruger if not better. I have no problems hitting coke can size targets at 100 yes. So use that extra money to buy another AR15, preferably a used one from an individual so only you know you have it. At the risk of irritating the AR crowd just use that money to buy an SKS, 7.62×39. I have one I’ve had for around 40 yes that I’ve probably killed 35 deer with. I keep a stockpile of ammo for it, FMJ, hollowpoint, & soft points. At 100yds it’s deadly! I own an AR15, have killed deer with it, but prefer the SKS for the extra bullet weight in a hunting situation. And, load it up with fmj’s and you ain’t gonna hide behind a car door, or a car period like you see on tv! Lol

  2. I bought a dedicated DPMS 22lr upper some time ago. I only paid $249 for it. It fits perfectly on any standard AR lower assembly. It uses Black Dog magazines. It’s very accurate and very reliable. I can switch the lower from either a basic ar or I can put on my pet m-4gery lower with custom trigger and stuff. The only give away is that the forward assist is non functional. Otherwise you can’t tell any difference by weight or fit and finish. The hand guard is fully interchangeable with any AR carbine length handguard setup. Sadly I heard that they are no longer available. To me at least it’s way ahead of the S&W m&p 15-22 or some of the other options I have seen. And the barrel and chamber is actual 22lr so no accuracy or leading issues.

  3. so the colt carbine cal 22 LR is not an AR15? aslo in the specs in says amo 223/ 556. does it use all three, 22 /223 /556?

  4. Very nice training weapon, and a blast to plink with. I use it for pest control. Very accurate. Love it!

  5. I have Colt m4 ops rifle and I have never regreted the buy New was $279 I have the folding front sight and 3 20-rd mags which are superior for bench work Must have upgrade is the trigger spring kit from HK parts ($16) This gives a nice 5lb pull Install is tricky If you are unsure about it Mcarbo will do the install An awesome rifle with a suppressor There will never be any more made so if you are lucky enough to find one for sale DO iT

  6. Do any of the binary triggers fit the colt AR 15 chambered for 22. If so which one? I have the colt AR 15/in 22 cal and would like to put a binary trigger on it.

  7. @Retirede9

    The .22 can work but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. If you do use it be sure to find an ammo that functions completely reliably in it. If it’s the noise try a 9mm AR. They are definitely quieter than the .223 AR but recoil about the same if not more. Same thing goes for ammo for the 9mm. Make sure it is utterly reliable.

    1. The grandson’s S&W M&P AR15-22 has yet to fail on any ammo. We’ve been using the cheap Winchester white box. I recently procured some FMJ to reduce cleaning time. But no fails in over 1,000 rounds. And that gun is so nice to use, his NRA certified instructor on his first range visit asked if he could try it. After finishing a 10 round Mag, the nice older gentleman said he would be buying one the next day. Took my little guy back to the range about 6 weeks later and their the instructor was. Grinned ear to ear when he saw us and gave the kid another lesson at no cost because it was the first gun his wife liked to use, rather than put up with using.

  8. Would the .22 work as a self-defense rifle?? My wife doesn’t like .223 but would probably use the .22


  9. I bought a Colt M4 SOCOM when they were last available, a bit heavy, but accurate and never failed after approx. 3,000 rounds of various brands and weights.

    My grandson wanted one like mine, but I knew at 6 years old, a 22LR would be the way to go. I did my research and bought him the (almost) universally rated #1 S&W M&P AR15-22. The controls are EXACTLY as mine are on the Colt M4. Being in Commie-fornia, it came with a 10-round mag. He now has 4 mags and if allowed, will blow through all 40 rounds in less than 60 seconds.

    The M&P AR15-22 is very accurate out to 50 yards with good CCI ammo. The recoil is nonexistent to where my wife tried it out and had me convinced I should get a second one for her. It’s on the list for when things settle down and prices return to normal. We took him to a private range where her brother lives. The range master is a 30 year NRA certified instructor. After 2 hours of one-to-one, the instructor wanted to try the TactiCool rifle with no recoil. I gave him a mag-full and he rang up 10 rounds in 1.1 inches at 25 yards. He then asked me some questions about the gun and said he would be getting one the next day. I got a call about a month later that he got one over his wife’s objection (you have too many guns now!) and then should her how to run it. Like my situation, he had to get one for her!

    While priced a tad more than the “Colt/Walther/Umarex”, The S&W version can be found with a carry bag, a scope and bipod or carry bag and a red/green dot sight.

    After the grandson seriously masters this rifle with BUIS, I’ll add a StreamLight green laser/light combo for him (and granma) so we can do some night shooting at a friend’s private range.

  10. There has been a way better gun out there for several years. I have owned a S&W AR15-22 for about 7 years. It has all the controls in exactly the same place as the S&W AR-15 that I own. It has never let me down and makes rapid fire target practice great fun.

  11. Love mine. Super shooter and tons of fun. Several thousand rounds , so far.
    But, where and how to get parts ??

  12. I’ve had mine since they came out and only paid $250 and excellent semi. Just love it, not as nice as my M16 in the Marines but nice. Shoots well but wont shoot as accurate my 22 inch competition bolt. But is fun to shoot, easily out on a linear comp or silencer. You can adjust it down (screw) and shoots 835 FPS fine, Can shoot outside and not as loud as my pellet gun. My wife loves it, light and never ever jams. So far it shoots better than my AR-15 CMMG 22 Bolt conversion. If I didn’t have so many rifles/pistols I would get another one. Got an Eotech 556 on it and its amazing and fun to shoot. With new laws here in PA, can use it for hunting small game. If I had one gun to own, would be this one. I did get a 1/2 riser for my EOTECH. Its nice if you get extra mags. Almost wish they would sell another barrel for sub ammo (maybe 1 in 9 or so). Would like to see if could improve accuracy with the subsonic ammo.

  13. I have a cmmg dedicated upper not a conversion, it’s easy to clean very accurate. I’ve used it to hunt with and every kid I’ve let shoot it wants one, it’s funny that they all seem to know how to run it so I asked how do you know this gun they all say Call of Duty . I just smiled

  14. What I have is a Colt H-BAR I bought over 20 years ago. The only complaint I had was it didn’t have a bayonet lug… I ended up buying an M-16 upper pencil barrel for that. I also bought a Colt brand 22 adapter. I love this weapon. It shoots great and being a reloader, I can shoot when I want.

    I also build the BUG ( Black Ugly Gun). I have them in the norm…223/5.56, 300BO and even the 7.62×54. I fell in love with the AR platform shortly after having to give up another great weapon…M14. I had the 14 when I got to Nam and then was hunted down to get it away from me and replaced with Mattie Mattel. I learned to love it …for the last 2 years of my 2 1/2 years in Nam.

    I do have ARs that are not Colt and , to me, they are all great.

  15. I had one of the early models about 10 to 12 years ago. It was a serious piece of junk and would never run on any type of ammo I fed it. I purchased an M&P 15-22 and never looked back. It ate everything and went bang virtually every time. Now to be fair, 22 ammunition is dirty and inconsistent and most dedicated semi automatics and or conversions are finicky. The CMMG, conversion kit I have is flawless, however. I agree – I don’t like leading up the barrel in my M4. I just take extra pains to clean it really well. The only thing that felt good about the Colt copy was the fit and finish and handling of the gun. Unfortunately it simply would not run no matter what. Very disappointing especially given what I foolishly paid for it.

  16. Who said Colt was so great? I had an A2 and it did not live up to the ” BRAND” quality everyone touts. You could match up a Cheapy Anderson with the Colt and end up with the same results. Buick- Chevy- GMC Same assembly line different day.

  17. I think he’s talking about getting lead from the .22 crammed into the AR15’s gas tube .

    I have a Colt Ace and a Walther / Colt .22 as well as an airsoft 1911 for training for my Colt 45’s , as well as a S/W AR15-22 with a Hellfire binary trigger and a CMMG upper with a suppressed 4.5 inch barrel that I use quite often on my SBR registered lower also equipped with a Hellfire trigger for training for my ARs . They are fun in their own right , add practice to the full sized rounds , and with 30 round mags and a Hellfire trigger , no slouch when it comes to indoor defense .
    Does this Walther lock the bolt open after the last shot and keep it open during the mag change ? The CMMG holds it open but drops the bolt on the chamber when removed . I use a Bettermag adaptor to use S/W AR15-22 mags to allow the CMMG upper to have bolt hold open for rapid reloading .

  18. The Colt-Walther firearms are actually made in the Umarex factory. Umarex is a maker of airguns and paintball guns that bought out Walther several years ago. The Umarex plant makes .22 versions of various weapons under license from the trademark owners.

    I own two Umarex-built .22’s, a 1911 “Gold Cup” and a Walther PPK/S. The quality of the Gold Cup is not on the same planet as my real Colt Series 70 Gold Cup. The trigger as delivered was awful, and regular 1911 parts don’t fit so I couldn’t swap out components. The Walther also does not approach the quality of Walther guns built in the Walther factory. I plan to get rid of both of them.

    If the quality of the “Colt” .22 AR-15 is anything like my two Umarex-made Walthers, I wouldn’t touch one with a barge pole.

  19. I got a CMMG .22 conversion during the last ammo scare with 3 mags dirt cheap. I like the conversion over a dedicated rifle like this for a few reasons. Using the conversion you have the same trigger, furniture, optic, and nearly the same weight (only real difference is weight of loaded mags). It is accurate enough to hit clay birds at 25 yards. I run it almost exclusively in my 16″ carbine. My 10 year old daughter loves it. I just ordered a new handguard to reduce its diameter and forward weight.

    I have another AR with an interchangeable barrel system that I would like to add a dedicated .22lr barrel and bolt to for more precise uses.

  20. Reminds me of when I bought a Walther PK380, I bought a Walther P22 at the same time to have a primary weapon and a training weapon.

    The difference in this case is the size of the investment. I got the Walther pistols for about $670, total.

  21. Why does this rifle have a auto sear pin. There is no mention of it being select fire, and new machineguns are banned for civilians. I thought the ATF had ruled that you could not even have a fake auto sear pin or any indication of one on and ar15 rifle.

  22. I love my 22 Colt M4. The kids and I shoot it as often as we can. It’s great for teaching of how to operate the M4.

  23. Love mine, Cheap way to practice and not spend +- $.50 a shot. Accurate and fun to shoot, May cost a bit more but you get what you pay for.

  24. Interesting article. Larry H says it is hard to appears there is an upper and lower like an AR, so does the bolt come out for cleaning? I I have a CMMG 22 conversion kit and like it, but I have never heard of 22 rimfire leaving lead in the bore.

  25. It will take a standard carbine length 2 piece drop in quad rail and there is an adapter available for a silencer

  26. The quad rail is free-floating? Your photos don’t show a quad rail. Is this AR compatible with aftermarket AR 15 replacement rails? and your comment,regarding the bolt cocking, ” It only feels odd after the first few tries” perhaps you meant to say ” It only feels odd for the first few times if you’re used to an AR 15’s much longer pull.

  27. No thanks. If & when I would ever want to shoot .22 caliber ammo from an AR-15 platform, I use the CMMG conversion. It works just fine but after a while gets kinda boring and I always revert to shooting the real deal, .223/5.56 ammo, which is dirt cheap. For the price of this “faux Black Rifle” I can almost buy the real thing, so waste the $$$ on this fake knock-off?

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