There are many renditions of the popular AR-15 rifle. Some are parts guns put together on a workbench; others are well manufactured using a modern process. The Colt AR-15 has seen wide police and military use and remains the rifle with the greatest service record. Some decades ago, I kept a Colt HBAR in the police cruiser, carefully maintained the rifle, and never had cause to replace it. The Colt challenged me to be all I could be and I enjoyed firing the rifle.
Today, I most often deploy a shorter carbine version of the AR-15. Among my favorites is the rifle covered in this report, the Colt M4A1. It is a personal rifle, not a loaner, and that means I have tested it until I trust it and it is good enough to ride with.
Colt’s M4A1 is a civilian version of the SOCOM carbine. The primary difference is there is no fully automatic option, which is fine with most of us. The rifle is immensely appealing to Colt fans and to anyone in need of a reliable, accurate and effective AR-15 rifle. It comes well appointed with excellent battle sights, a modern forend with plenty of rail space and excellent ergonomics. The new rail design is supposed to help dissipate heat more efficiently.
While I did not test the rifle to the extent the military has, I was able to fire my semi-automatic rifle until it smoked like an old Ford in need of a ring job. The rifle is set up with the modern adjustable stock, post front sight, and a remarkably easy-to-use rear sight. Rather than rotating a wheel for range adjustment, the rear sight is click adjustable for yardage.
- The rifle features a modern forend with quick detach sling attachments as well as the standard rail for use with lasers and lights. The rails accommodate anything from an under-the-barrel light to a modern red dot above the barrel. The slots are numbered. This allows a degree of confidence in the zero when returning a tool to the rail.
- When handling the rifle, the four-position stock allows a wide range of adjustment for each shooter. The barrel is chrome lined. The bolt, carrier, ejection port and other parts are familiar to AR-15 shooters, and the rifle is well made of good material.
- The trigger and hammer pins are .0154-inch for reference. The bolt is well finished, and the gas keys are properly staked. Why some makers still refuse to properly stake gas keys is beyond me, perhaps for the same reason they do not chrome line the barrel: They are getting by as cheaply as possible.
- The chrome-lined barrel features a 1:7-inch barrel twist. This is optimum for the present 62-grain Green Tip service load. However, the rifle is accurate with loads from 55 to 77 grains. The barrel begins at .640-inch and it is .0750 inches in diameter at the gas block.
- The sights are the usual front post and rear aperture, however, the rear sight features a single aperture and a drum that may be rolled for adjustment for the service load to well past 500 yards.
The rifle is all AR-15 and anyone familiar with the type will be able to get the measure of the Colt in good order, as far as handling, loading, firing and maintaining the rifle. The advantage is in quality of manufacture, and to some of us the Colt name means a great deal.
An advantage of this rifle over most AR-15 rifles is that the safety lever is ambidextrous. As a result, it isn’t difficult for left-handed shooters to manipulate the magazine release with their forefinger although the safety is more difficult to engage. The Colt M4A1 neatly solves the problem of left-handed use.
When firing the carbine, I was careful to use the hand-forward grip that makes the AR-15 so fast and effective. I used primarily Winchester 55-grain FMJ loads in the initial evaluation, as well as the MagPul PMAG. I used both the Gen2 and the Gen3 MagPul magazines, as well as the Gen3 with cartridge counter window and over-travel insertion stop. All functioned ideally. The magazines never gave cause for any concern, locked in as designed, and fell away when the magazine release was pressed.
By keeping the hand close to the muzzle, the rifle is controlled in rapid movement. While the rifle is more stable with this hold, the real advantage is in speed and rapid movement. The Colt showed its heritable nature, giving excellent results in rapid fire at man-sized targets at 25, 50 and 100 yards. Minute-of-angle work wasn’t attempted at that time, and I fired the rifle until the fore end smoked—literally smoked—and the barrel was pretty hot.
The Colt sights were delivered sighted high, so some Kentucky elevation was involved. Once the sights were reset, things went smoothly. The Winchester USA ball ammunition was expended without a single stutter.
After a cleaning session, and lubricating the rifle, the first 300 rounds showed no signs of eccentric wear. The next session was slower paced, with time taken to properly sight the rifle. Frankly, it was so much fun to fire such a great rifle I had made a dent in my .223 reserves! I was lucky enough to have obtained a quantity of Federal American Eagle 62-grain Green Tip. This is the present service load. The 62-grain full offers greater penetration than the original 55-grain FMJ load and offers excellent accuracy at longer range.
The rifle gets better the more it is fired and in short order had digested 150 rounds of this loading. Since I was using iron sights, the shooter was an important part of the equation, and the Colt features a general-purpose trigger not a target-grade trigger. It is controllable under all conditions and doesn’t limit a skilled shooter (at least at 100 yards). The rifle seems to be capable of 2 MOA or better.
The American Eagle loading is well worth the time and effort to obtain and keep in the ready bag in quality magazines. The Colt is accurate enough to demand good optics, and perhaps it will wear something in that line sooner than later.
This rifle is more than accurate enough for varmints and pests at moderate range. Deer-sized game is not out of the question with the appropriate loading. I wished to test at least one jacketed soft point loading. The Hornady .223 55-grain JSP (Hornady #80256) was tested. Function was good and accuracy consistent with the reputation. I also sacrificed a few rounds from my Zombie shooting stash. The Z Max 55-grain load proved accurate, reliable and a ball of fun.
In short, the Colt is a professional-grade rifle well worth its price. Accurate, reliable, and wearing a proud name, the Colt is a top AR-15 that will serve your needs well.
|Manufacturer||Colt Defense LLC|
|Barrel Length||16-inch chrome-moly, chrome lined|
|Receiver||Forged 7075-T6 aluminum|
|Barrel Length||16-inch chrome-moly, chrome lined|
|Caliber||5.56×45 mm NATO (.223 Rem.)|
|Weight Unloaded||7 lbs., 1 oz|
|Sights||Adjustable front post; rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation|
|Stock or Grip||Adjustable|
|Magazine||20- or 30-round box|
|Rifling||Six-groove, 1:7″ right-hand twist|
|Trigger||Single-stage, 7-lb., 6-oz. pull|