Maybe you have heard of a group of individuals in the firearms community known as “cloners.” Cloners build rifles that resemble actual service rifles. Sometimes these clone rifles very accurately represent the actual platform. Each component is carefully selected to build the most authentic looking rifle. Other times they are simply an informal example of an actual military rifle and are just an inspiration for a unique project. It all depends on the cloner’s end goal.
The three most common clones are the M4, MK12, and MK18. These frequently copied models have not only been used in recent wars but are also seen frequently in the entertainment industry such as movies and TV shows. All are proven platforms with their own iconic look and characteristics. It is not all for show though. The military have designed these platforms to fulfill specific roles.
The M4 needs no introduction. This is a standard issue service rifle for many soldiers and the model has gone through a number of reiterations. Branches of the military have elected to choose a variety of their own parts such as stocks, fore-ends, lights, lasers, etc. but for the most part the M4 is traditionally built on a Colt receiver with a 14.5-inch barrel and fixed front sight post. Iron sights, red dot (Aimpoint or EOTech) or ACOG will usually be the sighting system on top. This is a rifle that can fill almost any role and is a good beginner project for a first-time cloner.
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Sometimes you want a rile with precision. The MK12 Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) was designed to be more effective at further distances. This rifle chambered in 5.56 is often cloned but does use some unique parts that may require some in depth searching if you want an accurate clone. It has gone through a number of variations but usually you will find these tack drivers with 2.5-10x variable scopes, 18-inch free floated barrels that sit under a 12-inch handguard. A great place to source MK12 components is from Precision Reflex Inc.
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The most popular of the three clones right now is the MK18 chambered in 5.56. Since the MK18 uses a 10.3-inch barrel you will find clones that are in “pistol” form but if you are looking to be as authentic as possible then you will need to build an SBR. A Daniel Defense MK18 is a pretty easy way to knock out a large portion of a MK18 clone. These guns were originally desired for “close quarter battle (CQB)” but have also been found in other roles because of their compact size. These shorties receive a lot of publicity due to a large portion of the Special Operations Community using them.
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For some cloning is a challenge to build a rifle that is exactly to spec but for others it is a fun way to remember our history and maybe put their own personal twist on it. I would recommend if you start a clone build to not get wrapped up in the specifics of every piece. Some of these components can be extremely rare and take years to find. Above all else, have fun with it and build something you will enjoy shooting.