The AR-15 is perhaps one of the most well-known rifles in America, enough to even be called America’s rifle. Of all the many different AR-15 configurations perhaps, one of the most popular is the M4, or one of its clones. Colt has been one of the longest-standing manufacturers of this type of rifle, so it feels a bit daunting to try and revisit this as a review.
After all, what could I possibly have to offer that hasn’t been said a thousand times over the past 20 years? Well, I’ll give it a go anyway. Let’s dig in and see why the Colt M4 Carbine remains so popular.
The M4 Carbine I received for review is as familiar as mom’s bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning. The rifle uses all the standard features we have come to know, including a mil-spec two-stage trigger and detachable STANAG-pattern magazines released with the push of a button. Other familiar features include a charging handle at the rear at 12 o’clock above the buffer tube and a collapsible CAR-type buttstock. There is also the left-side safety operated by the thumb and a bolt-release button on the left side of the receiver.
This model came with a 16-inch, 1:7 twist barrel threaded 1/2-28 at the muzzle and, you guessed it, a standard bird-cage flash hider on the muzzle. Also included were sling attachment rings front and rear, as well as a fold-down rear sight assembly to use with the gas-block-mounted front sight.
This is almost exactly the rifle we have all seen in the movies and magazines since childhood, with its flattop receiver designed to take whatever kind of sight you’d like to install there. Commonly, you’d see an Aimpoint, Eotech, or ACOG in this position. The only thing left to investigate was to see if it lived up to expectations.
I prepped the Colt for a range trip, which consisted of mounting up a Trijicon MRO and some ammo to feed it.
Accuracy: Getting on Target
The M4 is configured for lots of shooting and maneuvering at relatively close range. Surely, it can be used at further distances. But for the most part, 200 yards or less are the ranges where it will be used. A red-dot sight like the MRO works great for that scenario.
After firing off a few test rounds, I zeroed the sight at 75 yards. Shooting for accuracy is a little easier for me to do with a rifle scope, but I was able to shoot some 1.5-inch groups at 75 yards. I don’t imagine it would open up too much more at 100 yards, but it was certainly accurate enough for hitting 45 percent of the IPSC targets all over the range. The XM193 ammo flowed through the rifle like a Vegas slot machine payout, and it felt just as valuable to watch it disappear.
Range Testing: Pushing Further
Shooting the Colt M4 was as pleasant as you might expect. The mild recoil of the 5.56 NATO cartridge makes shooting the rifle soft and easy to control. Muzzle rise is minimal and easily reduced by adding a different muzzle device. The collapsible stock is easily adjusted to fit smaller-statured shooters or to accommodate body armor.
I’ve never envied left-handed shooters that had to operate an AR, and yet my oldest who shoots for Uncle Sam had the opportunity to shoot the M4 extensively using his left-handed stance and seemed to not have any issues. He even likes it to my surprise.
Hitting targets for both of us was great fun while using the MRO. I’m definitely a scope kind of guy, so using iron sights always comes with contrasting results. It would likely serve me very well to spend more time shooting through these sights if only to improve my capabilities. The Magpul rear sight that came with this rifle was easily used through the Trijicon, I just need to up my iron game.
The M4 comes with pretty much no embellishments, a standard trigger, Magpul PMag, single-sided safety, and so on. That came as no surprise for a service-grade rifle, but I found it didn’t significantly inhibit the performance. Making shots and reloads went as smooth as I could do it, and it was only slowed by my skills – or lack of them anyway.
Pros & Cons
What’s not to like about this rifle? It is the result of distilled revisions based on hundreds of thousands of users and decades of use both here and abroad. Any demerits or praise for the rifle or its features will likely bring out a chorus of people more experienced with the gun than myself contradicting my perspective, but I’ll do it anyway because that’s what you read this far for.
First, let me give my personal perspective. I’m more of a precision rifle kind of shooter, spoiled by good triggers and sharp-shooting rifles. So, keep that in mind and take my opinions with a grain of powder.
I felt the M4 was a bit mediocre, which may well be its purpose. The trigger was a bit “scratchy,” though not a significant issue when it comes to hitting what I aimed at. The features are also quite middle of the road: single-sided safety, mil-spec trigger, the same charging handle since 1981 (maybe), and so on. But this may all be by design and exactly what this rifle was meant to be.
Let’s be candid, it is an AR-15, so there isn’t a single thing about it you couldn’t change or adjust to better fit your preferences. I have heard reports of declining quality from Colt over the last decade or so. While I experienced nothing that would indicate any issues with this rifle, it is good to hear that CZ has taken the reigns over Samuel Colt’s rampant pony. Perhaps the Czech’s can improve the brand.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with this rifle, I experienced no malfunctions of any kind, and the gun plowed through everything I fed it. While not stunningly accurate, it was more than suitable for a practical fighting or sporting rifle. There are cheaper AR-15s out there these days, so I think it may be a little overpriced when compared to its competition for some people, but that may come with the name, I guess.
If you are in the market for a simple and lightweight AR, I don’t think this one would be a bad choice. The AR-15 market is incredibly broad, so there is quite literally something for everyone out there. And if you are one of those die-hard Colt fanatics, then this classic AR should serve your needs well.