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Colt M4 6920 Carbine: Testing the Classic AR Rifle [Review]

Colt, ArmaLite, AR-15, M4… Very few topics can gather such a hefty lineup of big-name gun industry players and legendary designs.

When I was asked to review the Colt M4 carbine, I saw it as my chance not just to tell you about how this iconic gun feels and performs, but also to introduce gun newbies to the whole world of the AR-15 platform. So, here we go. I hope you’ll enjoy this post.

GO TO THE REVIEW

Table of Contents

History for Gun Newbies: From Armalite AR-10 to Colt M4

I want to avoid diving into a long history lesson. Instead, I’ll try to keep it short for you. To connect all the dots leading to the emergence of the Colt AR-15 rifle, and consequently the Colt M4 carbine, we need to start with the history of post-WWII army rifles’ development, particularly the AR-10.

ArmaLite AR-10: The Beginning of the AR Era

The AR-10 rifle, chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, was designed by ArmaLite as part of military efforts to replace the outdated M1 Garand, which was no longer suited to the realities of modern warfare. During testing, the AR-10 proved itself to be one of the best semi-auto rifles thanks to its incredibly lightweight design and modern features.

Facing the Superior AK-47

Unfortunately, the new rifle wasn’t adopted. Instead, the military chose Springfield Armory’s T44 as the new M14 military rifle. Soon after, it entered the Vietnam battlefield and was pitted against the AK-47, which was lighter, more controllable in full-auto, and allowed soldiers to carry more ammo.

ArmaLite AR-15: The Perfect Balance Found

Once again, a replacement was needed, and that’s where the Armalite AR-15 rifle came into play – a scaled-down (carbine, if you will) version of the AR-10. It struck the perfect balance between large-caliber rifles and lightweight carbines.

Colt ArmaLite AR-15

So, how did Colt come into the picture? In 1959, ArmaLite had to sell the rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt due to financial pressures and production capacity limitations. Colt modified ArmaLite’s design and quickly secured several US military and law enforcement contracts for the AR-15. In 1964, the Colt AR-15 was adopted by the military as the M16. In 1977, Colt’s patent rights expired, opening up a whole new marketplace for manufacturers to produce variants of the legendary design.

M4 Carbine: The New CQB Rifle

Before the development of the M4 began, the US military had adopted carbine variants of the M16, the most notable being the Colt CAR-15 – an M16/AR15-based 5.56 rifle with a 10-inch barrel. However, this design wasn’t successful, and in 1982, the Army requested that Colt develop a new carbine version of the M16. That’s how the Colt M4 carbine came about.

Quick sum-up

As you can see, Colt’s name is deeply woven into the fabric of military rifle engineering and the entire ethos of the AR-15 platform. Without the company’s modifications and design efforts, we might never have known the AR-15 and M4 carbine as we do today. Now, let’s dive into the Colt M4 review.

Colt M4 Carbine Review

Why Do Some People Hate It?

colt-cr6920

Runs like a charm.
Overrated rifle.
Overpriced junk.
You’ll never regret buying it.
100% reliable.
Accurate and durable.

This is what people think of the Colt M4. Intriguing, right? Now, let’s try to sort things out.

The Colt M4 carbine is a classic government profile rifle. It’s in everything – from a beefy drop-in handguard to a vertical post front sight. The overall build and design are quite generic – 7075 T6 aluminum upper and lower, mil-spec buffer tube, flared magwell, standard M4 furniture and controls… You’ve seen these features on many ARs.

Read: AR-15 Buffer Tubes: A Complete Guide

So, why do some people hate the Colt M4 carbine? Well, those less informed about the evolution of the civilian Colt M4 6920 variants probably dislike it because they see it as an outdated M4 rifle sold at a grand or so in a market saturated with all sorts of AR15 and M4 rifles to choose from.

On the other hand, some gun enthusiasts who have closely researched all the variants of the Colt M4 tend to highlight the subcontracted parts, claiming that the rifle is no longer the same as it was in the 20th century.

I’m not a huge Pony lover, and I’ve never really dived deep into comparing all the Colt M4 6920 variants, scrutinizing every little detail, marking, and engraving. I’ve glanced through some threads about the 6920 and discovered that folks who own LE6920s from Colt’s glory days can’t spot a difference in actual performance when compared to the more recent CR6920 that emerged after the CZ acquisition.

What I have to say about the subcontracted parts is that most companies involved with AR-15s do outsource parts. And to me, that seems sensible – it’s better to contract third-party companies who excel at crafting specific parts. If the company sourcing parts from others ensures proper testing and assembly (which Colt does), the end product will be of quality.

From what I’ve experienced during my shooting session, the modern Colt M4 is still a solid service rifle. Does it look a bit archaic next to Daniel Defense’s MK18 or BCM’s M4? For some, yes. But for others, the classic aesthetic is precisely what they’re after, driven by nostalgia. Could it be a bit cheaper? Well, maybe… I don’t know. What I do know is that it offers true quality right out of the box in the $1,000 range.

Video by Mishaco

Colt M4 Carbine - Design & Specs

Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Action: Direct gas impingement semi-auto
Gas system: Carbine length
Barrel length: 16.1″
Overall length: 35.5″
Barrel twist: 1:7″
Capacity: 30+1
Weight: 5.95
Finish: Matte black
Effective range: 600m

COLT AR15 M4 Carbine 5.56 16in Rifle (CR6920)

Specifications:

Forged 7075 T6 aluminum upper and lower
Chrome lined bore
Threaded 1/2 x 28 TPI
4-position CAR-type adjustable stock
Staked castle nut
A2 pistol grip
A2 front sight
Birdcage A2 style flash hider
M4 Feed Ramps
Oversized double heat-shielded handguard
Adjustable front sight post
Magpul Gen2 flip-up rear sight
Reversible selector switch
Mil-Std 1913 rail
Sling attachments at the front and back

Getting Hands on the Colt M4 Carbine

When I got my hands on the Colt M4 (the modern LE6920 version), I decided to test it out with a red dot. I asked the guys at the GRITR shooting range to set me up with the Eotech EXPS3 holographic sight for 50-yard shots. The space on the rail is quite limited, so you’ll be able to mount only a red dot or an LPVO.

As for the feel of the rifle, nothing out of the ordinary. Everything is pretty standard, except for the beefy handguard – it’s been a while since I’ve handled one of those. I’m more of a free-float guy, so working with a drop-in handguard felt a bit awkward. Overall, though, everything ran smoothly.

Shooting the Colt M4 Carbine

I’ve already mentioned that, in my opinion, the Colt M4 is a very good rifle. Shooting it was great; in 300-something rounds, not a single malfunction.

As far as under/over gassing goes, again, no issues. The rifle was perfectly gassed and had a consistent ejection pattern.

As for the trigger, well, it’s not the best trigger I’ve tested. I’d like it to be a bit lighter – out of the box, the pull is at 6 lbs. Plus, while the break is crisp, the take-up isn’t so smooth.

The accuracy was just as expected from any AR-15 shooting standard 5.56 ammo (I used Winchester 5.56 62gr ammo). At 50 yards, I got 1-inch-something groups. Would it be accurate at farther distances? Absolutely. You can easily stretch the effective range to 200 yards.

Read: Best 5.56 ammo for the AR-15

Final Thoughts

colt-6920-upgrades

You know, I really enjoyed my time with the Colt M4 carbine. It’s quite challenging to compete against other M4 clones, like the S&W M&P15 Sport II or the PSA M4 carbine. However, I’ll say it again: it’s an accurate and reliable rifle, ready to go straight out of the box. You can use it as your beater rifle, a target gun, a beginner M4… Whatever you like.

If you’re looking to add a more modern vibe, you can easily upgrade it to your liking. (I’d replace the handguard, trigger group, and maybe the charging handle.)

A youth shotgun typically has lighter weight, shorter barrel length, and a smaller length of pull, making it easier for younger shooters to handle and control.

There are several models of the Colt M4 Carbine available, including the M4A1 SOCOM Carbine and the Colt M4 Trooper. Both options cater to different needs and preferences but maintain the core qualities of reliability and performance.

Yes, civilians can purchase versions of the Colt M4 Carbine that are modified for civilian use. These AR-15-style rifles maintain the classic features of the M4 carbine but are tailored to meet legal requirements for civilian ownership.

Timothy Chandler

Timothy Chandler is a long-time outdoor enthusiast and shooting range regular who decided to put his passion into words. Having tried an immeasurable number of firearms during his hunting trips across Texas and several other states, Timothy has accumulated a knowledge base worthy of sharing. The possible blanks in the expertise he compensates with the help of his numerous shooting buddies. Timothy is set on a seemingly impossible mission to try it all in the realm of firearms. Follow him on his never-ending journey through the gun world.

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