Reminds me of the old
cigarette commercial: "Baby,
you've come a long way."
And when applied to the ArmaLite gun of the late 1950s, that line
couldn't be truer. The old Mattie Mattel gun (GI slang for the 16)
got its start with Eugene Stoner's invention of 1957 - the
model 15 - AR-15.
Stoner was a designer ahead of his time. The AR-10,
another Stoner gun, in this author's humble opinion one of the finest
sniper rifles around, is chambered for the hard-hitting, 7.62x51mm
NATO; the AR-15 is chambered for 5.56mm NATO, or .223. The
semi-automatic AR-15 and the semi-auto and full-automatic AR-10 can
be found in many of today's gun collections and law enforcement
If you're looking for a great gun with readily
available ammo (.308 or .223), either will do.
The U.S. military was looking for a suitable full-auto
gun in 5.56mm, and the rest is history.
The AR-15 led to the M16, issued to our armed forces in
South Vietnam, and that country's harsh, steamy climate proved a
tough testing ground for the upstart M16. Despite a rocky start, the
M16 service rifle survived and some modifications and improvements
later became an American mainstay, one that has been exported and
copied globally. In 50 years, the M16 has spawned numerous variants.
The M4 and the M4A1 carbine/assault rifle are the
great, great grandsons of the AR-15.
Produced from the
mid-1990s to the present, the M4 is the shorter, lighter descendant
of Stoner's AR-15. The M4 has three speeds - SAFE,
Semi-Auto and Three-round Burst. If you're looking for one of today's
full-auto M16 guns, you'll have to go with the M4s sibling, the M4A1.
By its very
definition, a carbine is a short-barreled, lightweight gun. The M4
weighs about 6 pounds, empty. With a full, 30-round magazine, it tips
the scales at close to 7 pounds, still very
light. This gas-operated, air-cooled battlefield carbine offers
special operators and grunts alike the full menu of
close-quarter-combat options - night vision, laser pointers,
scoped sights, grenade launch capability (e.g., M203 or M320), the
cool KAC Masterkey, a.k.a., M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System
("Open Says Me") and a rail system to conveniently pack
everything on the platform.
The Colt Defense M4 and the M4A1 have been
battle-tested in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The gun has a low
profile, great for urban combat - 33 inches long, with the
telescoping stock extended, 3 inches shorter with the stock
retracted, and a 14 1/2- inch barrel. Compare that with the M16s
20-inch barrel. But then, the M4 is not a long-distance gun. But it's
handy and maneuverable.
The M4 is chambered
for the full complement of 5.56x45mm NATO rounds, which it spits out
a a cyclic rate up to 900-plus-rounds per minute...smoking...and
a muzzle velocity close to 3,000 fps.
If you're headed to a firefight, don't forget to bring
your M4 carbine. You'll be glad you did.