Throwback Thursday: Colt M4 AR-15 .22 LR — A Must Have

The AR-15 rifle is America’s rifle and a very good choice for small game, personal defense, and general target shooting. A .22 caliber version of the AR would be a good understudy. I have tried .22 conversion units. While they are OK as far as it goes, I prefer having two guns to one with a few accessories. Plus, .22 Long Rifle bullets tend to leave lead deposits in the .223 Remington barrel.

The Colt M4/SOCOM type rifle is my favorite AR-15. The LE6920 is as close as we can get to the military M4 rifle. The Colt M4 .22 caliber rifle is manufactured under license by Walther. Colt has a long history of licensing manufacture of parts (and even firearms) dating back to Eli Whitney and continuing with Adcor today. The Walther rifle is first class in every way and a worthy rifle to bear the Colt name.

M4 AR-15 .22 LR Rifle
Only the .22 caliber magazine is a giveaway in a casual look at the Colt M4 .22. Otherwise, it looks like a typical AR-15.

Colt M4 .22 Features

The Colt M4 .22 is a simple blowback operated, semi-automatic rimfire rifle. It is intended to operate as closely as possible to the AR-15 rifle. The appearance is excellent. The real giveaway is the long .22 caliber magazine. The safety, trigger, sights, magazine release and cocking handle operate in the same manner as the Colt AR-15 rifle. This makes for an excellent rifle for inexpensive training for those that use the AR-15 rifle. Internally, the Walther operates much differently than the AR-15, but the controls are identical for the most part.

An important feature is a match-grade barrel. The barrel rides inside a sleeve that mimics the standard AR-15 carbine contour. The barrel is authentic even down to the A1-style flash hider. The sights are standard AR-15 type. There is plenty of adjustment in the sights.

The quad rail is free-floating. The Picatinny rail allows mounting lasers or combat lights, even a side-mounted red dot sight. The receivers are aluminum, just the same as the AR-15. They are marked Colt and M4 Carbine. Walther’s markings are out of the way on the right lower receiver.

Walther Rimfire - Colt M4
The Walther-built rimfire bears a strong name.

Feel and Function

When examining the rifle, the fit and finish get high marks. All of the controls are standard AR-15 and feel very much like the “real thing” Colt used for comparison.

A primary difference in function is the bolt throw when racking the bolt to make it ready. The .223 version moves about three times the length of the .22 Long Rifle. It only feels odd after the first few tries and not at all if you have never fired an AR-15 rifle. The five-position stock offers good adjustment.

The carrying handle/sight is easily removed. The flat-top-type receiver allows mounting a rifle scope or red dot. I have used iron sights for the most part and I have also used the TruGlo Eminus scope with good results.

I think that while it is OK to stress the training aspect of the Colt M4 . 22 for those that own a centerfire AR-15, the M4 .22 is quite a rifle in its own right. As a standalone, the M4 has great appeal whether or not you own a centerfire rifle. So, the small differences in handling don’t mean that much as a training rifle or a standalone.

Colt M4 Bolt
A lightweight, adjustable bolt makes for good reliability.

A quick note… when you take the receiver apart, you will note a knob for controlling bolt velocity. Clockwise, high speed; counterclockwise, low speed. This will allow the use of high velocity .22 Long Rifle — about 90 percent of what most of us will use — and standard velocity, which some like to play with.

Standard velocity is slower and, on average, is more expensive. It is a good option to have, but I don’t use the setting. In most cases, the rifle will run well with all high-velocity loads and will function with most standard velocity loads as well.

In an extremely dirty gun setting, the bolt speed for low-velocity loads may keep it going for a while longer between cleaning. I have never reset mine and you probably won’t have to in the general course of firing the M4 .22.

Magazine Follower Tabs
Note tabs on magazine follower; these make for easy loading.

Capacity and Performance

A word on the 30-round magazines. They are well-made of good material. They are a single-column design. There are tabs on the follower to make it easy enough to load the magazine to full capacity.

Like all long magazines, the magazine may interfere with prone or other firing positions that put the rifle close to the ground. When handling the rifle quickly, the balance is as AR-15 like as you would expect. At just over six pounds, the rifle isn’t as light as many .22s. It is a good handful and very AR-15-like in weight and handling.

The trigger action breaks at seven pounds even, which is in the middle of the road for AR-15 trigger actions. Aftermarket trigger actions do not fit the Colt M4 .22.

Colt M4 Magazines
Colt’s magazines are well made and designed for easy loading.

Accuracy Testing

On the firing range, the rifle was a joy to fire and use. The magazines were not difficult to load to full capacity. I used the Winchester M22 loading. This is a specially designed load intended to perform well in AR-15-type .22 Long Rifle firearms. The M22 is accurate, reliable, and burns clean.

I loaded four magazines and began firing at man-sized targets at 15 to 25 yards. It is great fun to rip off a magazine at a target with no real purpose. Slowing down a little, I was able to put five to 10 rounds into the X-ring on demand.

Settling down to test absolute accuracy, I fired both the Winchester M22 and the Winchester Super X hollow-point. The Super X is a hot number. At 1,260 fps, there is plenty of velocity for good expansion. Firing from a standing braced barricade I put five rounds into 1.1 inches and 10 in 1.8 inches at 25 yards.

Colt M4 Stock
The five-position stock is a good feature.

This is a good shooting rifle. After firing a full brick of 500 rounds of Winchester M22 and 100 rounds of the Super X hollow point, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject.

The Colt M4 .22 is a fine recreational rifle and also a good trainer. While it may not look the part, it is also a great small-game rifle. In other words, if you own only one .22 rifle, this one is a credible choice.

What do you think of AR-15-style rifles chambered in .22 LR? How does the Colt M4 stack up against your favorite rimfire? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April of 2020. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.
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