Colt Doubles Down
September 11, 2017
Fielded during difficult times, Colt's M16A1 became forever entwined with the war in Vietnam. Adopted as a replacement for Army Ordnance's darling M14, it was a rifle well ahead of its time.
Built with space-age materials and blessed with an eye-catching Buck Rogers appearance, it was light and quick-handling with little felt recoil. It was accurate, and its high-velocity 5.56mm cartridge proved effective while allowing the soldier to carry more ammo for the same weight compared to the 7.62. The M16A1 would soldier on through the war in Vietnam and then the Cold War before finally being officially replaced in the 1980s with the M16A2.
Today many shooters and collectors are fascinated by the rifles of this period. Colt recognized this and in early 2016 announced it would be doing a small run of semiautomatic M16A1 rifles for the shooter and collector. Late last year I had the chance to handle and fire what Colt has designated the M16A1 Reissue during an event at Gunsite Academy. It was a real blast from the past.
The M16A1 Reissue carefully replicates the look, feel and features of the original Vietnam classic. Picking one up you suddenly remember just how light and handy this model was. Weighing in at just 6.6 pounds, the M16A1 Reissue is lightning fast to the shoulder and easy to carry. The buttstock is shorter and more comfortable than the M16A2's. The pistol grip lacks that annoying nub, and I like it better than the A2's. Plus, the handguards have that classic triangular shape and distinctive feel. They may not be as robust as the later A2 units, but they sure do look cool.
Barrel length is the traditional 20 inches and features the early 1:12-inch twist, which is a perfect match for the 55-grain M193 ball load issued alongside the original. The barrel features the original lightweight "pencil" profile and is chrome-lined. It's tipped with a classic three-prong flash suppressor.
The Reissue is fitted with the early round front sight post, which is adjustable for elevation but uses a different tool than the later M16A2; a bullet tip will suffice. The L-shape rear sight is integral to the carry handle. Windage can be adjusted with a bullet tip, and flipping the sight provides battle-sight and long-range options. The carry handle is designed to accept the early Colt 3X and 4X scopes.
The rifle is period-correct from the teardrop forward assist to the sling swivels, and Colt even applied original markings, including "Property of the US Government" as well as "Safe," "Semi" and "Auto" selector markings.
The M16A1 Reissue not only looks good, it shoots well, too. Cartridges loaded easily into the 20-round magazines. The magazine inserted neatly with an upward push and a tug to verify it was properly seated. Run the charging handle and cartridges loaded smoothly into the chamber. The rifle has a distinctive feel in the hand due to its light weight and triangular handguard.
I shot it offhand, kneeling, sitting and prone on steel silhouettes and found it enjoyable to shoot. The sights are good, the trigger is acceptable and recoil is mild. Unfortunately, production will be small and the suggested retail is high at $2,499.
While Colt's M16A1 Reissue looks to its past, the new Combat Unit Carbine looks toward the future. Dveloped with input from well-respected trainers such as Mike Pannone, Ken Hackathorn and Daryl Holland, this model finally introduces a mid-length gas system into the Colt rifle line. Many shooters, myself included, prefer a mid-length gas system over a traditional carbine length because it creates a softer-shooting gun.
The Combat Unit Carbine features a Centurion Arms M-LOK free-floating handguard. No old-school 1913 "cheese grater" here, but rather a good-looking, comfortable and useful lightweight design. It also comes nicely equipped with a Magpul MOE SL stock and pistol grip as well as a Magpul MOE trigger guard.
The SL stock is fairly light, adjusts easily and doesn't yank your beard or stubble like many other designs. The butt is nicely contoured and doesn't slide around as do lessor designs. The SL pistol grip is a favorite of mine due to its contour and aggressive texturing. Neither piece has bells or whistles, but they feel great and are very functional.
The Centurion Arms handguard is also practical. Its light, has a small diameter and the ability to add accessories—either via dedicated M-LOK accessories or through the addition of 1913 rail section.
Riding inside the free-floating handguard is a chrome-lined, medium weight barrel chambered in 5.56 NATO. It features a 1:7 twist, so it will shoot a diverse range of heavy and light bullets well.
Overall, the gun is lightweight, quick handling and well suited for sport, recreation or personal protection. Suggested retail price is $1,299. I am happy to see Colt finally listening to customers and moving in the direction people are asking. The Combat Unit Carbine exudes the sense of quality a Colt rifle should, and I'm glad it's here.