Colt Le M4 Review Assignment

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With a nod toward the AR’s patriotic parentage as the platform created for the U.S. military, the Colt LE6920MP USA looks as cool as it shoots.

When Modern Shooter editor Doug Howlett asked if I wanted to do a review on a state-of-the-art Colt law enforcement carbine, I jumped at the chance.

The rifle we tested is the LE6920MP-USA series. The USA designation indicates a flag of the United States treatment on the stock, pistol grip and forend. It’s sort of Fourth of July camo, and I think it’s fitting since everything about this gun spells U.S.A.

The new Colt is a collaborative effort between two icons in the world of AR-15s. It’s a joint effort between Colt and Magpul, and includes some of Magpul’s most popular furniture for the AR-15 platform. The running gear is the same as the standard carbines, but the LE6920MP-USA sports Magpul MOE handguards, an MOE carbine stock, an MOE pistol grip, the MOE vertical grip and a Magpul back-up rear sight.

The gas system is the standard gas block with an integral front sight. My test gun had a special patriotic flag finish on the stock, pistol grip and forend, which makes it stand out no matter where it is. It is a sharp looking gun for sure.

Basic running gear is a 16.1-inch chrome-lined 1:7 twist barrel with a 5.56 chamber. Basically, there are three chamber choices for .223/5.56 rifles. The 5.56 chamber is the most forgiving of ammunition and will run almost anything. The .223 chamber is a tighter spec chamber meant for a closer tolerance to allow better accuracy. The 5.56 Wylde chamber in my CRP 18 is a compromise, it’s more forgiving of ammunition but still oriented towards match-level accuracy.

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Choosing the 5.56 chamber for the LE6920 makes sense because it’s a multipurpose carbine, and the 5.56 chamber and 1:7 twist barrel will accurately shoot any ammunition you can feed it, from cheap steel case stuff to the best 77-grain match ammunition from companies like Hornady and Black Hills.

The gas system is the standard direct impingement system. This also makes sense because there’s little real need for a piston system, unless you’re shooting full auto and/or using a suppressor. Direct impingement is simple and a piston isn’t the answer to all questions. Our M14s had pistons, and they weren’t a totally trouble-free arrangement.

Fit and finish are quite good with only a slight amount of upper to lower receiver wobble. The controls on the LE6920 operated as they should. The trigger was an average service trigger with a little creep at the beginning and breaking at the standard service rifle level of about 51⁄2 pounds. Trigger reset was crisp and positive. With a 16.1 inch barrel and weighing just 6.9 pounds, this is a fast handling little carbine.

I broke it in at Mike Byrd’s tactical range at B&B Precision Machine Co. not far from my home. There were four shooters present from the level of a Master USPSA to me, and I mainly shoot tactical matches for the experience and to better write about them.

All the guys really liked the little Colt and were favorably impressed. While those guys make me look like a rookie with pistols, I do have a little experience with rifles, and I managed 10 consecutive hits on an 8-inch plate in fairly rapid fire standing with the Magpul flip-up rear and standard front sight.

Colt LE6920MP USA Review: Range Realities

Later, and back on my range, I mounted a Nikon 3-12 M.223 scope for accuracy testing. I didn’t expect spectacular accuracy, because chrome-lined barrels rarely shine in the accuracy department. Chrome lining is intended to enhance reliability, corrosion resistance and barrel life.

Still, the little Colt did an admirable job and stayed under two minutes of angle with the excellent Black Hills 55-grain Barnes TSX load. Certainly this is acceptable accuracy for any law enforcement or civilian carbine.

The AR-15/M16 platform of rifles represents the most successful firearms platform in history. Never before has a military firearm evolved so completely, and in so many directions. While you might not find the AR-15 rifle pretty, you simply can’t argue it doesn’t do everything well.

It is a National Championship level target rifle, a defensive rifle, a hunting rifle and, in the form of the M16 and M4, it’s arguably the best battle rifle ever designed. When I shot that original M16A1, I would have never guessed the platform would ever see the success it’s seen, and that later, I’d be a huge fan of the AR-15.

The patriotic red, white and blue finish on the LE6920MP-USA is fitting in that it represents what’s right with America in a time when many are talking about what’s wrong with America.

Colt is an American company, building sporting, law enforcement and military versions of a successful military rifle designed in America. We’re the only country in the world where the current military rifle, in widespread use around the world, could be adapted and accepted across all aspects of firearms use.

To me, the patriotic finish reminds me that without our precious Second Amendment, this could never happen. I’m sure there will be more collaboration between Colt and Magpul, and I’m excited to see the results.

Colt LE6920MP USA

Caliber    5.56 Nato
Action Type    Semi-automatic
Receiver    Aluminum
Barrel    Chrome-lined, six-groove, 1:7 twist RH
Magazine    30-round Magpul
Trigger    Single stage
Sights    Magpul flip-up rear and standard gas block integral front
Stock    Magpul MOE buttstock, Magpul MOE grip and vertical foregrip and MOE handguard
Weight    6.57 lbs.
Overall Length    35.5 in. extended
Accessories    N/A
MSRP    $1,316

This article is an excerpt from the new magazine Modern Shooter Spring 2014 presented by Gun Digest.

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Dick Jones

Dick Jones is a freelance outdoor writer and author whose interest in guns and shooting has encompassed his lifetime. He’s a Distinguished Rifleman, and former High Master, who captained and coached a High Power rifle team on a national level, winning six Dogs of War medals. His interests in shooting span from classic double shotguns to AR-15s, sniper rifles and competitive pistol shooting. He’s also a shooting instructor and runs Lewis Creek Shooting School in High Point, N.C.

I have been fascinated with the idea of a budget Colt rifle since I heard about the Expanse Carbine a while back. After Colt’s recent financial speed bumps I am of the opinion that as long as Colt can get the Expanse into just about every gun shop out there, it may go a long way towards getting Colt out of financial trouble.

My father found himself in need of a rifle kit to build the AR-15 lower that was given to him for his birthday earlier this year and asked me to locate one for him. After some searching, I found that good quality build kits were a bit scarce at reasonable prices, disheartened I checked my email one morning to find an ad for the Expanse rifle priced at just under $600. Some quick mental math determined that I was more than willing to pay the delta between the cost of the rifle and the normal price of a good kit if I retained some of the Colt parts for my bin of AR-15 parts.

After placing the order, the rifle showed up about a week later. I headed out to the range with the Expanse rifle to see what I thought before tearing it down to rebuild with my father and decided to have an impromptu review.

At a quick glance, the Expanse is no different than any other AR-15 on the market with a price point under $600 (street price), but there are a few features that I feel set the rifle apart from the competition. Firstly, the Colt name is a pretty large selling point, also the fit and finish of the rifle is exactly you would expect from Colt. Out of the crappy cardboard box the rifle came in and onto the table I was left with a pretty basic setup. 

I think that it was a brilliant marketing move for Colt to move to an M4 Carbine roll mark on the Expanse lowers. My suspicion is that the LE serial number might mean the Expanse receiver comes from the same stock as the law enforcement line of rifles.

Something else of note is the one piece mag catch, normally there is a threaded rod that is pressed into the flat plate, it appears to be a lower quality one piece part on the Expanse.   The F marked front sight was of the same quality that you would expect on one of Colt’s legendary LE6920 rifles. The skinny handguards were an interesting choice; I am not sure how much money they save over the plentiful fatty style of handguards that almost every other manufacturer uses.

At the muzzle end, you find a quality A2 style flash hider. A visual inspection tells me that this is likely the same part that makes its home on military contract rifles. The heavy profile non-chrome lined barrel does make the rifle a bit nose heavy, but for the average shooter, it is perfectly adequate. 

The CE1000 series of rifles is missing a few bits that we have come to expect on an AR-15, the dust cover, and forward assist. Thankfully the provisions to add either are still in place making it easy for shooters to add the missing parts. Since buying this rifle, Colt has released the CE2000 Expanse that includes the missing parts.

The forward assist hole is plugged with a Colt branded plastic plug, a nice touch that was no doubt cheaper to add in lieu of having an upper receiver made without the forward assist. 

When I pulled the bolt and charging handle out, I was quite impressed with the quality of the pair. If I were to wager a guess, I would say these come from the same forgings as the higher end parts found on mil-spec rifles. The carrier is a full auto unit, a bit of a departure of the old Clinton Ban era guns that have most of the bottom of the carrier milled flat.

Looking at the fire control group everything seemed pretty normal with the exception of the hammer. In addition to its strange shape, it appears to be coated with a nickel boron type of coating like some of the enhanced triggers that have come to market in recent years. The trigger feels like a well made standard mil-spec trigger that registered 6 pounds 11 ounces on my trigger scale.

The very nice staking job on both the lock plate and the bolt carrier is again, what one would expect to see from Colt. Staking the castle nut with the lock plate is something that many budget rifles are often lacking, Colt’s attention to this small detail is a refreshing change of pace when looking at rifles in this price bracket.

I did find the four position mil-spec diameter receiver extension to be a bit odd. Since every other rifle in their lineup has a six position tube, I would assume that it isn’t that cost effective to remove two of the holes from the tube. 

Shooting the Expanse rifle was rather pleasant with the exception of not being able to run the stock in the length I prefer. I mounted an Aimpoint on the rifle and started to burn through the 500 rounds I had allowed for this test. I did find that the handguards don’t do so well under sustained fire and heat up quite fast. I set up some paper targets to see how the extra weight on the barrel affected how the rifle swung from target to target.

When transitioning from target to target the extra weight was a bit noticeable, but I don’t feel it was detrimental in the least. At this point, I was starting to respect this bargain rifle a lot more than I expected. 

Since I wasn’t planning on a review, I was forced to use an ammo can as a makeshift rest for a rough accuracy test at 100 yards using the Aimpoint instead of a proper scope. The results were pretty decent given the hasty ammo can rest. 

After spending an afternoon with the Expanse rifle, I am sold on the idea of a quality sub $600 rifle. The Expanse ran perfectly throughout the test and provided perfectly acceptable accuracy results at 100 yards with a 4 MOA Aimpoint perched on top of it.

I can see this rifle as being a good alternative for cash-strapped police officers and recreational shooters that are looking for a decent rifle for not much money.

The Colt CE1000 Expanse carries an MSRP of $699 as tested but can be found with a street price of $599 or less if you shop around. If you want to learn more about the Expanse, you can head over to Colt’s website HERE.

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