The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in September 2004 changed the civilian AR-15 as much as the military M16 was changed to the M4 by these wars. The benefits of the military M4 were lighter, shorter and more adaptable than the rifle. Returning veterans and civilians who watched the wars on the news wanted to own a civilian version of the M4 carbine. The end to the Assault Weapons Ban made it possible. The AR-15 market reacted to that demand and many companies were soon making an M4 carbine version for the fast growing civilian market.
The 16.5” barrel of the civilian M4 carbine make it lighter and much handier than that of the 20” rifle barrel and the adjustable length of the stock is quickly adaptable to fit different size people, varying layers of clothing or body armor. The upper receiver’s Picatinny rail that usually extends on to the hand guard and the various types of attachment methods on the sides and bottom of the hand guard allows a myriad of accessories to be mounted. But be forewarned, just because you can mount everything imaginable on your M4 carbine doesn’t mean you should. Adding too much “stuff” can quickly create a very heavy carbine.
Remember “Lighter is better.” If you spend an entire day on the range with an M4 hanging by the sling around your neck and over your strong side shoulder you will quickly learn that lesson. Some additions are more useful than others. Personally, I add only back up iron sights (BUIS), a red dot sight, a white light, a sling and usually a vertical foregrip for a total weight of 7.2 pounds. Before you start throwing money at accessorizing your M4 carbine, think about the purpose that each addition serves and decide if it is worth the weight. One last tip, you can save yourself time and money by buying only Magpul Pmags. I’ve never seen one fail.
My 40 year journey from Colt AR-15 SP1 rifle to my current lightweight M4 carbine has been interesting. I have shot thousands of rounds through them and have enjoyed shooting all variations. In my opinion the AR-15 platform is the most versatile and easily customized rifle/carbine platform design to date. From the military standpoint the AR-15/M16/M4 is America’s longest serving longarm. Thank you Eugene Stoner; your late 1950s design was brilliant and some version of it will likely serve the military and civilians for many more decades.
BY SCOTT DUFF