When my future wife and I started collecting martial arms, we followed a predictable progression. First a M1 Garand. Then a M1 Carbine. As finances allowed, and opportunity knocked, a M1911, a Krag, a Trapdoor, and so on. We loved the history they represented, but we were shooters as well. We shot in Grandpap’s cow pasture, but kept scores and tried to maintain correct fundamentals of rifle marksmanship as best as any self-taught people could in the era before the internet.
I always was deeply interested in the Vietnam War, after all, that was the war Dad was in. Owning a M16 seemed “a bridge too far”, simply too expensive. Getting an AR-15 as an analog seemed possible, but there was a problem: THE BAN.
More correctly known as the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, at that time it was illegal to manufacture rifles with certain combinations of “deadly features”: flash hiders, collapsible stocks, prominent pistol grips, detachable magazines, and so on. Basically, anything cool. It was also illegal to produce normal capacity magazines. More than ten rounds was ten years in federal prison. Pre-Ban rifles and mags quickly skyrocketed in value. The only way to get a rifle looking anything like a Vietnam era M16 was to suck it up and buy a Colt SP-1, if you could find one for sale.
Eventually I lucked out and met a woman who was getting away from rifle shooting due to health issues. That used SP-1 cost me, A LOT, $1250 in the 1990s, and that was considered “a good price”. Roughly two and-a-half times what a new “Post-Ban” AR would have cost. With some diligence I was able to scrounge a few well used 20 round mags for $10 each. I was set: V.C. IN THE WIRE!
And what a rifle she was. The SP-1 was essentially a semi-auto only version of the Colt Model 601. Colt built them from leftover receiver forgings from the early Air Force contract rifles. The original design was a real thoroughbred. At 7lbs., she’s light, handy, and accurate. With a 20 inch barrel and M193 ball you have 3,250fps. That’s fast, and because it’s fast, she hits hard. Excepting the addition of the brass deflector, every feature changed on the contemporary M16A2 wasn’t any real improvement considering the rifle’s design intention. Master Stoner has her right from the beginning, powerful, sleek and lithe; a SP-1 is downright sexy. Rifles don’t get any better.
Well, maybe it does. Have you met her hot little sister? The CAR-15?
BY MICHAEL P. POPERNACK