Once the M4 was adopted by the military, many other government agencies and individuals wanted it: The military had thoroughly tested it and declared it durable and reliable. Besides, there’s something about owning the same gun frequently seen in the hands of troops and tested in real conflicts. That’s the case with Colt’s carbine-length AR-15, or M4, which has proven excellent for police work and become popular in the law enforcement community.

In 1986, Colt signed a contract to develop a carbine version of the M16 for the purpose of equipping rear echelon units with a smaller, handier version of the full-size rifle. The gun, designated the M4, went into full-production in 1994, and because of its compact design and collapsible stock, it was quickly adopted by special operations. The carbine’s popularity grew, and it is now the issue weapon for all U.S. Army combat units.

For a long time, Colt was the only supplier of the government’s M4s and devoted most of its efforts to fulfilling those contracts. As such, civilian versions of the M4 were not always easy to get, but they were generally thought of very highly because they were built to the same standards as GI models. Now some will argue that government specifications are not necessarily better than those used by commercial manufacturers. That may be true in some cases but not always. For example, an AR-15 manufactured by a maker claiming to follow military standards and building guns for weekend warriors who shoot 50 rounds a few times a year may not stand up to hard use nor be reliable enough for the life-threatening situations faced by professionals. But Colt guns have rarely been questioned for their quality. In fact, I can remember attending a Gunsite Carbine course where the instructor, when repeatedly asked to recommend an AR-15, always said, “All of mine are Colts.”

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Once the M4 was adopted by the military, many other government agencies and individuals…