Retro Rifles
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While hard to believe by many people, enough time has passed for Eugene Stoner’s original AR-pattern rifles to be classified as “Curios & Relics” by the government. How can a platform that is still in wide use today qualify? The BATFE considers a firearm that was manufactured “at least 50 years prior to the current date” to fall under their definition of Curio & Relic, or C&R.

This means that Colt’s SP1, which began production in 1964, obtained C&R status back in 2014. Based on serial numbers, it is believed that there are more than 10,000 C&R-eligible AR-15 rifles in existence right now.

Everything old is new again. Combine the popularity of the AR platform with the resurgence of all things retro, and it comes as no surprise that those original Stoner-designed rifles have become highly desirable collector’s items.

Unfortunately for many of us less well-heeled collectors and AR enthusiasts, those original rifles remain beyond our budgetary grasp. This has opened the market for “retro clones”—rifles that closely match the original design and appearance, but for a fraction of the price. Multiple companies have gotten into the game, offering a wide variety of options at various price points.

Colt AR15A4

Retro Rifles

Fittingly, Colt introduced its civilian-legal retro clone in 2014—50 years after the civilian SP1 hit the market. The AR15A4 is based on the M16A4 rifle used by the military, which Colt claims to be “the ultimate full-length combat rifle…for the 21st century.” The AR15A4 is billed as “a throwback to the full-sized AR-15 which gave birth to the Modern Sporting Rifle.”

Some may argue that this rifle doesn’t qualify as retro since the A4 variation is considerably less than 50 years old. On the contrary, I would argue that it does indeed qualify because Colt is creating a rifle that pays homage to 50-plus years of history enveloped in the M16/AR-15 design. This AR variant stands upon the shoulders of the original M16 design elements—including its flaws—that led to the current iteration we have today. (And if you want a replica for an older design, you can also check out Colt’s Military Classics line, which has the M16A1 and XM177E2.)

As you would expect, the specs on the civilian AR15A4 faithfully replicate those of its military counterpart. It has a 20-inch barrel with 1-in-7-inch twist rate, a 39.5-inch overall length, an A2 front sight, a detachable carry handle rear sight and a full-sized fixed buttstock. Basically, the AR15A4 is a spot-on replica of the military design. If you laid Colt’s military and civilian versions next to each other, the average person wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Given the whole point of this rifle, I think that’s a good thing.

Overall, Colt did a great job with this retro clone. The company successfully took half a century of history and combined it into a quality rifle—as Colt should have, given its long history with the design after which the company modeled the AR15A4.

For more information, visit colt.com.

Colt AR15A4 Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • OA Length: 39.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.71 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: A2 front, carry handle rear
  • Stock: Fixed
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,099

FN 15 Military Collector M16

Retro Rifles

In 2015, FN launched a new line of rifles that would go “from the front lines to your collection.” The company’s Military Collector Series includes civilian-legal versions of the M16, M4 and M249 SAW. Here we’ll focus on the M16.

Like Colt, FN has a rich history of providing quality firearms for the military. Its first M16 contract began in the fall of 1988 when the company underbid Colt by almost $60 per rifle. At the time, Colt had built more than 5 million M16 rifles; the initial FN contract called for more than a quarter-million rifles.

Staying true to the iconic M16 design, FN’s retro rifle features specs very similar to Colt’s retro offering. It too has a 20-inch barrel with a 1-in-7-inch twist rate, a 39.5-inch overall length, a fixed buttstock and an A2 front sight.

There are some differences, however. FN’s rifle does not have a detachable carry handle rear sight. Instead, it has a flat-top receiver equipped with a flip-up rear sight. The front handguard is different, too. Instead of the traditional round handguard seen on the Colt, FN’s rifle ships with a Knight’s Armament M5 RAS handguard with rail covers.

In the end, FN’s goal with this line of rifles is to bring civilian-legal versions of the “world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.” The Military Collector series offerings do exactly that.

For more information, visit fnamerica.com.

FN 15 Military Collector M16 Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • Overall Length: 39.5 inches
  • Overall Weight: 8.2 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: A2 front, flip-up rear
  • Stock: Fixed
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,749

Troy XM177E2

Retro Rifles

Recognizing the significance of the half-century mark for AR-pattern rifles in military service, Troy introduced the “My Service Rifle” series with a nod to our Vietnam vets. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the XM177E2 rifle introduced in 1967, Troy rolled out a rifle created to the “exacting 1967 U.S. military specifications, ensuring the historical accuracy and functional reliability of this venerable carbine.”

Troy’s XM177E2 has a collapsed length of 30 inches and a 12.5-inch barrel. A pinned and welded 4.5-inch moderator is attached to the barrel so it meets legal length requirements. The rifle also ships with 20- and 30-round magazines, a sling, cleaning kit, a replica manual from 1967, and a replica M16 PMM comic from 1969. Proceeds of the rifle sales benefit the Special Forces Association and the Special Operations Association.

For more information, visit myservicerifle.com.

Troy XM177E2 Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 12.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 30 inches
  • Overall Weight: 6.1 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: A1 front, carry handle rear
  • Stock: Collapsible
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 20+1, 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,199

Troy GAU-5/A/A

Retro Rifles

This rifle is the USAF version of the XM177E2. Troy’s commemorative offering replicates the firearm used by 45 of the 56 Special Forces operators who raided the Son Tay prison camp to rescue American POWs. The GAU-5/A/A was desired by commandos for its small size, reliability and reduced signature. The rifle also ships with the same accessories as the XM177E2, and proceeds of the sales benefit the National League of POW/MIA Families. Again, the pinned and welded muzzle device brings the 12.5-inch barrel to a 16-inch overall length, and both 20- and 30-round magazines are provided.

For more information, visit myservicerifle.com.

Troy GAU-5/A/A Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 12.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 30 inches
  • Overall Weight: 6.1 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: A1 front, carry handle rear
  • Stock: Collapsible
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 20+1, 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,199

Troy M16A2 SFOD-D

Retro Rifles

A third, newer rifle in the Troy My Service Rifle series—the M16A2 SFOD-D carbine—commemorates 1993’s Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, which went awry when two Black Hawk helicopters went down. The rifle is 30 inches long with the stock collapsed and has a 14.9-inch, chrome-lined barrel with an A2 flash suppressor bringing the total barrel length up to the 16 inches required by law. Once again, proceeds of the rifle sales benefit various military charities that support and honor our veterans and their families. Also, like every other My Service Rifle, the lower can be ordered with custom engraving.

For more information, visit myservicerifle.com.

Troy M16A2 SFOD-D Specifications

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 14.9 inches
  • Overall Length: 30-36.25 inches
  • Overall Weight: 6.1 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: A2 front, carry handle rear
  • Stock: Collapsible
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,299

This article is from the January-February 2019 issue of Tactical-Life magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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