In any event, there have been formal attempts made in the last several years to find a replacement via competitive tests sponsored by the U.S. Army. These tests were, by many accounts, influenced by politics, both the inter-service and government types, which may have colored the conclusions. So, better or not, the M4 was determined to be good enough. The end result is its still out there fighting today, although some of our spec ops forces have gravitated to other (largely piston-driven) systems.
The FN America Military Collector Series M4 I received is a nearly exact copy of what our warfighters are currently issued. I say nearly exact, because the FN Collector M4 has a 16-inch barrel versus the 14.5-inch military version, and is semi-auto versus full-auto (M4A1) or three-round burst capable. Beyond that, it’s a clone down to the last Mil-Spec detail. The upper and lower receivers are 7075 hard-anodized aluminum, while the barrel is FN America’s chrome-lined, button-broached, 1:7” twist with fixed A2 sight tower, topped with a birdcage flash hider and a cutout for an M203 grenade launcher. The receiver is roll-marked with the FN label, and also has a UID tag for an authentic touch. The controls are all in their usual places, and include an ambidextrous safety. A set of high-end Knights Armament (KAC) RAS forearm and rail panels were also included. Born of the SOPMOD Block 1 upgrades, these allow the addition of a variety of accessories, including in this case a KAC detachable vertical broomstick foregrip. On the less high but authentic end, the FN M4 had the standard issue AR pistol grip and 6-position collapsible stock. On a personally-owned AR I would have replaced these straightaway for something better, but most of our troops cannot do this, so they stayed on.
For testing I mounted a 4×32 Trijicon Rifle Combat Optic (RCO) on a Larue Tactical RCO QD mount on the flattop Picatinny-railed upper. While the Larue mount is different from the issue dual-screw type, the RCO is true to what our Marines currently carry, and it is a force multiplier. The red-chevron is fiber-optic and tritium illuminated, while marked stadia lines lie both vertically and horizontally to assist with rapid range estimation and wind correction. Combined with very clear glass and robust construction, the RCO significantly increases the accuracy potential of the M4 and aids in observation at extended ranges. Together the carbine and optic weighed in at 6.75 pounds. The whole package came in a hard cardboard case with an 30-round aluminum magazine, and various FN literature.
I essentially knew what to expect from accuracy testing with the FN M4, as I was certainly dealing with a known quantity. Most ARs are capable of 2- to 3-MOA accuracy or better depending on what you feed them, and I anticipated at least that with the RCO mounted on the M4. I thus decided to test the weapon as if I was on a QD course, firing from the prone using the magazine for a monopod. This would not wring out the true intrinsic accuracy of the M4/RCO combination, but would give a good idea what to expect for practical accuracy from the hands of an average serviceman under normal conditions. I had previously measured the Mil-Spec, single-stage trigger at exactly six pounds, which is slightly better than most.
I got started at 50 yards by establishing a good 50 to 200 yard zero with the RCO and rear KAC BUIS. A common issue with the rear BUIS mounted is that the fixed-power RCO sits a little too far forward to get good eye relief, forcing me to bring the stock in a bit more than usual. With a fixed stock M16A2 or A4, this is not an option and eye relief can be a problem. Nevertheless, I was able to put 5-round groups inside an inch or so without much trouble. I also shot a few drills, such as the Modified Navy Qual, in which the M4 was easy to manipulate and get quick hits, with my times nearly on par with those shot from more upgraded ARs. As the 100-yard range was not available, I went to the 200-yard range to see what I could do on some Mk1 Mod0 8-inch paper plates using Federal AE 62-grain M855. My first group was just under four inches using M855, strung vertically save for a called flyer. Not match accuracy, but well inside minute-of-jihadist, and shot fairly quickly. Good.
Several days later the 100-yard range was open, so on a cool, sunny afternoon I commenced trying six different loads, including military-issue Federal AE 55-grain M193, Federal AE M855, MFS 55-grain, PMC 55-grain, Wolf Gold 55-grain, Hornaday 60-grain TAP Urban and a rare box of military-loaded 70-grain Barnes TSX. Most shot inside 2 to 3 inches, with the Hornady winning the prize with 5-shot groups averaging 1.5 inches, though I managed a fluke 1-inch group from the MFS 55-grain as well. Again, I was not shooting from a Ransom Rest, so it is very likely that this M4 is capable of much better accuracy than I am. What it did do was digest 200+ rounds over two days with no malfunctions of any kind straight out of the box—and with no lube—from six different types of common metal and synthetic magazines. Not combat conditions, to be sure, but with a little lube and maintenance at the right intervals I have every reason to think it would continue to perform just as well for years.
Unlike the Garand or other battle rifles from the days of old, the FN America Military Collector Series M4 carbine is based upon one still serving our armed forces against foes around the world. In a day when we see the proliferation of mid-length and piston gas systems, along with every conceivable device that can be hung or bolted on an AR, the M4 still charges on. I expect its got at least another decade of service ahead of it. Civilian enthusiasts can enjoy the nostalgia of a collector’s item, as well as a carbine which is still both modern and fully serviceable for any law-abiding purpose you choose. While I will likely never have to use my Garand to defend my home, I could, and I can confirm it works as well as it did wherever it served before it found its way to me. But the FN America M4 Carbine has some advantages the Garand just can’t match, and its just as iconic. See it at your gun shop, or contact FN America, Dept. OT; Tel.: (703) 288-3500; Web: www.fnamerica.com