As you may have gathered from my piece on .22 LR, I’m a bit of a fan. I’m willing to bet that most of our loyal readers learned how to shoot with some sort of .22 LR firearm and have shot more .22 LR than anything else by a long shot (pun quite intended). It is perfect for the recoil adverse, those on a budget, or folks who just like to shoot a lot. As such, I think a compelling case can be made for using .22 LR as a viable training aid. Several firearm manufacturers agree . . .
In the past few years, “tacticool” .22 rifles have emerged from the likes of Mossberg, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and Umarex/Colt. The latter is our topic of discussion today. Built by Walther, marketed and supported by Umarex, and licensed by Colt. If two heads are better than one, three certainly can’t hurt. I’ve had the pleasure of having one of the Umarex/Colt M4 Ops rifles on loan for about a month now. And it truly has been a pleasure. Unfortunately, the real world gets in the way of my trips to the range and I’ve only been able to shoot it on three separate occasions. However, in three trips, I’ve been able to burn through about 1000 rounds of several types of ammo. And unlike other tests, this one hasn’t driven me to the poor house getting to the 1000 mark.
The Umarex/Colt AR fits like a glove thanks to a collapsible stock and ergos nearly identical to the full sized AR on which it cloned itself. It is of similar weight and balance to any other AR I have ever shouldered and if handed off to an unknowing party, I am confident they could not tell the difference between the two while shouldered.
Said unknowing party would immediately know they weren’t in 5.56 territory anymore as soon as they used the charging handle, loaded a magazine, or moved from safe to fire.
First and foremost, the charging handle has the world’s shortest travel. Makes sense when you realize that the .22 LR cartridge could fit inside the powder chamber of any given 5.56 round out there. Why move the bolt any further than necessary? It even has a working dust cover.
But say you wanted to lock that bolt back for safety’s sake? Like any time you walk into your gun store? Or range? Or home? Or really anywhere that it is prudent to show clear? That is simple work on any AR in existence. Pull the charging handle, engage ye olde bolt release, and confidently show clear. Not so with Mr. Umarex/Colt. To perform the same action, you’d have to insert an empty magazine, pull the charging handle, remove the magazine, and then show clear. Not exactly my favorite activity to perform around the safety conscious. It is nice however that the bolt locks open when the magazine is empty.
Let’s talk magazines. I’m jealous of these and quite a bit upset that I can’t use them in my 5.56 AR. Made of polymer, they are hell bent for stout. I dropped them a few times for um… testing purposes. I swear it wasn’t because I’m a clumsy doofus. Not a scratch or dent or other problem. And check out that sweet little checkered thing that you can use to depress the magazine spring. Loading is a snap. Just pull down slightly on said checkered thingy and load to your heart’s desire. I wish I could do that with my standard AR mags. Speaking of standard AR mags, you will never confuse the two. The Umarex/Colt magazines are quite a bit longer and are clearly made to only take .22 LR.
While the robust plastic err… polymer mags will make you smile, the safety selector will make you cry. After reading Leghorn’s review of the BAD-ASS Safety Selector, I had myself quite the giggle. Here is a company that thinks a 90-degree safety throw is too much. Would they wet themselves at the thought of a 180-degree safety throw? Because that is what the Umarex/Colt has. Which I guess takes the whole “safe” thing to a new level. Because you’d have to have the thumb of a concert pianist to fully manipulate the safety with your right hand. In most cases, you need to flick rotate the safety with your meaty other hand. A mild PITA on a rest at a climate controlled range, it becomes a ludicrous issue while standing and firing or practicing for some sort of competition. I would argue that it actually compromises safety because it might dissuade the less than safety conscious among us to just not return the gun to safe upon completion of fire.
Like some sort of rabid monster from the deep, it eats everything. In 1000 rounds, I have yet to have a FTF or FTE beyond the random sampling of dud primers that plagues nearly every .22 LR round. Here is an approved feeding list
- CCI Mini Mag 36 grain 1260 FPS
- CCI Stinger 32 gr 1640 FPS
- Remington 22 Target 40 gr 1150 FPS
- Remington 22 Thunderbolt 40 gr 1255 FPS
- Federal Lightning 40 gr 1240 FPS
It will also take all sorts of value box ammo that Wal-Mart can offer. I have not tried subsonic ammo, but I suppose it is possible because you can tune the bolt return spring for different loads. Future tests shall see.
Field stripping is a breeze if you watch the extremely handy YouTube video on Umarex’s channel.
However, if you were to read the manual that comes with the gun, you might find yourself scratching your head. The manual neglects to mention the part about loosening the flash hider to release the tension on the takedown pins. If you don’t do that, those pins aren’t coming out without a hydraulic press of some sort. Even with the flash suppressor sufficiently loosened, the pins are wicked tight and require a soft punch and small hammer (screwdriver handle) to remove.
Once you have the upper assembly removed, you can run a bore-snake or cleaning rod down the barrel. The action needs a nylon brush and some Hoppes #9 to be returned to former glory.
This is what 1000 rounds without cleaning looks like. Once clean, apply a little oil to the spots recommended in the instructional video and resume gratuitous amounts of firing.
Speaking of firing, shooting this gun has been the only time that I have ever hollowed out a target at the range. It is just a hoot n’ coot to shoot.
With such a large volume of fire, I did have a bit of an issue with my trigger finger getting tired. The trigger isn’t particularly bad, but it isn’t particularly good either. My trigger gauge only goes to 8 lbs so I was unable to get an accurate reading. The book says 6.6 lbs to 9.9 lbs. My guess says between 10 and 11 lbs. While it is a stout trigger, it does not stack, creep, or otherwise do evil things. It is like pulling a brick across a tabletop with your finger. Sqeeze, squeeze, squeeze, and then it breaks cleanly. After about 250 rounds, I had to switch to using my middle finger.
The forward assist, like the bolt release, is there just for show. I guess it keeps it authentic or something. I would prefer to just not have it. In fact, I would gladly give it up to get a bolt release that actually worked.
It has a quad rail that is milled to 1913 specs and a flat top upper. The front sight pinned in place, but could be removed if you so desired. Speaking of desires, attach whatever lights, lasers, vertical grips, kitchen sinks, or bipods you want. Umarex/Colt even sells some accessories.
For those of us in love with the Magpul grips, too bad. The Umarex/Colt has a second hole in the grip for the firing mechanism that means you can’t use it without some Dremel work.
I was able to install an ambidextrous single point sling mount on the “buffer” tube. It requires a little bit of creativity to get it to stay centered, but it seems to work. If you aren’t comfortable tearing your gun apart, one of those clamp on adapters will work fine. If single point slings aren’t your cup of tea, there are sling attachment points fore and aft.
Other accessories like stocks, triggers, and various other furniture bits will not fit either.
I’m pleased with the overall accuracy of this gun. It is by no means a tack driver, but 100 yard accuracy isn’t something you should be pursuing with a .22 LR. With open sights at 25 yards, I was able to put 10 rounds in a 1.5” square.
Keep in mind that my parents were kind enough to gift me with terrible eyesight and an aversion to open sights. A scope or a more competent shooter could surely do better. At 50 yards, I was able to keep everything within a 2.5” square.
Judged as a standalone gun, I think this is a fine firearm. It seems to be of solid construction, functions flawlessly, and for the most part is user friendly. I plan on purchasing this particular gun from Umarex/Colt if that gives you any indication of my feelings. This will be replacing my Ruger 10/22 in the truck gun/varmint control arena. I won’t feel bad about throwing it in the truck or dropping it in the dirt. Durale, easy to load thirty round mags and an appetite for any kind of ammo certainly don’t hurt the case for ownership either. If you have a young one in the house, this might even be a good first gun. It is fairly light, has zero recoil, and just looks really cool (the kids like that I hear).
Judged as an AR clone or viable training aid for those looking to become better shooters with their AR, I think it falls short. The lack of interchangeable parts and issues with control functionality prevent me from recommending this for the 3-gun shooter on a budget. If you are serious about having the exact same muscle memory inputs while saving money by shooting .22 LR, I would recommend a dedicated .22 upper.
However, if you take trips to the range with your buddies and do mock “tacticool” plinking like a lot of guys in my office, this might be a really good primary gun. And if you aren’t worried about shaving tenths of a second off your time, I can guarantee that shooting an extra 10,000 rounds a year will make you a better shooter if you are practicing correctly.
I have three more items I want to test on this gun before I close things out. First, I want to see just how fast it will cycle the bolt. My indoor range doesn’t take too kindly to me shooting as fast as I can. Second, I would like to make an attempt at shooting subsonic ammo to see if the bolt return spring can be adjusted enough to let it cycle. And third, I want to mount a decent piece of glass to see what kind of accuracy can actually be achieved. Part 2 to follow. For now, here is where it stands . . .
Colt M4 OPS Item No. 2245051
Caliber .22 L.R.
Capacity 30-round Detachable Magazine (10 and 20 rounds mags available)
Mode of Fire Semi-Auto
Barrel Length 16.2 in (412 mm)
Barrel Twist 1 in 13-3/4 in
Rifling Grooves 6
Rifling Length 13.78 in (350 mm)
Front Sight Adjustable – Elevation
Rear Sight Detachable, Adjustable – Windage & Elevation
Overall Length 31.1–34.4 in (790-875 mm)
Overall Height 9.1 in (230 mm)
Overall Width 2.6 in (65 mm)
Stock Style Adjustable Telestock
Trigger Type Single-stage
Trigger Pull 6.6-9.9 lbs
Safety Type Manual
Muzzle Thread M8x.75
Length of Pull 13-7/8 inches
Sight Radius 14.8 in (375 mm)
Weight w/out Mag 5.9 lbs (2830 g)
Price: MSRP $639 but can usually be had in the $400’s
RATINGS (out of five)
Accuracy: * * * * (pending)
I haven’t thrown a scope on it yet to compensate for my old man eyes, but I think given that it is a semiautomatic rifle chambered in .22 LR with a 16” barrel, it is very accurate.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Fits everyone from my 5 foot nothing fiancée to the six footers with the seven foot wingspans. Light and easy to move around, it definitely gets 5 stars.
Reliability: * * * * *
Dead nuts. ‘Nuff said. 1000 rounds with 1 barrel cleaning and no action cleaning (not even fresh out of the box) and zero gun related FTF or FTE. 5 stars came easy.
Customization: * * *
If you want to tack things on to it, the world is your oyster. If you want a different stock or smaller mags, you’ll have to get it from Umarex/Colt. If you want different grips, a nicer trigger, a different safety lever, or something else like your current AR, tough shit.
Resemblance to your current AR * *
Thanks to a 180 degree safety and non functioning bolt release, this isn’t your normal AR. More like a second cousin. The resemblance is there, but a twin it is not.
Overall Rating: * * * 1/2
I’m giving 3.5 stars with some qualifiers. As a rifle chambered in .22 LR, this gun is pretty awesome. If it cycles while eating subsonic ammo, and is more accurate with a scope, I’ll give it 4 stars. For what it claims to be, it is pretty darned good. A lighter trigger could have definitely pushed this to 4 stars, but to be fair, it was pretty much in line with my stock AR trigger. I’ll be buying one for plinking, critter control, and the occasional trip to the range with the “tacticool” guys.