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Colt's 9mm AR-15.

* One thing you can say about Colt (besides the obvious fact that the firm turns out top-of-the-line firearms) is that they are constantly introducing new, innovative products--some in directions that one just doesn't expect.

Colt's latest offering, the AR-15 9mm Carbine, is one of these. This 20-shot semi auto is the first military-style gun Colt has ever made specifically for the civilian market, though admittedly eventually the gun will be made in full auto with a shorter barrel for police and military scales.

As its name implies, the AR-15 9mm Carbine is a pistol-caliber adaptation of the famed M16/AR-15 family of .223 battle rifles. Resembling the "chopped" AR-15A2 .223 Carbine (CAR), the 9mm boasts an 80 percent part interchangeability with the parent gun--but it also offers several novel twists of its own.

To begin with, unlike the gas-operated AR-15, the Carbine employs a simple blowback design, which is more in keeping with the lower powered 9mm cartridge.

Dimensions ape those of the CAR. The 35-inch overall length, with the stock extended, telescopes to 32 inches when the butt is retracted. In fact, the 9mm Carbine introduces a new high-impact molded fiberglass butt material which will eventually replace the vinyl-dipped aluminum assemblies on the previous .223 CARs.

The barrel is 16 inches long bored with six grooves at a one in ten right-hand twist. The bore is chrome plated and the arm's overall finish is your basic anodized and oxide black.

AR's magazine well has been altered internally to take a 9mm stick magazine. The carbine comes standard with a 20-shot unit, though 32-rounders will soon be in the offing. The mag looks quite a bit like the one fitted for the Uzi, but the two are not interchangeable.

Both the safety and magazine releases are the same as those on the AR-15, which adds just that extra bit of comfieness to anyone familiar with the .223. In fact, if one is used to handling a standard AR, the 9mm is like old-home week.

Other features on the Carbine include the nylon M16A2 notched pistol grip, the left-hand-mounted bolt release, centrally-hung operating handle and ribbed, heat-resistant phenolic plastic handguard.

As the 9mm Carbine boasts a great number of the .223's major parts, the bolt travel is still the same as that in the standard AR-15A2. This means that there is just that much more force to assist in chambering a recalcitrant round--an asset not often found on similar semi-autos. As will be seen later, this additional oomph proved to be every bit as effective as it sounds.

The rear sight, which is mounted in the top of the carrying handle, consists of a practical flip-type, two-leaf aperture, with the larger hole intended for 50-meter shots and the smaller peep for 100-meter use. The front sight is a simple post, which is adjustable for elevation.

While the AR-15 9mm Carbine will accept the "issue" Colt scope mount, the 3X and 4X glasses now available would be a tad too powerful for use in conjunction with the somewhat limited range of the 9mm Parabellum (or NATO) round. Realizing this, the engineers at Hartford are investigating the possibility of coming out with a 1X or 1-1/2X specifically for the pistol-bore carbines. An illuminated reticle scope is also being considered.

Bob Platin, Colt's manager of marketing, brought us our test gun, stating that it would chamber and fire any sort of commercially-loaded 9mm ammunition extant--from semi-wadcutters, through hollow points to hardball.

Duly noting this claim, we equipped ourselves with a kaleidoscopic variety of 9mm Parabellum--including Winchester 115-grain Silvertips and FMJs, Frontier 124-grain hardball, Hornady 95-grain hollow points, PMC 115-grain hardball, some military surplus STEN fodder and hand loaded, lead semi-wadcutters.

I kind of like to sidle into these things, so the magazine was first loaded with a score of hardball rounds. As an aside, we found that it was possible to coax a few more cartridges than the prescribed 20 into the mag, though this took a bit of forcing, and while the unit functioned impeccably with the interlopers, neither Colt nor myself recommend this as a common practice.

Like most magazines of this ilk, the first few cartridges could be thumbed down with ease, but as spring tension increased, the last eight or so required greater pressure before they rested atop their mates. The Israeli one-hand inertial method, whereby the magazine is lightly struck up-on one's thigh while the recalcitrant rounds are pushed downward against the momentarily-relieved spring pressure, allowed the last few 9mms to be inserted effortlessly.

As noted earlier, the long throw of the bolt chambered the first and subsequent rounds with alacrity. The trigger pull was crisp and fairly light. Our first shots were loosed at a 100-yard gong. The arm functioned flawlessly, and the iron plate reverberated with pleasing regularity. Recoil was viertually nil and even the report was not prohibitive. Ejection was positive, with the cases being tossed cavalierly to the right, well clear of the shooter. A subsequent examination of the brass showed none of the mauling one comes to expect with many of these pistol-bore semi-auto carbines.

Our next stick of ammo consisted of interspersed hardball, hollow points, reloads and Silvertips. Again, the bolt slammed solidly home, stripping off a semi-wadcutter on the way. Rapid-fire from the hip produced a literal stream of cases. Before I knew it, the bolt had locked open and the mag was empty.

The magazine release button, like that on the .223 AR-15, is very positive, and insertion of the narrower magazine into the modified well presents no problem at all.

The AR-15 9mm carbine was tested for accuracy using several brands and types of ammo. The best 2-inch, 50- ard, bench-rested groups were achieved with Winchester 115-grain hardball, though several of the other loads (including the demobbed STEN) came within a hairsbreadth of matching the Winchester hardball.

The Carbine was next fired from the hip at a Seligman Dueling Tree some 30 yards distant. Surprisingly, the four blades of the tree were struck several times, and the remainder of the rounds dotted the ground close by the target. This was repeated by several shooters with different ammo, and the results were virtually identical to what I had heretofore considered an impressive personal display of instinctive shooting. Conclusion: the AR-15 9mm Carbine is about as natural a pointer as you can get.

The gun is so light and well balanced that, with the butt locked in and the rear sight set at the 50-meter mode, I could extend the Colt at arm's length and fire it one-handed, in the manner of a pistol, hitting a 25-yard gong three shots out of five.

Despite the fact that neither the gun nor the cartridge are expected to shine at extended ranges, the Colt Carbine did exceedingly well when loosed at a 200-yard distant gong. With the 100-meter aperture in place, a top-edge hold on the 2-foot diameter target elicited 50-percent hits (off-hand), with the other 10 rounds coming close enough to cause consternation in the gong community.

As you might have gathered by now, I'm pretty high on this little rifle. It is an excellent plinker--one which because of its abbreviated length, light weight (6.3 lbs.e, and almost nonexistent recoil, would provide good fun for the whole family.

I have long been an advocate of 9 mm and .45 ACP semi-auto carbines as home defense arms. They offer the safety and stopping power of an auto pistol, combined with the manageability of a longarm. The Colt AR-15 9mm Carbine, when held at hip level and tucked in at one's side, only extends forward about 17 inches, offering more maneuverability in limited spaces than many short-barreled shotguns. Also, the intimidation factor of a black, martial-looking carbine pointing in one's direction cannot be underestimated.

The safety is ergonomically situated just above the pistol grip on the left side of the receiver where it can be handily flicked off with the thumb-a serious consideration when trying to manage an arm in a stressful situation.

The AR-15 9mm's bolt is removed in the same manner as the full-scale battle rifle. The magazine is first taken out and the action opened to ensure there is no round in the chamber. Then a captive pin, located at the rear lower portion of the receiver, is pushed out with a pointed object and removed. The upper portion of the action pivots downward exposing the bolt, which can then be simply pulled rearward out of its channel in the receiver.

The Colt AR-15 9mm Carbine comes complete with a 20-round magazine, nylon sling (which can be attached at two positions on the butt for either carrying or hip-level support), and a cleaning kit. The cost matches that of the .223 CAR, at $649.95.

Upcoming options will include a 32-round magazine and possibly custom-tailored optics. As a matter of fact, you might drop Colt a line and let them know how you feel about the latter.

To sum it all up, it looks as though Colt might just have another winner on its hands. We were told in journalism school that, for veracity's sake, a good reviewer should include brickbats as well as laurels. Well,

I'm just going to have to disappoint my old professor. Within its limitations, the new Colt 9mm Carbine is pretty well glitch-free. As Colt has been making the parent guns for a good number of years now, it is not surprising that the engineering should be pretty well in hand. Think about it--how often can you buy a "new" gun with almost a quarter of a century of testing, improvements, and quality control behind it?
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Author:James, Garry
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1985
Previous Article:Our "founding fathers" were really pro-gun!
Next Article:Dixie Gun Works blackpowder annual: 1985 ed.

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