Well, I have been talking about getting some sort of.22 trainer for sometime now, and I finally up and did it. With the staggering price increases of ammo and the recent drought in availability I have been finding myself having a hard time getting work in with the AR. I had gone back and forth between a dedicated .22 AR style rifle/upper or a .22 conversion, but I finally settled on the Colt M4 Spec Ops 22.
Fit and finish on the Colt M4 Spec Ops 22 is really nice. This is a very unique gun in that unlike other dedicated .22s this particular gun is all aluminum construction. Because of this, the big advantage you get is a gun whose weight and feel is much more inline with what its true AR-15 counterpart would be. Weighing in at just under 6 lbs without the magazine this gun comes really darn close to the weight of an actual AR-15. My Daniel Defense for example weighs in at about 6.5 lbs. Coming so close to the heft of an actual AR-15 goes a really long way towards the effectiveness of this rifle as an AR trainer. Simply put, it just feels like a standard AR-15 in your hands.
Everything on this gun operates just like its “big-bore” AR-15 counterpart except for the forward assist and bolt release. Now I know that the fact that the bolt release is purely cosmetic will be a deal breaker for some who are looking for a dedicated .22 trainer because it wont let them do operator-level, ninja-style mag changes, but because of the open design of the mags its honestly not really a realistic option anyway (we will talk about the mags for this gun later in the review). For me its not really a deal breaker that the bolt release is not functional. The bolt will lock to the rear when the mag is empty and the mags are also drop-free.
Is it an Airsoft gun?
OK, so lets get into talking about this gun’s Airsoft heritage shall we? From what I understand (from reading the Internet rumors), what Umarex did with this gun was to build a functional firearm around what are actually Airsoft upper and lower receivers. Now, I dont really know if they took off-the-shelf Airsoft components and built the gun or if they just used Airsoft based engineering concepts to fabricate this gun… but basically what they did was drop in the functional firearm portions of this gun into what seems to be Airsoft parts.
As you can see from the pictures, the upper and lower “firearm” sections are completely removable from the upper and lower receivers. I am not sure if its 100% true that they used Airsoft parts or not, but from what I understand the rifle is compatible with a lot of aftermarket Airsoft accessories and parts. As I understand it, you can even place the functional portions of the rifle into other Airsoft upper/lower components and furniture to change the rifle around as you desire.
Here is an example that someone did on a forum where they dropped the “functional lower” portion of the Colt into this Airsoft lower… I will note that I am not sure if this is completely legal or not since it probably no longer conforms with the laws about serial numbers on guns. Interestingly, the faux lower that comes on the gun is serialized, but not the functional lower that is inserted inside of it. The bolt of the functional upper portion of the gun is also serialized, but the faux upper is not. Its my understanding that technically the functional lower portion should have a serial number on it since it is the portion that contains all the fire control groups and would be legally be considered the firearm… while the faux lower is simply a cosmetic shell. Because of this, I would strongly advise against doing this:
Along those same lines, I will also note that the faux lower that the Colt comes in is legally not a firearm. I dont really know if it can be converted into a firearm (perhaps someone talented enough could probably rig it up), but from what I know about 80% lowers its safe to say that the faux lower most definitely should not be serialized. The functional portion (the part with no serial number) that is inserted into the faux lower, however could most certain be removed and fired without the need of the faux lower.
In addition to that, the Colt utilizes a thin barrel design that is also very reminiscent of an Airsoft designed barrel. As you can see from the picture below the M4 style barrel is actually a metal barrel shroud with a thin “pencil barrel” inserted into it. The whole thing slides right out attached to the upper of the firearm just like it would on an Airsoft design.
The magazines for this gun are very impressive. The rifle came with one 30 rounder and they also have 10 and 20 round mags available as well. The mags are a bit wider than standard AR mags and thus the mag well on the rifle is a little bit wider too. The thirty rounders are also longer than a standard AR mags. They are roughly about the size of 40 round mags. Likewise the 20s are about the size of standard 30 rounders and the 10s are about the size of standard 20 rounders.
These mags are tough. And when I say tough, I mean that you could probably run the mags over with a truck and they would be just fine. They are stout and very well built, and are (IMO) certainly above and beyond what the other .22 lr AR mags out there on the market are. You could certainly use them to bludgeon someone to death with if you had to and they would probably hold up just fine.
The mags are built with an open design much like the S&W 15-22 mags are. This is done to make loading the mags much, much easier. The down side of this is that dirt and other junk can get inside the mags and mess up their functionality. Because of this is that you cant really use this gun as a run-and-gun type of trainer where you are dropping empty mags all over the range while you run your course of fire. Sure you could practice your ninja mag changes while standing over a tarp or something to keep your mags from getting all mucked up, but I dont really see that as a must-do at the range to get a good practice session in. The mags also have a removable floor plate if they do need to be cleaned out.
Does it shoot?
Well, I have to say that with everything that I like about this gun the absolute best part about it is that it eats… and eats, and eats, and eats, and eats. It has eaten everything that I have thrown at it so far… From the quality CCI stuff to the bulk Federal from Wally-World, I have had no problems at all from the 1,000+ rounds I have put through it so far.
One of the very unique features of this gun is that it is tunable for different types of ammo. Mostly you wont need to mess with this at all (I haven’t had to yet), but the bolt is indeed tunable with the simple turn of an Allen wrench to adjust the spring tension for slower or faster ammunition loads. See that hole right below the charging handle…
The trigger on the gun started out very heavy and gritty, but I will say that it has improved greatly the more I run the gun. The trigger is not something to brag about, but its also certainly not something to gripe about either. It definitely benefited greatly from a break-in period. You can also Google-up a DIY trigger job if you want to do some polishing and trimming to improve things. My advise is to just shoot it a bunch… which is what you are gonna do anyway.
Couple of dislikes…
The bolt release is purely cosmetic and like I said, that will limit your training for mag changes. In an ideal world, this would not be the case, but for me personally its not a deal breaker.
The other thing that stands out to me is that gap between the front sight post and the rail. There are a couple of fixes to this… You could just remove the front sight and put on an extended rail/hand guard, or you could just use a Magpul MOE hand guard to hide it. The problem that I have with it is that Colt should have just addressed this and fixed the problem during the design phases of the gun. Its just sloppy on their part. Its kinda odd looking if you look at it closely, but most people really aren’t going to notice this or have a problem with it. I am still undecided as to what I am going to do about it.
Lastly, the safety on the rifle is a little bit thinner than whats on a standard AR. They have fixed the 180 degree turn requirement of the gen 1 models, but the thinness of the lever has a little bit of a strange feeling to it. Its certainly not a big deal, but you will notice a difference the first couple of times you use it.
Well, there you go… the Colt M4 Spec Ops 22 is a great little shooter. If you are looking for a dedicated AR trainer or just a more fun .22 to take to the range, this gun is a winner all the way around. Here it is set up to mirror my standard AR-15… sans flashlight: