COLT Moving Back to Consumer Markets

Nov 12, 2010
After three days of running a battery of new Colt firearms through some exercises that would exceed the shooting activities of most shooters not attending a shooting school, it would seem that Colt is making a very serious effort to get back into the consumer shooting market. For nearly a decade, there hasn't been much news - or noise- out of Colt as it relates to the consumer marketplace. The law enforcement/military contracting business had occupied most of their time, attention and efforts. Candidly, lots of other companies were making more money from firearms that were originally Colt flagship products than Colt. As I'd written earlier this week, their new 1911 Rail Gun is solid, functioned reliably and is a solid piece of work. Ditto their carbines. They are familiar tools to anyone who likes the 1911 pistol and AR-style rifle.
Richard Mann examines the Colt .308 rifle. If it operates as promised, you might find yourself with a single Colt lower and two - or more- AR style uppers.
Wednesday, however, we had the opportunity to spend some time with the rifle that might actually represent a significant advancement of the Colt name in the consumer marketplace. The new SP901 Modular Carbine looks a lot like other 7.62/308 rifles available from a variety of manufacturers. Unlike the dedicated AR-10/308, Colt's rifle is, well, modular, designed to allow owners to remove the .308 upper, insert a feed/mag adapter, and add "any AR upper." Yep, they said "any AR upper" - not a proprietary Colt upper. If that's the case, it would allow a shooter to have a .22 caliber upper for training/practice, a .223 upper for light sporting applications (or home defense) and the heavier-caliber .308 module for hunting. For a company that's specialized in staying under the radar, that's a pretty big step into the consumer marketplace.
The roll marks say it all. Colt. Modular. Carbine.
It's one thing to see a rifle and hear how it will operate, but the true test of any tool is use. Granted, I was intrigued, but only trigger time tells you about a firearm. On one of Gunsite Academy's 300 yard ranges in a 20-plus mile per hour crosswind, I had the opportunity to spend some trigger time on the new rifle. Despite a fierce quartering wind, it was a fairly simple matter to put hits on a pepper popper target 300 yards away. Using a Trijicon riflescope, it was simply a matter of dialing in the diopter, putting the crosshairs on the target and gently squeezing the 6-pound trigger. The rifle was more than capable of making 300-yard shots on silhouette targets. There were the normal quirks of a brand-new rifle, but a couple of failures to feed or eject aren't really unusual in any new rifle. And the unit we were shooting arrived unfired. It was taken to the range, given a light oil, and zeroed with the Trijicon scope. At that point, the dozen or so writers in attendance lined up and put magazine after magazine through it. Today, there aren't a lot of detailed specifications to quote. It was somewhat heavier than a standard 5.56/223 rifle, but equipped with a heavy-duty base and long-range riflescope still seemed to be in the nine-pound range. It will be available sometime in early 2011, with a choice of two precision barrel lengths and Vltor stock. It may feature camo or plain finishes. With the adapter in place, the rifle will accept "most" standard AR-10 magazines. I say "most" because no rifle feeds all magazines.
Paul Markle whacking steel plates 300 yards away. Despite a pretty tough wind, Markle gave the steel a workout.
Beyond that, Colt V-P Joyce Rubino didn't offer much information, As she explained, the company is still finalizing models/options. When Gunsite instructor Chris Weare went through the rifle, he made an experienced observation as to where the rifle might have immediate tactical applications. "In an overwatch or spotting position," Weare said, "this rifle would offer you the accuracy you'd need to control a street or urban area. It would be pretty quick to get onto multiple targets." From a sporting application, I could see the multi-caliber potential pretty quickly. You could use the rifle in a tactical match (.223), long-range (.308) or even side-match (.22 caliber) in the rimfire setup. As another manufacturer's representative said after trying the rifle, "It's good to see Colt back in the marketplace." We're hoping to get individual units of the new Colt products for more in-depth testing over the next few weeks. As always, we'll keep you posted. --Jim Shepherd