FN Military Collector Series M4—True Mil-Spec 5.56 Carbine! Full Review

The FN Military Collector Series M4 Carbine delivers the closest thing a civilian can own to the true military M4 Carbine. Image courtesy of FN.

The FN Military Collector Series M4 Carbine delivers the closest thing a civilian can own to the true military M4 Carbine. Image courtesy of FN.

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A U.S. Soldier conducts a walk-and-talk through a market in Nassir Wa Salaam, Iraq. He is carrying an M4 Carbine. Image courtesy of DoD.

A U.S. soldier conducts a walk-and-talk through a market in Nassir Wa Salaam, Iraq. He is carrying an M4 Carbine. Image courtesy of DoD.

In conversation with some of the fine people at FN, they said that one of their most-requested items, year after year, was a true copy of the guns that they sold to the United States military. In 2015, they finally announced that they would be introducing a series of three rifles called the Military Collector Series. This series would consist of the M16, M4 and the M249 SAW. This article is the second in a three-part series reviewing these heritage guns. A few months ago I had the opportunity to review the M16; take a look if you haven’t, as it serves as a good introduction to these rifles. I also had a chance to review the M249S (see our reviews of the M249S and the M16). Now, I have gotten my hands on the M4 Carbine.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 5.56 NATO
  • Barrel: 14.5 inches (16 inch with compensator)
  • OA Length: 30.5-34.2 inches
  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Stock: Six-position collapsible
  • Sights: A2-style front, folding rear
  • Action: Direct gas impingement
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,749

First Impressions

A high-quality and "correct" folding rear sight unit was included with the FN M4 Carbine.

A high-quality and “correct” folding rear sight unit was included with the FN M4 Carbine.

Unboxing a gun from this platform always raises the same question in my mind, and the FN Collector Series M4 Carbine was no exception: “What will I need to add or subtract from this rifle to make it ready to use?” The AR 15/M4 platform has to be the easiest gun in the world to customize to exactly how you roll. As such, there is a standard set of features that I always look for in a carbine meant for serious work. The package that FN supplies to the military includes some of the most crucial add-ons that I find myself applying. The adjustable buttstock was already in place, along with an ambidextrous selector switch (this is particularly important to me as a left-handed rifle shooter). The metal flip-up rear sight with easy-to-use range settings was nicely mated to the traditional A2 front sight. The barrel was covered by a Knight’s Armament M4 RAS adapter rail that was equipped with rail covers and a forward pistol grip.

The list of things that I wanted to add to this rifle was fairly short: a good sling, a bright white light, some kind of optic and lots of magazines.

The trigger on the sample rifle was heavy, but had a clean break. Note the UID label.

The trigger on the sample rifle was heavy, but had a clean break. Note the UID label on the lower receiver.

As I began to work the controls, everything was smooth and operated just as one would have expected on a rifle such as this. The only thing that caught me off guard was the trigger pull—it was smooth, but heavier than I had expected. I grabbed my digital trigger pull gauge and ran some tests. When tested on the foot or tip of the trigger, the pull was consistently 7 lbs. 4 ozs., but when tested more towards the center curve of the trigger, it was 8 lbs. 14½ ozs. This was by no means unusable, it was just a little heavier than what I had experienced on the M16, at 5.5 pounds measured at the foot. When I inspected the internal fire control parts, everything appeared to be functioning properly with no visible obstructions or drag.

M4 vs. M16

Carbine is a French word for a short rifle or musket used by cavalry. The original word was carabin, which meant “mounted musketeer.” The M4 is the perfect definition of a carbine version of the M16. The six-position collapsible buttstock paired with the 16¼ (14½ -inch barrel plus permanently attached flash suppressor) serve to shorten the rifle from 39½ inches in overall length of the M16 to a petite 30½ inches with the stock collapsed. The M4 also drops down from the M16’s 8.2 pounds to 6.6 pounds. You do give up a few features in exchange: The storage space in the A2 stock is eliminated, along with the additional barrel length and site radius.

The FN M4 Military Collector Series carbine features a stepped down barrel just like its true military sibling.

The FN M4 Military Collector Series carbine features a stepped-down barrel just like its true military sibling.

The barrel is a short 14.5 inches just like on the military gun, but has a permanently attached compensator to bring it to the legal 16-inch length.

The barrel is a short 14.5 inches, but has a permanently attached compensator to bring it to the legal 16-inch length.

It’s important to also consider the features that are retained: the lower receiver and all of its internals are exactly the same. The upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier are one-for-one interchangeable. The mil spec rail on top of the upper receiver is identical. The Knight’s Armament M4 RAS adapter rail system looks like someone shrunk an exact copy to fit the 4-inch-shorter barrel.

Let’s Have a Few Words about MIL-SPEC

Apart from being semi-auto and having a permanently attached muzzle device, this M4 is hard to distinguish from a true military carbine.

Apart from being semi-auto and having a permanently attached muzzle device, this M4 is hard to distinguish from a true military carbine.

Mil-spec, simply put, means that a specific type of material along with a defined manufacturing process results in a part with a correct set of dimensions. This part is inspected by an approved government inspector. With the exception of one additional hole in the receiver, same differences in the lower parts group and the 14.5-inch barrel, this carbine is a true (or at least as true as you can buy) mil-spec gun. I would refer you back to the first article in this series to review a few of the specifications for the parts going into this rifle.

One of the key things that you will find on this rifle is the UID Label. The UID label is a label or tag with a Unique Item Identifier (UII) encoded in a 2D Data Matrix barcode, as well as human-readable product tracking information.

I’ve found only a few other topics that evoke as much passion as discussing mil-spec in regards to civilian rifles. I am not making an assertion here that certain parts cannot be better or worse than mil-spec grade. What I do assert is that if you are looking for a replica that is as close as possible to what the military currently issues, this is it.

Gearing Up

When it came time transport the M4 to the range, I grabbed the Rifle Sleeve from First Tactical. I had a chance to meet the folks from First Tactical at Shot Show this year, and I quickly discovered that they are the people who originally started 5.11 Tactical. They have a lot of creative ideas and produce products that are reasonably priced. When I got back home from Shot Show I ordered a rifle sleeve to try out for $59.99.

The author used a Rifle Sleeve bag from First Tactical with the FN M4 Carbine.

The author used a Rifle Sleeve bag from First Tactical with the FN M4 Carbine.

What I particularly like about this rifle sleeve is the attention to detail and the innovative simplicity that they have employed. They have employed a molded barrel mount that holds the front of the gun, along with an adjustable rear mount that can quickly be detached from the gun. They have silenced all of the outside straps and padded them where needed.

I also had a rummage through my assortment of optics before heading out. I ended up in an internal debate between a red dot optic or a variable power 1X6 scope on the M4. My brain apparently resolved this for me by opting to pack no optic at all! I’ve said many times that a gunfight is a “come as you are” affair, so I decided to begin my range testing with the rifle equipped as it was fresh out of the box- with only the adjustable sites equipped.

On The Range

I’ve never claimed to be anything more than an adequate rifleman. Even still, as the years go on my eyes tend to support long-range shooting less and less. With this in mind, I decided on 25 yards for my initial shots from the FNH rifle. I reasoned that at this distance I would at least be on the IDPA cardboard target, if not on the Caldwell Shoot-and-See that I had stuck to the center of the cardboard. To my pleasant surprise, the first shot from the rifle was almost dead center of the bull’s-eye. The next two rounds were approximately an inch below, but they were touching each other. With nothing to adjust or change (thanks brain- who needs optics anyway?) I then ran the target out to 50 yards. Without changing my point of aim, the rounds were striking a few inches high but still close together, if not touching.

The author tested the rifle at 25, 50 and 100 yard distances for accuracy with iron sights.

The author tested the rifle at 25, 50 and 100 yard distances for accuracy with iron sights.

The author was able to get this group at 100 yards with iron sights. The group could be covered with a quarter.

The author was able to get this group at 100 yards with iron sights. The group could be covered with a quarter.

 

The FN M4 is a dead ringer for a true M4 Carbine at first glance. This one should really appeal to the collectors out there.

The FN M4 is a dead ringer for a true M4 Carbine at first glance. This one should really appeal to the collectors out there.

The moment of truth had arrived and I was determined to take this thing to one hundred yards with just iron sights. As I made the walk back to the shooting bench, my only doubts were in my ability, not the rifle’s. Keep in mind that we’re talking about a 16-inch barrel and a trigger that is in the 8-pound range. As I settled down behind the rear peep site I realized I could not see the red dot! So, I walked back down to the target and used the orange ovals that were included to heal the Shoot-and-See target, creating a sort of landing pattern that I could pick up from 100 yards. This allowed me to find the horizontal line to come in from the side, even though the image was fuzzy to me.

After all the extra work and plenty of time, I was able to deliver a three shot group that I could cover with a quarter, while firing Winchester white box .223 ammunition. I’ve got to say, I have done worse with other carbines that had better triggers and high-powered optics installed.

To ensure that this was just not an alternate universe experience, I asked a friend of mine who serves as the sniper on our SWAT team to see what his results were with the M4. His results were similar, if not identical. He also remarked on the heavy trigger, but also agreed that it had a smooth, although heavy, pull.

Over the course of a half dozen trips to the range I fed this gun eight different kinds of ammunition and three different types of magazines, and exposed it to four different shooters. This gun ran flawlessly for every shooter, in every combination of ammunition and magazine. This was by no means a torture test, but approaching 1,000 rounds through the gun without any cleaning leads me to believe that this sample is plenty reliable.

The Bottom Line

As I begin to sum up my thoughts on this rifle I am astounded by just how accurate it is! I am very thankful that FN makes such accurate rifles for our military. On the downside, I think I could’ve enjoyed this rifle more with about half of the trigger pull that it came with out-of-the-box. As detailed above, this did not affect the function, accuracy or reliability of the gun in any way. The FN Military Collector M4 comes nicely equipped, not stripped—short of a few basic accessories this gun is ready to go out-of-the-box. Every detail of this rifle is collector grade: The finish that is applied to the rifle, the magazine that is true military, the Knight’s Armament accessories; even the receiver, which is marked with three positions: safe, semi and auto.

If having a military replica in your hands is important, there really is nowhere else to turn. The good news is that this rifle is not a toy; it’s built for serious purposes and will deliver on its heritage. I know from what FN has shared with me that there are more than just a few of us out there who want one of these. So, if you are one them, definitely pick one up!

Anyone familiar with an AR will be right at home with the FN M4 Military Collector Series carbine.

Anyone familiar with an AR will be right at home with the FN M4 Military Collector Series carbine.

The six-position collapsible stock of the FN M4 allows the user to adjust it to his needs, as well as make it as compact as possible.

The six-position collapsible stock of the FN M4 allows the user to adjust it to his needs, as well as make it as compact as possible.

 

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • No Body July 27, 2016, 1:14 am

    $1700+ for an M4? They have got to be kidding.

    Not on your life.

  • Copernicus July 20, 2016, 11:04 pm

    “The FN Military Collector Series M4 Carbine delivers the closest thing a civilian can own to the true military M4 Carbine”

    NOPE…I already own a Colt

    • Matt August 29, 2016, 2:44 am

      FN and Colt were awarded the $212M contract for manufacturing U.S. military M-16s and M-4s. So yes, very close to the real deal but no selective-fire capability of course.

  • Charles Bird July 20, 2016, 2:25 pm

    I am still holding out for the 7.62 NATO version of the Tavor. It should be an interesting whether the bigger cartridge will affect the real world handling and accuracy of the platform.

  • RobbyTheRebel July 18, 2016, 7:13 pm

    Great article and rifle, but may I ask why, objectively speaking, I would buy this rifle rather than a 922(r) compliant SKS with a Tapco T-6 stock at less than half the price? An SKS is definitely a proven combat rifle and a true Mil-Spec with a proven track record. Go ask Vietnam vets who lost their brothers to the SKS and chose to toss their 5.56 caliber M-16 in favor of using a captured SKS…Also, the 7.62 x 39 caliber is more effective, especially in penetrating barriers.
    The M4 is basically a “.22” caliber.
    Thank you.

  • Charles Belitz July 18, 2016, 9:00 am

    You should proof your work with more than a spell checker. “Site radius” in a gun article? Really?

  • BlueToddB July 18, 2016, 8:35 am

    So FN uses moon rocks in the alloy for their rifles? Come on $1700 for a basic M4 carbine? That kind of cash you can buy one of the ‘cheap’ ARs sold by S&W, Ruger etc plus some really nice glass, plus ammo, and mags etc, etc. FN makes nice stuff, but it aint that nice.

  • Tom Bentton July 18, 2016, 8:07 am

    If one did not carefully read the article, one would assume this was a fully automatic weapon. I could only find one
    location attatched to a picture that stated this was a semi automatic weapon. The article even states that the selector switch includes full auto. Though this may not seem to be important to the majority of uninformed citizens in America
    the anti gun zealots constantly label an AR 15 as an assault weapon. The vast majority of Americans have been misinformed
    that one can go down to the local sporting goods store and buy a fully automatic weapon, a true military assault weapon.
    Responsible writers have a duty to clearly seperate civilian from military weapons. If we , the informed, do not use all of
    our resourses to clarify this difference to the gullible public, we will suffer the consequences.
    AMERICA, WAKE UP ! YOU CAN NOT BUY A MILITARY ASSAULT WEAPON AT YOUR LOCAL GUN STORE !

  • Tar Heel Realist July 18, 2016, 5:04 am

    $1,700+ for an AR??? FN is going to have a lot of excess rifles on hand for some time to come…

    • The Great Gearoni July 18, 2016, 9:11 am

      That’s OK the US gov’t will buy all of their surplus (at 2 x that price)!

      • Cam July 25, 2016, 12:01 am

        Maybe but it won’t be these unless the replace the receiver or mill, drill and refinish it, new internals and replace the barrels with ones that aren’t perm attached to flash hidders.
        Course that my be why the gov pays more, double machine works and refinishing on guns they couldn’t sell to civi’s.

    • The Great Gearoni July 18, 2016, 9:14 am

      That’s OK, the US gov’t will buy all of FN’s surplus! ( at 2x the price )

  • William M Lolli July 17, 2016, 10:36 am

    In the article: “The barrel is a short 14.5 inches, but has a permanently attached compensator…” Well, that means no way to attach a suppressor. That kills any purchase of this rifle for me. Why did they do that? They go through all the trouble to get it right, then attach a permanent compensator… it doesn’t make sense.

    • Jack July 18, 2016, 2:48 am

      Reason the “permanent” attachment is because it has to have a solid 16 plus inches to satisfy ATF for barrel length requirement. If it is not attached by a weld and pinning it is removable and not 16 inches by rules of ATF…… Leaving a 14.5 inch barrel makes it a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) needing a $200.00 stamp and approval letter from our friends at ATF
      That is the reasoning plain and simple. If they put a true 16 inch barrel on it and a break or flash hider then it would not be a true copy of the battlefield rifle everyone is trying to make…..

    • S.F.C. July 18, 2016, 3:47 am

      William, they did that because they used a military barrel and in order to sell it to the civilian market under BATFE rules the barrel had to measure a total of 16 inches. If the flash suppressor wasn’t permanently attached you would have what BATFE calls a short barreled rifle which requires the buyer to pay for a $200.00 tax and fill out the paperwork/fingerprints/photo applicaton to own it. I would say that you either do that, or get a new m4 profile barrel that is 16 inches. This all started with the CAR 15’s people bought in the 1980’s that had a 11 inch barrel and a 5 inch “compensator” welded to the barrel in order to make it legal to own.

    • Fouled Anchor Arms LLC July 18, 2016, 6:44 am

      If it wasn’t permanently attached, it would be an NFA weapon requiring a tax stamp.

    • Jake July 18, 2016, 4:06 pm

      Check out Griffin Armament M4SD – designed to quickly attach and detach directly on a standard A2 flash hider.

    • Ken Mann July 20, 2016, 5:31 pm

      He means why choose to market a rifle in this manner ?? NOT , for what legal reason is the thing pinned and welded. !

  • Will Singleton July 15, 2016, 9:49 pm

    How is this any more “mil-spec” than a Colt 6920?

  • Cam July 15, 2016, 7:42 pm

    It’s not mil spec. Period.

    • S.F.C. July 18, 2016, 3:51 am

      It isn’t stamped “US Government Property” either. What is it with you guys? It is as close as you can get without it being a transferable Class III weapon.

      • Bill Gotlieb July 18, 2016, 10:08 am

        Yep. These fellas are simply anal retentive. And even if it WAS a transferable’, they’d STILL find something to bitch about. Get a grip!!!

      • Cam July 25, 2016, 12:42 am

        What is it? Us guys like the facts to be truthful and accurate. Some things can be a gray areas but this is not one of those cases.
        There is a difference and those differences are important. That is why the truth is important. As my dad always taught me at the end of it all when you stand tall in front of the man, all your going to have is your name, your word and your deeds.
        To say it’s as close as you can get is a cop out, an excuse for a lie. And to knowingly accept a lie from someone else is as if you lied.

        • Twice as much as a Colt August 19, 2016, 10:23 pm

          Amen Cam, Amen.

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