Expanse M4: Colt’s Cheap AR

With major manufacturers like Ruger and Smith & Wesson driving the price of entry-level AR rifles down, Colt responded in 2016 with a new rifle called the Expanse M4. The new rifle is a (very) basic AR-15 that comes in with a suggested retail price of $699.

Colt CE1000

The new rifle is a direct impingement gun with the basic M4-style features. It has a collapsing buttstock, pistol grip and A2-type front sight assembly. A polymer two-piece handguard is standard.

Colt Expanse M4

As is typical for AR-15 rifles, this gun is chambered in 5.56 NATO. It can safely fire both 5.56 and .223 Rem ammunition.

Colt Expanse CE1000 Review

The 16.1″ barrel has a 1:7″ twist that should allow it to stabilize most of the bullet weights commercially loaded for the calibers.

Colt CE1000 Expanse

Colt uses a flattop upper and does not ship with a rear sight. However, the Picatinny rail makes adding one a quick process. Many people will opt to add a red dot like the Trijicon MRO instead of, or in addition to, a rear sight.

Colt CE1000 Review

A single 30-round aluminum magazine ships with the Expanse M4.

Colt states on its web site that these rifles do not ship with a forward assist or dust cover. That’s unfortunate as these items are pretty standard with even budget AR rifles. (Thanks to reader TechnoTriticale for pointing this out.)

Colt Expanse Specifications

Here are the specs for the Colt Expanse:

Model #CE1000
Caliber5.56 NATO/.223 Rem
Magazine Capacity30
# of Included Magazines1
Barrel Length16.1″
Overall Length32.0″-35.5″
Actionsemi-automatic, direct impingement
Stock6-position, adjustable length

In the wake of the Sandy Hook buying frenzy, there was a glut of AR rifles on the market. In economic terms, supply exceeded demand and prices dropped. 

Colt Expanse Price

While there have been a number of smaller manufacturers that have targeted the budget-priced AR market, additional pressure was applied by the introduction of lower-priced models from more prominent gun makers adjusting to consumer expectations of less expensive rifles.

Colt Expanse M4PSA FDE AR-15Ruger AR-556S&W Sport II
Caliber5.56 NATO5.56 NATO5.56 NATO5.56 NATO
Magazine30 round aluminum30 round Magpul PMAG30 round Magpul PMAG30 round Magpul PMAG
# of Included Magazines1111
Barrel Length16.1″16.0″16.1″16.0″
Twist Rate1:7″1:7″1:8″1:9″
Chrome Platingnonobolt carrier, gas keyfiring pin
Finishunknownhardcoat anodized FDEMilspec Type IIIArmornite
Handguard2-piece2-piece Magpul MOE M-Lokeasy removing 2-piece2-piece
Pistol GripA2-styleMagpul MOERuger gripA2-style
Front SightA2-styleA2-stylemilled A2 Style with QD-socketA2-style
Rear Sightnonefolding Magpul MBUSfolding Rugerfolding Magpul MBUS

On a price-to-features comparison, the PSA AR-15 makes the most sense for a budget rifle. You can see my PSA AR-15 review here.

Smith & Wesson seemed to be doing well with it’s budget friendly M&P15 Sport rifles that were selling for less than $700 in many shops. Then Ruger introduced the AR-556 – another entry level rifle that came very well equipped with an MSRP of $749. Both of these rifles allowed a novice AR shooter to buy a rifle from a readily recognizable name.

Colt Expanse Upper

With the Expanse M4, it seems Colt is trying to capitalize on its name to reach new shooters buying their first AR rifle and more experienced hands who prefer the Colt name as a basic platform to build a more custom gun.

Watch for additional information on the Colt Expanse M4 and other new guns at the special 2016 SHOT Show page I have set up.

Last Update: June 26, 2022

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

27 replies on “Expanse M4: Colt’s Cheap AR”

The Expanse M4 looks like the LE6920 minus the Magpul hardware. I’m
struggling to declare this a “new product”. At best, it’s a budget
6920. In fact, the Expanse M4 doesn’t have a bayonet lug the 6920 has. Not a
huge deal, because who really dons bayonets? But, it seems this rifle
is geared towards the freedom hating crowd who think such “feature”
makes it an “assault rifle”.

As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Expanse M4 and the LE6920 is the lug.

Overall, not impressed with it as a “new product”. More of a change of pricing
on an existing product, plus the fact they change the FSB.

re: As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Expanse M4 and the LE6920 is the lug.

Not just: the barrel on this pseudo-economy model is not chromed (and not MIL profile); no FA; no dust cover; no rear sight; no sling loops; further de-features to be determined later.

Not sure where you saw one.

Mine has bayonet luga, standard sling loops.

No FA or dust cover ($25 fixed that).

Bought on 4/29/16 as the base for a project gun.

There sure is a lot of misinformation about this gun. Made even worst by what they are bitching about is pointless. What’s even funnier is my Daniel Defense M4V5… No sights whatsoever, no sling attachments, no bayonet lug, but it did cost a $1000 more. Oh and it was purchased when they just had the Magpul MOE stock, A2 grip, and that barely airsoft grade VFG.

$700 is still a bit too much.
DMPS AR is going for $500.
I built my custom 5.56 and 300BLK for about $600 each, not including optics.

I hear what you are saying, but keep in mind that $699 is the MSRP – not the price your local dealer will charge. The cheapest DPMS AR rifle, the Sportical, has a MSRP of $749 on the 2015 pricing list Remington put out. I imagine the Colt will sell for $600-650 locally, but could go less.

Per Colt’s own page: no forward assist and no dust cover, in addition to skipping the rear sight. I wouldn’t expect a cleaning kit.

Thanks for the update – I’m glad to see the company has now added the rifle to its site. The lack of forward assist & dust cover were omitted from the information I received earlier. I’ll update this page.

I assume the projection for the FA is there, and plugged, but since there’s no imagery of that side, who knows.

This move is a panicked effort to sell what they can make today, to people presumed to be largely oblivious to important details. That’s where you end up when you don’t invest in product development.

Yes, I would imagine that the bump has to be there because Colt says you can upgrade the rifle to add one. Seems like a small cost savings for a potentially bad customer experience, but I’m not looking at their numbers.

I agree that Colt seems to be without a vision for the future (product development, etc.) I don’t know where they are going, and I don’t think they do either. With the continued bankruptcy problems, the company needs real leadership if they are going to pull through.

I could see Colt getting bought out by one of the more successful and innovative brands, and I’m not sure that would be a bad thing, compared to chronic edge-of-bankruptcy and mis-management by people who seem to not actually want to be in the business.

Actually it takes less than 10 minutes and under $25 to add both the FA and dust cover.

In less than an hour I added them, changed out the fire control group, changed pistol grip, stock, and installed my rail.

I’ve been shooting the M16/M4/AR15 for 27 years both military and LE.

Granted I have built several from bare receivers up.

For the price and project I had in mind this was a decent starting point for $630.

I agree, picked mine up at $599, got a forward assist and dust cover for $12, a UTG rear A2 style sight for around $18. And since I had a few other things lying around. I find the rifle to be a bargain. Not to mention when it comes down to it. If I was to sell the gun; That pony on the side is going to command a premium over something that says “Sporter” on the side.

Also to the guy that says it doesn’t have front and rear sling points, it most certainly does.

Richard is right when he says Colt has no vision for the future. They made this rifle famous, made it a world wide icon. Their brand loyalty was built largely off of the “If its not a Colt, its a copy” marketing and reality of the AR15 starting way back before I was born. And now, facing bankruptcy, in tremendous financial trouble, their “new product” for 2016 has round plastic handguards, a shaved bayonet lug and a slick side upper. They don’t even bother to tell us what the barrel is made or whether it’s chrome lined (in itself quickly becoming a dated, obsolete feature even so).

A shaved bayonet lug. For your creepy weird uncle who is always talking about how great things were in 1992.

I feel embarrassed for them. “Stagnant” isn’t strong enough of a word to describe it. Its as if General Motors, facing bad publicity after a string of recalls and poor sales, introduced their new car for 2016, and its a base model 1980 Camaro with plastic body panels and a V6 engine. You don’t know whether to laugh in their face, be sad for what might have been, or just wonder what kind of fool has a choke hold on the corporate culture at the top of their food chain.

You gave a bad example of a company coming out of bankruptcy. GM was given 11.2 billion of taxpayer money to retool and re-innovate. Without the bailout money, they may have put out a hacked over 1980 Camaro. Was Colt provided the same opportunity to redesign and re-innovate? For someone looking to get their 1st (entry level) AR 15, the Colt Expanse M4 will get a look. I do agree the Colt company seems to lack “any insight of innovation” when one looks at all of the newer-designed firearms being produced.

Comments are closed.