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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
|Caliber||5.56 NATO/.223 Rem|
|# of Included Magazines||1|
|Action||semi-automatic, direct impingement|
|Stock||6-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.
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 M4||PSA FDE AR-15||Ruger AR-556||S&W Sport II|
|Caliber||5.56 NATO||5.56 NATO||5.56 NATO||5.56 NATO|
|Magazine||30 round aluminum||30 round Magpul PMAG||30 round Magpul PMAG||30 round Magpul PMAG|
|# of Included Magazines||1||1||1||1|
|Chrome Plating||no||no||bolt carrier, gas key||firing pin|
|Finish||unknown||hardcoat anodized FDE||Milspec Type III||Armornite|
|Handguard||2-piece||2-piece Magpul MOE M-Lok||easy removing 2-piece||2-piece|
|Pistol Grip||A2-style||Magpul MOE||Ruger grip||A2-style|
|Front Sight||A2-style||A2-style||milled A2 Style with QD-socket||A2-style|
|Rear Sight||none||folding Magpul MBUS||folding Ruger||folding 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.
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
27 replies on “Expanse M4: Colt’s Cheap AR”
This article hardly said anything.
no sling attachments or rear sight (or dust cover or forward assist), so add $100 to actual cost. #fail. Still Ruger #forthewin. 4150 barrel while only 6.4 pounds is interesting, however. admittedly Ruger does not come with the front sling attachment, so add $15 to the price of the Ruger. also 1:7 is arguable too much for common civilian 55g rounds. Does Colt not know how to make 1:8 or 1:9?
i had recently purchased the colt expanse M4 and am very pleased with it, mine also does have the bayonet lug too. the only thing i would change is i would really like to put a rail system on it. Any suggestions on the best rail system that would be compatible with this weapon?
Thanks for the feedback on the rifle. You might want to take a look at the Magpul MOE SL handguard. It uses the M-LOK attachment system and should work with the A2 sight tower and delta ring on your Colt as it is designed to be a drop in replacement for the standard handguard. This is the handguard at Magpul’s site: https://www.magpul.com/products/moe-sl-hand-guard-carbine-length
Depends on how far you want to go with it. As Richard states the Magpul SL handguard is an excellent option, which is what I went with. You can certainly go farther, but by that time you could have just bought a rifle that included that stuff.
This is what I tell my customers at the gun shop I work at. Either build, or buy the gun with most the features you want.
you can buy a 25$ 4 rail handcover. It fits great. Most of these other guys are just pissed they invested so much money and I can still out shoot with my pony.. Giddy up boyz.