By Jeff Johnston, Field Ethos Hunting & Shooting Editor
After 40 years of badassery both among the Special Forces world and in Hollywood, the CAR-15—Colt’s attempt at self-branding the AR-15 with a shorter, handier version—is now unofficially retro.
In 1994 the military adopted the M4 which was basically an upgraded CAR-15. Upgrades included a flat top/Pic rail in place of the rather useless carry handle (unless you happen to be engaged in a running rice paddy battle vs. the NVA) and a modern handguard among other things. Even still we think everyone should at least have a row of CAR-15s in the vault. The Colt guns are hard to find and therefore pricey, but we like Stag Arms’ modern and less expensive “Stag 15 M4” better anyway (Although it’s called an M4, this one looks exactly like the CAR-15).
In case you didn’t know, this semiauto shorty AR—the original 10.5- or 11.5-inch barreled Colt Commando model was select fire—features a 16-inch, 1:7 twist chrome-lined barrel with a birdcage flash hider, an uncomfortable-as-hell collapsible 6-position buttstock, an Oscar Meyer-length thermoplastic handguard featuring zero Pic rails to reduce the temptation of attaching ridiculous accoutrements that would only serve to fuck up the iconic Chris-from-the-movie-Heat look. Same goes for the carry handle/rear peep sight. Of course Stag makes a flattop version of this iconic arm, but why would anyone opt for it when we all already own customized ARs with high-priced optics attached for actually shooting shit at distances longer than the A-Team van. Or maybe you’re better at precision peep-sight shooting than I am. Its magazine is dentable metal—none of this newfangled Magpul polymer stuff—and holds 30 rounds.
This is the carbine for stashing in a tennis racket case under the seat of your truck. When, if ever, you actually have to use it, rest assured the batteries won’t be out of whatever red-dot optic you might have chosen had it been a more modern AR.
As for accuracy? I call it 30/30/30. The Stag 15 M4 will put 30 of 30 rounds in the vitals of a man-sized target at 30 yards as fast as you can pull the trigger. Just don’t put it back in your tennis racket case right after doing so. $1,100
Pros: iconic 1980s Colt Commando look, light and compact, retro enough now to impress your friends, reliable AR with little to go wrong
Cons: Chris from Heat is a bad guy, and imitating him in any way except for his taste in women is strongly unadvisable.