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Colt Competition Budget AR15 – First Impressions

Last week, Colt announced the launch of a couple of value-priced carbines, the CSR 1516 and CSR 1518. Or rather, Colt Competition did. What’s the difference? Well, Colt Competition is currently based in Texas, rather than Connecticut and they license the Colt name, as well as using Colt as the source for the majority of parts going into their rifles.

So it’s a cheap Colt knockoff then? Sorry to disappoint, but no. I’ve run a Colt Competition 18″ AR in 3-gun matches for the past year now and its quality has been first-rate, with a feature set that leaves most other factory rifles in the dust. The new carbines also look well thought out, but are very obviously made to a price point, (in this case at an MSRP of a grand) rather than going all-out to capture the high end market.  There’s no shame in that, so long as the user knows what they’re getting for their hard-earned dollars. Looking at the 16 inch version sent for T&E, it’s pretty obvious that its creators embarked on this project with a set of assumptions in mind, figuring that if a shooter was to upgrade a basic M4 for competition, they’d probably upgrade the trigger and pistol grip, mount an optic and add a free float tube.

Carbine length free float tubes are good, but rifle length versions give an extra five inches of real estate to hang on to, or slam against barricades for support. If you’re adding a longer tube to a carbine, then a low profile gas block is necessary to fit under it (or alternatively,  you could break out the Dremel and chop down the front sight base).  By the time you’ve added up the cost of a grip, gas block, tube and trigger, you’re up to $250 or more, so the Colt’s $850 street price is looking like a pretty reasonable deal.

So how has the manufacturer achieved this price point? The barrel, while having the desirable 1/8″ twist is just a regular chrome moly affair, rather than being chrome lined or stainless and there’s no backup iron sights or magazine included in the package. Like other bargain priced AR such as the M&P15 Sport, the dust cover has also been deleted, along with the forward assist. On the plus side, it sports a nickel boron plated trigger and hammer, a very nicely nitrided BCG and the overall level of fit and finish is what you’d expect from a product with a horsey on the side of the magwell, albeit with one exception. While the carrier key is properly staked, the stock’s castle nut is not.

We’ll be taking this one to the range in the next couple of days. Look for a full report soon.