Capitalizing on the growing popularity for tactical-style semi-automatic rifles and the recent increase in firearm and ammunition prices, Carl Walther Germany, through a license agreement with New Colt Holding Corp., has introduced four Colt Tactical Rimfire semi-automatic rifles in .22 LR and is importing them through Umarex USA.
At first glance, the four rifles look like standard .223 Rem./5.56x45 mm NATO AR-15s. Walther took great care in creating accurate replicas for aesthetic appeal. The rifles are available with 16 and 21-inch barrel lengths with or without full-length Picatinny quad-railing.
Umarex USA shipped the Colt .22 Tactical M4, which features a 16.2-inch barrel and flat-top receiver with removable carry handle, for review. Both the upper and lower aluminum receivers are die cast and later CNC-machined, and the die cast zinc alloy slide housing and trigger housing hold all internal moving parts. The barrel sleeve is CNC-machined from high-strength aluminum, and is later anodized.
The main spring is positioned in the upper part of the slide housing just behind the slide. The rear of the spring is held in place by an adjustable screw, which can be turned with the provided Allen wrench to increase or decrease bolt speed for a particular ammunition. It is accessible by disengaging the takedown pin and pivoting the upper receiver forward, presenting itself just below the rear of the non-reciprocating charging handle. Walther recommends that the user refrain from disassembling the firearm beyond this point, as the slide is not readily extractable like the AR-15 bolt carrier group. Cleaning requirements can be met at this stage of disassembly.
The .22 Tactical Colt M4 uses straight blowback operation rather than direct gas-impingement found in most standard AR-15s.
The spring-loaded internal extractor is on the right side of the breechblock face, and the external ejector is a pin fixed to the slide housing. The internal slide catch is a 1 1/2-inch lever hinged to the left of the front underside of the slide housing. Spring tension holds it down until the magazine follower extension pushes it upward after the last shot is fired, thereby holding the slide rearward.
The controls are similar to those of the AR in appearance, but less so in function. The zinc die cast safety selector lever rotates an unusual 180 degrees to engage the internal safety. The lever is on the left side of the lower receiver just above the pistol grip and extends to the right side as a safety indicator. The magazine release is on the right side of the lower receiver above the trigger guard by the magazine well. Although the bolt stop paddle is on the top left side of the lower receiver by the magazine well and the forward assist plunger is located under the charging handle, neither serves any purpose beyond aesthetic appeal.
The carrying handle features a rear sight identical to that of typical AR-15s: two-position short- and normal-range rear aperture; right-side windage knob; and an elevation knob. Because this is a replica, the markings on the knobs are not set for .22 LR ammunition; one may, however, still use the knobs to adjust the sights and zero the rifle. The front sight post is also adjustable for elevation.
We had concerns with the trigger pull. Take up equaled about an 1/8-inch, and creep and overtravel together also occurred within about an 1/8-inch, despite its single-stage design. A good sight picture, however, can be maintained during rapid fire.
Given the questionable performance of the variety of .22 magazines for semi-automatics introduced through the years, we wanted to make sure that we thoroughly examined the .22 Tactical's feeding efficiency. We fired a variety of loads for function and accuracy tests.
Initial function tests results proved favorable with Federal AutoMatch. We made adjustments to the bolt screw after a single stoppage with Remington HV, and subsequent adjustments were made after more stoppages with Winchester HV Super-X. We contacted engineers at Walther to discuss the problem.
Walther engineers informed us that certain ammunition brands might cause problems, but also that the rifle should not have had the number of stoppages we encountered. Although there was significant residue buildup, it appears that adjusting the screw is generally unnecessary. It should only be adjusted if constant and continual stoppages occur with higher-velocity ammunition.
After cleaning the rifle and returning the screw to its original position, stoppages were minimal. During a weekend excursion, a Rifleman staff member and his family fired in excess of 450 rounds with standard, high-velocity and hyper-velocity ammunition with only two stoppages. Subsequent accuracy tests totaled 150 rounds with no stoppages.
The Colt .22 Tactical Rimfire is a good rifle for the young shooter interested in getting involved with tactical-style firearms, as well as the older, cost-conscious plinker, and anyone else who just likes shooting rapid-fire .22s. It's fun to shoot, and as one of the young men who went on the weekend excursion attested, "This is the most awesome thing I've ever done!"