This past week saw a gaggle of gunwriters traipse through the hallowed halls of Colt's plant in Hartford, Conn. I managed to sneak in at the end of the line and thought you guys might like to take a look at what goes into making the nation's favorite rifle.
There's been big changes over the past few years in the rifle division for Colt. Nowadays they're not just supplying one customer with one product (Uncle Sam, the M4), they're supplying many different customers with up to 40 different rifles in the lineup. This wasn't an internal business decision, it was kind of forced, as the company lost out on the Army M4 contract when it was awarded to the Freedom Group earlier this year. In many ways, the loss was a good thing for Colt and it's line of rifles for the civilian market--their line now boast products the market actually wants. Ain't capitalism grand?
Since 2009, Colt has dropped some serious money into modernizing the plant, with new machinery and processes. It was intriguing to see machine tools made in the 1930's still hard at work, standing next to a state-of-the-art CNC machines. One thing that was truly impressive though, was the attention to quality that went into each gun. Yes, they're far from being custom one-offs, but the gauges, comparators and controls that are in place mean that you can pull a rifle out of the rack and it will perform identically to any other in the line.
Each carbine, whether it's made for the military or civilian market is made to exactly the same standards. We got to see some of the critical dimensions that make up a Military Specification, then compare them at random to parts that were coming off the machines. Suffice to say, the Colt parts exceeded the specification by a wide margin. Having built a fair number of ARs, I always figured that parts were parts, no matter where they came from. I might have to change that opinion.
Take a look inside the plant with me, I'm sure you'll see a few things that'll trip your trigger.