Everyone knows Colt. Colt started a little over 175 years ago and is now one of our country’s oldest gun makers. In the 1960s, Colt secured the rights to the Stoner/Armalite AR15 and AR10. Back in ’09 Colt introduced the LE6940 to the market as the first major change to the family since the intro to the wildy successful and popular M4 carbine we see everywhere today. The 6940 had a lot of parts in common with the M4 (known as the 6920 in semi-auto dress). The major difference was the new upper. The 6940 upper is monolithic and free floats the barrel. The receiver and the rail of the ’40 are all machined from a one-piece forging and offers the ability to set optics anywhere on the rail and have total stability. This helps to keeps your zero, well, zeroed. Another addition was the folding front sight that replaced the fixed military legacy front sight base that dates back to the originals.
Right or wrong, a desire for more power than the 5.56 arose over the last decade because of the GWOT and because our soldiers are sometimes involved in long range contacts. The tired old M14 was pressed into service in hopes of extending the range of SDMs and to give a little more confidence to those who felt the 5.56 was not quite enough. In the years since, a lot of companies have started to ramp up and offer their own versions of the AR-series in 30 caliber and anything else they can squeeze into the magazine well of the rifle pattern. The Armalite AR10 has been around for a while, the KAC was adopted as a sniper weapon by both the US Army and the USMC, and the LMT MWS has seen limited success as a DM rifle for the British military.
It is in the midst of this 30 caliber revolution that people noticed one name oddly absent from the 7.62 AR market game–Colt. The company had not forgotten or ignored the trend, but it had to make sure to fill contracts worth millions for the US Gov, including the M4 and recent awards for M240 machine guns. Now that the war seems to be winding down and Colt has more breathing room, they’re expanding and are stating to fire up their impressive R&D again. Remember that this is a company that has brought out some of the most legendary firearms of the past 175 years. After the release of the 6940, rumors started about a version chambered in 308 all over the internet with some links to patents to support the rumors. Then over a year ago at the SHOT show we saw the 901 for the first time. It was shown in several different barrel lengths and finishes. Now over a year later the 901 is ready to hit the market.
What makes the Colt LE901 special is not only is it a 308 rifle, but it can be very easily converted to take any milspec 5.56 upper available and made to quality. Colt considers this their “Modular carbine” and it most certainly is.
With a adapter block (which is installed very easily), the modular ambi lower will take any upper you can find. One extra part and a swap of the buffer spring and buffer give you unlimited combos with the 901. The rifle takes the SR25 pattern magazines so it will take the Pmag, (and therefore the KAC and LaRue mags as well). The barrel is 16 inches long and the button-rifled barrel and chamber are chrome-lined. As with all Colts, the barrel is MPC and proofed–not just in batches, but every single one of them. The twist rate of the gun is 1/12 which gives you a pretty wide range of bullet weights to use.
Like the 6940 the 901 has a monolithic upper. It also has a few upgrades the 6940 does not have. The rail of the 901 has QD sockets not just in the front of the rail, but also in the rear of the rail. Most people want this and it is great to see this added to the rifle. The front sight is like the 6940’s in that it folds, but the difference is that the 901’s front folding sight is not lockable in the up position for those who worry it might fold down in harsh use right when you do not want it to.
As written above, the lower of the rifle is also ambi. This is another trend that has started in the last decade and one that will be sticking with us in my opinion. The controls are well placed and easy to use. None of them are stiff or require so much force as to make them useless. The gun comes standard with a Colt marked troy BUIS.
A nice feature in the lower is the absence of a web blocking the installation of a RDIAS. So if you have one, full auto fire in a colt 308 can be a reality. The FCG parts are all standard Milspec with all the typical colt quality and testing that goes with that. The 308 marked buffer in the gun can be seen in the picture above.
The 16 inch barrel is described by colt as a HBAR but I would call it more of a medium heavy with a straight taper unlike the taper of older colt HBAR carbines of the past. The rail comes off like the 6940 by depressing the lock on the bottom rear with a round or punch. The rifle sent to me by colt defense also needs a screw on each side of the rail taken out for further stripping. This helps keep the rail from moving at all for reliability when using IR lasers or other force multipliers.
The bolt carrier group comes apart just like any other AR but with a few slight upgrades. The firing pin has the addition of a firing pin spring that colt advises not to remove. The gas rings on the bolt are also one-piece instead of three rings like the 5.56 bolt.
The rest of the BCG is no surprise. It is made to the same standards as any colt rifle meant for hard combat use with everything tested to milspec and Colt’s TDP that has served millions of military, LEO and civilian personnel for years.
The conversion kit that lets you use the 5.56 upper of your choice comes in three parts. The adapter magazine well block, the 556 buffer spring and the standard Milspec M4 “H” buffer. It takes less than a minute to convert the rifle over to 556 and having it operate just like your favorite 556 slayer. Some people are already saying to use the 308 buffer for a softer shooting carbine but this is a bad idea and I will go out on a limb and say if something goes wrong with your rifle in this configuration of 556 with 30 buffer parts, Colt may not warranty it. That is PURE SPECULATION on my part, but we all know how companies view such things.
The 901 receiver extension or “buffer tube” as it is commonly called, is standard M4 all the way with the normal colt 4 position. In the picture above is the 308 buffer inside its spring on the left with the 556 buffer to the far right. The 5.56 spring is far left next to the block.
The upper can be tilted down for removal of the BCG and cleaning without taking the entire gun apart. If you’re in a hurry, it’s the way to go although it’s easy to remove the upper completely with the block still on the upper. The pin is captured so there is no fear of losing it.
Picture shows 556 upper opened as far as it will go with block installed and attached to the lower.
A few people have voiced concerns over what mags the lower with adapter block may or may not take. I found every mag tested will work, including uncommon mags.
Above is a pre-ban colt upper in 7.62×39 with a ’39 mag in the well. The gun runs flawlessly with the commie caliber upper and magazine fit.
Here is a 6940 upper with the surefire 60 round magazine showing off its stuff and working perfectly.
The world standard 6920 ( M4) upper and the beloved 5.56 Pmag in the 901 lower and working 100 percent.
Finally the Colt HBAR ELITE CR6724 24 inch barreled precision upper takes a turn on the lower. All uppers ran as expected with no trouble.
In part two I will write about shooting the 901, its recoil, accuracy and how it does out to 1000 yards along with pictures of targets in testing.