You know that awkward moment when everyone is thinking the same thing, but everyone is too afraid to say it? Well I’m going to say it: The Colt SP901 308 carbine is the first interesting thing to come out of Hartford Connecticut since 1994 and the M-4. Colt has been since the late 1990’s the Uncle Rico (Napoleon Dynamite Movie) of the gun industry. Colt has been living off of the past glories and the historical attachment to its name, as well as legacy contracts. The first fire under Colt’s ass was the Infantry open contract spurred on by Tom Coburn (Oklahoma Republican Senator) and others, but it won’t be the last, unless Colt starts making new and interesting items like the Colt SP901 308 carbine a habit in their production line.
That said, if Colt can pull this one off, they may have a winner. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but it’s lightweight, it fits the bill for the contract’s new terms, and it is made by the incumbent provider.
The Colt SP901 308 carbine is gunning for the JSOC (among others) spots against competition like the SCAR, the LWRC builds and several Barretts (by the way there are two major rifle contracts open ended for the JSOC community). This new Colt Sp901 308 Carbine is a really well thought out design though, unlike the recent releases out of the Colt factory. That’s not to say the M-4 isn’t well thought out, but how about something fresh every once in a while?
The whole Idea of the 308 Carbine is one that has really been a hot topic for years. The first truly successful 308 Carbine was the Paratrooper of the L1A1 (et al), and it suffered from being a gun at the very limits of its mechanical capacity. The L1A1 and subsidiary designs all tried to harness the power of the “massive” .308, with lightweight, thin walled and durable materials and designs. It was a gun just screaming to be let out of its cage. But it made it relatively uncontrollable in rapid fire or full/burst scenarios, and was just too much gun for many of the world’s infantry soldiers. A lot happens in 40 years.
Since that first thoroughbred military 308 Carbine (the L1A1 and assocaited carbines) many others have come through the line vying for pole position in all of the world’s great military contracts.
- HK G3 had a (sort of) carbine version
- FN FAL (another of the L1A1 clan) had a carbine version
- The FN SCAR is a formidable 308 carbine
- The M14/M1A has a few options for a 308 Carbine
It was Stoner who first moved into the Aluminum builds with any success, and then his legacy was continued on at his company: Knights Armament. Hell, an entire set of infantry rifle contracts was built around the core values Eugene Stoner held closely. It’s damn near impossible for a contractor NOT using a Stoner concept to win a chance at an infantry weapon or Special Forces rifle (for short and intermediate interdiction).
- Armalite makes a 308 Carbine (it was a Stoner patent that Armalite owned and produced the AR-10 and other variants under)
- Every maker of the M4/M16/AR-15 chassis (generally) makes a 308 Carbine
- Knight’s Armament (the closest relation to Eugene Stoner) makes a modern version of the original Stoner 308
- Barrett and others make excellent 308 carbines based (at times, loosely) on the Stoner ideologies
A lot happens in 40 years…
Enter the Colt SP901 308 Carbine
Enter the Colt SP901 308 Carbine the culmination of an incumbent contract supplier, not willing to piss away the millions of dollars their key contract brings in; new materials, better designed recoil systems and an eager R&D team, the likes of which, Colt hasn’t had in Hartford since at least 1994.
If you were part of the group that got to debut the Colt SP901 308 Carbine at Gunsite near Prescott, AZ, then you know it wasn’t the same ole same ole. It shows up to the fight wearing a good looking camo paint job (among other slated colors) A fully monolithic upper with a flattop rear; A decently adjustable stock “ambi” everything and the ability to take the AR 10 magazines. It’s dialed in for a 16” 1.10 twist barrel, and it looks like an AR. That means counter snipers and inserted marksmen can hit a target out past 800 meters without looking like a special team member when they move into their “hides”
OK, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. There is better stuff out on the market in theory, but let’s be honest here: politics and good old boy favoritism exists in the military contracts arena. COLT is American as apple pie. Nothing says long term subtle psychological warfare and Patriotism more than seeing dead terrorists and foreign insurgents piling up at the hands of a good old, American made 308 Carbine, produced by Colt. Right?
We saw it with the LWRC Infantry contract entrant (we covered this in an earlier article), and we see it often in the world of military contracts.
Here’s why the Colt SP901 308 Carbine makes the most sense…
Colt has a brand appeal, despite for years, often putting out a subpar product.
Ready for the deal maker for Colt? A Colt factory insert allows the Colt SP901 308 Carbine to become MODULAR with a simple change. With the insert, and a 5.56 upper, the 308 Carbine suddenly becomes a “normal” AR-15/M-16/M-4, and gives some versatility to the soldier. Genius? No, we have been clamoring for it for years, but no one has done it. That one simple fact makes Colt the man to beat in the race for bigger and more lucrative contracts with the military. The fact that Colt finally did what others sloughed off in favor of one-off rounds and as “too difficult” in the truly modular design of the Colt SP901 308 Carbine is in fact Genius, if you think about it. It’s the only thing setting the company apart from all the others really. It’s one of those “pat Colt on the back and tell them they’ve still got it” moments for the Army Brass (and other military leaders); the kind that pisses off smaller contract contenders.
The Colt SP901 308 Carbine is priced to move in the civilian market (though it isn’t cheap) at just over $2,000 currently, and an MSRP of around $2100-$2200.
So wait… is the Colt SP901 308 Carbine a hunting gun or a military gun?
Colt is pimping the SP901 308 Carbine as a hunting gun, capable of shooting “anything”, and really, when you think about the loads (55 grain with sabots and up), that claim probably holds some amount of water. Yes, the whole: “you can use any AR upper” thing helps with that too; guys with 6.8’s, grendels, 300 AAC and a whole host of others will probably be raring to go with the Colt SP901 308 Carbine.
Has Colt really outdone themselves with the SP901 308 Carbine? Well, despite throwing some real ammunition at a target, the gun feels like it suffers less of the L1A1 “too skinny for sustained fire” syndrome than one would expect. Time will tell if the Colt SP901 308 Carbine was enough of a departure from the normal platform to be a true commercial success. Something tells me this: Colt doesn’t waste millions of dollars researching, designing and marketing a rifle that looks like the SP901 308 Carbine to sell it solely to the civilian market; it’s probably got a chance at tying down another contract wither by itself or as part of a future design made specifically for the Military branches and JSOC.
Is the Colt SP901 308 Carbine the next great American gun?
This 308 Carbine is as American as it gets, with the use of American Military ammunition, surplus magazines, the Colt name, and a familiarity in design and control placement. It’s made right here in the US of A. The Colt SP901 308 Carbine puts Colt in a comfortable position again after being shaken up by the earlier questioning by Senators and other competing manufacturers of its “dated” design in the M4.
It’s probably a 308 Carbine that I’m adding to my wish list; there aren’t many quality examples of a 308 Carbine to be honest.
It’s like I said: the first interesting thing to come out of Colt Factory in a LONG time is the Colt SP901 308 Carbine.