An M4 takes 3.5 hours to manufacture

A journalist from the Malaysian newspaper Malay Mail was shown around the Colt’s West Hartford factory

New machines were still being installed at the 26,687-square metre plant as The Malay Mail was shown around by Colt Defence executive vicepresident James R. Battaglini.

It takes 3 1/2 hours to complete a single M4 and the plant can churn out 900 a day with options for more when required.

The finished product then go below the plant for the test-firing process to ensure it performed to specifications.

Colt boasts a record of every gun made so that if it does not perform well, the company can determine if it is made to specs.

You may be thinking what a Malaysian newspaper is doing in West Hartford, Connecticut? Back in 2007 Malaysia announced plans** to switch away from the Steyr AUG and adopt the M4.

The Malay Mail also has a photo of some rare Colt pistols. Daniel Watters told me …

there is one interesting picture showing a couple of rare Colt prototype pistols. These include the SSP and their submission for SOCOM’s OHWS competition. I don’t have a definitive name for the pistol above the OHWS, but I believe it was going to used as the platform for their “Smart Pistol”. It certainly doesn’t match any AA2000 variant that I remember.

[ Many thanks to Daniel E. Watters for sending me the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • AB

    I’d be interested with having a video of a gun being built from the ground up, following its way around the factory to being boxed and shipped. It is one thing to understand the tool you use in life, but another to understand how that tool came to be.

  • Carl

    So, what’s the problem with the AUG? Shooting from the weak side?

  • Machining aluminum takes a while. Steel stampings are much quicker and cheaper to make, and nearly as durable.

  • Lance

    Many Austrilian troops perfer the M-4 over the F-88 (AUG) as well. It has alot better ergonomics and accuracy.

  • uzim16

    I visited SW, not a real factory tour, but for going to the exhibit room I passed by the shop floor, it’s very clean. Aslo, I watched video of HK, looks like the facory is high tech and clean. It’s hard to imagine any machine shop in Malaysia is upto their standard. So, does COLT update their equipments slower than other gun makers like SW HK…………….?

  • Ken

    Question is, how many parts come in from sub contractors? This will decrease manufacturing time because parts are there and ready to add to the gun.

  • cm smith

    I think the Colt prototype pistol shown above the “OHWS” is the Colt police pistol [IIRC, that’s what they called it.] that looked very much like a Sig slide on a frame with the ergonomics of the AA2000. That one did not show up in the recent auction of the factory collection.

    I’ve seen two basic pistols used as Colt smart gun prototypes: one based on the Colt – CZ 75 and one that looks like a 1911 slide on a Beretta 92 frame. I kid you not. See the smart gun article in the July, 2000 Law & Order magazine for a photo.

  • cm smith

    Moderator: here is a link to the Colt-Beretta smart gun photo on imageshack

    By sg_688 at 2009-12-23

    • cm, thanks for the link.

  • Rick Randall

    The reason it takes an average of 3.5 hours to do a rifle is that they have many different lines cranking out different machining operations. The longest part to be machined (I’m betting the barrel, with profiling, rifling, parkerizing, and mounting the FST, gas tube, barrel collar, etc.) is probably the sticking point, and you back calculate your need or other lines from that one longets time. I’m also willing to bet that springs, pins, furniture, etc., are made elsewhere and shipped in.

    (Just making up numbers for easy comparison here) For example, if the longest time part takes 3.5 hours, and the shortest part takes .5 hours, you will put in 7 production lines for that longest part for every production line for the part that takes .5 hours. (7x .5 = 3.5) Then your parts come out somewhat even, and you don’t end up with a CONEX full of hammers, sears, disconnectors, and selectors waiting for the lower receiver production to catch up so they can be installed.

  • For what its worth, I found a January 1997 issue of Shooting Times that discussed the Colt Law Enforcement Pistol as a platform for their Smart Gun technology.

  • Billy Bones

    More accurately, 3.5 hrs to assemble and test.

  • Geodkyt

    Considering I’ve watched an AR get assembled in under an hour from individual parts – the only things that was were preassembled were the locking collar (minutes, at best, in a factory setting) and the gas key (I’ve watched that operation, including staking, done in a few minutes with hand tools in an arms room). Even though the gun I watched go from pins and springs to firing weapon in an hour was “only” a semi, somehow I doubt that the autosear takes very much additional time for a select fire model, and I doubt the testing procedure takes 2.5 hours.

    • Boombatz

      You all are idiots, I know you all assemble your rifles hanging upside down blindfolded. If you bothered to pay any attention at all, they said it takes 3.5 hours to manufacture. I know you all can build one from PARTS in an hours time, but we are talking about the manufacturing process, including machining and forging, not just assembly. I know, we all can stake a gas key quickly. Colt knows what its doing.