The Colt Expanse Is Not a Real Colt? Former Hartford Technician Christopher Bartocci Says So

After several years of being undercut on the market by cheaper offerings from Smith & Wesson and others, Colt introduced early in 2016 a new addition to their lineup, the “Expanse” carbine, designed to cut the price tag of a Colt carbine by $200-300 versus the standard 6920. The new rifle was met with positive reviews and many felt very good about the opportunity to own a “real” Colt for significantly less than the cost of the 6920. However, is the Expanse really a Colt, or more specifically, how much of the Expanse is really Colt? Christopher Bartocci, former Colt technician, thinks the answer is “not much”. Bartocci explains why in the video embedded below:

Bartocci identifies several components that he believes are not produced by or assembled at Colt, including the following:

  • Handguards
  • Stock
  • Castle nut and endplate (at least not assembled at Colt)
  • Safety
  • Forward assist plug
  • Upper
  • Bolt
  • Carrier
  • Barrel
  • Front sight block

Despite these components not evidently being Colt’s own, Bartocci does believe some elements of the Expanse are genuine Colt, including the lower receiver and possibly the hammer, which although a different pattern than used on the 6920 is the same as other Colt models.

Bartocci does not express an opinion as to whether the Expanse is therefore a good rifle or a bad one, and notes that everything does seem to be in order on it – notwithstanding the lack of dust cover or forward assist. However, for those looking for a real genuine Colt rifle at a good price, it may be better to save some more and get a real 6920, which besides being much closer in configuration to a military M4 is also a through-and-through Colt gun. The Expanse, however, does not seem to be.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • JustAHologram

    As long as they use quality parts I don’t see an issue with it not being completely Colt

    • John

      Well, people buy Colt because they’re a Colt. There’s a certain collectors value that you’re buying a factory gun made from the same parts as the military version (save for the fcg).

      If I wanted to buy a quality firearm made from sourced parts, id stick with PSA or radical firearms. Just my 2 cents though

      • Sam

        Just because it’s a Colt lower doesn’t mean it’s a Colt. Sadly, Colt priced themselves out of the civilian market long ago. You could buy functioning shootable original Peacemakers for the same or less than new at one time, same with 1911’s and full Colt AR’s.

      • JustAHologram

        If you want the same as the military version get the FN Military Collector Series

        • Anonymoose

          Or find an older 6920SOCOM with the KAC quadrail instead of the Troy one.

  • Sam

    I was going to ask if they stand behind it with their name or not but for $750 they could at least include a carry handle.

  • Howard M. Murdock

    I’m gonna have to agree with JustAHologram. I don’t understand Colt pretension. I own a 6920. I also own a Smith & Wesson M&P 15. The S&W was 500 less and every bit the rifle that my Colt is. I guess some jimmys get excited by a pony roll mark I guess.

    • Nicks87

      I think a lot of people just want what the military uses and most of the US military is issued Colt M4s. I think most people know that Colt is about middle of the road when it comes to rifles.

      • JustAHologram

        Well FN made M4s these days

      • Nomar Abdiel Vazquez Vazquez

        I will love a SCAR.

    • n0truscotsman

      With high round counts, over elongated periods of time, the edge goes to Colt and other ‘premium grade” ARs simply because of their superior quality/materials. With their price, you get more of consistent excellent quality.

      Less expensive ARs are more of a crapshoot. I’ve seen some Bushmaster, DPMS, and M&P guns run hard and reliably. And I’ve seen many others utterly soil the bed.

      IMO, with the price of a LE 6920, its better to spend the extra 2-300 bucks and get that guarantee.

    • go4it

      Roll mark? I doubt that. Stamped, more likely. Until you’ve seen what *can* and *can’t* be “roll marked” – the complex, confined space of an AR Lower receiver is certainly one – as is the need for sequential serial numbering – stamping is the method.

  • Joseph Goins

    I smell a FIRECLEAN-type lawsuit coming.

    • Gary Kirk

      Smells like French fries

      • Ranger Rick

        “Freedom Fries”!!

    • Howard M. Murdock

      The smoke coming from your Expanse shows that it is eliminating the excess carbon. Fact.

      • n0truscotsman

        That never gets old. 😀

  • Captain Obvious

    If I put an old Colt mil surplus upper with all the parts or say an Colt SP1 upper on a Colt expanse lower, would it then be a real Colt?

    • Joe


      • Captain obvious

        More realerer

  • Colt has truly squandered its brand cache. Before selling overpriced legacy designs, the Colt name commanded respect. There’s a reason why the average Colt afficiando is 45 years of age or older. It’s been a long time since Colt innovated or produced something of lasting value.

    I truly wish that Colt would just die so that some Czech firm could aquire the rights and make that Pony dance again. It’s the only way Colt will ever innovate, or make something that isn’t a collector piece the second it leaves the factory. How does one say “Colt is dead! Long live Colt!” in Czech?

    • GD Ajax

      Or just let it die and not give them handouts.

    • kapula

      Colt je mrtvej! Ať žije Colt!


    You get what you pay for…

    • valorius

      Unless you buy a colt. Then you just get ripped off.

  • Bill

    A “former” technician? He “believes” some parts aren’t made at Colt? No other company outsources parts? Some of these parts, like hand guards and stocks are the first things replaced in a build, so does it matter, particularly if reduced cost is the goal?

    • Jim Slade

      You’re not wrong- there’s probably an agenda at work here, but very few other companies rely on a 100% nostalgia content for marketing.

    • Malthrak

      His resume is very solid for this sort of thing, Colt historically has made all the parts he’s talking about and he goes through the differences and markings in the video.

      For most people, this stuff is irrelevant, and he essentially says as much in the video. He’s basically just noting stuff extreme AR nerds, collectors, etc.

      • Jim Slade

        “extreme AR nerds, collectors, etc”
        LOL- so basically the population of the comment threads for this site.

        • Malthrak


  • Jim Slade

    “Colt makes AR’s?” says 90% of people who’ve bought a rifle in the last 8 years.
    “Colt…. like, old-timey cowboy-pistol Colt?” says the other 10%.

    • mrsatyre

      Woohoo! I’m a 10‰er!

      • mrsatyre

        Actually I knew about Colt making ARs ’cause I read gooder. But I do like me some old-timey cowboy pistols ,too.

  • rennsport4.4TV8

    As far as the upper receiver is concerned it must be based of the batch or manufacturing time. I don’t know how old the rifle in the video is (it is probably new considering the video is from 12/2016), but the Expanse that I bought this year has a C marking on the side and M4 on the front of the upper. The rifle also had the T markings in the rail.

    In short these changes are not found on every Colt Expanse rifle. When you go to buy one and want colt upper and lower receivers check for the markings before you whip out you card. That’s what I did knowing I would end up replacing the barrel, handguard and other things.

    Edit: Also Colt sells Expanse rifles that come with a ejection port cover and forward assist installed.

  • valorius

    If it works, who cares.

  • Black Dots

    My biggest beef with this rifle is that it will not allow me to Defend My Legacy, unlike the SA Saint.

    • Sam

      At least the Saint comes with a rear sight. (Damn, finally said something nice about the Saint.)

    • Frank Grimes

      No GRIP ZONE! either.

  • Bullphrog855

    This guy is a diamond in the rough of youtube gun channels. He gets down to brass tacts about guns with a pretty vast knowledge on the technical side. To add to it, he doesn’t care about all that click bait tacticool or EXTREME TORTURE TEST trash that you get with so many other gun channels.

    He just uploads good clean videos.

    • Herr Wolf


      • Bland Samurai

        One should use tact when discussing tacks.

        • nicholsda

          We get the point.

          • itsmefool

            Y’all are so sharp!

  • Disarmed in CA

    Today 12/21 is the last day to purchase an AR-15 in California, more-or-less in normal configuration. You will not be able to purchase one tomorrow.

  • Patrick R. – Senior Writer


    The one I reviewed has a C marked bolt, but not carrier. Other parts are not the same as well. It looks like they may have used Colt parts till some overstock ran out, then turned to outside sources.

    I don’t think Colt produces any small parts currently, my understanding is that they are sourced from an outside manufacturer. I could be wrong though.

    • nova3930

      The question is what specifications is Colt holding the parts to, not who’s making them. They can easily hold any outside company to the same specs in the TDP if they so choose.

      That said an expanse isn’t a 6920 and was never meant to be. I got a couple for a steal just to stick back in the safe for my boys. Add some spare FAs and port covers I had laying around and they’ve got a rifle with the Pony on the side waiting for em when they get old enough.

  • nova3930

    My only real issue is the guy says he was there 2009ish, nearly 8 years ago now. Who the heck knows what’s changed on the assembly line in that period.

    It’s been pretty apparent since introduction that an expanse is not a 6920 and wasn’t intended to be. The thing about the markings on some of the components is that on the expanses I’ve seen, the markings vary. All the weapons from CT probably maintained the same markings so Colt didn’t have to maintain multiple lines with multiple specifications dependent upon the rifle.

    Secondarily, however the components are marked if they’re meeting the appropriate specification there’s no real issue.

  • FelixD

    How was the original M16 was made? Subcontractors! This is not an unusual practice. A lot of small companies surrounding Rock Island. IL. provided, and may still provide, parts for the 16 and a lot of others small arms.

  • Shayne

    I wish people would not repeat the lie about wages being the driving force for company relocation. Connecticut Corporate tax rate is 9%, only Penn. is higher with 9.99%, now add in all the regulation Connecticut adds in combined with paper work, then just to have fun heap the Union corruption that you have to deal with for utilities (Trash, Water, Waste Removal). Now add in a 6.35% income tax and a property tax of 1.63%, I can’t blame them for moving. The reason they are moving is stupid high taxes and over regulations that have no environmental improvements but cause companies to have to hire people just to fill out paperwork.

    • GD Ajax

      People who whine about taxes are tend to be moochers. Colt gets free money from the government, so they have no room to complain.

      • Shayne

        Love the generalization, so what has Connecticut done with all that tax revenue, sure as heck wasn’t infrastructure (2016 ranked 47), last time I was there the roads look like someone took a 50 cal to them, and that was in the 90’s. Compare that to Tenn. infrastructure (2016 ranked 3rd) and ranked 9th financial, Connecticut is ranked 50th, so would you rather pay taxes in Tenn. and see a return with improvements or pay taxes into Connecticut and see no return?

        What free money did Colt get from the government?

      • Shayne

        What free money has Colt got from the government and you may want to tell them where to find it to help with that $20 Million loan.

        As for the moocher comment, that makes no sense, and congrats you just called our founder fathers moochers. What does Connecticut do with all that Tax revenue, the roads in Connecticut look like someone in a helicopter was hitting them with a 50 cal.

    • Louis Bethel

      They dropped the Florida facility, looks like they’ve are staying in ct

  • Audie Bakerson

    The only Colt part is the one that makes it less valuable (the lower receiver that has been made heavier and less useful for no particular reason). That’s not a good sign.

  • If by “Not a Colt” Mr. Bartocci means that it’s not an overpriced rifle that performs worse than a Norinco does, well, yes, he is right.

    • Frank Grimes

      Yeah that $700 6920OEM is soooo overpriced.

      • Lucky bastard, who’s your dealer? Here in Europe no Colt (except the Expanse, which comes under the 800€ threshold) will be cheaper than 1500€. None.

  • Capn Jack

    God, what a snob..Unless you are a dedicated collector, who cares who made the parts as long as they function reliably. If it is accurate and goes bang every time, it’s golden. I have AR’s with Colt barrels, DPMS uppers and CMMG lowers, using aluminum, S Steel,or Plastic magazines…They all “Kill” paper.

  • GD Ajax

    Colt has always been garbage. The people who buy love paying more for an inferior product.

  • RICH

    SAD….. Colt ‘had’ such a stand up reputation, at one time ! !

    • Sean

      100 years ago

    • GD Ajax

      Only to those sticking with outdated garbage. Even the CM901 cited by fanbois a ripoff of the LMT L129A1.

      • Louis Bethel

        And fanbois is the voice of quality. No doubt about it.

    • Louis Bethel

      Rich I agree. As for others saying it hasn’t been good for a long time probably buy safe queens. If you shoot a lot, you want a good rifle like a Colt. Or enough money to buy two of the cheaper brand. You get what you pay for.

  • mazkact

    Premiering at SHOT show the Colt ExPython.

    • mazkact

      I kid guys, don’t go googling Colt ExPython……………………seriously.

  • Alex

    The expanse line is made in TX by Bold Ideas Texas. Same guys that make the “Colt” competition guns.

  • El Duderino

    Can Colt and Kimber just merge already and form the Fanboy Group?

    I’ve shot my friend’s 6940, and while I like the integral handguard it doesn’t have any major leg up on anything else. It’s way behind the top tier brands. Kind of like Kimber 1911s!

  • Mk24 Mod 1

    Scuttlebutt is that Anderson MFG is supplying Colt with the lowers for the expanse model.

  • dltaylor51

    Buy once cry once;get the real Colt and be happy,an AR without a dust cover or forward assist plunger is just not right.

  • Louis Bethel

    No one buys you because you are cheap priced.
    We buy you because you are the best.
    Quit competing on price, you will get slaughtered.

    As for all the parts not being made by Colt, that doesn’t matter.
    We all know that there are specialty manufacturers that make a lot of parts for a lot of different brands.
    Including the Colt lower receiver.

    What is an ex-Technician?

  • Core

    Colt Defense is without question a higher quality product than all of the cheaper alternatives and some of the more costly alternatives. They have a huge amount of data and historical capital invested in a 6920. Yes it can be improved, like anything. Colt brings a great product to the table for a reasonable price. I paid $615 shipped for my OEM 6920, you can’t beat that. Without going into mechanical engineering and past manufacturing methods used by Colt, it has enough secret sauce built in to yield a combat carbine that will outlast and outfight the competition well outside it’s class. I have been an armorer for a handful of years and the differences between Colt Defense components, and processes, and other manufacturers is quite different. I will say Colt Defense does resort to bean counting for obvious reasons which has led them to be successful versus the civilian side. Some may say they have damaged their products reliability by bean counting but the truth is they don’t cut corners, they produce the best possible product for the money. You can take a 6920 for $150-250 in additional armorer work and have a carbine that will go 1600+ mean rounds between failures. I have seen 4000+ rounds with zero failures.

  • Secundius

    Which Colt(s)?/! Colt’s Manufacturing Company that produces the LE 6920 or the Colt Defense LLC which Doesn’t…

  • Richard C. Johnson

    Next thing you know you are gonna want all parts on your truck to be built in America by Chevy.

  • will_ford

    WHY the cover on the “T” in a vid? for ads? IMO. NOT professional, IF that is the case?

    • Secundius

      I can’t help noticing that the guy in the Video is wearing a Tee-Shirt with Multiple Gun Manufactures Logo’s and Accessories Companies on it. And yet bought a CHEAP $300 Knock-Out Colt “Frankenstein” and Couldn’t tell the Difference. I suspect He was even Unaware that there WERE Two Colt Manufacturers. Or whether he thought BOTH were “One-In-the-Same” Companies. Technically they Are, but to the Unwary…Who Knows…

      • will_ford

        The State of TEXAS was in the front I just wonder why. Why not wear a TEXAS “T” instead? What ever?

  • Andrew

    I think this mentality that an Expanse is not a Colt because it doesn’t use all the same parts as a 6920 is a weird gun-owner mentality. It might not be as good as a 6920 but it is still a real Colt. ARs are commodities assembled with off the self parts so almost nobody truly makes their rifles in house. Does anyone think that Sony TVs not made in Japan are not real Sonys? Are Ford autos made with imported steel not real Fords? If Spyderco has their low priced line built in China are they not real Spyderco knives?

  • CavScout

    Of course it’s not a Colt, it’s licensed out to Walther. Just like everybody’s .22lr look-alikes.