When it comes to the civilian AR-15 (or its military cousin the M-16) there’s no shortage of gadgets and gizmos available for owners of these rifles to play with. Whether it be optics or lasers, monopods or bi-pods, if you can imagine it someone probably makes it. While adding accessories to these rifles may be fun, every owner knows that these rifles were built for battle.
Ask any shooter, and he or she will tell you that rifles must be cleaned and maintained in order for them to operate effectively. While normally this is done in garages and basements around the world with large cleaning kits and plenty of space, some manufacturers have realized the need for operators to maintain their rifles in the field or at the range. Enter the C.A.T.-M4 designed and produced by Combat Application Tools, Inc.
According to the manufacturer’s website, “The Combat Application Tools, Inc. C.A.T.-M4 Tool allows the operator to clean the weapon and restore the bolt and carrier group to tactical tolerance in a matter of minutes. In the field, with gloved hands, and in low light conditions if necessary. The tool is currently undergoing field evaluation by selected units deployed in the global war on terrorism.”
While I am not a soldier in the field fighting the global war on terrorism, I am an avid shooter who likes to fight the war against paper targets at my local gun range. One of my favorite rifles to shoot happens to be the AR-15. So, I decided to try out the C.A.T.-M4 and see how it performs.
The C.A.T.-M4 is available for order at the manufacturer’s website. The cost at the time of purchase was $35.00 U.S. Since that time, the price has been dropped to $29.95 U.S. The C.A.T.-M4 comes enclosed from the manufacturer in a small cardboard envelope that also functions at the instructions for the tools use.
One of the first things you notice as you unfold the envelope is the tool’s size. As you can see from the following pictures, the C.A.T. -M4 is small. It’s also light, weighing in at only 1.4 ounces.
While small and light, the C.A.T.-M4 is comprised of five tools to make the maintenance of the AR-15 bolt and carrier group simple to do in the field.
Using the C.A.T.-M4 requires that you first remove the bolt and carrier group from the rifle. Once removed, the group must be disassembled into individual components.
At one end of the C.A.T.-M4 is an opening to check the tolerance of the bolt. This is done by inserting the bolt in between the “forks.” A quick turn of the bolt will remove any debris or gunpowder residue and return the bolt to a tactical tolerance. Holding a cleaning patch around the bolt while turning it will capture most of the residue that is removed. One thing to note is that not all civilian AR-15 bolts are the same, and most of them are not the same size as military issue. The bolt from my AR was a little loose when inserted into the C.A.T.-M4, but the tool still did an excellent job of cleaning it with a few turns. *Note: the manufacturers website states the following regarding the differences in bolts; “While the C.A.T.-M4 fits many bolts perfectly, due to very slight differences in bolts, the tool will fit some bolts better than others. All bolts so far encountered have been restored to "tactical tolerance" quickly. Inspection cleanliness can be quickly achieved by the addition of solvent and a patch or two.”
The long straight part of the C.A.T.-M4 is used to check and clean the bolt end of the carrier. This is done by inserting the end into the carrier. Once the tolerance check is complete, a patch can be added to the tool to clean the inside of the carrier. Again, there was a poor fit between my carrier and the tool for the tolerance check (which is good!) When the patch was added, there were no fit issues and I was able to clean the carrier without a problem.
The final step is to check the tolerance of the firing pin. This is done by inserting the firing pin into the opening in the body of the tool that looks like a plus sign. If the pin fits, then it’s still within tactical tolerance. My firing pin was quite loose.
As an added bonus, the manufactures included a hex slot that will hold standard hex bits. While this is a nice feature, the lack of any holding mechanism means that any up or down pressure with push or pull the bit out of the tool.
While using the C.A.T.-M4, I was consistently amazed at how simple it is and how easy it is to use. While the mil-spec tolerances built into the tool are slightly larger than my civilian rifle, the C.A.T.-M4 still works as advertised. The functions included in the tool will serve soldiers well in the field, as well as the civilian shooter at the range. Its small size makes it easy to pack anywhere. Since writing this review, the C.A.T.-M4 has found a permanent home in my range bag.
- Good price.
- Extremely easy to use.
- Small and effective. Easy to pack into any range bag or field gear.
- Designed for mil-spec rifles. Tolerances are slightly different for civilian versions.
- Hex bit slot has no way to hold bits. Any up or down pressure causes bit to slip out.