This is a review by Randy L Harvey of The M4 Carbine from Osprey Publishing by author Chris McNab and illustrators Johnny Shumate and Alan Gilliland with series editor Martin Pegler.


** The M4 carbine has become one of the defining military firearms of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  Developed as a fusion of the XM177E2 Colt Commando and the M16A2 assault rifle, the M4 offers a more convenient battlefield firearm than the full-length M16 variants, and the US Army adopted it as the standard infantry weapon in the 1900s.  Today, military and law-enforcement personnel of more than 60 countries have adopted either the M4 or the M4A1 variant, both of which have been tested and proven in major combat operations worldwide.  This study describes the development process in detail, from production of the first prototypes in 1984 through numerous modified types until it emerged into official use as the M4 in 1994.  Selected M4/M4A1 combat operations are investigated to reveal why the weapon has received such high levels of approval by front-line combat troops, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the M4/M4A1 has been intensely combat-tested, but also with Colombian, Indian, Israeli, and other forces across the globe.  Fully illustrated with photographs and specially commissioned artwork, and drawing its research from the latest declassified documents, this is a guide to one of the most important and widely distributed tactical infantry weapons of the last quarter-century. **  

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.  


Osprey Publications has released The M4 Carbine as Number 77 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions informational charts, cutaway views and more. It has a 2021 copyright, a publication date of March 18, 20212 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-4227-5.  


- Introduction

- Development

       - Progressive evolution

- Use

       - Two decades of combat testing

- Impact

       - Battlefield evaluation 

- Conclusion

- Bibliography

- Index


Author Chris McNab details the M4 Carbine from its development, production and introduction throughout its trials and testing, improvements and modulation developments and on through to its issuance, adoption and use by the United States military and other countries militaries as well as law enforcement use.   Chris McNab provides an excellent description of all of the technical specifications of the weapons and accessories which for the detailed oriented reader provides a wealth of information.  As well as providing detailed information on the technical specifications, Chris McNab goes into great detail in several other areas associated with the weapon such as basic operation and ergonomic issues, ammunition used and its lethality, loading and firing the weapon, the purpose and use of the forward assist, fire control and noise, tactical handling characteristics, the addition and use of suppressors and other such specific areas of interest.  I personally feel that Chris McNab has covered all areas and aspects of the M4 carbine and left no area of the weapon undiscussed and detailed.  Along with his own words Chris McNab has also provided quotes from such sources as a US Army After Action review (AAR), a US military M4 manual, an official military report as well as a personal first-hand account which all provide specific details and pertinent information on the M4 Carbine.  The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling errors or grammatical errors with the exception of the fourth sentence on Page 74 where it states “such the M4/M4A1” and it should state “such as the M4/M4A1”.  Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.  I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing.  Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the M4 Carbine to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.   


A total of 53 color photographs are included in this volume.  I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book are for the most part lesser-known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in other titles that deal with the same subject matter. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs that are all are clear and easily viewable.  The majority of the photographs are of the weapons in use by the operator.  There are photographs of just the weapons and accessories themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph that lack focus on the specific weapon, which in my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details. There are also up-close photographs of various accessories such as an adaptor block mechanism, optics, vertical pistol grip, ammunition magazines and other such items. As well as showing the various rifles and their accessories the photographs also provide excellent details such as the various uniforms being worn in different areas of operation. Author Chris McNab stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in the M4 carbine due to the details they contain.


There are 6 color illustrations included in the volume by illustrators Johnny Shumate and Alan Gilliland.  Johnny Shumate completed the battlescenes for this book.  Alan Gilliland completed the cutaway and reticle illustrations for this book.  The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

The M4 Carbine Exposed

- A cut-away view showing the internal workings of the 5.56x45mm M4A1 CQBR. Also provided is a key which details 33 specific items that are pointed out on the M4A1.

Plate B

Trijicon and Specter reticles

Plate C

Aimpoint, EOTech and Meprolight reticles

Plate D

Firefight, US Army 10th Mountain Division, Afghanistan

Plate E

Israel Defense Forces paratroopers, Gaza Strip

 Plate F

Maritime Raiding Force, Gulf of Aden


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown.  The captions go into very specific detail as to the specific weapons shown, individuals names, ranks and military units, branches of the military, associated equipment carried and used, specific items of interest shown, dates and locations and other such pertinent information.  I did notice two errors in the captions as I read through them.  The first was on Page 7 where the caption states there are three Army rangers in the photograph when there are clearly only two.  The second was on Page 62 where the caption states that “the soldier in the foreground is in the process of clearing a weapon malfunction, in this case a failure to fire”.  The mistake is that the illustration shows the soldier ejecting a shell casing that has clearly been fired. I was impressed by Chris McNab’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.  The errors I found are minor and take nothing away from the book but I felt I should note them. 



There is 1 note included in this volume and it is:

- Acknowledgements  


There are 3 informational charts included in this volume and they are of:

      - Colt M4 and M4A1 Carbine Specifications

      - The Aberdeen Rifle Dust Tests

      - Soldier Recommendations for the M4 From the 2006 CAN Survey

Osprey Publishing also offers The M4 Carbine as:

eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4228-2


eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4225-1

Osprey Publishing’s, The M4 Carbine, is also available as a Kindle version through 


US $22.00 / UK £13.99 / CAN $30.00

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing.  Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase.  Thank you. 



You may also like