One great advantage of the M4 Carbine is that it’s light and handy. But the M4 has experienced “weight creep” during the War on Terror as various accessories have been added. I’ll grant that many of the accessories are useful, but in some cases they still get the rifle’s weight up to that of a .308 battle rifle.
One solution is fewer accessories. Another is lighter accessories. The best answer is probably a combination of the two.
A vertical foregrip offers a degree of greater control on full auto, but on a semi-auto M4, I don’t see much need for it. Some of the other military accessories are superfluous on a semi-auto. The two I consider most useful are the optical sight and weapons illuminator/pointer. But there is no requirement for the light and/or laser to be bulky.
I normally just use illuminators (lights) without lasers on my carbines and have done quite a bit of testing to pick the compact ones I like the best. Here are three I like a lot.
SUREFIRE M300 MINI SCOUT LIGHT
I use SureFire lights on pistols and carbines, but my favorite is the M300 Mini Scout LED WeaponLight. This light employs a recoil-resistant LED that generates up to 300 lumens of white light.
I especially like the “tactical-switching” on/off tailcap with pressure-activated tape switch. This system allows me to mount the light forward on the right side of my forearm rail with the pressure switch just where the fingers of my support hand curl around. As I bring the M4 onto the target, my fingers can press the switch.
Mini Scouts use a single 123A battery and offer a run time of 1.5 hours. Overall length of the light itself is only 4.10 inches, with a bezel diameter of 1.125 inches. Weight with the battery installed is 4.8 ounces.
Perhaps the best summary of how much I like the M300 Mini Scout is that I frequently change lights or optics on one of my M4 carbines when I test products. That is not the case with the carbine that has the M300. It stays permanently mounted on the M4 that I use as a house or truck gun.
LUCID OPTICS C3
A compact light I started using recently is especially appealing for its size. For many, its price tag will also be appealing.
The LUCID Optics C3 uses a 6061 aluminum housing for toughness combined with light weight. It is 2.75 inches overall and weighs only 2.25 ounces. This is a really minimalist light that still offers 300 Lumens from its paired LEDs. It also has a strobe function. Additionally, the C3 has high resistance to water and shock. Run time is three hours, and it uses three AAA batteries.
When testing the C3, I was really impressed by how well it illuminates a room during an entry. Advertised beam distance is 70 feet, and I have no doubt that is valid. I mounted the C3 on the left side of my M4, positioned so my support-hand thumb could hit it when I was ready to flood an area with light. I found this very ergonomic. The pressure switch allows easy operation but is not prone to inadvertent operation.
The C3 is priced at $89.00. I consider that a real bargain, given how effective and compact this little illuminator is. For shooters on a budget, the C3 is especially recommended.
The Manta Ray has a couple of other positive features. First, mounting the Manta Ray on a 1913/Picatinny Rail is quick and easy. It snaps on and off in seconds, yet is still very secure. The Manta Ray is also rechargeable. Though this could be a problem for use by deployed military personnel, for the average user, the ability to plug in the Manta Ray eliminates the need to carry extra batteries.
Fully charged, it offers an hour of continuous use. Most of us won’t have our weaponlight on continuously for more than a few minutes. Using the charger supplied with the light, it takes 1.5 hours to fully charge.
The Manta Ray has high shock resistance and is waterproof to ten feet for 20 minutes submerged. At just over 4.5 inches overall, the Manta Ray is longer than the other two lights, but its design allows it to mold to the rail so it is not intrusive.
I initially mounted the Manta Ray on the left rail of my carbine so I could operate it with the thumb of my support hand, but I found after some use that the sling/sling swivel obstructed the beam. Because of the quick-detach feature, I easily moved it to the right rail, where I can operate it with the grasping fingers of my support hand.
While testing the lights, I did a lot of moving around with them, flicking them on and off to check ergonomics. I did find using the Manta Ray’s green LED light easier on the eyes. In fact, I changed my methodology and always used the Manta Ray last as a rest from the bright white lights.
I feel confident using any of these three lights. My criteria were that they do their job of illuminating well and reliably while lurking unobtrusively on my carbine rails. They all passed with flying colors.