The Gordon Carbines

The Gordon Carbine has risen in popularity over the past few years among rifle builders. It has an iconic look and is an early example of a modern fighting rifle (optic, light, suppressor). We currently see many different variations of the build that use a variety of different suppressors and barrels. To understand why we see different types of Gordon Carbines, we first need to take a closer look at the main difference between them, the suppressors. 

The AEM5 (OPS INC 12th Model) was designed in the early 2000s to be used on the Mk12 series of rifles. The variants of the Mk12 have different barrel lengths (18″ MOD0/1 and 16″ MOD H) and the AEM5 mounts use 2.5″ of barrel length and a brake/collar system. It is 8.8″ in total length and adds 6.25″ past the muzzle. 

AEM5 (Ops Inc 12th Model)  
Caliber 5.56mm/ .223 Caliber
Diameter 1.5″
Length Past Muzzle ~6″ (mount and shims dependent)
Overall Length 8.8″
Weight 21oz
Weight w/ collar & brake 24.8oz

AEM5

M4

The original suppressor never got an official model designation under OPS INC since they were custom made and were never produced in large numbers. The M4 designation is an AE term for that specific modification, but it was inspired by its use on M4 Carbines of the era. It was designed in the early 1990s to be used on the Colt 723 with its 14.5″ carbine barrel and FSB. The M4 mounts using 5″ of barrel length and is direct thread using the 2 or 3-piece collar mounted to the FSB to index itself. It is 10″ in total length and adds 5″ past the muzzle.

M4 (modified Ops Inc 3rd Model)  
Caliber 5.56mm/ .223 Caliber
Diameter 1.5″
Length Past Muzzle 5″
Overall Length 10″
Weight 23oz
Weight w/ collar 24.8oz

It is important to note that the the M4 was not contracted for general infantry and thus never saw mass adoption by the military. The M4 was purchased for SOF and saw its primary usage by Delta operators during the 90s. The low production numbers and use by SOF led there to be very few photos of the M4 in the wild. Most notably are the few photos of MSG. Gary Gordons Colt 723 and other Delta operators. This caused the M4 to slip into obscurity.

On the other hand, the AEM5 did see mass adoption by the military to be used on the Mk12 program series of rifles. These rifles were used by both infantry and SOF. By the time the AEM5 began being used it was the 2000s, small digital cameras were becoming more popular for soldiers to bring on deployment. This led to there being significantly more photos of the Mk12/AEM5 making it the most recognizable Allen Engineering suppressor. 

Prop weapons used in Black Hawk Down

Now since we covered the diffrences between the two suppressors, lets shift the focus back to the rifle. In 2001 the movie Black Hawk Down was released. It covered the events around the Battle of Mogadishu and portrayed the heroic actions of the Army Rangers and Delta operators. One of those Delta operators was MSG. Gary Gordon, who requested with SFC Randy Shughart to rescue the crew of the downed Blackhawk. 

Displaying the heroism of MSG. Gary Gordon put increased attention on his unique rifle. This is probably the first deviation from the original. While the prop Gordon Carbine in the movie was far from historically accurate, it did share the aesthetic of the original. This was very attractive to most people and began the cloning trend of this particular rifle. 

Since the photo of MSG. Gary Gordon obscures his rifle and the movie prop is inaccurate, many parts of the rifle cannot be 100% substantiated except for the M4 suppressor since that is the most visible part of the rifle. Much of the consensus of the parts list comes from the photo, what was era correct, and what other Delta operators in Mogadishu did with their rifles.

However, as people began trying to replicate the MSG. Gary Gordons carbine they realized it was extremely difficult to source the M4 suppressor due to its scarcity. Ron never saw the need to continue making M4s because almost no one wanted to buy them due to their obscurity. There hadn’t been a demand for them until more recently. 

Because of this many people turned to the AEM5 which shared similar aesthetics and was much more abundant due to it being a currently produced suppressor. It was also a much more recognizable suppressor due to the amount of photos that existed of it on Mk12s. Since AEM5s have been used so frequently as a stand- in, it has led to people mistakenly believing that the 12th model was the actual suppressor used by units during the 90’s, however the M4 actually predates the 12th model by a few years. 

We see many people including journalists and influencers mistakenly say that the AEM5 was the suppressor used by MSG. Gary Gordon. This is because there was a severe lack of information about the Delta Carbines and the M4 suppressor. By getting the suppressor incorrect, this also causes rifle builders to get the barrel incorrect. 

Since the M4 and the AEM5 require different mounting lengths, this started to impact the barrel lengths we started to see on Gordon Carbines. The mounting length of the AEM5 is almost 2″ shorter than the M4 so people needed to shorten their barrels to 12.7″ so they could make the AEM5 work with the original M4 collar. While using the AEM5 wasn’t necessary clone correct, it gave the rifle the iconic look people wanted. There have also been shortened collars that allow a standard 12.5″ barrel to be used instead of requiring a longer barrel to be cut to fit. 

To compare the differences in mounting lengths/styles please see the photos below kindly provided by @subpar28.

Allen Engineering has never been a big suppressor company. Since the closure of OPS INC, AE has just been Ron Allen handmaking suppressors in his shop with no more than one helper at a time. Ron has occasionally manufactured the M4 suppressor throughout the years, however it was always in small quantities with long lead times.

On October 3rd 2023, the 30th anniversary of the events of Black Hawk Down, AE has been making the M4 to stock as a regular production model so people could accurately replicate the Gordon Carbine. This is why we thought it might be important to help clarify the differences in the Gordon Carbines people will see photos of. 

It is important to note that there are more differences that just the suppressors with diffrent Gordon Carbine builds. For example, some builds will have an A2 upper instead of a C7 or use a Aimpoint Pro instead of a Aimpoint 5000. These differences are caused by certain parts becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain. If you wish to see the parts list to build an era correct Gordon Carbine click here. 

2 thoughts on “The Gordon Carbines

  1. JHP says:

    Great information. Appreciate everything you all and Ron are doing to keep this superb-sounding (not to mention historically significant) line of suppressors in production.

  2. Ryan Clarke says:

    I’m beyond excited that I got to order an M4 through you guys and that it’s a regular production order. I also liked the idea of the Ranger Carbine on your build page since it gives me another clone build to work on. I hope the M24 suppressor is coming soon!!

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