Monday, August 15, 2011

Spike's Tactical ST-15 Mid-Length AR15/M4 LE Carbine Review

Spike's Tactical ST-15 Mid-Length AR15/M4 LE Carbine Review

Where do you go when you want a 100% American made AR/M4 rifle with quality that meets or exceeds military spec standard at a price far less than a brand name AR? Spikes Tactical or also known as STI... well yeah, OK I had the same reaction of "WTF brand is that?" when someone suggested a Spikes rifle. I had heard of lot of brands but as of a year or so ago that brand was new to me. Would I be buying from some dude named Spike who assembles rifles in his garage? As it turns out this is definitely NOT the case however as the company is owned by a guy named Tom, I am still not sure who Spike is, however they produce one heck of a lifetime warranted 100% American made rifle. It is rumored that Spike is the owner/founder and got his name from playing volley ball.

The reality is that among AR and firearm nerds and tactical folks, Spikes has been consistently highly regarded as a top premium brand for some time. Beyond the cool name and spider logo, Spikes goes out if its way to provide buyers competitively priced top end AR specs and a high attention to detail on every rifle they make from budget to all billet.

If you are building your own AR they have individual parts, complete lower and upper receivers ready to pin on and upgrade your current AR, movie inspiring "Biohazard" billet lowers and of course complete ready to shoot carbine and mid-length rifles such as the one I am reviewing here.  Options also include Lother stainless match target barrels and a variety of calibers options. If you have a dream AR, Spikes can build it for you. After my very positive impression of this rifle, I may “need” to build a match grade AR tack driver in a future project.

Spikes Tactical indeed has a stunning option list on their site and it was a test of my fortitude just order the standard Spikes Tactical Mid-Length ST15 rifle, but being a first time Spikes buyer I wanted to see the quality of their base model. In my mind, if a manufacturer can't make a kick ass budget product then chances are their high end product will just be more lipstick on the pig... and Spikes rifles are beauties that sell themselves and don’t require any glossy marketing hype.

Currently Spikes offers several basic packages and I choose their basic entry level mid-length rifle with 16" barrel configuration chambered in 5.56 which will also shoot .223 ammunition as well. Most would label my purchase a standard police patrol rifle which is atypical spec of most police department budgeted rifles...or at least is similar to what i have seen in my experience with a few agencies. The goal achieved for this purchase was simply to have a no-nonsense stone cold reliable standard AR which could take a beating and punch 1"-2" groups at 100 yards reliably all for well under $900.

Before I start running down my standard review points, I should note that Spikes Tactical is a different type of AR manufacturer.  Sure most AR parts are made by only a few part manufacturers and then assembled by other AR assembling manufacturers such as Spikes. There is however a distinct difference between simply buying and bolting together a bunch of parts and pride in craftsmanship.  Spikes is a AR gun produced by craftsman with details even in the base models you just will not find in most rifles. Spikes does something no other manufacturers does, it lists every single specification on the website of every part on the rifle.  Who tells you that their ejection port door is “Mil-Spec Ejection Port Door Assembly with MIL-STD-171 Phosphate Finish” and that the hand guard cap is “Triangle Hand Guard Cap with MIL-STD-171 Phosphate Coating”?  You are lucky if most manufacturers provide the basic length, weight, and barrel twist on a regular basis.  By publishing these specifications in detail, Spikes is letting everyone know they are no corners cut on any part regardless of how insignificant it may seem... This is what sold me on a Spikes Tactical STI rifle. As a result of this extensive list of specifications I will direct your the the website versus publishing all the specs as four pages of single spaced specs is simply ridiculous to include in an article.  
Spikes Tactical ST15 Mid-Length Rifle Detailed Specs (click the tabs for upper/lower specifications)

FIT - The Spikes Tactical Mid-length AR/M4 rifle has a tight tolerance fit with no rattle or play between the upper and lower receiver. All the parts fit well with nothing loose or floppy and the bolt fits how it should and moves smoothly. Solid would be a great term to use for the build quality and fit of each and every component on the rifle.

Finish - Throughout the gun, there were no uneven radiuses or sharp edges and the finish was consistent all the way from the reciever to the flash hider.  All the anodizing matched between the upper and lowers.  The only part which was obviously a little lighter (i.e. dark grey) was the mil-spec tube assembly.  Everything else was a deep flat black finish.

FUNCTIONS- Running dry fire and ammo driven range work drills proved Spikes makes a very reliable rifle.. Not that I am a wuss, but 1-2 hours long dry fire clearing/jam drill sessions make you want to swap out the functional but uncomfortable stock charging latch for a wider Badger style (they offer that upgrade). The supplied Magpul 30-round PMAG magazine included and other optional Magpul and steel magazines used during testing all dropped free as they should with the touch of the magazine release. I only ran one full load through the steel magazine and the rest of the testing was with PMAGs. No jams were experienced with over 2500 rounds of the dog's breakfast of random ammo stuffed into the magazines.
The trigger is a standard AR15/M4 quality and feel, meaning it is not a great target trigger feel, however plenty serviceable for a service/tactical rifle.  For those who anticipate the need for a finer trigger feel, Spikes offers an optional Enhanced Trigger Group.

FEATURES- The rifle does have a few extras beyond what most people would consider a standard AR15/M4 carbine with upgrades assuring the base gun is as high of quality as possible. The standard list of features and details on a very high quality M4 rifle are there from M4 feedramps milled before anodizing, to a F-marked front sight, "H" tungsten buffer, 6-position stock, 1:7 twist rifling, M16 bolt, to chrome lined heavy barrel, and more, but it’s the nice extra touches like full labeling of the barrel specs “ST MIL-B-11595E CMV 1/7 CL HP MP” which are laser etched into the top of the barrel under the forend and bullet pictograms on the receiver for the selector switch which show you how much care and attention to detail goes into each rifle. This is a superior quality basic rifle that is light because it doesn’t have all the extras tacked on, but if you feel the need to add ounces with a space age stock and enough picatinny rails to hang an expresso machine off the forend, you may want to take advantage of Spikes ability to customize a rifle exactly how you want it.

After several Mid-Length ARs I am sold on the Mid-Length gas system format. The Mid-Length system provide less recoil impulse, seem to be less finicky/more reliable and longer running between cleanings, and the longer forend provides more room to shoot from barricades and position the support hand further out for a higher degree of control.

ACCURACY - For a “standard AR” the Spikes ST15 delivered great accuracy for me.  I ran through the break in, cleaned it top to bottom and then sat down for some distance testing before the high round count reliability testing.  Although the three 5-shot average groups are listed below, I like to do full magazine groups of thirty rounds with a couple seconds between each round to see how the groups open up as the barrel heats up.  This is were barrel stress relief/cryo-treatment starts to show it’s value.  I have several stress-relieved barrels and all perform with the same consistency I saw front the Spikes Mid-Length Carbine.  The Federal Match and Winchester PDX1 all stayed solidly within a center to center 1” ragged hole. The Hornady opened up to around 1.5”, but even the remainder of the ammo assured groups under 2”.  Obviously the 1:7 twist liked the heavier bullets better, but overall I was thrilled with the accuracy of this basic mid-length rifle.

  WOLF FMJ 62GR = 1.5”

WHAT’S IN THE BOX - Spikes Tactical’s Mid-Lengh and Carbine AR15 rifles are shipped with an installed Magpul MBUS Rear Sight, one Magpul 30rd P-Mag, Hard Plastic Carry Case with three locking points, Standard US Military M-16 Service Operators Manual, decals, velcro patch, and info on the Spike's Tactical Lifetime Warranty.  Nice package overall and I like the fact that a Magpul magazine and back up sight were included... nice upgrades which enhance the rifle and make it ready to shoot out of the box.

In an interesting statement by the CEO on their site he states that they build rifles they would stake their life on and assure no corners are cut. He also goes on to say QC is everyone's job at Spikes from the receiving manager to the outbound shipping team and everyone in between. It's a good feeling that if the chips were down, the fat lady was singing, pigs were flying, and the crap was hitting the fan at a high rate, that everyone at Spikes would be shouldering the same quality guns they sell to the public.  Spikes Tactical will not use one piece or part that is not American made. I love this and also the fact I can support the American entrepreneur who builds a competitively priced quality USA made product.

As with any quality AR specialty builder these days, buying from Spikes Tactical will not be an immediate gratification purchase. Quality takes time and I would rather wait the extra week or two versus compromising quality. As popular as Spikes has become over the years, expect 2-5 week delivery times; mine took about 5 weeks. Your patience will be rewarded with one of the highest quality ARs available for your money.  Spikes may be running an average month long back log, however I think they need more media exposure. Hopefully my banter here will nudge other writers and media folks to take note and increase that backlog.

After inspection, dry fire drills, and some range time, I can say the gun I ordered would be the one I would grab if things went sideways. My Spikes mid-length seems to be just a little tighter, just a little more accurate, and due to some of the included features, which are extra most times on other rifles, a little more reliably confident than other "basic" ARs I have shot.

The quality matches and in many cases exceeds that of premium ARs nearly twice the price. In reality you can order the same rifle I ordered but with the fancy furniture kit, billet picatinny forend, charging latch, enhanced trigger, rear sight, and even optics upgrade/additions from Spikes and you would be near $2K, but the working base parts would all carry foreword without a needed upgrade. Again if the company cannot make the basics well then their dressed up versions will not be a any better functionally. With my Spikes rifle I can add all that stuff later, but I am starting with great guts of a rifle which has a very high grade of craftsmanship. My opinion is that this rifle would be perfect for my needs with only a Magpul MOE furniture upgrade and of course a wider charging latch, but that is an easy and inexpensive upgrade.  Highly recommended.

  • Spike's Tactical 16", 1:7 Twist, Mil-spec Barrel
  • Government Barrel Profile, Mid Length Gas System
  • F-marked A2 Front Sight Base, .750" Diameter Gas Seat
  • Spike's Tactical Mil-spec M16 Bolt Carrier Group
  • Mid Length Handguards
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • Mil-spec Lower Parts
  • ST-T2 Tungsten Buffer
  • ST M4 Stock
  • Overall Length - 32.25” collapsed stock - 35.5” extended stock
  • Weight - 6.45lbs, 6.8lbs, w/empty PMAG
  • Spikes Tactical ST15 Mid-Length Rifle Detailed Specs (click the tabs for upper/lower specifications)


Spikes Tactical
Phone 407.928.2666

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Unknown said...

After retirement from a dept. that issued DERMO m16's I choose to purchase my first AR. I, with good advise, selected an ST15 model and have regularly fired it for several years. Now as my wife moves toward retirement from the same field my next purchase will be another Spikes ST15. Fit, accuracy, and all made in America were very strong factors. I consider this weapon a first class MIL SPEC piece of equipment. Thanks,


JarheadNamVet said...

After a few years of surveying and reading reviews and consulting other owners of AR type rifles - bought a Spikes ST15/16" Mid:

This rifle is top tier accuracy, finish, work, and function, including all the parts. Never happier to acquire a #12-1400 AR rifle for $800. Now family has six of these and completely satisfied.

Unknown said...

After months of research I chose and bought a Spike's Tactical ST15/16" Mid-length. I am extremely pleased with it, fit and finish, accuracy as well as top quality. Spike's lists every single possible specification on their we site. No one else gives out as much information on their products. Their quality control is tops. Every rifle is High Pressure and magnetic particle tested. What is even more impressive is their pricing for these 100 percent Mil Spec high quality U.S.A. manufactured rifles. The good quality foam lined hard plastic carrying cases that come with them are a very nice bonus that most other manufacturers don't include. When you get a Spike's Tactical rifle, you not only open a box, but a nice carrying case as well. I would and do recommend Spikes Tactical rifles to everyone I know and discuss such with.