Not too long ago, I wrote about the Spike’s Tactical CHF (cold hammer forged) upper that was sent to me for T&E. It’s fast become the standard by which I judge similar (M4 type) uppers.
Well, Spike’s has a new upper out, and it’s definitely worth taking a look at, for several reasons. First, it’s of the highest quality. The only difference between this upper and the CHF upper is the method by which the barrel was manufactured – hammer forging versus the more traditional button rifling. The hammer forged version commands a premium, and it does offer distinct advantages, but it’s not as if the introduction of hammer forged barrels into the AR-15 market – a relatively recent event – rendered button rifled barrels obsolete. Only you can decide which version is best for your needs – if you’re on a budget, you’re probably better off spending the extra $100-150 or so on ammunition, mags, a lower, etc. If you have plenty of funds and want the added benefits of a hammer forged barrel, you can’t go wrong with one.
The second reason is price. The upper assembly is $525 – minus a temporary $50 rebate – that’s $475 including the bolt carrier group, handguards, charging handle, and a heavy buffer – the excellent ST-T2. This is an astonishing price. Several years ago, I paid only $40 less per assembly for a large quantity of much lower quality uppers. If you’re looking to build a rifle on a budget, or if you’re looking to build a top notch carbine, this is the upper for you.
As I was saying, this upper is of the highest quality. I’ll do a basic breakdown and discuss some of its features today, with a range report to follow tomorrow. As always, in the interests of honesty and openness, I was provided with this upper assembly free of charge for T&E purposes.
Here is the upper as received. It’s as M4 as M4 gets.
The upper receiver is laser marked with the Spike’s Tactical logo.
The front sight base is the proper height and is marked as such with an “F”.
The barrel is manufactured using 4150/CMV steel, with a 1/7 twist rate, utilizing an M4 barrel extension, reamed to 5.56 NATO specifications, proof tested, magnetic particle tested, and chrome lined.
The M16 bolt carrier group is laser marked with the Spikes logo and the gas key has been properly staked.
The bolt has been individually MP tested, and the extractor has a strong spring as well as the black rubber baby buggy bumper.
“But enough about features,” you say…”tell me something I wouldn’t know just by looking at the spec sheet on the Spike’s Tactical webpage.”
Well, I’m big on attention to detail. I am writing this article on a dusty computer which sits on a horribly messy desk in a messy office, so I can’t claim to be a neat freak. I do, however, pay attention to very minor things, because I’ve found that in the AR world, attention paid to the little things most often means that the overall piece is of high quality.
For example, I like it when things are properly indexed. A flash hider, for instance, or a FSB that has been attached in an absolutely vertical fashion. I failed to get a proper picture, but rest assured, both items were done perfectly on this upper.
Earlier today, I examined a Ruger SR556, which, among other things, had been assembled by someone who allowed the receiver extension tube to rotate clockwise about 3 to 5 degrees when tightening the castle nut. This is easily avoidable. Furthermore, the castle nut was not staked, which is something I consider to be an absolute necessity whenever carrier tilt is even a remote possibility.
What does this sort of thing tell me? That the Spike’s Tactical upper was assembled by someone who took their time and cared to do the job right – possibly even following a checklist, the upper was so perfectly assembled – and the Ruger lower was assembled by someone who was probably hurrying to get as many lowers done as they could in a specified period of time.
Although I check these (and other) things regardless of manufacturer, it’s nice to see this level of attention to detail on a bargain-priced upper assembly. Sometimes I get an attitude – an attitude that I have to find something wrong with something – and that’s the attitude I had earlier tonight when I inspected the upper. However, I just couldn’t find fault, large or small, with the upper.
One additional item is test firing. The SR556 appeared to have been fired three to five times. I would be surprised to find that less than a full 30 round magazine had been fired from this Spike’s upper – and it’s not even a complete rifle! Even if I downgrade my estimate to 20 rounds per upper, this is a significant expenditure for a small company, and it’s unheard of at this price point.
As I said, I will continue my review tomorrow at the range. However, if my initial observations are correct, I will have a boringly reliable day.
Well, I made it to the range today. As I predicted, the weapon functioned without a hitch. Because I had issues with my reloading equipment, I had to purchase ammunition locally. 40 cents per round hurt, I’m not going to lie.
Anyway, with 100 rounds of Federal 55gr and an assortment of steel case Wolf and Silver Bear, I was ready to kill paper.
Using TangoDown ARC and Magpul PMags, I experienced no malfunctions with any of the types of ammunition used. In total, I fired approximately 270 rounds, some at a “real” shooting range, some at a private shooting location in the desert – the latter affords me a little more freedom in how and when I use my firearms.
Most of the rounds were fired using the provided ST-T2 buffer, but I also experimented with other buffers. Function was perfect with everything from a carbine buffer with the weight removed to a rifle buffer. The action felt, for lack of a better word, violent with the “weightless” carbine buffer, and yet, as I said, it did not malfunction.
One thing I didn’t cover yesterday was handguards. The M4 LE ships with double heat shield handguards, which is a nice bonus. At some point in the near future I’ll do a breakdown of the benefits of double heat shield handguards vs. single heat shield handguards.
I wasn’t able to get to the 100 yard range to shoot for “real” groups yet, but here’s an interesting tidbit: when I attached the EOTech 552/LaRue Tactical LT-110 which had been previously zeroed for the Spike’s CHF upper, the M4 LE upper shot to point of aim perfectly at 25 yards. How’s that for consistency?
Considering that you could conceivably build a complete rifle using this upper for under $750, including a quality rear back up iron sight, it’s my firm belief that this is the upper to beat when it comes to top notch quality at a very affordable price. Now, if only it was available in a lightweight barrel profile, or, dare I say, a lightweight midlength…