Among the various carbines offered by Spike’s Tactical, I spotted an 18″ SPR upper on their website. Because of my previous experience with the Spike’s CHF upper, and the reasonable price of the upper considering the features offered, my interest was piqued. However, I had plenty of spare parts with which to almost complete such an upper. After contacting Tom at Spike’s about a barrel, I wound up with an 18″ LW50 barrel that had been IonBonded black and a Spike’s M4 upper receiver.
The Spike’s barrels are manufactured by Lothar-Walther, which is a highly respected barrel maker. LW50 is a stainless steel used by companies with excellent reputations for accuracy and quality, such as LaRue Tactical and Superior Barrels. And IonBond provides excellent wear and corrosion resistance. Everything that I knew about the barrel before I received it indicated that it would be a very good barrel.
I was wrong.
It’s an outstanding barrel.
My initial impression was that whoever turned this barrel is an artiste with a lathe. I have owned high end stainless barrels from Noveske, White Oak Armament, Sabre Defense, etc, and the quality of the machine work that went into this barrel is at least equal to any of them. I know, I know, this can be subjective. My opinion may also be due to the fact that I had just received a stainless “match” barrel that was roughly – bordering on poorly – machined. Clearly, the two machinists who worked on the two barrels had different priorities. On a side note, I paid less for this Spike’s product than I did for the other barrel.
Here are some images of the business end of the barrel to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
There are many other things that make a barrel accurate, though – and the only way to tell if a barrel is decent is by hitting the range.
I went to a 600 yard match last month, but it was rained out, so I went to the 500 meter steel plate range instead. Being the generally unprepared soul that I am, I hadn’t zeroed the optic before the match, so I got a general 200 yard zero on a large steel plate before continuing on to longer ranges.
I hadn’t shot steel at distance in a long time, and I had forgotten how fun it was. I expended a fair amount of ammunition while smiling widely and going back and forth between 200, 300, 400, and 500 meter plates. Using the scope’s mil-dot reticle for range estimation, I had no problem with putting lead on steel in a very rapid manner, even if I went from 200 to 400 and back again. This ability to rapidly and accurately place rounds on target at distance is exactly why various militaries are looking to accurate AR platform rifles over bolt action rifles for certain roles.
Unfortunately, I burned through ammo so fast that I was scrounging in the back of my Jeep for more. I found a bag with about 50 rounds of 55gr FMJ handloads I had made a while back. These were loads intended for the Spike’s CHF upper – the cases hadn’t been sized properly and could not be hand cycled through any of my 5.56 ARs. The CHF upper, though, ate hundreds of such rounds without a hitch. I hesitated. Would this barrel, with a tighter Wylde chamber, function with said ammo?
The answer was yes. All 50 rounds fired without a single malfunction. Accuracy dropped off sharply after 400 meters, but it provided me with more steel-plate-killing fun for another ten minutes or so.
A friend, who is a President’s Hundred shooter, took an interest in the rifle. He even brought his own ammo! Using Mk262 (77gr match ammunition used by the military), he had no problems consistently hitting the head of a miniature ram silhouette at 500 meters – 560 yards.
Tomorrow, I plan to shoot the rifle for groups at 100 yards using various handloads. I have no doubt that this barrel will provide excellent results.