Some people are in the market for a new AR or AR upper.
Some people don’t think they’re in the market until something special catches their eye.
This could be a part that has special features, or a good product at a good price.
Or, for that matter, something that has special features and is at a good price.
The Spike’s Tactical LE uppers are certainly in this last category. They’re under $500, shipped, with a $50 coupon code – M4LEUP for the M4 type upper ($475 with the code), or MIDLEUP for the midlength upper ($485 with the code).
There are budget uppers available in the $300 range, but they lack many of the components – and nearly all of the features – of the Spike’s uppers.
For example, a $275-300 upper without a bolt carrier group, charging handle, or possibly handguards suddenly becomes a ~$450-475 upper. How much was the Spike’s M4 LE upper again? Oh, right. $475.
Thus, it is with bewilderment that I observe people who buy said cheap uppers. When reports of mismatched receivers and barrel extensions, missing gas ports, barrel extensions coming loose, etc surface, I am not very surprised.
Perhaps it’s inappropriate for me to divulge information that was learned in a private conversation, but I don’t think Tom Miller, CEO of Spike’s Tactical, would mind very much. 6 or 8 months ago, we were emailing back and forth about new products. When the subject of a company “goal” or “mission” came up, Mr. Miller essentially said that he wanted Spike’s Tactical to be regarded as one of the best AR-15 manufacturers in the business. That’s a lofty goal, but it’s one that they’re well on their way to achieving, if the uppers I’ve seen are any indication.
Keep in mind, there was no price “string” attached to that goal. He didn’t say “we want to be the best budget manufacturer in the business” or “we want people to say we’re the best because we’re cheap”.
I learned everything I needed to know about Tom and Spike’s Tactical from that one statement.
So, after that long-winded diatribe, back to the subject at hand: the ST Midlength LE upper assembly.
This particular upper came with a few extras, as you can see. Excellent extras, I should add – a Smith Vortex flash suppressor, a Daniel Defense OmegaX 9.0 rail, a Daniel Defense A1.5 fixed rear sight, and a Bravo Company MFG Gunfighter Mod 4 charging handle, among others.
All Spike’s uppers are marked with their logo. They might be able to assemble an upper sans logos for those who prefer a blank slate – don’t quote me on that. Here you can also see the DD rear sight and the excellent BCM charging handle. Now that I think about it, the DD rear sight is excellent, too. It’s so light that it actually reduces the weight of your rifle when you attach it…
Another nice option for ST uppers is the Nickel Boron bolt carrier group. Nickel Boron provides corrosion resistance as well as a good amount of inherent lubricity. The Spike’s Tactical nickel boron BCGs are done by FailZero, but with a little more attention to detail (such as carrier key staking and extractor/bolt quality).
Also, they offer laser engraved ejection port covers. I think they should offer one with the spider logo that also says “Surprise, Small Insects!” Sadly, they do not. By the way, the American flag is not backwards – the field (portion with the stars) is always oriented towards battle. Were the flag to be displayed in the traditional manner on the right side of the weapon, it would be “retreating.”
Evidence of test firing is plainly seen on the brass deflector. This is definitely a good thing.
An F height FSB. Taper pins that are properly driven in. These are items that some other manufacturers in the price range ignore.
M4 feedramps on both the barrel extension and the upper receiver are standard on all Spike’s uppers. This set isn’t an absolutely perfect match, but I do not foresee any issues from this particular combination.
The entire BCG – except for the firing pin retaining pin and extractor pin – are Nickel Boron plated. Because electroless nickel plating is strongly influenced by surface preparation, and because this BCG is incredibly smooth to the touch, I’m inclined to believe that every surface was polished prior to plating. Either that, or Nickel Boron has, literally, magic properties. Either way, friction should be greatly reduced.
As expected, the bolt also showed evidence of test firing. One benefit of nickel boron is that cleaning is much easier. Everything you see here wiped off with hardly any effort.
The extractor spring used is an “extra power” spring, and is identified as such by the black insert, and the o-ring provides additional extraction force. For some applications, this may be unnecessary. Still, it’s nice to have it included.
This concludes my brief overview of the basic features. More to follow…soon.
At the range today, I found that the ST Midlength LE upper, in conjunction with the Spike’s Enhanced lower, is pretty darn close to AR-15 heaven. I was again reminded how well the Spike’s ST-T2 buffer works at smoothing out the recoil cycle without having an adverse effect on the function of the weapon.
What I mean by this is that the ST-T2 has powdered tungsten inside, instead of a small steel or tungsten rod, and I would theorize that the powdered tungsten manages to do a fine job of slowing the reciprocating parts down without causing the rifle to “short stroke”, or fail to travel far enough back to pick up another round and/or fail to travel far enough back to engage the bolt catch when the magazine is empty. I have fired ARs with the ST-T2 that really shouldn’t have functioned with a 4.2oz buffer, especially using underpowered ammo, and yet every single one functioned perfectly.
I didn’t shoot any groups today, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the iron sights had already been zeroed, and the rounds were going where I intended them to go.
The Nickel Boron trigger, hammer, and disconnector also added up to a very manageable and clean trigger pull. I will definitely be purchasing several of the Spike’s LPKs to replace standard GI triggers in a few of my lowers, including my other Spike’s lower.
And, finally, after shooting several ARs that are not so equipped, using the BCM Gunfighter charging handle was akin to returning from a long days’ work to find a home cooked meal on the table.* It’s just that good.
*In deference to all the empowered women out there, we are going to assume that said home cooked meal simply appeared on the table, as if by magic.