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    Review: Spike's Tactical ST-15 M4 LE Carbine

    Review: Spike's Tactical ST-15 M4 LE
    by esrice & lovemywoods
    Photos by lovemywoods
    Post-processing by Jenn Rice of His Kids Photography


    In the world of AR-15s, the 16" 'M4-style' carbine has quickly become one of the most popular variants. Every manufacturer has their own version, and every one looks very similar-- at least in magazine ads and online pictures.

    But that's where the similarities stop.

    On a regular basis, newcomers to INGO sign on and ask the same question-- "I want to get into an AR, but I'm on a budget. What is the best value for my money?"

    They are then inundated with responses. They hear everything from "My $650 home-build has never let me down" and "Olympic makes a good $700 rifle" to "Buy once, cry once! Save your money for a $1,200 Colt!"

    Then, someone (usually me ) will post this link: So you want to buy an AR-15, huh?

    That link introduces the newbie to the concept of "mil-spec" in regards to M4-styled carbines. Herein lies some confusion, as "mil-spec" is often misunderstood. The shortened definition goes like this . . .

    The US Military buys guns. Because they want good guns, they have a predefined set of standards that they require the gun manufacturers to adhere to. This is called "military specification" (mil-spec). This can be a range of precise tolerances on a machined part, a unique metal treatment, or a required set of tests that each part must pass.

    The idea here is that quality is consistent, and every gun produced is good. Mil-spec does not, however, always mean best. There are parts out there on the market that exceed the specifications set forth by the military. However, for your average citizen gun owner, using mil-spec as your standard is a simple way to minimize your chances of getting a lemon, or a gun that won't perform when you need it most.

    For the past several years the mil-spec benchmark in M4-styled carbines has been the Colt LE6920. It possess all the mil-spec features that the military requires. However, the average price tag of $1,200 has been enough to cause hobby shooters to search for a less expensive alternative.

    Due to this demand, other AR manufacturers began cutting out many of the mil-spec requirements and offering lower priced (and lower quality ) rifles. $700 for a complete rifle started to sound really nice. However, fit-and-finish was poor, and reliability was hit-or-miss.

    Enter the Spike's Tactical ST-15 M4 LE.

    ST-15 M4 LE Carbine [STR5025-M4S] - $799.95 : Spikes Tactical

    Somehow, Spike's Tactical has figured out a way to build a complete rifle within the best of both worlds-- mil-spec quality, and a budget-minded price tag of only $800.

    After I had recommended this rifle to a handful of INGOers based on specs and price alone, I really wanted an opportunity to get my hands on one myself. Always up for an adventure, lovemywoods contacted INGO Advertiser Aszerigan at Profire Arms, who was running a 10% off sale for the month of September. After tax and transfer, his out-the-door price was $780.36. Although I wouldn't expect to see THAT kind of deal again, today's non-sale price would still be under $870 out-the-door.

    As Spike's states on their website, it did take some time for lovemywoods to receive the rifle (45 days). This was due not only to the overwhelming popularity of this rifle, but Spike's also had a minor shipping delay that they promptly took care of. My understanding is that they were very upfront with Profire Arms about it, and Andrew (Aszerigan) was very prompt with updates to lovemywoods. A big +1 to both Spike's Tactical and Profire Arms.

    For you impatient readers, on to the pictures. . . .

    The rifle came in a plastic lockable hard case. While it isn't a Pelican case, it does show some great attention to detail that I appreciate-- and you will see that trend continued throughout the rifle.







    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    Accessories-
    -Detachable Mil-Spec Forged A2 Carry handle with MIL-A-8625F Type III Class 2 Hardcoat anodized finish.
    -(1) Magpul 30rd Pmag.
    -Hard plastic carry case.
    Upon opening the case, you are presented with the rifle, 1 Magpul PMAG, and a 'swag packet' of goodies. I appreciated not only the addition of a magazine, but a PMAG.



    Attached are two tags. One showing who built and inspected the lower, and one showing who built and did the HPT/MPI testing on the upper. This is where the mil-spec standard is nice, because you know that YOUR rifle in YOUR hands has passed these tests.





    Like any progressive AR company these days, Spike's likes their swag. And they included lots of it with this rifle. There is a nice spider logo velcro patch, several stickers, and some glossy postcard-sized advertisements.





    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    Barrel specifications-
    -Barrel steel is Certified MIL-B-11595E Chromoly Vanadium Alloy.
    -Raw barrel steel is Magnetic Particle Inspected prior to machining.
    -Barrels are stress relieved.
    -16" length.
    -Mil-Spec M4 barrel extension with 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish inside and out.
    -1.2.2.2 MIL-STD-171 hard chrome chamber and bore.
    -5.56mm Nato chamber.
    -All chambers are Individually checked for head space twice (once before plating and once after plating).
    -1:7 twist rate.
    -All barrels are Individually High Pressure Tested (HPT) and then Individually Magnetic Particle Inspected (MPI).
    -5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish on the barrel exterior.
    -M4 Government profile.
    -.750 diameter front sight base location.
    -Carbine length DI gas system.
    -1/2x28 thread pitch.
    -Threads are concentric to the bore.
    -Forged F-marked A2 front sight base with bayonet lug and 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.
    -Barrel has 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finished under the F-marked A2 front sight base.
    -The F-marked A2 front sight base is taper pinned to the barrel and perfectly straight.
    -Rubber coated front sling loop attached with correct rivet.
    Here are some barrel-to-stock pictures.



    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    M4 LE upper receiver group specifications
    Spike's Tactical M4 flat top upper receiver specifications-
    -CNC Machined from a 7075 T6 MIL-H-6088 Forging.
    -Extended M4 feed ramps (done before plating).
    -Mil-Spec 1913 picatinny rail.
    -MIL-A-8625F Type III Class 2 Hardcoat anodized finish inside and out.
    -Laser engraved T-markings.
    -Laser engraved ST Spider logo.
    -MIL-L-46010 Dryfilm lube on the interior.
    -Mil-Spec ejection port door assembly with 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.
    -Mil-Spec forward assist assembly with tool steel pawl and 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.


    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    M4 LE lower receiver group specifications
    Spike's Tactical lower receiver specifications-
    -CNC Machined from a 7075 T6 MIL-H-6088 Forging.
    -Low shelf for RDIAS.
    -Milled engraving.
    -MIL-A-8625F Type III Class 2 Hardcoat anodized finish inside and out.
    -Mil-Spec lower parts kit with rounded hammer.
    -Trigger and hammer engagement surfaces have been jeweled/polished during the manufacturing process.
    -.154 diameter stainless steel trigger pin with black oxide finish.
    -.154 diameter stainless steel hammer pin with black oxide finish.
    -7075 Mil-Spec receiver extension (buffer tube), 1.14" diameter, 6 position, MIL-A-8625F Type III Class 2 Hardcoat anodized finish inside and out with MIL-L-46010 Dryfilm lube inside and out.
    -Mil-Spec castle nut and latch plate with 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.
    -Castle nut is torqued to 38ft-lb. and held in place by a properly staked latch plate.
    -ST-T2 Tungsten heavy buffer.
    -Mil-Spec 17-4 stainless steel buffer spring.
    -Spike's Tactical Mil-Spec M4 stock with sling loop, hardware has been properly heat treated and 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finished.


    One of the first things that stood out to me about this rifle is the quality of the machining and engraving. The Spike's spider logo is fairly detailed anyway, and the sharpness of the engraving is impressive. I've seen some rifles where the serial number depths are uneven-- not so with this one.



    The safety selector is a pictogram rather than the standard "Safe/Semi". The selector itself is also extremely smooth, with no grit, and snaps into place positively. Manipulations were more comfortable than my Bushmaster or lovemywoods' Colt.





    Spike's Tactical is very big on branding, and they have their spider logo everywhere on this rifle. I personally appreciate small touches like this, but others may find it unnecessary or distracting.



    The carry handle is removable, and the flat-top upper is T-marked.



    Front sight base is F-marked.



    Stock is a standard carbine stock with the Spike's logo.



    The castle nut is staked in two places. They did an excellent job, as there is no doubt that metal has moved to block any rotation.





    Rather than using a mil-spec H-buffer, Spike's uses their proprietary ST-T2 Tungsten heavy buffer. And another logo.



    Lower parts are mil-spec, and the trigger/hammer surfaces have been polished. During function testing I came to REALLY like the trigger. It is the smoothest AR trigger I've felt in a stock gun. It is much cleaner than my Bushmaster or lovemywoods' Colt. The red goo is lube/grease from the factory.



    Hammer is of the rounded variety (versus notched).



    M16 bolt carrier group is full-auto compatible and has a shrouded firing pin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    Bolt carrier group specifications-
    -Mil-Spec 8620 tool steel M16 bolt carrier w/shrouded firing pin.
    -Carrier has 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish inside and out with 1.2.2.2 MIL-STD-171 hard chrome bore.
    -Laser engraved with ST Spider logo (visable through ejection port door opening).
    -Mil-Spec tool steel carrier key.
    -Carrier key has 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish inside and out with 1.2.2.2 MIL-STD-171 hard chrome bore.
    -Carrier key is attached with Grade 8 hardware and properly staked per the Mil-Spec.
    -Bolts are CNC machined from Carpenter No. 158.
    -Bolts have 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish inside and out.
    -All bolts are shot peened per the current Mil-Spec.
    -All bolts are Individually High Pressure Tested (HPT) and then Individually Magnetic Particle Inspected (MPI).
    -Tool steel extractor, shot peened, 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish, fitted with a Mil-Spec black extractor spring insert and Mil-Spec Viton o-ring.
    -Mil-Spec firing pin with 1.2.2.2 MIL-STD-171 hard chrome finish.
    -Mil-Spec cam pin with 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.
    -Mil-Spec firing pin retaining pin with 5.3.1.2 MIL-STD-171 phosphate finish.




    Carrier key has been staked properly.



    More spider. . .



    Bolt is shot peened and HPT/MPI tested. Firing pin is hard chromed.



    Standard charging handle with standard latch.



    Remember that attention to detail that I was talking about? One thing I noticed was that all the edges were nicely chamfered where they will be making contact with other parts.





    Upper and barrel extension both have M4 feedramp cuts.





    Gas tube is nice and straight.



    Handguards have double heatshields. When I first removed them I thought that the inner shield was badly bent. I commented to lovemywoods that I was surprised it passed Spike's quality control. Upon further investigation we found that the other half had a bent shield that looked identical. When we put the halves together and looked down through them it all made sense. The bend helps the two halves mate together, giving extra heat protection even in the seam of the handguard.







    Underneath the handguards the barrel is nicely marked. I've never seen a barrel marking laser engraved like this.



    And here is the final product, put back together.





    Quote Originally Posted by Spike's Tactical
    **All of our products carry a LIFETIME Warranty**


    *******************
    Original thread here: http://ingunowners.com/forums/long_g...e_carbine.html
    Last edited by esrice; 11-18-2010 at 12:19.

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