When I was growing up, I always saw cops traveling in pairs. Those were the days when law enforcement officers (LEO) depended on their brother officers implicitly. Even on TV, cops traveled in pairs and it made for more interesting TV. Imagine Riggs without Murtough, McGarrett without Danno. America wouldn’t be the same without them.
In those days less-lethal meant giving the bad guy a severe tuneup if shooting him wasn’t warranted. I’ve heard it firsthand from those who have “been there and done that.” Policing was just easier back in that day. Even though our duty belts are starting to look like something that Batman would wear, we modern cops are required to do more with less. We’re expected to have the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, and the guile of David.
My digitally controlled LED (light emitting diode) duty light has more technology in it than an officer contained in his entire police car 20 years ago. However, it still doesn’t erase the inherent problem of being a one-man unit. What happens when you need to go less-lethal but still have to have immediate lethal firepower at the ready? Solution: Say hello to the Spike’s Tactical ST-15 coupled with the STZ-HAVOC Launcher.
In a word, this launcher is solid! I’ve messed around with other 37mm launchers over the years and have been less than impressed. However, Spike’s launcher is the real deal. It’s CNC machined from solid billet 6061-T6 aluminum and 1018cr steel. It’s a one-piece launcher tube and handgrip design with a cylindrical push-button breech lock. When you depress the breech lock with the launch tube open and point the carbine upwards, the very precisely machined guide rail allows the launch tube to slide shut without any effort at all.
That shows the attention to the tolerances on this launcher. It easily mounts to rail systems and is finished off with a durable matte black finish. It also has the ability to launch 12 gauge and 26.5mm munitions with the available adapters. Note that even the adapters are quality in their construction and were clearly meant to be items of lifelong service. The feel of the trigger group shows quality and the safety takes positive action to roll 180 degrees from “S” (safe) to “F” (fire).
If you want quality and would like to have money left over for upgrades, go with Spike’s Tactical. I’m not alone when I say that Spike is giving the industry something to talk about. With the recent collaboration of Spike’s Tactical and CMMG, the world of specialty AR’s just got hotter. With these two well-established companies working together, we can expect even greater creativity in their product line.
The lower consists of a Spike’s ST-15, a 5.56mm with color-filled bullet markings. It’s precision machined from 7075-T6 aircraft-quality aluminum and black anodized. The stock of choice was a Magpul CTR M4 stock. It’s a radical upgrade allowing for a rock steady shooting platform. Extend the stock, give the second lever a squeeze and any rattle is eliminated instantly. I asked Magpul to hook me up with an extended cheek piece for the CTR, because I’d be using an Aimpoint Micro T-1 red dot optic on a riser. The combination of the two makes for a very tall optics setup. The Magpul cheek piece elevates your cheek weld and lines you up for a better sight picture.
The ambidextrous sling mount by Yankee Hill Machine and a DPMS ambidextrous safety selector make this weapon user-friendlier. Keeping in line with the ambidextrous parts, the grip of choice was an ERGO Grip 4000 series SUREGRIP. It’s made of stiff polymer with a rubberized overmold that enhances control over your weapon under any condition. The final piece of choice was a Magpul enhanced triggerguard. It features a similar contour to Heckler & Koch weapons and allows for comfortable use with gloved hands. It also eliminates the blistering gap at the rear of a standard triggerguard.
About The Upper
I spoke with Spike’s armorer, Tom Miller, regarding the tight specs on this ST-15. Miller builds and test-fires everything that Spike makes. I asked him to hit the highlights for me and in one breath he recited a list of extras that made my head spin. I don’t believe he uttered the word “um” even once, which told me that he knows this stuff cold. Keep in mind that I’m an AR armorer myself, but Miller absolutely snowed me with his level of knowledge on the subject.
The upper is barreled with a chrome-lined CMMG, 16-inch barrel with a 1-in-7-inch twist, a recessed target crown, a 5.56mm M4 barrel with a M4 barrel extension. Its threaded 1/2×28 with a Smith Enterprise Vortex flash hider. It has a Daniel Defense free-floating “AR Lite Rail 9.0” that is exceptional in quality and finish. The Lite Rail extends its top rail to mate up with the upper receiver, thus creating a single rail for optics and BUIS (back-up iron sights) placement.
The micro gas block is pre-positioned on the barrel using a custom jig that Miller made. He dimples the barrel, then sets the gas block with screws so it won’t shoot loose. The M4 flattop upper has machined and polished feed ramps, T-marked rails and Spike’s logo, laser engraved, top dead center. To ensure long life and wear, a “Young Manufacturing,” M16 hard-chromed bolt/carrier group was used. It has the added benefit of a Viton O-ring on the extractor to ensure positive extraction under rapid-fire evolutions.
The finishing touch is Spike’s logo that’s laser engraved onto the chromed bolt carrier, which can be seen when the dust cover is open and the bolt is in battery. All these pieces comprise this very customized, Spike’s Tactical ST-15.
Of all the specialty pieces on this AR, the one that you will never see is the ST-SST buffer. It’s a recent upgrade added to the Spike’s Tactical family. It’s one of the many specialty pieces that place the ST-15 several notches above the current run of mongrels on the market. Miller told me that the ST-SST buffer was a pet project of his that took several weeks of intensive experimentation to get right.
The balancing act that is an AR in cycle is essentially capturing an explosion and using the thermal energy to force-feed the weapon its next round. The trick is making a weapon behave the same way in both full and semi-auto. Therein lies the rub.
When an AR is fired in full-auto mode, things start banging around, heating, expanding and eventually failing. The buffer that Miller designed is weighted so as to slow everything down by acting like a fluid-filled arrestor, and thus buying time for the gas system to cycle properly. Believe it or not, it’s actually more reliable than its hydraulic counterpart. Also, keep in mind that there is nothing to break, no finish to wear off, and no fluids to leak out. Like what you hear so far?
Miller designed these buffers for the serious shooter and they’re built to last a lifetime in the harshest of conditions. It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekend warrior or a full-time competitor. Everyone can benefit from the ST-SST. While the ST-SST Buffer was developed for the 5.56mm round, they also work well in everything from 9mm all-the-way to the monster .50 Beowulf.
The ST-SST is CNC machined from 304 stainless steel and is polished to an almost chrome-like finish. The solid tungsten internal counter weight and custom-made “bumper” are what make the ST-SST function so smoothly. This buffer allows you to stay on target better, and experience less felt recoil. It’s also easier on parts, increases reliability, and dramatically reduces the cyclic rate during full auto use. The ST-SST is finished off with the Spike’s Tactical spider and model number laser engraved onto it.
While there are those that swear by fluid-filled hydraulic buffers, keep in mind that hydraulic buffers are susceptible to the ills of temperature inversions, and the abuse of having to repeatedly arrest the explosive forces of ARs. Not to mention that they cost more than the ST-SST. This unit actually is one of the heaviest carbine buffers on the market, weighing in at a stout 7 ounces. That’s 2.3 ounces heavier than an H3 Buffer and the price is right at only $65 as of this writing.
As mentioned before, I chose to go with an Aimpoint Micro T-1 red dot optic for this test. The T-1 has a good balance of functionality and size. Because it’s so small it all but disappears in your field of view when you have both eyes open, which, coincidentally, is the way you need to be fighting anyway. I battle sighted the T-1 at 25 yards then moved out to the 50. The reason for shooting from the 50 is that the average long shot taken by LEOs is at 50 yards. Even in military applications, our soldiers are frequently finding themselves involved in more CQB (close quarter battle) engagements than anything else.
The smallest groupings were only about half-inch clusters, which is pretty good considering that the T-1 is a non-magnification optic. Using Hornady 5.56mm 75-grain BTHP/WC T2 proved easy to engage a human head-sized target. The Aimpoint Micro T-1 is certainly an unfair advantage if ever I saw one. Hey, it’s a gunfight! If you’re not cheating you’re not trying!
One of the reasons why I chose the T-1 was because it offered a quick and compatible sight picture for firing the STZ-HAVOC. The fact that I chose the T-1 as opposed to another Aimpoint product wasn’t a fluke. Because it’s such a small optic, I knew that it would minimize the disparity of aim between its high position atop the ST-15 and STZ-HAVOC’s low-mounted position. I also chose it because I would only be using a rear BUIS sight on this weapon.
That choice was born of some research that I’ve been doing on CQB engagements with red dot optics off. As lofty as I felt the first time that I nailed a target at speed with my red dot optic turned off, I soon discovered that this was not an original thought on my part. Our soldiers are finding it easier to immediately engage CQB targets with their holographic sights off instead of taking the time to pop up BUIS. Gunfights tend to be short on time.
By adding just the rear BUIS, it allows you a point of reference when peering through the T-1. The fact that the reticle on the T-1 is round gave me an optimum sight picture to work with. The idea is to center your subject within the confines of the optic with or without the 4-MOA (minute of angle) red dot on and squeeze off the pain compliance of your choice. Now before we go any further, allow me to say this because I’m sure that Spike is cringing over that last sentence. If you intend on using the STZ-HAVOC Flare Launcher to launch anything other than gas or flares, you’ll have to have a little powwow with the ATF and do some paperwork to get the launcher registered as a Destructive Device. If you don’t, woe is you!
To assist in target acquisition in low light, I added two specialty pieces to this ST-15. The first was an Insight Tech-Gear XTI Procyon tactical light. This is, so far, the brightest light I’ve seen in a handgun-sized package. The XTI Procyon has a 125+ lumen beam of white light that strobes at the flip of its twin, independent switches. The other piece added to this carbine was a LaserMax LMS-UNI-G green rail-mounted laser. The LMS-UNI-G features a green pulsating laser that is astonishingly bright, even in daytime use. It is so bright that even in daylight you can actually see atmospheric, particulate matter as it intersects with the beam.
Imagine that you’ve got a barricaded subject in a car with a hostage. You know that he has a gun because the reprobate likes to wave it around. You want to take this guy alive because the Lieutenant said so. Truthfully, your only real concern is for the hostage whose car he’s jacked. Unfortunately, he jacked the car of a college student who didn’t have enough gas to get wherever this deranged lunatic needed to go. He’s come to a dead stop during your pursuit. Scratch that, during your “following him from a distance but not making him feel threatened.”
“No sir, it was not a pursuit that would be against agency policy.” Whatever!
Clearly, this sort of scenario calls for a long gun and a defensive posture. You’re roughly 20 yards from the subject. It’s an almost impossible headshot with a handgun, but a breeze with a long gun. The car is dead and the windows are all rolled up. Thankfully for the hostage, it isn’t a hot day. Unfortunately for you, this means that the bad guy won’t be in a hurry to get out of the car. A headshot would end this standoff but he keeps switching that gun from hand to hand and moving around a bit too much. You get the green light from the Lieutenant to send in an airburst surprise through the rear right window, knowing that it will burst just behind the jerk’s head.
You cock your STZ-HAVOC and take aim using your optic. You roll the safety to “F” and launch an ALS Technologies 37mm OC Air Burst Blast Dispersion projectile through the window. The car instantly fills with an acrid cloud of eye-searing OC powder, and just as planned, your bad guy bails out clawing mercilessly at his face. Unfortunately the hostage gets a face-full as well, but then again, it’s better than being dead. You then remind the hostage taker how very upset you are about his interrupting your lunch with his retarded behavior.
Problem solved! Decisive action was taken and a life was spared because you had the right tools on hand, instead of wishing you’d been prepared. The Spike’s Tactical ST-15 is a lone patrolman’s best friend. With the STZ-HAVOC Launcher attached, it makes less-lethal options more feasible when your backup is miles away. Imagine the possibilities that can open up with having a less-lethal launcher attached to your lethal weapon. I’d prefer to deal with a threat at standoff ranges. With the STZ-HAVOC Launcher and the available impact and gas projectiles, the possibilities are endless.
I must say that the time that I spent with this ST-15 has been quite diverting. It has once again driven home my contention that Spike has got it right. He’s taken an industry that for years has churned out homogenous rifles and turned it on its head. From his line of .22 shorties to this very pimped-out ST-15, Spike’s Tactical has challenged the notion of what is defined as normal. If you’re looking for something that is slightly left of center, and will most certainly get second looks on the firing line, take a look at Spike’s Tactical. I promise you, you won’t be sorry. Until next time: Bleed in training, survive in combat!