Saturated doesn’t begin to describe the world of AR-15 accessories. Within the hand guard market alone, there are hundreds, if not thousands of options available to the consumer. We’ve tried to review as many of them as we can, but at some point, it all starts to look the same. Free float? Check. Full-length Picatinny rail along the top? Check. KeyMod or M-LOK? Check and check. To stand out at all, a hand guard has to really be different. With its home plate-like shape, Seekins SP3R V3 is nothing if not different . . .
I first came across the SP3 while reviewing the Ruger Precision Rifle. I liked the rifle, but longed for a hand guard that more closely mimicked a flat-bottomed forend found on something like a McMillan A5. Shooting from awkward and improvised positions requires a rifle that can remain stable on whatever is available. The rounded forend of the factory-installed Samson rail allowed for too much lateral rocking when manipulating the bolt. Topping the receiver with two-and-a-half pounds of scope and mount certainly didn’t help things.
I sent my review over to the folks at Seekins and before long, I had one of their rails in my sweaty little hands. They included a note with it let me know that installation on the RPR wasn’t recommended as it created an unsightly gap between the receiver and the rail. But if you’ve read any of my work prior to this, you know I don’t really listen well. So I mounted it up.
As promised, it looked terrible, but it worked like a charm. Finally, the RPR could be set down on a ledge and it would assume a stable position. I goofed around with it a bit more before the RPR had to go home and I’ll admit I thought it worked very well. Since then, Seekins has come out with a RPR-specific version of this hand guard that better addresses the gap you see above.
With the original Samson rail back on the RPR, I had a rail to use and the realization that I still didn’t know if it mated well with an AR-15. At roughly the same time, my inbox dinged to let me know that the ATF had found me suitable for short barreled rifle ownership. Brand new stamp in hand, I set out building up a 300 BLK upper.
The issue was that I had a twelve inch hand guard and a ten and a half inch barrel that would need about seven inches of silencer to hang off the end. Luckily, someone at Seekins owns a crystal ball. My inch and a half diameter Thunder Beast Ultra 7 just fits underneath with millimeters of clearance to spare.
Clearance issues put to bed, I got to installing my barrel using the included oddball barrel nut. Given how this rail is shaped, theres simply no way to use a standard round nut. Seekins has resolved this by creating a nut that threads on to the upper receiver of any standard AR-15 and is timed to line everything up. The actual barrel nut threads into that interface and locks everything down.
This particular type of mount is similar to the one that ODIN Works uses on their K-Mod forend. Like ODIN, Seekins does not include a wrench to help your torque wrench interface. If you want to do this right, you’ll need a 1-1/8″ crowfoot wrench. If you don’t own one, might I suggest a large adjustable wrench and a bit of “oomph?” Torque specs be damned.
Once the barrel nut is installed, slide the hand guard over the nut, and lock it in place with the eight Torx screws included in the package. In my particular case, I found that I had a gap between the upper and the hand guard as seen above. It seems that every barrel nut of this style has resulted in an unsightly gap for me. Perhaps my inexpensive uppers are to blame.
Gap issues aside, the SP3 seems to be a very well thought out, albeit slightly heavy piece of machinery. If you were searching for a lightweight rail, this is certainly not going to be the droid you’re looking for. Not to worry though, Seekins does offer something like that in their NOXs line of guards. At 10.7 oz for just the rail, the SP3R is right about the middle of the pack for weight, but you’re really paying up for the shape.
Out on the range, the SP3R really shines. The flat base is absolutely rock solid and allows for steady shooting from positions off barricades and obstacles. Naturally, a short barreled 300 BLK is not a precision rifle by any stretch of the imagination, but the flat bottomed base certainly hasn’t hurt my ability to ring steel at various distances on the range from odd shooting positions.
Spending some more time with it, it is apparent that Seekins really did put some thought into this rail. As you can see above, the QD slots at the front of the hand guard have been dimpled to help lock the sling loops of your favorite sling in place. It is a subtle touch, but one that is appreciated.
Looking further, Seekins has done an excellent job with their machining of the M-LOK slots, vents, and Picatinny along the top. All of the surfaces were smooth to the touch, and I never had any issues getting M-LOK compatible accessories to lock into place. Likewise, anything made to the 1913 standard fit along the top of the rail with ease. While the rail along the top isn’t continuous with the receiver, you would still be able to mount a variety of accessories along the top to be in line with your primary optic.
Specifications: Seekins Precision SP3R V3 Rail
- Platform: AR-15 (Ruger Precision Rifle Specific Model Available)
- Length: 12″ and 15″
- Accessory Attachment: Full length Picatinny Rail along the top with M-LOK or KeyMod interface
- Weight: 10.7 oz for 12″ M-LOK model (does not include barrel nut)
- Price: $169 for 12″ $179 for 15″
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
All of the machining work on the SP3R was uniform, to spec, and free of obvious defects. The anodizing was even and free of any rough spots or patches. Overall, this hand guard was built to a high standard of quality and arrived in great condition.
Installation * * *
I really don’t like this method of barrel nut attachment for no other reason than the unsightly gap it creates between the upper and the hand guard. In Seekins’ case, I’m not sure how they could switch barrel nut styles as they are dealing with a very irregular shape. Still, reasons. Furthermore, installation requires a special tool to do properly, and that tool is not included with the rail. If you’re considering purchasing one of these rails, be sure to find a 1-1/8″ crowfoot wrench.
Function * * * * *
By no means is this a svelte, barrel hugging rail, and you should expect that getting a super sweet, over the top, C-clamp grip is going to be a slightly less ergonomic affair. That said, the triangular shape fills the hand pretty well, and is quite comfortable for long shooting sessions. Off a barrier, the SP3R really shines thanks to the flat bottomed design.
Overall * * * *
My only real knock against the SP3R is the barrel nut attachment method. Otherwise, this is a very functional rail that doesn’t break the bank. It is a little odd looking, something bound to happen when function comes first, but out on the range, it works really, really well. The available lengths are just about right for those looking to build up a SPR style AR for long(ish) range shooting, and the weight puts it right in the middle of the pack for the market at large.