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Reviewing the ISSC MK22 raised an intersting question: does practicing with a “fake” modern sporting home defense assault rifle count? Other than money, what’s the point of training with a significantly lighter, ergonomically dissimilar version of . . . Let’s try that again. If you set cost considerations to one side, isn’t trigger time with a “real” rifle more important than . . . Nope. Can’t do it. And not just because I’m Jewish. Money explains the existence of the “tactical 22.” More specifically, ammo cost. If 5.56 cartridges were five cents a round, would you even consider buying a .22 cal. M4 clone? If you spent even a moment wondering about that one, you need a Spike’s Tactical ST-22 M4 Carbine. And maybe if you didn’t, too . . .

The Spike’s Tactical ST-22 is a real AR-style rifle that fires .22s—not an AR converted to run .22s. Although you could do too. Just buy an ST-22 upper from Mssr. Spike and fit it to your current AR. The switch from big to small caliber (or vice versa) uppers is not a task to be undertaken in the field under fire, mind you. But it’s doable. For $550 plus shipping. But why would you go that route when you could own not one but TWO ARs in both plinking and defending calibers, all for the price of, uh, two ARs.

Anyway, the all-singing, all-dancing, all-.22 AR ST-22 features a bespoke barrel and bolt group. We’re talking about a threaded (1/2×28) 16″ Lothar Walther chrome-moly match grade barrel with the correct twist rate: 1:16. That little detail separates Spike from SIG, increases the ST-22’s accuracy and helps prevent fouling. As you’d hope, the barrels are covered by a Mil-Spec phosphate finish. The bolt group features Spike’s Tactical dedicated 22LR bolt. Dedicated to . . .

Accuracy. Again, with the accuracy. Yes. If you want a .22 LR modern home defense sporting please-don’t-call-it-an-assault-rifle that’s as accurate as any .22 long gun can be with a 16″ barrel, you can’t be messing about with presto-chango solutions or less than appropriate twist rates. Our man Spike accepts no substitutes. Not to belabor the point (much), but that’s a $200 button-rifled metal tube sitting on top of that weapon, Bub. So maybe now’s a good time to put you out of your financial suspense: $850. For starters.

OK, but—right from the start, you know that this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around. The ST-22 feels solid, heavy and, uh, horny. As you’d expect from a gun slathered in Mil-Specitude. Spike’s machines the ST-22’s tactical lower from a 7075 T6 Mil-Spec forging and gives it a Mil-Spec Type III hardcoat anodized finish. Lower parts kit? Mil-Spec. For those of you who care about such things, and at that price you might as well, the ST-22 has a six-position Mil-Spec buffer tube, castle nut and properly staked latch plate.

All of which makes the ST-22 look, feel and shoot like a “proper” AR. Well, not shoot, obviously. An ant’s fart has more percussive recoil than this .22 rifle. In that sense, you’d just as well perfecting your AR gun handling skills with an 5.56 AR rifle firing snap caps. Equally germane, our testing and evaluation Spike’s Tactical ST-22 liked any kind of cartridge as long as it was Federal. That’s probably not what your average SHTF buyer wants to hear. But I have a feeling that’s not the ST-22’s primary market.

Or maybe it is. The ST-22 handles exactly like a large caliber AR, right down to the trigger pull. Owners can perform all their AR-style Walter Mitty fantasies—sorry, close-combat drills—with a gun that’s so similar to their “real” AR they wouldn’t know the difference if you switched rifles—at least until they unleashed the ants of war. And then they’d smile, knowing that owning an ST-22 means that the money AND the life they save is their own.

That said, the Spike’s Tactical is a pretty pricy piece. And true parity between your go-to AR and its less expensive to fire analogy would require two of everything: scope, grips, light, laser and a big ass sticker saying “THIS IS MY .22.” Which is a well-designed, meticulously machined piece, right down to the robust magazine. How you justify owning a combat-ready .22 caliber AR that costs just as much as a 5.56 AR is a complicated intellectual exercise that’s entirely up to you, really. But where you buy it is a no-brainer.


-Spike’s Tactical M4 flat top upper receiver, Machined from a 7075 T6 Mil-Spec Forging with Mil-Spec Type III Hardcoat Anodized finish, T-markings, and our logo.
-16″ Lothar Walther Chromoly Match grade barrel, 1:16 twist rate, 22LR chamber, threaded 1/2×28, Mil-Spec Phosphate finish.
-M4 profile with Carbine-length sight radius.
-Phosphate barrel finished under the F marked A2 front sight base.
-Spike’s Tactical Dedicated 22LR bolt.
-Forged Mil-Spec charging handle.
-M4 hand guards.
-A2 Flash Hider.
-Spike’s Tactical Lower, Machined from a 7075 T6 Mil-Spec Forging with Mil-Spec Type III Hardcoat Anodized finish.
-Mil-Spec lower parts kit.
-Stainless steel trigger and hammer pins with Black Oxide finish.
– 6 Position Mil-Spec buffer tube, castle nut and Properly staked latch plate.
-Spike’s Tactical M4 stock.

Ratings (out of five)

Style * * * * *

If you like black guns, this is a black gun. Arachnophobes won’t enjoy the markings, but the U.S. flag looks great. As always.

Ergonomics * * * * *

You’re going to have to put a fore-grip on this thing to really dance around, but it’s as comfortable as you’d expect. (Alternatively, you can buy the upper separately and fit in on your backup AR’s backup gun.)

Ergonomics Firing * * * * *

As much fun as you can have with your clothes on. Unless you like bigger caliber weapons and shoot naked.

Reliability * *

Likes what it likes ammo-wise and nothing else. Feed it properly, clean it religiously (tactical votive candles available by special order) and the ST-22 will provide a lifetime of fun. Not to mention a big old pile of dead varmints.

Customize this * * * * *

Anything you like.

Overall Rating * * * *

I’d like a more reliable, less ammo-sensitive weapon. But then I’d like an inexpensive Ferrari that never breaks, too. Last star withheld for edging towards “the world’s most fire retardent paper hat” utility.

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    • Is rifle twist really that important on a M4-clone? I don't think the majority of the people who buy this gun are going to use it for varmint hunting. Personally, if I were .22 hunting, I'd have a nice (old!) Ruger 10/22 with the 50-round magazine. One has served me well in the past, plinking off rats in the coal hills of PA. I agree with TTACer, it is way too much money for a .22LR only. You can buy lots of 5.56 ammo for $800. Better yet, you can buy a really nice reloading setup and still have money left over for new military 5.56 rounds (you'll need brass eventually!).

    • “match grade barrel with the correct twist rate: 1:16. That little detail separates Spike from SIG”

      A Sig 522 has the same 1:16 twist. I’d like to see your source stating otherwise. American Riflemans review specs match that of Sig’s own website.


      All aside, respect to both you and Spikes Tactical.

  1. Since we're on the subject of cheap, whatever happened to the Mossberg 'Tactical' .22? I've been asking about them at gun shows and shops for a few months now, and nobody knows anything about them. You know, simply buying one and reviewing it might be cheaper than getting a factory T&E gun and paying all the damned shipping and transfer fees…

  2. Hi Chris,
    I looked into reviewing (read: buying) one at my local shop who has one in stock. But it is so plastic I feel it does travesty to the fine Mossberg name. Just pick one up and you'll pass… Too bad because I wanted it to be too good…

  3. I like that someone did another review on this upper, but what I don’t like is that there was no information on what kinds of groups it can make in various distances(or said upper’s accuracy). This is a gun with a match grade barrel -16″ Lothar Walther Chromoly Match grade barrel, 1:16 twist rate, 22LR chamber, threaded 1/2×28, Mil-Spec Phosphate finish”

    I understand that you don’t do bench-rest testing for all of your guns. I understand that the purpose of this upper is to be used like a carbine for human sized targets within 50 yards. I understand that you should get another rifle if you want dime sized groups at 100 yards.

    I don’t care, I want to know what kind of groups this rifle makes bench-rested at 25, 50, heck even 100 yards. Take a look at other blogs and reviews, nobody does any tests like that for the 22 uppers, with good reason since that isn’t the main use but I at the very least still want to know.

  4. I built one of these rifles a couple years ago before the ready availability of .22lr complete rifles from the major manufacturers. I ordered the upper complete, and a Spikes lower marked .22lr cal. It has a Spectre length quad rail and Spikes’ fake suppressor can on it, and the lower has a #3 Timney AR trigger in it. Though it has a 16.5″ barrel, because the cartridge is so short it has the look of a suppressed 14.5″ rifle.
    After trying most of the brands of ammo available, I found it actually shoots the Federal hollow point the best. It required a little tuning to get it to run reliably, but I expected that from other AR builds. It feels like a “real” AR, and will take all the aftermarket AR goodies we all love. It recoils so lightly you can see your hits, and with a bipod I would not hesitate to take it squirrel hunting as long as the distance wasn’t over a 100 yards. This rifle is so much fun, you’ll leave your tricked out 10/22 toys at home in the safe!

  5. When it works its great but so far my Spikes with the Lothar Walther barrel is very ammunition sensitive. Only seems to like Winchester so far. Even my beloved CCI mini-mags won’t run reliably.

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