Author Topic: MERGED TOPICS: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15  (Read 27160 times)

Offline Heavy G

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After I mentioned in a few posts that I was getting a .22 LR conversion kit for my AR-15, a couple of you asked me to do a full review.  Well, here it is.

I love shooting my .22.  Cheap ammo, great practice for using my “real” guns, no recoil, and … did I mention cheap ammo.  In fact, .22 LR ammo is about 1/10 of .223 rounds for an AR-15.  One tenth.  And you can get .22 LR anywhere, unlike bulk .223.

An AR-15 is the perfect gun to shoot .22 LR.  A .223 is actually .224 inch so the barrel is that wide.  A .22 LR is .223 inch, which means a .22 LR bullet is .001 smaller than an AR-15 barrel.

I had to see if I could really shoot .22 LR out of my AR-15 so I got a .22 LR conversion kit for my AR-15.  

My conversion kit cost about $150 I seem to recall.  I got if from Spike’s Tactical http://www.spikestactical.com/z/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=26&products_id=176.  Here is what the bolt looks like (with a magazine):

They’re very popular so now the price is up to $199.  They can’t make enough of them.  I checked several forums and the consensus was that Spike’s are very good.  Some other brands got mixed reviews, and one got downright bad reviews.  After all, this is a whole new firing mechanism with explosive gas pressures and it’s built to tight tolerances.  If someone just slaps one of these together, don’t expect it to work.

Which is what I was thinking.  “Too good to be true,” I thought.

Nope.  It’s not.  It really works.  I tested this thing extensively and came up with some tips for you if you want to try this.  And I highly recommend you do.

I was looking for something that was easy to use and didn’t hurt my AR’s barrel.  I checked around extensively on forums—and with some guys I know who actually make AR-15s for a living—and they all said shooting .22 LRs would not hurt an AR-15 barrel.

This thing had to be easy to use.  I barely have enough time to shoot, let alone do fancy work on my gun just to shoot cheap ammo.  I needed something so easy that not even I could screw it up.  

There is nothing complicated about a .22 LR conversion kit.  Just pop the rear takedown pin, pull out the AR bolt, and drop in the .22 LR bolt.  That’s it.  It takes about 10 seconds.  No tools needed.  The whole conversion kit is the .22 LR bolt that you pop in.

I made a mistake when I first shot this.  The materials that came with it said don’t oil it much and do not grease.  I understand the do-not-grease thing because .22 LR shoots so dirty that grease in there would create black sludge in your gun.  But, for some reason, I didn’t oil the .22 LR bolt the first time I shot it.  

You should.  I got some frustrating jams the first time I shot it.  As in jamming every other shot.  I figured there was a break in period, but this was ridiculous.  Then I wised up.  Realizing that these are tight tolerances and that I hadn't lubed it, I decided to go lube loco.

My second time shooting it, I cleaned and oiled the bolt first.  Be sure to do that.  Cleaning gets the little bit of packing grease off.  (I used Gun Scrubber Synthetic Safe.)  I oiled that thing up good with CLP.  Be sure and pull the bolt back so you can oil the inside.  I used an empty .22 mag casing to hold it open; I bet you could use an empty .223 casing too.  Also, clean out the part from the .22 LR chamber to the front end (which looks like a .223 casing stuck on the end of the bolt).  That’s where the bullet flies from ignition until entry into the AR chamber.  I wiped the excess oil off.

I dropped it back in and everything worked great (more on that later).

I found two tricks that will greatly help you get consistent firing without jams.  Both relate to the fact that the .22 LR bolt doesn’t rack as easily as the AR-15 bolt.  The .22 LR bolt is tighter in there.  And the recoil spring is weaker so it doesn't snap back like the AR bold does.  If the .22 LR bolt doesn’t rack all the way, you get .22 LR rounds not fitting all the way flush into the .22 LR chamber, which causes a jam.  

The first trick is to put the selector on “fire” before you charge the handle.  For some reason (I bet someone on this forum will know why), the .22 LR bolt racks much more solidly on fire than safe.  But be careful since it's on fire.

The second racking trick is to let gravity be your friend.  Point the barrel down and rack so the charging handle has an extra little push going down instead of up.  (Since the selector is on fire, pointing downward is an extra good idea.)  I found it was best to pull the charging handle back and (while the barrel is pointed down) let my hand fly off the handle.  I don't need to do this on my AR because it has the stronger spring.  I found that using my weak arm (my left) on the .22 LR bolt didn’t get the job done; I had to charge with my strong arm (my right).

One other thing: the AR-15’s forward assist doesn’t work with the .22 LR bolt.  The .22 LR bolt is shorter than the AR’s so the forward assist doesn’t reach it.  Oh well.  Shouldn’t be a problem if you're doing solid rackings.  

The next thing to think about is the .22 LR magazines.  Yes, you need special .22 LR mags.  One 27 round magazine comes with the kit.  You can get extras for about $30.00.  The brand I got (from Spike’s Tactical) was “Black Dog.”  Here’s a link to them: http://www.spikestactical.com/z/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=26&products_id=126 and here's what they look like:

They're great magazines.  I got two extras because, technically, they are “high capacity” mags and may be illegal soon.  I got the black ones instead of the smoke one.s  This was because you can see the .22 LR rounds through the smoke mags; the black mags look just like regular AR-15 mags.  

There are two things to think about with the mags.  The first is how many rounds to put in them.  I started off with the new mags (with stiff springs) with one to five rounds.  That worked great for breaking in the .22 LR bolt and the .22 LR mags.  Then five to ten, etc.  Finally, I got up to 27 rounds without a jam.  However, I decided to put in 20 at a time because I got slightly fewer jams than with 27.  No biggee.  Twenty rounds at a time is fine.  

The second mag issue is keeping them clean.  Be sure and keep the follower on the mags clean.  Again, .22 LR is so dirty that you get far more gunk and soot on a .22 LR mag follower than on any AR-15 mag.  After a few mags I would wipe the follower with a cloth and, once in a while, a drop of oil.  Also, the Black Dog mags, like AR-15 mags, have a hole in the bottom to push so the bottom plate comes out allowing you to clean the inside.  I haven’t had to do that yet, but will after a few more sessions.  (Thank you, Black Dog, for making a plastic mag that can be cleaned.  I wish every 10/22 mag manufacturer did the same.)

The next thing, and perhaps the most important thing of all here, is that ammunition selection is extremely important.  As in: most ammo won’t work in this at all but a couple kinds work extremely well.  Using the wrong ammo will result in frustration and you'll think the thing doesn't work when it works just fine (with the right ammo).

The materials that came with the .22 LR said they recommend Federal Champion Value Pack.  Here's is what I'm talking about:  

(Federal Champion also comes in regular boxes, not the Value Pack.  These are lead bullets and are not the ones I tested and the ones that work.  Get the Value Pack of 525 rounds.  They're copper plated bullets.)

The Value Packs are sold everywhere is some of the cheapest ammo out there.  And it works the best.  By far.  I had virtually no jams with it.  In fact, I had 27 rounds in a magazine fire without a hitch with Federal Champion.  Get a box of this for your .22 LR bolt. Then, after you’ve broken it in with Federal Champion, try other kinds.  I tried other kinds first, got lots of jams, and started to think the thing didn’t work.  Start off happy with Federal Champion.

A very close second is Federal Auto Match.  Here is what it looks like:

It shot absolutely great.  One jam in a 27-round magazine.  This ammo comes in 350 round boxes.  I got mine at Walmart; I haven’t seen it anywhere else.  It’s a lead round nose 40 grain load.  The materials that came with the .22 LR bolt say to avoid lead bullets because it causes lead build up.  That might be true if you shoot lots of lead bullets.  I shot about 50 and used a lead remover patch (more on that below) and the lead came right off.  I will use Federal Auto Match lead bullets sparingly because of the warning about lead.  But they work just fine (and are the most accurate ammo tested, as described below).

The third ammo that worked well was … you guessed it: made by Federal.  It was Federal Premium Gold Match 40 grain lead round nose.  This shot very quietly (I think it’s lower velocity).  I got one jam out of this.  It jammed slightly more than Federal Auto Match or Federal Champion but was still fine.  But it’s pricey.  

Accuracy was OK with the .22 LR.  Remember: the .22 LR is .001 smaller than the barrel so there will be some sloppiness in there.  The .22 LR bullet isn’t exactly hugging the groves in the barrel; it may not even be touching them.  Also, the .22 LR is only going about 1,000 feet per second while the .223 is screaming at about 3,000.  Even though the .22 LR bullet is lighter (40 grains compared to 55 grains for the .223), the extreme difference in velocity means the .22 LR will have much more drop than the .223.  I found that the .22 LR (Federal Champion and Federal Auto Match) dropped about six inches below the .223’s zero at 50 yards.  No problem since I’m just practicing and pop cans are pretty forgiving.  But know that your .22 LR will be shooting low compared to your .223.  I didn’t even try 100 yards; I bet the .22 LR drops a foot so it’s not that useful for practice at that range.

Not surprisingly, the Federal Auto Match was more accurate than the Federal Champion.  I got a group of about 25 rounds of Auto Match to cover nine one-inch squares at 50 yards, most of the rounds being centered in a couple of one-inch squares. The Federal Champion gave me a group at 50 years covering twenty one-inch squares and more disbursed pattern.  It was fine for pop cans but don’t try any sniper work with this.  Remember: this is to practice your stance, working the action, follow up shots, muscle memory for trigger pull, and just that overall familiarity with every inch of your AR that only comes from lots and lots of trigger time.  If you want an accurate .22 LR, get a dedicated .22 LR.

Here’s a list of the ammo that didn’t work well.  By this I mean it jammed every other or every second or third round and maybe had a five-round period of no jams:

•   American Eagle 38 grain (which is made by Federal, so I thought it work better)
•   CCI Mini Mag 36 grain hollow point
•   CCI Mini Mag 40 grain copper round nose
•   CCI Segmented hollow point 32 grain (pricey; first five rounds were fine then constant jams)
•   Federal Game Shok (single shot in mag was fine, but jammed when four or more in mag)
•   Western (made by Winchester)
•   Remington Viper
•   Remington Yellow Jacket

The horrible ammo, that is, the ammo that jammed almost every single round is:

•   CCI Velocitor 40 grain copper hollow point
•   Remington Golden Bullet
•   Remington Thunderbolt
•   Winchester Power Point
•   Winchester Super X
•   Winchester Wild Cat

Two miscellaneous things.  First, I ran a Bore Snake down the barrel after about every 100 rounds during the break-in period.  Not sure if that helped, but I did it. Second, Spike’s Tactical includes a second recoil spring for the .22 LR bolt that has a different tension than the one that comes on the bolt.  I didn’t try the second one.  I got the first one working fine with Federal Champion and Federal Auto Match.  I might goof around with the second spring to see if that lets me use more kinds of ammo without jams.

After shooting, I fully cleaned the .22 LR bolt.  I did the usual stuff and, as noted above, used a .22 mag empty casing to hold the bolt open while I sprayed Gun Scrubber in there.  Lead build up is a potential problem so I used a little patch of Birchwood-Casey Lead Remover cloth to get that stuff off.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

Wow.  That worked great.  (I'm going to use that on all my guns when I use lead bullets.)

The whole package, with shipping, I think was something like $230.  This is about 500 rounds of .223.  So if you shoot more than 500 rounds of .223, you're pretty much breaking even by getting a .22 LR bolt.  And 500 rounds of Federal Champion .22 LR is about $15.  That's a very cheap afternoon of shooting your AR.

A final thought.  I could tell after shooting maybe a 100 rounds of .22 LR, and then switching back to .223 with the regular AR bolt, that my AR accuracy and handling got just a little better.  When I shoot my AR, given the expense of the ammo, I think too much about the shot because it's about $0.40 a pop.  But when I'm shooting .22 LR, I'm casual because, hey, it's just .22 ammo.  I started to get that carefree--and downright "fun"--feel back to my AR shooting.  I literally kicked back in a chair at the range and unloaded a magazine of .22 LR just for giggles.  You can't do that with an AR (unless you're independently wealthy).

Another use for an AR in .22 LR is training young shooters and women who might be nervous about the recoil of a .223 (I know "recoil" of a .223?).  My kids will love this.

If you are serious about your AR skills and most of all want to have cheap fun, get a .22 LR conversion kit.  I am very happy with my Spike's Tactical kit and my Black Dog mags.  Just oil it up and use Federal Champion ammo.  

« Last Edit: July 07, 2009, 06:31:29 AM by DeltaEchoVictor »

Offline chris

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2009, 08:50:43 PM »
I've considered getting a conversion kit, but for the money a semi-auto 22 seems like a better idea. I understand getting more time behind the AR for practice purposes is a good thing. It just seems more practical to get a 10/22. Your thoughts?

Offline CTF250

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2009, 09:29:58 PM »
Heavy,
Thats gotta be the BEST range report I have ever seen!

Ive been considering one of these for a long time and based upon your comments it looks like Im gonna invest in one

Thanks for taking the time to share all this information with us

Ya can have 3+++ for this one, by the way did you file this in the ARFCOM?

Offline BigDanInTX

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 09:45:19 PM »
Great writeup and yet something else for me to consider...lol

Offline Heavy G

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2009, 06:02:41 AM »

I've considered getting a conversion kit, but for the money a semi-auto 22 seems like a better idea. I understand getting more time behind the AR for practice purposes is a good thing. It just seems more practical to get a 10/22. Your thoughts?


If you don't have a .22, then I think a dedicated .22 like a 10/22 is a better idea.  You can practice general rifle handling and accuracy with a dedicated .22, which is far better than no practice gun at all.  Plus a 10/22 has many, many uses besides practice.  Also, the conversion kit isn't terribly accurate so you couldn't rely on it for small game.

But if you have a dedicated .22 and an AR, and want to practice lots on your AR, then I think the the conversion kit is definitely worth it.  The conversion kit pays for itself after a few hundred rounds of .223.  I view the conversion kit as a training (and fun) add-on to an AR, not as a substitute for a dedicated .22.

One reason in particular why my 10/22 is not the perfect training for my AR is that my 10/22 has a scope and my AR has a red dot sight.  Plus the weight and action is very different.  But any trigger time, even with a different gun, is better than no trigger time.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2009, 06:04:30 AM »

by the way did you file this in the ARFCOM?


Not sure I know what ARFCOM is.  An AR forum?

I'm thinking about posting this review on other forums--actually, posting a link to this one on the Survival Podcast forum so new people will come to our forum and check it out.

Offline BigDanInTX

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2009, 07:46:52 AM »
Not sure I know what ARFCOM is.  An AR forum?
http://AR15.com

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 10:10:24 AM »
Fantastic write- up!

kaiservontexas

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 10:16:45 AM »
+1 for the write up . . .

I do not know if you covered this or have not heard of it. I just woke and read over the post.  :-[

I have the armorer's dvd course from AGI for the AR-15 rifle series. Towards the end of the dvd they discuss .22lr conversion kits. They have nothing but wonderful things to say, and they go rock in roll with a full auto using one of those kits. I forget which kit. One thing they recommend is to fire a few rounds of .223Rremington after using 100 or so rounds of .22lr. This is to clear the gas tube of any lead. I have no experience with these kits, but I do own an AR-15 and a half. Their advice makes sense to me since the AR-15 is a DI gas system.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 10:58:20 AM »

One thing they recommend is to fire a few rounds of .223Rremington after using 100 or so rounds of .22lr. This is to clear the gas tube of any lead.


Now that you mention this, I do remember several forums saying to fire a few .223 after some .22 LR.  I did so (not because I remembered this, but because I had some .223 accuracy to verify).

Billy McKay

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2009, 11:03:49 PM »
nice review. It is worth mentioning that from a design standpoint the Ceiner, CMMG (brownells), and Spikes units are all essentially identical - and work off of the same patent (Atchison) - which expired recently (last October) and is now open game for anyone to produce. The only differences between them all, as you point out, is how well the manufacturer produces them. I bought a CMMG unit recently and it is of high quality - at least as nice as the Ceiner one's I've seen at gun shows and the like.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 11:07:29 PM by Billy McKay »

Offline PBRstreetgang

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2009, 08:57:36 PM »
Thanks for the review.  I've had a Ceiner model (which I agree with Billy in that it looks almost identical) for over a year now and love it; it's a great opportunity to plink away, and save money doing it.  Highly recommended for any AR owner, whether you're on a budget or not.  I've never tried the Federal ammo in it, but interestingly my model came with a recommendation to use Remington Thunderbolt ammo.  I've had the occasional jam (say one round every mag or two) using it, but not near the problems Heavy G noted above.

Overall I highly recommend Spike's tactical.  I met the owner at a gun show when I used to live in Florida; they are a great outfit.  My company bought one of their Havoc 37mm flare launchers but we haven't had a chance to play around with it yet.  I'll post a review if we ever get around to it.

Offline PaCoTx

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2009, 07:44:45 PM »
Thanks for the write up. 

A few of us went to a class at Tiger Valley in Waco, and the instructor recommended either a conversion kit or a new upper.  Based on your write up, I'll probably go with the Spike's kit.  Cheaper than a new 10/22, and I get more practice with my AR.

Offline BigDanInTX

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2009, 12:53:51 AM »
I really need one of these now...

Offline Taipan

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2009, 08:06:43 PM »
I love mine. One word of warning....DO NOT try to use Remington 22 Golden Bullets.
I'm planning on bringing mine to an Appleseed shoot next month.

Offline GlenM

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AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2009, 09:36:19 PM »
Has anyone tried one of those conversion kits for the AR15?  Any tips to pass on?  I've read that they might be a bit finicky on the ammo it eats.  Thanks

Offline sludgy_nixer

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Re: AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2009, 12:05:02 AM »
haven't used, but nutnfancy did a review of the cmmg kit
his words:
Quote
generally use only high impulse, quality .22 ammo (like CCI Mini Mag solids, also had success with some Federal promotional ammo),

Offline CTF250

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Re: AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2009, 02:53:48 AM »
Heres a link which another member Heavy G did regarding his purchase of a Spikes Tactical conversion kit.  I saved this link because this is one of the better range reports Ive ever seen regarding a test. 

Hope this answers your questions

http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=2817.0

Offline GlenM

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Re: AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2009, 08:07:06 AM »
Thanks for pointing that thread out to me.  Next time I'll use the search feature.

Offline MD3C

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Re: AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #19 on: July 06, 2009, 11:13:57 PM »
I've got one from Colt. It worked OK when I used it, but I had rather have a 22 rifle.
20 years ago when when I used it, I was told to shoot 556 through the barrel every 20 rounds or so to clear the lead out.
Not sure if that was good info, or if it's still a concern?
M

Offline GlenM

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Re: AR15 22LR conversion kit
« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2009, 04:27:35 AM »
I bought the CMMG conversion kit.  According to the instructions, it said for best performance to use Federal High Velocity ammo.  I've read on other forums that you only need to shoot a few 5.56 rounds at the end of your session to blow out any lead build up in the gas tube. 

I haven't used the kit yet.  My barrel is in the shop for a weight reduction.

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Product Review: Spike's Tactical .22 LR conversion kit for AR-15
« Reply #21 on: July 07, 2009, 06:30:36 AM »
Up for a merge.

Offline Heavy G

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I said in my product review that my Spikes Tactical .22LR conversion bolt only like Federal bulk ammo (36 grain blue box and 40 grain Auto Match).  I should add the Federal bulk ammo in the 550 round tan box.

I found one kind of non-Federal ammo it likes: Bitterroot Valley.  This stuff is only $12 a brick.  That's a third of most.  Whoa.

Here's what the box looks like: