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Chris Parkin reviews a truly unusual rifle - an AR-15 clone that shoots 9mm pistol ammo, and does it particularly well!
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While AR-15 derived rifles are always visually interesting, Schmeisser certainly always bring a greater element of class and precision to the party, in my opinion. The latest SP-9 certainly follows suit, yet the 9mmx19/Parabellum/Luger (whichever you prefer to call it) somewhat breaks the mould with ISO 9001 certification from the manufacturer alongside their Made in Germany assurances.
The rifle is supplied screwcut and a brake is included in the package along with a 10-round magazine, plus a deluxe hardcase and cleaning kit/tools. There isn’t much point of an overly long barrel on what is a short-range rifle, so the 12.5”/318mm barrel is really in keeping with the fast-handling ethos of the design.
The radiused octagonal fore-end is 233mm long with multiple M-Lok slots for accessories, barrel cooling and weight saving. The 38mm diameter allows the 16mm barrel within to float freely with masses of space, and it’s also very stiff so the addition of a bipod is certainly no problem.
Schmeisser supply polymer folding open sights with the rifle if you want to go old-school. The fore-end’s upper offers a Picatinny mount for the front sight and there is ample Picatinny rail space at the rear for its partner. The front post is elevation adjustable with a windage adjustable ring in the rear.
The action has twin pins through; if the rear is removed it hinges open to show upper and lower halves with all the mechanics accessible for servicing. You can see the 6 lugs of the bolt head within its carrier which rotates the bolt head out of battery when the side charging handle or T-Handle at the rear of the receiver are actuated.
The side charging handle needs unbolting from the carrier to be removed from the action for thorough cleaning. With upper and lower back together with the pin pushed though, there is no rattle from loose tolerances between the two halves. All controls will be familiar to AR-15 users with an underslung rubberised grip offering 65mm reach to the two-stage trigger blade from its throat.
The trigger is non-adjustable but breaks cleanly at 1,310g/46oz. A 10-round polymer magazine is supplied, and the SP-9 is compatible with any Glock 17 magazine, Edgar Brothers supplied an additional P-Mag which also loads one at a time into two staggered columns within. Schmeisser‘s own magazine (photographed) features holes to identify remaining capacity. The mag’s follower rises and locks the bolt open when empty.
Other controls include the right and left-sided mag release which is a pleasant addition. The left side bolt release lever also has an opposing right side button, although use it cautiously because the bolt springing forward can drag the charging handle across your finger. Remember that any AR-15 derived rifle has controls designed primarily for semi-auto use and not single shots with action cocking/cycling for each shot. This is the cause of some ergonomic echoes and although functional they’re unlikely to be used. On a similar tack, the receiver still offers a T-handle cocking system which, although non-reciprocating, offers twin locking claw handles to cycle the action from the rear.
Schmeisser fit an additional 32mm long right-side charging handle with radial grooves for grip which is a smart idea because they ensure your fingers don’t slide down the length of the handle. It still works well at speed, allowing your hand straight back to the grip with your index finger returning quickly to the trigger guard. The final control is the ambidextrous two position thumb actuated safety catch, which flicks through a 45º arc for safe or fire.
Schmeisser’s own engraved buffer tube has a keyway to minimise any wobble in the extending rear polymer butt section and offers seven extension positions that lock securely with a strongly sprung latch directly under the cheekpiece.
Length of pull extends from 290 to 355mm and I must say makes the rifle particularly nice to handle without any wobbles through the stock and offers a decent length of pull for a shooter not wearing heavy body armour or a rucksack! The sloped underside allows you to offer up a supporting bag or hand when in use prone, but otherwise the lightweight structure balances the overall rifle very well with fast, intuitive pointability. The slim recoil pad is rubber and remains securely locked in your shoulder pocket, the only other luxuries being quick release sling locations on either side of the stock for carriage.
The cheekpiece is domed and 40mm wide; the thing you will never struggle with on an AR is cheek weld. It’s not uncommon to add taller rings to give better alignment when using optics instead of the included battle sights. This one was comfortable and fit under my cheekbone perfectly in terms of alignment with all three optics used during the review.
There is also plenty of space for your jaw laterally below it and your head never rolls over for alignment. The recoil path, not that there is a great deal on a 9mm, is totally linear, so you can shoot with virtually zero point of aim disturbance and with the light bolt operation you’re straight back on target for fast follow-up shots.
I used the Falke Reflex sight for initial zeroing on steel gongs. It’s a super-quick point/shoot solution with a large screen for fast target acquisition with both eyes open. I liked the way the quick release lever enabled fast changeovers between other Picatinny accessories.
For more critical paper target testing and group shooting, I switched to a 1-6x24 riflescope for more precise aim on paper. This also enabled me to dial out and shoot some 100m steel targets too. The gun is very gentle to shoot, and you can maintain sight picture to see the large, slow bullets arcing into impact zone.
The trigger is crisp and predictable, all mechanics are well constructed, and the machining standards and coatings displayed no burrs or tooling marks. The polymers in the injection moulded components, like the stock, were of superior quality with a subtle stippled texture adding perception and added grip. Schmeisser manufacture to police and military standards and it shows. The Picatinny rails have correct tolerances and the steel levers on the bolt release carry sufficient knurling to ensure no slips with or without gloves, even when wet.
9mm Parabellum has a SAAMI max operating pressure of 35,000 PSI, compared to the ~62,000 PSI of a .223, so it’s no great surprise that the action feels a little lighter and slicker in operation, although it still benefits from firm treatment.
The side charging handle can be rotated to suit your preferences. I found it came loose on a couple of occasions, but once you set up to your liking I would thread lock it in position to avoid possible problems. The handle itself has locking teeth so it’s not inherently loosening its own locking screw.
I find the big mistake with any AR is to restrain the bolt’s automated closure to minimise noise and I watched a couple of shooters using it fail to feed/fire as they gently closed the action, which did not suit the Schmeisser.
Guns like this are fundamentally designed to operate at the speed the cartridge’s pressure generates. Although this one is a significant evolution in terms of manual force, you still need to draw the bolt open firmly and hard against its stop to ensure positive ejection. Then, just let it go forward under its own spring pressure in order for it to work perfectly! Fundamentally, very few AR-15s or other sprung closure (e.g. Browning Maral) type rifles are ever going to be as quiet to reload or as discreet as a turnbolt actioned rifle.
I really enjoy shooting a rifle using just one type of ammo. I get to shoot it and enjoy it for what it will do and never have to worry too much about ultimate precision testing and ballistic experimentation.
This is especially noticeable on what (in fairness) has to be termed a ‘fun gun’ for target and competition use rather than a precision ‘clean killing tool’ like a hunting rifle.
The Schmeisser is a very different rifle and one of the few that delivers exactly what it promises from a low-cost centrefire cartridge that makes nice large visible holes in paper and/or convincingly rings steel without the need for vast open spaces to stretch its legs. It’s a gun that appreciates and demonstrates the skill of the shooter when aiming, controlling the trigger and employing the sights etc… perhaps with fast-fire and movement in mind rather than spending 20 minutes in Strelok in order to take a single shot.
Model: Schmeisser SP-9
Calibre: 9mm Parabellum
Barrel Length: 12.5” / 318mm
Overall Length: 30.2-32.75” / 756-833mm
Length of Pull: 11.4-14” / 290-355mm
Overall Weight: 2.7 kg/6 lb 1 oz
Magazine Capacity: 10
Stock Material: Polymer buttstock, M-Lok compatible aluminium fore-end
Accessories supplied: Hard case, cleaning kit
Contact: Edgar Brothers | 01625 613177
Franz-Albrecht zu Oettingen-Spielberg's commitment to marksmanship, selective hunting, and environmental stewardship has garnered him international acclaim.
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