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Chris Parkin gets over his AR-15 straight pull aversion with in this test & review of Schmeisser’s all-new SP15 Ultramatch in .223
Shmeisser SP15 Ultramatch in .223 - brief overview
PROS: Effective side charging handle; Superb trigger mechanism; Rugged stock without rattles; Spare magazine and storage
CONS: The side handle can be a fiddle to remove; I haven’t matched the right ammo for it yet; The price is very close to custom built rifles with competition laurels
OPINION: The First AR-15 I have had on review that showed satisfactory design and component choice to entertain me when shooting, I just need to find the right ammo for it.
Shmeisser SP15 Ultramatch in .223 - tech specs
Barrel LENGTH: 20”/510mm
Overall Length: 38”/970 mm
Length of Pull: 13.25”/340mm
Overall Weight: 8.8bs/4 kg
Magazine capacity: 10
Stock Material: Polymer with internal magazine storage, m-Lock compatible forend
Accessories supplied: Hard case, cleaning kit, moral patches, spare magazine
SP15 ULTRAMATCH RRP: £1,999
CONTACT: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177
Sierra Bullets - Henry Krank
Vihtavuori Powder, Starline cases and Murom Primers - Hannams Reloading
Shmeisser SP15 Ultramatch in .223 - detailed test & review
The straight pull single shot AR15 type rifle is nothing new to the UK, but it seems to have taken me an awfully long time to get my hands on one. The design offers a good compromise between the precision of a bolt-action rifle and the speed of the straight pull.
Getting straight to the point, left handers are never going to fare well with AR15s, as the uppers are distinctly right-handed. Modifications can be made, though: attaching a side charging handle to the bolt requires a direct connection to be made without significant material losses.
Lots of custom options are available from builders like Valkyrie Rifles, with frequent competition success backing up obvious design and build quality, but to see a large UK distributor supplying one is also quite refreshing. Schmeisser have been taken on board by Edgar Brothers and the Ultramatch was sent to me for review, along with three types of Hornady ammunition.
The SP15 is clearly marked “Made in Germany” and everything about the build continues along the lines of sturdy, precision engineering without a single mark, burr or blemish to disrupt the still intrinsically techno-mechanical layout of the rifle. The heavy barrel can be supplied screwcut, although not in this case, and shows a parallel 23.4mm profile all the way from the recessed crown, 510mm/20” to the action.
It’s a deep matt black and resists scratches well, as illustrated from rolling about in the back of my truck when it slid out of its unfastened case (my fault). The large hard case is supplied with the rifle including morale patches and cleaning accessories too. A Picatinny rail tops the octagonal hard anodised aluminium 390mm fore-end with seven other sides machined with M-Lok slots for accessories.
This one was delivered with a neat Magpul bipod, of which I’m already a fan, so I started the review on the front foot. Edgar Brothers also pre-mounted a Bushnell DMR scope via the Picatinny mount and even zeroed it for me!
I’m often super critical of rubbish, rattly stocks based around parts bin AR components, but Schmeisser have fitted a sturdy polymer unit with a moderate, non-adjustable cheekpiece that actually suits the rifle and gave me excellent head position behind the optic.
Zero rattle and a thin, but perfectly functional, rubber recoil pad grip your shoulder pocket without bulk and of course on a 4kg, .223 rifle, there’s very little recoil to transfer. The butt also shows twin catches either side, flush fitting and almost unnoticeable – but with a quick squeeze, a second spare mag slides out of the butt for fast reloads.
This isn’t a particular innovative concept but certainly impressive with excellent execution of the design goal. The stock also shows a decent-sized bag rider for underhand support and a slotted sling mount. There is a QR sling mount cup at the front of the stock where it meets the action ‘lower’ and again, no rattles. And like most, if not all AR style rifles, the Schmeisser offers a relatively short 13¼”/340mm length of pull.
AR-15s feature multiple controls either side of the action with a delightful trigger slung in the middle. This two-stage unit squeezes in at 600 grams onto the second stage with breaks with a true match quality, crisp nature, 2,250gr or 5lb sounds heavier than it feels but it was very predictable and reliable when held at the limits of first pressure on the second stage. But bear in mind, it doesn’t offer any user adjustability. There is an ambidextrous safety catch and a bolt release is on the left side of the receiver with push-button mag release on the right. Both controls
are presented on the opposing sides but the right-side bolt release lever is better not used, with the large charging handle in place as it will clash with your thumb as it goes forward. It doesn’t really matter though as I never even noticed it was there and have never used a right-side bolt release catch on any .223 or .22 rimfire AR anyway.
The bolt remains open when the mag is empty and after reloading – just pull it back and let go to re-cock and chamber a new round. Forward bolt assist and slow release are not impossible but generally not recommended as the bolt, with its rotating seven-lug head, likes a bit of forward momentum to spin into position in my experience.
No assistance required
True automatic AR-15s have a forward assist button but the Schmeisser doesn’t; the autos don’t have a side charging handle but in fairness, don’t need it. The 10-round mag feeds from both left and right sides and two are supplied; the one for the butt is slightly different with ribs on the underside to match the recoil pad. The primary mag is smooth and I’m not sure why they don’t supply both proprietary units with matching ribs, but hey ho.
The rear T-charging handle is accessible from either side for cocking the action if desired but the delight here is the quick-release handle that clips into position on the right side of the bolt. It has a small sprung detent pin that clicks in place offering super-fast reload for right-handed cycling of the seven-lug bolt.
Schmeisser say this small pin can be pressed with a bullet meplat to remove the lever for storage or disassembly, but I found I needed to poke a fine tweezer or pin into the seriously restricted pinhole on the side of the bolt to get it free. It works, but it is a fiddle and not something you would do in a hurry.
Speaking of disassembly, the rear pin in the lower can be slid out and this allows the unlocked action to be folded open for maintenance and barrel cleaning. The bolt and T-handle draw out and the bolt will pull clear first with the handle following it. To reinstall, the T-handle slides in and lifts into its track before the bolt itself returns – simple after the first time but note that the side charging handle must be removed and this is what takes the longest.
Manufacturing standards on the complex bolt assembly all appear to be first rate with a slick action feel from the first shot. All ammo on review cycled smoothly with minimal extraction force needed and never stalled when reloading. The bolt face is push-feed and shows a single extractor claw with plunger ejector to fling the brass clear.
Edgar Brothers sent me three types of Hornady ammunition with the rifle: 55gr V-Max, and 68gr & 75gr BTHP Match ammo. The barrel has a 1 in 9” twist rate so I immediately discounted the 75s and when shot for the sake of confirmation, they splattered the target with oval holes – clearly not stable in this barrel.
They had previously performed well in the rifle I was told, but as the weather becomes colder the ammo may just be getting a bit slower; if the twist rate is already marginal, small variation in speed can be the cliff edge for rotational stability. The 55s were more capable with five-round groups hovering around the 45-55mm mark at 100m with 2842 fps showing on the chronograph.
The 68s were better with an average group size of 42mm and 3460 fps and the unstable 75s were beyond 80mm for five rounds at 2433 fps. The wind that day was quartering towards me with 8-13mph gusts but not devastatingly disruptive.
I found the gun pleasant to shoot with good ergonomics and very stable on the bench courtesy of the rigid stock with great trigger control, so I was a little disappointed with a rifle that some shops are advertising with a 0.75 MOA accuracy guarantee. But, that’s all about the right ammo and it may just be that none of these got on with the Schmeisser, even if on paper the lighter two were clearly more appropriate for the twist rate.
Having the barrel screwcut is an option and I find myself thinking it is a choice I would select myself. Although no sprung closing rifle is ever going to be an ultra-quiet for the late-night foxer due to the clunk when the bolt closes, I’d still like it moderated for less noise. I suppose many would have a brake but the rifle’s recoil at the weight is negligible with the heavy barrel preventing all muzzle flip.
For turnbolt shooters, it’s interesting to note the AR’s bore line and direct recoil path is within the footprint of the recoil pad, a huge control benefit of the AR15 that is subtly being copied and adopted with turnbolt rifles in chassis (not so much sporters), as tactical tools all benefit from the linear recoil path. With a careful grip position, some of these chassis are also making the reach to trigger better with more spacing at the hand’s web.
A potential convert
What was significant for me was that for the first time, I enjoyed shooting the AR-15 rifle format and found myself motivated to delve deeper into its true capabilities – which I have a gut feeling I have not truly discovered as yet. I am going to try some different ammo types and handloads in the 55-69gr region.
Like all its peers, the Ultramatch had a very short reach to the trigger of 65mm from the throat of the underslung rubber grip and for a bolt guy like me, this is always a big change in regard to hand position.
I really liked the trigger and decided I wanted to work more with the gun – I finally feel this is the AR-15 for me to change my ways with. To cap it off, I suppose this goes to show that a rifle doesn’t have to be immediately accurate on paper for it to inspire because the rest of the rifle is so well made and thought through by actual shooters.
I really enjoyed some fire and movement with the gun – although quite meaty with the big barrel and scope, it was stable in improvised positions such as kneeling or barricade rested with masses of space on the fore-end for bipods, tripods and other dynamic rests. Perhaps the worm has finally turned and I will become a lover of the black rifle? In fact, I did become a lover because a rushed trip to the range with some reloaded ammo the morning of deadline saw some quickly assembled, safe recipe handloads using 69gr Sierra TMK’s and Viht N140 powder. The groups immediately closed in, which reassured me that this was a gun I could work with and I was pleased that my gut confidence in the rifle’s inherent capabilities has been justified.
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