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Silencer Shop Authority: Spike’s Tactical Brown Recluse Review

When most people think about suppressors, the first thing that comes to mind is a removable device that attaches to the end of a firearm’s barrel and reduces the volume of the gun’s report. It’s true. Most silencers are relatively small units that aren’t necessarily intended to permanently live on a particular gun. However, thanks to the massive growth in suppressor ownership over the last half decade, another well established type of silencer has experienced a resurgence – the integral suppressor.

Integral silencers have always had a moderately large following in the rimfire world. While they do offer increased performance, the ease of barrel changes on rifles like the Ruger 10/22 makes barrels with dedicated suppressors appealing even to people who don’t always want to shoot with a silencer. Furthermore, some of the integral .22 LR barrels feature ports that help to reduce the speeds of high velocity, bulk ammunition to inside the subsonic range for optimum performance. In centerfire guns, this concept has mostly been exclusive to Heckler & Koch’s MP5SD as few other pistol-caliber long arms have taken full advantage of integral suppressor design.

Spike’s Tactical’s new Brown Recluse 9mm AR-15 is the MP5SD’s newest rival. Like the SD, it features a ported barrel fronted by a traditional, baffled silencer. Meanwhile, it maintains the same familiar controls and comfortable ergonomics of common ARs. On the surface, Spike’s gun seems to be a winner, but hearing is always believing. Thankfully, the folks at Silencer Shop have a demo Recluse for just this sort of evaluation and were kind enough to send it my way for a few days.

About the Gun

From the barrel extension back, the Recluse is mostly a standard 9mm blowback AR. It uses Spike’s dedicated 9mm lower that accepts Colt SMG magazines and the upper receiver is a 9mm version with a smaller ejection port and modified brass deflector. The bolt and carrier are all one extra heavy piece to provide proper timing for the action. The gun’s buffer tube, H2 buffer, and fire control group are all standard AR parts.

The integrally suppressed barrel assembly is the main attraction here. Because the whole unit is one piece (save the removable baffles) and is over 16″ long, the Brown Recluse avoids short barreled rifle (SBR) classification and requires only one tax stamp – for the suppressor. This isn’t your plain old integral suppressor, though. Just a couple of inches into the barrel, Spike’s drilled ports, which bleed off gas and reduces the overall velocity of the 9mm round. This drops normally supersonic rounds, like 115 and 124 grain loads, to subsonic velocities. Subsonic ammo lacks a supersonic crack and is key to high-performance suppression.

Spike's Tactical BAR Handguard
Most of the integrally-suppressed barrel sits under the BAR handguard.

The Brown Recluse’s barrel also houses a traditional baffle stack suppressor. By removing the suppressor’s/barrel’s front cap (proprietary tool included), you free up the 21 (if I counted them correctly) stainless steel M-style baffles for cleaning. Even after reviewing SIG’s rifle cans, I’ve never seen a silencer with so many baffles. Of course, all of that makes the Recluse rather front heavy, but compared to standard 9mm SBRs with suppressors, the weight isn’t too bad. Surrounding the suppressor is a quad rail that should look very familiar if you’ve seen Spike’s BAR or SAR handguards.

Magazines

The Brown Recluse keeps things simple by using standard 9mm Colt AR magazines. These 32-round sticks resemble UZI or Grease Gun magazines, but they were actually designed for use with Colt’s line of 9mm ARs (though UZI magazines can be modified to fit, but at the cost of bolt hold open functionality). The Brown Recluse ships with one magazine and it is reliable, but is also an absolute bitch (pardon the language) to load. If you don’t find the perfect sweet spot when pressing rounds into the feed lips, the follower tends to bind. Loading the Colt magazines can truly be a workout for your thumbs.

Range Report

There’s no question; the Brown Recluse is ridiculously quiet, especially if you aren’t the one shooting it. Because it reduces all ammo to subsonic velocities, even 115 grain and 124 grain loads are completely devoid of the supersonic crack that often undermines suppression. Based on my experience with other suppressed 9mm guns, the Brown Recluse probably offers overall sound pressure levels in the 118-120 dB range. Next to the MP5SD, it has to stand among the quietest 9mm carbines around.

The Brown Recluse does have one substantial drawback. Since it uses a straight blowback system, it comes with a heavy bolt that does not lock into the barrel when in battery. When fired, the heavy, reciprocating weight of the bolt carrier and escaping gasses from the chamber result in a significant amount of action noise. This clamor finds its way out through the ejection port, but can also be heard through the buffer tube when the rifle is shouldered. Unfortunately, the noisy action diminishes the perceived performance of the Brown Recluse, particularly from the shooter’s perspective. The gun is still very comfortable to shoot without additional hearing protection, but it wasn’t until I reviewed my video (shot from the side) that I realized how quiet Spike’s rifle really is.

Since the Brown Recluse bleeds off some of the gas pressure behind each round in order to achieve subsonic velocities, I loaded the rifle with Winchester White Box 115 grain ammo and Federal Champion 115 grain loads and put them through my Caldwell ballistic chronograph. I was impressed to find that both types of ammo left the barrel at around 1030 ft/s and the results were very consistent. The Winchester was a little hotter than the Federal, but not significantly so. For reference, it was around 90-degrees Fahrenheit on the day of my testing, so the ~100 ft/s cushion between my tested velocities and the sound barrier should be more than sufficient in all climates.

While the Brown Recluse runs reliably on 115 grain and 124 grain ammo, I recommend caution when using it with 147, 158, or 165 grain loads that are already subsonic. The gun generally runs fine with these rounds and using them isn’t unsafe, but the bolt speed is noticeably slower. Given the right circumstances (dirty gun, weak rounds, etc.) short stroking could become a factor.

Something I noticed when switching between different rounds and loads with the Brown Recluse was that the rifle’s point of impact tends to vary pretty significantly from load to load. Accuracy as a whole was acceptable in that I could keep most rounds within a large index card at 50 yards, but it would probably be a good idea to find a favorite round or two and stick with it/them for this gun.

Venting gas to reduce bullet velocity does make the Brown Recluse very quiet, but it also presents a heat management challenge. The ports in the rifle’s barrel are just a couple of inches forward of the chamber and the hot gas that pours through them is immediately confined by the integral suppressor’s body. The tube of the silencer sits close to the railed forearm and heat transfers to the rails rather quickly. Now, most folks will probably grasp the handguard further away from the receiver, where it is much cooler, but don’t be surprised if the gun gets toasty.

The only “issue” that I ran into when shooting the Brown Recluse is that its hammer pin wanted to walk out of its place while firing. This resulted in one two round burst and one three round burst, both of which surprised the hell out of me. As paradoxical as it might seem, 9mm blowback ARs actually generate a bit more recoil than their 5.56mm brothers and it seems that this jarring motion worked the pin loose after several rounds. Other reviewers who have sampled this very rifle have had similar feedback, but I cannot say if it is exclusive to Silencer Shop’s demo gun or a problem for the entire Brown Recluse line.

Spike's Brown Recluse Pistol Grip MOE
The Brown recluse comes with a custom Magpul MOE grip and a CTR stock. It also includes MBUS sights.

Finally, the Recluse’s single-stage trigger is more or less an above-average milspec fire control group with a 6-6.5 pound pull. It features an exceptionally clean break and short reset.

Conclusion

Spike’s Brown Recluse is a very compelling spin on the otherwise bland 9mm AR-15. Like the far more expensive MP5SD, it is capable of reducing common supersonic 9mm loads to subsonic velocities, maximizing suppression and value. For those who already have an ammo fort of 115 and 124 grain 9mm, there’s no doubt that the Recluse is more appealing than traditional carbines that need subsonic rounds for acceptable suppression. It is also quicker for most to pick up and use effectively, as it handles identically to any other AR-15.

The rifle isn’t perfect, though. Aside from the curable, but alarming, issue with the walking hammer pin, the Recluse’s blowback action is louder than that of an MP5 or MPX. So while it may be quieter at the muzzle than these competitors, the ejection port and buffer tube noise negatively affect the perceived suppression offered by the integral silencer. In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty minor (the Recluse is still very quiet) and end users might even be able to mitigate some of the noise with aftermarket springs and buffers.

f the Spike’s Tactical Brown Recluse sounds intriguing, be sure to hop over to Silencer Shop to check it out. You can find it for sale there for under $2,000, but as always, exact pricing will vary between affiliated dealers.

 

This has been a review of products offered by Silencer Shop. All opinions are my own.

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