Quality armaments used to place food on the table, defend the homestead and even serve in times of war were common to every hearth in times past. So it is fitting that a modern firearm maker should plant its roots in the history-rich soil of "wild and wonderful" West Virginia.
Blackheart International (BHI) is situated in the north-central part of the state. BHI sells a wide variety of tactical implements, including ammunition, modified AKs, communications gear and modern training manuals. However, the company's AR-patterned rifles and carbines—built in-house—are what interest me most. I'm a sucker for feature-laden tactical rifles from a home-grown company, so I jumped at the chance to evaluate one of its ARs.
The Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) designation was born in the U.S. military, during a not-so-long-ago time when AR aftermarket-accurization options were nonexistent. Standard-fare M16s and CAR-15s were accurized in-house by SOF armorers in the early days, and later by the Army Marksmanship Unit and outside contractors. The SPR's core purpose is to provide a reliable platform capable of accurate shots at intermediate distances, while also providing a means to fight into and out of bad-guy land. It's light enough to allow troops to maintain maneuverability and also provides ammunition commonality with other 5.56 NATO platforms.
BHI's SPR is a turnkey package, complete with all the accessories necessary to get busy on arrival. The rifle is stocked with Magpul's fully adjustable Precision Rifle Stock and DPMS' Panther pistol grip. The latter is reminiscent of the HK PSG1, and although it's too bulky for a field rifle, the adjustable hand stop makes it customizable for static shooting.
Both the pictograph-marked lower and slick-side upper (no forward assist or brass deflector) receivers are BHI designs. The company's aluminum free-float tube is particularly nice. Solid lockup is provided by way of a clamp-style barrel nut attachment. The bottom half-radius incorporates a machined waffle pattern that provides excellent grip without being too rough. A short rail section on top provides a front-sight mounting base with additional tapped holes along the 12-o'clock position for a full-length rail. A 4-inch rail section at 6 o'clock allows easy mounting of the included Harris bipod.
Four QD sockets are situated along the fore-end, allowing the included push-button QD sling adapter and VTac padded sling to be placed wherever desired. The chrome-lined, 20-inch barrel is fronted by SureFire's FH556-212A flash hider. The rifle is topped by Magpul's polymer MBUS sights and a Leupold Mark AR 3-9x40 mm T2 scope.
The SPR's chrome-plated bolt-carrier group was a pleasure to clean up. I used only a rag and bore solvent to remove fouling from internal parts with no carbon scraping required after 100 rounds. Its trigger is Geissele Automatics' very nice DMR, two-stage adjustable match trigger. I install a lot of this company's triggers and consider them the finest two-stage design on the market. It is no accident an ever-increasing number of our warfighters are using Geissele triggers today. A tipped tension screw emplaced through the SPR's lower receiver floor eliminates the upper-to-lower receiver slop that annoys many shooters.
Anxious to get the SPR on the firing line to see what it was made of, I actually tested two different rifles because of problems with the first one. I fired more than 200 rounds of various match ammunition types through the first gun, however, and saw group averages between 1.75 and 2.5 inches at 100 yards. Despite giving the rifle a thorough technical inspection, I found no obvious flaws. Perhaps the barrel was simply not up to the task, even though my bore-scope showed a visually clean bill of health.
I sent the rifle back to BHI and promptly received a replacement. Some gun manufacturers select "ringers" for demonstrations and evaluations, but BHI proved an honorable company by doing no such thing. The company simply pulled another rifle off the rack and sent it to me without question. The good news is the second gun fared better. The bad news—it still did not break any records on target.
All three ammunition types tested in the second rifle printed at least one sub-MOA group at 100 yards, but none were consistent. The barrel preferred 77-grain projectiles, with the best, from DoubleTap, averaging 1.2 MOA. Function was flawless and recoil very mild due to the 20-inch barrel and stock setup.
BHI has since informed me it is switching to Hart barrels for future SPRs. I had a Hart .308 Win. barrel back in my sniper days and it was a very good shooter. From time to time I come across a bad "premium" barrel in my custom work. You can accurize an AR through solid gunsmithing techniques, but if the metal tube controlling the projectile's last moments of guidance is bad, your only choice is to replace it. I have no doubt BHI will see its guns tighten up appreciably with Hart products helping to keep things on course.
The wide variety of products coming out of Blackheart's facilities in West Virginia represent the popularity of today's booming tactical firearms market. The BHI-15 SPR is no exception and will provide steady service to varmint hunters, designated marksmen and anyone else who appreciates a rifle that is equally at home on the range, in the field or even hanging over the hearth.
Manufacturer: Blackheart International; (304) 457-1280, www.bhigear.com
Action Type: Direct-gas-impingement, semi-automatic
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Capacity: 30 rounds (one 20-round magazine included)
Barrel: Chrome-lined, 20-inch, free-floated
Rifling: 6 grooves; 1:7-inch RH twistTrigger: Geissele Automatics DMR two-stage match
Trigger Pull Weight: 2.5 pounds first stage; 1 pound second stage
Sights: Magpul MBUS
Stock: Magpul Precision Rifle/Sniper stock, DPMS Panther pistol grip
Length: 39.5 inches
Weight: 11 pounds, 8 ounces
Accessories: Leupold Mark AR 3-9x40 mm T2 riflescope, DNZ Products Game Reaper 1-inch mount, Harris BR bipod, V-Tac padded sling, 20-round magazine, QD sling mount, hard case, lens pen, log book, manual
MSRP: $2,885 (with current barrel)