After weeks of advertisements, videos, and other vague references to the Springfield Armory SAINT the anticipation has to be killing you, or at the very least driving you a bit crazy. After I threw up my hastily written sneak peek, some of the theories I saw in the comments went anywhere from the downright ludicrous to spot on.
As you can imagine, the media embargo has been killing me. After all, the time I spent with the Springfield crew was two of the most amazing days I have been able to enjoy as a shooter. It is going to be hard as hell for anyone to come close to the level of high energy awesome that Chad, Denny, and the rest of the team were able to pack in there.
So, what does the SAINT mean for shooters? Frankly, it means another AR-15 to choose from on the rack at your local gun store. The catch is, it is going to be easy to overlook the greatness they built into the rifle. In over a decade of shooting the AR-15/M-16 platform almost exclusively, I have never come across a rifle that offers this level of performance for around $850 MSRP.
So what could be so special about an $899 AR-15? A catchy name? That wouldn’t be enough to impress me. Before we get too far into it, I want to note that Springfield pulled out all the stops and had some solid accessories laid out with our rifles ready to be installed to our liking.
- Two Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15s
- Trijicon MRO
- Warne Tactical X-Skel Mount
- Surefire M600
- Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5×24 scope
- Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling
Before I stopped to take photos, I tore into the boxes in front of me and mounted everything to my two rifles as I preferred. Some of the trainers that Springfield brought out for the event glanced at my rifle and after determining that I am right handed, rolled their eyes at my setup (talkin’ about you Bryan). Once I finished, I started snapping pictures furiously with my cell phone since I am not sure if the rifle will be shipped out in time for me to take better photos.
So what does $899 buy you in Springfield Armory AR-15? A lot more than meets the eye. I snapped a photo of the scoped rifle so you can see the whole package. The Bravo Company furniture was a great choice; I found the stock and grip to be exceptional. Springfield also worked with BCM to bring a new polymer keymod handguard to market that I have some mixed feelings about, but I will get to that later in the article.
Springfield did say that the receiver extension on the rifle is made from 7075 aluminum and is mil-spec in diameter. Seeing as so many manufacturers cheap out a bit and go for weaker material, I was pleased to learn that Springfield is taking durability seriously. Notice the all BCM furniture on the rifle, every component is American made.
The 16″ barrel is a 1:8″ twist M4 profile unit that features a mid-length gas system, a bit of an oddity when we are talking sub-thousand dollar ARs. The SAINT also features a heavy buffer to keep the recoil to a minimum.
Springfield also fitted an F height front sight post, a decision that I questioned until I thought about the objective of the rifle. The conventional polymer handguards and front sight post allow them to maintain an unloaded weight of under 7 pounds.
Earlier in the picture of the whole rifle, you might have noticed that the trigger was a pretty silver/gray color. That would be because Springfield sourced a nickel teflon coated trigger, very possibly from BCM. I won’t be able to confirm my suspicions until I get one in my hands to spend some quality time with.
The trigger pull was smooth and clean like you would expect from a coated trigger. Without a trigger pull gauge my calibrated finger tells me it was about a 7 pound pull on my scoped SAINT and about the same on the MRO equipped gun.
Other notable features on the rifle include the larger trigger guard, mil-spec lower parts kit, and nice selector markings. On the flip side of the rifle, you find a large SAINT logo laser etched into the mag well. I would have preferred the logo to be an outline only. You also might notice that the rifle has a UTG PRO backup iron sight fitted right out of the box. The Springfield people tell me that they wanted to make sure that the rifle was ready to shoot right out of the box.
If you have read any of the other AR-15 posts I have put up, you know that I am a bit of a stickler for staking both on the gas key and the end plate. Springfield seems to echo my feelings about staking and made sure that both parts aren’t going anywhere with clean and secure staking jobs.
Continuing with the bolt carrier group, Springfield chrome lined both the gas key and the interior of the bolt. This means that when you have to clean those parts, they will be far less of a pain to get the carbon removed. The bolt carrier is yet another nice mil-spec part that has some Springfield branding laser etched onto it that looks pretty awesome peaking through the ejection port.
We started out by zeroing the rifles we had just put together before moving onto the fun stuff. Starting with the scoped rifle, we loaded up some mags of Gold Metal Match 69 grain and got to it.
Once I started shooting from a semi-supported position, I was pretty pleased with the tiny groups I was shooting. We were only about 25 yards away, but I was rather pleased with how well the rifle and I got along. Below is my worst group and my best group, with a 1″ wide piece of tape as an aiming point, I don’t know if I could have done much better.
Once we dialed in both rifles, it was time to take the MRO equipped rifle over to the next bay for our first surprise, something Springfield called popper palooza. 100 poppers from Action Targets were set up for us to knock down and we had 120 rounds to do it with, all under the timer. I will go into detail about the experience in part two of the launch coverage but rest assured that I held my own against the other attendees.
We tucked the rifles away after they cooled, seeing them again the next day at the long range event. Springfield had steel set up for us from 50 yards all the way to 300 yards. With the Bushnell equipped rifle, hitting the plates at those distances proved to be a walk in the park. Hit after hit started to bore me, so I called one of the trainers, Steve, over to spot me on a steel plate a bit further out.
960 yards from the line to be exact.
Taking a thousand yard shot is no easy task, even with a properly equipped rifle, with a non-free floated, assembly line AR-15, I must be a moron. Once the disbelief fell away from Steve’s face, he stumbled a bit and said “Let me … let me do some math” walking away to grab a confirmed range and the proper firing solution for the 1000 yard shot.
Once Steve came back, he told me what my hold was and scooted in behind a spotting scope. Neither he or I could pick up the first three shots; then Steve called a miss on the fourth shot by about a foot. On the fifth attempt, to both Steve and my disbelief, I landed a hit on the 960-yard gong out of a 16″ box stock, sub thousand dollar rifle.
Wow. But was it repeatable? The two out of the next three shots we believe were hits because of the lack of an impact in the dirt. The next shot was an audible hit.
Holy crap. I was hitting at a 1000 yards off a backpack with the SAINT.
My only gripe about the SAINT? While not really a problem since 99.9% of shooters aren’t going to shoot like this, the handguards seem to have a bit of an issue with heat when throwing lead downrange at a high volume. After 8 magazines the handguard cap melted the plastic tabs that keep the front of the handguard in place. After several more magazines, I ran out of ammo and pulled the handguards the rest of the way off to inspect them. They were pretty well screwed and would need replacement.
Do I think that Springfield built a rifle we should take seriously? Absolutely. While the MSRP is a bit stiff, I expect the street price to be closer to $700 – $750. Anything under $800 and you have a rifle that you should look at closely and consider over the other options on the market, after all, that 1:8″ twist barrel isn’t exactly common and it allows you to wring the accuracy out of almost any commercially avalable load on the shelf.
The SAINT’s MSRP is right about $899 and will be in stores soon, but until then you can check out the Defend Your Legacy site for more information HERE.