Deep in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Springfield Armory hosted about a dozen gun writers to give us a sneak peek at — and a whole lot of trigger time behind — their new rifle, The SAINT. As you probably know by now, the SAINT is Springfield’s first foray into the AR-15 market. Late to the game? Just another AR? Yes and no…
Although I’ve put about 700 rounds through the SAINT, this is not the gun review. Not yet. That said, there is significant information and opinion about the SAINT in this post…but stay tuned for a forthcoming full blown review to include accuracy targets, TriggerScan data, suppressed shooting, and a lot more rounds sent downrange.
Also worth mentioning is that, although TTAG received access to the SAINT prior to its public release, Springfield firmly assured us that the guns we were shooting were production guns. The company has been building up inventory to get SAINTs into distribution and into dealer stock in time for today’s release (and for the SAINT test drive events at ranges around the country on the 5th), and these guns were apparently pulled right off the headed-into-distribution shelves.
We actually kicked off the two days of shooting with optics-equipped pistol instruction from Rob Leatham. Everybody grabbed an XD(M) OSP with a Trijicon RMR, and we ran drills from a holster. I’d like to note, mostly because it’s a “lesser-known” option, that Rob’s competition pistol has a JPoint on it. Which I should also note is what’s on my EDC GLOCK 19 MOS. Which I should also note has never crapped out on me like two of the RMRs, including mine, did that day.
Rob’s instruction was pretty hands-on. Literally. In a very short amount of time, all improvable shooters improved. Even my buddy, Patrick R from TFB, seen above being manhandled by Rob and another writer, eventually hit his own target. I kid, I kid; he’s a hell of a shooter! Rob made some really salient points, backed up with demonstrations.
Note the cameras, too, by the way. Apparently Springfield is working on some serious video production from this event. What I’m trying to say is that I’m now a male model.
After pistol training we moved to a large warehouse building, which used to be PMC Ammunition’s U.S. factory, and were told to assemble our SAINTs. Each writer would be shooting two of them, each in a different configuration.
One SAINT was to be set up for CQB-type work, equipped with a Trijicon MRO, SureFire Scout Light, and Blue Force Gear Sling. The other rifle received a Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5x scope in a Warne mount. As usual, click any photo in this post to enlarge it.
The SAINT rocks a bunch of polymer parts from Bravo Company USA: an exclusive PKMR handguard with KeyMod points, a Mod 3 pistol grip with a more vertical angle than the A2, an enlarged trigger guard, and a BCMGUNFIGHTER rattle-free buttstock with three sling attachment points (two QD sockets, one strap slot).
Bolt catch and non-ambi safety lever are standard (GI) pieces. As is the charging handle, actually, which seemed like a slightly odd choice to me given all of the other Bravo Company parts on the gun and the popularity of their BCMGUNFIGHTER line of charging handles.
Frankly, KeyMod in polymer worries me. Heck, I’ve seen it crack in aluminum. It’s one reason I’m not particularly hesitant about expressing my preference for M-LOK, although I admit I own a bit of both. Nobody encountered problems during the two days of shooting, but when the two rifles I was shooting in Vegas show up here this week for further testing I intend to bolt on a bipod and load that bad boy up over and over and add a QD sling point, too. If these attachment points might be problematic under normal use, I intend to cause that problem.
I took this opportunity to pop the SAINT apart and snag some photos of the internals. The lower receiver has “Springfield Armory’s Accu-Tite Tension System” — a nylon-tipped set screw that can be adjusted to provide tension between upper and lower, preventing any of the typical AR rattle.
Even more notable is the fire control group (trigger mechanism). It’s a GI/mil-spec trigger taken to the next level with a Nickle Boron coating followed by micro-polishing of the friction surfaces. The end result for your trigger finger is a smoother pull without the grit found in a parts kit/mil-spec trigger, but the pull weight, break, and reset are pretty standard along with the full-strength springs.
The bolt is Carpenter 158 steel, shot peened and MPI inspected. The carrier is M16 profile, the hardened gas key is very cleanly and properly staked, and everything is hard chrome lined where BCG things get hard chrome lined. My first photo was blurry, so the one above was taken after about 400 rounds through the gun.
The castle nut is [gently] staked, too. I feel like this is overlooked much of the time, and after having receiver extensions loosen up and rotate on me while shooting two different rifles over the past couple years, I like to see this. The mil-spec extension (buffer tube) itself is 7075-T6 aluminum, Type III hard anodized. The buffer is a carbine H buffer (heavy tungsten weight).
The SAINT’s barrel is 16″ of chrome moly vanadium steel with a 1:8″ twist rate. Instead of black oxide and instead of chrome lining, the entire barrel inside and out has been Melonite treated. It’s chambered in 5.56 NATO.
I neglected to get a photo of it, specifically, but the final item of note included on every SAINT out of the box is a Springfield Armory low-profile, flip-up rear sight. It’s a dual aperture job and is adjustable for windage.
Once eye relief was set, mounts were torqued to spec, and our rifles were otherwise fully accessorized (definitely could have gone for a bipod, though, if I’m going to whine, which I am), we got sighted in.
The mid-length gas system, heavy carrier, and heavy buffer made for a smooth-shooting rifle.
We were then told to grab our MRO-equipped SAINT and a glove, and move to another shooting bay…
Whereupon we arrived to find the scene above. 100 Action Target pepper poppers were set up in what Rob Leatham called popperpalooza. Four magazines each, one rifle, and a shot timer. Fastest time to clear all of the targets wins, with any non-fallen targets adding a 10-second penalty each.
Patrick from TFB went first, and held the fastest time until the very last shooter beat him out. Rob got pressured into running the course, happened to grab my SAINT and set the new, fastest time despite having to clear a frangible ammo primer-related malfunction. I have various excuses.
We immediately began packing rifles into rifle cases for the drive to the hotel, but mine was still screaming hot having just dumped 119 rounds downrange in about 54 seconds. Not wanting to get left out in the desert — I was already this close to going all Bear Grylls on a lizard and drinking my own urine — I walked over to the giant cooler full of ice water and a few surviving water bottles and plunged the front half of the SAINT into it. The screaming, roiling, sizzling sound turned a few heads.
The next morning began with Rob Pincus of I.C.E. Training (among other tactical and training endeavors) giving us a taste of what Springfield means by “Defend Your Legacy.” This is the second aspect of the SAINT, and I believe of Springfield Armory as a whole now. It’s a mindset, a realization that one’s protection is one’s own responsibility, that one cannot rely on third parties to provide that protection, and that training plays a big part in being prepared to, well, defend one’s legacy. That means different things to different people, of course, but for me I suppose my “legacy” (other than the so-yclept Subaru in my garage) means my kids.
Pincus conducted a great classroom session, going over many aspects of self-defense but concentrating heavily on home defense. Speaking of which, that plywood structure behind him turned out to be a shoot house, and we were each about to defend it with a marker-ammo-firing SAINT in a couple of stress-inducing training scenarios.
We didn’t shoot the Simunitions conversion for the XD(M), but apparently this has been a much-requested product that is finally becoming available.
Next we were off to a long-distance range to stretch our SAINTs out a bit. A couple hours of unlimited access to 69 grain Federal Gold Medal Match went to my head a bit, and I think I put over 300 rounds downrange.
Despite an on-and-off crosswind, I think everyone who attempted hits on the 900-meter steel targets was successful. I nailed a few in a row. Hits on steel from 100 to 300 meters were extremely consistent, with any misses off to the left or right due to the wind.
At this point I was compelled by a chafed middle finger to make a field-expedient modification to my scope-equipped SAINT. That mold flashing on the pistol grip just had to go, and was shaved off smoothly and cleanly with my Hogue EX-02 knife.
We left for dinner, and returned to the craziest thing I have ever seen…
Approaching in one of the shuttle trucks, all I could say was — and I did exclaim versions of this at least twice — “what in the literal f**k is this?” With the massive, Hollywood-style light booms turned off, we were staring at over two hundred yards of strobe lights, glow sticks, balloons, reflective tape, gigantic Halloween-themed inflatable lawn ornaments, and lord knows what else. With the lights on or off, my cell phone just couldn’t handle the insanity. But don’t fret, as a full film crew captured all of it and the video is supposed to be pretty epic.
Turns out there was an absolutely ridiculous amount of target explosive downrange, beginning with the row of zombie targets at about 40 yards. Headshots to set those guys off, naturally. Behind them? “Over 300” zombie garden gnomes, each one holding a half-pound container of target explosive. Elsewhere on the range there were canisters holding larger quantities of explosive, and two taxi cabs at the very back, which we were told to save for last if possible.
An unbelievably long line of full magazines was laid out across a string of tables, which also served as the firing line. There were “at least eight” magazines (240 rounds) per shooter. This was effectively a race, with each person wanting to detonate as many targets as possible.
This whole thing, by the way, was the fever dream of Chad Dyer, who has been with Springfield for over 15 years and handles much of their marketing efforts. So shout out to Chad for being an entertaining lunatic and to Springfield for actually making his nightmare vision a reality for us to shoot at.
At least 240 rounds in a matter of a few minutes will get things hot. Like, really hot. My handguard melted off the gas block and popped open, hanging on by the skin of its teeth at the rear. [Edit: Springfield informed me that they reviewed the “Field of Chaos” footage and apparently I went through fifteen, 30-round magazines! While this strikes me as not only possible, but probable, we’re working on getting the raw footage.]
Whatever parkerizing or black oxide finish was on the A2 birdcage was long gone, as was most of the same finish on the gas block. The barrel’s Melonite treatment looked great.
The heat shielding inside of the handguard did seem to work pretty effectively. The polymer only melted where it contacted the metal of the gas block, and I was able to keep my hand on the bottom of the handguard the entire time. Granted, yes, I was wearing gloves (although very lightweight ones from Hatch).
After the festivities, the range looked not unlike an apocalyptic moonscape.
Contrary to everything we’ve always been taught, it turns out that two shots to the head of a zombie gnome will not kill it. The gnome with that tight group in his noggin seen above was still out there, suicide vest firmly in place, mocking us from about 150 yards downrange.
I claim this land in the name of TTAG!
Bottom line for me, thus far in the course of my testing of the SAINT, is that it’s a completely serviceable rifle right out of the box. It’s made to a high level of quality and is ready for hard, long-term use. It’s built with nice enough parts that nothing needs to be upgraded or changed out and I wouldn’t even feel the urge to do so. Well, maybe I’d want to gussy up the charging handle. But for an MSRP of $899, it’s hands-down one of the best “entry-level” AR-15s on the market.
There are two obvious competitors at MSRPs $100 and $160 lower. At this point I’m thinking the SAINT will be worth the extra bucks for most buyers, whether first-timers looking for a reliable, quality AR right out of the box or old hats wanting another nice rifle that they don’t have to tinker with and can trust to hold up, shoot straight, and look good while doing so at a good price. Comparing materials and procedures quality, finish choices, gas system, internal and external components, etc., that extra $100 over the competition looks like a heck of a deal to me.
Of course, in the actual gun review to follow, we’ll see what kind of accuracy groups these rifles can put up and what else I can find out through a little more alone time with them. I intend to put another ~500 rounds through the SAINT that had the scope on it, as it already has the most rounds through it of the two. But I definitely want to shoot for groups with the other one, as it went screaming hot into an ice water bath and I’m curious to see if anything got weird there (I had no issues hitting plates at 100 yards with it, though, through the MRO the following day).
If you have specific SAINT questions that you’d like me to address in that article, let me know in the comments below. Here’s Springfield’s press release announcing the gun:
GENESEO, IL, November 1, 2016 – Springfield Armory® is pleased to announce the SAINT™. Built to equip those who wake up every day determined to protect what they have, believe that safety is their responsibility, and are unapologetic and uncompromising about defending their legacy, the SAINT™ is what an AR-15 should be.
While equally at home on plinking and competition ranges, the SAINT™ is built for defense and packs features valued by warriors into a carbine with a price point at a fraction of what one would expect. With an MSRP of just $899, the SAINT™ brings affordable reliability to the market.
“Throughout our company’s history, we’ve been aggressive about launching new products to give our customers the best tools possible,” states Springfield Armory® CEO Dennis Reese. “Back in 1985, we moved into the 1911 business because we felt that customers deserved more than the market was currently offering. Again in 2001, we decided to invest in the XD family of personal defense guns to serve an unfilled market need for personal defense. Now, we’re offering a defensive rifle built the way an AR-15 should be.”
The SAINT™ is an optics ready flat-top design that includes an A2-style front sight and gas block. Type III hard anodized aircraft-grade 7075 T6 aluminum upper and lower receivers are joined using Springfield Armory®’s Accu-Tite™ system. Designed to lock upper and lower receiver into a rigid and accuracy enhancing platform, the system virtually eliminates the movement and shake normally associated with AR-15 rifles. The upper receiver houses an M16 bolt carrier group machined from Carpenter 158 steel that is shot peened and magnetic particle inspected for long-term durability.
The SAINT™ features a 16-inch Chrome Moly Vanadium barrel. The 5.56mm NATO chamber feeds a 1:8-inch twist rate barrel capable of stabilizing a broad range of ammunition types and projectile lengths. Chamber, bore, and barrel exterior are treated with Melonite™ for longevity and corrosion resistance.
All trigger components are micro-polished and treated with Nickel Boron. The result is a mil-spec weight trigger that operates smoothly and with no detectable grit. The SAINT™ includes a mid-length gas system paired with an “H” style heavy tungsten buffer designed to mitigate jerky recoil impulses and enable fast and accurate follow-up shots.
Out of the box, the SAINT™ includes upgraded stock, grip, and handguard components. The exclusive Bravo Company PKMR two-piece handguard features KeyMod-compatible attachment points at the eleven, one, and six o’clock positions for accessories. The handguard covers an internal aluminum heat shield yet remains slim for easy handling. The Bravo Company BCM Gunfighter stock offers a generous cheek weld comb, rubber butt pad, and QD and slotted sling attachment points. As with the Accu-Tite™ receiver tensioning system, the precise fit between receiver extension tube and buttstock eliminate distracting movement. The Bravo Company Mod 0 Pistol grip provides grip-enhancing texture and a vertical orientation designed to complement the modern combat stance. Last, but not least, the BCM trigger guard allows ample room for operation with or without gloves.
While optics ready, the SAINT™ includes a flip-up rear sight to pair with the fixed front sight equipped with an elevation-adjustable post. The dual aperture rear sight features ½ minute of angle windage adjustments.
The SAINT™ weighs six pounds, eleven ounces unloaded and measures 35.5 inches long with the six-position stock fully extended.
Created for the free and independent, Springfield Armory®’s SAINT™ represents the next generation of America’s personal defense rifle. Built with relentless dedication to reliability, it’s made to support the awesome responsibility that comes with defending one’s legacy.
For more information, please visit www.defendyourlegacy.com.
About Springfield Armory®
“The First Name in American Firearms,” Springfield Armory® was founded in 1777, when George Washington ordered the creation of an armory to store ammunition and gun carriages during the American Revolution. In 1794, the armory began to manufacture muskets and spent the next 150 years supplying firearms for every major American conflict. The original armory closed in 1968. In 1974, the Reese family took ownership of the Springfield Armory® name and began making the M1A™ rifle. Today, Springfield Armory® develops many products loyal to the company’s heritage, like the 1911 pistol, while ensuring its future with innovative products, including the XD®, XD® Mod.2®, XD(M)® and XD-S® polymer pistols.