The SIG Cross is well balanced, incredibly flexible, exceptionally precise and perfectly dependable. There’s no wood on it at all. And yet, somehow, SIG SAUER has delivered what may very well be the best short action hunting rifle on the market today.
I did not see that coming.
There are currently two calibers (6.5CM and .308Win….277 SIG Fury has been promised) available. This trial and evaluation rifle is the 6.5 Creedmoor version and includes a 1:8 twist 18″ barrel. That shorter barrel has some benefits, the biggest being that it’s simply easier to move around. The downside is, of course, reduced velocity, and all of the in-flight and terminal ballistic negatives that come along with that.
The balance of the Cross is absolutely perfect. I can’t overstate this, or how much this actually matters for a hunting rifle. Bench guns or competition rifles can be front heavy without much issue, but a hunting rifle needs to be balanced.
You’ll almost never be shooing from the prone when hunting. You’ll mostly be shooting off hand, off trees, off fence posts, off the hunting blind windows, off shooting sticks, backpacks or tripods. Depending on what you’re hunting, add truck doors, hoods, and tailgates to the mix.
Held just in front of the magazine, the Cross sits perfectly in the hand. Off a branch or tripod, it stays put. Its handguard tends to turn a little when shooting off a heavy bag, but that’s not what it’s for. This is a practical rifle, and it’s just about perfect at its job.
One of the reasons I was interested in the Cross in the first place was its potential ease of caliber and barrel changes. Similar in function to the well-tested and decades old Savage rifles, the Cross features a floating bolt head design and barrel nut.
According to the owner’s manual, barrel changes require nothing more than a vice, pre-fit barrel, the barrel assembly tool, and a torque wrench. In a pinch you could do it with even less. No gunsmith is required. If you plan on shooting a lot — and especially if you plan on shooting a lot of full pressure 6.5CM loads — being able to swap out a new barrel quickly, all on your own, is a huge advantage.
Unfortunately, actual SIG barrels appear to be almost impossible to find and aftermarket barrels are unusually expensive. Over the last month or so, I’ve had several manufacturers let me know that they are coming out with their own aftermarket stainless and carbon fiber barrels for the Cross in .308, 6.5CM, 6CM, .243 Win, and .338 Federal. Hopefully they’re successful and the price drops as availability rises.
Visually, the folding stock on the Cross is particularly striking. For most, a folding stock is little more than an unnecessary gimmick. I find little value in the fact that the Cross’ stock folds, but have to admit it’s been very well done.
Just push the button, pull up on the stock, and swing it towards the bolt handle to close it, where it locks in place. Push the button again and swing the stock away from the receiver to open it up where it automatically locks in place.
This T&E rifle arrived with the stock fairly loosely attached. I have no way to know if that’s from whoever had it before me or if that’s how SIG ships them. Either way, once I tightened it down, I never had to again. I’ve intentionally folded and unfolded it hundreds of times plus I’ve carried it and have been shooting it for months. The stock has never loosened up.
If you want to, you could remove the stock altogether and run the gun as a bolt action pistol. With the right barrel and the right fore end, that would be a lot of fun.
Whereas I have little use for a folding stock, I find an adjustable stock extremely valuable. This is just one of the many features of the Cross that makes it such a versatile rifle. The stock adjusts for length of pull, comb height, and drop, all without the use of a single tool. That’s awesome.
During the season I had this review, it was used not only as my primary hunting rifle, but the rifle several people took their first deer and pigs with. Because the stock was so adjustable — and didn’t require any tools to do it — I was able to shoot a deer, adjust the stock, hand it to an 8-year-old boy while still in the hunting blind, and have him shoot his first deer. (He actually shot two, one at 100 yards and another at 140.)
Even you aren’t sharing a rifle, the immediate adjustability is still valuable. You can go from summer nighttime pig hunts in a T-shirt, to late season muley hunts while wearing a heavy winter coat and still keep the exact same relative length of pull. That also means you can adjust the stock to fit any particular shooting position.
The end result of such a quickly and easily adjustable stock is that you can get comfortable in any position, one of the fundamental keys to accurate shooting. This is the best adjustable stock I’ve found on any rifle and it’s now the standard by which all others will be judged.
The Cross’ grip is SIG’s standard polymer AR-style grip that includes a small compartment at the bottom. That’s a good place to store some earplugs or maybe a small wrench. It’s a bit more vertical than some others, and works well. That said, if you don’t like it, you can easily replace it with many other compatible grips on the market.
Above that grip is an ambidextrous AR-style safety lever. On most ARs, I find ambidextrous safeties fairly useless, but on a bolt gun, or precision-focused AR, that’s an entirely different matter. That’s because some shooters (like me) have a bad habit of muscling the gun around and deal with that habit by putting the shooting hand thumb on the same side as the palm, removing most of its influence on the grip. Like this, you’ll need a safety on the right side of the gun to release it with your thumb.
Continuing the theme of adaptability, a Picatinny top rail and an M-LOK-compatible handguard ensure you’re able to mount optics, bipods, or anything else you’d like to attach to the rifle.
Are you convinced that all serious hunting rifles have iron sights? Cool, mount a Pic rail sight up front and send it. Just to see what would happen, I zeroed a set of AR sights with the Cross, then pulled them off and put them back on. I kept a 6″ group at 200 yards even when mounting and remounting the irons. If you’re super paranoid, you could just keep a set of flip-ups on the gun, but a mini-red dot on a QD mount is a better option.
The stainless steel barrel sports SIG’s tapered and threaded muzzle. A tapered muzzle makes a lot of sense for attaching a suppressor, or really any muzzle device. It’s self-centering, may help reduce carbon buildup on the threads and provides a lot more surface to mate up against. But that only works if the surfaces actually mate up, which means you’re stuck with SIG silencers on SIG barrels, or at least devices that are made to work SIG barrels. I have no such silencer, or device.
SIG, however, has solved for that issue. An ingenious collar is included. The inside radius matches the shoulder and then ends 90 degrees to the bore. That allows the user to mount either a tapered SIG silencer without the collar, or any standard 5/8×24 threaded silencer or device. I ran an AB Suppressor Raptor with a .308″ endcap and its standard 90 degree mount for the entire season of hunting.
The SIG Cross accepts standard AICS format magazines. I used an all-metal 10-round Accurate Mag as well as a pair of 5-round Magpul-made “Cross” magazines. These magazines were made specifically for SIG by Magpul, but appear to have become the standard AICS polymer magazine offered by Magpul. These magazines include a follower that more easily allows a single round to be loaded into the breach with an empty magazine locked into the gun.
No matter which magazine was used, there was never any problem loading or feeding, and no magazine failed to drop with a press of the mag release, located at the inside front of the trigger guard.
The two-stage trigger averaged 2.9lb over five pulls from my Lyman digital trigger scale as it shipped to me. Using the externally accessible adjustment screw, I was able to get the trigger pull down to the advertised 2.5lbs. After adjusting to that level, I cocked the rifle (cock on open), kept the safety off, and bounced it on the ground a few times. The striker was never released. At weights from this 2.5lbs, all the way up to 4lbs, the trigger was always crisp and clean, it just had different weights of pull required to release that striker.
That bolt moves smoothly along its raceway inside the one-piece receiver. The once-piece receiver concept has been around for a while. It’s a bit more complex to manufacture, but has the promise of increased strength, decreased weight, and simply less to go wrong. I haven’t seen anyone nail it so perfectly as SIG has.
The only concern I had with the design is the section of receiver behind the bolt that remains open to the elements. My theory was that debris could land in there and then be dragged into the trigger mechanism as the next round was chambered.
Apparently my concern was unfounded, because this never happened. I got this gun absolutely filthy on several hunts. Unsurprisingly, I paid zero attention to my perceived flaw while rapidly working the bolt to fire on sounders of pigs. And apparently I didn’t need to…nothing ever went wrong.
The fact that I didn’t even think about the action at all says everything about the its design and execution.
The bolt handle knob is swappable and a couple options are available from SIG.
The bolt head itself features a claw extractor and a single plunger style ejector. I’ve had this rifle for going on 6 months now. I cleaned it and did a barrel break-in procedure when I got it. I cleaned it at 200 rounds to start load development. I cleaned it again another 300 rounds after that when the groups started to open up a bit. I shot another hundred rounds after that before I shot groups with commercial ammunition for this review. And then I just kept shooting it. I never had any problems with any round of any kind.
More importantly, the Cross has been the only rifle I’ve hunted with in the US during that time, with only a couple of exceptions. It’s been all over, in the thickets of east Texas looking for pigs, here in Hill Country during heat and very rare rain for deer, and in south Texas, dug into the thorns, the dust, and the sand for all manner of God’s creatures. It’s been behind the seat in my truck for over 10,000 miles. It’s never stopped, never hiccupped in any way. I’ve come to completely trust this rifle in all circumstances.
Not long after the Cross came out, I heard reports of 1/2 MOA accuracy. We’re all familiar with the claims of “hole in a hole” precision from seemingly every rifle that enters the market. Reality rarely matches the hype.
Reality matches the hype.
Using Federal’s Fusion 140gr soft point commercial ammunition, every single round inside the box fit into a 1″ group at 100 yards. To be clear, the entire box, all 20 rounds in a row, shot well inside 1″ at 100 yards, using an 18X SIG SAUER Whiskey6 scope, mounted in a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest.
Using Hornady’s 143gr ELD-Match ammunition, three- and five-round groups did even better, sometimes much better. Shot from a Magpul bipod and a rear bag, the Cross shot 3/4″ five-round groups using a range of commercial ammunition from Nosler, Hornady, and Federal.
Most of my shooting for this review was done using my own reloads, consisting of 143gr ELD-X bullets pushed by 41gr of Staball 6.5 powder for a chronoed velocity of 2,436fps. This recipe is enough for Texas Hill Country deer and pigs out to 400 yards all day long, and is easy on the chamber throat. This round shot .4″ five-round groups at 100 yards from the prone off the bipod and a small rear bag.
From a sub $1,600 factory rifle, that is superb.
When I picked up this rifle, I was looking forward to putting it through its review process paces. I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t put it down for almost half a year. But that’s exactly what happened.
SPECIFICATIONS SIG SAUER Cross Bolt Action Rifle
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Barrel length: 18 in (457 mm)
Magazine: (1) 5rd Polymer Mag, AICS
SIG Precision Stock
Barrel material: Stainless Steel
Trigger: 2-Stage Match
Barrel twist: 1:8
Finish; Black Anodized
Overall Length: 38.5 in (977.9 mm)
Overall Width: 2.9 in (74 mm)
Height: 8 in (203.2 mm)
Threads: 5/8 in-24
Weight: 6.8lb (3.08 kg)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
The black anodized finish is done well, and SIG’s clearly taken the time to make the lines flow from the receiver into the fore end. No wood.
Customization * * * * *
A wide variety of user-customization is possible, including caliber swaps, and more coming out into the aftermarket.
Reliability * * * * *
Accuracy * * * * *
Half a minute or maybe a little better with hunting rounds.
Overall * * * * *
The SIG SAUER Cross is well outside what I usually look for in a hunting rifle. Heck, the last rifle I sought out was a single shot Mannlicher stocked gun in 7×57. But there’s no denying this gun. It carries well, shoots amazingly, and if there’s something you don’t like about it, you can change it yourself. It’s ideal. Now SIG, make one in .30-06.