For a little while now, Springfield Armory has been teasing the release of a big new product on November 1, and today, things became official with the introduction of the new SAINT rifle. The Springfield Armory SAINT is the Illinois-based manufacturer's first-ever AR to hit the market, and it's important for a couple reasons: First, because it's Springfield Armory, and second, because it's not just another entry-level AR.
Instead of introducing a basic AR into a market that's already awash with entry-level guns, the company stepped things up a bit, adding several functional and ergonomic upgrades, all while managing to stay beneath that ever-important $1,000 ceiling. The result is an excellent black rifle in the SAINT that's available at a respectable $899.
This past month, Springfield Armory hosted an event in Las Vegas, Nevada, to reveal the new SAINT to a group of gun industry media and to promote its upcoming launch. I was lucky enough to be among that number and got the chance to look at the new SAINT firsthand as well as shoot it, extensively.
While I was able to put a lot of rounds through the two SAINT rifles I was provided for the event (probably a rough estimate of 600 to 800 rounds or so between both guns), I did not conduct any sort of official accuracy test for the rifles. Therefore, I can only offer some general first impressions on the SAINT and its performance, as opposed to a full-fledged review. (Editor's Note: Keep an eye out for a full review of the new SAINT in an upcoming issue of Gun Digest the Magazine).
First off, the new Springfield Armory SAINT utilizes a 16-inch chrome moly vanadium barrel with a 1:8-inch twist. The use of the 1:8-inch twist rate is to help stabilize a wide range of bullets up to 80 grains. The barrel also has a Melonite finish applied to the bore, chamber and external surfaces, as opposed to the usual chrome-lined bore.
The SAINT features a mid-length gas system instead of a carbine-length system, and the gun includes the A2-style front sight base/gas block setup. Upper and lower receivers are both manufactured from standard 7075 T6 aluminum and are hard anodized. However, Springfield has also incorporated a new feature, which it is calling the Accu-Tite Tension System, that includes a tension set screw located in the lower receiver that helps eliminate movement between the upper and lower. The thought there, much as with quality custom 1911s, is that a tighter fit between the upper and lower will produce better accuracy. I didn't get to experiment much with that at the event, but it's an interesting development on Springfield's part nonetheless.
The folks at Springfield have also tinkered with the gun's trigger group, opting for a proprietary Nickel-Boron-coated GI trigger instead of the regular Mil-Spec option. The trigger pull is, or at least felt, very similar in weight; however, it does seem a little smoother than what comes standard in most entry-level ARs.
Another thing that has been upgraded on the new Springfield Armory SAINT is its furniture. Almost every piece of furniture on the SAINT comes from Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM). The gun wears a slim, BCM Gunfighter stock, BCM Mod. 3 pistol grip and a BCM oversized trigger guard for gloved operation. In addition to that, the SAINT rifle also comes equipped with BCM's brand new, exclusive PKMR handguard, a two-piece, slim-contour polymer handguard that features a heat shield and sports KeyMod attachment points for mounting accessories. During the course of the event, I found the slim handguard, and frankly all of the BCM furniture, to be quite comfortable and functional. The polymer handguard held attachments well (I attached a Surefire flashlight), even through excessive firing, and the stock was pleasant to shoulder, and, as on most ARs, it's six-position adjustable for varied body types.
Also nice on the SAINT is Springfield's decision to use a heavy, tungsten buffer that absorbs more of the recoil and improves cycling of the bolt. The 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington doesn't produce a great deal of recoil as it is, but the heavier buffer tames it even more, especially on the relatively lightweight SAINT, which weighs 6 pounds, 11 ounces. These two factors — light weight and reduced recoil — make the SAINT a perfect option for those who are slight of build or sensitive to recoil. After shooting hundreds of rounds through the guns, I didn't exactly mind it either.
The Springfield Armory SAINT is equipped with a GI-style “F” height front sight with 2 MOA elevation adjustment and a low-profile, flip-up dual aperture rear sight with 1/2 MOA windage adjustment. Of course, a picatinny rail runs along the top of the receiver for optics, and at the event, Springfield set us up with a Bushnell Elite Tactical 1-6.5x24mm scope and a Trijicon MRO red dot, both excellent choices for the SAINT.
Over the course of this launch event in Vegas, I was able to get a great feel for the SAINT. In addition to sighting the gun in and shooting at paper and steel targets, the Springfield team had us do quite a few drills with the new guns and even put some of us through a force-on-force training scenario in a shoothouse using Force on Force training rounds.
As if that wasn't enough, the media in attendance got to compete in what competitive shooter Rob Leatham dubbed Popper Palooza, in which we had 120 rounds and the SAINT rifle equipped with an MRO to knock down 100 steel poppers set up in a fanned out pattern. We were timed to see who could accomplish this the fastest, with the winner earning both bragging rights and a shiny new SAINT.
That seemed like it should've been the highlight of the trip, but the Springfield team outdid itself the final night of the launch event, flying all of the writers via helicopter from downtown Las Vegas back out to the range where hundreds of exploding zombie targets and evil gnomes had been painstakingly set up at a variety of distances and piles of loaded magazines had been placed on a set of tables that marked the firing line. What stood before us as we approached was something the folks at Springfield referred to simply as the “Field of Chaos.” At the end of the night, there were a ton of destroyed zombies and empty magazines scattered everywhere.
All of this is to say, we put the SAINT through its paces, and, personally, I don't know of anyone in attendance that had any serious issues with the rifle's function during the SAINT launch. The two rifles I used during the event performed without flaw in the dusty, desert environment, even over the course of extensive firing sessions.
Those searching for a quality AR that doesn't break the bank but still comes with a lot of great features should take a long, hard look at the new Springfield Armory SAINT.
Springfield Armory SAINT
Type: Semi-auto, direct impingement
Gas System: Mid-length system
Barrel: 16 in., 1:8-in. twist, Melonite finish
Overall Length: 32.25-35.5 in.
Weight: 6 lbs., 11 oz.
Upper Receiver: 7075 T6 aluminum, hard anodized
Lower Receiver: 7075 T6 aluminum, hard anodized, Accu-Tite Tension System
Trigger: Springfield Armory proprietary Nickel-Boron-coated, single stage
Sights: A2-style front, flip-up, dual aperture rear
Grip: BCM Mod. 3
Handguard: BCM PKMR KeyMod
Stock: BCM Gunfighter, six position
Capacity: 30 rounds
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory