On November 1, 2016, Springfield Armory announced the release of the SAINT, its first foray into the AR-15 market. The SAINT is designed to be a lightweight defensive rifle with an exceptionally smooth action and trigger that allow the shooter to put shot after shot on target. The SAINT is aimed at the low- to mid-price range of AR-15 rifles. It provides a number of premium features without eliminating features such as a dust cover and forward assist.
OPERATION AND SPECIFICATIONS
The SAINT utilizes a direct-impingement mid-length gas system with a .750-inch diameter gas block/front sight base. The 16-inch chromium-molybdenum-vanadium, melonite-treated (chamber, bore and exterior) M4 profile barrel has a 1:8-inch twist rate and an A2-style muzzle device. An all-new Bravo Company PKMT two-piece handguard includes an aluminum heat shield and is exclusive to the SAINT. The PKMT handguard is made of polymer but has reinforced keymod attachment points molded into it.
The flat-top upper receiver is manufactured from type 3, hardcoat-anodized, aircraft-grade 7075 T6 aluminum. It features a 1913 MIL-STD rail, forward assist and dust cover and is melonite coated. The M16 bolt carrier group uses a bolt machined from Carpenter 158 steel and is shot peened and magnetic particle inspected to ensure it meets MIL-SPEC durability standards. A dry lubricant is used inside the bolt carrier group. The charging handle is a standard GI style.
The SAINT’s lower receiver is also machined from type 3, hardcoat-anodized, aircraft-grade 7075 T6 aluminum. It features a unique Accu-Tite tension system designed to eliminate movement between the upper and lower receivers. The magazine well is beveled to assist with rapid magazine changes. A Bravo Company Mod 3 pistol grip and oversized trigger guard are provided.
The buttstock is a six-position Bravo Company Gunfighter unit and, unlike many standard buttstocks, it has no wobble. A drylubricated carbine “H” heavy tungsten buffer is used to slow the recoil cycle and provide a softer feel. The trigger group is a single-stage GI style with micro-polished and nickel-boroncoated components.
Sights provided are a Springfield Armory low-profile, flip-up, dual-aperture rear sight and a A2-style gas block-mounted, “F” stamped, elevation-adjustable front sight. The upper receiver rail provides mounting opportunities for your choice of optics.
MODELS AND ACCESSORIES
At the time this article was written, the model ST916556B tested was the only available model. The lower receiver is marked “Multi-Caliber,” so one would have to believe that other calibers (.300 Blackout, perhaps?) will be available in the future. At this time, however, Springfield Armory states that no additional models/versions/calibers of the SAINT are planned.
As with any AR platform, the list of accessories is virtually endless. The upper receiver rail provides room for most optics. The keymod-equipped handguard allows for the attachment of an endless array of accessories at the 1, 6 and 11 o’clock positions. These accessories can be keymod compatible. Alternatively, a 1913 MIL-STD rail section can be attached to the keymod system, and a standard 1913 MIL-STD accessory can be used. Any area on the handguard that is not covered by an accessory provides a nicely textured area for the off-side hand to grip.
Various sights/optics were used during the SAINT evaluation. For accuracy testing, I mounted a Nightforce SHV 4-14×50 F1 riflescope using a Nightforce 30mm Ultralite Unimount and top ring half with bubble level. For tactical use, I used the supplied sights as backup and mounted an EOTech model 512 holographic sight for primary use.
There is room on the rail for most optic/sight setups, but you will need to plan well. If you feel the need to maintain the BUIS and add an EOTech with a magnifier, you will need to use an EXPS2 or 3 with the G33 magnifier. You can install a scope and keep the BUIS, but you will need to watch the mounting height in order to maintain clearance between the BUIS and the scope’s eyepiece/magnifier ring.
The SAINT is chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round (5.56x45mm). Therefore, .223 Rem ammunition may also be used. The rifle’s cartridge designation is marked on the top of the barrel in front of the gas block.
For velocity and accuracy testing, I used PMC 223A 55-grain FMJ, Aguila 55-grain FMJ, Hornady #80264 SuperPerformance 75-grain BTHP Match and Federal Premium Gold Metal 77-grain Sierra Matchking BTHP ammunition in .223 caliber. I also used Federal XM193F 55-grain MCBT and American Eagle XM855 62-grain “Green Tip” ammunition in 5.56 NATO caliber.
PUTTING THE RIFLE TO WORK
Soon after picking up the SAINT at Liberty Guns in Hillsborough, North Carolina, I removed the rear BUIS, installed the Nightforce SHV 4-14×50 F1 riflescope and sighted-in the rifle. After approximately 25 rounds, I cleaned the barrel and then fired two fouling rounds.
I then got to work with accuracy and velocity evaluation. I fired three five-shot groups with each of six different factory loads. The barrel was cleaned, and two fouling rounds were fired in between ammunition types. A total of 101 rounds were fired during this accuracy evaluation. There were no malfunctions of any type. A LabRadar unit was used to calculate muzzle velocity for 10 consecutive rounds for each type of ammunition.
Next, I removed the scope, installed the Crimson Trace LiNQ laser/ light combination unit and re-installed the rear BUIS. I sighted-in both the iron sights and laser at 25 yards. The iron sights worked well out to 100 yards using both the large and small apertures.
The next trip to the range was to prepare for the following weekend’s 3-Gun tactical gauntlet match. I mounted an EOTech 512 holographic sight, zeroed it at 25 yards and practiced with both the EOTech and the LiNQ laser at various distances out to 50 yards.
The final exam for the SAINT was December 3rd’s International Infidel Gunfighter League Gauntlet match at 37 PSR in Bunnlevel, North Carolina. This match consists of what are essentially four stages that are run back to back. The scenario is that you have a wounded buddy to whom you need to administer first aid (apply a combat application tourniquet, install a nasal pharyngeal airway, apply a dressing to a sucking chest wound, apply an Israeli compression bandage to a leg wound and wrap the victim in a space blanket) and drag him to safety on a Skedko litter (165 pounds) through the next three stages. This is done while engaging threat targets from cover and using a rifle, pistol and shotgun.
Throughout these stages, the SAINT performed without a hitch. The round count for the rifle was only 30, but it required one tactical reload and firing from side-prone to standing positions. I was slow dragging my battle buddy around behind me, but I didn’t have any misses or procedurals with any of the weapons. The SAINT proved to be up to the task.
Many standard GI triggers leave a lot to be desired. They are gritty, heavy and have considerable takeup and overtravel. Not so with Springfield Armory’s proprietary trigger on the SAINT. This single-stage trigger has a micro-polished nickel-boron finish, which gives it a smooth and light pull compared to many others. With no takeup and no overtravel, the trigger broke crisply at an average of 6 pounds, 15 ounces. This was calculated using a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge for 10 consecutive pulls.
This is certainly an area where no upgrade is required. Spend your money on training!
Today, there are many fine AR rifles from which to choose. They range in price from about $600 to several thousands of dollars. The SAINT obviously is at the lower end of the scale. With an MSRP of $899, it is selling for about $810 in stores near me.
In my mind, the SAINT gives you a lot for your AR dollar. The excellent barrel, upper and lower receivers with the Accu-Tite tension system, smooth and crisp trigger, rear BUIS and BCM furniture allow you to take the SAINT out of the box, install an optic (or not) and a sling, and go to work with it. Later on, you might want to change the handguard and add bilateral controls, but that’s about it.
My only question is, Why didn’t Springfield Armory use one of BCM’s excellent charging handles?
- TYPE: Direct-impingement, mid-length gas system
- CALIBER: 5.56 NATO
- UPPER RECEIVER: Type 3 hard coatanodized, aircraft-grade 7075 T6 aluminum; flat top; forward assist and M4 feed ramp
- LOWER RECEIVER: Type 3 hard coatanodized, aircraft-grade 7075 T6 aluminum with AccuTite tension system; carbine “H” heavy tungsten buffer
- BOLT CARRIER GROUP: MIL-SPEC M16 BCG with Carpenter 158 steel bolt, shot peened and magnetic-particle inspected
- CAPACITY: Accepts all AR magazines
- BARREL AND MUZZLE BRAKE: 16-inch chromium-molybdenum-vanadium barrel with A2-style muzzle device; melonite treated internally and externally
- RIFLING TWIST RATE: 1:8
- RAIL: 1913 MIL-STD on top of upper receiver only
- SIGHTS: Rear: Springfield Armory low-profile flip-up with dual aperture and 1/2 MOA windage adjustment; Front: A2 sight
- HANDGUARD: Bravo Company PKMR; keymod
- OVERALL LENGTH: 35.5 inches fully extended; 32.25 inches collapsed
- STOCK/PISTOL GRIP: BCM Gunfighter six-position /BCM Mod 3
- WEIGHT (FACTORY): 6 pounds, 11 ounces
Velocity was recorded at the muzzle in feet per second. Distance to the target was 100 yards. “Average” velocity is for 10 consecutive shots in feet per second.
|AMMUNITION||Velocity (FPS)||Group size (Inches)|
|PMC 223A 55-grain FMJ||2646||163||45||1.8||1.32||1.62|
|Aguila 55-grain FMJ||2924||91||29||1.42||1.16||1.27|
|Federal XM193F 55-grain MCBT||3071||57||18.7||3.7||0.9||2.14|
|Fed. Am. Eagle XM855 62 grains||2908||44||15.2||2.65||1.78||2.33|
|Hornady 80264 75-grain BTHP||2662||57||15.7||2.01||1.45||1.71|
|Fed. Prem. GM223M3 77 grains||2333||35||11.8||2.07||0.51||1.08|
*“ES” is extreme spread; “SD” is standard deviation.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.