Holding A Hot Hand

Springfield ups the AR ante in Las Vegas

By Payton Miller

Although Springfield Armory continually offers intelligent variations on its three bread-and-butter themes—M1A, 1911 and XD—the company isn’t noted for introducing the brand-new and out-of-the-blue like clockwork.

So when they do something surprising—like the Saint—it’s a pretty big deal and things get handled accordingly. I was at the Saint rollout in Las Vegas where we spent a couple of days learning about and shooting the M4-scaled AR using both a Trijicon red-dot optic for the up-close at the Pro Gun Club and a Bushnell AR variable for long yardage at the Boulder Gun Club.

For anyone who simply thinks of Vegas as an “Adult Disneyland,” it also boasts more close-by, world-class shooting facilities than practically any other major transportation hub I can think of. And Springfield used two of the best.

It was about 3 weeks before official announcement, and those of us attending—gun magazine types, select distributors, instructors and a whole lot of videographers—were pretty curious. Maybe some of us knew in advance about Springfield’s maiden voyage with the ArmaLite platform, but I sure didn’t. In my sublime ignorance I simply figured all the fuss and secrecy was over some tricked-out XD variant (actually, we did shoot one of those as well. See below).

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Instructor Steve Peacock—here packing a Trijicon-sighted Saint—delivered an
invaluable assist in close-range zeroing and safely handling the rifle in the
kind of scenarios only possible on a “hot” range.

But the Saint was the star of the show. The gun features a mid-length DI gas system with a heavy buffer. It’s pretty much mil-spec all the way with a very nice single-stage GI trigger. The trigger incidentally, gets a nickel-boron coating to make things feel smoother. The collapsible buttstock, handguard, pistol grip and triggerguard are all via Bravo Company.

The ammo we used was 69-grain Federal Gold Medal Match for the scoped stuff and Winchester 55-grain frangible loads with the red-dot Trijicon for the close-in plates. Since the Saint’s 16-inch barrel has what many feel to be the best all-around compromise twist—1:8—we were covered.
Up to this point, I’d probably had around 150 rounds (lifetime) worth of trigger time on an AR, but took part in drills getting out of vehicles and returning fire at plates standing in as (thankfully!) relatively immobile “bad guys.” This was under the supervision of a couple of scary-good ex-Delta Team instructors.

The senior-est one, Chuck, was one of the first Delta guys back in the early ’70’s. He took one look at me clumsily trying to navigate my way around the interior of a junker taxi cab while coping with a Saint, a sling and a fully loaded 30-round magazine. He looked in the passenger-side window and asked me how old I was. “Sixty-five,” I said. He laughed. “I’m 67. Sucks, don’t it?”

I did fairly well with the scoped long-range stuff. The Warne-mounted Bushnell featured a red-illuminated hash-marked reticle. It proved a godsend in terms of contrast on those little black plates shimmering in the heat way, way out. My initial short-range zeroing under the watchful eye of instructor Steve Peacock had worked out far better than I could’ve hoped for. On the short-range speed stuff with the Trijicon red-dot, I did kind of OK. I think I could’ve done a bit better if I was a little more adept at running an AR’s controls and executing speedier reloads.

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Springfield’s Saint is the company’s well-executed take on the personal-defense
AR. Most shot it out to 500 yards. Some brave souls, taking advantage of the
Bushnell AR variable, tried it even further. Photo: James the XDMAN

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While returning fire from behind a vehicle (above), you want to keep as much of
you covered as possible, while at the same time avoiding those “line-of-sight,
line-of-bore” mishaps. Photo: James the XDMAN. When a seemingly endless supply
of ammo and 30-round P-Mags are on hand to keep about 3 dozen Saints fed (below),
everybody pitches in on reloading chores
.

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Even with a 30-round Magpul P-Mag, you’re going to go dry eventually and if you’re dealing with a Blue State-mandated 10-rounder, this not-so-magic moment will come even sooner. The best way to learn to run the Saint “at speed” is not on a crowded public range with the attendant “no rapid fire” stipulations.

All in all, it was about as impressive a new product unveiling as I’ve seen. I was a little stiff, sore and sunburned after, but it was a hoot. Right now, the Saint—as it stands—appears to be marketed toward first-time AR users for defensive and recreational (read: 3-Gun) users. The retail is $899, but you can expect street prices to be substantially less. And if the company’s past history with classic platforms is any indication, it’s going to be very interesting to see what variants Springfield has in store down the line.

Bear & Son Cutlery
1111 Blvd. SW
Jacksonville, AL 36265
(256) 435-2227
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/bear-son-cutlery-inc/

Safariland
13386, International Pkwy.
Jacksonville, FL 32218-2383
(800) 347-1200
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/safariland/

Springfield Armory
420 W. Main St.
Geneseo, IL 61254
(800) 680-6866
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/springfield-armory/

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The 9mm XD(M) OSP Rob is holding is a 2-tone model,
featuring a Vortex Venom red-dot sight.

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An XD Extra

Red-dot sights on a handgun have long been a staple in competition, but I’d never really thought about them as anything other than an exotic accessory reserved for pro-level shooters operating at speeds I could only dream about.

But a “compressed” course I took with Springfield’s Rob Leatham during the 3-day Saint rollout changed my outlook considerably. What helped make this happen—to be honest—had something to do with my problem, one which eventually afflicts all shooters of a “certain age”—namely the degraded ability to quickly pick up and focus on iron sights. Putting things on a single plane is beginning to make more and more sense.

The handgun we used was the new 9mm XD(M) OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) with an integral Vortex Venom red-dot sight aboard. This is a full-size 4.5-inch barreled pistol which we packed easily, sight and all, in Safariland’s 578 GLS Pro-Fit synthetic paddle holster. Eventually, they’ll offer it in .40 S&W and .45 ACP, although the current version is perfectly OK with me. In my dotage, there’s something about the abbreviated muzzle flip of a 9mm in a 29-ounce gun I find very appealing. I was seldom aware of having to fight the gun back down after every shot.

And speaking of sights and aiming, Rob feels they’re both essentially useless, unless you keep the gun motionless while breaking the shot. This makes sense when you stop to think about it. Orienting the gun and keeping it steady is the key. What good is a perfect sight picture—or a fabulously smooth trigger break—if the gun itself dips, torques or jumps before or during primer ignition?

A smooth trigger press doesn’t necessarily translate to a motionless gun, particularly when you’re fussing over a sight picture you’re simultaneously engaged in trying to make better than it needs to be at combat-type yardage anyway.

A very tight, consistent and proper grip—plus practice—is what’s needed to prevail over the No. 1 Obstacle to Hitting Things Quickly and Repeatedly With a Handgun. As Rob says, “It’s a simple concept. Executing it is what’s hard.…” Mas Ayoob has more thoughts on this concept in his “Handguns” column this issue.

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Commemorating a Classic

I don’t think I know very many serious shotgunners who don’t own a Remington 870. Between 1951 and 2009, Remington had made 10 million—both in premium Wingmaster and economy Express versions. Apologies to the Winchester M12 and Ithaca M37, but the 870 is easily the most popular pump ever produced.

Bear & Son Cutlery decided to commemorate it with an 870 Series of pocketknives—consisting of eight “Made in the USA” models, each featuring American walnut scales taken from a Wingmaster stock.

The version here is the No. 19975, which features a 2-7/8-inch clip-point blade, a gut hook and a choke-tube tool which handles both 12- and 20-gauge tube installation and removal chores. Upland hunting really isn’t a “knife intensive” pursuit, and this simple, well-made folder has all the blade you’re gonna need, plus a pair of useful tools. Price: $49.50.

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