SIG Re-imagines Stoner’s Legendary Black Rifle
By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Takashi Sato
Amidst a sea of Modern Sporting Rifles, the SIG MCX Virtus Patrol Rifle is refreshingly different.
It is, in fact, so novel it’s almost not an AR.
There are 500 different permutations of this gun. You read that right. It’s like Garanimals for gun nerds. Spin a few Allen screws and your new MCX Virtus can become most anything you might imagine. Different calibers, handguards, buttstocks, and barrel lengths interchange on your dining room table. If the rifle could cook, you’d marry it.
SIG SAUER turns out around a million guns a year these days, and the fact the new GI-issue M17 Modular Handgun will have the company name etched across the slide cements their position atop today’s tactical food chain.
SIG’s MCX Virtus Patrol Rifle—here flanked by a Tyr Tactical Plate Carrier, Backpack and Huron Assaulter’s
Sustainment Pack—may be the ultimate embodiment of Stoner’s original AR concept.
Eugene Stoner and a few others first thought up the AR around 1956. While the original AR represented a revolutionary application of aerospace engineering and materials to the art of gunmaking, the design was also ripe for the tweaking. Now some half a century later, the MCX Virtus is all but unrecognizable when compared to that original ArmaLite.
It’s a buyer’s market for black rifles these days. After enduring 8 years of the most anti-gun president in American history, it now seems everybody and their aunt are bodging together ARs and hawking them as God’s gift to armed combat. Some of the low-end iterations are almost scary. However, comfortably ensconced upon the opposite end of the spectrum is the MCX Virtus. Reliable, ergonomic, compact, accurate and cool, it’s what Stoner’s rifle always aspired to become.
The telescoping stock gives you a 5-position setting (above) and folds (below) for when space is at a premium.
The Virtus is so chock full of newly imagined cool-guy stuff, it really needs to be its own species.
The gun sports a user-adjustable, gas-piston-driven action conceived to meet the current demands of Special Operators. The cold-hammer-forged 16-inch barrel is easily user-interchangeable for various lengths in either 5.56 NATO or the larger .300 BLK.
SIG’s internal recoil system eschews a buffer tube and, as a result, offers reduced recoil and a radically compact platform. The Matchlite DUO trigger breaks crisply between 4.5 and 6 pounds and the rifle retains a right-sided forward assist.
Free-floating M-LOK handguards come in four lengths and provide ample space for any conceivable piece of electronic bling. The rail seems to go on for miles. Stretching all the way out to the muzzle, it sports enough real estate to accommodate an espresso machine and sofa in addition to the more conventional lights, grips, optics and lasers.
The controls are fully ambidextrous, and the gun comes in Stealth Gray or Flat Dark Earth to nourish your inner tactical fashionista. The folding stock telescopes through 5 positions—when collapsed the gun occupies a mere 26.5 inches.
SIG’s Tango6 adjusts for a 1X setting for up-close situations requiring speed and up to 6X for long yardage.
Yes, it is easy to become addicted to shooting the MCX Virtus. The hotter Will shot it, the more he liked it. Will doubled down on the new SIG’s potential by installing the SRD556, a compact sound suppressor built like an armored fighting vehicle. Remarkably effective for its size, it will spoil you for shooting unsuppressed weapons.
In the Information Age, if you don’t have something sparkly perched atop your black rifle, you run the risk of having to eat lunch someplace other than the Cool Kids’ Table. SIG’s Tango6 is at the top of the heap in adjustable optics. At 1X the Tango6 allows both-eyes-open instantaneous engagement at bad breath range. Twist the ocular ring up to 6X and you can reach out beyond the practical limits of the 5.56.
The reticle is battery illuminated with a wide variety of brightness options. It turns itself off when it hasn’t moved for a bit and powers up again when you get cracking. The aiming point is a “reverse horseshoe” with associated holdover stadia allowing for instantaneous elevation estimates at extended ranges. The scope’s first focal plane reticle changes size with power adjustments, allowing for quick and dirty close engagements as well as precise work at longer yardages without a lot of cumbersome math.
The rail goes all the way to the end. There you’ll find a flip-up front sight and muzzlebrake.
The Right To Remain Quiet…
Sound suppressors for tactical firearms will absolutely spoil you. I never met a true silencer, but all sound suppressors will ameliorate the audible report of a firearm to varying degrees. A proper suppressor like the SIG SRD556 on a weapon firing supersonic rounds will mask the source of the gunfire, make it far easier to communicate, and make you a much more neighborly shooter at the range.
Thread the tiny SRD556 on the angry end of your rifle and you’ll never go back to your noisy guns. The SRD556 only adds 11.5 ounces and 6.4 inches to the total package. It sports a direct thread mount and its Taper-Lok feature minimizes point-of-impact shifts. Built-in wrench flats also allow you to pin the can to a short barrel if you’d prefer stubby performance without the hassle of registering a Short-Barreled Rifle. Using a hand-held sound meter, I found the SRD556 to consistently drop the racket by about 23 decibels. And considering the decibel scale is logarithmic, this represents a whole lot of quiet.
Stripped down, this new SIG is not going to confuse any conventional AR-15 fans.
Feeding The Beast
SIG makes its own ammo down here in the American Deep South. Their Arkansas facility is a thing of beauty—state of the art and designed from the ground up to make quality ammo. The quality—particularly of their match-grade lines—reflects a compulsive attention to detail.
The 1:7-inch twist of the barrel does a splendid job of stabilizing bullets both lightweight and otherwise. When fed the proprietary 77-grain Open-Tip Match load the gun shoots markedly better than do I. Of all the factors that fold into this rifle’s performance, my tired eyes and well-worn trigger finger represent the only weak links. But despite my age-related disabilities the Virtus still rendered some spectacular performance (take a peek at the accompanying chart for details).
I carried a gun for real a generation ago, and little things become big things when your life and those of your friends depend upon the performance of your equipment. In the case of the Virtus, the gun sprouts sling sockets aplenty to interface with SIG’s tactical sling. The gun’s controls are readily accessible regardless of where the buttstock rides, and the M-LOK rail accepts anything you might want to hang there.
The gas-piston operating system allows individual adjustment to optimize the gun for whatever ammo you might have handy. The 7.9-pound all up weight is not excessive for a piston-driven rifle thoroughly awash in cool-guy stuff. And the folding, telescoping buttstock accommodates any build or ancillary kit.
The rifle shoots plenty straight. Although piston-driven actions are supposed to be inherently less
accurate than direct gas guns, the Virtus turned that axiom on its head.
It has been my privilege to burn bullets through most everything that shoots. At this point in my life I have come to recognize a superlative piece of machinery when I see it. The SIG’s MCX Virtus Patrol Rifle is what you get when you take Stoner’s space-age beastie and upgrade it to 21st Century specs.
I get paid to shoot guns and pretend it’s work. From buttpad to flash suppressor, I could find no fault with the MCX Virtus Patrol Rifle. I liked it, and more importantly, it really liked me. So much so I went and bought it.
When I got done with this project I stripped the gun down, cleaned what little grunge found its way into the mechanism during our protracted time together, and lightly lubed it with a little Hurley’s Gold gun oil. I then put it in the slot in my gunroom reserved for the tool formally assigned to the safety and security of my family.
What’s In A Name?
In 458 BC, Rome was under dire threat by a tribe called the Aequi. So the Romans reached out to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and offered him the job of Emperor, the most esteemed and powerful political position in all the ancient world. When messengers reached Cincinnatus he was behind a plow, preparing to sow his modest farmer’s field.
History records his response when offered the position of supreme ruler: “So my field will be unsown this year, and we shall be in danger of not having enough food to support us.”
Nevertheless, Cincinnatus dutifully packed his gear, kissed his wife goodbye and departed to raise an army. A short time later his battle formations with him at their head defeated the Aequi in a mere 15 days of brutal campaigning. After returning from the battlefield to well-deserved glory, Cincinnatus quickly took his leave to go home. He found his plow right where he had left it and resumed working his field.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus used this anecdote to describe the ideal Roman leader, “They worked with their hands, led self-disciplined lives, did not complain about honorable poverty, and were far from pursuing positions of royal power.”
Men such as Cincinnatus were described as having “Virtus.” Virtus was a specific quality in ancient Rome. It implied character, manliness, innate worth and courage. Virtus was such a seminal component of the Roman worldview that it was revered as a god.
Maker: SIG SAUER
72 Pease Blvd.
Newington, NH 03801
Type: Gas-piston semi-auto
Caliber: 5.56 NATO, .223
Weight: 7.9 pounds
Barrel Length: 16 inches, 1:7 twist
Overall Length: 35.5 inches (extended), 26.5 inches (collapsed)
Stock: 5-Position telescoping/folding
Trigger: Matchlite Duo