Canonizing A Classic
By Will Dabbs MD
Since 1777, Springfield Armory-produced weapons kept the freedom in the Land of the Free. From our nation’s earliest beginnings, it served as a repository for munitions and was fertile soil for the development of new military technologies. Springfield Armory’s original charter bears George Washington’s signature.
Citing budgetary concerns, the US Government closed the Armory in 1968. With the stroke of a pen, nearly two centuries of firearms innovation housed within the armory’s hallowed walls suddenly became the purview of the historians. However, in 1974 the Reese family resurrected Springfield Armory as a private concern. Producing such classic American martial firearms as the 1911 service pistol and the M14 (now rebranded as the M1A), today’s iteration of Springfield Armory has a different mission. Where they previously produced government guns, nowadays Springfield Armory arms American cops and civilian shooters.
In the intervening years since 1974, Springfield has introduced a single new firearm line, their superb XD-series of modern combat handguns. Instead of squirting out some half-baked smoke pole every few weeks in an effort at keeping up with the vagaries of a fickle firearms market, Springfield sticks with a few staples and executes them superbly. In 2005 they rolled out the SOCOM 16, a CQB version of their classic M1A packing .30-caliber power into a package small enough to maneuver indoors. The SOCOM 16 is my go-to iron should the zombies arrive in vehicles, adorn themselves with body armor, or remain sufficiently tactically adroit as to make proper use of cover. After 41 years, however, it was time Springfield Armory launched a new rifle. Heralded with great fanfare, they call it the Saint.
Springfield’s Saint, a Leupold VX-R 1.25-4×20 scope and two 30-round
magazines make for an exceptionally efficient defensive setup.
Whether in a rural or urban environment, the Saint can deliver intimidating
defensive firepower at long or short yardage.
The Saint is Springfield Armory’s foray into the American black rifle market, and it is promoted to be as much a lifestyle as a shootin’ iron. We old gun guys are not getting any younger, and the Saint allows Springfield Armory to reach out—particularly via social media—to a new cohort of millennial shooters. The motto of their flashy ad campaign is “Defend Your Legacy,” and it has been splashed all over the Internet. It is through this vehicle that Springfield Armory hopes to reach an entire new generation of shooting enthusiasts.
Sporting well-reasoned features, top-quality everything, and a nice price, the Saint injects all that is righteous about Springfield Armory into a traditional AR platform. Like everything the company makes, the Saint is designed by gun guys for gun guys. Note I use the term “guys” in the 21st century gender-neutral sense. From perusing their web presence, the target audience is clearly young people of both genders looking for a nicely adorned tactical rifle suitable for real world security and defensive use.
The 5.56/.223 Saint is designed from the ground up to be an effective defensive tool. The receivers are Type III hardcoat anodized aircraft grade 7075 T6 aluminum. The upper includes a forward assist and M4 feed ramps. The lower incorporates the Accu-Tite receiver tension system to exorcise any hint of receiver wiggle. The flat-top upper naturally accepts all manner of tactical glass.
The 16-inch chrome moly vanadium barrel sports a robust heavy profile and runs a mid-length direct impingement gas system for optimal reliability. The tube is cut with a 1:8-inch twist and enjoys a Melonite treatment throughout. This allows the rifle to handle everything from lightweight 53-grain to portly 75-grain accurately. As not a lot of American civilian shooters own grenade launchers, there are no grenade launcher cuts.
The polymer furniture is from Bravo Company, and the svelte handguard is a proprietary KeyMod unit. The buttstock includes six positions to accommodate bulky clothing or body armor. The pistol grip has a handy compartment for a couple of last ditch rounds or a fistful of M&M’s, either of which could be important under different circumstances. The Springfield logo figures prominently on both the lower receiver as well as the bolt carrier. The bolt carrier group includes a Carpenter 158 steel bolt shot-peened and magnetic particle-inspected to ensure military-grade durability. The buffer is of the “H” heavy tungsten sort. The rifle comes with a single 30-round Magpul PMag Gen M3 for those locales allowing such items.
Now I’m a simple guy who likes simple things. Summed up, what all this means is the Saint is an optimized 5.56mm defensive rifle. Everything best done well is done exceptionally well. Embodied within the new Springfield Armory Saint we find that elusive beastie—the effective compromise.
The Saint has a 1:8-inch twist, probably the best all-around compromise to
be had in 5.56/.223. An efficient flash-suppressor is de rigueur on any AR,
particularly a 16-inch barreled one.
The fixed front sight base is a trivial distraction at low power
settings but disappears as magnification is increased.
Art Of The Deal
Our great nation was built upon the art of compromise. However, compromise is a delicate flower. If done properly it can be beautiful. If executed poorly, then nobody leaves happy.
To exercise a bit of profound literary understatement this deep into the Information Age, America’s black rifle can be had in a myriad of guises. Barrel, stock, action, and caliber options make Eugene Stoner’s timeless rifle the equivalent of Garanimals for gun guys. Aluminum, steel, or plastic form the foundations. The sky’s the limit regarding options.
However, to paraphrase Goldilocks, the Saint is not too big. It is not too small. The Saint is rather just right. I have smaller thermonuclear AR pistols that are uncomfortably tiny and produce enough muzzle flash to be visible from the International Space Station. Their corresponding long-barreled variants can be tough to maneuver indoors and still be bulky enough to drive a guy to distraction while out for a proper stroll. For its intended application, the new Saint is the optimized predator.
The receiver is Type III hardcoat anodized aircraft grade 7075 T6 aluminum.
The upper includes a forward assist and M4 feed ramps.
Leupold’s optical reputation is built upon countless quality riflescopes. Like the Saint, the VX-R 1.25-4×20 scope is a quality tool built specifically for the carbine mission.
Screw the magnification down to 1.25X and run the gun with both eyes open. The illuminated Firedot reticle uses fiber-optic technology to provide a bright aiming dot and an uncluttered sight picture. Thusly configured, the VX-R mounted atop the Saint can address threats in a dark alley or across the room. Punch a button and the dot comes on. The brightness control is incorporated within that same simple pushbutton.
Spin the power ring up to 4X and you’re set to reach out to the practical limits of the rifle and the cartridge. Out to 500 meters this configuration strikes the perfect balance. There is enough power for proper target acquisition, yet not so much it becomes difficult to acquire a target within a restricted field of view.
With an array of bullet weights ranging from 40 to 75 grains, the Saint
delivered outstanding results for Will at 100 meters. Only the 40-grain
Winchester stuff cycled problematically, however, it is meant for
bolt-action varmint rifles, not self loaders. Overall, the rifle showed
the advantages of a 1:8 twist.
The 16-inch barrel keeps velocities in the respectable range. As the 5.56 requires speed to be effective, chopping an AR down to pocket size looks indisputably cool but just produces a very expensive .22 rifle. The Saint keeps your rounds fast enough to do the job at reasonable carbine ranges. Its versatile 1:8 twist lets you run most any 5.56/.223 rounds accurately regardless of bullet weight.
The minimalist execution of the rifle keeps weight in the bantam range and subsequently offers superb maneuverability. The thin KeyMod handguard gives you room for ancillary electronic bling without undue clutter. The handguards also sport heat shields to protect your fingers during protracted courses of fire. In short, the Saint gives you the stuff you want without a whole bunch of superfluous junk you don’t.
With a bit of top-notch Leupold glass perched atop the flattop upper, Springfield Armory’s Saint brings security, confidence, and peace of mind. With proper ammunition the rifle is going to go bang every single time you squeeze the trigger, and it reliably drops rounds on target from bad breath ranges out to several hundred meters. Tiny 40-grain varmint loads failed to cycle about half the time, but they are really intended for bolt guns anyway. Everything else ran flawlessly. The fixed front sight base is a trivial distraction at low power settings but disappears as magnification is increased.
Recoil is not worth mentioning, and the heavy barrel is just front heavy enough to keep the muzzle in line and on target during rapid fire. The Saint shot straight and didn’t hiccup with six different loads ranging from 53 to 77 grains (see chart). The trigger and fire controls are typical military grade, only with a cool weatherproof nickel boron surface treatment.
So you’re standing in your favorite gun emporium lamenting the sorry state of our great republic and planning to drown your sorrows with a new black rifle. The racks are awash with cool, sinister iron. So why the Saint?
For starters, it comes from Springfield Armory. From the buttpad to the flash suppressor, the folks there built it out of the good stuff. No corners were cut; no expenses were spared. Everything from the barrel to the receiver, to the bolt carrier to the fire-control system, is impervious to the elements and built to last. Presuming the United States does not succumb to chaos, anarchy, rampant mediocrity or abject ruin by then, your great grandchildren will still enjoy taking this gun to the range. However, with a retail of $899 and a street price likely lower, the Saint remains a reasonable investment for the typical working American. You could drop three times this amount on some other black rifles and you really wouldn’t realize a substantial improvement in performance.
I already own my share of ARs. Yet when the smoke cleared I sucked it up and bought this one. Why? Because it really is a nice compromise—small enough to manage indoors, yet effective out to several hundred meters. It is trim, lightweight, and maneuverable. The Saint fits me well and is fun to shoot. It also doesn’t cost as much as a nice used car. There are scads of black rifles out there these days, but the Saint offers a lot of gun for the money.
I am half a century old. The only piece of exercise equipment capable of making me look like those chiseled specimens on the Springfield Armory website is Photoshop. However, the Saint remains a good fit for me, striking a splendid balance between quality and cost.
Even if you don’t sport the killer tats, photogenic sweat, and perfect physiques of the young men and women depicted in the Springfield Armory advertisements defending their legacies, this new thunderstick will likely appeal to you the same way it did to me. The Saint is an able tool with which to secure home, hearth, and brood out here in the Real World where folks might be a bit soft, sport spectacles, and wear bulky fleece rather than spandex. Thin and svelte yet delightfully hardcore, the Springfield Armory Saint is a superb defensive weapon for a new generation of American shooters.
Maker: Springfield Armory
420 West Main St.
Geneseo, IL 61254
Type: Direct gas-impingement semi-auto
Barrel length: 16 inches (1:8 twist)
Overall length: 32.5 (collapsed), 35.5 inches (max)
Weight: 6 pounds, 11 ounces
Sights: Low profile flip-up dual aperture, Picatinny optics rail
Stock: Bravo Co. 6-position collapsible
Nature’s Perfect Shape
My bride is an apiarist—which is a highbrow term for “beekeeper.” She dotes on those industrious little bugs like they were her own kids. When these remarkable insects draw comb to build a hive, they build thousands upon thousands of identical hexagons. Hexagons stack perfectly, offering optimized strength and storage space for a given volume. As my wife’s bees will attest, the hexagon is nature’s perfect shape.
The Hexmag began as a 3D printing exercise and evolved into arguably the best value in AR magazines on the market today. Festooned with a uniform hexagonal pattern for secure purchase, the Hexmag sports no-tilt followers, a robust fiber-reinforced polymer mag body, and heat treated 17-7PH stainless steel springs allowing long-term storage, even when fully loaded. Hexmags are lighter than comparable polymer magazines and offer features not found anywhere else.
Magazine bodies are available in four different colors, and Hexmag’s Hexid system offers eight different high-visibility colored floorplate disassembly buttons with corresponding followers that can be installed without tools. The Hexid system lets you categorize your magazines at a glance without bothering with messy paint or tape. By color-coding your Hexmags with particular ammo types, you can instantly differentiate different loads in a range bag or magazine pouch.
Hexmag Grip Tape consists of roughened self-adhesive hexagonal “grippy bits” that can be applied to the corresponding recesses in the mag body for extra purchase. Series 2 Hexmags include grooves for stripper clip guides and a revised feed lip profile for compatibility across a wide spectrum of ARs. Offering maximum versatility, a lifetime warranty, and a nifty cool-guy look all at a very sweet price, Hexmags are nature’s perfect magazines.
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