SABRE DEFENCE M4 Carbine XR15A3
By Pat Cascio
Published In The GUNS Magazine 2010 Special Edition
As I sit down to pen this article, the 2008 elections are over with. And, the new President is a staunch anti-gun politician. The question of future ownership of certain types of semi-auto rifles is in question. In particular, the AR-15 (type) of semi-auto rifles will most assuredly be in the cross-hairs of this new administration. The ignorance of the anti-gun crowd never ceases to amaze me. They tend to label one gun as being “bad” while saying another type is “good”. I’ve yet to run across a “bad” gun — one that can, of it’s own accord, go out and commit crimes.
The day after the Presidential election and the following weeks have seen a surge in the purchase of AR-15 (type) and AK-47 (type) semi-auto rifles. As a matter of fact, in my area of the country (Oregon) the sales of just about any type of semi-auto firearm have gone absolutely crazy. People are buying firearms out of fear certain types may be banned by the new Administration, and with good reason.
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We are fortunate in that we have several dozen AR-15 (type) gun manufactures in the US — this works to our benefit. We have a huge source to draw from, and the various configurations seem to be endless when it comes to these types of rifles. For this piece, I selected the Sabre Defence M4 Carbine, XR15A3 configuration. This is about as close to the military M4 carbine as we can get. As an aside, Sabre Defence was recently awarded a contract with the US Marine Corps to deliver approximately 5,000 M-16s. Making them one of the few companies to supply weapons to the military.
I impatiently waited six weeks for my Sabre Defence M4 sample to arrive, however, the wait was well worth it. The XR15A3 arrived in an Allen padded rifle case, along with two, 30-rd magazines, and an Otis compact cleaning kit. The M4 was everything I had hoped it would be, and as already mentioned, about as close as possible to the genuine military M4 configuration one could hope for.
I also appreciated the CNC machined (and matched) upper and lower receivers from 7075T-6 aluminum forgings. The oval hand guards also are Mil-Spec with the aluminum heat shields inside. Forged front sight, adjustable for elevation, A2 grip, and single stage military trigger, along with the six-position collapsible stock. What you don’t see on many M4 clones is the M4 feed ramps allowing rounds from either side of the magazine to feed smoothly into the chamber — making for trouble-free feeding. Kind of important if you ask me. Of course, the flash suppressor was attached to the end of the barrel; gotta have that on any gun of this type.
The US Military M-16s and M4s have chrome-lined barrels and chambers. This is great for hostile environments, and when guns don’t get cleaned when they should be on a regular basis. However, I elected to go with the plain vanadium barrel, sans the chrome lining. Chrome-lined barrels aren’t quite as accurate as unlined barrels are. And, I wanted to wring as much accuracy out of this M4 as possible. Besides, I don’t see myself engaging the Taliban in a protracted fire-fight anytime soon. My rifles are rigorously maintained, so the chrome-lined barrel wasn’t needed. However, you can have your Sabre Defence in just about any configuration possible – including a chrome-lined barrel and chamber, and in 6.5 Grendel caliber or in 7.62X39.
My M4 has the flat-top receiver, and came without a rear sight – wish I had ordered a BUIS (Back-Up Iron Sight) with my sample. I did have a fold-down windage adjustable rear sight that I put on my gun. I also installed the Ultra-Dot Pan-A-V red dot rear sight on the upper Picatinny rail. This is a dandy red dot sight in my humble opinion. It also can be switched to one of 4 sights, either a red dot, red dot with circle around it, red dot in cross hairs and red dot in circle surrounded by cross hairs. It is also adjustable for intensity at 11 different levels for the various lighting conditions you might run into.
After spending several days shooting photos of the Sabre Defence M4, it was time to hit the ol’ range and see how this hummer shot. I first zeroed the “iron” sights for a 300-yard battle zero, then I dialed-in the red dot sight, took me less than a box of ammo to get everything all set to where I wanted the gun to shoot.
At 100 yards (over a rest) with the iron sights, I was able to print groups right around the 1-inch mark, and that’s as good as I can do with open sights, on a good day, when everything is working for me. I used a variety of Black Hills Ammunition fodder for my testing including the following: 75-gr Match HP, 60-gr SP, 55-gr SP, 69-gr Matchking HP, and in the reloaded BHA fodder, I used their 68-gr Heavy Match HP and 60-gr V-Max. Best group went to the 69-gr Matchking HP that was just under an inch. My “worst” group was with the 75-gr Match HP – if you can call a group slightly over an inch a “bad” group. As an aside, my shooting was a little worst with the red dot sight, then again, I think this is the norm for a red dot sight, and it has nothing to do with the sight itself. It’s just the best you can expect with the red dot-type of sighting systems on the market. One of these days, I’m gonna mount a good 3X9 scope on this M4 and see what she can really do.
After I finished several shooting sessions with the BHA fodder, I decided to see how the Sabre Defence M4 would do with some rapid-fire drills. For this, I used a variety of .223 ammo, to include the Russian-made Wolf-brand ammo. I’ve heard and read reports about Wolf ammo gumming-up the chambers of ARs, but I personally have never had this problem. I’ve also run Wolf .223 through my Mini-14s without any problems. I loaded-up ten, 30-rd magazines, with Wolf and other various types of FMJ fodder and cut loose — just pulling the trigger as fast as I could. Three hundred rounds later, all I had was a small pile of empty brass, and a barrel that was smoking hot! No malfunctions of any type, no failures to fire or eject — nothing, nada, zip!
I should point out that my Sabre Defence M4 is chambered for 5.56mm caliber, and not .223 like many clones are. There’s a lot of confusion on this front, and many people believe that 5.56mm and .223 Remington are the same caliber — they are NOT! You can safely fire .223 Remington in a 5.56mm chambered gun, but it’s not always safe to fire a 5.56mm round in a .223 Remington chambered gun-chamber pressures will be a lot higher when firing a 5.56mm in a .223 Remington gun.
One thing I really liked on my M4 sample was the 6-position telescoping stock. Now, many M4 clones comes with 6-position telescoping stocks. However, the Sabre Defense sample I have has a stock that is almost an inch longer than that found on my other AR type rifles. Personally, I like the longer stock — just fits me better when it’s fully extended. Plus, I still have 5 other positions I can telescope the stock down to when wearing heavy clothing, body armor or a tactical assault vest. What’s not to like about this setup?
Speaking of tactical vests, Blackhawk! products provided me with their Omega Elite Tactical Vest model 30EV03OD for this article. Yeah, I know, there’s still a little bit of US Combat Infantryman left in this ol’ work horse. I have several other no-name brands of tactical vests around, and they are “ok” for the most part. However, the Blackhawk! Omega Elite Tactical Vest is the best of the breed if you ask me.
The Omega Elite comes with 6 pockets, each will hold two, 30-rd .223 mags. There were also two other utility pockets on the vest that could be used for carrying spare pistol mags or extra ammo. What really sets this vest apart from many other is that it’s adjustable for length, up to 6″, and an additional 32″ girth. It even fit my bulging size once I got it all adjusted. I can’t say that for other vests. This is one tough sucker of a tactical vest, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Did I mention this was a one touch vest?
During my T&E of the M4, I used the two supplied 30-rd magazines, as well as a variety of other Mil-Spec mags — all worked just fine. However, I discovered the MagPul, PMag recently, and in my humble opinion, it’s the finest AR mag made today — bar none! I’m in the process of stocking-up on these mags to supplement my AR mag supply. They are made out of super-tough polymer, and they have a double feed ramp – rounds from one side of the mag feed through the feed lip on that side, and the other side feeds through the feed lips on the other side. Just makes for super-smooth feeding. You can also leave the PMag fully loaded without fear of the spring taking a “set.”
As I’m writing this article, my Sabre Defence M4 sits next to my desk. After more than 2,000 rds through it, it still looks about as new as the day I received it. The only thing I’ve done is to clean it after each range session. Again, I’m a bit meticulous when it comes to keeping a clean gun. The fit between the upper and lower received is nice and tight — no wobble — as is found in so many other M4 clones on the market – a testament to a well-built gun if you ask me.
With the current state of affairs on the political front, there’s no way this Sabre Defence M4 sample is going back — it’s a keeper. Then again, I knew this before I started the testing for this article. My friend, and fellow gun writer, John Taffin, recently told me, in so many words, that he thought it was unAmerican not to own a .44 caliber of handgun (or two). So, after heeding his constant hounding on this subject, I acquired several .44s of various types. Now, I know for a fact that Taffin doesn’t own any kind of AR rifle or carbine. Talk about being unAmerican … ok Big John, I got some .44s, now it’s your turn to get out there and get yourself an AR-15 of some sort … and he’d be hard-pressed to find something much better than a Sabre Defence XR15 of some type.
There’s a lot of good AR-type rifles and carbines on the market, and I own more than my share … however, I keep telling my wife that “I need just one more …” and every time I get another AR-type rifle, she tells me “you said that same thing last time …” to which I reply, “well, it’s still true, I just need one more.” I rarely endorse any products, however, in the case of the Sabre Defence XR15 sample I received, I can hardly wait to just that. Hey, who am I to argue with Uncle Sam? If Uncle Sam thinks it’s good enough for our troops, it’s good enough for me. Now, where is that checkbook?
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