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Well, here we are, on Springfield Armory Saint day. As you may have noticed from our lead picture, or anywhere else on the internet today, the Saint is an AR-15. So what is the big hoopla? Aren’t there about as many AR manufacturers in the country as there are dirty politicians in Congress? True, but Springfield has done some things different, and in my opinion batted it out of the park on this one.

The Saint is marketed and priced as an every day, everyone rifle as part of the company’s “Defend Your Legacy” campaign, and it shines in that regard. And, it is priced well below what you would expect for a rifle with its features and performance. I have built and bought better-performing AR-15s than the Saint, but not even close to the $899 price point they have on this. As an entry-level AR, I have never seen its equal. I really like the idea of someone making a solid, well performing, bargain priced rifle, and marketing the idea that everyone should own one for defending themselves. I agree 100%.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 5.56 NATO
  • Barrel: 16 inch, 1:8 RH twist
  • OA Length: 35.5/32.5 inches
  • Weight: 6 lbs., 11 ozs.
  • Grips: Bravo Company USA
  • Sights: A-frame front, folding rear
  • Action: Direct impingement mid length gas system
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $899

I received my Saint a month ago, which has given me plenty of time to wring it out. Lets start with the opening impressions. For starters, Springfield ships the gun in a case that is actually useful. The case is made of what looks like a very durable plastic, and it is thick, unlike some of the junk you see with even higher-end rifles. It actually looks like they just upscaled the Springfield pistol box, and dyed it black. The hinges are solid, it has nice steel clasps, and the lock holes are actually made for a grown-up-sized padlock. Why does this matter? It’s the first time EVER that I have gotten a rifle in a box that I could take to the airport and fly with if I wanted.

Usually, the first thing I do with a new rifle is toss the cheap garbage it came in and buy a pelican case. The Saint packaging is something you would actually use, whether to secure the gun from prying little hands, fly to a match, or just keep your optic safe. I intentionally bounced mine around in the back of my truck during my test period. The plastic is now scratched to hell and back, but it isn’t broken, and that matters to me. It is even more important if you are considering this for your first rifle purchase. I have a gun safe and generic rifle boxes up to .50-cal size. If you buy just this rifle, it comes in a usable piece of equipment.

WHERE IT COUNTS

Now that we are past my love affair with the box, how about the rifle? This is a very well thought out gun, in almost every detail. It comes with a six-position Bravo Company butt stock, which includes QD sling mount holes built in. The stock has a thin rubber pad on the end, which does matter if you shoot enough in one day, or if you aren’t acclimated to shooting a shoulder-fired weapon to start with. Also featured is the BCM MOD 3 pistol grip. This is billed as more vertical than traditional pistol grips, and conducive to “ modern gunfighting technique.” I don’t know about all that, but it feels to me closer to a 1911-ish grip, which many people will like.

I definitely like that at the bottom of the grip is a trap door, allowing you to use the inside of the pistol grip as a storage compartment. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking technology, but it is nice to see that included in a rifle at this price. And the BCM version locks up tight; it didn’t inadvertently open on me once during my testing. It is a great place for a bottle of oil, mini survival kit, your last two bullets, whatever fits your lifestyle. Instead of the old standby safe/fire selector markings, the Saint features some really nice artsy engraving over the words.

It’s a nice touch, and it does look cool. This is on both sides of the receiver, which makes me think a factory ambidextrous safety will be in the line up soon. On the left side of the receiver, with the serial number and Springfield Armory name, the rifle is marked “ multicaliber”, which makes me hope 6.5 Grendel and other flavors are on the way. On the right, the entire side of the magazine well area is engraved with Saint, in the same font as the advertising that has been circulating. This is another nice touch, as it gives the gun some character, and shows me Springfield didn’t skimp on the machining.

The truest value point of the lower receiver though, is the trigger group. The Saint doesn’t have some mil-spec parts overruns for a trigger, not by a long shot. The trigger is a proprietary nickel boron single stage GI trigger. I have some guns with nickel boron bolt carriers, and it is a very unique and hard wearing finish. The strangest thing about nickel boron is its inherent lubricity.

Even totally dry, nickel boron feels slick. The benefit of this in a trigger group is now obvious, though I have never seen it done before. The trigger breaks at 6.5 lbs. according to the gauge, but doesn’t feel that heavy in practice.  Barring rifles that include an aftermarket trigger ( AR Gold, AR Black, Geissele), the Saint has the best production AR trigger I have ever shot. That is nothing to sneeze at.

Moving to the upper receiver, Springfield again included some nice touches. The upper is a flat top, no surprise, and the bolt carrier is Carpenter 158 steel, the same as mil-spec. The first thing you notice as different is the rear sight the gun ships with. Clearly not happy with available commercial rear sights, Springfield built their own. The sight is steel and very thin, which is a godsend if you are trying to mount optics over top of it. It fit below four different optics I tried, which is a first. I also really liked that you can stow the sight with either the small or large aperture in the ready position, due to the way it folds. It locks solid in the up position, and is overall a pretty incredible sight. If Springfield sells them as a standalone part I will have at least two; they are that good. The movement direction with an arrow is printed on the side of the sight to make it dummy resistant, and the adjustments are stiff, which is also a positive on a back-up iron. The adjustments are a bit coarse, but that is not a deal breaker to me.

The hand guard is an exclusive Bravo Company addition as well. The hand guard is a two-piece polymer key mod design, held together by a Delta ring assembly for an old school feel. I was happy to see heat shielding was built in, something I have never had outside of the military. The heat shielding actually works too. Three to four magazines deep, you don’t notice any change in temperature in your hand. The handguard is also uniquely semi-triangular, perhaps a throwback styling to the original M16. The key mod attachment points are on the bottom, left and right, instead of four-sided like most hand guards. I thought this would be strange for sling attachment and flashlights, but it proved to be no problem.

There is also a built-in handstop on the bottom, at the muzzle end of the hand guard. The front sight is an A-frame, which again contributes to the heritage look of the rifle in general, complete with a standard GI-style sling swivel on the bottom and a bayonet lug. You can’t argue that an A-frame front isn’t durable, I will give it that. I have never seen one broken in my career, and that is a world where guns are abused on the regular. Not what I expected on this rifle, and probably the only thing I would have changed if I were King of Springfield. Still, not a terrible choice, and it didn’t get in the way of any of my optic choices. This was the first time I ever shot a 20 power scope on a rifle with an A-frame, and I was quite surprised that it worked. The flash hider is a standard military M16A2, which combined with the bayonet lug, tells me Springfield meant business when they created this as a battle rifle. I hope they sent Senator Feinstein a post card.

The barrel is another component where no expense was spared. The Saint has a 16-inch chrome moly vanadium barrel, with a 1:8 twist, and another twist. It was Melonite treated. Melonite is a salt bath nitriding process, and it isn’t cheap. I shot on the professional team for years of another company that uses Melonite treatment, so I have some familiarity. These words are mine, not Springfield Armory’s, as they offered nothing else about the process and the results. First, directly from the Burlington Engineering website, a company that does the process for numerous industrial customers:

“Resulting properties from these chemical and structural composition changes are increased surface hardness, lower coefficient of friction, enhanced surface lubricity, improved running wear performance, increased sliding wear resistance, and enhanced corrosion resistance.”

“Enhanced corrosion resistance” does not do this justice. One of the rifles I have with the treatment I have never cleaned in four years, and I used it for daily training and at matches, mostly when I lived in the high humidity Southeast. Through four long summers and winters, sweat, rain, mud, snow and not so much as a wipe down, there is not one spec of rust on it. And surface hardness is also a huge benefit. On average, my barrels with a Melonite treatment last twice as long as a normal barrel, often three times. In my experience, it takes between 20,000 and 30,000 rounds to wear one out, which is more than most people will shoot in a lifetime. Springfield clearly built this gun to last. A single 30-round Gen M3 PMag rounds out the package.

HANDS ON

It’s pretty and has a nice dress. So how did it shoot? Fantastic for a rifle below $1,000. Out of the box, with a Leupold 20 power scope for testing, I scored a 1 3/8 inch, 100m, five-round group. Considering that the trigger is great, but heavier still than a precision trigger, and the barrel isn’t free floating, there may actually be more mechanical capability in it than that. Still, that is an incredibly tight bit of shooting for a rifle at this price. I have had more expensive ARs that won’t do that, and you would have to double the price in many cases before a manufacturer guarantees sub-inch.

As a final bit of testing, I have to tell a semi-embarrassing story. I have shot about 1,200 rounds out of the Saint, without a hiccup. Not one failure. It didn’t occur to me until that testing was almost over that I forgot to put oil on the gun. Not one drop. I took it right out of the box and went to work with it. I don’t recommend you do the same, but that is a pretty bold endorsement for a direct impingement rifle. I have zero qualms about saying this is the best entry level AR-15 I have shot, and will be my new recommendation for anyone looking to buy an AR that doesn’t break the bank. I also did a seven mag dump run with the Saint where I then dumped it into a mud puddle to cool it. It still ran just fine after all that. This is a great rifle. Don’t believe me, then take a look at the video.

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