Springfield Armory SAINT Pistol 5.56mm
February 22nd, 2020
8 minute read
The close-quarters option in the ever-growing Saint lineup
Short barreled ARs aren’t new. They have existed since the late 1960s shortly after the CAR-15 was introduced. Most familiar with the history will recall the XM177, a 10.5-inch version with a 3.5-inch moderator that mitigated sound, flash and blast. In 1967 the barrel was lengthened to 11 inches, mostly to facilitate the XM148 grenade launcher and also reduced blast a bit. The moderator was replaced with a flash hider. Mostly abandoned after Vietnam, the need remained, and today’s MK18 is a perfect example. Early models had their issues, not the least of which was that civilians had to register them with the ATF as SBRs (short-barreled rifles), but there has always been a desire for a short AR, today more than ever.
While the SBR has a consistent following, the AR pistol has taken that market by storm. Initially a bit of a novelty, adding a stabilizing brace made them moderately useful. Improved brace designs have helped, each year they get better and more user friendly, almost practical. Given the ATF’s latest “open letter” removing the threat of becoming a felon for shouldering them has proven to be a game changer. Increased demand has produced better made, more reliable and shorter versions, 7 to 8 inches being the norm. Pretty much everyone is getting into this market, including Springfield Armory. Their Saint AR-15 is available chambered in 5.56mm or 300 BLK, and it is a great pistol.
Springfield Armory Saint AR-15 Pistol 5.56mm
Springfield Armory starts with forged 7075-T6 aluminum receivers using their Accutite tensioning system. A patented M-LOK hand guard using locking tabs and a hand stop covers a 7.5 inch, 419R stainless steel barrel coated in Melonite. Using a 1:7 twist it is capped with a blast diverter that sends blast and flash forward. Its direct impingement gas system uses a pistol-length gas tube and pinned low profile gas block. The bolt carrier group is an enhanced M16 design with an magnetic particle tested bolt and coated in Melonite. The lower receiver houses a Springfield Armory Nickel Boron coated Mil-Spec trigger with a single sided safety. Bravo Company’s Mod 3 pistol grip is used along with their extended trigger guard. AN SB Tactical SBX-K stabilizing brace is installed along with a QD equipped buffer tube ring. All is shipped in a Springfield Armory embroidered Soft AR-15 pistol case with one magazine.
Aimpoint’s RDS Carbine Optic was used. It remains one of the best top-tier red dot sights for the money. Designed specifically for use on modern sporting rifles, it includes a simple mount and a 2 MOA dot. Ten brightness settings allow for use in most any lighting conditions, and it includes a bright setting for daylight. Battery life extends to over a year using one DL1/3N or 2L76 battery. Water, shock and vibration resistant, it is designed for use in most any conditions. Springfield Armory’s flip-up BUIS (back-up iron sights) co-witness in the bottom third of the Aimpoint.
Improvements in ammunition construction and bullet design make the 7.5-inch barreled Saint 5.56mm more effective, but it remains a close-quarters tool. Its sweet spot is vehicle defense, or defense in other confined spaces. Its compact size makes it easier to store at the ready and access when needed. Working your way in and out of vehicles is much easier while providing solid ballistics at close range. It is quite effective for home defense, especially in urban environments, or any area where 100 yards is the longest probable shooting distance. You can certainly reach out farther with a 5.56mm using an 8-inch barrel, but it’s less than optimal. Most testing consisted of operation in and out of some cars at the range along with barricades and other obstacles.
Shooting from inside a vehicle is an adventure—many decry it altogether, but if that’s where you live most of your life it’s a good thing to try if you can. Having done so with pistols, rifles, even shotguns it highlights the advantages of a suppressor and dispels any myth it’s not possible. Ideal, of course not, but the only ideal fight is the one in your head, or in a video game. The real world is less accommodating. It can be done quite effectively, just prepare to lose your hearing for a bit if it’s a rifle, the shorter the barrel the louder it is. Blast Diverters are great if they are outside the window. If you need to use it as you exit you can, and pointed out an open window there is no blast pressure, but it’s loud for sure. Shooting through the window is impressive and a bit distracting the first time, but after a few times you just get ready and go.
Maneuvering around the inside of the vehicle was pretty easy, which may be the best part of these pistols. One handed across the car through the passenger’s side window was more than doable. It would suck to be a passenger, but at least the blast and flash is diverted forward. Working out of a pretty small car it was possible to shoot quite accurately out of the windshield, driver’s side window and even the passenger side. I could reach almost 270 degrees using my strong hand alone, braced or not. Bringing it to bare from a couple of different positions was pretty handy, not something you can say using a full-sized carbine, even one with an 11-inch barrel.
These pistols are well suited for home defense in almost any available caliber. You can add a light easily enough, and the RDS makes for fast and accurate shots up close. They fit in cabinets, drawers and even closets more easily and can be used by anyone in the family. Recoil with the 5.56mm is minimal. Blast can be distracting for some, but it’s still usable by even younger adults and older children.
Maneuvering the Saint through buildings and a shoot house proved easy. It reminded me of my old days running an 8-inch barreled HK 53 on the SWAT team, my favorite entry rifle at the time. Move outside and you still have a usable weapon across the yard or even farther if needed. I regularly get hits on silhouette steel with these pistols at 300 yards. Not perfect, but in a pinch it would work and I certainly would not want to personally test the “ballistics” at that range. Black Hills 50-grain TSX is designed specifically for short-barreled ARs. It makes 2,700 f.p.s. from this barrel at the muzzle with a threshold for proper expansion of 2,300 f.p.s. Move to their 55-grain TSX and that threshold goes down to 1,900 f.p.s., making it a great all-purpose defense round for most any barrel length.
Accuracy was best using the Black Hills 55-grain TSX at about 1.25 inches. Their 55-grain TSX shoots noticeably softer than the 50-grain, making groups shooting a bit easier. While the 50-grain is quite a bit faster, it is harsher, so groups were closer to 2 inches at 100 yards. Another really good round for this pistol is the Hornady 53-grain V-Max Superformance. It makes about the same velocity as the TSX bullets with impressive expansion and fragmentation.
Inside practical distances the SAINT pistol was accurate with everything. It did pretty well on my running/stress course engaging 6- to 8-inch steel targets out to 150 yards. Most targets were from 25 to 50 yards with a few that stretched out, but hits on steel with the RDS were pretty regular and easy. It was kind of nice to run the course with such a light weapon, and moving between ranges you almost forget you are carrying a weapon. Using a Magpul MS3 sling worked pretty well, although you could add a sling attachment to the hand guard and make it better with a two-point sling. Either way it was pretty fun to run the course without humping a 15-pound sniper rifle!
This is the first SAINT AR-15 I have tested and its pretty impressive. Fit and finish are excellent with high quality and well thought out design features. The trigger is similar to GI versions that have been coated. Reliability was excellent, running everything thrown at it. Every magazine inserted easily and functioned perfectly. Accuracy is what you expect from such a short barrel. Retail price is $989, making it quite reasonable. The last three similar pistols I tested were priced from $1,500 to $1,800 with little to offer over the SAINT.
Once a full-blown skeptic of AR or similar pistols, they are really starting to grow on me. They suffer all the same issues with blast, flash, and the like as an SBR, just without the $200 tax stamp and six- to nine-month wait. Switch to SB Tactical’s latest SBA3 stabilizing brace that is adjustable for LOP and it just gets better. Springfield Armory also offers this pistol in 300 BLK, a great caliber for short barrels. Either way it’s a great choice in an AR pistol and should be added to your list if one is in the works.
Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
Receiver: Forged 7075-T6
Barrel: 7.5 inches
Overall Length: 26.5 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Sights: Top Rail
Brace/Grip: SB Tactical Brace / Bravo Company Grip
Action: Semi-Automatic, direct gas impingement
Capacity: Accepts AR-15 based magazines
|Ammunition Tested||Velocity (f.p.s.)||Group Size|
|Black Hills 55-grain TSX||2,740||1.55″|
|Barnes 55-grain TSX||2,730||1.40″|
|Remington 69-grain Match||2,370||1.80″|
|Black Hills 60-grain V-Max||2,725||1.85″|
|Hornady 55-grain V-Max||2,750||1.55″|
|Black Hills 50-grain TSX||2,760||1.75″|
Groups tested using a bag for a rest on the bumper of my FJ Cruiser. Best 5-shot group from 100 yards shown. Velocity measured using a Magneto Speed V3 chronograph.
This article was written by Dave Bahde and shared with us by On Target Magazine. Since the original publication of this article, the SAINT line has expanded to include the new SAINT Pistol in 5.56mm, the SAINT Victor Pistol in 5.56mm or .300 BLK, and the SAINT Edge Pistol in 5.56mm.
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