Short barrel rifles are excellent tools for home defense and law enforcement use. They can be quite handy when maneuvering in tight rooms and hallways, and they can be easier to pull in and out of a patrol car. The question of what is the best SBR is subjective and greatly influenced by your individual needs. In today’s article, firearms trainer and deputy sheriff Paul Carlson examines the Victor Short Barrel Rifle and offers his perspective.
In addition to my work as a writer in the firearms industry, I also work as a full-time deputy assigned to patrol in a sheriff’s office in northeast Ohio. At the start of every shift, I load my cruiser with a seeming truckload of important gear. Some of that gear, like my breaching tools, rarely see use on patrol. Other items, like my duty rifle, see regular use.
My SAINT Victor SBR (short-barreled rifle) 5.56mm is paramount to the work I do. I would say that on approximately 10 percent of the shifts I work, I deploy my rifle. Of the gear I’m not wearing on my person, my 5.56mm gets the most attention. It’s made “ready” at the beginning of every shift in a precise and methodical manner so that if I need to press it into use, I know it’s good to go. Lives may count on it.
Most of the reviews I write tend to center around firearms for home or self-defense. When looking at a gun for these purposes, reliability is king. While other attributes like fit and the availability of aftermarket accessories can be important, reliability is far and away the most important consideration. For my duty rifle, I hold it to a different standard. Don’t get me wrong, reliability is still the most important aspect of a duty rifle. But when it comes to duty use, there are other factors that are nearly as important.
What I Need — Reliability & Durability
When it comes to selecting a gun for law enforcement duty, not just any firearm will do. The increased likelihood of this firearm being pressed into use as a life-saving tool and the conditions the rifle is placed in on every shift demand a special combination of reliability, durability and customization.
When it comes to reliability, a duty rifle is no different than a rifle used for home defense. It needs to go bang every time the trigger is pressed. My SAINT Victor SBR has done that. It has run reliably for me in difficult circumstances in training over the past two years. It doesn’t matter what ammo I’m running — even training ammunition — the gun just runs. Again, this is a paramount quality in a duty rifle.
The durability requirement for my SAINT Victor SBR is just a slight notch below the reliability requirement in importance. Remember that stat I threw out earlier? In 10% of my shifts, my rifle is in use. That means it is out, in my hands or slung on my person many, many times.
And the stresses it faces do not just come from conventionally employing it. Having my SBR on my back while I’m breaching an exterior door means my gun is exposed to an environment with significant stress, wear and tear. And while the finish of my gun shows that wear, the rifle keeps on going.
Also, I stow my rifle in a padded case in the back of my Tahoe. Each shift exposes my rifle to 250-350 miles of vibration, bumps and bangs that can take their toll on any piece of equipment.
Customizing My Short Barrel Rifle
And what about customization? These days, an AR-15 duty rifle without a selection of must-have accessories simply comes up short.
For starters, a rifle without a sling is a liability. The SAINT Victor SBR has QD sling mount points on both sides of the BCM Gunfighter Mod 0 stock as well as the free-floated, M-Lok compatible handguard. In addition, the back of the receiver sports another QD socket for those of you that like to sling your rifle at the midpoint. I rock a Defense Mechanisms Rifle Sling with QD mounts locked into the right side of the buttstock and the left front of the handguard.
The SAINT SBR’s flat-top upper receiver and handguard provide a full-length Picatinny rail for the mounting of optics, back-up sights, lasers and anything else you might need (or are required) to attach. My rifle has a Trijicon MRO HD on a Unity FAST MRO mount on the upper. The MRO is my main aiming tool, and the FAST mount has a back-up rear sight in the mount.
At the end of the handguard, I mount a Steiner DBAL-A3 laser with a LEAF back-up front sight. Right behind my laser, the rail holds the switch for my weaponlight. Finally, the M-Lok compatible handguard allows the mounting of everything else. In my case, it secures the supplied handstop and a Cloud Defensive REIN 3.0 weaponlight.
As you can see, my SAINT Victor SBR provides the reliability, durability and ability to customize that I require in a duty rifle.
SAINT Victor SBR Specifications
|5.56 NATO / .223
|5 lbs 9 oz (unloaded)
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 0
|30 rounds (one included)
|$1,150 as tested
There was obvious thought that went into the layout of the SAINT Victor SBR. I’m not going to call out all the details as you can check out the specs in the specifications chart in this article, including the MSRP of $1,150. Instead, I’m going to share the details that I feel are important from a duty standpoint.
First, the size. The Victor SBR is small. With the stock fully collapsed, the 11.5”-barreled SBR is just 27.5” in length. With the six-position stock fully extended, the length comes in at a short 30.75”. In my opinion, the length is an advantage in two situations. The first is if your job has you regularly working inside a vehicle while wearing your rifle. The short length of the SBR is a decided advantage here.
The second situation is my personal situation. I use my rifle almost exclusively outside of the vehicle. As a result, I don’t need the short length of the SAINT Victor SBR. So, why did I select an SBR? Because it’s the perfect host for a can and I run my gun suppressed.
Next is the single-sided safety. I know ambidextrous selector levers are cool and a boon for southpaw shooters, but having a single-sided safety means you can sling your rifle with the selector lever away from your body, which drastically reduces the chance of the safety being swept to the “FIRE” position when you are doing other work.
And lastly, there is the bolt carrier group (BCG). The heart of an AR is its BCG, and Springfield selected an enhanced M16 bolt carrier with a 9310 bolt for strength and durability. In addition, it is Melonite-coated and is both MPI and high-pressure tested.
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve spent over two years putting this short-barrel AR-15 rifle to the test. It hasn’t disappointed. I’ve pushed it very hard, and it has kept running. And in my time with it, I have come to really respect and trust the rifle.
As I mentioned, I have run this SBR very hard with a wide variety of a lot of ammunition over the past two years. Some of it was high-quality ammo; others, not so much. It all ran. However, we all know a duty or defensive rifle needs to be paired with the right ammunition. For the purposes of this article, I reached out to Black Hills Ammunition for some of the best 5.56 rounds in the business.
Black Hills was happy to help out and, in the process, I found one round in particular that paired with the Victor SAINT SBR extremely well. But that being said, all of it was impressive.
To see what the SBR could do with the ammunition, I tested for accuracy from a bench on a rest at 50 yards. I ran 62-gr. Dual Purpose and TSX loads, as well as a 77-gr. Open Tip Match load. All of the ammo performed well without a hiccup, but the real standout was the 62-gr. Dual Purpose round. With a group of just over .60 inches at 50 yards, needless to say, I was extremely impressed with this load. Black Hills certainly deserves a look if you care about the quality of your ammo.
During my time with the SAINT Victor SBR over the past two years, I have learned a few of its quirks. For example, the M-Lok slots have diagonal ends that can sometimes make mounting M-Lok accessories between two adjacent rails a little difficult. Not a big deal, just be aware.
I also experienced one instance of my adjustable gas block adjustment screw walking out of position. To address this, I added a monthly check of the screw to my maintenance schedule for the rifle and have not had another issue. Road vibrations are real for rifles that live in vehicles. If you carry a rifle in your car on duty or not, make sure to check everything with threads, regularly.
If you work for an agency that has a personal patrol rifle policy and an SBR is a possibility for you, the SAINT Victor SBR 5.56mm definitely deserves your attention. Considering its reasonable price, you can pick up a Springfield SBR and a suppressor for about what you might pay for some other rifles.
I can honestly say the SAINT Victor SBR AR-15 rifle has performed extremely well for me over an extended period of time of some very hard use, and I expect it has a lot of life left in it. I never worry if my rifle is going to be ready to do work. I know that if I do my part, it will have my back. And that means a lot to me.
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