Compact, Rugged and Very Accurate: Springfield Armory’s SAINT AR-15 Pistol

Frio County, Texas: Mid-October 2019 and the Texas sun was sweltering hot and made the inside of our hunting blind a dry heat sauna. But that same sun was starting to drop over the live oaks, finally, shadows lengthening across the brush and ranch trails, and that’s when the hog stepped out of the mesquite and began rooting in the pasture grasses.

Maybe 70 yards away and standing broadside. I placed the dot of my Leupold onto the boar’s head, eased out the air in my lungs, and squeezed the trigger of my SAINT AR-15 Pistol. The hog seemed to jump up and back in one fluid motion and disappeared into the brush like he’d never been there at all.

“What just happened?” I asked my hunting partner, Darren Jones, also the marketing and sales manager of Aerocharger Ballistics.

“Solid hit,” said Jones. “I heard the whap! He’s in that mesquite, dead.”

Actually, the boar made it a good 100 yards beyond the brush, despite having taken a 62-grain Barnes TSX bullet to the noggin. And he required a follow-up shot. One tough pig! I thought.

McCombie’s Texas boar taken with the SAINT AR-15 Pistol, tricked out with a Leupold RDS optic and a Raptor 5.56 Suppressor from Aerocharger Ballistics.

And one very nice and very versatile AR pistol, the SAINT AR-15 Pistol from Springfield Armory. It bounced around in pickups and hunting blinds, got dropped once onto its side, took on all the dust and dirt Texas had to offer (which was plenty), and it operated without a glitch.

For this hunt, I had it outfitted with a ten stack Raptor 5.56 Suppressor from Aerocharger Ballistics. All titanium, the Raptor 5.56 uses “Spiral Technology” to capture and deaden muzzle blast, and it worked to perfection. I had absolutely no need for hearing protection.

The Raptor 5.56 Suppressor, from Aerocharger Ballistics, worked perfectly on McCombie’s hog hunt—no hearing protection required!

Springfield introduced the SAINT AR-15 Pistol last year. Chambered in 223 Rem/5.56 MM, the Saint AR-15 Pistol sports a 9.6-inch chrome moly vanadium barrel. The bolt is Carpenter 158 steel and is High Pressure Tested. The bolt carrier group is Melonite treated for extreme durability.

Rugged, reliable and darned accurate, the SAINT AR-15 Pistol is a fine home defense choice.

The nickel boron coated trigger helps provide a smooth even trigger pull, which my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge measured at a crisp 3-pounds, 11-ounces.

The Bravo Company handguard features an integrated handstop to keep your support hand clear of the muzzle. The AR-15 Pistol operates on a direct-impingement, carbine length system, and features a pinned-in-place Picatinny gas block that does allow for the direct attachment of a front sight.

The Bravo Company handguard features an integrated handstop to keep the support hand from covering the muzzle.

The low-profile Trinity Force Breach Brace provides strong support, enhanced stability, and is simple to adjust with a small Allen wrench.

The AR-15 Pistol’s Trinity Force Breach Blade brace is solid and easy to adjust.

All of that for significantly under $1,000, and weighing just 5-lb., 8-oz.

The SAINT AR-15 Pistol is handy, and is a fine choice for home defense, personal protection, as a truck gun, has some hunting applications (more on this later), and is a hell of a lot of fun to just shoot.

I also discovered that the SAINT AR-15 Pistol is amazingly accurate. 

Before my Texas hunt, I took the SAINT AR-15 Pistol to my local range and, with the Leupold RDS (reviewed here) mounted on it, zeroed the pistol at 50 yards. That was done quickly and easily, thanks to the good controls on the RDS optic; I soon had the SAINT clustering shots at an inch.

Initially, McCombie mounted the Leupold RDS red dot on the SAINT and had good groups at 50 yards.

But once the hunt was over and I was back home, I mounted a new Trijicon Credo 1.5-6×24 scope onto the SAINT to do some more intensive accuracy testing. The Credo was a perfect fit for the Pistol, compact, with very clear glass and precise controls.

Trijicon’s new Credo 1.5-6×24 scope turned out to be a great compliment to the SAINT.

For accuracy testing, I used three brands of .223 ammunition: Black Hills Ammunition’s 52-grain Match Hollow Points; Hornady’s Varmint Express firing a 55-grain V-MAX bullet; and Speer’s new Gold Dot Personal Protection with a 55-grain Uni-Cor bullet, optimized for short-barrels and designed to not over-penetrate.

I couldn’t believe how accurate this little AR was with its stubby 9.6-inch barrel.

My best five-shot group was with the Black Hills rounds and came in at just .57-inches. I was floored, frankly. Figured it was a fluke. Then I shot another five rounds of the Black Hills at 1.05-inches and four shots at .90-inches.

This five shot group, using Black Hills Ammunition’s 52-grain Match Rounds, scored an impressive .57” at 100 yards.

My best group with the Hornady Varmint Express pegged at .88-inches, and that was six shots not five. The Speer’s top group was 1.07-inches, with the first three shots clustered at just .53-inches.

Hornady’s Varmint Express drilled six rounds into a .88” group at 100 yards, shot from the SAINT AR-15 Pistol.

I also shot a number of groups at 1.0- to 1.4-inches, and completely blew it as a marksman a few times and pegged 2.0-inch groups.

Now, that short barrel does heat up quickly. If I pulled off a half dozen shots fast, shots started going wider at Round #4. Shot #5 could drift even more, though it might hit right next to #4.

Also, I tried heavier rounds with the SAINT AR-15 Pistol, and bullets over 55-grains did not group well at 100 yards. Rounds with 62-grain and 77-grain bullets made groups of three- and four inches. 

I used an RCBS Ammo Master Chronograph to measure ten rounds of each ammunition used for accuracy testing. The average feet-per-second (fps) readings were: 2,596 fps for the Black Hills; 2,533 fps for the Hornady Express; and, 2,514 for the Speer Gold Dot.

The SAINT AR-15’s nickel boron coated trigger measured at a crisp 3-pounds, 11-ounces of pull.

I plugged the fps and bullet weights into the GunDate.org Ballistic Calculator, plus the ballistic coefficients. With the Credo at a height of 2.5 inches above the SAINT’s bore, the numbers for both the Black Hills and the Hornady reveal why the AR-15 Pistol would make a decent coyote gun out to 150 yards, but should not be considered for deer or hog hunting.

That is the downside of the short 9.6-inch barrel: diminished fps and therefore reduced energy.

Standard velocities for centerfire rifles are measured with a 24-inch barrel. Hornady, for example, lists the muzzle velocity of the 55-grain VMAX in 223 Rem at 3,240 fps. Assuming you would lose 30 fps for every inch under 24 inches, that would still place the V-Max at approximately 3,000 fps out of a standard 16-inch AR15 barrel (3240fps – 240 fps lost with 8 inches less barrel). At the muzzle, this translates into 1,098 foot-pounds of energy, 848 ft-lbs. at 100 yards and 645 ft-lbs. at 200 yards.

More than sufficient to kill a coyote and other varmints.

But with the SAINT’s shorter barrel, the same V-Max bullet has just 783 ft-lbs. of energy at the muzzle, 593 ft-lbs. at 100 yards and a very anemic 440 ft-lbs. at 200 yards.

That shorter barrel and the diminished fps and ft-lbs. is why my hog didn’t drop right where he stood. The bullet came to within an inch of his spinal cord and should have blown it up, but with a slower fps, the bullet didn’t expand and transfer energy as it should have.

So, for the hunter? Even with head shots, I’d stay away from the SAINT AR-15 Pistol for deer and hogs, though I feel it is accurate and powerful enough for varmints out to 150 yards.

Home defense and self-defense is where I think the SAINT AR-15 Pistol would really shine, especially with a good .223 ammunition like the Speer Gold Dot specifically made to not over-penetrate.

The compact, lightweight SAINT AR-15 Pistol makes a great truck gun, in addition to being a top choice for self-defense.

SPECS:  Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15 Pistol

Caliber: .223 Rem/5.56x45mm NATO

Barrel: 9.6″ Chrome moly vanadium, 1:8 Twist

Pistol Brace: Trinity Force Breach Blade 1.0 Std. Pistol

Buffer Assembly: Carbine “H” Heavy Tungsten Buffer

Muzzle Device: A2 Flash Hider

Upper Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum, Type III Hardcoat Anodized, Forward Assist, M4 Feed Ramps

Lower Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum, Type III Hardcoat Anodized, Accu-Tite Tension System

Gas System: Direct Impingement Carbine-Length, Picatinny Pinned Gas Block

Bolt Carrier Group: M16 w/ Carpenter 158 Steel Bolt, HPT/MPI, Melonite treated

Weight: 5 lbs., 8 oz.

Length: 25.8″ to 28.3″

Magazines: (1) 30-Round Magpul PMAG Gen M3

MSRP: $849

For more information visit Springfield Armory website.

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About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • NH Marine August 25, 2020, 8:23 am

    And if you truly knew federal regulations regarding pistol braces, then you would know how truly ridiculous your statement is.

  • Ti August 24, 2020, 3:20 pm

    When did you show up?

  • Greg P August 24, 2020, 12:58 pm

    If it truly classified as an AR pistol, it’s truly illegal to shoulder it.

  • Mike Colorado August 24, 2020, 12:52 pm

    Very nice write up, I have had my eye on the Saint pistol for a bit your write up is enough for me to make a move to purchase one.

  • Gaylen Livingston August 24, 2020, 12:34 pm

    What is out the door cost on this AR-15 and added cost for suppressor

  • pete August 24, 2020, 10:40 am

    that’s a pistol in name only, an obvious loop hole gun. and we’re not in a holy war, so what’s with all these religiously names guns? it’s pretty silly all around.

  • Johnny August 24, 2020, 10:19 am

    Wow…for some reason I always felt that SAINT would carry a higher price tag for what it is…thank you SA for making something nice and affordable all in one!

    Brian, you’re killin my bank account man. As much as I do like my 223/5.56 RDS I have been looking in to a lower variable optic with that Trijicon Credo being a contender. Feels like every article you pick something from one of my “wish lists” and make me salivate! Goes from a want to “NEED!” Lol

    Very nice set up there!

  • Ron Franklin August 24, 2020, 9:06 am

    Nice, this one is worth checking out further.

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