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