As SIG SAUER’s plan of global domination progressed last year, the world was treated to an entirely new rifle in the MCX. A lot of the press went to the smaller, pistol-sized MPX, but the MCX did make waves. It became the duty weapon of the Netherlands Maritime SOF, the British CTSFO, the Berlin Police, and is in contention to become the official issue rifle of the French Army. Never a company content with good enough, SIG gathered data from all the real-world end users and are releasing an improved version — the MCX Virtus.
The Virtus is billed by SIG Sauer as the “most adaptive, accurate, longest lasting rifle available.” The company further states that the rifle was conceived for the demands of the Special Operations community. Well, good news, I was one of those. Now for the bad news. We tend to be incredibly skeptical of anything this new, especially once you look at the operating system. So it was with a wary eye that I unboxed my MCX Virtus Patrol.
- Type: Gas-piston operated semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 5.56x4tmm NATO
- Barrel Length: 16 in.
- Overall Length: 35.5 in.
- Trigger: 4 lbs. (tested)
- Weight: 7.9 lbs.
- Sights: none
- Finish: Gray
- Capacity: 30+1 rds.
- MSRP: $2,233
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
Now before I get crazy, I want to say upfront the MCX had two things pinging my radar. First, it is a piston-operated gun. Second, the bolt and recoil system is a serious departure from anything else I have seen. I have run the SCAR light, the ACR, and several piston models. Most piston guns, like the H&K 416, are extremely front heavy and the recoil kicks like a train wreck. Even when they’re chambered in 5.56, which is saying something. And any variation I have seen that tries to eliminate a buffer and buffer tube has a trade-off. It’s not that I don’t believe an AR system can be improved on, it’s just that you can only sell me the Brooklyn Bridge once.
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Fortunately, a trip to the range dispelled any misgivings I had about the recoil of the SIG Sauer MCX Virtus. Not only was my Virtus incredibly accurate, it handled like a dream. I was amazed by how well SIG’s system soaked up recoil, making this one of the flattest shooting rifles I have picked up in 5.56. Even with a simple three-prong flash hider, the Virtus recoiled like an AR with a competition level brake. The difference might not mean much to the casual shooter, but for the intended audience, that means more rounds on target faster. And details like that matter when you are trying to surgically shoot terrorists in an S-vest factory. The rifle snapped between targets easily, with no hint of imbalance. The rifle is slightly front heavy, but not obnoxiously so. This probably owes more to the lack of weight in the rear than any significant mass of the piston system.
Accuracy wise, I was impressed by the Virtus. I only had a 6X scope available this week, so I shot my groups at 50 meters. Not the norm, but its what I had. With SIG Sauer Elite Performance 77-grain OTM loads, the Virtus turned in multiple ½ inch groups. This is not a 100-percent value of the max accuracy in the gun, but it does tell us it should be an inch or under at 100 meters. For a battle rifle, that is more than adequate.
The controls and pistol grip are AR familiar, which makes the learning curve picking this rifle up a flat zero. But that is really where the similarities end. The buttstock is a skeletonized and the lightweight five-position stock also folds to the side. In case you were wondering, the rifle remains fully functional with the stock folded. Instead of a buffer and buffer tube, the recoil system is housed inside upper receiver. The trigger is the new SIG Matchlite duo trigger, as in two stage. My test sample’s trigger broke at around 4 pounds and is a night and day improvement over a standard mil-spec trigger. Twin recoil springs r the de over top of the bolt, which is also MCX specific. The bolt is about half the length of an AR bolt, and also doesn’t have to travel as far, which likely contributes to the soft recoil. This makes the MCX upper about a ¼ inch taller than a standard AR, but it is not something you would notice unless looking at the two side by side. Lefty’s will be stoked to learn that the MCX has an ambidextrous fire selector, magazine release and charging handle.
The handguard features plentiful real estate for M-LOK accessories and has a nice oval shape to it. I really appreciated the smooth sides and skeletonized structure while I was conducting run-and-gun drills. The piston system is adjustable for suppressed/regular shooting, with a large cut out in the hand guard for adjustments. The Virtus is advertised as user adaptable. The handguard is ingeniously designed to be easily removable. The hand guard has machined rails that overlap the upper receiver section for strength, and is held on using the front takedown pin. This not only gives you an extra 5 inches of rail that is actually part of the upper receiver for optics, it makes handguard swaps easy. Which you may want to do when you swap the barrel out for a shorter one or a different caliber.
Wait what? Yeah, barrels are user swap easy too. Even for those of us that suck at shade-tree gunsmithing. Provided you have a Fat Wrench at home, you can swap barrels in under a minute. There are two captured screws under the hand guard, size T27. Unscrew those and the barre will slide off easily. Put on a new one, torque to 60 inch pounds, and you are good to go. On the subject of barrels, the Virtus does feature a design change over the older MCX. The new profile is a heavy taper barrel, designed to enhance accuracy. It is thick in the back, and tapers to near pencil thin at the muzzle. I haven’t shot a lot of rifles like this, but the accuracy above tells me it is working. You can switch to .300 AAC Blackout right now, with hopefully more caliber options on the table in the future.
Overall, I’m impressed by the SIG Sauer Virtus. If the MCX system holds up as advertised, it represents one of the greatest leaps in battle rifles I have seen in my lifetime. SIG advertises 20,000 rounds before any parts replacements, and we just might have to find out if that holds up. At the end of a gun review, it’s not often that I ask for an extension to the loan, but this is an exception. I really want to see how this gun does over time, and in some adverse conditions. Winter is coming, and with a bit of luck, SIG will let us beat it up till Christmas.
For more information about the SIG Sauer MCX Virtus, click here.
For more information about SIG Sauer Elite Ammo, click here.
For more information about the Fat Wrench, click here.
To purchase a SIG Sauer MCX Virtus on GunsAmerica, click here.