As a writer and reviewer I try to give every firearm a fair shake. Some are not right for me, but may fit the best choice for others. I have not been enthusiastic concerning the AR-15 pistol. I prefer a rifle for accuracy, hit potential, and wound ballistics. Just the same the AR pistol is a viable firearm for several circumstances.
My question was just how good is the AR pistol and should I adopt it? Perhaps my opinion is worth weighing against those with more experience. My outlook is fresh. I am not young and could the AR-15 pistol convince me to put aside, as an example, my trusted 12 gauge autoloading shotgun for home defense? Or does lighter weight and easy handling make it a better choice than the Springfield Saint rifle?
I have considerable experience with the Springfield Saint 5.56mm rifle and also the Springfield Victor .308 rifle. Each exhibits high quality and have been quite accurate. The Springfield Saint pistol is well made and exhibits excellent workmanship.
The Saint is delivered in a soft case with a 30 round Magpul magazine. The pistol is also delivered with a stabilizing brace. This is a good deal all around as arm braces are quite expensive for quality examples. The SB Tactical brand is as good as it gets in an arm brace.
The 10.5 inch barrel AR pistols are common but the Springfield Saint pistol is supplied with a Melonite coated 7.5 inch barrel. Barrel twist is one turn in seven inches. The bolt carrier is properly fitted with well staked gas keys and is also Melonite coated.
The trigger is coated in Nickle Boron. The trigger is ok for a factory AR-15 trigger, mil-spec weight. Trigger compression is 7.0 pounds from the factory. All controls are crisp and solid.
The grip fits most hands well and the handguard offers a good grip. An interesting addition is a blast diverter extending some 1.25 inches from the handguard. AR-15 pistols have a lot of blast from the short barrel, lots of powder expecting more barrel to burn within. I did not have another pistol to compare this one to, but the blast diverter seems effective. Just the blast is stout, particularly in an indoor range.
When considering handling the AR pistol you have to consider its factory attributes to use it quickly and decisively, likely at short range. In order to upgrade the pistol’s performance I added a few upgrades. One is the Magpul bolt release. Sure I could get by without it but this little device makes speed loading much more certain – and a bit faster. I also upgraded the trigger. The Patriot Ordnance Factory flats trigger offers a crisp 4.5lb trigger action. This is a superlative trigger with a solid reputation. I added anti-walk pins – probably not needed but never a bad idea in my opinion.
The Springfield Saint pistol demanded a viable red dot sight. The Vortex Strikefire isn’t the most expensive optic but not the cheapest either. It is in a spot where most of us may afford a credible and effective red dot.
I like the wide range of brightness settings. An important point is that range work and the best settings wont be the best settings for home defense. Don’t have the red dot set so bright that it washes out the threat and you cannot see the threat clearly. The Venom is compact enough and offers good adjustment. Either a red dot or a green dot setting may be used. Battery life is excellent. Windage and elevation is easily set. Mounting is simple enough, mount the red dot sight on the rails, press forward and down, and tighten it up.
The Springfield Saint with Vortex optic and P.O.F. trigger is a very nice shooting set up.
Beginning at low ready and firing rapidly at man sized targets at 10, 15, and 25 yards the pistol comes on target quickly and offers excellent hit probability. The trigger’s crisp compression and rapid reset is a big plus. Firing with both eyes open and looking through the red dot sight I simply ate the targets up. Head shoots are easy- aim, compress the trigger, and you have a hit. Hit potential is high. I have a good amount of AR-15 rifle experience and this transferred well to the Springfield Saint. This is quite simply a formidable combination. I also added a Vortex magnifier. This magnifier is designed to offer magnification to the red dot at longer range. With zero magnification and a wide field of view the red dot sight is ideal for fast combat shooting with both eyes open. The Magnifier is probably the one option I did not need. It would be necessary for engaging targets much past 50 yards and certainly past 75 yards for most shooters.
After considerable firing, practice, and thought, I believe the AR-15 pistol is superior to the AR-15 rifle for home defense and for use in close quarters. The AR-15 pistol is an easy piece to use well. Ammunition performance is good for home defense. The likelihood of overpenetration with the 5.56mm cartridge is slim. The key to limiting over penetration is of course hitting the target.
I have always enjoyed excellent results with Black Hills Ammunition. I used several loads during this test program. Accuracy is good to excellent. As an example – and while it is sometimes a struggle to properly bench rest an AR-15 pistol- I have fired several 1.5 inch three shot 50 yard groups. Ammunition performance is concerning. As an example the Black Hills 60 grain JSP breaks 2104 fps from the Springfield Saint’s 7.5 inch barrel. This is nearly 750 fps less than the 16 inch barrel carbine. This severely limits the pistol’s lethality at ranges of 50 yards or more. Just the same- for close quarters use the AR-15 pistol seems viable. Will it replace my AR-15 rifle or my shotguns? No but this is certainly a front line firearm in my scheme of things.
Springfield Armory SAINT Pistol Specifications
- Action: Semi-Auto, Direct-Impingement Gas System
- Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
- Overall Length: 26.5″
- Barrel Length: 7.5″
- Weight: 5 lbs., 8 oz.
- Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
- Sights: Top Picatinny Rail allows optical sight and iron sights.