REVIEW: Winchester XPC Chassis Rifle

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This venerable rifle maker jumped on board following the modern trends in bolt-gun construction and design in a big way with a new “chassis rifle.” Here’s all the details…

Winchester XPC
Winchester XPC

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Steve Adelmann

The bolt-action rifle world sure has changed over the past 10 years. Even after the Y2K scares, rifles with traditional lines were still very much the norm. Contrast that with today’s bolt-action offerings: a plethora rifles with skeletonized, aluminum “chassis,” fully adjustable stocks, and copious rail-mounting space. That is a good thing in my book; it’s called progress, or maybe it’s just the natural evolution of things. Turnbolt purists may object, but I am fairly certain rifle purists of a century ago were still scoffing at any rifle that held more than one cartridge. Rifle manufacturers wishing to get into the tactical or long-range-precision markets all have at least one modernized bolt-action model in their catalogue now. Winchester Repeating Arms is no exception, and its new-for-2017 offering, the Winchester XPC chassis rifle, is a solid entry.

Now, I have to be perfectly honest before diving into my evaluation of the Winchester XPC. I am definitely not the best guy to cover the finer points of Winchester bolt-action rifles — at least not in any historical context. I have not had much exposure to them, but that also means my slate was clean going into this test. Uninfluenced by brand experience and bias, my approach to evaluating the new Winchester rifle was the same as any other new design: I looked at it in terms of reliability, durability, accuracy, practicality, and affordability. And performance.

The Winchester XPC is billed by the company as a “full-house precision chassis rifle,” and at first glance it seems to fit that category. But, you have to go deeper in to get the real details. It is based on the company’s existing XPR action, and strikes a nice balance between a precision target rifle and a long-range tactical tool. Its 20-inch, chrome-moly, button-rifled barrel wears Winchester’s “Permacote” matte-black finish and comes threaded with standard 5/8×24-tpi at the muzzle. My test gun was chambered in.308 Winchester. A knurled thread protector is included for use while you decide what to ultimately mount on it, if anything. At 0.75-inch in diameter at the muzzle, the meaty barrel balances nicely in its Cerakoted alloy chassis. A floating recoil lug is nested in that chassis, mating to a slot machined into the underside of the barrel. The fit is tight on both ends, and the lug can be removed when the action is out of the stock. A pair of screws mate action to chassis, one in front of the magazine well and one behind, concealed under the paddle-style magazine release.

Winchester XPC mag release

An extended freefloat tube continues the 20-MOA-slope receiver rail and provides ample space for day and night optics or other ancillary devices. The fore-end tube slides over a curved protrusion on the bottom of the chassis and is held in place with three Allen screws. Additional M-Lok-compatible rail sections can be added along the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock sections of the fore-end.

Winchester XPC bolt

Ammunition feeding is handled by way of the increasingly popular AICS-pattern .308 Win. magazines. They drop free from the XPC action after pressing an easily accessible, paddle-style release located in front of the trigger guard. A beefy, three-lug, 60-degree throw, cock-on-opening bolt is the heart of the XPC action. A conical, oversize bolt handle is threaded-on in case the shooter wants to change it. The bolt head and fluted body are machined from a solid piece of steel and wear a nickel-Teflon coating to enhance smooth operation.

Extraction on the Winchester XPC rifle is well-managed by a Sako-style extractor with a spring-loaded, recessed plunger doing the ejecting through an oversize ejection/loading port. The bolt release is set into the tactical-familiar left-side of the receiver at the stock line. Incorporated is a two-position safety that locks the bolt when engaged; a separate button just in front of the safety unlocks it while on “safe” so the action may be opened. This is a bit cumbersome; however, the safety and bolt controls worked as designed.

Winchester XPC rail

Winchester chose to use an AR15-compatible buttstock and handgrip, giving a near-endless range of possibilities to customize the XPC to their needs. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to any riflescope I tried for proper eye relief due to the length of the Magpul PRS Gen III stock that comes standard on the XPC. It is adjustable for cheek height, buttplate height, and length-of-pull and well-suited for modern sporting rifles, but is not the best choice on this platform. The rail on top of the rifle’s receiver is significantly forward of where it would be on an AR’s upper receiver, so a riflescope mount has to be placed in the rearmost slots and the scope must be slid as far back as possible in the rings or mount to see the target clearly.

Were this my rifle, I would swap the A2-style buffer tube for a carbine buffer tube and go with a collapsible stock. The stock has a socket for a QD sling mount and a longer sling-routing loop, and both can be swapped from one side to the other. The MOE-K pistol grip is also an odd choice here. I love this grip on light, fast-handling carbines or AR-type pistols, but it is a bit small for a precision rifle like the Winchester XPC.

Winchester XPC details

Winchester’s “MOA” trigger system provides an advertised adjustability range of 3 to 5 pounds, and my Timney scale measured the test sample at just a hair lighter than 3. The trigger was very clean and consistent, so I left it alone. Adjusting the trigger requires removal of the action from the stock to access weight and overtravel screws with a 1/16-inch Allen wrench. After ensuring the rifle’s bore was clean, the action and scope mounting screws were torqued to 65 inch-pounds, and after applying light grease to the locking lugs I headed for the range. Production rifles are supposed to have a 1:10-inch twist, but my test gun’s barrel turned out to have a 1:11.5-inch twist. I made sure to include a couple of lighter-projectile loads in the mix to ensure twist rate did not hamper accuracy testing.

I elected to shoot from the bench using a bag rest because being seated brought my eye closer to the scope eyepiece than when prone. Still, I struggled to maintain a clear target image throughout the test due to the Winchester XPC’s excessive length-of-pull. The only other problem I had was that the bolt knob loosened up every few shots. A couple drops of a thread-locking compound could solve that problem easily enough. The action was slick as a small-town lawyer and worked efficiently. The barrel’s weight helped the rifle remain settled during recoil. Federal Premium American Eagle’s 130-grain varmint JHP load managed the tightest group and barely edged out Black Hills’ match load for best accuracy. The 125- and 130-grain loads’ light recoil made the XPC particularly fun to shoot.

XPC testing

After testing three supersonic loads, I attached a SureFire muzzle brake and a SOCOM762 suppressor for subsonic-ammo testing. The rifle did not care for the 175-grain subsonic load and with a low standard deviation in muzzle velocity, I cannot really blame that on the ammunition. The subsonic Nexus ammo had very little recoil and my shots were clean, so the loose barrel twist combined with slow velocity were the likely culprits. Overall, accuracy was solid. Any production rifle that displays sub-MOA averages from multiple factory ammunition types has strong potential for a wide range of uses. If all Winchester XPC rifles shoot like my test gun, this model should be a solid performer for anyone.

I put a total of 125 rounds through the XPC without any hiccups. The rifle showed itself to be a capable shooter with a weight and size best-suited for long-range precision work. If I were in the market to buy a new tactical turnbolt, the Winchester XPC rifle would be hovering near the top of my list of possibles, alongside rifles that cost three or four times as much. I can no longer claim to have zero useful Winchester rifle experience, and I am a happier man for it.

The Winchester XPC is available in .308 Win., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor with an MSRP of $1599.00

Winchester XPC

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RELOADERS CORNER: Priming 3

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Correct primer ignition is a key to consistent velocities and good accuracy, and maybe even survival! Let’s make sure the primer pops proper. Read how…

Glen Zediker

Last two times we’ve looked at the tools and process of seating primers and also the thing itself. This time let’s take it another step and perfect the important step of priming a centerfire case.

primer pocket uniforming
Very important step, in my mind, in the reloading process: uniforming primer pockets.

 

As gone on about in the first article, it’s very important to seat each and every primer flush to the bottom of the cartridge case priming pocket. Tool choice has a whopping lot to do with how well attaining that goal can be reached, and that’s because it is a “feel” operation.

However! Probably the biggest asset to correct primer seating is a primer pocket that’s correctly dimensioned and correctly finished. And this, in effect, removes some of the importance or contribution of the “feel” needed and that’s because when the primer stops it will stop flat and flush. If the pocket is what it should be.

With the exception of a very few (and expensive) cases, the primer flash hole and the primer pocket itself are punched, not drilled and milled. That’s done, of course, in the interest of efficiency in producing the case. That manufacturing process, though, hain’t perfect.

Cross-section a case head and you’ll see that the inside bottom of the pocket is a little bowl-shaped; the corners aren’t square, which means the bottom of the pocket isn’t flat all across. Since the bottom of a primer cup is indeed flat, it’s way on better if these surfaces are a match.

primer pocket uniforming

A “primer pocket uniformer” fixes this to the same level it would be had it been machined: it will be at “blueprint” specs. A uniforming tool also sets pocket depth and will correct a shallow pocket. And again, the flat primer cup mated with an equally flat primer pocket bottom results in a truly well-seated primer.

In my estimation, I think this is an even more important procedure or preparation step for those using any automated or semi-automated priming process, such as encountered on a progressive-style press than it is for “precision” handloaders. In short: the less feel in the tool that’s available to guide you to know the primer has seated completely is offset a whopping lot by the assurance that flat-to-flat flush contact results pretty much just from running the press handle fully.

primer pocket uniforming tool
Primer pocket uniforming is done fastest and easiest with a tool that chucks into a drill. There are many available, and I recommend getting a “fixed” depth design. One thing: unlike virtually all other case-preparation steps, pocket uniforming is usually best one on once-fired, not new, brass. That’s because the pockets can be a little difficult for the tool to enter when the pockets are at their smallest, which they will be as new.

It’s another step, though, that adds time and tedium to the reloading process. Add power and it’s a lot easier, and, for the majority, has only to be done once. True, after enough firings a pocket will get shallower, and it will also be getting larger in diameter. Usually the increased diameter outruns the loss of depth in signaling the end of case life.

I use mine in place of a primer pocket cleaning tool. There is zero harm in running a uniformer each use for reloading. Uniformers are available as fixed- and adjustable-depth. I generally recommend getting a fixed tool, and then trusting it. Setting depth on an adjustable model is tedious, and critical. Too deep can weaken the case.

uniformed pocket
Here’s a little (important) something that you might notice after uniforming primer pockets. The case on the right shows very clear primer anvil impressions, and that’s because this primer was seated fully flush into a uniformed pocket; the case on the left was not uniformed and likewise the primer was not fully seated flush (couldn’t be).

If you’re wanting to load once-fired mil-spec cases, or have to load once-fired mil-spec cases, then the original primer crimp must be removed. A primer crimp is small lip of brass that’s pinched into the primer edge during the primer seating process. It holds the primer in place against inertia-induced movement that might unseat it. Now, you never ever need to worry about crimping your own ammunition. All that matters to us is removing the excess brass residual from the original crimp. The most simple, and fastest, way is using a primer pocket swaging tool. These are either press-mounted or stand-alone stations. Just run it, run it out, and the pocket has been swaged to unimpeded roundness again. It is possible to use a uniformer to remove crimp, but it’s a tool for another job and, almost always, it’s best to use specific tools for specific jobs. It’s a difficult chore with a uniformer, and the uniformer also may not smooth the entryway adequately.

primer pocket swaging tools
If you need to remove the crimp from mil-spec cases, get a swager. It’s the best tool for the job. They’re easy to use, and, as with other such processes, has only to be done once for the life of that case. After swaging, by all means run a uniformer if wanted. Check out tools HERE

Overall, get a swager and keep it simple. They’re not expensive, they’re easy to use, and, as with other such processes, has only to be done once for the life of that case. After swaging, by all means run a uniformer if wanted.

Should primer pockets be cleaned? Why not… There is probably no influence on accuracy if the pocket is dirty or spotless, but, why not… Deprime prior to case cleaning to get that area treated. I preach heavily on the virtues of a stand-along decapping station to keep grit out of the sizing die. A primer pocket cleaner is fast and easy to use, but, as mentioned, I instead just run a uniforming tool in its place.

As said a few times in this series, the most important thing is to know that the primers (all of them) have seated to at least slightly below flush with the case base. Just seeing that does, in no way, mean each primer is seated to perfection. There are variances in (un-uniformed) primer pocket depths. At the least, one more time, uniformed pockets will or sure should take a big step toward providing more certainty.

A “high” primer, one that’s not seated fully to the bottom of its pocket, results in a “soft” strike from the firing pin, and that’s because some of the inertia/energy in the speeding pin is siphoned away because it first will fully seat the primer… However! There’s another, even more important reason all primers should be seated fully: When used with a rifle having a floating-style firing pin, which is an AR15, the normal and unavoidable inertia-induced firing pin movement upon bolt closing will result in the firing pin tip contacting the primer. It will bounce or tap off the primer. If the primer is sitting out farther, there’s a greater likelihood of setting off the cap. That’s called a “slam-fire” and its aftermath ranges from shaken nerves to shrapnel infestations about the facial area.

AR15 firing pin indentation
Yikes! Here’s a round chambered and then pulled from one of my AR15s. Floating firing pins can “tap” off a primer, it’s intertia-induced. A more sensitive primer, and it could have gone off. This is not “supposed” to happen via rifle design, but, well, here it is. Make double-dang sure all the primers are seated below flush with the case head! It’s a problem with any floating-pin equipped rifle: M1A, M1, AR10, AR15. Primer composition matters. In this case, its resistance to detonation, and it should influence decisions on primer brands.

See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

Muzzleloaders Now Targeted by “Giffords” Gun Prohibition Lobby

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More deceit, lies, and the emergence of a very clear agenda from the anti-gunners: read how the “Giffords” seeks to disarm Americans and even take away great-grandad’s gun…

muzzleloader

SOURCE: NRA-ILA

It didn’t take long after the events in Las Vegas, Nevada for gun control advocates to resort to their usual tactic of blaming hardware for the acts of an evil man. Numerous anti-gun bills were introduced almost immediately, with arch anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) leading the charge. “This is written in clean English,” Feinstein insisted of her bill. “It does not take anyone’s gun.” Less than a month later, however, Feinstein abandoned the pretense of “not taking” guns and introduced perhaps the most sweeping gun and magazine ban in U.S. history.

Close on her heels last week was the recently-rebranded “Giffords” gun control consortium, which released a report that used the current debate over firearm legislation to, well, advocate for gun bans too. But the Giffords report went well beyond the usual gun control talking points in extending its attack all the way to muzzle-loading firearms. From the modern to the archaic, no gun is safe from the newly-emboldened prohibition lobby.

Considering these proposals, it’s hard to imagine how any firearm can thread the needle through all the justifications gun control advocates use to argue for additional bans.

Semiautomatic carbines that use detachable magazines must go, they say, because they can fire too many (relatively small) rounds too quickly.

But muzzleloaders — which fire one shot at a time and must be laboriously loaded through by hand down the barrel — can deliver what “Giffords” calls “a particularly lethal .50 caliber round” and are therefore unacceptable as well.

Bump stocks should be banned, according to the report, because they increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle held against the shoulder.

Yet dispensing with the stock entirely — as in the case of AR- or AK-style pistols — also presents a problem for the “Giffords” group because that creates guns capable of firing rifle-sized cartridges that are “concealable like handguns.”

But concealability of course isn’t the only problem for “Giffords.” Exceptionally large guns are out, too. The Giffords report goes on to fault modern .50 caliber rifles for combining “long range, accuracy, and massive firepower.”

Of course, the actual use of .50 caliber rifles to commit crime in the U.S. is vanishingly rare, thanks to their considerable weight, bulk, and price tag. A five-foot long gun that weighs nearly 33 lbs. and costs as much as many used cars is not likely to be the sort of tool most common criminals will lug from one crime scene to the next.

Where does this all lead? The Boston Globe answered that question this week with an article headlined, “Hand over your weapons.” It states: “The logic of gun control lies, at bottom, in substantially reducing the number of deadly weapons on the street — confiscation is far and away the most effective approach.” This thesis is accompanied by the usual celebration of Australia’s mass gun confiscation effort, an almost mandatory feature of any journalistic exploration of gun control these days.

And while admitting that “America is not Australia,” the Globe writer nevertheless asserts “there’s no way around” the conclusion that widespread gun ownership is to blame for violent crime in America and that the solution must involve confiscating “millions of those firearms.”

It’s telling that the “Giffords” organization — once among the more moderate of the gun control advocacy groups — now demands curbs on the sorts of muzzleloaders that it admits “fell out of favor as a firearm of choice almost a century ago, and are generally seen as primitive antiques.”

But what’s really out of favor and antiquated, in the unforgiving worldview of gun abolitionists, is your Second Amendment rights. The values of America’s Founding Fathers are just as obnoxious to them as the revolutionary-era rifles that helped win America’s freedom.

What do you think?

SKILLS: Misconceptions About Pistol Sights

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The sights are your connection to the target. Don’t buy into myths surrounding choices in a sighting system for your handgun. Read about it!

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Tom McHale

What’s that old saying? A lie, told often enough, becomes truth?

We gun people are often guilty of a related thing. That would be passing along hearsay comments over and over, until they become assumed fact.

pistol sight big dot

Some of the things that I’ve heard a thousand times relate to gun sights. You know, observations like “Big Dot sights are too big to be useful” or “they’re not precise enough!” I got an itch to put some of these handgun sight myths to the test so I could start to separate truth from hearsay.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more common handgun sight myths.

Big Sights Aren’t Precise Enough
To test this potential myth, I figured it was a good time for the first annual Shooting Illustrated Math Fair. In this inaugural event, we’re going to use really basic geometry to see exactly how big that Big Dot sight looks down range. In other words, at realistic handgun shooting distances, how much of your target is covered by the Big Dot sight?

Since this is supposed to be fun and informative, I won’t be a buzz kill and share the math in excruciating detail, but it’s pretty simple. We know that the shooter’s eye is the starting point. We also know that this particular Big Dot Sight is .18 inches in diameter because I measured it with my reloading calipers. We also know, that in my specific case, the front sight is about 24.5 inches from my eye when I’m shooting. Seriously, I measured with a yardstick. So now we have a proportional relationship. At a distance of 24.5 inches, the sight is .18-inch wide. As a result, we can easily figure out how big that sight appears at other distances.

Don’t fool yourself. Even “big” sights don’t cover an appreciable percentage of the target at reasonable distances.

Here’s how much the Big Dot covers at various ranges. Keep in mind that the Big Dot is a circle, so “coverage” of the target down range is also circular. The sizes I relate below reflect the diameter of that circle.

BIG DOT SIGHT

Clearly, Big Dot sights aren’t intended for NRA Precision Pistol Matches. Rather, they’re made for self-defense handguns with the emphasis on speed, clarity, and “good enough” accuracy at self-defense ranges.

What’s the bottom line? When you look at the real numbers, that huge front sight doesn’t cover much of your target at all. At 25 yards, it’s just 6.6 inches, and that is a much farther distance than 99.9 percent of defensive shooting scenarios. If you can shoot into a 6.6-inch group from a distance of 25 yards while someone is shooting at you or charging with an ax, then please submit your application to be my permanent bodyguard! At more realistic self-defense distances like 3, 5 and 10 yards, we’re talking an inch or two of target coverage by that front sight. Even at a whopping 100 yards, if you can hold well enough, you can easily hit a standard 19-inch-wide self-defense target. Yes, your front sight will overlap it, but just a little. To me, this precision myth is exactly that — a myth.

Big Sights Aren’t Any Faster
The idea behind using a large front sight is that your eye can pick it up really quickly as you raise your gun to target. There’s no ambiguity or confusion about which dot is the visible area is the front or rear. In fact, XS Big Dot brand sights don’t even use rear dots. Rather, the rear sight is a shallow “V”shape, much like the rear sights on lever-action carbines from the Bonanza era. I don’t know if Ben Cartwright gets royalty checks or not, but he should.

So, is this approach to handgun sights faster? I decided to find out by performing some semi-scientific testing. Since I’m writing this article during the great Charleston Monsoon of 2015, my shooting range has been unusable, being submerged in water. So I decided to get creative and put my LaserLyte Reaction Tyme targets to work along with a Beretta Px4 Storm, a LaserLyte Cartridge Laser, and a set of XS Big Dot Sights. My plan was to set up two Reaction Tyme Targets in my (relatively) dry living room and recruit a couple of people to shoot for time using the standard Beretta Px4 factory sights. Then, I would install the Big Dot sights and repeat the process, comparing before and after times. If nothing else, I figured this would be a great way to burn off some “four days of non-stop rain” stir crazy.

pistol sight on target

I recruited two shooters, neither of which had any experience with Big Dot Sights. I set up the two Reaction Tyme targets about four feet apart at a distance of 12 feet. The idea was to hit one and have to transition to the other quickly. My thinking was that would exercise the sight acquisition part of the experiment. Each shooter fired 10 shots alternating between targets. The “hit” area on the Reaction Tyme targets is only about a two-inch circle, so shooters had to aim, even at a distance of 12 feet. Only hits counted, so each shooter had to stay on a target until it registered a hit with an audible beep.

What were the results? Each shooter completed three timed runs and I averaged the results. Shooter A completed the course using standard sights with an average time of 12.6 seconds and Big Dots sights in 8.0 seconds. That’s a 36.6-percent speed improvement. Shooter B averaged 20.4 seconds with standard three-dot sights and 17.2 seconds using the Big Dot configuration. That’s a 15.2-percent improvement.

While not completely scientific, the results were pretty clear. Each shooter reported seeing the dot much faster and commented that there was not a need to “focus and line up.”They simply covered the target with the dot and pulled the trigger. The rear “V” sight just fell into place naturally.

Iron Sights Aren’t Accurate
People often refer to the inaccuracy of iron sights. That’s not exactly a true statement. Iron sights are plenty accurate. It’s our ability to line the sights up properly and consistently that is the issue. The accuracy capability of shooting with iron sights is really more about the limitations of our eyesight and our ability to hold those sights steady shot after shot.

Very rarely is the firearm the reason we don’t shoot accurately. Sight radius plays a part, but the shooter’s role is far more important.

Here’s what I mean. Like the precision scenario we discussed earlier, the accuracy potential of shooting iron sights boils down to a proportional relationship. In this case, we’re concerned about how much or little the front sight moves relative to the rear sight. If you put your handgun in a vise or perfectly mounted Ransom rest, your sights are going to be in the exact same position for every single shot. The minute you rely on human eyesight to line up those sights for the next shot, you’re limited by your vision.

A real example will help illustrate my point. Suppose I fire a shot at a 25-yard distant target using the same Beretta Px4. Now, I settle back into my sandbag rest to fire a second shot in the group. It’s up to me, the shooter, to make sure that the front sight, rear sight, and target are all in the exact same alignment as they were for the first shot. What happens if my front sight is just .01 inch out of perfect alignment relative to the rear sight? Let’s find out.

handgun sight radius

The sight radius of my Beretta Px4 is 5.77 inches. That’s measured from the rear of the rear sight to the rear of the front sight, or the parts that my eye actually sees. If my front sight drifts just .01 inch in any direction relative to the rear sight, that translates to 1.6 inches off target at 25 yards. If we were using a gun with a 2-inch sight radius, the error down range would be even larger. Considering that many modern production pistols care capable of shooting one to two-inch groups at 25 yards when in a Ransom Rest, that’s a big deal.

What does all this mean? When you read about “accuracy” of any given handgun, know that unless machines are involved, what you’re really getting is an indication of that pistol’s ability to be shot accurately. That may depend on the quality or type of sights, the sight radius and the overall ergonomics of the pistol. Viewed another way, a pistol with a 10-inch barrel may or may not be more accurate than one with a two-inch barrel, but it sure will be a heck of a lot easier to shoot accurately. If a human shoots those two guns from sandbags at 25-yard targets, they’ll almost certainly get better groups with the 10-inch gun. That’s because it’s easier to aim precisely with its longer and more forgiving sight radius, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the gun is more accurate.

We shooters tend to pass around too much hearsay information and consider it truth. It never hurts to be a bit skeptical and think things through on your own or even test them if possible. Heck, your life may one day depend on it.

HUNTING: 4 Things You Must Know Before You Shoot

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Being a responsible hunter means accepting your role in upholding and respecting humane etiquette and safety. Here are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger or loosing the arrow… Keep reading.

elk

by Justin McDaniel

If I hadn’t heard the brush crack, I probably wouldn’t have seen the buck in the first place. Jumped by another hunter, the eight-pointer came slipping through some grapevines above my stand when, unexpectedly, he made a 90-degree turn and entered the open field beside me.

With the buck partially silhouetted against the skyline, I was faced with one of those split-second decisions that all hunters face at one time or another.

To shoot or not to shoot, that was the question.

One of the trademarks of a good hunter is knowing when to shoot and when to let game walk. Following these basic shoot/don’t shoot principles will help you to make the right decision when crunch time arrives:

ONE: Always properly identify your target before shooting.
A hunter should never shoot through trees or brush at a noise, movement or dark shape. Instead, a hunter should positively identify his or her target and have a clear shot at the animal’s vital area before pulling the trigger. If you’re hunting deer or other big game, only shoot when you have a clear picture of the area behind the animal’s front shoulder. For goose and other waterfowl, never shoot randomly into a flock. Always focus on a single bird and aim for the head and neck area. Doing otherwise could wound or cripple multiple birds. If you’re hunting in a gender-specific season, such as spring gobbler, look for the defining characteristics of a male bird, such as feather and head color and the presence of a beard. If your state has antler restrictions for deer hunting, only shoot when you can clearly identify that a buck is legal.

TWO: Always know what lies beyond your target before shooting.
Based on this safety rule, I had to let that 8-point walk when he was silhouetted against the skyline. It’s always best to wait until you have a solid backstop beyond your target, such as a hillside, or to shoot downward from an elevated stand. You should never shoot toward the crest of a hill. If a home, barn or other building sits on the property you hunt, be mindful of its presence and never shoot at game in its direction, no matter how confident you are of your marksmanship abilities. No trophy is worth the price of putting another person at risk, so if the final landing place of your shot is in question, don’t take it.

THREE: Be aware of the location of other hunters and never shoot in their direction.
When hunting with others, it’s important to know their location and set a “zone of fire” so that each hunter in the group knows exactly where he or she may shoot without putting others in danger. For example, if three pheasant hunters walk abreast through a field, the middle hunter’s zone of fire would be any flushes directly in front of him or her. The hunter on the right would only take shots offered directly in front or to the right, and the third hunter’s zone would be any shots in front or to the left. In addition to knowing the location of the hunters in your own party, always be on the lookout for other hunters who may be near you, and never shoot in their direction. Likewise, when hunting birds or rabbits with a dog, be aware of the dog’s location and never shoot rabbits or low-flying birds in the dog’s vicinity.

FOUR: Know your limitations and be aware of the maximum range of your firearm or bow.
If knowing when to shoot is one of the most important skills for a hunter to possess, competency with one’s equipment is equally essential. Practice often with your firearm or bow in hunting-type scenarios and understand your level of proficiency. In short, know your range. If you feel confident you can make a 100-yard shot, don’t take “pot shots” at a deer 300 yards away. If you practice 30-yard shots with your bow, don’t panic and take a bad shot at a deer 45 yards away. Similarly, if a deer is running at full speed, hold your shot and wait for the deer to stop or slow down before shooting. While it’s important to recognize your own abilities, it’s also key to understand your equipment’s capabilities. While a 12 gauge with 3-inch shells might do the trick on a turkey at 30-40 yards, don’t try to extend that range and take a bad shot at a tom that’s hung up 50 yards out.

It’s no exaggeration to say that sometimes the shots you don’t take are more important than the ones that you do. Putting another person at risk or crippling game is too high a price to pay for being impatient and taking a bad shot. Learning these basic shooting rules will allow you to differentiate between a good shot and a bad one, making you a safer, smarter hunter in the long run.

SKILLS: Three Self-Defense Myths That Just Won’t Die

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Don’t buy into these age-old myths! Sheriff Jim tells the truth, and the truth might just save your life… Keep reading!

defensive rounds

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Just about the time it appears they have been proven false and dismissed, the same self-defense and gun myths pop again. Part of this is probably due to the fact there are always new people who finally realize they need to do something about their personal safety and begin seeking answers. Unfortunately, it is also due to the tendency of some people to pass on advice they have heard, but never took the time to find out if it is really true. Since it sounds cool, it must be right. This is one of the many reasons why defensive shooters need to receive professional training. With a good, professional instructor, it is remarkable how many of these myths quickly fall by the wayside and are replaced by cold, hard facts. Let’s look at three of the old self-defense myths that just won’t die and discuss the truths they conceal.

Myth No. 1: Hit him anywhere with a .45 and it will knock him down. This myth probably started with the advent of the .45 Colt back in the 1870s, but it has been repeated most often when people refer to the .45 ACP. Nowadays, you will hear it touted regarding the .44 Mag., the .41 Mag., the .40 S&W or whatever new and powerful pistol cartridge that has just been introduced. The truth was discovered way back in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his third law of motion. Newton stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, if a bullet shot from a handgun was so powerful that it could actually knock a person down, it would also knock the shooter down. There are a lot of reasons why a person who is shot may appear to fall down, or even be knocked down. But, the truth is the force of the bullet striking him is not knocking him off his feet. That only happens in the movies and TV. In reality, a person who is shot with even a relatively powerful handgun may show very little indication of being hit. There will also be very little sign of blood, especially at first. Therefore, the defensive shooter should not rely on these as cues that the fight is over. The important thing is to recover from recoil, regain your sight picture and quickly re-evaluate the threat. If the criminal is still armed — whether or not he is on his feet — and if he appears to still be a threat, additional shots may be necessary. Just don’t expect the bad guy to go flying off his feet, because it probably won’t happen.

Myth No. 2: There’s no need to aim a shotgun, just point it in the general direction of the bad guy and fire.
The shotgun is an awesome firearm that is altogether too often overlooked by today’s defensive shooters. However, it is not a magic wand. People who claim you don’t have to aim a shotgun have simply never done patterning tests with their favorite defensive smoothbore. When shot exits a shotgun barrel, it does so in almost one solid mass. That mass is smaller than a man’s fist. It is only as the shot travels downrange that it begins to spread apart, and it spreads much more gradually than a lot of people expect. Whether you are using buckshot or birdshot, from 0 to 10 yards you should consider it to be one projectile. Actually, by about 7 yards the shot has begun to spread noticeably, but not as much as you might think. From 10 yards to about 25 yards, the average shotgun will deliver a pattern that will still stay on the chest area of a silhouette target. But, by 25 yards some of the pellets may stray off target. When dealing with a threat at 25 yards and beyond, it’s time to think about transitioning to a slug. Instead of taking anyone’s word for it — mine included — the defensive shotgunner should run pattern tests using his shotgun from extremely close range out to 25 and 30 yards. He will also find his shotgun performs better with one brand of ammunition than others. There are a lot of reasons for this preference for particular loads, but the defensive shotgunner should know this occurs and make his selection accordingly. The smart defensive shooter will run tests until he knows which load his gun prefers and exactly what his shot pattern is doing at the ranges his shotgun could be called upon to perform. Always true: don’t just believe it, test it!

Myth No. 3: If you have to shoot a bad guy in your front yard, drag him into the house before calling the cops.
As ridiculous as this may sound, it is one of the self-defense myths that just won’t go away. A student brought it up once in a defensive pistol class. There are couple of good reasons why this is a terrible idea.
To begin with, most states determine the justification for using deadly force as being a reasonable response to prevent immediate death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, if a person is justified in defending himself inside his home, he is also justified in defending himself in his yard, because he is under an immediate attack in which he could be killed or seriously injured. This varies from state to state, so check your own state’s laws before determining your home-defense plan. The second, equally important, reason is the crime scene will quickly make a liar out of you. Any investigator worth his salt will know within five minutes that you moved the body. And, if you’re lying about that, you are probably lying about everything else, or that’s what the investigator will assume. It is the quickest possible way to go directly to jail. Protecting yourself in a completely justifiable shooting can get expensive. So can lying to the police about a shooting.
Part and parcel to obtaining a defensive firearm should be obtaining advice from a criminal defense attorney. He can tell you what your state laws are, how they are interpreted in court and the limitations regarding use of deadly force and how they apply to a legally armed citizen. Getting that sort of advice from the guys down at the bar or from an Internet commando is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

REVIEW: 450 Bushmaster Ruger American Rifle Ranch

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The new Ruger American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster was inspired in large part by new deer-hunting regulations in Michigan. The result is a handy, lightweight brush gun that packs plenty of punch. Read more!

SOURCE: NRA Publications/American Rifleman, by B. Gil Horman

Michigan expanded what was formerly known as the “shotgun zone” (in the lower peninsula) into the Limited Firearm Deer Zone in 2014, much to the delight of local hunters. In addition to shotguns, deer hunters can now use rifles chambered for straight-walled cartridges between 1.16- to 1.80-inches in length topped with .35-cal. or larger bullets. This definition allows for popular big-bore revolver cartridges including the .357 Mag., .44 Mag., .454 Casull, and .500 S&W.

However, there is a straight-walled rifle cartridge designed for the AR-15 platform which also meets the Michigan requirements. The .450 Bushmaster thumper round launches .452-cal. bullets weighing 250 gr. or 260 gr. from a 1.70-inch long cartridge case at velocities over 2000 fps. The resulting round boasts performance on par with the .45-70 Gov’t but in a more compact configuration. With Michigan hunters buying up straight-walled cartridge carbines and rifles like hotcakes, the folks at Ruger saw an opportunity to modify an existing platform to fill the niche.

.450 Bushmaster
.450 Bushmaster is a compact but hard-hitting cartridge ideal for whitetails in thickly wooded areas. At less than 6 pounds, recoil is stiff.

The new Ruger .450 Bushmaster American Rifle Ranch is the third member of the American bolt-action line designed to fire AR-15 semi-automatic cartridges, including models chambered for the .223 Rem. and .300 Blackout, and 7.62X39mm. The 16.12-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel is free-floated and has a muzzle threaded at 11/16-24 TPI. The muzzle is then fitted at the factory with a specially-designed muzzle brake.

The steel receiver is topped with a factory-installed 5-inch long aluminum optics rail compatible with Picatinny-type mounting surface. The single-piece, three-lug bolt features a full diameter bolt body, dual cocking cams, and a round knob bolt handle; the handle’s 70-degree throw keeps it clear of the optic.

Rifle Ranch safety
The tang-mounted sliding safety provides easy and intuitive operation. On the left side of the receiver is a bolt release which can be used to remove the bolt assembly without the need to touch the trigger.

The receiver is mounted to the lightweight Flat Dark Earth synthetic stock using Ruger’s patent-pending Power Bedding integral bedding-block system, which plays a key role in the rifle’s top-notch accuracy. The exterior of the stock is nicely shaped with non-abrasive texturing and serrations along the fore-end and grip. Other stock features include a rounded integral trigger guard, an exceptionally soft recoil pad, and front and rear sling swivel studs.

The Ruger Marksman single-stage adjustable trigger provides the feel and performance of aftermarket upgrades, which are often fairly expensive to buy. An Allen screw mounted to the front of the assembly (which is exposed when the action is removed from the stock) can be used to shift the trigger pull weight from 3 lbs. to 5 lbs. This particular trigger was set to 4 lbs. 4 oz. when it arrived, and exhibited a clean, crisp break with almost no overtravel. The safety lever found in the center of the trigger, much like that of a Savage Accutrigger or Glock pistol, locks the trigger and prevents it from cycling until it’s properly depressed.

Ruger Rifle Ranch trigger
Ruger Marksman single-stage trigger adjusts from 3 to 5 pounds.

Other versions of the Rifle Ranch ship with flush-fit 5-round rotary magazines. To accommodate the sausage-sized .450 Bushmaster, this rifle ships with one single-stack, 3-round magazine that extends about an inch below the magazine well. The magazine’s polymer release lever is incorporated into the front of the magazine instead of the receiver.

Rifle Ranch magazine
Due to the bulk of the cartridge, this Ruger Rifle Ranch model holds 3 rounds in a single-stack configuration, unlike its siblings which feature a rotary-style 5-round. The magazine release is built into the polymer magazine.

I’ve had the opportunity to handle a few different models of the American bolt action and I have to say that overall I am impressed with the line. They’re not fancy or pretty like some of the classic hardwood-stocked bolt guns. But the fit, finish and performance are a big step above their price tags.

Some folks may see the addition of a muzzle brake as a nicety, but in truth it’s a necessity for this gun. Experiencing the hearty recoil of this 5 lbs. 8 oz. rifle with the brake firmly installed quelled any curiosity I might have had to shoot a few rounds with the brake removed for comparison. This is not a gun for the recoil sensitive. However, the combination of the muzzle brake and effective recoil pad keeps the rifle manageable for those who don’t mind a little excitement when pulling the trigger.

At the range the American Rifle Ranch ran flawlessly. The bolt cycled smoothly and the trigger felt great. The rifle fed, fired, and ejected with zero malfunctions. All of the controls functioned properly. It’s a compact rifle that swings nicely and will be comfortable to carry on those all-day hikes.

Rifle Ranch bolt
The smooth-operating bolt features a 3-lug design and a short, 70-degree lift.

The primary limitation of choosing to buy a .450 Bushmaster these days is a limited selection of ammunition. At the time of this writing, the only two companies offering this cartridge are Hornady and Remington — with both providing just one option. Remington didn’t have any of its Accutip loads in stock for testing. So, the only load I had on hand to work with was Hornady’s Black label 250-gr. FTX with a listed velocity of 2200 fps. (using a 20-inch barrel) for a muzzle energy of 2686 ft. lbs. To see how this load performed out of the shorter 16.12-inch, 10 consecutive rounds were fired across a Lab Radar chronograph. The velocity average was 2184 fps. for a muzzle energy level of 2648 ft. lbs. That’s about a 1-percent drop in velocity with only a 38 ft. lb. loss of energy with a 3.88 shorter barrel.

Hornady .450 Bushmaster
There’s not a wide variety of different loadings available for .450 Bushmaster, but this Hornady Black demonstrated outstanding performance on target. Learn more HERE and HERE

For accuracy testing, the rifle was couched in a benchrest and fired at 100 yards using a trusty Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x40mm riflescope. Of the five, 5-shot groups, the smallest was 1.03-inches with an average of 1.10. Based on these results, if Hornady’s Black load is the only one on the dealer’s shelf, you’re going to do just fine.

Ruger’s new American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster is another example of how the company is striving to meet customer needs with quality products at a reasonable price. This brush gun and ammunition combination is well-suited to taking medium and large game at moderate distances. If you prefer a wood stock to synthetic, then take a look at the new Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, which is now offered in .450 Bushmaster as well.

.450 Bushmaster group

Ruger American Rifle Ranch 450 Bushmaster specifications

Visit the factory information page HERE

RELOADERS CORNER: Priming, Part 2

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Last time the tooling and process of seating a primer got detailed, and now more details about The Thing Itself. Read all about it…

primer close up

Glen Zediker

A primer consists of a brass (usually) cup filled with impact-detonated explosive compound, lead styphate specifically. Right. Primers explode. The compound starts as liquid, not that that matters, and while it’s still wet, a triangular metal piece called an “anvil” is positioned in the opening. When it’s hit by the firing pin, the center of the cup collapses, squeezing the explosive compound between the interior of the cup and the anvil. That ignites the compound and shoots a flame through the flash hole. That ignites the propellant.

There are two primer sizes, and then type variations. The two sizes are “small” and “large.” For example, .223 Rem. uses small, .308 Win. uses large. Rifle primers and pistol primers are not the same, even though they have diameters in common. Rifle primers have a tougher cup, and, usually, provide a hotter flash. Do not substitute pistol primers for rifle primers! Some pistol shooters using very high-pressure loads substitute rifle primers, but also often need to increase striker impact power.

Variations: There are small variations in primer dimensions, heights and diameters, and also variations exist in new-case primer pocket dimensions, among various brands, and, of course, lot-to-lot variations can and do exist within any one brand. Usually, these variations are not influential to suitability. Usually. However! On occasion, small diameter variations can affect how well different primers will feed through various make priming apparatus. This can and has become a hitch in some progressive loading machines. Cup height variations can lead to seating depth (primer height) issues.

Remington 7-1/2 primers
I have my “go-to” primer, as do most, but I’ve found best results in certain circumstances with another brand. I will not vary primers, though, in my tournament ammo for any one day: as with propellants and bullets, each leaves a different residue in the bore, and that will, not can, influence zero making the switch. In other words, I won’t use CCI for short-line loads, and Remington for 600-yard ammo, not on the same day.

There are also “magnum” primers. These have a hotter spark. They are engineered to deliver a stouter kick-off to larger, more dense columns of slower-burning propellant. They also work well with spherical-type propellants (less air space between the granules). There are also “match” primers. These ostensibly are more consistent quality. Not all manufacturers offer these options. If they do, unless you have a scheme or more carefully-considered reason, just go with what fits your application. There’s no need for match primers in blasting ammo. There are, no doubt (and no doubt significant) differences among varying brand primers with respect to “output.” As mentioned earlier on, there are also pretty well-known tendencies that are either more or less preferable among varying primer brands.

The primer is, in my experience, the greatest variable that can change the performance of a load combination, which is mostly to say “pressure.” Never (never ever) switch primer brands without backing off the propellant charge and proving to yourself how far to take it back up, or to even back it off more. Don’t deny this one.

I back off one full grain of propellant to try a different primer brand.

Finding the best-performing primer for any particular combination of cartridge, bullet, and propellant isn’t just always as easy as putting a “match” primer in there. I have my preference, and it’s what I try first, but, to be certain, sometimes best accuracy and consistency (related) come with another. Again, it’s a combination of propellant fill volume, burning rate, propellant type (single-base, double-base, extruded, or spherical), and column “packing” density that favors either a “hotter” or “cooler” flash.

Priming cup composition also factors mightily in my final choice, and that’s a big factor in some semi-autos. More next time.

primer tray
Here’s handy. A primer “flip” tray puts all the primers in the sams orientation and orients them for easy loading into a primer magazine feed tube for use in many automated systems. See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

SAFETY
Do be extra careful handling primers! No kidding. It’s the most explosive element in a cartridge, and it’s intended to be detonated from impact, so… Wearing safety glasses at the loading bench might seem nerdy, but it’s wise. Likewise, and this has happened way on more than once, but, fortunately, never yet to me, is a mass detonation of primers contained in a feeding device, such as a primer feeding magazine tube. Such circumstance is grave indeed. Progressive loading machines, as well as many bench-mounted appliances, use a tube magazine that contains the primers. This tube must be filled, like any magazine. Make sure you know when full is full, and don’t try to poke in one more. This is usually when “it” happens. Remember, primers are detonated via pressure. Said before, but important enough to say again now: Never (ever) attempt to more deeply seat a primer on a loaded round. And keep the priming cup (the tool part that holds the primer for seating) clear of all debris. I’ve heard tell of brass shavings, leftover tumbling media, and the like, getting between the primer and the tool cup, and forming its own little firing pin.

See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

SKILLS: 4 Things Shooting Instructors Do That Drive Students Nuts

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There’s good and bad firearms training instruction, and it’s all about the instructor/student relationship. The Sheriff writes this one to offer some insight for those on the instructor-side of the equation… READ MORE.

Driven crazy

SOURCE: NRA Family
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

A while back I did a piece on the things that students do to give defensive instructors gray hair. Well, my friends, that knife cuts both ways. An instructor can easily ruin a class for his students. Being a good shot or a gunfight survivor does not automatically qualify a person to be a good instructor. If that instructor lacks basic teaching skills, a student may learn very little and be very disappointed with the class. Here are some of the common errors that instructors make.

ONE: FAILURE TO THOROUGHLY EXPLAIN…
Some instructors think that it makes them sound authoritative when they use tactical terms such as OODA Loop, EDC and Watch Your Six, to name a few. There is nothing wrong with those terms as long as an instructor takes the time to explain them instead of assuming that his students actually know what he means. It’s never a mistake to just use common English, although some High Speed/Low Drag instructors haven’t figured that out yet. I know of one instance when an instructor finished the morning lecture only to have a student ask, “What is a muzzle?” While some may chuckle at this, it is a legitimate question and indicates that the instructor and the students were not operating on the same information level.

TWO: TOO MANY WAR STORIES…
Now I love a good war story, but the fact is that too many instructors use war stories to impress the students with the instructor’s experience. A few war stories aren’t bad, as long as they are used to illustrate certain important points that the teacher is trying to get across. I know of one instructor who loves to show a video of himself killing a man during a police action. There’s no point to the video except to have the class see him do it. “Unnecessary” and “tasteless” are two descriptive words that come to mind.

THREE: EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF THE STUDENTS…
Students in a defensive class should be challenged to learn and perform tasks that often put them outside of their comfort zone. A good defensive teacher knows when the class is ready to try something new and when they are not. One must have a good handle on the basics of defensive shooting before moving along to learn other skills. Knowing when to safely push a student into something new is one of the marks of a good defensive teacher.

FOUR: FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A SAFE RANGE & TEACHING ENVIRONMENT…
Some instructors run a hot range (guns are always loaded) and others do not, preferring to have guns unloaded except during actual firing. Neither one is less safe than the other, as long as everyone understands the safety rules and adheres to them.

A safety lecture should be the start of every defensive class. Students should be reminded of the required safety rules throughout the class. More importantly, the safety rules should be strictly enforced at all times.

There is never a good reason for firearms to ever be pointed at students, instructors or range assistants. Nor is there ever a good reason for students, or anyone else, to be downrange when guns are being fired. I know of these things being done at some schools in the past, and my only hope is that this no longer occurs. I can’t imagine what kind of defensive instructor would allow this sort of thing to happen.

Editor’s Note: Looking for training? Check out classes from certified NRA Instructors here and here.

A good defensive school and a good defensive instructor should be all about the students. The instructor should be as good at his teaching skills as he is at his shooting skills. His job is not to be cool; his job is to help people learn. In short, his job is to save lives. Fortunately, we are blessed with a large number of defensive instructor/teachers who fully understand this important fact.

NEW: Springfield Armory SAINT™ AR-15 Pistol

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The long-awaited pistol version in the proven SAINT lineup has been announced by maker Springfield Armory. Here’s what they have to say about it: READ MORE

Springfield Armory SAINT Pistol 5.56

SOURCE: Chad Dyer, Springfield Armory

With the new SAINT™ AR-15 pistol, Springfield Armory brings the same impact of its SAINT platform to a whole new category. The SAINT Pistol is highly capable and upgraded out of the box but in stock-free pistol form.

Instead of a rifle buttstock, the new SAINT AR-15 pistol features a rugged SB Tactical SBX-K forearm brace to reduce size, stabilize recoil, and enhance accuracy in one or two-hand shooting. A 7.5-inch barrel with a 1:7 twist makes the SAINT pistol small, fast, and ideal for CQB. The 416R stainless steel barrel is Melonite® treated to be harder and more accurate than chrome, and is chambered for 5.56 NATO (.223) so ammunition is affordable, versatile, and seriously capable.

The SAINT AR-15 pistol is built around high-end features that make SAINT rifles so popular. Springfield Armory’s exclusive Accu-Tite™ tension system increases the tension between the upper and the lower receivers, ensuring an ideal fit and reducing slop — no shake or rattle. Upper and lower receivers are forged Type III hard-coat anodized 7075 T6 aluminum.

The SAINT pistol’s muzzle is equipped with a blast diverter that pushes sound, concussion and debris forward towards the target — instead of at the operator or fellow shooters — ensuring a more comfortable shooting experience.

The slender, agile handguard is Springfield Armory’s exclusive, patent-pending free-float design, with locking tabs and features a forward hand stop. The rifle’s crisp, enhanced nickel boron-coated GI single-stage trigger is paired with a Bravo Company trigger guard. The smooth-operating heavy tungsten buffer system, low-profile pinned gas block, GI style charging handle, and Bravo Company Mod 3 pistol grip are all well-proven in SAINT rifle models. Springfield Armory is known for no-compromise design and, as usual, the attention to detail is obvious.

To ensure durability, the M16 bolt carrier group is precision-machined from Carpenter 158 steel, shot-peened and magnetic particle inspected and finished in super-hard Melonite®. For ample shooting capacity, the SAINT pistol carries a Magpul Gen 3 30-round magazine.

The compact frame makes the SAINT AR-15 pistol an ideal choice for home defense. In addition to high-quality engineering, the SAINT AR-15 pistol is just 26.5 inches long, and weighs under 6 pounds. This pistol delivers the punch of a rifle caliber in a small, fast-handling frame. It’s highly accurate and it’s seriously fun to shoot.

SAINT™ AR-15 Pistol – 5.56