Although Springfield Armory continually offers intelligent variations on its three bread-and-butter themes-M1A, 1911 and XD-the company isn't noted for introducing the brand-new and out-of-the-blue like clockwork.
So when they do something surprising--like the Saint--it's a pretty big deal and things get handled accordingly. I was at the Saint rollout in Las Vegas where we spent a couple of days learning about and shooting the M4-scaled AR using both a Trijicon red-dot optic for the up-close at the Pro Gun Club and a Bushnell AR variable for long yardage at the Boulder Gun Club.
For anyone who simply thinks of Vegas as an 'Adult Disneyland," it also boasts more close-by, world-class shooting facilities than practically any other major transportation hub I can think of. And Springfield used two of the best.
It was about 3 weeks before official announcement, and those of us attending--gun magazine types, select distributors, instructors and a whole lot of videographers--were pretty curious. Maybe some of us knew in advance about Springfield's maiden voyage with the ArmaLite platform, but I sure didn't. In my sublime ignorance I simply figured all the fuss and secrecy was over some tricked-out XD variant (actually, we did shoot one of those as well. See sidebar).
But the Saint was the star of the show. The gun features a mid-length DI gas system with a heavy buffer. It's pretty much mil-spec all the way with a very nice single-stage GI trigger. The trigger incidentally, gets a nickel-boron coating to make things feel smoother. The collapsible buttstock, handguard, pistol grip and triggerguard are all via Bravo Company.
The ammo we used was 69-grain Federal Gold Medal Match for the scoped stuff and Winchester 55-grain frangible loads with the red-dot Trijicon for the close-in plates. Since the Saint's 16-inch barrel has what many feel to be the best all-around compromise twist--1:8--we were covered.
Up to this point, I'd probably had around 150 rounds (lifetime) worth of trigger time on an AR, but took part in drills getting out of vehicles and returning fire at plates standing in as (thankfully!) relatively immobile "bad guys." This was under the supervision of a couple of scary-good ex-Delta Team instructors.
The senior-est one, Chuck, was one of the first Delta guys back in the early '70's. He took one look at me clumsily trying to navigate my way around the interior of a junker taxi cab while coping with a...