November 11, 2019
By Leroy Thompson
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I was tardy in appreciating AR-based pistols with arm braces. I shot a couple belonging to friends and conceded that they were handy, but I had multiple M4 carbines and didn’t really see any need to add another 5.56x45mm AR-type. That changed, though, when I used a couple of AR pistols with arm braces to practice vehicle counter-ambush drills. They were faster to deploy within a vehicle and allowed quicker vehicle debus. Due to their shorter overall length, they also allowed better use of the wheel well or engine compartment for cover.
Having decided to acquire an AR pistol with arm brace, I looked at what was available and settled on the Springﬁeld Armory SAINT AR-15 pistol. That decision was relatively easy, as I have always found Springﬁeld Armory pistols and riﬂes of good quality and the company’s customer service excellent.
First impressions of the SAINT were positive as well. It comes in a soft case with two external 30-round magazine pouches. The pistol with arm brace ﬁts in the compact case and is held in place by two Velcro straps. The forearm brace is the SB Tactical SBX-K, one of the better arm braces available. The 7.5-inch barrel has a 1:7 twist to maximize the SS109/M855 62-grain load. This barrel is fabricated of 416R stainless steel and is Melonite treated to be harder and more accurate than chromed barrels. Based on a couple of Melonited S&W autos I’ve used for years, the process is definitely wear-resistant. Melonited as well is the bolt-carrier group, which is also Magnetic Particle Tested.
Upper and lower receivers are forged Type III Hard Coat Anodized 7075 T6 Aluminum. By incorporating the ACCU-Tite Tension System, fit of upper to lower is improved. The trigger is proprietary SA Nickel Boron Coated GI type. Trigger guard and pistol grip are Bravo Company. The buffer assembly, important in a short-barreled weapon of this type, uses a carbine “H” (Heavy) Tungsten Buffer. I like the handguard a lot for its slimness and sold feel. It’s M-LOK Aluminum Free Float with SA locking tabs and forward hand stop. I find that I rest the handguard on my support palm about two inches behind the stop, but with any short-barreled two-hand weapon, the stop is important for safety. As for the M-LOK slots, I really don’t want to clutter up this compact little firearm with illuminators or pointers. Its mission is to stay easily accessed in close quarters and to be extremely handy.
The top Picatinny rail is seven inches in length, allowing mounting of a compact optical sight and flip-up iron sights. It has “T” number markings to allow re-mounting optics if removed for transport. I chose Trijicon’s RMR for my optical sight. I wanted my flip-up BUIS to lie as flat as possible, so chose the Bobro Lowrider. These fold so flat that they are barely noticeable, yet allow precise adjustments for windage and elevation. Admittedly, making the adjustments takes a pair of Allen wrenches and a front sight tool, but once the adjustments are made, the sights are ready to go. I am really impressed with these BUIS for a compact weapon such as the SAINT pistol.
One of the most interesting features of the SAINT pistol is the blast diverter, which is designed to route muzzle blast away from the shooter forward. The diverter protrudes about 1.25" from the handguard. That puts it almost 2.5" from the inside edge of the hand stop, thus lessening the chances of the support hand straying in front of the muzzle. Fabricated of steel, the diverter should hold up to a lot of shooting and also not prove fragile if it’s bumped exiting a vehicle during a debus-under-fire drill. The blast diverter not only looks “tactical,” but based on observing from the side when the SAINT was fired, it would likely have a psychological impact on anyone in front of it!
The SAINT comes with one 30-round PMAG. I added an additional 30-round PMAG for carry in the external mag pocket and an additional 20-round PMAG. The latter can be carried loaded in the SAINT even when it’s in its case. RMR, Bobro BUIS, and two additional PMGs—that’s the extent of add-ons to get the SAINT combat-ready.
For anyone familiar with the AR15, operating the SAINT pistol will be easy. Charging handle, magazine release, bolt release, safety/selector operations, and takedown will all be the same. The barrel is shorter and the arm brace is slightly different, but the SAINT doesn’t require much transition, if any.
Shooting the SAINT pistol was a pleasure. The Blast Diverter worked well in keeping blast and sound from the short barrel away from me, and the “heavy” buffer made recoil virtually unnoticeable, though, to be honest, I don’t remember ever finding recoil from the 5.56x45mm round distracting.
I used the RMR both by itself and with the Bobro BUIS at 50 yards. I have the BUIS co-witnessed with the red dot and noticed something that I have encountered before. Because I have astigmatism, I see multiple red dots. However, when I use the peep sight of the BUIS with the red dot centered in it just above the front post, most of the sparkle effect goes away. I asked an ophthalmologist about this when I encountered it once before, and he explained that the peep sight acts a pinhole occluder that focuses light. For any reading this who encounter the sparkle effect/multiple red dots, you might want to try using your red dot with a BUIS. I also shot using the BUIS at hanging plates at 25 and 35 yards. The 50-yard red-dot groups were consistently between 1.5 and 2 inches. The trigger on the SAINT is crisp and reportedly around 6.5 lbs. I found it entirely usable.
Although I think the SAINT pistol will be used primarily at distances under 50 yards, I did shoot it on a silhouette target at 100 yards using an improvised rest. I didn’t measure my groups—probably because I was afraid of being embarrassed! However, the shots all hit within the torso, performance I consider acceptable for a 7.5-inch pistol with a red dot at that distance.
When firing at 100 yards, I used the peep rear BUIS with the red dot just above the front post. I also tried using the red dot with just the rear peep. Results were about the same, but as I mentioned before, I did find that using the peep focused the red dot better for me.
I tested the SAINT pistol primarily because I felt it would make a handier car 5.56x45mm weapon than my 16-inch barreled AR15s. I know that there are those who use an AR15-type pistol with a folding arm brace, thus making stowed length even less. I found the SAINT with its arm brace compact enough to easily handle within a vehicle. For vehicle carry, I would use a 20-round magazine, which I found short enough to easily perform a quick reload while seated behind the wheel. I also tried acquiring targets at different angles while in the driver’s seat. The SAINT worked fine. Depending on local laws about loaded weapons in the vehicle, determining the best place to carry the SAINT pistol for quick access will take some thought.
As an experiment, while testing the SAINT, a friend and I tried it in other scenarios. For example, we determined that it was short enough and light enough to grab while exiting the vehicle to check a problem (i.e. flat tire, hitting a deer, et. al.) in a deserted or a potentially hostile environment, the latter not uncommon in some places I drive through—sort of a modern version of the old Auto and Burglar Gun! We also determined it can be easily kept ready in one hand while answering the door when visitors aren’t expected. I was unfolding a sleeping bag for airing, so also tried to see how it fared as a weapon to keep at hand in the unzipped/partially zipped sleeping bag or next to it—worked fine. The SAINT is versatile enough that I think an owner will find an array of uses for it. Come to think of it, while working on this article, I discovered another use: my wife, who is small and cross-eye dominant, normally has trouble with AR15s, but the SAINT with a red dot works better for her than any she has tried.
I mentioned that the Springfield Armory SAINT pistol is my first 5.56x45mm pistol with an arm brace. I find it an excellent choice. I don’t always carry the same long gun in my truck. Sometimes I carry a shotgun, sometimes my Scout Rifle, sometimes a .308 AR, and sometimes an AR15. The SAINT will be replacing the AR15 and will likely be carried most often.
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 (20 rounds available)
- Sights: Top Picatinny Rail allows optical sight and BUIS
- MSRP: $989