In the not-too-distant past, no one would have considered building a precision long-range rifle on a semi-automatic operating system. However, there is no doubt today that a properly built and tuned AR-style rifle can hold its own with bolt-action tackdrivers. The Army recognized this fact when it called for gun builders to submit samples of a Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) for testing.
ArmaLite did just that by modifying its already-accurate AR-10(T), an enlarged AR chambered in .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO). Although the rifle chosen for the Army SASS was not ArmaLite’s entry, the company’s rifle was so impressive that ArmaLite decided to continue development and create the Super SASS. It is a good-looking rifle that caused a few heads to turn when I picked it up at the gun shop.
Packed in a Starlight case, the Super SASS comes standard with a web shooting sling, an Otis Technology cleaning kit for both 7.62mm and 5.56mm, a 10- and 20-round magazine, a Harris Series S Model L bipod with A.R.M.S. throw lever adapter and an Advanced Armament Corporation S3-R silencer, which mates with the gun by screwing onto a barrel sleeve adapter that is installed just aft of the birdcage-style flash hider. Instead of a real suppressor, though, the test rifle came with a mock unit that has no effect on the decibel level, but is supplied for display purposes only. For those who reside in jurisdictions where civilian ownership of suppressors is legal, or for military or law enforcement personnel, the suppressor is a very useful accessory for reducing injurious sound, felt recoil and for enhancing accuracy.
The Super SASS comes with an AR-10 flip-up rear sight assembly, but the standard sighting system is the Leupold Vari-X III 3.5-10×40 scope with illuminated mil-dot reticle mounted in A.R.M.S. quick-detachable rings. Curiously, a flip-up front iron sight is not included, but several are available from various manufacturers.
The Precision Rifle/Sniper buttstock made by Mag Pul is fully adjustable for height and length of pull. This is an excellent feature because a standard stock just doesn’t fit everyone. The heel is equipped with a short MIL-STD 1913 rail to which is attached a removable sling swivel. A rail cover is supplied to protect the rail when not in use.
The fore-end is a free-floating quad rail with four MIL-STD 1913 rails on the top, bottom and sides that allow the barrel to float free. Rail covers are provided. With the flat-top receiver and the rail fore-end, an almost endless number of accessories can be hung on this weapon platform–including lights and various aiming devices.
The Super SASS has a hand-lapped, match-grade 20-inch stainless barrel with 11.25 inch-twist button rifling and a baked-on black ceramic finish. Weighing 13 pounds unloaded, it’s no lightweight but is about as heavy as one would expect for a long-range sniper rifle. The receiver is built of aircraft-grade forged aluminum with a hard anodized finish and the pistol grip and buttstock are black polymer. The two-stage National Match trigger broke cleanly at 5.7 pounds after a smooth take-up.
This gun is not just a gussied-up AR-10(T). ArmaLite spent time refining its trigger, feed ramp, extractor, ejector and magazines to make them more reliable, and added an adjustable gas system to facilitate optimum operation with or without the suppressor.
I tested the rifle off the bench at 100 yards with four loads from Hornady, Black Hills, Winchester and Corbon. The Leupold scope and its external adjustment knobs made dialing a final zero easy. There were no malfunctions of any kind.
As for accuracy, the largest average group was 1.97 inches with Black Hills 168-grain Match BTHP, but the smallest was .86 inches with Cor-Bon 168-grain HPBT, proving that with the right load, this rifle lives up to its reputation.