The Saint first appeared on the cover of Guns & Ammo’s January 2017 issue and was received with fanfare. Since then, it has taken nearly 15 percent of the entire AR-15 market share, and that’s huge considering that there are more than 200 manufacturers of AR-type rifles today, many of which have been around a long time.
The secret behind Springfield Armory’s success with the Saint — besides an expansive marketing campaign — has been its value and quality of parts. If Springfield Armory was just advertising a poor product, the Saint wouldn’t dominate so much of this market. In fact, the Saint maintains an exceptional reputation while retailing for $919. With that it offers a conventional handguard developed with Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM), and by “conventional” we mean that it’s a two piece, non-free-float polymer design complete with the old AR-15 Delta Ring.
The inital launch was quickly followed by a model that featured a 12½-inch, free-float aluminum handguard complete with M-Lok compatible slots that retailed for $1,073. Short-barreled rifle (SBR) and pistol Saint variants are also available, as is the premier Saint Edge with top-shelf components and features. The Saint Edge models start at $1,300.
The Middle Class
New for 2019 are the Saint Victor series of rifles and pistols. Rather than launch each configuration one at a time, Springfield rolled them out at SHOT Show simultaneously. The Victor series intends to fill the market gap between the original Saint and the Saint Edge models. It has the same retail price as the basic Saint Free Float model of $1,073, but offers additional refinements. Victors are also available as an SBR or pistol, but our review will focus on the rifle variant.
The barrel on the Victor rifle measures 16.1 inches. Inside the chrome moly vanadium (CMV) barrel is a 1:8-inch twist rate. The barrel’s finish is Melonite, a popular surface conversion that offers corrosion and rust resistance, especially when paired with the properties of the CMV steel. (A side benefit is that it is difficult to scratch.)
The Victor features a 15-inch M-Lok compatible free-floating aluminum handguard in place of the 12.5-inch model that equips the Saint Free Float model. This additional length serves to completely shield the support hand from the barrel during firing, and leaves plenty of room for support-hand positioning. The handguard leaves no section of barrel unprotected except for the muzzle, and has a unique look that’s accented by forward-raking M-Lok slots on all sides except the top. Interestingly, there are no rail or M-Lok attachment points on the 12 o’clock section located between the area of the barrel nut and the short section of rail for a front sight. The result is a contemporary and lightweight forend, considering its length.
Beneath the handguard is a midlength gas system. Springfield Armory uses midlength gas systems on all of its 16-inch barrels because the longer gas system operates at a lower pressure than the once-popular carbine length. The result has also been proven to give rifle components a longer service life and reduced felt recoil.
Pinning the gas system to the barrel is Springfield Armory’s own low-profile gas block. There are two methods of attaching a gas block to the barrel: pinning and using set screws. Set screws typically hold the gas block in place, but should the screws backout, the gas block can work free. An unsecured gas block can cause the rifle to malfunction because an insufficient amount of gas gets back to the receiver and cannot fully cycle the action. Additionally, there can be premature erosion leading to the gas port in the barrel.
Pinning a gas block is preferred because it ensures the block will never move or leak. Pinning a gas block involves driving a thick, tapered roll pin through the gas block and through a perpendicular channel machined into one side of the barrel. The only way for the system to come loose is for the pin to break or fall out.
Noticeably, the Victor includes a new muzzlebrake and a flat-shoe trigger finished in nickel boron (NiB). The muzzlebrake is a dual-port design, one larger than the other, that uses gas exiting the muzzle to reduce felt recoil. Small ports on top of the muzzle device direct a precise amount of gas upward to compensate for muzzle rise and barrel torque. The force from the exiting gas keeps the muzzle on target and performs very well, especially for rapid-fire shooting.
There’s a noticeable difference when comparing the Victor with an AR, such as a standard Saint that features the so-called “birdcage” flash-hiding compensator. The dual ports at the sides of the brake are what tames recoil. The ports direct the gases sideways at a carefully engineered angle. The rearward bias in the side ports pull the rifle away from the shooter’s shoulder at the same moment recoil is pushing the rifle into the shoulder. The net effect is that much of the forces cancel each other out. Yes, muzzlebrakes make the rifle louder, but someone shooting the Victor benefits from almost zero recoil.
Introduced on the Victor series is a trigger with a flat face, reminiscent of competition trends, which gives the trigger pull a different feel and encourages one to draw it straight to the rear. Every Saint rifle has a trigger finished in NiB, which tends to make the surface areas slicker. The benefit to having NiB is that critical engagement tolerances are not reduced, extending the life of the trigger, hammer and disconnector. To add, the trigger pull feels lighter than it is.
Pull-weight or let-off for this trigger is about the same as what G&A has tested on every other Saint model: 6 pounds plus some creep. Single-stage AR triggers exhibit some creep because they need a lot of engagement between the trigger, hammer and disconnector to be safe. The hammer- and trigger-pin locations are also critical specifications, so every trigger must function safely within those tolerances.
Springfield Armory’s solution to help make creep less noticeable was to polish the engagement surfaces and coat everything in NiB. While the trigger is good, it’s not great out of the box. The trigger feel does tend to smooth up after a few hundred rounds as the surfaces wear on each other. A second benefit to NiB is that it lacks the gritty feel normally associated with some factory, nonmatch triggers.
Sum of its Parts
What makes up the rest of the Victor is brilliance in the basics. There is nothing flashy about the rifle, but instead was obviously designed as a working-class gun.
Each Victor ships with a set of flip-up iron sights, which allows the new owner to pull the rifle out of the box and go straight to the range to shoot. A set of Magpul front and rear MBUS flip-up sights costs nearly $100, yet spring-loaded metal sights are included with the Victor.
As with certain components on other Saint models, Springfield Armory stuck with BCM for its Gunfighter adjustable stock and pistol grip. The stock offers multiple sling-mounting options not found on most factory offerings. There are quick-detach (QD) sockets on each side of the stock as well as a slot through which the shooter can thread a sling. There is also a ledge built into the stock that allows the owner to s-roll and secure the sling’s slack with something like a rubber band or painter’s tape. If you need a sling quick, just yank to break the sling loose.
The pistol grip offered on the Victor is more vertical than the traditional A1- or A2-type grip. Pistol grips with less rake allow a stronger, more natural locked wrist. This provides greater stability and control over the platform, allowing the shooter to pull the rifle straight back into the shoulder pocket.
There is a small tab at the top of the grip’s frontstrap that fills the gap normally found at the triggerguard’s rear. Springfield Armory installed an arched triggerguard instead of the standard flat version to give the frontstrap and triggerguard a seamless and comfortable transition for the middle finger, while also providing additional room for a gloved trigger finger.
Together, these components work well and should please the masses.
The smallest group of G&A’s evaluations came from Federal Premium’s Gold Medal Match loaded with 69-grain Sierra MatchKings. One five-shot group measured just .55 inches at 100 yards. The next smallest group during our test was produced by SIG Sauer’s 77-grain Match load measuring .71 inches. To say the Victor is a shooter would be an understatement. It’s a tackdriver.
The Saint established Springfield Armory as a dominating force within the AR market in two short years, and it goes back to value and performance. The Victor continues that trend for the same reasons, only now it comes standard with a long free-float forend, effective muzzlebrake, flip-up sights and a great-feeling flat trigger.