Springfield Saint Edge PDW AR Pistol Review

Springfield Armory's new Saint Edge PDW is an AR pistol you'll fall in love with.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW AR Pistol Review
Photo by Mark Fingar

For a company many people thought was years late to the AR party, Springfield Armory has done an amazing job in seizing a substantial percentage of the AR-15 marketplace, and they’re not slowing down. Their latest addition is the Saint Edge PDW AR pistol, and I’m sure it will get its large slice of the AR pie.

At first glance, I thought the PDW was ridiculous in both appearance and performance. I’m sure some of the attention it will initially get will be negative from people who feel the same way. When I saw it, I wanted to hate it, specifically for what it isn’t. However, I ended up loving it for what it is.

Details, Details

What is it? For a full answer to that, we’re going to have to explore exactly what a PDW is, but before I do that, let’s look at the specs of this gun.

While many people often think of AR pistols as just short-barreled carbines, in this case, the pistol appellation is quite apt. While chambered in 5.56 NATO, the Springfield Armory Saint Edge PDW has but a 5.5-inch barrel. For a firearm chambered in a rifle caliber, that is shockingly short, especially when you consider the first 2.26 inches or so is the chamber. There is longer rifling in the barrel of the handgun currently on my hip than there is in this PDW.


The barrel has a 1:8-inch twist and is Melonite coated. The gas block is pinned in place. The barrel is tipped with a special version of Maxim Defense’s interesting Hate Brake. This muzzle device’s primary role is as a muzzle booster for short-barreled guns and PDWs. It has a “cone-within-a-cup” two-piece design reminiscent of the Noveske KX3. It provides added backpressure for reliable cycling. It also directs sound and blast forward, away from the shooter and provides some flash reduction. Installed with a 3/8-inch drive socket from the front, it can fit under handguards.


The aluminum hanguard is 6 inches long and has M-LOK attachment slots. Springfield provides a hand stop to keep your fingers from straying in front of the muzzle, but it is somewhat reduced in size. I found myself hooking my index finger around the front of it while shooting as opposed to actually using it as a hand stop.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
Springfield provides a hand stop to keep fingers behind the muzzle. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

The handguard does not have a rail on the top except for a very short section near the muzzle. The pistol is supplied with flip-up front and rear sights that sit relatively tall when folded and don’t take up much rail space.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
The included Leapers’ low-profile sights maintain the compact theme of the PDW. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

With the Saint Edge series of ARs, you get nicely sculpted lower receivers machined from billet aluminum. On a full-size rifle or carbine, I think the relieved magazine well of the Saint Edge looks a bit small, but on this build it looks just right.

Springfield incorporates some nice accessories from Reptilia Corp. like the CQG pistol grip, which has a more vertical angle than the standard AR grip.


Reptilia sent me one of these compact grips late last year. I installed it on an AR carbine but ended up taking it off, because while it felt good in my hand, it just didn’t look right to my eye. It was too short. I’ve also thought the same thing about 20-round magazines in a full-size AR. However, on the PDW, the Reptilia grip and the provided 20-round magazines look perfect.

Instead of a GI-pattern charging handle, the PDW sports Springfield’s midsize charging handle, which is substantially larger than the GI model. The selector switch is bilateral and works just fine. I just wish the right-side lever was shorter so it wouldn’t bump my trigger finger when flipping it off.

The trigger is Springfield’s flat trigger, first introduced on the Saint Victor line. It has a nickel boron coating and provides a single-stage trigger pull.


At the rear of the receiver, you’ll see the Maxim Defense SCW brace. This five-position brace was specifically designed for PDW-sized guns and only hangs 4 inches off the back of the receiver when fully collapsed.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
Photo by Mark Fingar

The SCW assembly isn’t just a short buffer tube; it includes a shortened, proprietary bolt carrier group (BCG), and the buffer and spring protrude into the upper receiver when the bolt is closed. To install (or remove for cleaning), you have to pop out both pins on the lower receiver and then slide the upper receiver back and forth. Bought separately, the SCW (with this H3 buffer) retails for $590.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
Due to its short stock, the PDW features a modified bolt carrier group, buffer and spring. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

One thing I would like to point out that seemingly even many owners of the Maxim Defense SCW and larger CQB braces and stocks don’t seem to know is that you only have to use the button to collapse it. To extend it, just give the brace a vigorous yank.

With the provided 20-round Magpul PMAG in place, the PDW weighs 5 pounds, 10 ounces. With the brace collapsed, it is just 18.75 inches long. With the brace fully extended, the pistol is 23.5-inches in length. That’s as short as ARs get.

So, What’s a PDW?

PDW stands for “personal defense weapon.” It is not a term that Springfield Armory invented. PDWs are an established, in-between class of firearm. They are meant to be easier to use and harder-hitting than a handgun but smaller and lighter than a rifle.

Modern PDWs are often designed to be able to penetrate soft body armor with armor-piercing (AP) ammo. The two most well-known modern PDWs are the FN P90 and the HK MP7. Both of them are chambered in uncommon, proprietary bottleneck cartridges, the 5.7x28mm and 4.6x30mm, respectively.

PDWs in the modern era see most use with government security details where large rifles are not needed. For example, I’ve seen U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service special agents wielding them in the field when guarding high-value targets.

If the general shape of Springfield’s PDW looks a little familiar to you, there’s a reason for that. In 2017, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) issued a “Request For Information,” basically asking someone to design a .300 Blackout PDW top end for them that a soldier could slap onto a standard M4 lower to create a concealable AR-based PDW.

With the specs they listed, the barrel couldn’t be much more than 6 inches, and it had to have the ability to swap between the spec’d .300 BLK top end and one chambered in 5.56. As a result of this solicitation, SIG Sauer designed the MCX Rattler, and Maxim Defense came out with the PDX. Now we’ve got Springfield’s PDW in a similarly sized envelope, namely albeit chambered in 5.56 NATO.

Measuring Performance

A PDW is not a rifle. As long as you are not expecting rifle-length performance out of a barrel this short, you won’t be disappointed. Knowing this, I still was dubious when I picked up the PDW from my local FFL. I had several concerns due to its comically short barrel, its accuracy, reliability and velocity.

With regard to accuracy, I wasn’t just worried that a 5.5-inch barrel, which sports just 3.25-inches of rifling, would shoot minute of bucket, I was worried there wouldn’t be enough spin to stabilize heavy bullets out to 100 yards. To test this, I fed the PDW Black Hills’ 77-grain TMK load in addition to more traditional offerings. Not only did the 77-grainers shoot straight, this uber-short-barreled pistol grouped between 2.5 and 4 MOA with everything I gave it. I’ve tested full-size rifles that weren’t any more accurate than that. I am reminded that short barrels are inherently more accurate as there is less flexing during the recoil cycle.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
The Saint Edge PDW proved far more accurate than the author expected, even out to 100 yards where it averaged 2.6- to 4-inch groups. (Photo by Mark Fingar)

Because I knew the velocity would be lacking, most of my chronographing was done with 5.56 NATO ammo, which runs a bit hotter. Even knowing how short the barrel is, I was surprised at the low velocities — nothing produced over 2,000 feet per second (fps), not even Black Hills’ hot 50-grain Optimized TSX load.

What surprised me as much as the complete reliability was how soft-shooting the PDW was. I suppose this is due, in part, to how much gas is escaping out the short barrel past the bullet instead of gathering force behind it as it would in a longer barrel.

I assumed shooting this gun would be like holding a concussion grenade in my teeth, but I was pleasantly surprised thanks to the Hate Brake. I fired the PDW at both an indoor and outdoor range on a cloudy day. The PDW with the Hate Brake produced far less flash and noise than a 16-inch-barreled AR equipped with a traditional muzzlebrake.

Indoors, every load produced visible flash, but premium ammo gave me a small, manageable flash. Outdoors, only the Winchester FMJ produced enough flash to be visible to me when shooting.

As a PDW cartridge, the .223/5.56, unlike the 5.7x28mm and 4.6x30mm, is grossly inefficient. However, it does have certain things to recommend it over those others. It is everywhere and inexpensive, especially when compared to those two boutique cartridges.

As for Springfield’s PDW, it is an AR, so it has familiar controls. Also, unlike the HK MP7 and FN P90, you can actually buy a Springfield Armory PDW. HK’s MP7 has never been available in any commercial form. FN sells a 16-inch-barreled carbine version of the P90, the PS90, but it looks ugly and awkward and is far from compact.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
Photo by Mark Fingar

Springfield currently doesn’t have any plans for a version in .300 AAC Blackout, but (hint hint) it would be a very smart move, as the .300 BLK performs much better out of short barrels than the 5.56.

The Springfield Armory Saint Edge PDW brings to mind a saying from Rush Limbaugh: “Illustrating absurdity by being absurd.” It offers, at least when compared to a standard rifle/carbine, compromised ballistics and a nearly comical appearance, and I haven’t done executive protection work in quite some time. But in spite of all that, I find myself wanting one, a lot.

For an AR, it conceals and transports incredibly well, is surprisingly soft-shooting, accurate and reliable, unique and fun. In addition to all that, for the features you get on this pistol, it is priced very reasonably.

Springfield Saint Edge PDW
Accuracy is the average of three five-shot groups. Velocity figures are derived from a string of 5 rounds measured by a chronograph 12 feet from the muzzle.

Springfield Armory Saint Edge PDW

  • Type: Direct-impingement semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: 5.56 NATO
  • Capacity: 10, 20, 30 rds.
  • Barrel: 5.5 in.; 1:8-in. twist
  • Overall Length: 18.75 in. (collapsed), 23.5 in. (extended)
  • Weight: 5 lbs., 10.5 oz. (tested)
  • Brace: Maxim Defense SCW
  • Grip: Reptilia CQG
  • Sights: Leapers low-profile, flip-up front and rear
  • Trigger: 6 lbs. (tested)
  • Muzzle Device: SA/Maxim Defense Hate Brake
  • MSRP: $1,700
  • Manufacturer: Springfield Armory, springfield-armory.com 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Beretta

Beretta's New 92X

The 92X Performance model from Beretta was created to satisfy two requirements: Speed and accuracy. Beretta's new competition pistol is uncompromising and aims for top performance.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Feeding Your Firearms with Aguila Ammunition

Feeding Your Firearms with Aguila Ammunition

A group of competitive shooters talk about new products from Aguila , the Aguila Cup, and everyone's favorite new guns launched at the 2019 SHOT show.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a zeroed rifle scope. Here's how to sight in your rifle scope setup in five quick-and-easy steps. How-To

How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps

Craig Boddington - June 04, 2018

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a...

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and deer; here's everything you need to know to make it work for you. Rifle

.350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know

Tom Beckstrand - April 02, 2019

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and...

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight ready. Handguns

14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See

James Tarr - December 20, 2018

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight...

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple points of retention adjustment and clip options. Accessories

Crossbreed's The Reckoning Holster

Eric R. Poole - May 13, 2019

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple...

See More Trending Articles

More Reviews

It's been a while since there's been a new American-designed and -made autoloading hunting shotgun. For 2020, Savage has stepped up to the plate with the new gas-operated Renegauge series. Reviews

Savage Renegauge Shotgun Review

Robert W. Hunnicutt - August 05, 2020

It's been a while since there's been a new American-designed and -made autoloading hunting...

For a $300 plinker or small-game getter, the Savage A17 in .17 HM2 is a fantastic little rifle. It's lightweight, accurate, incredibly reliable and fires a flat-shooting round that's much quieter than the .17 HMR. Compared to a .22LR, the .17 HM2 crushes it in every category but price per box. Ballistically, there's no contest between the two. Reviews

Savage A17 HM2 Review

D. Faubion - July 23, 2020

For a $300 plinker or small-game getter, the Savage A17 in .17 HM2 is a fantastic little...

New from Howa is the HS Carbon Fiber rifle, a combination of adding a carbon-fiber barrel to its receiver and dropping the barreled action into the latest H-S Precision stock made from carbon-fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass. Reviews

Howa HS Carbon Fiber Rifle Review

Tom Beckstrand - July 22, 2020

New from Howa is the HS Carbon Fiber rifle, a combination of adding a carbon-fiber barrel to...

See More Reviews

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now