For the first time, an AR-15-style carbine is wearing Springfield Armory’s iconic insignia of crossed cannons and flaming bomb. For some, the Saint may be a long-overdue addition to the company’s catalog of M1A rifles, M1911-style pistols and the extensive XD line of polymer-framed handguns. Others may wonder why Springfield would bother to enter a market seemingly awash in M4-style semi-automatic rifles. To the former, I’d say better late than never. Having spent considerable time behind the trigger of AR-style rifles, both military and commercial models as a soldier and armed citizen, I’d contend that the Saint is smartly designed and priced to sell, making it a firearm worth waiting for. To the latter group, remember that even now, in the golden age of ARs, with more makes and models available to consumers than ever before, such rifles continue to sell at breakneck pace. The entrance of a major gun manufacturer into such a competitive and insatiable market is only good news for American consumers.
Still, one might wonder, why now? In speaking to Springfield Armory’s chief operating officer, Dennis Reese, I learned that building an AR-15 has been among his ambitions since the mid-1990s. But it was only in the past two or three years that the company got serious about making that ambition a reality. As for the crowded marketplace and the company’s belated entrance, Reese had this to say, “We at Springfield believe the AR-15 platform is not oversaturated in the market and will have a very bright future for decades to come. Springfield is determined to be part of that future.” In talking about the new rifle and its future, he continued, “The Saint has such great modularity [and can be evolved] in so many ways,” emphasizing that the subject of this article is just the first product in what will likely be a full line. And like other Springfield products, consumers can expect the Saint and future offerings to exhibit high quality, offer real value and be ready to shoot right out of the box.
My next question for Springfield had to do with the new AR’s name, Saint, and company representatives had several explanations for the choice. Acknowledging that some may not understand the name, or may not agree with a religious term being applied to a firearm, Springfield contends that AR platforms, and other semi-automatic personal-defense rifles, have been unfairly characterized by politicians and the media as instruments of evil. However, we know that in the hands of law-abiding citizens, a gun’s true purpose is to protect and defend life, liberty and property. The name Saint, therefore, was chosen to evoke a sense of strength and safety, and to characterize the rifle as a tool that can be trusted and relied upon in the worst of times.
Whether or not the name has the desired impact, the Saint’s introduction has led to a noticeable change in Springfield Armory’s advertising strategy of late, a change that you have probably witnessed in these very pages. The slogan “Defend Your Legacy” is writ large, and much of the supporting images and online videos reflect the newest generation of gun owners and the growing population of female shooters—a group characterized as “youthful, aspirational and unapologetic.” To learn more about the new focus, I spoke with Reese’s daughter, Stefany, the company’s social media coordinator, about legacy, and what it means to her. There are some obvious answers such as material wealth, contributions to an industry, or memories and wisdom passed down to family. But Reese and I agreed that for people of our generation—in their late 20s and early 30s—legacy is something yet to be built. Many of our peers are just hitting their stride professionally and may not be settled into any kind of traditional family life. It’s hard to think about legacy, let alone defend it, before you’ve really had a chance to establish one. We see our parents and grandparents, and the things they’ve done and the things they’ll leave behind, and we understand their legacy, indeed we are part of it. But for us, legacy is more about the promise of the future, and defending it means maintaining our freedom to build something worth passing on. Reese made a great point when she talked about women, particularly young women, who are adventurers, mothers, professionals and all-of-the-above, and how many are just starting to ask the question, “How will I defend myself?” And for those, the Saint is Springfield’s answer.