By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
All photos contained in this article were taken by DefenseReview.com, and are copyrighted. DefenseReview.com owns the copyright on these photos. The photos were shot with a Canon PowerShot S90 10-megapixel digital camera (still camera with video capability).
May 31, 2010
Back in September (2009), DefenseReview (DR) published a short piece on the then-recently-announced SIG Sauer SIG516 5.56x45mm NATO (5.56mm NATO)/.223 Rem. short-stroke gas piston/op-rod tactical AR (tactical AR-15) rifle/carbine/SBR series based on the limited information we had on it at the time. Understand that we only had The Firearm Blog’s post (with photo) on it to go on before we published our piece. In January (2010), SIG Sauer (formerly SIGARMS) put any/all conjecture to rest when they displayed both the AR-15-type SIG 516 and AR-10-type SIG716 7.62x51mm NATO (7.62mm NATO)/.308 Win. short-stroke piston ARs at SHOT Show 2010.
DefenseReview got to view, handle, and photograph them, and we witnessed a number of other folks do the same at the SIG Sauer booth. The reception was generally positive, but the proof will be in the pudding, i.e. how they perform at the range and in the field.
The SIG716 is being offered in the following configurations: Patrol (16″ barrel), Tactical Patrol (12.5″ barrel), Precision Marksman (16″ barrel), and Precision Sniper (20″ barrel). The Firearm Blog reported the following on it in February (2010): “Every model is equipped with free-floating quad rail and chrome-lined barrels. The Marksmen models feature heavy match barrels. The non-marksmen models come with backup iron sights. The 517 [sic] makes use of Armalite’s AR-10 Gen II magazine. According to “pizzigr1” at AR15.com, Sig are using Armalite AR-10 Bolt Carrier Groups (BCG).”
At a relatively cheap MSRP of $1,399 (as reported by Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement (GWLE) (May 2010 Issue) the SIG516 piston AR is relatively inexpensive for a name-brand, presumably quality-manufactured piston AR. . In fact, the SIG516 is so reasonably priced that it actually gives us a little pause, wondering how they’re able to offer it so inexpensively. It makes us a little nervous, actually.
We assume the SIG716 is similarly relatively inexpensive for a 7.62mm piston AR (unconfirmed/unverified). How is SIG accomplishing this relative low-cost aspect? Are they cutting corners quality-wise somewhere? Hopefully not. We really hope not.
It’s interesting to us that when someone posted a link to The Firearm Blog piece on it at M4Carbine.net, some M4Carbine.net members immediately savaged SIG’s efforts. “FromMyColdDeadHand” lamented that SIG didn’t instead offer a 550-series upper receiver that’s compatible with a (MILSPEC-config) AR lower receiver (not a bad point/suggestion, actually). “Scott Ryan” billed the SIG516 as “ultra gay and lame, especially with the billet lower. They just can’t get it figured out.” M4Carbine.net member “variablebinary” chimed in with “Wow. What the hell is going on over at SIG. Just make the SG551 and stop being stupid. And that shitty mag is still part of the deal.” “variablebinary” even went after the SIG 556 while he was at it, implying that it was stupid. Wow. Tough crowd.
Defense Review isn’t going to challenge any M4Carbine.net members on the latter point (SIG 556), particularly not “variablebinary”, since he’s right, at least about the SIG556. The SIG 556 was indeed pretty stupid if you’re trying to market to military weapons buffs like us. The first time DR ever saw and handled the SIG 556 at SHOT Show 2006, our first question was, why not just manufacture and market a civilian-legal 16″ semi-auto-only Swiss military-style SIG 550-series carbine and SIG 551/SIG 552-type 10.5-12.5″ SBR and complete SBR upper receiver that look exactly like the Swiss military select-fire versions, except for perhaps the addition of a well designed integral rail system? Why offer a different configuration weapon with a different visual appearance to the U.S. market? What was wrong with the Swiss military-version SIG 550-series Swiss military configuration?
We didn’t ask this question publicly at the time, since we were frankly happy to see SIG making an effort to at least offer something close to the SIG 550/551/552 that utilized the same operating system. We therefore wanted to be as positive as possible about it. However, we didn’t purchase a SIG556, and we would have been more inclined to purchase a Swiss military-copy SIG550-series semi-auto-only carbine.
Moving forward, SIG 550-series (Swiss military-style) complete upper receiver assemblies made specifically to go onto MILSPEC M4/M4A1 Carbine and AR-15 carbine/SBR lowers (per M4Carbine.net member “FromMyColdDeadHand’s” suggestion) would be even cooler and more useful products than complete SIG550-series guns, and they would still be unique, unlike the SIG516 and SIG517 piston ARs, which are welcome, but definitely not unique. You could also build complete SIG guns with them (Swiss military-style 550 uppers) on the SIG516 carbine/SBR lower, which, again, would be a unique product in the marketplace.
We can also understand the M4Carbine.net boys’ lack of enthusiasm for YET ANOTHER piston AR offering, especially since SIG Sauer is so late to the party and there are already established and more fleshed out/proven/debugged piston system ARs available, already. The only point DR would counter with is that it’s hard to argue against having another choice/option at one’s disposal. After all, why not encourage more competition and choices in the tactical rifle/carbine/SBR marketplace? Choice and competition are always good for the consumer (late to the party, or not), so DefenseReview welcomes the SIG516 (5.56mm) and SIG517 (7.62mm) piston ARs, and we honestly hope they’re good, i.e. reliable, accurate, and durable. If they turn out to be lacking or mediocre (hopefully not), who cares? Just buy something else. You’ve got plenty of options. American options.
Defense Review doesn’t currently own any SIG Sauer products, but we don’t have anything against them, or the company, either. The SIG P226 and SIG P228 high-capacity 9mm pistols have excellent reputations for reliability and accuracy, high bore axis and all. Yes, we (DefenseReview) prefer the Glock 17 (G17) and Glock 19 (G19) hi-cap 9mm pistols—the G19 being our personal choice for concealed carry (CCW)—but so what? It’s nice having options, out there.
So, we’re going to give the SIG 516 and SIG 716 rifles/carbines/SBRs an honest shot. They at least deserve that.
But, they’d better be good. And, we sincerely hope that SIG hasn’t cut any corners quality-wise on parts an components (internal AND external). We just don’t understand how they’re able to come in at $1,399, all in, for a complete piston gun. That concerns us, quite frankly. So, we’ll try to look into it. We’ll also try to get pricing on the SIG716.
It’s possible that SIG Sauer may try to compete the SIG516 piston system for the U.S. Army M4 Carbine Modification Kit contract (Solicitation Number: W15QKN-10-X-0435). We’ll try to find that out, as well.
DR will review the SIG516 and SIG716 (and Diamondhead Combat Sights) as soon as we can.
In the meantime, tell us what you think. We’re interested in your opinion(s), so please comment on this story.
Additional SIG516 and SIG517 Photos:
Company Contact Info:
SIG SAUER, Inc.
18 Industrial Drive
Exeter, NH 03833
Law Enforcement Sales
Mil/Fed Govt. Sales/Exports
Training Facility for Law Enforcement, Military, and Civilian personnel
SIG SAUER Academy
233 Exeter Road
Epping, NH 03042