What Is Sig Smoking?

Sig Sauer has long been known for making some of the highest quality weapons in the world.

Perhaps I should say “was known.”

For a number of years, declining Sig handgun quality has been fairly evident; beyond that, when the Sig 556 came out several years ago, many Sig fans were disappointed. Rather than simply bring a US made 55X to market, they changed the weapon significantly, and not for the better.

But I’m not going to talk about the 556 very much. No, tonight’s topic is the Sig 516, their AR-platform weapon.

Naturally, it’s a short-stroke gas piston design. If you’re concerned that it’s not been fully developed and is just a hastily converted AR, have no fear – they copied LWRC’s bolt carrier design, and a bunch of other features from other manufacturers. In theory, this conglomeration of other companies’ designs should add up to a functional weapon.

This isn’t really “new news” – this was evident at SHOT 2010 – but the production versions are shipping with what is essentially a copy of the LWRC bolt carrier. It’s most likely legal, but doesn’t inspire me to purchase their weapon – both from a moral and a design standpoint. Perhaps the LWRC bolt carrier is the ultimate evolution of the piston AR bolt carrier; if so, giving credit where credit is due is in order for Sig, but according to LWRC, the design has not been licensed.

Beyond the piston system, what Sig is apparently most proud of is that the lower receiver has raised magazine catch fences, as if this was a pressing issue that desperately needed attention, and the addition of a spring-loaded plunger underneath the rear takedown pin, which serves to reduce “play” between upper and lower receivers. Again, this is another issue that kept AR-15 owners up at night.

It does have an ambidextrous magazine release, but such items can be retrofitted to any AR, courtesy of companies such as Norgon and Knight’s Armament. An ambidextrous safety is claimed, but I have yet to see a single video or photograph of a SIG516 with such a feature, to include photos/videos of production models for sale. This is not exactly groundbreaking, either, and is also widely available.

From a technical standpoint, the gas system is standard carbine length; puzzling, when one considers that Sig could have manufactured the weapon with any length gas system, and were not limited to previous AR gas system standards. It’s especially puzzling when one considers that not only do the 10″ and 16″ barrels have the carbine gas system, but also the 18″ “Precision Marksman”. If the AR-15 market has been crying out for a carbine gas 18″ barreled piston/op-rod DMR, I haven’t been paying much attention.

All barrels are 1/7 twist, chrome lined and nitrided – I would assume that the nitriding is only on the exterior, but my assumptions are not always correct – and the ubiquitous M203 cutout is present on the 16″ barrel. It’s possible that the bottom rail could be removed, but still, is making the weapon compatible with the “old version” of the M203 that critical to potential end users?

Initial photographs show rails that look quite like Troy models, though production versions appear to have a new design that I don’t believe represents Troy manufacturing features. All are, of course, carbine length, and due to the design of the picatinny gas block (which is not, by the way, the same height as the upper receiver rail), compatibility with any other rail system is highly questionable.

The silver lining for some folks is that the weapon will most likely retail somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200; if unsold and “un-bidded-upon” $1500 examples on Gunbroker are any indication. They’re apparently shipping with Sig’s mini red dot, which is a semi-decent Aimpoint Micro clone made in China that Sig sells separately for almost $200. If you like the concept, buy the Primary Arms version for about $80. For a company like Sig to include it – and no iron sights – is an embarrassing joke. If these weapons are truly the “ultimate refinement” of the AR, the “most advanced AR available,” they need to ship with real iron sights and not an overpriced Chinese red dot.

The weapon does have QD sling swivel sockets attached to the receiver extension tube, but the placement may not be ideal for easy use of some controls. This is not a novel concept, either – many companies offer similar components..

So, to recap, the SIG516 has:

A one-piece, anti-tilt bolt carrier (from LWRC)

A three or four position gas regulator easily adjusted with a 5.56 case (from Ruger and others)

A tension device underneath the rear takedown pin (from Sun Devil)

Redesigned magazine release fences (also from Sun Devil)

QD sockets on the receiver extension tube (from a number of companies)

A short-stroke gas piston system (from someone to be determined).

So what, exactly, makes this the most refined AR platform weapon in existence, as Sig claims? I have no idea. If you have $1200 to spend, there are far better weapons to spend your money on.

One photograph on the SIG516 website really speaks volumes to me. It shows an unidentified male pulling back the charging handle with the index and middle fingers of his firing hand. This is a vastly outdated method of retracting the charging handle, and it tells me how out of touch Sig is with the carbine market, as if the rest of the product wasn’t evidence enough.

Do you want this rifle? I sure don’t, and I can’t fathom why anyone would.

Sig continues on a downward spiral. I wonder what the men who designed and built the P210 would think.



Filed under Firearms

5 responses to “What Is Sig Smoking?

  1. ZM

    I saw this rifle at the NRA show in NC. I was actually kinda interested when under the rail system I saw what looked like the HK416’s heat sink. I asked the salesmen and he said that “the weapon was designed by the same person that build the 416.” I then asked as nicely as I could,”so why are you using a Troy rail?” He kinda looked at me for a minute and said “price.”

    I think I might consider their Sig556 ‘Classic’, looks similar to the 550…

  2. Chris

    There’s no shortage of individuals who believe that gas-pistoning the AR perfects the platform (lol). Combine those people with brand name loyalty, in this case Sig, and you’ve got yourself a cash cow.

    Regardless, Sig needs to work on the charging handle not locking properly.

  3. Perplexed

    $1200 for a gas-piston AR with 1/7 hammer forged barrel and gas adjustment? With a rail and SOPMOD stock, too? That seems pretty compelling. An LWRC A3 upper (also gas adjustable) alone is close to 2 grand, right?

    What am I missing? How did it compare to the Ruger SR556?

    • Andrew (Vuurwapen Admin)

      Production models ship with an MOE stock.

      Remember, it has no sights. Complete LWRCs (with $200 sights and $120 stock) can be found for $1899.

  4. Mike

    Sig really does seem to be losing it. Their accessories (made by some company called iTac) suck and are overpriced.

    Am I the only one tired of hearing about piston ARs? They’re almost completely pointless for the civilian market. If anything, more dissipator setups would make more sense.

    I guess it’s because that’s what all the go-fast guys (who are shooting very high volumes, full-auto, short barrels and suppressors – you know, the only REAL reasons to run a piston) are using.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the gas piston AR is the mark of a wanna-be.

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