We sold quite a few of the 556 SWAT rifles recently, and when our order arrived from SIG, I grabbed one of the SWAT models. When you look at the photos on the internet with the quad-rail handguard system, it seems the rifle would be as heavy as a match AR-15. But that is hardly the case. In fact, I found this rifle to be so similar to our General Manager's 556 Classic that I wanted to do an article on both of them together. Truly, the only difference that I could find was the hand guard system. Which is better? I will let you decide that based on what you want.
Overall, these are some very nice rifles. Anyone bad mouthing the "new" SIG line of rifles has not handled any of the recent rifles. Either that, or they have an agenda. An understandable agenda since the SIG, as I have said previously, shows the M4 what it is not and could never be, and shows
the AK what it could have been if its builders cared. And I stress "new", because the three rifles that I have personally, and the other three owned by our staff are nothing like the SIGs one reads in hate factories of the internet.
There are those who would dismiss these rifles simply because of the caliber... 7.62x39 versus 5.56x45...as it were. I find it astounding that many of those same guys would holster a 9mm, or pick up a 5.45x39 without a second thought. The difference between 9mm and 45 ACP is very slight due to its ballistic development, and although there is a greater gulf in rifle calibers, much the same can be said for the 5.56x45. So here is my take on the caliber issue - Which do you choose? The easy answer is ... it depends. It depends on what you want your rifle for. It is easy to say, "always 5.56...or always 7.62"...but that is not a good course of action. There is no prefect caliber for everything. One day perhaps...but not yet.
So...if one wants a rifle for close range work, with low penetrative capabilities, the 5.56 is a good choice. Forget why the US military chooses it. Their reasons are different than ours. The 5.56 (and the 5.45 as well) are preferred for situations where there is concern over penetration and reduced penetration of cover/walls, or obstacles is desirable. This is inherent in the caliber and can be enhanced with judicious ammo selection.
On the other hand, if someone wants penetration...which is sometimes an advantage, although not always desirable, the 7.62x39 may be a better choice. The 7.62x39 will pass through mediums that would stop the 5.56 or 5.45. Sadly, there are few choices that mitigate that with 100% reliability. As well, I have had the opportunity to shoot large animals and the 7.62x39 will do better at this than the 5.56x45. For humans, inside 300 yards, there will not be much difference if there is no cover interceding. Before you gravitate toward the "penetration is better" crowd, give some consideration to your AO and true nature of life around you. The 5.56x45 has many advantages, and any unemotional examination of things will yield them.
So on to the first impressions - The 556 Classic is just that...a classic copy of the SIG 550. And yes...it is very similar in all but the magazine. And for those wondering, yes...I have shot a real SIG 550, with the Swiss Army, in Switzerland. Both have the Swiss folding stock, and ridiculously good triggers.
The stock was another gripe with early owners. The stocks that come on the new rifles are identical to the stocks on the Swiss rifles I have run. It locks up solid open or closed and is very comfortable to shoot. The guys that want an M4 stock on their rifles can buy adapters for that. I like the Swiss style stock and my rifles will stay as they are in that area.
Both rifles are 35.875" long with the stock opened, and 27.1" long with it folded. Here is the interesting part. The 556 Classic with the Polymer Handguards weighs in at 8.2 pounds. Typical for a military assault rifle. The 556 SWAT with the aluminum quad rail handguard is only about a
quarter pound more at 8.45 pounds. Which is better? Again, it depends on what you want. The 556 SWAT allows greater flexibility in optics placement, lighting tools, bipods, etc. If one was planning to make a SIG 556 SPR, or a handy DMR rifle, the 556 SWAT would get the nod. But the 556 Classic will not give much up to its cousin.
Both rifles come with the Rotary Diopter Swiss Sights. For iron sighted use, this is a fine system, and far better than what comes on most military grade rifles. The Swiss sighting system is miles ahead of that on the AK. However, it being 2012 and optics ruling the battlefield, some sort of fold down sights are preferred to facilitate a lower profile scope mount. To that end, all my SIG rifles are equipped with either Samson, or Mid West Industries SIG sights.
A little on the 556 SWAT quad rail system. First weight. We have already established that it is only
about 1/4 pound added. It is quite comparable in heft to the Daniel Defense we have in house. The Quad Rail is a handguard system, but the top rail is one unit, and it extends from the rear sight all the way to the front sight. No need to hinges or buttons or anything, just one long rail running over the top of the rifle. One complaint about the early 556 SWAT was the rail was made in two pieces and had issues. This is one solid piece and one could mount any scope or combination of scopes without any drama. The rifles come with new aluminum GI magazines, but we have run these with every single type of M4 magazine out there and all of them work without a hitch.
Both the Classic and the SWAT have 16" Barrels in the very popular 1:7 twist. The SIG barrels are Nitro Carburized. That is the same finish known as Melonite, Tennifer, and other industrial names. As we mentioned in the 556R article, wear and corrosion resistance is enhanced dramatically with nitro carburizing without any effects on accuracy. The results exceed what is possible from hard chrome. It is what TSD uses on their slides and barrels. We added that because it was just as good as the AquaTerra. Nitro carburizing is harder then Chrome lining (Melonite is 70 Rockwell). It is not a finish that is applied onto the bore, it heats treats the barrel material itself. Mil-Spec chrome lined barrels have thickness of approximately .0003" to .0005". Nitro carburizing hardens the material .005" deep, covers the inside and outside of the barrel, and will not chip away with extended abuse since it is not a surface coating. Hand down, nitro carburizing is a far better solution.
Listen carefully gents, everything worked 100%. Like anything else, you get what you put in.
Russian steel case ammo accuracy was acceptable but not spectacular with 3" groups being the norm with this ammo. Black Hills 69-grain Match King HP gave me an excellent 0.75" group. The rest of the ammo types averaged about 1.5" collectively.
The NEW SIG 556s are top tier weapons and a top choice in the 5.56x45 assault rifle market. They will keep reminding the M4 of what it is not and the AK of what it could have been. And both camps will keep hating. But as more people become aware of these rifles, I predict the SIG camp will grow
in popularity. My 5.45x39s are now in the safe and the rifle I will grab for any "Bump In The Night Ops" will be a SIG 556 in 5.56x45.