September 19, 2022
By Joseph von Benedikt
SIG’s new Cross rifle lay folded on a table in front of me. “It’s like a Swiss Army knife,” I thought. “Or a Leatherman tool.” Introduced in 2020, it is SIG’s first bolt-action design. Skeletal and tactical at heart, it is relatively light and compact, and was conceived to fit the needs of modern hunters.
There’s nothing traditional about the Cross. It’s built on an action of aluminum, with an AR-type interchangeable barrel; an AR-type free-floating aluminum handguard that fully encircles the barrel; and a skeletonized, folding aluminum stock that’s configurable for cheek rest height, length of pull and buttpad position. The barrel/handguard assembly are not the only AR-esque features. The action has an AR-type magazine well that uses AICS-type magazines.
An ambidextrous safety both looks and functions like an AR safety. The vertical grip is an AR grip. Importantly, although the Cross looks like a chassis-type bolt-action rifle, it is not. The action is monolithic and entirely independent, which is a signature element of its design. The folding buttstock attaches to its rear and the barrel assembly to its front.
Unlike most modern all-metal, skeletonized, folding bolt-action rifles, which tend to be sized like Arnold Schwarzenegger and weighty enough to make an admirable anchor, the Cross is light-boned—svelte, even. And to my surprise, all the movable parts make sense and are hand-adjustable. Usually, you need a full set of imperial and metric Allen keys along with a professional mechanic’s socket set in order to adjust all the adjustables on precision rifles.
Let’s circle back a moment and address that statement: “conceived to fit the needs of modern hunters.” What, exactly, do modern hunters want? Well, sometimes I’m not sure even they know, but there are a few features that are en vogue. A short barrel is one. This stems from the burgeoning popularity of suppressors. A backpackable size is another coveted modern feature. A folding stock minimizes your rifle’s footprint when stuffed inside or strapped to your pack. SIG touts the Cross’s minimal overall folded length as 25 inches with the 16-inch barrel and 27 inches with the 18-inch barrel.
High-capacity and interchangeable magazines are popular on modern hunting rifles. A tactical look is also popular, and the SIG Cross has it in spades. I’m ambivalent on such looks. I appreciate a configurable chassis-stocked rifle for competition. However, I’m really a carbon-fiber mountain-rifle kinda guy when it comes to hunting tools. And I confess I love fine walnut and deeply blued steel.
Good Looking, Better Shooting
Some will argue that looks have little to do with performance. I don’t. When looks become a compelling marketing tool and rifles are designed with angular, skeletal aluminum frames, those looks drive so-called modern hunting rifles to have features detrimental to the purpose.
Such rifles are cold to the touch, bad in sub-zero temps. They’re noisy, clinking and pinging every time they contact brush or rocks. They constantly snag on oak brush and alders. And all those moving parts and fastening gizmos rattle loose when bumping around in pickup trucks, bush planes and saddle scabbards. Oh, wait, modern skeleton-type hunting rifles don’t fit into saddle scabbards.
You get my drift. I don’t like skeleton stocks, but other hunters do, and there are a lot of reasons to love the Cross. Foremost, it’s the lightest of its kind. Whether you’re a hunter or you shoot long-range cross-country races or you’re purely a recreational shooter, light weight makes a rifle useful. Also significant, the Cross is optimized for accuracy. Not just to possess inherent accuracy but to provide the configurable fit and the features that shooters need to shoot their best.
Versions currently listed on SIG’s website feature 18-inch barrels (6.5 Creedmoor) and 16-inch barrels (.308). Although it created a lot of interest, the .277 Fury cartridge co-announced with the Cross has yet to materialize. If and when it does, SIG indicates the barrels will be 16 inches long. My test sample is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Cartridge designation is engraved on the barrel, up front near the muzzle rather than in the traditional place near the receiver. The twist rate—in this case 1:8—is also marked.
Muzzles are threaded 5/8x24 and are compatible with standard suppressors. SIG specs indicate the company’s proprietary coned angle is machined aft of the threads. SIG says this helps achieve perfect suppressor alignment. However, you’ve got to use a SIG suppressor. Since so many shooters use other suppressors, Cross rifles are fitted with a collar with a square 90-degree shoulder. Just spin off the thread protector, spin on your silencer, and you’re ready to go.
I have a SIG SRD762 suppressor, so I attempted to remove the collar and enable the muzzle cone to do what it’s designed to do. However, the collar is so tight, I couldn’t budge it. As I had no desire to break out the pipe wrench and scar up the test rifle, I opted to simply install my suppressor with the collar in place. It worked fine.
Rather than a traditional fore-end or even a common chassis-type trough up front, the Cross has an AR-type handguard. It’s slender, which is important to ergonomics, and it features scads of M-Lok slots all around and down its full length for attaching accessories. Aft, it affixes to the front of the action much as an AR’s handguard does. Up top, a long section of 1913-spec optic-mounting rail with 20 m.o.a. built in bridges the joint between action and handguard. It provides plenty of mounting space for cross-slot scope rings.
As I mentioned earlier, the action is fed through an integral magazine well that accepts AICS-pattern magazines. Each Cross rifle comes with one five-round Magpul magazine. It fits and feeds properly. However, when test-firing the rifle, I wanted to shoot 10-round strings, so I switched to a 10-round Magpul mag. With this magazine, the Cross’s bolt didn’t pick up a fresh cartridge about 40 percent of the time when the bolt was cycled. The five-round mag included with the rifle has a unique red follower, and that could be part of the happy marriage with the Cross.
But it was disgruntling that the 10-rounder with the standard follower didn’t work. I switched to a 10-round AICS-pattern steel magazine by Accurate Mag, and it functioned perfectly. I used it without a single issue for the remainder of my testing. The magazine release is a small button located inside the front lower part of the trigger guard. A firm press with the tip of the trigger finger allows the magazine to drop freely. It’s discreet and protected, and it minimizes the potential for a magazine being dropped accidentally. Hunters will love it, but competitive and recreational shooters may deplore it.
As for the trigger, it’s a nice two-stage affair. I’ve done a fair amount of service rifle competitive shooting with a two-stage trigger, so it feels natural to me. Shooters acquainted only with a single-stage trigger may find it takes some getting used to. It’s clean, crisp and user adjustable. As set at the factory, the trigger releases at two pounds, 11 ounces. The AR-type safety is easily accessed and comfortable to use for AR-familiar shooters. It’s also ambidextrous and located so the firing-hand thumb will ride on it when the rifle is shot without wrapping the thumb around the back of the grip—surely the way modern precision guys will run it. This makes it readily activated, but it does eventually begin to bite the pad of the thumb during long, rapid shot strings.
The ejection port is located high on the right side of the monolithic action, and it is rather small. This is both good and bad. Good because it minimizes the amount of dust, rain, snow, ice and other detritus getting inside. Bad because unless the extractor is tuned exactly right, ejecting shells can contact it and potentially get hung up. To remove the bolt, the stock must be folded to allow clearance out the rear of the action—but not all the way folded or you can’t open the bolt. The bolt release button is at 12 o’clock at the rear of the action. It’s in a unique position, but it works well.
As for the bolt itself, it’s a racy-looking affair. The bolt handle sticks straight out of the side of the body at a 90-degree angle—no forward or rearward rake at all. It has a distinct dogleg shape downward, which is visually arresting and places the bolt within easy grasp of the shooting hand. A full-diameter body makes it smooth to operate, and three locking lugs up front give it a short lift. Interestingly, the rear interfacing surfaces of the lugs are angled, not square as is traditional. The bolt head is pinned into the bolt body, with just a bit of play to enable the locking lugs to find equal-bearing equilibrium when in battery.
A stout, 0.20-inch-wide extractor is dovetailed into the rightmost lug, and it reliably hauls fired cases from the chamber. The ejector is a spring-loaded 0.10-inch plunger. When the bolt is worked briskly, it functions perfectly, heaving cases well clear of the ejection port with a healthy “ping!” However, if I pulled the bolt tentatively rearward, cases often dribbled back into the ejection port and caused a malfunction. Moral of the story: Work the Cross like you mean it. Aft of the action is the hinge on which the stock folds. It’s small and strong, but I don’t love it.
When locked in either the straight or the folded position, it takes a fair effort to get it unlocked, at least on my test sample. Press the button atop the hinge with the thumb and give it a healthy squeeze upward with your fingers on the bottom of the stock. Wiggle and twist a bit, and the hinge releases. I do love the buttstock. It’s beautifully sleek and well thought out, and it’s easy and intuitive to adjust without tools. A space-age sort of wing nut unlocks the shaft on which the buttplate rides, enabling easy length-of-pull adjustments. A small, discreet button on the right side of the buttpad itself unlocks the vertical adjustment of the pad.
Perhaps coolest is the way the adjustable cheek rest works. Unlock the locking lever on the right side, and the rest springs under mild tension to the top of its height adjustment. To adjust to perfection, simply lay your cheek against the rest and gently press it downward until you have a perfect field of view through your scope. Rotate the locking lever home with your shooting hand. Done. It’s got plenty of adjustment for people who mount monstrous scopes high above their actions, yet it compresses down beautifully for ideal alignment with scopes like the 4-16x44mm SIG Tango 4 scope I used for testing.
Down below, the toe of the stock features a 3.5-inch, parallel polymer foot with a radius bottom, making it easy to get comfortable on a rear bag. Before heading to the range, I set up the Cross’s adjustments the way I wanted them and installed a Spartan Precision Valhalla bipod on the handguard via an M-Lok quick-detach adapter. Because of the Cross’s tactical roots and relatively robust barrel diameter, I decided to run it through a test protocol I use for competition and tactical rifles, firing three consecutive three-shot groups without allowing the barrel to cool. It’s a fairly challenging test that enables me to determine whether accuracy goes south as the barrel heats and, just as importantly, whether point of impact shifts.
I’m pleased to report neither occurred. Every one of the seven loads averaged less than one m.o.a. Two edged near half-m.o.a. territory. Impressive accuracy, indeed. Muzzle velocities were slow out of the 18-inch barrel. Comparing the Cross to 6.5 Creedmoor rifles with 24-inch barrels, I determined that an average of around 250 fps was given up with most loads when used in the Cross’s 18-inch barrel. That’s about 40 fps per inch.
Obviously, the short barrel makes the rifle very handy, particularly with a suppressor mounted. For most hunting across America, where shots are usually no more than 200 yards, the reduced velocity is not an issue. However, when trying to outguess a fickle wind and consistently ring long-range targets in the wide-open West or, more critically, make ethical hits on distant game, it’s a big deal. Worse, low muzzle velocity means that no matter how aerodynamic your hunting bullet is, it will drop below reliable expansion windows at relatively close distances. In short, precision-shooting features notwithstanding, the Cross is no long-range hunting rifle.
On the subject of precision shooting, I found one trait I didn’t like. A bit of play in the hinge made it impossible to fully rest the weight of my head on the cheek rest. As I settled after my last full breath before squeezing the trigger, everything in perfect alignment and muscles relaxed, the incremental weight my cheek applied to the cheek rest would cause the hinge to depress slightly. This made the crosshairs shift upward on the target, which was frustrating. I was able to work through it, as the accuracy results demonstrate. But for a true precision hunting rifle, I’d want a solid stock. Rigidity is more important to me than foldable compactability. But that’s personal preference.
All things considered, the Cross is an impressive, versatile shooting tool. Much like a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman tool, it’s easy to pack and will comfortably handle most tasks. SIG’s Cross is not a long-range ultralight hunting rifle nor an F-Class match rifle, but for 95 percent of the practical shooting folks do, it’s oh so useful.
SIG Sauer Cross Specs
- Type: Three-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Win.
- Capacity: 5-round Magpul AICS-type magazine (included)
- Barrel: 18 in. stainless steel, 1:8 twist
- Overall Length: 36.5–38.5 in.; 27 in. (folded)
- Weight: 6 lb., 8 oz.
- Furniture: aluminum, configurable, folding buttstock; M-Lok compatible free-float handguard; polymer AR- type grip
- Finish: Type III hard-coat black anodized
- Trigger: two-stage match 2 lb., 11 oz. pull (measured)
- Safety: two-position, AR-type
- Sights: none; 20-m.o.a. Picatinny optics rail
- MSRP: $1,779
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer