August 09, 2022
By Joseph von Benedikt
Springfield’s new Saint Edge ATC Elite AR-15 is designed for one purpose: maximizing accuracy and consistency. It’s heavy. It’s a tad bulky. But from the second you pick one up, you know it’s different. This is not your lightweight, casual AR-type plinker. It’s a specialist. Most noticeably, what makes it different from the run-of-the-mill AR-15s is the monolithic lower receiver and handguard, which are machined as one piece. This is the ATC element, which is an acronym for Accurized Tactical Chassis.
Incorporating the fore-end with the lower receiver eliminated several elements that sometimes plague typical AR-15s. There’s no flex between the lower receiver, which is what the buttstock mounts to, and the handguard/fore-end. As a result, the ATC eliminates potential inconsistencies when shooting prone over a bipod or bracing against barriers or barricades. And since the handguard is not mounted to the barrel and upper receiver assembly, it applies no torque to the barrel in any shooting position or situation. It’s properly free-floated around the barrel.
Along with the large-profile barrel, this chassis is what makes the Edge ATC heavy. If you’re an accuracy nut, the weight is valuable. And the consistency-enhancing characteristics you gain with the monolithic chassis is, Springfield says, game-changing.Unlike with standard AR-15s, you can’t pop the rear receiver pin and pivot the upper receiver assembly to access the breech. In a manner, the upper is pillar bedded to the lower chassis-type stock, via the use of conical Accu-Tite tensioning screws that apply pressure to the bottom of each upper receiver pin lug. A six-inch-long, T-handled 1/8-inch size hex wrench is included with the Edge ATC.
To disassemble the rifle, loosen the hex-head tensioning screw in the underside of the fore-end. Hook your thumbnail under the flat head of the detent latch set into the lower rear of the fore-end and pull it out a fraction. The heat shield will slide forward easily out of the fore-end. Next, loosen the 1/8-inch hex-head tensioning screws in the bottom of the receiver, using the same long hex key. Pop both receiver takedown pins and lift the upper assembly up out of the chassis. Reassemble in reverse order. Don’t overtighten the tensioning screws. Springfield specs recommend 15 to 25 inch-pounds of torque.
Inside, the machined, 6061 T6 aluminum lower receiver looks much like any other top-end AR-15 lower. The Elite version of the Edge ATC is fitted with a LaRue Tactical MBT flat two-stage trigger, which is an upgrade from the standard ATC. Additionally, the Elite version is finished in Coyote Brown H-250 Cerakote atop the traditional Type III hard-coat anodizing, which gives it tremendous weather protection and looks great. Aft, the Elite wears an upgraded B5 Systems Precision stock that offers length-of-pull and a bit of cheek-rest height configurability. It’s also collapsible and features six positions. Completely telescoped in, it’s just 12.5 inches. Fully extended with the buttpad length-of-pull adjustment maxed out, it’s 16.25 inches. That’s impressive.
There’s a trace of play between the stock and the buffer tube/receiver extension. Aside from that, from tip to tail, the Edge ATC Elite has the look and feel of a proper chassis-type stock for a precision rifle. A serrated buttpad takes the edge off recoil and provides consistency-enhancing “grippyness” at the shoulder. QD sling attachment points are built in on each side of the toe of the stock, and there’s one in the receiver end plate as well for shooters that prefer a single-point sling. For a grip, the Saint Edge ATC Elite uses a B5 Systems Type 23 P-Grip. It’s nicely color-matched to the Coyote Brown finish on the metal parts, and features good, tacky stippling on the frontstrap and side panels.
ATC Elite Features
Fire controls are the traditional AR-15 gear, with the exception of the upgraded and visually arresting trigger. The trigger guard itself is racy-looking and has just enough room built in to allow for comfortable use with light gloves. Each Edge ATC Elite ships with a 20-round Magpul PMag. Thanks to strongly beveled mag-well edges, magazines insert easily. This mag well is a notable departure from the AR norm. It’s robust and has a blocky front that’s extended and deeply serrated for use as a barrier stop. I suspect it also serves much like angle iron and strengthens the transition area where the lower receiver merges into the fore-end.
On each side of that same area, the fore-end flares out much like a beavertail fore-end on a shotgun. It tapers from 2.2 inches wide at the rear of the fore-end to 1.9 inches at the tip. Both sides of the forward takedown pin are recessed into the receiver. QD sling points are machined in on an angled surface just forward of the receiver, and a third one is located just aft of the five-inch section of Picatinny rail machined integral to the fore-end tip. There’s just one short M-Lok-compatible slot in the lower portion of the fore-end. It’s located at six o’clock, about a third of the way forward from the receiver. But as mentioned, there’s an onboard section of rail for mounting a bipod and any other accessories. Plus, the heat shield upper portion of the fore-end has several more M-Lok slots, which would be appropriate for a weapon light or other accessory.
The upper assembly is forged from 7075 T6 aluminum. It’s the flattop type now prevalent and features a Picatinny rail up top, a forward assist and an ejection-port dust-cover marked “.223 Wylde.” The match-grade Ballistic Advantage barrel is likewise laser etched .223 Wylde, indicating it is reamed with the hybrid chamber that’s proven such an effective crossover between the 5.56 NATO chamber and the .223 Rem. chamber. In short, it has match-quality tolerances and a modified throat so it shoots as accurately as a .223 and yet is still safe with higher-pressured 5.56 ammo. Of course, it will safely and accurately chamber and fire ammo marked with either headstamp.
The rifling twist rate is 1:7, which is standard in military firearms and trendy among enthusiasts that like mil-spec parameters. It’s optimized for projectiles of 62 grains up to 85 grains and should perform well with match-grade ammo in the 69- to 77-grain range. It’s a bit fast for anything lighter than 55 grains, which is why—as a predator hunter who uses 40- to 50-grain bullets to maximize muzzle velocity and minimize pelt damage—I prefer a 1:8 twist.
Barrel profile is fairly robust, measuring 0.86 inch in diameter between the receiver and the gas block, 0.75 inch at the block and 0.73 inch from the block to the muzzle threads. Length is 18 inches, and it’s finished in Melonite. A low-profile steel gas block fits comfortably inside the fore-end/heat shield assembly. Springfield told us the barrel nut is the company’s proprietary one it uses on its Victor and Edge models. No other handguards will fit it, so the ATC can be fitted only with the ATC handguard, as the chassis will not allow any other handguard to be installed.
Bolt carrier groups are traditional full-mass M16 type made of Carpenter 158 steel. It’s a combination that provides maximum reliability and smooth recoil impulse. Bolts are high-pressure and MPI (magnetic particle inspected) tested to ensure quality. The carrier groups are finished in Melonite coating. Function is via a mid-length, direct-impingement gas system. An H weight heavy tungsten buffer is used to tune bolt lockup timing and carrier function for best-possible smoothness, reliability and longevity.
Complete rifle weight is impressive, tipping the scales at 10 pounds, one ounce. With an appropriate, precision-capable scope aboard, bipod and a full magazine, the Edge ATC Elite will weigh 14 pounds or more. That’s a lot for an AR-15. Thankfully, it’s for a legitimate reason. This rifle system was conceived to provide ultimate accuracy and consistency and comes with a sub-m.o.a. guarantee. Use match-grade ammo the rifle likes, and three-shot groups will stretch the tape at less than an inch at 100 yards. To test that claim, I mounted an Atlas bipod up front and a 3.5-18x50mm Kahles K318i scope atop the upper receiver. Because I’ve become spoiled by good suppressors to the point where I now deplore muzzle brakes, I spun the muzzle device off the Edge ATC and replaced it with a SIG Sauer SRD556 can.
I attached a short section of aluminum rail to the M-Lok slots on the bottom of the stock to affix a Long Shot Precision Adjustable Bag Rider rail. Prone, I rested the rail in on the notch of a compatible Long Shot Precision Protektor bag. It’s a setup I’m still learning, but I’m continually impressed with how steady one can get and how fine the elevation adjustments in the bag rider rail are. Black Hills’ 77-grain open-tip match load went downrange first, and handily met Springfield’s accuracy guarantee, averaging 0.74 inch at 100 yards for three consecutive three-shot groups without allowing the barrel to cool. (Hey, it’s a semiauto with a heavy barrel. It’s made to run hot.)
All rifles are individual and have their ammo preferences. This one didn’t like Remington’s 69-grain match at all, averaging 1.95 inches at 100 yards. But the other two loads—Barnes Precision Match 85-grain MatchBurner and Hornady’s 75-grain Match hollowpoint boattail—hovered close to that one-inch mark. It’s worth noting that I was battling a gnarly cold at the time. I suspect that with a bit of barrel break-in and a fresh, healthy shooter, three of those four loads would meet Springfield’s accuracy guarantee.
My Lyman trigger gauge measures the match-grade LaRue at four pounds, nine ounces. Like most good two-stage triggers, it doesn’t feel nearly as heavy as it actually is. First-stage take-up is smooth, the second-stage wall is solid, and the break is beautifully crisp.
Like many modern configurable stocks, the cheek riser on the B5 Systems stock was quite far rearward. I found it difficult to even get my jaw rearward far enough to get comfortable contact on it. The riser wasn’t reversible that I could tell, so I just made do. Considerable inherent weight makes the Edge ATC Elite very stable and steady, and felt recoil is nearly nonexistent. From prone, the rifle is very ergonomic to use and shoot—with the small exception of that cheek rest being too far rearward.
Offhand, too, the rifle is steady thanks to the inherent mass. However, it’s not responsive to handle or easy to carry. This is more of an overwatch type of firearm or a precision shooting AR. I wouldn’t pick it to run around with in hot weather or in mountainous terrain. Does the chassis-system approach to achieving better accuracy play out? I don’t have a definitive answer. Theoretically, the ultra-rigid design of the fore-end should eliminate any torque from a bipod or rest that could cause point-of-impact shifts, so that’s a win. However, I’ve used quite a few AR-15s with standard free-floating handguards, and as long as they are of high quality and are installed correctly, I have not experienced point of impact shift when loading a bipod.
As for pure accuracy, I have shot many ARs with standard free-floating handguards that group just as well. I have a 5.5-pound highly customized AR-15 that is a legitimate half-m.o.a. gun with its favorite loads, and it weighs half of what the Edge ATC Elite weighs. However, those unassembled parts also cost twice what the Edge ATC Elite does finished. What the Saint Edge ATC Elite does have that’s undeniably cool is looks. It’s got a cutting-edge appearance that sets it apart in any crowd. It may be heavy in the hands, but once in shooting position its mass and ergonomics will help you be the best you can be. And every shooter on the range will want to know what you’re firing.
Springfield Armory Siant Edge ATC Elite Specs
- Type: Gas-impingement, semiautomatic
- Caliber: .223 Wylde
- Capacity: 20-rd. Magpul PMag (included)
- Barrel: 18 in., 1:7-in. twist, Melonite finish
- Overall Length: 36.5-39.75 in.
- Weight: 10 lbs., 1 oz.
- Furniture: B5 Systems Coyote Brown configurable stock, B5 Systems Coyote Brown Type 23 P-Grip
- Finish: Type III hardcoat anodixing, coyote brown Cerakote
- Trigger: LaRue MBT Flat two-stage; 4 lbs., 9 oz. (tested)
- Sights: None, Picatinny optics rail
- MSRP: $1,899
- Manufacturer: Springfield Armory