Long Guns: Sabre Defence XR15A3-M4 Tactical

It seems that every time I pick up Shotgun News or one of the gun magazines, another company is making AR-15s. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that’s a bad thing. On the contrary, competition is making AR-15 carbines and rifles much more affordable. The burgeoning AR-15 market has also led to many improvements on an already good design. I can tell, though, when I’m at shops that stock an array of AR-15s or at gun shows, that consumers sometimes find it hard to decide which AR-15 to buy. If their decision is purely price-based, the choice is simple, and there are some excellent buys in quality rifles. The decision gets much more difficult, however, if one contemplates the purchase of a higher end AR-15 with many modifications. As a result, when I encounter one I think is particularly good, I try to give it a test and evaluation for readers. Sabre Defence’s XR15A3-M4 Tactical model is one of the better examples I’ve tested.

Sabre Defence carbine lives up to the expectations one has based on its not inconsiderable price.


Sabre Defence operates its own manufacturing facility, which results in a firearm that undergoes consistent quality control throughout the process of machining and assembling. Sabre Defence gained much of its experience designing and manufacturing MILSPEC .50 barrels for the U.S. armed forces. The company now produces barrels for the M60, M134 Minigun, and M16/M4 as well. This experience is reflected in the array of high-quality barrels available for its AR-15s. Far more than the barrels are produced in-house for Sabre AR-15s, however. Over 80% of a finished Sabre Defence rifle or carbine is produced on Sabre’s own CNC machines. Some special parts such as SOCOM stocks or tactical handguards are produced by companies that specialize in those parts—companies that are frequently military contractors.

Pistol grip on author’s carbine was extremely comfortable when shooting.


I stated earlier that choosing an AR-15 can be difficult. That is true even after one decides he wants a Sabre Defence rifle or carbine. There are 20 or more Sabre Defence models from which to choose. I found three or four that had a lot of appeal, but I decided on the XM15A3-M4 Tactical as it incorporated the most features that I find desirable. These features include:

  • 16-inch M4 Government Contour 1:7 twist MIL-B-11595 Vanadium Alloy barrel, chrome lined with M4 Feed Ramp
  • Sabre A3 Flat Top Upper (T-marked) and matched lower machined from 7075-T6 forgings
  • Two-stage match trigger
  • SOCOM stock
  • Samson Tactical carbine handguards and Ergo Grip
  • Flip-up front and rear sights with bayonet lug
  • Sabre Gill Brake

Samson rail system is real plus on tactical carbine, offering great versatility for mounting accessories without adversely affecting accuracy. MagPul rail covers are in place.


I liked the M4 SOCOM stock a lot upon first handling the carbine and that impression was reinforced when shooting it. Designed to be up to six times stronger than a standard AR-15A2 stock, this stock is also extremely comfortable. The model supplied with my XR15A3-M4 Tactical has a 1/2-inch recoil pad, which allows the stock to be adjusted between 8 and 10 inches in 1/2-inch increments. Without the recoil pad, the stock adjusts from 7.5 to 9.5 inches. Mine has the push-button quick adjustment feature that allows the shooter to quickly move it to the best position when wearing winter clothing and/or body armor. The closed cell foam overtube allows a very comfortable cheek weld when shooting and is definitely an aid to accuracy. The SOCOM stock has four 1.5-inch sling slots to allow versatility in mounting. This does raise one of the very few criticisms I have of my Sabre Defence carbine: the front sling swivel is at the bottom rather than at the side in M4 fashion. I prefer the M4 positioning. Still, there are plenty of options for sling mounting.

Flip-up rear sight is precise and easy to use.


The Samson rail system is a real enhancement to this rifle as well. Designed to form a continuous top rail, the Samson system allows multiple optical sighting devices to be mounted in line for use of night vision optics with other optical sights. Since the Samson rail system is free floating, it does not harm accuracy—an important consideration when adding a handguard system. Fabrication from 6061 T6 aluminum keeps the rail light. The design mounts very securely with four 8-32 socket head cap screws as well as an extra screw hole to enhance lower retention. The lower is easily removable for cleaning, too. To prevent barrel nut rotation, there is a winged clamp. In simple terms, this is a very secure rail system, but one that comes in two pieces so that the front sight base (FSB) does not have to be removed for installation. All rails are 1913 MILSPEC and checked with a rail inspection gauge. I saw the importance of such an inspection at a local Class III dealer a week or so ago, as I watched them attempting to hammer a front pistol grip onto a nonstandard rail for a customer. The Samson rail system is hard-coat anodized for durability.

Telescoping SOCOM stock is extremely comfortable and a real aid to accurate shooting.


Because accessories add bulk and weight to a carbine, I always think carefully about what I attach. However, I prefer my AR-15 carbines to have a rail system so I can mount whatever I want. I usually add MagPul rail covers and remove or cut them to accommodate whatever accessories I choose to use.

Although I resisted special grips on my AR-15s for years, I have to admit that I have been converted by some of the ergonomic ones that are now available. For example, I find the one on my Sabre Defence XR15A3 especially comfortable.

I also normally order my AR-15-type carbines and rifles with a flat-top receiver and immediately add optical sights, but I liked the flip-up sights on the Sabre Defence carbine so much that I decided to test it with those sights, though I will add an optical sight later. Since the barrel has a 1:7 twist, I shot 62-grain SS109 (M855) or the Black Hills 77-grain load in it. At 600 meters, drop is surprisingly close for these two loads; hence, I felt that if I sighted the open sights at 100 meters, it should be on with either bullet weight. In fact, I had some Black Hills 75-grain HP and Federal 69-grain MatchKing ammo I had been meaning to test, so I felt these were close enough in weight to use for sighting in and initial accuracy testing. I will use the 62- and 77-grain loads when zeroing the optical sight.

Author found XR15A3-M4 Tactical Carbine accurate and very easy to shoot.


I use optical sights often on AR-15s, and any recent training I’ve done has been on M4s with ACOGs, so it was an enjoyable experience to shoot with the flip-up aperture sight on the Sabre Defence carbine. It took about a dozen shots to get the rifle zeroed. Most of the time was taken adjusting the front sight post, since I had not brought one of the AR-15 front sight tools and had to do it with a pen and a bullet point. Still, I got the elevation set and only had to change windage by one click. One hundred-meter groups were in the two- to three-inch range which for me, with open sights these days, is pretty good. I’m sure the carbine will do well under a minute of angle when I put an optical sight on it. I make this assertion based on the fact that I usually don’t shoot this tight with standard carbines and iron sights.

Trigger pull was excellent, as was functioning. I grew even fonder of the stock while shooting off of a bench when zeroing, as it let me get a very comfortable cheek weld. I used the smaller aperture for all of my shooting. I was shooting at a range that was especially crowded on the day after Thanksgiving, so I didn’t really get to do many drills. That will come later. I did shoot on paper at 100 meters and at plates at 100 meters and 300 meters and found that I was hitting virtually every time at 100 meters and over 50% at 300 meters. At 100 meters I was shooting off hand and at 300 meters from a rest. Once again, all indications were that the Sabre Defence carbine easily is accurate enough to shoot well under a minute of angle if I do my part. I will be testing the optical sight I intend to install on the XM15A3-M4 in one of my upcoming columns and will report on how the carbine does at 500 meters at that time.

I came away from the first range session, after firing over 200 rounds, very happy with the XM15A3. It has lots of features I like and it performs to expectations. Sabre Defence makes quality products and, as a result, they are not cheap. Let me clarify that: Sabre Defence rifles and carbines are not cheaply made, so they don’t sell for a cheap price. That makes sense to me. The XR15A3-M4 Tactical Carbine retails for $2,089.99 and comes with two 30-round magazines. Other Sabre Defence firearms sell for more or less than that, depending on the features one wants.

SOURCE:

Sabre Defence Industries, L.L.C.
Dept. S.W.A.T.
450 Allied Drive
Nashville, TN 37211
(615) 333-0077
www.sabredefence.com

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