I recently received one of Sabre Defence Industries’ Precision Marksman Rifles (PMR) for testing and evaluation. This was to be my second Sabre gun to evaluate, and my first impression had been quite favorable. Sabre impressed me as a serious company producing a well-made product with emphasis on quality.
This spring I had the pleasure of meeting Sabre’s Mike Curlett and Dave Power, who familiarized me with several of their guns. I also had occasion to fire several of these and get an impression of their ongoing production line, all in all a positive experience.
Making the claim of turning out high-end AR15-type rifles, which are performance-engineered and accurate from the factory, Sabre sought to create a gun that was the epitome of these virtues. The Precision Marksman Rifle was to be that weapon, and has thus far been quite successful.
Sabre’s factory employs state-of-the-art CNC turning and machining technology. They also make all upper and lower receivers and barrels in-house, giving them the most possible control over quality. It’s believable when they make the claim of the tightest tolerances and standards in the industry.
The PMR’s A3 upper and lower receivers are cut from a matched set of 7075-T6 forgings; the two are joined with captured cross-pins with no discernable play between them. Finish is black hard-coat anodized.
A 20-inch fluted, medium-weight diameter barrel from 410 stainless forging utilizes M4 feed ramps. The 410 stainless is a superior material for barrels in comparison to the more common 416 material. The 410 is much harder, producing better rifling, and lasts longer than a comparable barrel made from 416.
Rate of twist is 1-in-8-inch twist. Sabre manufactures their own barrels; these units are drilled, button-rifled, stress relieved, chambered and contoured in their plant. The barrel is left with a bead-blasted finish. A tactical Gill Brake has a groove for affixing quick-detach suppressors. Any sound suppressor designed to fit on a standard A2 Flash Hider will also fit on the Tactical Gill Brake.
A mid-length gas operating system is used. Vented 12-inch STAR-R Samson AR-15 Rifle Mid-Length Free Floating Rail System bearing the Sabre roaring tiger logo is fitted for the easy mounting of accessories. The Samson unit, machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and hard coat anodized, forms a continuous top rail in conjunction with the upper receiver.
The mid-length system offers a good trade-off between the rifle and carbine length gas systems, providing smoother and more reliable functioning than the shorter carbine length systems, yet can still be used on barrels as short as 14.5 inches. It’s used on the 20-inch PMR barrel so the gas block remains completely covered by the rifle-length handguards that provide a sleek look and protect the block.
Fire is directed by a top-flight Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20×50 LR/T M1 Illuminated Tactical Scope. Part of Leupold’s tactical line of rifle scopes, the mark 4 LR/T M1 makes use of their illuminated Mil-Dot or Tactical Milling Reticle (TMR), which allows precise shot placement in low light, and is also night vision compatible. The full and half-mil gradations of the scope allow for more accurate measurement, and thus better estimation of distance. Leupold’s Index Matched Lens System gives unsurpassed sharpness across the visual field, brightness, and contrast for excellent target definition, even in low light environments.
A turret on the left side allows for easy focusing. The ¼-MOA adjustments for windage and elevation are easily achieved using the finger-turned knobs, up to 70-MOA for each. This great range of windage and elevation is made possible in part by the hardy 30mm main tube, which is shock resistant and waterproof. Flip-open lens covers are standard. The scope is mounted using Leupold’s Mark 4 rings.
A Harris bipod (Series 1A2 Model L) and Yankee Hill Bipod Adapter are used. Allowing adjustment from 9 to 13 inches, the Harris bipod is made from high strength anodized aluminum alloy, and stressed parts are tempered spring steel.
An Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip with a palm rest takes the place of a standard pistol grip. Trigger is a match unit from Timney. It’s a “drop-in” single-stage match trigger set at the factory for a 3-pound let-off. Timney has a long reputation as a manufacturer of premier match-grade triggers. The contour of the trigger itself is of an almost straight configuration, as opposed to the normal forward-curving unit.
A Magpul PRS (Precision Rifle/Sniper) precision adjustable stock is adjustable for length of pull and cheek-riser height. This gives the shooter the feel and function of a custom target stock. Moreover, the PRS is built ruggedly solid. The stock itself is constructed of impact-modified polymer with a machined aluminum buttplate and alloy steel adjustment shaft to provide stability and strength for severe impacts (up to .50BMG). A rubber butt pad prevents slippage when shouldered, even with body armor or modular gear. Adjustment knobs are from machined aluminum and feature positive locking click detents to maintain location under recoil; adjustments are made by hand.
Though our sample was chambered in 6.5 Grendel, the PMR is also available in 5.56mm. The modifications necessary to adopt the AR15/M16 platform to the 6.5 Grendel chambering are scant. Only the bolt, barrel and magazines required design changes—the rest of the gun remains standard. Outside dimensions of the magazines even remain unchanged.
The Sabre Precision Marksmanship Rifle comes with two 25-round magazines, a Shoot-N-C Sight-in target, and an Otis cleaning kit all in a convenient Elite Tactical Carry Case.
The day we’d allotted to do our live-fire tests was a miserable 108 degrees with 27% humidity, though the air was fairly still with a breeze of 11 miles per hour (mph). We staged the PMR at 100 yards and stapled up slightly less than man-sized silhouette targets.
Besides being a fairly new round, the 6.5 Grendel is already in great demand. While Midway USA happily offered to send us the ammo we needed for our tests, they were only able to spare two boxes of Wolf Gold 123-grain Copper SPs, and one box of Alexander Arms’ 120-grain BT Nosler. We would have very limited opportunities to score perfect groups.
Aiming in at the tip of the nose, we began firing three-round groups to test for accuracy. The first volley revealed that the scope sent our fire to the left armpit of the silhouette. Easy thumb and forefinger-turned adjustments brought the patterns closer and closer with each set. By about the fifth target, we had the gun zeroed for the Wolf ammo.
Recoil was a non-issue, feeling the same as a standard 5.56mm AR, undoubtedly due to the Gille brake, which dampened felt recoil and muzzle rise as claimed. If the PMR were implemented as a tactical rifle, however, one should consider the trade-off of using the brake. It does kick up a lot of dust and small foliage under and around the business end. One might contemplate ordering the gun with a flash hider instead, and simply put up with a bit more recoil; the 6.5 Grendel isn’t that bad.
The ergonomics were excellent, owing to the spongy Ergo Tactical Grip, match trigger, and Magpul PRS stock, which allowed easy fine-tuning of length of pull and the height of the cheek-weld.
The trigger was outstanding, with no take-up or creep, and a very crisp break that measured 3.5 pounds. Watching one’s heartbeat through the crosshairs made it obvious that a lesser trigger would be more likely to disturb the shot.
Operating the rifle was done with ease and was the same as with a standard AR. The only exception was that the charging handle was a bit tricky to operate from under the scope with my fat hands. A tactical handle latch would remedy this.
Switching to the Alexander Arms ammo, we found that the point of impact changed a bit higher than with the Wolf. We also were happy to learn that the Sabre definitely preferred the Alexander Arms ammo, and the proof was in tighter groups. Ultimately, the tightest pattern of the day went into just 0.63 of an inch with two rounds crowding into almost a perfect hole. Wolf’s round still clustered into a 1-inch pattern, hardly disappointing. Cycling was perfect, no malfunctions were experienced, and the gun ran smoothly.
Designed for the role of a competition/target rifle that would be the pinnacle of Sabre’s accuracy potential, the PMR has met all expectations, and there is no reason the gun couldn’t serve exceptionally well as a tactical rifle for a police sharpshooter. In the case of the 6.5 Grendel, its greater energy with bullets in the 90-grain to 140-grain range would allay any concerns of lack of penetration through glass and other barriers. It would be more than adequate for vehicle glass and some barrier penetration while still having plenty of man-stopping capability.
The qualities desirable in a precision rifle are those of reliable cycling, good ergonomics, controllability, and great accuracy. All are present in Sabre Defence’s Precision Marksman Rifle.
I recently received one of Sabre Defence Industries’ Precision Marksman Rifles (PMR) for testing…
by Paul Markel / Dec 28, 2008