At SHOT Show this year (2006) I had the surprise of finding Massad Ayoob standing in the Sabre Defence Industries booth. I've had the pleasure of Mas' company a few times, and knew that he had something working with Sabre Defence, but this was the first time I'd had the opportunity to actually see and handle "his" rifles. During SHOT I made sure to get all of the necessary information to receive some test & evaluation samples of the rifles, and my two rifles showed up a couple months ago. Since then I've been enjoying them at the range and putting them through their paces. The two test rifles I recieved are both Massad Ayoob Signature rifles: the Professional (which we'll review here) and the Elite, which will be fully reviewed at a later date. Let's get into the Professional...
First I should mention what this rifle comes with...
Accessories that come with the Massad Ayoob Signature series of rifles all come in the Signature Tactical Case. The Signature Tactical case is stocked with:
- Removable pistol accessory pouch
- Removable rifle & pistol magazine pouches
- Protective bench/ground mat
- Sabre Premium Otis cleaning kit
A couple of notes here:
All of the removable pouches are fastened in by hook & loop (Velcro). They are held securely in place and the zippered compartment provides additional security should any of the items stored in the pouches come out. I never experienced this through the number of times these rifles went in and out of the back of my Jeep.
The Protective Bench/Ground Mat is a nylon covered closed-cell foam mat that provides a little padding and protection for both the rifle and for your elbows if you're shooting from a bench or on the ground. I would not consider it "field expedient." I wouldn't use this bag to transport the rifle into a true field/operations setting. The mat, along with the pouches, etc. would remain behind at a base camp while I carried the rifle to the field on its sling or in my hands. For back-and-forth to the range, this case is exceptional. For storage in your trunk it will do well and keep everything you need to care for the rifle close at hand.
The rifle itself comes equipped with a Wilderness Tactical Giles sling. While I certainly mean no disrespect to Mas, and he has YEARS more experience than I do, I prefer the BlackHawk Close Quarters Bi-Lateral sling. The BlackHawk sling allows the shooter to quickly go to either shoulder and also has a "quick ditch" release buckle. Inside the rifle case are two 20-round magazines and two 30-round magazines. I'd like four 30-round magazines, but that's 'cause I'm greedy and I hate to reload magazines.
Some of the things that I absolutely love about this rifle:
- The Sabre Ultra Efficient Gill-Brake
- The 6-position collapsible stock (but this is argued by others as desirable)
- Ambidextrous safety
- "Ergo" grip
- Detachable carry handle with rear sight
About the 6-position stock: I've had conversation with experienced SWAT officers who don't care for an adjustable stock. In their experience, the stock had loosened over time with multiple uses and had become sloppy. They didn't feel that the secure lock of the stock into a given position was maintained. For that reason they preferred a shorter stock than standard, but a fixed stock nonetheless. What I heard was that they like stocks about one to 1.5 inches shorter than normal to account for the additional thickness of their vest between shoulder and stock.
I am all in favor of the ambidextrous safety on a rifle. While I'm not particularly fond of an ambi-safety on a 1911 (because I'm a traditionalist and narrow minded), I think it's absolutely necessary on a rifle. This goes hand in hand with the bi-lateral sling. When clearing any structure, you never know which shoulder the weapon will have to go to, or which hand will be the trigger hand. The ambi-safety is convenient and quicker than having to think about what you're doing.
As to the removable carry handle with rear sight...this is a TRUE carry handle and NOT what some other companies put on their guns and CALL carry handles.
As to the sights...the front sight on the Professional Rifle has Trijicon inserts. While better visibility is always good, I have a preference for the XS Sights AR sight sets. Of course, that would mean changing both the front and rear sights.
Something else that the gun comes with is a 100-yard test target. Of course, and no offense meant to any manufacturer, how well the gun shoots in the factory and how well it shoots in YOUR hands is always different. Most of us aren't as good as the guns are. So, that's why we take it out to the range. With full magazines and an ammo can full of cartridges, off I went. On the day I took this rifle out, the weather was cool (about 60 degrees F), overcast, and sometimes raining gently. Bench-rested at 100 yards, I had no problem consistently putting out sub-MOA 3-shot groups. Off the bench, firing unsupported, I couldn't keep the groups quite as tight, but again--that was me, not the gun.
I went through twelve 20-round magazines and ten 30-round magazines. I kept the bolt lubed with MiliTec, but other than that didn't give any cleaning or maintenance to the weapon during the firing. I didn't experience any malfunctions, misfeeds, or failures of any kind. Along about five 20-round magazines into it, I realized that my firing hand was more comfortable than normal with AR-style weapons and I have to credit this to the ergonomically shaped grip. I found that I wasn't squeezing it quite as tight as I normally would--because it felt more secure in my hand due to shape and texture.
When I was finished shooting I had to field strip it again (I did it once before shooting) and was reminded again of how tight these guns are built. Pushing out the pins isn't as easy as it is with some other manufacturers' guns. Tolerances aren't as loose. To me, this and all of the upgraded design features, not to mention the case and accessories, easily justifies the higher retail on this gun when compared to other "standard" AR style weapons.
I like this and I like the Massad Ayoob Signature Elite Rifle even more. Look for that review in the future!