The Sig Sauer Company was founded in Switzerland way back in the 1850’s and has been a long time manufacturer of pistols for the Swiss military as well as law enforcement agencies. The company is now headquartered in New Hampshire here in the USA but still has manufacturing facilities in Switzerland and Italy as well as here in the USA. Their pistols have had a stellar reputation for decades now and with such notable groups such as the US Navy SEALs, US Air Marshalls and others all using their firearms, their popularity and product line have been growing. The Sig Sauer rifles include several different lines such as their 5.56 and 7.62 combat rifles, Sauer hunting rifles, and Blaser rifles. For a long time a part of their rifle line has been the SSG 3000 sniper rifle, but the SSG 3000 has gone through some recent changes. One was that the production of the SSG 3000 was going to be moved from Germany, where many of the Sig firearms are manufactured, to the USA. This change of manufacturing location also included a change to the actual synthetic stock and one other major change, the price. The price on the SSG 3000 actually dropped from about $2500, to less than $1500 MSRP. This was a surprise and it meant that the SSG 3000 became a player in the low-mid range tactical rifles.
The Sig Sauer SSG 3000 comes in its own hard case from the factory with the typical assortment of new rifle documentation including an owner’s manual and warranty information as well as some minor spare parts, a nice tactical cleaning kit, various Allen wrenches for rifle maintenance and something we always like to see with a rifle, a factory test target fired at 100 meters. It is nice to see rifle manufacturers willing to stand behind their products and provide accuracy proof. Once the case was opened we began to take a more detailed look at the rifle itself and one thing that jumped out at us was that the barrel was labeled, “Made in Germany”. Our understanding was that the new SSG 3000 would be manufactured in the USA, so we are assuming that Sig had some existing inventory they needed to clear out from the German made rifles and that eventually the manufacturing will move to the USA factory. There is another possibility is that the barreled actions will continue to be made in Germany and then final mating of the barreled actions to the stock will be, or is currently being done, in the USA. But since the test target was labeled in German and was shot at 100 meters and not yards, we concluded that this actual completed rifle was manufactured in Germany.
If you look at the image above, that image is of the original previous generation Sig Sauer SSG 3000, now compare that to the other images on this page of the current SSG 3000 and you will see some of the differences. The shape of the stock is similar, but with differences to include ventilation holes in the older stock, there were also auxiliary sights on the old rifle, but not the new. So there are definite differences between the old and new rifles and we will look at all of the details of the new rifle.
The stock on the new SSG 3000 is made of a type of Polymer, or hard plastic, but do not confuse this with a cheaper flexible plastic that one might find on the cheaper stocks from Remington, like on their SPS rifles, or even a Choate stock. The plastic/polymer is much more firm and solid and feels quiet durable. No it is not a laid up fiberglass stock like a McMillan or a composite Kevlar material like HS Precision, but it is solid and should hold up well. The buttstock itself has a rubber recoil pad but it also has a spacer system that allows for adjusting the length of pull by adding or removing spacers. Here at Sniper Central we tend to prefer spacer system setups versus the adjustable setups that use screws or knobs, the reason is because the spacer systems give a more solid foundation that is not going to move over time. Granted, they are much more difficult and time consuming to adjust the length of pull (LOP), but once set, there is no worry about them moving.
The SSG3000 also has an adjustable cheekpiece that adjusts up and down. The way the adjustment is made is by pressing in two buttons on either side of the lower portion of the cheekpiece itself. Both of these buttons need to be pressed simultaneously, which sometimes proved to be difficult. The buttons have a strong spring resistance and it can take some effort to get both of them pressed in fully in order to adjust the cheekpiece. They then have to continue to be held in while the cheekpiece is moved up or down. Once the buttons are released, they will lock into one of several grooves that will keep the cheekpiece from moving up or down. While it is somewhat of a pain to adjust, it is a solid cheekpiece that did not move during our testing once it was secured in place. We cannot say the same for the saddle style adjustable cheekpieces found on McMillan stocks.
Just behind the cheekpiece there are flush cup receivers on both sides of the stock and combined with the same flush cups up on the forearm, it allows the SSG3000 to be used with flush cup compatible slings, and we especially like the fact that they are on the left and right sides which allows for the rifle to lay flat on its side when slung on the back of an operator. Just one of those little things that you normally do not think about until you are operating out in the field and notice how the rifle slings comfortably. The first thoughts about the stock are that it is cheap, but once we started noticing some of these types of features and the fact that the stock is quiet solid, our opinion changed a bit.
The pistol grip on the SSG 3000 is nearly vertical and it fills the hand nicely. It does not have the large palm swells found on some other stocks, but it is very nicely contoured to fit the hand very well. There is some rough texturing on the pistol grip area to provide a good no slip surface for the firing hand as well. There is a deep depression where the thumb wraps around the back of the grip that further enhances the comfort and position of the hand; it is nearly as much of a pistol grip as is found on an AR or other battle rifle. The placement of the hand is setup very well to place the trigger in the proper location to allow a straight back trigger pull.
The action of the SSG3000 is also a unique arrangement as it has a flat mounting area at the rear of the action where it is mated to the stock, but as you can see in the picture below, the trigger mechanism and the DBM arrangement all combine to make a single mechanism. The bottom of the action is somewhat of a block that is solid and provides a solid area for the stock and action to be joined. This flat area does necessitate that the stock be squared off to match it just above the pistol grip. Around the trigger and DBM mechanism the stock maintains a fairly wide and blocky shape before tapering to the forearm.
In front of the magazine and action the stock narrows and actually has an indention on either side of the forearm. The forearm narrows and is not as wide as many modern sniper rifle stocks. The forearm is also taller than many other flatter stock designs like the McMillan A5 which makes the rifle not quite as solid when shooting from a sandbag. The forearm thickens up a little where the flushcups are located and the forearm itself is quiet stiff with no flex, which eliminates concerns of the stock touching the barrel. The barrel is free floating all the way back to the action and there are also two swivel studs to be used for a sling and bipod and the flush cups on either side. Also on each side of the forearm is a rail mounting area to attach small picatinny rails to.
The literature from Sig Sauer, both printed and on the web, indicates that the stock has aluminum bedding and we were curious as to the style and size of the bedding block so we decided to go ahead and remove the barreled action from the stock to see what we might find. Another practical feature with the SSG3000, is the modular design which is talked about in the user manual for the rifle. The barrel is designed to be easily swapped out in a matter of minutes, to include a .22 LR training kit that can be used. Part of the modular design is the ability to remove the stock easily, which really isn’t hard on most rifles, and it was not hard on the SSG. Just two stock retention bolts are used; one at the front of the trigger guard, but then the second actually comes up through the pistol grip. You have to remove the cap from the bottom of the pistol grip and then the rear bolt is accessible. While this design works fine, it does provide a problem for aftermarket stock manufacturers and it also provides an extra step to go through if an operator wanted to just check the torque of the screws holding the stock and action together.
As can be seen in the picture below, it appears that there is no bedding or aluminum bedding block and we initially reported that the stock did not have the claimed bedding block. But we have since been informed and discovered that there is in fact an aluminum bedding block, but it is covered with the synthetic material rather than having the barreled action mount directly against the aluminum. The mating of the stock to the action is solid and it is a tight fit. The polymer plastic will also not alter shape with changing weather conditions. Do notice the three bolts in the picture below at the lower part of the action where the barrel mates up to it, these bolts are used to hold the barrel in place and is what allows for rapid barrel replacement.
The trigger guard is a sturdy aluminum trigger guard that also incorporates the detachable magazine. The guard itself is wide and oversized to allow gloved fingers plenty of room to operate the trigger. You will notice in the images that there are holes in the guard itself, these are to allow the small wrenches access to adjust the trigger, which itself is adjustable for takeup and weight of pull. The trigger is a two stage trigger which has a lighter first stage, measured at 2 pounds, and it has perhaps a quarter of an inch or travel before the second stage. After the first stage has been taken up, there is additional resistance at the second stage of the trigger and then once that has been overcome, the firing pin is released. The manual indicates weight on the second stage is set at the factory at 3.3 lbs, when we measured it on the test rifle; it was slightly more than that at 3.5 pounds. The trigger itself brakes very cleanly and the trigger feel through both stages is very good. We like two stage triggers on combat sniper rifles and this is one of the nicer ones we have used and we have no real complaints about it.
The detachable magazine is a single stack five round magazine that is a bit tall, but due to the designed shape of the stock, it fits flush into the deep belly of the stock beneath the action. There is a press button just in front of the magazine that is reachable to press with the pointer finger while the operator holds the base of the magazine. The magazine drops freely without any problems and when placed back into the magazine-well and pressed up, it snaps positively in place leaving no doubt when it is locked in place. The skinny magazine-well can be a little tricky at times to feed the magazine into, but overall it is a functional design.
The action itself is fairly large when compared to the likes of a Remington, but it is solid and durable and one would imagine quiet stiff. It is easy to see where the action begun life as a large diameter round piece of bar stock but has been shaved on the sides into a triangle profile which adds to the impression of stiffness and durability. To help further with the stiffness of the action the ejection port is a smaller closed design that is solid on top, as opposed to the open top style actions like the Remington 700. This makes it harder to single feed and to reach in and stealthily eject a case, but it also aides for keeping foreign objects out of the action and more importantly, it does add stiffness to the action, which is always good for accuracy. In front of the ejection port the action tapers smoothly back out into its round profile where the barrel fits into the action. On top of the action is an integral zero MOA rail for mounting a scope. A 15 or 20 MOA cant would be nice, but this shortcoming can be addressed in several ways such as the selected scope or ring/adapter selection.
The bolt has six locking lugs aligned into two rows of three which allows the bolt to have a short 60 degree bolt rotation. The shorter rotation makes it easier to cycle the bolt, especially rapidly. The knob is actually a round hard resin (not really sure what the material is) type ball and it is nicely sized and easy to operate. When the bolt is closed there is a cocking indicator at the back of the bolt shroud which is a good quick indicator if the rifle is ready to fire. The bolt is finished in polished steel on the main bolt body and black on the rest. The action is precisely machined as is the bolt which slides and cycles very smoothly as a result. One downside to the polished bolt body is that we have experienced a fair amount of flash rusting on the polished part of the bolt. The light rust always wipes away easily with a dry cloth, but a light coat of oil is needed anytime the rifle is stored for more than a day. There is also a safety on the right side of the rear tang on the action. When that safety is pressed down it locks everything up and prevents firing the rifle as well as cycling the bolt. When the safety is pressed down, a protrusion comes down in front of the trigger inside of the trigger guard. The trigger finger can then press that protrusion up to take the rifle off of safe.
The barrel is a medium-heavy barrel that is 23.6″ long, excluding the flash hider. There are 4 lands and grooves with a 1:11″ right hand twist, though there is a little confusion to the rate of twist as the manual actually indicates a 1:12″ twist while the other specifications from Sig say 1:11″. The contour of the barrel starts off heavy and then tapers down to a more medium weight barrel. There is also a flash hider on the end of the barrel but it is more for decoration and for mounting the optional barrel band than it is for hiding flash. Be aware that it is NOT a muzzlebrake and does not reduce felt recoil. The barrel is, however, threaded with a 5/8-24 tpi which is the most common threading for a suppressor so you can always remove the flash hider and attach a suppressor as needed. The finish on the barrel and receiver is a matte black bluing finish that is nicely done and is deeper, or thicker, than the standard Remington SPS or other lower cost off the shelf factory rifle.
Overall the rifle does have a plastic feel to it when holding the stock, but the plastic is hard and solid and I doubt it is actually a traditional plastic. The rifle does have some weight to it, over 12 pounds without optics, and while the length of pull might be a little short, it can be addressed by adding some additional spacers to the rear of the rifle. The bolt operates smooth and the trigger is nice. With the examination of the rifle complete, it was time to test the accuracy and see how it performs!
For the shooting portions of the test we mounted a Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm scope using IOR steel 35mm rings directly to the integral Sig rail. At the front of the rail there is a spot where the aforementioned barrel band attaches to. There was plenty of room with the rail to mount the scope and with the larger 35mm tube and 56mm objective; the scope did sit up more than we typically like. The cheekpiece was then adjusted to the proper height to allow a good cheek weld. As we mentioned earlier, the adjustable cheekpiece is intended to be quick and easy, but it is a bit of a pain and it does take a little bit of effort to get to set to just where you want it. Once it was, it remained set and firm for all the shooting sessions.
The test target that shipped with the rifle had a five shot group that measured .436″ center to center so heading into the shooting portion of the test we knew what the rifle should be capable of. We are not sure if Sig uses a rifle vice when firing their test groups, but it did provide a goal for us to strive for. The shooting tests were conducted during late winter so the temperatures were in the low to mid thirties and typically it was cloudy with occasional light snow, but the winds were calm during all the shooting sessions. To test the ultimate accuracy of the rifle at 100 yards we use a sandbag up front and a sand sock in the rear. For the Sig, we selected a variety of different ammo that included the standard Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr, HSM 168gr AMAX Match, HSM M118LR 175gr and a 168gr Swiss P match load. The results are listed below.
|Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr||0.850″||.665″||0.81 MOA|
|HSM 168gr AMAX Match||0.678″||.575″||0.65 MOA|
|Swiss P 168gr HPBT Match||0.509″||.308″||0.49 MOA|
|HSM M118LR Equiv 175gr Match||0.587″||.345″||0.56 MOA|
As is evident from the results above, the rifle shot very well for an off the shelf factory produced rifle for under $1500 USD. Surprisingly it shot the excellent Federal Gold Medal Match ammo the worst, but it was still well under 1 MOA. The rifle really seemed to love the Swiss P ammo with it having both the best ultimate group as well as the best average with an average group size under .5 MOA. Perhaps there is some connection with the European ammo combined with a European rifle! It was also nice to see the heavier 175gr ammo shoot very well through the rifle as well. Shooting at longer ranges resulted in continued impressive performance with the rifle maintaining the expected accuracy and when combined with the very nice Leupold Mk8 optics it was a very effective combination at all ranges within the capability of the .308 cartridge.
Recoil was well managed with the weight of the rifle, but the flash hider is not a muzzle brake and does not reduce the felt recoil. It was good to see that the flash hider did not have any ports on the bottom that would kick up dirt and dust to give away a snipers position. For this preliminary test we did not try a suppressor and I suspect we may do so in the future. With the lighter weight barrel I fully expect the point of impact to shift considerably when a suppressor is hung on the end, but I also expect accuracy to remain excellent.
The two stage trigger is very nice and one of the highlights of the rifle. It is similar to the excellent Sako TRG triggers and can be used without problems and quiet effectively, even with gloves on. The trigger weight is just about right for a combat oriented sniper rifle, it is not too light to be dangerous in the field, but is light enough to allow accurate shooting. The long take up on the first stage is just right and then, even through gloves, the weight and feel of the second stage is felt and is smooth. The short 60 degree bolt throw is also a nice feature and allowed for quick bolt manipulation. The single stack magazine is tall for only holding 5 rounds, but it fed without a problem during all of our tests including rapid bolt manipulation.
The cheekpiece on the rifle is not the most comfortable and on top of that, it has to be retracted down to its lowest setting in order to remove the bolt from the rifle for routine cleaning. Then the operator has to wrestle with it again to get it to the proper setting, at least, you hope it is the same as it was last time. Perhaps a little bit of nail polish or some other way to mark an indicator line on the stock where the preferred cheekpiece setting is located would be a help here. The safety on the rifle is different and unique, but it was no problem to manipulate once it was understood how it works. Removing the bolt is also different, with the bolt handle raised; engage the safety by pushing it down, and then the bolt just slides out of the rear of the action. Of course, if the bolt is down, then the safety locks it in place. These are all unique and different than normal operating procedures, but once learned; they are effective and work without problem.
So what is the final verdict on the rifle? That is a fine question. There is no arguing with the accuracy and performance of the rifle, it shot very well with several different types of ammo and the modularity of the rifle allows for some interesting capabilities. Supposedly one can pick up a match grade .260 barrel from Sig and within minutes have a .5 MOA .260 rifle. This does allow for making in the field repairs easy as well. The rifle is comfortable, but the team would have to get used to the rifle as it comes from the factory since after market accessories such as new stock designs will probably be few and far between. If you like the rifle as it is, then it certainly is worth taking a look at. The polished bolt does need to be oiled regularly to prevent flash rusting, but that is just a part of routine maintenance, and the documentation needs to be cleaned up and the features clarified from Sig. The stock is adjustable so it can be made to fit just about any shooter, but the shape of the stock is a bit different and some shooters think it has an odd shooting position with a shorter than average length of pull, but we did not notice this and it is correctable with additional spacers. So it really comes down to whether you like the rifle as is, if so, give it a shot.
Sniper Central – 2014