Reviewed By: Wesley K on 07/26/2014
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
This is an outstanding rifle! I love it! The Sig 556xi version was definitely worth waiting and paying slightly more for (instead of getting one of the previous gen models). The xi"s controls are now fully ambidextrous, including the ability to swap the charging handle over to the other side of the rifle. The redesigned pistol grip is MUCH more ergonomic, making it considerably easier to reach the safety with the thumb to switch it to fire mode (though still slightly awkward to push back up to safe -- but that may improve as the controls break in).
For those who are wondering: The 556xi is a true LONG-STROKE piston (AK-style) that has been shortened in overall length; it is NOT a "short-stroke" piston as Sig incorrectly lists on their website and marketing materials. The piston is integrally fastened to the bolt through its entire travel (the charging handle connects them together, which is why it reciprocates with every shot). This is great news, as many rumors had spread that they simply switched to using the same short-stroke piston from their 516 model.
The shortened length of the piston significantly reduces the "front heavy" feel of the previous gen "classic" models (and is probably comparable, or slightly lighter than previous gen "patrol" models, though I never had a chance to hold one of those). To keep that weight down, the polymer front hand rail on the standard xi is also the way to go. Not only does it cut weight a little further and feel very ergonomic, with nice stippling for a solid grip, but it also reduces heat transfer. After firing the first 100 rounds in about an hour (with not a single malfunction!), I was surprised how hot the barrel had become. The polymer handguard was quite warm, but comfortably so. My suspicion is that the aluminum swat rail version would get much hotter and become uncomfortable to hold after awhile, especially after a mag or two of rapid fire. I'm pleased I went with the standard version to keep things simple, light, and comfortable.
The 30-round magazine that came with the Sig was in good functional condition, but scuffed up and "used" looking (military surplus?). But it fed the rounds fine. I purchased a translucent smoke colored Lancer L5 AWM magazine (30-round) that also worked flawlessly (and is much nicer than the factory included mag). The magazines seat well and empty mags eject with some vigor during reloads.
The fold-down sights are perfectly adequate as back up sights or even primary sights. The rear sight has two apertures. I suspect they are zeroed for 100 yards, but couldn't test that since I was at an indoor range. However, they seemed fairly accurate right out of the box on my rifle. To fold them down, you have to press a button on each sight, so they do lock into place. To flip them up, however, you don't need to press the button; you just pull up on each sight until it clicks into position. They deploy quickly. I like them, and if you plan to add a scope or a red dot, you'll be pleased that Sig switched to these over the previous (taller) Swiss-style diopter sights.
Overall, I think this is an outstanding choice if you're looking for a reliable, soft shooting rifle (chambered in 5.56/.223) at a very reasonable price. It's a little more unique than all the AR's everyone else seems to be shooting these days, and it compares favorably with other battle rifles that are twice as expensive.
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