I recently had a lively discussion with a bunch of trigger-pulling pals about the attributes that define the ideal predator-hunting rifle. Now, it’s hard to get this bunch to agree on much of anything, apart from the relative merits of a smoky single-malt whisky made in Texas, but we were surprisingly simpatico when it came to defining the perfect predator-hunting rifle.
It would, of course, have to be highly accurate and unfailingly reliable. It should be fast handling and fast shooting to respond to multiple incoming coyotes—an argument in favor of the AR platform.
It should be affordable. It should have a stiff and substantial barrel, yet be light enough to qualify as a walking varminter. It should have an adjustable stock and be easy to shoot off sticks. And, we agreed, it should have a far better trigger than the abominable ones that ship with many factory ARs.
We might as well have been talking about the newest version of the SIG Sauer M400 Predator rifl e. SIG has given the gun a stem-to-stern makeover that brings it pretty close to that defi nition of perfection.
GOOD BARREL, GREAT TRIGGER
The new SIG Predator is offered in .300 Blackout with a hammer-forged 16-inch barrel for your pig-perforating pleasure, as well as in 5.56 NATO with an 18-inch barrel, which is the version sent to me for testing.
The matte-finish, stainless barrel is one of the first things you’ll notice when picking up the Predator. It’s long enough to squeeze decent velocity from your ammunition but not so long that it gets in the way when maneuvering through tight country. Threaded and capped for the addition of muzzle devices or silencers, it has what I would call a “medium” profile.
“The barrel was designed in-house,” says SIG Sauer Rifle Product Manager Patrick Hanley. “It was given a profile to reduce weight but maintain bull barrel-like accuracy.”
That compromise gives the rifle an empty weight of around 7 pounds—thanks to its slim profile and a lightweight gas block, says Hanley, who adds that the gun is 100 percent made in the U.S.A. By the time you add optics and ammo, it’s no featherweight when compared to many bolt guns, but it’s light enough to tote from stand to stand all day without difficulty.
The barrel has a target crown for improved accuracy. Rate of twist is 1:8, which theoretically should allow the rifle to handle a variety of bullet weights well. In testing, that proved to be the case. But no matter how good a rifle’s barrel is, it likely won’t shoot well without a good trigger. SIG chose a great one for the Predator.
The rifle is equipped with an excellent Geissele two-stage match trigger. It broke cleanly, with no creep, at a consistent average pull weight of 4 pounds, 4 ounces. That’s slightly heavier than I prefer, but the trigger breaks so cleanly, it feels lighter than it actually is. This trigger undoubtedly contributes to the rifle’s excellent accuracy … as you’ll soon see.
Out of the box, the Predator is ready to hunt, requiring only the addition of ammo, an optical sight and a zeroing session at the range.
Built tough to withstand the elements, the 7075-T6 aluminum upper and lower receivers are hard coat anodized. The gun has a low-profile, midlength gas system, and the bolt carrier group is of the standard variety, with everything properly staked. Up top, you’ll find an M1913 Picatinny rail for mounting optics, and the buttstock is the ubiquitous Magpul MOE six-position telescoping stock.
The rifle retains a forward assist in the usual position. There’s a QD attachment point on either side of the rear of the lower receiver. That all sounds pretty standard—and it is—but SIG put a lot of thought into optimizing the rifle for predator hunters.
That’s evident in the gun’s ergonomics and controls. The pistol grip, for instance, is rubber overmolded for a sure grip in any weather. The magazine well is beveled to ease insertion of magazines, and its leading surface has scalloped-out ridges that reduce weight and provide a solid grip.
The trigger guard and all controls are designed to be glove friendly. The safety lever is ambidextrous, and so is the magazine release, which has a button on the right side and a paddle-style release on the left side. The bolt catch/release also has a paddle on the top and a horizontal bar on the bottom, which I much prefer over a standard release. All controls have grooved surfaces for nonslip operation.
One addition I applaud is the 15-inch handguard (a machined aluminum ALG Defense Ergonomic Modular Rail, Version 2) that adds a machined M1913 Picatinny rail section atop the muzzle end of the handguard. It has two anti-rotational QD slots at the base of the rail at the 2 and 10 o’clock positions, as well as rows of M-Lok attachment points at the 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 o’clock positions. There’s enough real estate to accessorize with lights, lasers, bipods and so forth until the rifl e weighs as much as an anvil, if you so desire. The entire outer surface of the handguard has grooves cut in it lengthwise to help you maintain a solid purchase on the rifle under any weather conditions.
A SUB-MOA SHOOTER
Functionally, the Predator ran like a Swiss watch. It had no issues with feeding, firing, extracting or ejecting five different factory loads, even though I ran several hundred rounds through the gun as it arrived from the factory with no additional lubrication.
Bullet velocities out of the Predator’s 18-inch barrel were slightly faster than I typically get out of 16-inch barrels but were still a bit shy of factory-advertised speeds for every load tested. That’s to be expected, because factory test barrels are considerably longer than 18 inches. (Hornady tests the two loads included here by shooting them out of 24-inch barrels).
The important thing is to know how fast your chosen load is traveling out of this rifle’s barrel. Let’s say you’re shooting Hornady’s 55-grain V-MAX Varmint Express load. Zeroed at 200 yards with this rifle, the
bullet should impact about 8½ inches low at 300 yards. The result is nearly the same for the slower-but-heavier 75-grain bullet in the Superformance Match load zeroed at 200 yards.
Unless you’re dialing in range on a scope or using a compensating reticle, the salient point here is to zero at 200 yards and simply hold a few inches over a coyote at 300 yards. No muss, no fuss … unless you’re the coyote.
Naturally, it’s a lot easier to hit them with an inherently accurate barrel, and that’s where the M400 Predator really shines. All but one of five tested loads turned in sub-MOA best groups, with two grouping close to ½ inch. Four of the rounds, with bullet weights ranging from 55 to 75 grains, produced average groups of an inch or under. Even the worst-performing round averaged well under 1½ inches—demonstrating that the Predator is not finicky about ammo.
It’s worth noting that the longer I shot this rifle, the better it seemed to shoot, indicating that it benefits from a little break-in.
I found a lot to like in this rifle and very little to dislike. If you can call critters and do your part behind the trigger, you’ll find this new M400 to be a predator’s worst nightmare.
- ACTION: Direct-impingement semiauto
- BARREL: 18-inch; 416 stainless steel
- CAPACITY: Five-round magazine supplied
- UPPER/LOWER RECEIVERS: 7075-T6 aluminum
- WEIGHT: 7 pounds without magazine
- RAIL: M1913 GRIP: SIG overmolded
- RIFLING: 1:8, six-groove
- TRIGGER: two-stage Geissele match
- HANDGUARD: ALG Defense M-Lok Aluminum
- BUTTSTOCK: Magpul MOE six-position telescoping stock
SIG SAUER: (603)418-8102
BARNES AMMUNITION: (800) 574-9200
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION: (605) 348-5150
FEDERAL PREMIUM AMMUNITION: (800) 379-1732
HORNADY AMMUNITION: (800) 338-3220
Velocities were measured with a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph. All groups fired in a wind of 4 to 8 mph.
|Load||Avg. Muzzle Velocity
|Avg. 100-yard Group
|Best 100-yard Group
|Barnes VOR-TX 223 Remington 55-grain TSX FB||2918||1.02||0.72|
|Black Hills 223 Remington 60-grain V-MAX||2996||1.33||1.21|
|Federal Fusion MSR .223 Remington 62-grain||2983||0.93||0.88|
|Hornady Varmint Express .223 Remington 55-grain V-MAX||2982||0.091||0.56|
|Hornady Superformance Match .223 Remington 75-grain BTHP||2765||0.076||0.57|
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.