Great. Another AR. From a company that already makes them. I didn’t say it out loud, but when I received an invitation to a recent SIG Sauer writer event in New Hampshire, I was really just going for my first crack at the commercial version of the U.S. M17 pistol. I have a cover story to write, after all. But the new rifle was important to them.
But, after listening to what SIG had to say, I believe the new “M400 Tread” rifle has more than a place in our current somewhat sluggish marketplace. I think it will succeed. It is an upgraded direct-impingement, 5.56×45 mm carbine with a stainless-steel barrel, a mid-length gas system, six-position Magpul stock and a simple, solid, affordable and innovative method of barrel attachment. It has a flat gas block, meaning no A2 front sight post, as most folks add an optic these days. Its price, for the base model, is $799.
And here’s why it will be a success. Despite there being more than 16 million AR/AK rifles in the hands of Americans, they may be under-supplied market in the mid-price category. Two years ago, Springfield Armory decided to belatedly enter the AR marketplace with its Saint rifle. Right about the same time, Savage Arms, which had been working on an AR for a while, also introduced its Modern Savage Rifle (MSR).
At a time when other makers were cutting each other’s throats on price, two big-name gun companies decided they could succeed where others were financially failing. The thing that the Saint and the MSR had in common were upgraded features in a packages very desirable for the more sophisticated AR consumer.
These were not entry-level guns. Savage sourced some of its parts from another Vista company, Blackhawk, as well as outside vendors that frankly just make good parts. Springfield Armory partnered with Bravo Company, and built a new production facility just for this gun.
There was something there. I thought the Saint was a good upgraded gun for the money—and one that was well marketed and promoted. Springfield’s real success was having a good gun, but also putting very sophisticated and broad marketing efforts behind the gun. Springfield succeeded in telling people why the Saint was different and consumers responded.
Management at SIG Sauer pays attention. If someone cracks the code on an under-served market, SIG Sauer will take a hard look at it. The result is the Tread, but it’s not just a rifle.
With the new Tread rifle, this is not simply a marketing “me too.”
I attend gun shows and talk with a lot of guys, and it seems tables are brimming with little brown boxes from Magpul and literally hundreds if not thousands of different fore-ends and other accessories. Then there all those pages in the Brownell’s catalog. There is an active community of guys that like to build their own ARs. There’s a personalization and a sense of accomplishment from building your own gun from a stripped lower receiver, a baggie of pins and springs and components that you spend endless hours on the Internet researching. But that’s not necessarily for everyone. One friend returned from a gun show with everything he needed to build his own AR. Except the tools requisite. I tipped him off to Brownell’s, and now he could probably be a battalion level armor in the U.S. Army.
Anytime a company makes it easier for the consumer, I think they will see a modicum of success. With the new Tread rifle, this is not simply a marketing “me too.” If it was, SIG Sauer would not have jumped in with both feet.
I give high marks to the marketing team at SIG Sauer for putting together what I think is a brand that sums up the American spirit. The Gadsden flag stands for liberty. It stands for independence. And I think even more so than intended, it sums up why so many Americans are drawn to the AR. It is truly America’s rifle. It is a rifle that can be used for defense of one’s home and family, NRA high-power competition, hunting, action shooting sports games or merely a fun trip to the range.
If you look on the packaging of a Tread rifle, and even some point of purchase displays, you’ll see a yellow rectangular adaptation and stylization of Gen. Christopher Gadsden’s flag and the American flag. Not only does it stand for liberty, but it stands for being able to do it yourself.
The Tread isn’t just another direct-impingement rifle. It, like many things that SIG Sauer does, is a system. Look for the Tread logo on parts, and you have, as SIG calls it, “Freedom to Grow.”
You see, SIG Sauer engineers developed a new method of fitting the barrel into the receiver that relies on just two screws. There’s no delta ring to overcome nor do you need fixtures to change out parts. If you see the Tread logo on a bilateral charging handle, fore-end (M-Lok, of course), hand-stop kit, flip-up backup sights, front-sight adaptor, a muzzle break, or single-stage trigger unit, you can upgrade the gun yourself with the tools you probably already have. Will this part fit my Tread rifle? It will if it has the Tread logo on the side.
While up in New Hampshire at the factory and at the excellent SIG Sauer Academy getting the full briefing, I had the opportunity to shoot the base Tread, just as you would buy from the gun shop. Then at lunch, SIG Sauer staffers upgraded the parts in the carbine with a new muzzle brake, new fore-end, Romeo5 optic, a new single-stage trigger, and it was all done in minutes. I had the chance to shoot paper targets, steel targets and the SIG Sauer Academy “Jungle Walk, with this carbine. At the latter, shooting from different positions and moving, my friend and gun writer Todd Burgreen and dubbed ourselves “Team Unicorn” and shot the course. Last I checked, two of the other writers at the event may have set a new time record for the Academy’s Jungle Walk course—with rifles they saw for the first time that morning. I can assure you, thanks to my aging knees, it wasn’t me. But I will tell you that it was impressive to be able to take a rifle I’ve never seen before, zero it and be able to ring steel with a Romeo5 red dot at 200 yards a mere one hour later.
The Tread reminds me of a clothing line from my youth. For those who never had trouble picking out their clothes, odds are the word “Garanimals” means nothing to you. But it means something to me. Blue tiger matches blue tiger. Simplicity. Making it easy on consumers. And that I think will gain traction with rifle buyers. Once I had a look at the Tread system, I was no longer yawning. Nor was I apprehensive. This is a good system.