By Todd Burgreen
SIG Sauer continues to do things their way. It’s hard to argue against this considering their extended run of success. At this point, we should accept it as the norm. With personal defense, law enforcement, and military-focused products such a central part of their business model, the bolt action Cross introduction in 2020 many surprised a lot of people. The reason for this was because the Cross was not tactical in nature. Rather the Cross was a blend of a hunting rifle with a tactical precision rifle. The result is a light, handy, and extremely versatile rifle.
To date, the Cross line up has added three different models to the original—each emphasizing different parts of the original design, i.e. lighter in weight for hunters or more emphasis on accuracy for PRS-style shooting activities. This is the SIG way… listening to feedback from consumers in order to continue honing weapon capabilities. The latest SIG Cross is yet a different beast from the initial offering. The Cross Magnum is a long action variant chambered in the powerhouse 300 Win Mag cartridge. You can bet different calibers are in the works taking advantage of the new action length…including 300 PRC and 338 Lapua Magnum variants.
SIG Sauer has chosen to go a different path with the Cross Magnum when compared to competitor’s heavyweight chassis rifles. The key here is the monolithic Cross receiver. The receiver is entirely independent, with the folding buttstock attaching to its rear and the barrel assembly to its front. The Cross Magnum offers enhanced cartridge performance while maintaining key characteristics of accuracy and relative light weight with handy ergonomics.
THIS IS THE WAY
SIG is known for its innovative approaches in weapon design. Much of this stems from SIG’s background of responding to military solicitation, especially from SOCOM forces. The desirable characteristics for a precision bolt-action rifle are cold bore zero retention, accuracy, extended effective range, reliability, and handling. One overarching theme with the Cross Magnum is keeping weight down to maximize efficiency. You carry a rifle far more than you shoot it. No matter the role envisioned, competition, hunting, or even tactical (though not marketed as such, SIG’s law enforcement sales department tells me it has received inquiries about the SIG Cross Magnum) there can be no compromise in terms of consistent accuracy.
The Cross’s action is incredibly rigid, yet light, thanks to its one-piece minimalist receiver. This contrasts with more typical methods of setting the receiver and barrel into a separate stock or chassis. The Cross eliminates need for bedding, action screws, and other means of conjoining the components. The Cross one-piece receiver interacts directly with trigger, bolt, AICS magazine, and barrel; think of it like an AR-style receiver without upper and lower distinctions. This is a change from typical bolt-action construction methods and serves to minimize many of the accuracy-robbing factors associated with typical bolt-actions. The Cross more resembles an AR than a traditional bolt-action rifle in terms of control layout and grip. Following this AR theme, a barrel extension and nut are used to secure the barrel to the action. This makes barrel changes simple.
The SIG Cross in 300 Win Mag with 24-inch barrel weighs in at 8.9 pounds. Many will raise an eyebrow at this considering it seems too light for comfort considering the recoil associated with 300 Win Mag. Along these same lines, the monolithic aluminum receiver will cause skepticism. Don’t forget, the first Cross was designed to deal with high pressure 277 Fury ammunition. The Cross receiver is machined, not cast. The Cross receiver is more in line with the barrel instead of sitting under the barrel, thus minimizing barrel whip and other harmonics that could cause inaccuracy. The Cross design offers a rock-solid backbone conducive to long-range shooting. It features tightly toleranced rifling dimensions, minimum headspace, and trued chamber. A full-diameter bolt body makes the Cross Magnum smooth to operate.
The stainless-steel, medium contour 24-inch 1:9-inch twist 5R rifled, free-floated barrel is surrounded by full-length ARCA-railed handguard. An impressively effective radial muzzle brake is screwed to the threaded muzzle. This statement stems from the surprised looks on the faces of shooters after firing the first round. Usually, grand claims of recoil reduction are ignored as recoil sensitivity is often a subjective matter. However, SIG’s claim of a 45-percent reduction in recoil may actually be understated. The match trigger is another pleasant experience with slight two-stage take-up and a three-pound break. The PRS-style grip and-right side thumb safety rest is another revelation for those unfamiliar with this set up.
The Cross bolt is a 3-lug hunk of metal within the aluminum receiver. Three locking lugs give it a 60-degree handle lift—one of the shortest on the market. Scopes can be mounted low due to the minimal bolt lift. The short throw, combined with smooth operation, makes for one slick bolt action. Quick bolt manipulation translates into rapid follow up shots. The locking lugs being the same diameter as the bolt body means there’s no raceway needed, as compared to Mauser-style lugs that protrude outside the bolt’s diameter. This makes the Cross very strong since there is no need to remove material from the receiver to create a raceway. Rigidity is a must for consistent accuracy. SIG designed the Cross action to harness current and future cartridges.
Interestingly, the rear interfacing surfaces of the bolt lugs are angled and tapered, not square as is the more traditional approach. This is to facilitate locking the bolt into place like an artillery breech when turned into place. The bolt head is pinned into the bolt body, with just a bit of play to enable the locking lugs to find equal bearing when closed. A stout extractor is dovetailed into the rightmost lug. It reliably removes fired cases from the chamber. The ejector is a spring-loaded plunger throwing brass clear of the receiver.
The 5R rifling used in the Cross barrel was developed by Barrett “Boots” Obermeyer. 5R is different from conventional rifling by changing the shape and configuration of the lands and grooves. 5R rifling uses five lands and grooves versus the more common four or six land and groove profile. This puts lands opposite of grooves on the facing side of the barrel face, with another tweak being the transition from the top of the land to the groove is sloped. 5R rifling reduces projectile deformation as the bullet passes through the bore when fired. The benefit is that a more uniform flying projectile equates to increased accuracy. 5R rifling is easier to clean and less prone to accuracy-robbing fouling, as well. All of this is not abstract theory as 5R rifling has developed a dedicated target shooting following that swears by it.
The Cross Magnum’s flat, ARCA-railed forend handles bipods or sandbags with equal aplomb. However, it is not exclusively designed for shooting from the prone or bench. The Cross Magnum is great for offhand and other types of supported fire. Clay pigeons were not safe at 130 yards offhand, and when placed in a Kopfjager tripod, 300 yards was still in the danger zone for those dastardly orange circles. This is what makes the Cross line of rifles so attractive to both the backcountry hunter and the precision rifle shooting competitor.
The ergonomics and adjustability of the Cross Magnum stock allow for a comfortable, repeatable cheek weld that, combined with optimal hand placement, enables the shooter to pull the match-grade flat-faced trigger straight to the rear for maximum accuracy when breaking the shot. The Cross’s skeletal aluminum buttstock provides adjustment for comb height, length-of-pull, and butt pad height. The forward angled PRS-style grip and right-side thumb rest safety also come into play here. The Cross Magnum uses detachable AICS-style 6-round detachable magazines.
A SIG Tango6 3-18×44 optic was mounted to the Cross Magnum using a one-piece SIG scope base. A SIG SLH 7.62 NATO suppressor was chosen for use with the Cross Magnum. A SIG SLH QD muzzle brake device was installed on the barrel, replacing the radial brake for certain parts of our review. The ability to wield a suppressed Cross rifle is a valued option.
Options for 300 Win Mag ammunition are plentiful. Examples of ammunition used for testing the Cross Magnum consisted of SIG Sauer Elite Hunter Tipped 180-grain, SIG Sauer Elite Copper Hunting 165-grain, Black Hills Ammunition 190-grain Match, Federal Premium 180-grain Accubond, and Hornady 180-grain SST Superformance and 178-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter loadings. The thought process is simple; if these loads do not produce accuracy, nothing will. None of these loads disappointed, all providing minute-of-angle accuracy with three-round groups; a great compliment to both the ammunition and the Cross Magnum rifle. The logistical advantage of a rifle that is not ammunition-sensitive cannot be overemphasized.
|Avg. 3-Shot, 100-yd Group (inches)
|Best 3-Shot, 100-yd Group (inches)
|SIG Elite Hunter Tipped 180-gr
|SIG Elite Copper Hunting 165-gr
|Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter 178-gr
|Hornady SST Superformance 180-gr
After bench work establishing innate accuracy, the Cross Magnum was taken to the field for further testing. This consisted of shooting prone from a bipod and an Eberlestock pack at clay pigeons more than 300 yards away. As mentioned, a Kopfjager tripod was also used. The Cross Magnum’s bolt was worked, and targets acquired as quickly as possible. We verified that single-feed operation was possible by laying a loose round into the action on top of the empty magazine and had no issue chambering the cartridge. The Cross Magnum’s radial brake combined with the adjustable stock and slick bolt with short lift proved potent. The SIG SLH suppressor also proved an enhancement for taming recoil and blast signature.
Other testing consisted of shooting steel silhouette targets out to 600 yards at Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC’s) known distance range. The Cross Magnum’s accuracy, combined with clear, powerful SIG optics, enabled first-round center-mass hits that quickly transitioned to head shots on stationary targets. Importantly, no malfunctions of any kind were experienced, even during rapid operation of the bolt and reloads. This is crucial. The operational reliability of even a simple bolt-action rifle should never be taken for granted. I have witnessed various loading, chambering, and ejection malfunctions over the years. Another important thing to test is how reliably the rifle ejects a loaded round. This important attribute is often overlooked, but it’s an essential operation if there is ever an ammunition problem. A cold bore shot was taken at every opportunity during our many visits to the range. The shot always landed where intended. Nothing instills more confidence in a weapon system—rifle, ammunition, optics, and marksman—than the ability to place the first shot exactly as aimed.
The EVTC Jungle Walk Range was used to get a sense of the Cross Magnum’s handling characteristics. Targets were set up randomly along the meandering 575-yard path. A shooter must move down the path until their partner points out a paper or steel target. Often, unconventional, braced field positions were assumed, using a fallen tree or tree limb for support, especially if targets were over 200 yards away. While not a quantifiable trait, the Cross Magnum hangs and balances well from various shooting positions and was easy to get into and out of various field shooting positions. The Cross Magnum’s stock design allows for a good cheek weld that aids in handling recoil by preventing a slap of the face.
The Cross Magnum proved easy to handle and point with no frantic searching for targets required when the rifle was brought up to the shoulder. The ability to move through varied terrain and engage randomly placed targets hidden within cover suited the Cross Magnum perfectly. If lucky, the hunter will be able to adopt a kneeling or sitting position in lieu of a pure offhand shooting position. A rifle weighing less than 9 pounds, chambered in a hard-hitting caliber, and capable of sub-MOA accuracy cannot be ignored by any hunter whether they spot and stalk, still hunt, or choose to hunt safari-style or from a blind. The Cross Magnum can handle it all.
|300 Win Mag