Does the P365 Live Up to the Hype?!
No gun has received the attention that I’ve seen the SIG Sauer P365 receive since its announcement in January just before SHOT Show. It gets this attention in all fairness, though, because when a gun shakes up the current single-stack 9mm market, dominated by Glock 43’s and M&P Shields, it’s understandable.
For the last 6 years, gun owners have bought into the idea that a concealed carry gun needs to be slim, lightweight, single-stack, somewhere between 6-8 round capacity, and striker-fired. Concealed carriers have also bought into the idea that it MUST be single-stack for a gun to fit those requirements.
Enter the SIG P365. It is all of those things—slimmer than the Glock 43, lighter than the Shield. It has a phenomenal trigger not just for guns in this class but even for any modern defensive pistol. And then there’s the fact that it just happens to hold 10+1 rounds in its standard configuration. That’s four more rounds than the G43 and three more than the M&P Shield. Readily available 12-round magazines boost that to nearly double the capacity of the Glock.
And you wonder why people are going nuts over this pistol.
But they’re also freaking out over some other aspects of the pistol, and not necessarily in a positive way. But first, let’s talk about some of the features and specifications of the gun.
I first got my hands on the P365 just before SHOT Show at a special SIG SAUER Range Day Media event. My good friend, Kyle Lamb, was there as well doing some demonstrations for SIG. Besides being involved in the excitement surrounding the P365, Kyle also has a gun he designed in collaboration with the team at SIG based on the P320 platform, the SIG SAUER X-VTAC 9mm, which is a pretty nice piece of hardware itself.
Kyle did a little demonstration of the P365 on camera with me, and the shots you see me fire there are the first I sent downrange out of this little beast. I call it that because it is like the Little Engine That Could, small in size and stature, but big in performance!
Right away, I knew there was something pretty special about the little gun. Placing it in my hand, I was immediately surprised at how good the grip felt. The P365 takes some of its design cues from P320, X-Series pistols. Particularly in its stippling and smooth trigger guard undercut. The undercut allows the shooter to get an even higher grip on the gun for greater control and flatter shooting.
The P365 sit's nicely in the hand's webbing because of the grip's backstrap and beavertail design. I saw a graphic online with the outlines of 3 of the most popular single-stack 9mm handguns overlaid and compared to the P365.
Analyzing the graphic, I could see that the P365 has a bore axis height as low as anything out there. The low bore axis is surprising because SIG Sauer guns, especially in the Classic line of pistols, have established a reputation of having a bore axis that is relatively high compared to competing designs. Not that this has kept me from shooting them quickly and efficiently.
Bore axis height is an overrated factor, but regardless the SIG P365 performs exceptionally well in this regard.
Stippling on the grip is effective and comfortable. The gun sticks in the hand like it should without being too aggressive for more sensitive skin.
The next thing I noticed right away was the trigger. My first trigger press surprised me as I wasn’t expecting it to fire so quickly and easily. Sig says it has a 6- lb trigger.
I have not put a trigger scale on it to test, but I would say 6 lbs. seems about right. But the trigger FEELS lighter than that. It is deceptive. I’m not sure what sorcery (you will see similar references throughout this review) is going on there, but it is a very nice, light, crisp trigger for a striker-fired gun.
The trigger reset is fantastic as well. It is short and distinct. The initial take-up of the trigger is light and free. The travel of the trigger once you “hit the wall” (the point where you feel resistance in the stroke) is about a quarter-inch. Pressing the trigger through the stroke is smooth and even. Once it breaks, there is no perceptible overtravel.
Instead of having the trigger break near the rear of the trigger guard opening, it breaks with about 3/8” open space behind the trigger. The length of pull has an outstanding balance. Shooters with smaller hands will have no problem working the trigger, and larger-handed folk will use it comfortably.
The original P365 came with SIG-Lite Night Sights. I have owned several SIG pistols with these night sights. They are good, serviceable tritium-based sights, far better than what many firearm manufacturers put on their stock pistols.
However, early into the P365 launch, customer’s discovered their pistols were breaking the tritium vials due to the extreme recoil velocity of the slide. These early pistols were sent back in and replaced with SIG SAUER’s new XRAY3 Day/Night Sights. The XRAY3 sights are fantastic! They are bright in daylight or low-light conditions. The front sight is a tritium vial surrounded by a bright green circle that is very easy to pick up in rapid strings of fire.
The rear notch sight in use works more like a blacked-out rear sight in daytime use, but it also has two tritium dots that show up very nicely in low light. While you can see the two rear dots in the daytime, I don’t notice them. While shooting fast, you get a very bright front sight that is easy to find in the rear notch.
Recoil and Shootability
The next thing I discovered about the P365 is that it is easy and pleasant to shoot. I call it the “little gun that shoots like a big gun.” This is true of the felt recoil and muzzle rise that occurs when firing, but it is also true in how accurate the gun is and the ease with which confidence comes to hit your intended target.
While some smaller guns can be challenging to shoot at a distance or small targets, my experience with the P365 is that if you see that bright green front sight on the target and press the trigger smoothly, you WILL hit for what you aim.
With my Glock 43, it just seems I have to concentrate much more on the sight picture, and even then, it sometimes isn’t enough when shots go where I do not expect them to. My confidence with the P365 is very high, and I find myself shooting it in situations and challenging shots that I usually reserve for my larger, duty-sized guns.
Now back to the handgun's recoil. Recoil with the P365, like its trigger, is deceptive. It is a small gun, to be sure, so I expected it to be snappy. But it FEELS less snappy than similar guns in this category. Watch this video of me running a Bill Drill with the gun (done at 3.5 yards and shooting a 2.5” group in 1.94 seconds). Pay attention to HOW FLAT the gun is in my hand:
That is some serious voodoo magic. This thing seems to shoot flatter than some of my much bigger, heavier guns. Your mileage may vary depending on how effective and tight you grip your gun, but it is still impressive.
Capacity is where the P365 gets the most significant amount of attention, and rightfully so. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft the engineers in Exeter, NH are employing, but for the size and thickness of the P365 to be able to fit 10 or 12 rounds into a profile that doesn’t look any bigger than an S&W Shield, it is pure witchcraft I’m telling you, pure mysticism!
The reality is that then-new Pistol Product Manager Phil Strader instructed engineers at SIG SAUER to design a new micro-compact pistol. And to start first by developing a double-stack magazine capable of holding at least 10 rounds and making it as small as possible.
The result? Three new patents just based around the magazine made the rest of the design much more easily achieved.
The gun comes with two 10-round magazines, one with a flush base plate and another with a slight pinky finger extension. Oddly enough, after shooting several hundred rounds, I came almost to prefer the flush baseplate when using the 10-round mags.
Due to the trigger guard undercut and other grip design features, I can sneak about half of my pinky onto the gun's grip. But even if I couldn't get a full grip on it, I never once felt compromised in shooting the gun well, unlike other competitor's guns.
A 12-round magazine is also available, and while it extends the grip length, it is still just barely longer than some other guns with standard capacity magazines in them. The M&P Shield with a factory 8-round magazine is longer than the P365 with a 12-round magazine. Wizardry!! Harry Potter would be proud!
Even better than the capacity and the ability to remain a very concealable gun? The 12-round magazine makes the P365 feel and shoots like a different gun. It FILLS the hand, and it FEELS excellent!
The magazines are well-constructed metal-bodied, double-stack magazines. They are pretty much what to expect from SIG if you are familiar with their other mags. Excellent quality, great performing magazines, but they come at a cost. Currently, there are no aftermarket magazine options that I am aware of, so you’ll be getting your fill of extra mags direct from SIG.
The SIG SAUER P365 is accurate. Testing across many different loads, it exhibited outstanding groups. I am not the most skilled bullseye/target shooter (I prefer to go FAST), but the gun is accurate enough for a small defensive tool. Group sizes were consistently around 3 inches at 15 yards (I didn’t have a longer range to test with at the time).
My greatest challenge to shooting more accurately was the width of the front sight post, as it covered up much of the target from 15 yards and out. But I am confident that if you used a Ransom Rest to test inherent accuracy, I am sure the results would be excellent. One of the significant differences with this gun is the trigger. I don’t need to rehash the point, but it is a very shootable trigger; it lends itself to easy, accurate shooting.
Reliability is the big “elephant in the room” part of the review. Much has been said about the reliability of the P365 in the months since its release. Several people, including some respected reviewers, have indicated that the gun may not be quite ready for prime time. They believed it was released too early, almost like a “beta version” to be tested by the gun-buying masses.
I am not sure what to make of this because my experience with several different P365’s has been quite positive.
But let’s take a look at some of the noted issues that have come up:
Return-to-Battery (RTB) Failures—
In the first month or so of release, customers reported RTB failures. The issues seemed only to affect the very first guns that hit the streets. I shot a couple of different early models and didn’t have a single RTB issue, but many people did. Some of it could have been ammunition issues, but I think there were some legitimate concerns. SIG fixed this on a warranty basis for existing owners and all newly manufactured guns with a slightly stronger recoil spring assembly (RSA). To date, with the two different P365’s I have in my possession, I have not had a single RTB failure.
SIG-Lite Night Sight Failures—
Some early guns were affected by faulty night sights. Again, Sig fixed this issue within a few weeks. All guns had their sights replaced, and new models shipped with the new XRAY3 Day/Night Sights, which are fantastic! (See above.) Also, there were some reports of sights coming loose in their sight channels. I’m not entirely sure just how widespread these issues were, but it seems Sig addressed it, as I have heard no new reports in some time.
Barrel and Slide Peening—
Another “issue” that received quite a bit of attention was peening. The slide excessively banging into the corners of the barrel hood and its slamming between the barrel cam and locking lug caused the excessive peening. I never thought it was much of an issue. Even if peening occurred, I didn’t feel it would be a failure point several thousand rounds down the road. Apparently, SIG Sauer took some steps to address this, but either way, no one’s even talking about this issue anymore.
Trigger Return Spring Failures—
Shortly after that, it was reported (and Tim at the Military Arms Channel experienced this on camera) that some guns were developing a trigger return spring failure. I’ve seen it mentioned that some owner’s springs broke, but I’m willing to bet most of the failures were instances of the spring popping out of position. This issue seems rectified, with no new reports of it in some time.
There is much attention to so-called primer drag, where the striker remains in contact with the primer as the barrel begins unlocking from the slide. Some believe that this is the reason for several broken firing pins. I am a little unclear on this. The reason being that I have other guns that exhibit primer drag, and it is more common with small, striker-fired firearms. Part of the reason for this is that the slide/barrel takes on recoil before unlocking due to the shorter rearward travel. On larger guns, the slide and barrel stay locked together longer and provide more time for the striker to retract before unlocking. I have witnessed primer drag on many other smaller guns, including Glock, Smith & Wesson, and others. Although it does appear that drag marks on the P365 may be more pronounced. I presume this is why it garnered more attention.
Broken Firing Pins—
There were a fair number of reported broken firing pins. Many believe that the primer drag is the culprit for causing this. I suppose it is possible, but let's first establish that the firing pin itself is much harder than any primer. Regardless, there are plenty of documented instances of broken firing pins. According to SIG Sauer, it is unclear exactly how many of these occurred, but it is a limited number. Companies have developed and released hardened stainless steel replacement strikers as an aftermarket part for those highly concerned about this issue. However, as reports of broken firing pins have decreased substantially, it would seem that this is less and less of a problem affecting the product line. SIG Sauer has since redesigned the striker and reevaluated their manufacturing supplier due to some inconsistencies and out-of-spec hardness and tempering. Some firing pins were too brittle, and the primer drag likely did not help and instead exacerbated the problem.
I’ve seen this mentioned, and in the case of one serious “reviewer,” he has tracked this statistic with monotonous consistency. I personally don’t believe many of these FTL’s are legitimate in that something with either the slide stop or magazine follower failed to work, causing the FTL. I think 99% of these are shooter-induced. What do I mean? Many shooters ride the slide stop with their dominant hand thumb because of its location and the gun's small size. They may not notice it’s an issue just by looking at their grip, but I suspect due to the small, lightweight gun that the 365 is rotating, the slide stop up into their thumb. I have not experienced any FTL’s with either of my 2 guns. But I am confident when the shooter uses a properly-developed grip, they won't have this issue. The problem is that most shooters do not have a good grip, and their lack of this has not been an issue on other guns they’ve fired. But it is exacerbated on this platform for whatever reason.
Various ejection/extraction/feeding issues—
I think many of these are ammunition related especially in the case of steel and aluminum-cased cartridges. Most of the malfunctions I have seen in the P365 platform have occurred with steel/aluminum-cased ammo. People will counter with, “Well, my [X brand of gun] has no issue with shooting steel or aluminum-cased ammo!” That’s a fair point. But we cannot make the case that the gun will get us killed by not being reliable in a gunfight simply because it doesn’t like cheap ammo. We don’t carry (I hope) cheap ammo in our defensive guns anyway. I had one malfunction out of over 5K rounds fired with brass-cased ammunition, and it was a +P round (more on this in a moment). Everything else was either steel or aluminum.
A NOTE: M of the above problems appear resolved. However, even if a person were to have a problem with their gun, SIG Sauer has one of the best warranty and customer service programs in the industry. My interactions with SIG's customer service department have been nothing but positive and professional exchanges.
At this point, I should mention that I have been testing two different P365’s. SIG promised to send me one for review, but I couldn’t wait, so I purchased one myself made in mid-February. You’ll note that this is just a few weeks after they were officially released.
The other gun finally arrived from SIG in late May and was manufactured in the first week of May. I could have contacted SIG and said, “Never mind sending the gun; I have one already.” But I was interested in getting my hands on another one made at a different time for comparison. I heard all these bad things, and I figured the more guns I could experience, the better my test data.
By the time the demo gun from SIG arrived, I had already put almost 2,000 rounds through my personal gun. I fired an additional 3,000 rounds through the two guns throughout the remainder of the summer, about half-and-half. So I ended up with about 3,400 rounds fired through my personal gun and 1,600 rounds through the evaluation gun from SIG. Some fired in pure evaluation, and quite a few in different training courses.
I tested the guns with minimal cleaning. The somewhat loose standard followed was no cleaning, and fresh lubrication applied only once every 500 rounds. You will see from images in this article that my guns are still dirty. I believe that it is much more critical that firearms are well lubricated than being perfectly clean. I'm done evaluating them, so now I will give them an extensive cleaning.
I tested both guns with a variety of ammunition brands, types, and weights over the summer:
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance FMJ in 115, 124, and 147-grain varieties
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance JHP in 115 and 124-grain loads
- SIG Sauer 365 FMJ and V-Crown 115 grain
- Federal 115 gr FMJ Aluminum
- Federal 115 gr FMJ Brass
- Hornady XTP 124 gr
- G2 Research R.I.P.
- Winchester Ranger-T 124 gr +P
- Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P
- Winchester 147 gr JHP (Whitebox)
- Federal Hydrashok 135 gr
- Federal Hydrashok Deep 135 gr
- Federal 150 gr HST Micro
- Winchester Train & Defend (FMJ and JHP both)
- Remington UMC 115 gr JHP
- Fiocchi 115 gr FMJ
- And a few others
The gun ran perfectly smoothly until I started shooting the Federal aluminum-cased ammo. This stoppage happened about 200 rounds after shooting a variety of SIG Sauer FMJ loads. On the 212th shot, the Federal aluminum 115-grain case failed to extract, and a double-feed occurred. 16 shots later, the same thing happened. I made it through the remainder of the aluminum-cased ammo (about 80 rounds) without further issues.
One failure-to-feed malfunction occurred at around 700 rounds with one load of 124 grain Winchester Ranger-T +P. Considering the other 4500+ rounds of brass-cased (including several hundred nickel-plated cases and dozens and dozens of +P rounds as well) ammunition fired without trouble, I considered this a fluke. The malfunction that occurred was actually the next round in the magazine, taking a nosedive into the magazine body.
At around 1500 rounds, I fired my first steel-cased rounds through the guns. Neither one would run reliably with them. I averaged about 3 rounds per 10 or 12-round magazine that would double-feed when shooting steel-cased ammo. Talking with other P365 owners, this seems to be a hit-or-miss issue. Some report having no problem shooting the stuff; others have similar issues like mine.
I also tested the new SIG Sauer 365 FMJ and V-Crown 115 grain loads, designed and loaded to shoot and feel identical.
The point is that a person can practice more with the cheaper FMJ rounds and get the same velocity, recoil impulse, and point-of-impact/point-of-aim as the V-Crown JHP defensive loads.
These rounds have also been optimized for the shorter-barreled P365. I liked how they shot very much. I tested the 365 V-Crowns extensively, including in ballistic gelatin, and the performance was excellent. A full review of this ammunition is forthcoming.
Finally, around 2,500 rounds on my personally purchased P365, I experienced my first, legitimate brass-cased round failure. This failure was with a Federal Premium 115 grain brass-cased cartridge. It was a failure-to-extract malfunction. I have since had no other malfunctions with either of the two guns.
Overall, when shooting even just decent quality brass-cased loads, the P365 exhibited a 99.96% reliability rating.
I have spoken with numerous P365 owners, and I have personally witnessed several P365 owners fire their guns. Some of these were in handgun courses I instructed this year. I estimate that I have seen approximately 5,000-6,000 rounds fired through about 10 other P365 pistols. While I have seen a few malfunctions occur, and some seemed to experience more malfunctions than I did, including brass-cased ammunition, I can still count the TOTAL number of malfunctions witnessed in all these other guns on less than two hands. Worst-case scenario, the P365 is still 99.85%+ reliable. This represents a little more than 1 malfunction every 1,000 rounds, and I estimate about 1 in every 750.
How does this compare to other well-established firearms? My Glock 43 has had the same number of malfunctions in fewer rounds fired. I regularly witness malfunctions from a variety of semi-automatic handguns, including Glocks, Smith & Wesson M&P’s, Rugers, etc.
All guns have issues. Sometimes they are ammunition-caused, and I personally feel many shooters rationalize the malfunctions they do experience and claim that their gun is “100% reliable.” I haven’t met a 100% reliable semi-auto yet. Shoot them enough, and you will experience failures.
I personally feel that a failure rate of no more than 1 in every 500 rounds is an excellent standard. These numbers represent a 0.2% failure rate or a 99.8% reliability rate. You will see that the P365 falls above this standard.
Do I consider this good enough for personal defense, including EDC (Everyday Carry)? Yes, I do. As with any gun, you should do testing with a minimum of 500 rounds of your carry ammo.
I am sure some will disagree with my findings, but I can only speak from my own experience and data. And the data does not lie. Everything I wrote above is true. But even with some of the negativity surrounding the P365, here is what I found:
It is a freaking excellent gun!
That doesn’t mean it is without its faults or hasn’t had some growing pains for some people. But for me (and I can only speak from my own experience), the SIG P365 has been a very solid and reliable platform. So let me begin wrapping up my thoughts on this innovative platform:
I think the grip is too “shallow.” It is a very small gun. The width of the grip is less than an inch wide which is fine. But I think Sig could have increased the distance between the front strap and the back strap of the grip. That said, I think it feels very nice in hand. I like the contouring, the stippling, the length—there are many great aspects of the grip. I understand that it is a balancing act of building a compact and concealable gun, but that is also shootable for various shooters and hand sizes. I think they did an excellent job. But if I were king for a day, I would have stretched it out just a bit.
In my experience, this malfunction is the most common one to occur with the P365 platform. Also known as a “double-feed,” this is where the fired case fails to extract fully. The slide continues rearward, picks up the next round, and shoves it into the rear of the still-chambered empty casing.
To clear this MOAM (Mother-Of-All-Malfunctions), it requires the shooter to lock the slide to the rear, strip the magazine from the gun, rack the slide multiple times, insert a loaded magazine, rack the slide, and chamber a fresh round. In contrast to FTF (Failure-to-Fire) and stovepipe malfunctions that generally only require a Tap-Rack to clear, you can see how this double-feed malfunction can cost a shooter some time to clear it when they might not have that much time in a fight.
Due to the nature of this, it is a little concerning that WHEN the P365 experiences a failure, the double-feed malfunction occurs at a higher rate when compared to most other handgun platforms. I believe this is because of the unique design and small, ultra-compact size. My personal belief is that the gun unlocks a tad early while gas pressure is still elevated, locking the empty casing in the chamber. This results in the extractor slipping off the case's rim, and we get our double-feed malfunction.
I only experienced this with steel and aluminum-cased ammunition, which are less “slick” than brass-cased ammunition. There may be something to it with the modulus of elasticity of steel and aluminum being substantially higher than brass which would result in steel and aluminum cases contracting after firing back down to an extractable size at a slower rate than brass. I don’t know; I’m just thinking here, which can be downright dangerous at times!
The Front Sight—
While the new XRAY3 Day/Night Sights are excellent and visible, I feel the front sight is a tad wider than it needs to be. Or the rear notch could be wider. The width of the sights is basically the same as what you’d find on SIG’s full-sized guns, which when you shorten the distance between the front and rear sights, the front sight starts to fill the notch more and more. Typically for most people, having a little more light on either side of the front post in the notch is a little quicker to center and send the next shot. But this is a minor complaint because I shoot the P365 just fine.
This is also a minor issue I have with the gun, and it may be specific to me, but I think the mag release could be different. The P365 has a raised mag release button which shape follows the contour of the grip. The P320’s have a flat raised button. I think a hybrid approach would have been better—flat, but have the rear of the button start flush with the grip. My issue is that because the grip is so small, occasionally, when I grip a little too firmly with my support hand, during recoil, my hand will accidentally depress the mag release. So I have had to relax my support hand grip slightly to avoid this.
In analyzing the instances where this occurred, I determined that my support hand palm makes contact with the rear portion of the button. Starting the button flush with the surface and manufacturing it to be flat would still enable positive activation when desired but would likely eliminate the accidental dropping of the mag. The grip is small enough that virtually any adult hand and thumb can reach the mag release even if designed as described above.
Things I Like About the P365
For its size, the SIG Sauer P365 is accurate.
Modular Chassis Construction—
While SIG Sauer does not advertise this fact, the reality is that the gun is built similarly to the P320. Both have a serialized “frame” or chassis that can easily be removed from the grip module. The potential exists for much future innovation and design improvements from both SIG and third-party aftermarket manufacturers. It is also convenient if a person wants to have two different grip modules with different accessories (such as one with a mounted FOXTROT365 weapon-mounted light) that would allow the owner to swap between other setups quickly. I recently picked up a FOXTROT365, and in my limited initial testing, I am quite impressed, and I look forward to putting it to use.
Feel of the Gun—
It just feels good in my hand. The contouring and texturing are excellent. The ergonomics are good. The slide serrations are effective.
There is no other small striker-fired handgun on the market with a trigger better than the one found on the P365. I also feel SIG was brilliant to have the trigger break at 90-degrees, in the “middle” of the stroke, instead of the rear of the trigger guard. Besides the trigger weight, smoothness, and break being good, the position at which it breaks is part of the secret as well, I think. It breaks before the finger can overwrap the trigger, causing any disturbance to the aim of the gun before it is fired.
Size and Capacity—
What’s not to love about 10+1 rounds (standard) and 12+1 rounds (extended) in a micro-compact size and form? This is the first micro-compact gun that tempts me to consider if I could replace my Glock 19 or SIG P320 Compact, both 15-round capacity guns. Packing the P365 around is a cinch. It disappears on my body in either the Tac-Lab M.T.R. or GrayGuns/PHLSTER Classic holsters, and there was tons of holster support for it from the get-go.
I come back to a statement I made earlier. It is the little gun that shoots like a much bigger gun. I LIKE shooting it!
I plan on sending a check to SIG Sauer in Exeter, New Hampshire, to pay them for the review gun they sent me. I like the P365 well enough that owning just one is not enough. Plus, I have plans for some fun upgrades and modifications I’d like to do to one of these guns, mainly because I want to. A tease?—think red dot and compensator as a start …
The P365 is a winner. 13 rounds in a tiny form that is easily concealed and is easy to shoot. Magic, I say.