My First Experience With The Sig Sauer P320
On a muggy afternoon about 2 years ago, I entered my local Bass Pro Shop to take a look at a new handgun a friend of mine had suggested recently received high marks.
That pistol was the Sig Sauer P320. The pistol was Sig Sauer’s newest rendition of a striker fired polymer handgun. My friend suggested the pistol was receiving glowing reviews in testing from many different reputable sources and asked me to check it out for him and make a recommendation.
For many years I had been carrying some type of Springfield Armory XD pistol. First it was an XD(M) and then most recently was a smaller XD-S in 9mm. I enjoyed those handguns and the grip angle similar to the 1911. Since I had always been a Springfield fan, I really wasn’t intending on doing anything more than checking out the P320 platform for my friend and giving him some feedback as a concealed carry firearm. At least, that was my intention.
I sauntered up to the firearms counter and asked the bearded employee if I could see the P320 if he had any in stock. He nodded and asked me what size I wanted to see. I replied, “All of them” and smiled. He chuckled and started removing each pistol for me to handle from the display case. I liked the feel. I liked the look. Yet, I still didn’t like it more than my XD(s).
I casually racked the slide, checked the magazine ejection function, and eyed the sights. What happened next would change my perspective greatly to this day. The Bass Pro employee smiled with almost a twinkle in his eye and said “Go ahead, pull the trigger.” Then I did.
At that very moment the skies opened and God himself came down and said:
“This is my trigger, and I give it to you. Treat it well, my son.“
The Love For The P320 Begins
I was amazed. Never on a striker fired polymer gun had I felt such a crisp, well-adjusted trigger. It had a fine reset, it had a fine pull weight and it felt SO MUCH BETTER than the triggers of the “standard 3” self-defense firearms I had been recommending for years to students. I reluctantly handed the pistol back to the salesman and told him I was just checking it out for a friend, and I appreciated him helping me out. His smile went away, and I walked out.
That evening I probably dry fired my XD(S) more than I had ever done in a day. I couldn’t get over the difference. After much additional investigation online from the gun community, instructors, current P320 owners, and torture testers, I decided to pull the trigger and get mine, a P320 Carry.
The gun was larger than my XD(S), but that was a small price to pay. After upgrading to new holsters and making a few adjustments I settled into daily carry with the P320. My carry rig was upgraded to a standard magazine of 17+1 from 7+1, plus an additional magazine of 17 instead of 8. As I practiced with the P320 and became more familiar with it the groups got smaller downrange.
That trigger was amazing.
It didn’t have the “polymer squish” that I had come to expect from most stock, striker-fired polymer handguns. I was definitely in love.
On January 19th , 2017 I was perusing my usual morning reading online and happened upon a gem that made me beam with validation. The P320 platform had just been declared the winner of the Modular Handgun System Competition for the US Army! I couldn’t stop smiling. It made me feel that I had picked the right firearm for defensive carry, so much so that the entire US Army had followed suit!
In my Firearms classes, specifically Concealed Carry Classes, I always would be very clear with my students about the specifics of what a proper defensive firearm for concealed carry should be and what it shouldn’t be. I would channel my inner Rob Pincus and reiterate that a proper defensive firearm should be lacking of any unnecessary buttons and primarily should have 3 basic buttons besides the trigger: a take-down lever, a magazine release, and a slide stop.
That was it.
The Added Safety Benefit of the Sig P320
Firearms instructors worth their salt generally start most instruction with a safety review. During these safe firearms handling reviews, a very particular rule I recited each time was the “Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot” rule. It’s a fine rule. That rule, coupled with the redundancy of the other basic firearms safety rules can eliminate 99% of firearms accidents.
Here was my internal struggle – both the XD line and the Glocks required you to pull the trigger for disassembly. The M&P required a trigger pull or the awkward manipulation of a small tool to operate the sear disconnect inside the action. The P320 required no direct manipulation of the trigger or a “sear lever” to take down the pistol.
In my opinion, the P320 had changed the game of pistol safety. It had eliminated the dreaded “Cleaning Negligent Discharge” that plagued many “safe shooters” over the years when a pistol would be field stripped for cleaning. By ensuring any pistol was unloaded first, all of the trigger pull ND’s could be eliminated, but that was not what we were seeing based on data and anecdotal evidence. This pushed the P320 to be the top firearm I would recommend to my students.
That fine trigger however, would be the very bane of the P320.
Turns Out The Sig P320 Really Is Flawed
Unless you have been under a rock the last 2 weeks, you are well aware of what has been discovered. The P320 platform was made to fire when dropped on the ground, something modern defensive firearms should never do. A company called Omaha Outdoors, who had previously torture tested the P320 and gave it very high marks, managed to drop the pistol at an unconventional angle and height in a relatively scientific way and create a discharge. (See Source here)
At first I was in disbelief. After all the P320 passed every conceivable drop test on record. It passed tests for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It passed tests for the Sporting Arms Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, Inc. (SAAMI®). It passed tests for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). It had been through rigorous testing protocols for global military and law enforcement agencies.
What happened? Well, as the Omaha Outdoors video revealed, it was a specific non-traditional angle of drop, combined with inertia. When both the P320 Slide and Frame contacted a hard surface from a certain drop height (namely 30 degrees) the inertia from the drop allowed the trigger to continue rearward and discharge the firearm. The wonderful, wonderful trigger … was too heavy. It’s sheer mass allowed it to continue rearwards when dropped at a specific angle.
It is of note to mention here that the flat faced, lighter trigger in the “X” models of P320 didn’t seem to have the same issue. Neither was aftermarket trigger manufacturer Apex Tactical Specialties able to create drop test failures with P320s equipped with their flat-faced triggers. After many “copycat” videos surfaced as well, the fix was in and the P320 had a chink in its armor.
There was blood in the water and all the critics came out to condemn it. (It also was awfully peculiar in my opinion how this all came to light after Glock lost it’s protest with the Government Accountability Office over the 580 million dollar army contract. The timing was impeccable.)
There is much speculation online as to how Sig Sauer missed this in their testing. With an estimated 28 million potential drop angles to test- all of the standardized testing generally required the pistol to be dropped with the bore parallel to the ground, so this Omaha Outdoors test is certainly a non-traditional drop angle. Yet, there are isolated cases where this drop angle has caused negligent discharges in police service, so there is precedence that this could happen to your P320, if ever so slight a chance.
So What Do We Do Now Sig?
When this all came to light, I really felt that I went through the 5 stages of grief. I had spent so much time and energy promoting this firearm as safe. I was mad at Sig Sauer. I was mad at Omaha Outdoors. I was mad at myself for promoting this pistol to my students. I had even talked close relatives into getting one.
We had never seen or heard of any safety issues for the P320 prior to this, in fact it was all “rainbows and buttercups”. Where other shooting platforms excelled at one or two things and were average at all other marks, the P320 received high marks in every category!
After the P320 drop test broke the Internet for a day and I settled into acceptance of this terrible news, us “Sig Fanatics” received a glimmer of hope. Sig Sauer issued a response to the issue within 24 hours of the drop test videos surfacing. Sig reiterated the safety of the pistol, stating it had passed all drop tests. However, in light of the safety issues discovered outside of conventional testing, Sig Sauer would be offering, free of charge, a voluntary upgrade of the pistol.
We would later find out that enhancements would include a new lightweight trigger, striker, sear and a mechanical dis-connector. Sig Sauer had relentlessly tested the new components over the first weekend after the initial drop video surfaced. Recoil Magazine and Guns and Ammo got firsthand impressions behind the scenes at Sig Sauer after they had completed over 2200 new drop tests with the new components, none of which created the negligent discharges at the previous angle and heights of occurrence.
After initially doubting them, these free upgrades and the speed at which they responded to this controversy actually has raised my level of respect for Sig Sauer. They call themselves the “Total Systems Provider” and with a slogan like that, as consumers we expect the best. I’m proud of Sig Sauer for their quick response and it’s a fantastic bar to measure other firearms manufacturers against when inevitable problems surface regarding their platforms.
The Voluntary Upgrade For Sig Sauer P320s
I’ve come to realize that all manufacturers have recalls and upgrades. We all remember the Glock Gen 4 fiasco – every new pistol has a few kinks to work out. What is important is how the manufacturer responds to the issue, and I believe Sig Sauer did the right thing here.
Over 500,000 P320s are “in the wild” owned by civilians and we have heard of only 1 or 2 issues where the handgun fired unintentionally when dropped at the problematic specific angle, but that’s enough to be a safety concern. It means it CAN happen, so the proper response is to fix it. I’m sending my P320’s in and I’m encouraging anybody who purchased one to send it in for the upgrades.
Note, the Army model XM17 was unaffected by this as a result of the inclusion of an exterior thumb safety and many of the new design features already being included. Sig Sauer upon being interviewed shared that these design upgrades were going to be rolled out in future P320 production, but in response to the drop test failures, efforts have been accelerated to include these upgrades now and all production of the previous P320 has been discontinued.
Since I have already setup my upgrade return I will be able to keep track of the time it takes Sig Sauer to complete this process. Some say once the upgrade production starts we could be without our pistols for 6 weeks. Some say longer.
I know this though, once these issues are behind us and the P320 has these additional upgrades, I can once again be proud of recommending this pistol to all students. In reality, issues like this tend to make a platform stronger. The elimination of any possible safety of function issues essentially creates a BETTER platform. This is what I am most excited about as a “Sig Fanatic.”
These upgrades repair the chink in the P320’s armor, making it even more challenging for detractors to undermine the reigning king of polymer pistols. Happy Shooting.