Photo: Mark W. Clark
SIG Sauer pistols are what I would call unique guns and somewhat of an acquired taste. They have unusual ergonomics that don't appeal to everyone, but they shoot true and run reliably.
Perhaps it's their accuracy and reliability that has made SIGs so popular with law enforcement officers, especially federal law enforcement officers.
Where SIGs have fallen short of other competitors for the law enforcement duty market such as the Glock or Smith & Wesson's M&P pistols are in their weight and complexity. The Glock and M&P are polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols; the first with no "active" safety and the latter available with both.
The Glock is extremely easy to operate compared to the SIG's DA/SA model. If you hand a Glock shooter a SIG, the first thing he or she will likely complain about is the manual safety. The second complaint will likely be the DA/SA trigger.
SIG has now recognized that these features, although they have merit, have been steering some buyers and agencies away from its pistols. The company's answer is the new P320, which blends the best of the classic SIG design with the attributes of a striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol.
Announced at this year's SHOT Show, the P320 is a true striker-fired duty pistol with no de-cockers or safeties to manipulate. It's available in 9mm and .40 S&W, and in two off-the-shelf sizes; the standard and the "carry" model, similar to a compact.
Key features of the SIG P320 include three different grip sizes for a customized grip fit. The trigger itself is available in either a standard version or a version with a "tabbed trigger safety" that is very similar to the trigger safeties on Glocks.
The P320, like SIG's P250, is a modular handgun. That means owners can use a conversion kit to swap out worn parts or change the configuration of the pistol. The fire control unit is the only part of the gun that bears a serial number. So the frame, trigger, slide, and barrel can be easily and, more importantly, cheaply swapped out. This means that when you buy a P320, you're essentially buying a "starter kit" that allows you to build a variety of different guns.
Out of the Box
What caught my attention first as I removed POLICE's sample P320 from the box was the grip. The texture, ergonomics, palm swell, and angle are fantastic, and I actually prefer them over my duty pistol.
The P320's grip has just enough texturing to add traction but not so much as to wear on your hands after a day at the range. The grip angle is a little steeper than most pistols, and to me that is welcome as most combat shooting stances naturally produce a more vertical hand orientation. This is where the wrist is strongest and allows the shooter to better manage recoil.
Distance from the grip to the trigger is what I would consider normal and should accommodate most shooters without forcing them to "reach" with their trigger fingers. The finish on the slide itself is impeccable, which is what I've come to expect from SIG, and perfectly smooth.
The balance of the P320 is a little top heavy, and the muzzle end carries a little more weight than the rest, resulting in a gun that feels muzzle-heavy. Add a pistol light (I fitted mine with a Streamlight TLR-1) and this is much more noticeable.
Fully loaded and fitted with a pistol light, the P320 definitely felt heavier than my Glock 22. SIG claims the gun weighs slightly more than 29 ounces unloaded with a magazine in the chamber, compared to about 25 ounces for a Glock 22. That's a considerable difference. If the gun were a bit more balanced, this wouldn't be as noticeable, but after a long day at the range it'll likely take its toll on the shooter.
The P320 sports a lot of nice features. The standard framed version holds an impressive 18 rounds of 9mm ammo (17 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber). This is on par with the competition and definitely an attractive feature in any duty pistol. The .40 S&W version holds 15 rounds, one less than the competition.
Moving on to the functions of the gun, the P320 sports true ambidextrous controls. Both the magazine release and slide-lock lever can be manipulated from either side of the gun. As a left-handed shooter I have learned to manipulate my pistols with right-handed controls. And even though I feel I am very proficient now, I remember my first range days with my Glock 22 and wishing I had as easy a time as the "rightys" did. Having the controls positioned properly for the shooter gives that shooter more positive and efficient manipulations with fewer errors.
The P320 comes standard with two high-capacity magazines. Most officers generally carry three mags, one in the gun and two on the belt. Having to purchase an extra magazine separately is a bit annoying and adds to the overall cost of using this gun as a service weapon.
In addition to the magazines, SIG includes a nice Kydex single-retention holster for off-duty wear. While it may not seem like much, the ability to carry a gun right out of the box without having to wait while you hunt for a holster is nice. I actually carried the P320 and made several draws from this holster, and its single, pressure retention design worked very well. The Kydex, although not overly thick or rigid, held up to some vigorous draws and showed little wear.
One excellent aspect of the P320 is the sights. It comes standard with SIG's proprietary SIGLite night sights.
Another big selling point for the P320 is the ability to disassemble the gun without pulling the trigger. This is accomplished via a single rotating lever on the left side of the frame. Simply lock the slide to the rear, rotate the lever, and the top half of the gun effortlessly slides forward and off the frame.
Personally, I've never been concerned with pulling the trigger to get my gun apart. After all, if we're following the firearms safety rules as we should, there should be no unintentional discharges upon doing so. That said, I do understand the reality that a large portion of gun-carrying law enforcement officers are not what one might call "shooters" and may be known to skip a step or two from time to time. If we can keep these folks from pulling the trigger when they take their guns apart that's probably a good thing.
Due to their design, SIG pistols have a unique feel when firing that isn't for everyone. Since the P320 is kind of a different animal, I was eager to see if that true SIG "feel" was still there.
I loaded both magazines with SIG's new proprietary 9mm duty-grade ammunition and cranked off a couple of rounds toward my range's berm. The recoil was noticeable and that good-old SIG feel was definitely there.
If you're wondering what I mean by the "SIG feel," here's my explanation. All SIG pistols tend to have a bore axis that is very high in relation to the shooter's hands. This makes it difficult for the shooter to really get behind the gun and absorb the recoil in a linear fashion and results in greater than normal muzzle rise.
Even in 9mm, the muzzle rise on the P320 was significant. Normally, this kind of recoil is found in high-pressure rounds like the .40 or a 10mm. If the 9mm P320 is difficult to control, I'm afraid the .40 version would be even more so. Managing the recoil was a constant concern of mine throughout my time on the range, and I would have to say it definitely slowed down my follow-up shots.
Our test P320 came with the standard double-action-style trigger with very little "slack." I found the two-stage trigger press to be smooth and not at all gritty. But it is what some would call "spongy," and it doesn't have a clear defining point between the slack (stage 1) and the shot falling (stage 2).
The reset was excellent and seemed to require only a few millimeters of travel before the trigger positively reset for the next shot. I would estimate the trigger pull to be around 5 to 6 pounds all the way through the cycle. SIG says the two "stages" of the trigger pull are 5.5 and 7.5 pounds, respectively. I didn't notice much difference.
Running the P320 was a dream. The ambi-controls are well placed and large enough to be positively engaged even while shooting with gloves. Magazine exchanges were smooth and hang-up free, and both magazines dropped free every time. The polymer baseplate is thick enough to allow the shooter to "palm" the magazine to seat it positively without worrying about pinching skin between the mag-well and baseplate. If you've ever run a standard 1911 you know exactly what I'm talking about. The smooth, blued finish on the magazine's steel body allowed for smooth operation without being too slippery.
I'd give the P320 an A+ for accuracy. At 25 yards I took my sweet time and managed to cluster several rounds in about a 2-inch circle. I don't know that I've ever done that with a pistol before. I think it is safe to say this gun is able to shoot better than I can. It is a tack-driver.
I mixed up a batch of the new SIG duty ammo with some random 9mm rounds and loaded it into the P320's mags. I wanted to see if a particular type of round would cause a hitch in the pistol's giddy-up.
After rapid firing three magazines, I admitted defeat as the P320 didn't skip a breath. Ejection was forceful and positive with each and every round and not once did I experience a malfunction, even toward the end of the range day when the gun was a little dirty and dry.
Here's the bottom line on the SIG P320. If you're familiar with SIG pistols and like their ergonomics and shooting feel this is going to be your dream come true. The quality is there and the innovations over previous generations are many. This is truly a reliable, duty-grade pistol designed from the ground up to be an officer's gun.
Even if you are not an experienced SIG shooter, I would strongly encourage anyone looking for a new duty pistol with the newest in pistol technology to check out the P320.
The P320 is shipping now and available at your local SIG LE dealer at a retail price ranging from $669 to $713, depending on the configuration. SIG has a law enforcement program that offers individual officers a significant discount on almost all of its guns, but at press time, the P320 didn't appear on that list. I would suggest you give them a call to be sure.
A.J. George is a patrol sergeant with the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Police Department. He has also served in the advanced training unit as a firearms and tactics instructor.
SIG SAUER P320 DUTY PISTOL SPECS:
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17 rounds
- Action: Striker-fired DAO
- Overall Length: 8 inches
- Barrel Length: 4.7 inches
- Sight Radius: 6.6 inches
- Height: 5.5 inches
- Width: 1.4 inches
- Weight: 29.4 ounces
- Sights: SIGLITE night sights
- Grips: Interchangeable polymer with three inserts
- Frame: Polymer
- Slide: Stainless steel with Nitron finish
- Features: Take-down with no tools or trigger manipulation required, ambidextrous controls, accessory rail, comes with two magazines
- Price: $669 to $713