One of the things that separates civilians from the military and law enforcement communities is the fact that we get to choose what we want to carry, rather than having our carry choice dictated by policies enacted by administrators and other supervisory personnel. Nonetheless, our choices should still be based on some universal factors such as I laid out in the first article posted on this blog. For a while now, Glock has been the ubiquitous choice that satisfies all of the requirements for a pistol that is as viable for duty as it is for concealed carry.
I have, for a variety of reasons, carried and trained with a Glock 19 for the past several years. Rather than detail those reasons here, I will instead refer you to Robert’s excellent blog post on the subject. However, what I want to discuss today is the Sig Sauer P320 Compact. I’ve written about the P320 previously, but that was a pistol owned by a friend. I liked it enough that I purchased one of my own to evaluate several months ago. Given recent news of the Army’s decision to adopt the P320 as the new XM17 Modular Handgun, I thought this might be a good time to post my own experiences with the gun. Of course, by now I am so heavily invested in Glock handguns and accessories that I doubt I could ever fully divest myself of the Austrian Wundpistole, but it’s nice to have options!
The main thing that drove me to purchase the P320C for evaluation was my dislike of the Glock’s grip. Quite frankly, shooting a Glock extensively causes me pain. A Glock 19 Gen3 was my first foray into the world of Glock, and I still have that gun. I can shoot it well, but it tears up my hand in multi-day classes, requiring me to either wear shooting gloves or strategically apply athletic tape. Specifically, I get a hot spot/blister on my palm and invariably develop the infamous “Glock knuckle.” My G19 Gen4 is markedly better in those respects, but still leaves me bloody and with a new callus on my proximal thumb joint from slide bite. My Glocks do the job if I do my part, but after several years of shooting them, I am forced to conclude that the stock Glock simply doesn’t fit my hand all that well.
I have considered sending my Glock off for frame modifications too many times to count, but have held off due to cost and my reluctance to permanently modify the serialized part of my handgun. Acknowledging the fact that Glocks are sort of like potato chips, I’m still not ready to personally take a wood burner or soldering iron to mine. If anything, I will probably break down soon and have a professional customize my grip.
Now let’s take a closer look at the P320C.
One of the biggest design attributes of the Sig P320 is that multiple sizes and configurations of grip modules and slides are available to customize the pistol as the user so desires. By way of example, while I found the medium compact grip that my pistol came with to be far superior to the Glock in terms of ergonomics, I recently switched to a small compact grip module to experiment with, since my hands are on the smaller side of medium. This experiment cost me less than the last spare magazine I bought! Further, just because I initially bought a compact model doesn’t mean that I’m stuck with a compact forever. In theory, I can use the serialized frame assembly in any number of grip module and slide combinations.
As near as I can tell, the P320 uses the same grip module as the legacy P250, and the “new” style seems to be available in small, medium, and large sizes in sub-compact, compact, carry, and full-size configurations. With that said, it should be noted that the Sig P320 is a significant departure in design from the aforementioned P250. For more information about the origins and evolution of the design, I suggest listening to this podcast interview (Episode 66) from Paul Carson of the Safety Solutions Academy in which he discusses the development of the P320 with Scott Kenneson, director of training at the Sig Sauer Academy.
To be sure, the Sig P320 is not without its negative aspects (in my humble opinion), but so far, I’ve only been able to identify a few.
- First, magazines are more expensive and harder to find than the Glock counterpart. It’s going to take me a while to accumulate what I consider the ideal number to have for training purposes.
- Second, I have lately been using an Eidolon holster, which is not available for the P320. There are some other good choices that I will explore, but no Eidolon. The pistol comes with a serviceable paddle style OWB holster, but I doubt I’ll use it much unless I choose to compete with the pistol in a venue that prohibits appendix carry. (And a note directed at Sig… if you’re going to include a holster, why not also include a mag pouch?)
- Third (and this is a potential deal breaker), I have had some issues with the accuracy of the gun and Sig Sauer customer service has been entirely unhelpful. I won’t belabor the issue here, but suffice it to say, despite a set of different aftermarket sights from Ameriglo and a trip back to Sig Sauer customer service, my gun still shoots significantly low at 25 yards. I say this with the complete understanding that Sig Sauer sights are notably designed for a “combat” sight picture, with the front sight held directly over the point of aim. I mentioned in a recent post that I was planning on trying a set of fiber optic sights on another pistol. In fact, I was referring to my P320. I may yet invest in a set of Proctor Y-Notch sights to try out on the Sig. If those don’t work, my next step will be Dawson Precision sights utilizing their Perfect Impact policy. That is, if I don’t sell or trade the gun out of frustration first! For right now, I have a plain black set of Defoor sights on the gun and I will continue to work with them. Ideally, I will eventually have someone with more skill than I shoot the gun to see whether it is in fact the Indian or the arrow.
- The final “negative” aspect I want to address is difficult to quantify. Many have noted that Sig Sauer handguns have a high bore axis. While this is true, I’ve been hard pressed to discern any increased recoil impulse or other problems when shooting the gun. Rather, for me, it is an aesthetics and balance issue. Compared to my Glock or even to my older P220, there is an awful lot of mass of pistol above my firing grip. I can’t tell that it affects anything but my perception, but I include it here as an individual observation.
Aside from those things, I am hard pressed to find anything else I specifically dislike about the P320. On the contrary, in addition to the modular grip, there are some other positives that I want to highlight.
- The trigger is crisp and has a short reset. There is a drop-in Apex trigger available, but so far, I see no need. As well, the trigger is ideal for dry-fire, since it resets under spring tension without having to manipulate the slide. (Obviously, the gun is not second strike capable, but the function of the trigger allows for multiple similar trigger presses without racking the slide.)
- The gun is essentially ambidextrous, with the slide catch lever accessible on both sides of the frame and a user reversible magazine catch button. Comparing my new P320 with my friend’s P320, astute observers will note that the slide catch has been redesigned to eliminate the problem I described in my initial impressions of the pistol. With the new design, I have yet to accidentally lock the slide back during a string of fire with my normal grip.
- The dust cover features a Picatinny accessory rail vs. Glock’s universal rail. Despite its name, I haven’t found the Glock rail to be all that universal. Anything else that I slap a weapon light onto has Picatinny rails, so this is another advantage of the P320 that is ideal for my needs.
- The slide has front cocking serrations, another feature that I like. If you consider the number of custom shops that offer milling of front cocking serrations as part of custom pistol modification packages, then the fact that the Sig has them from the factory is noteworthy. There are some pistol manipulations that I find easier to perform with front cocking serrations, and the fact that the Sig has them from the factory is a plus.
- The Sig P320 is easily disassembled for cleaning, and I can even swap out grip modules without the need for any tools. Unlike the Glock, you don’t need to pull the trigger in order to break the gun apart, but that actually never bothered me with my Glock. (I remain of the firm opinion that if you can clear your weapon for dry fire, you can just as easily clear it for cleaning and disassembly!)
Continuing the comparison theme, as far as spare and aftermarket parts go, I have to give the nod to Glock due to the sheer number and variety available, but aside from holsters and sights, there hasn’t yet been anything for the Sig that I want and haven’t been able to find. The obvious counterpoint is that caliber conversion and the ability to easily switch between different grip modules is something not easily accomplished with a Glock.
In several hundred rounds downrange, I’ve experienced no mechanical malfunctions whatsoever. I’m only about halfway through a 1000 round trigger job on my new Sig, but I will continue to increase that round count and perhaps carry it on occasion if I can find a set of sights and a decent holster that I like. So far, however, I must confess that it has yet to dethrone my Glock 19 as my carry gun. Time will tell whether that changes, and I will update this post accordingly!