Several years back, I reviewed several of the SIG-Sauer P320 handguns, and loved them all. To be sure, SIG -Sauer produces some of the finest handguns around. My one and only complaint is the price of magazines – seems to me that at times, SIG might be in the business of selling magazines as their main product, instead of firearms – they are expensive!
Today we’re looking at the official full-size handgun of the US military forces. It is designated the M17. That replaced the Beretta M9, in service. SIG also produces the more compact M18. However, today we’re looking at a M17 produced for the civilian market, by SIG USA. It differs in a few ways from the still-produced civilian SIG P320. One of the main differences between the M17 and earlier P320 is the ambidextrous manual thumb safety. This was a requirement for the final product when military testing was conducted. At first glance, the thumb safety looks a little difficult to apply, but that is not the case.
The M17 is a full-size duty 9mm Parabellum (Luger) handgun, with a 4.5-inch barrel. This M17 came into my hands in a gun trade. Although it is used, the gun’s finish is 99.5% as-new. It came with two 21-round magazines – it should have also included one 17-round magazine, but such is life. The front sight is a night sight, and on mine, there is no rear sight – instead it has a Trijicon red dot sight on it. I will, at some point, get a rear sight for this pistol – they are only $68.99.
The slide is stainless steel, however it is PVD-coated. PVD is a finish similar to Cerakote. It has a “Coyote” brown desert tannish look. This is tough stuff – it helps protect the gun from the elements. The barrel is coated black. This is a striker-fired pistol, and it has a really sweet trigger pull. The trigger pull is very short, as is the reset.
The slide stop/release is also ambidextrous – nice touch. There is a Picatinny rail on the dust cover for attaching lights and/or lasers, and it is a three-position rail. Needless to say, the 21-round magazines extend beyond the bottom of the grip itself.
This gun also came with a second grip module, and I swapped out the original one, which felt too thick in my hand, and the second module was perfect. Now, the actual serialized portion of the gun — that legally constitutes the “firearm” — isn’t the grip module or anything like that. The Trigger Group Module “innards” have the serial number – and it only takes a minute or two, to remove the Trigger Group Module and install it in another grip module.
You can purchase other grip modules of various sizes and colors directly from SIG or various Internet retailers. There is no need to go through a FFL dealer for this. Legally, since the Trigger Group Module is the “firearm”, all of the other parts can be bought via mailorder, here in the States. The entire set-up is so simple, its one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” things.
A word on the rear sight, that I plan on ordering: I will have to remove the Trijicon red dot, and in it’s place the rear sight will go – covering up the space left exposed on the top of the slide. Again, one of those oh-so-simple things that requires no gunsmithing. If you buy one of these pistols factory new, then it will come with a rear sight, and the red dot will be an optional accessory.
The stock M17 weighs in at 29.6-ounces unloaded, and with the red dot, it weighs about an ounce more. One big problem is finding a good holster that accepts the M17 with the red dot sight on it. This is not a monumental problem, but it takes a little bit shopping to find just what you want.
In my humble opinion, if the Glock had won the joint-service competition, I would have been happy as well. Both the SIG and the Glock are outstanding handguns, and will serve well in battle conditions. I’m a Glockaholic, make no mistake about that. Rating these two guns, I would give the Glock 19 a “100” and the SIG M17 a “99.5” – they are that close to being equal in my eyes – you can’t go wrong with either handgun.
The two 21-round magazines that came with the gun, extend past the bottom of the grip – as already mentioned. However, there is a nice plastic magazine base plate that is the same desert tan, so it looks good. And, speaking of magazines, once again, they are expensive – usually about $50 each – for either the 17-round or 21-round versions. And, right now, spare magazines are hard to get Often, even SIG USA itself is out of stock. With the way politics are leaning these days – read: gun control – it is in your best interest to get as many spare mags are you can – while you can! I have several en route as I’m typing this, but I will also get several more, as funds permit.
My Shooting Tests
From the start, SIG firearms have had a reputation for outstanding accuracy, and I found this M17 is no different. During my accuracy testing, I placed a target at 25 yards and rested the gun on a padded rifle rest. I had every type of 9mm ammo that Black Hills Ammunition has to offer – not in great quantities, but I was able to test all of the different versions. I had no groups that were larger than 2.5-inches – so long as I did my part. I did a lot of shooting, and when fatigued my aim was off – my bad – not the gun or the ammo.
My favorite self-defense load is the Black Hills 100-gr HoneyBadger all copper fluted bullet that is rated +P. So, long as I was on my game, I was getting 2-inch groups – that’s outstanding for a +P load if you ask me. The second favorite load I love is the 124-gr JHP and the same in +P – both loads were only slightly over two inches – you can’t ask for better than that. The rest of the Black Hills line-up gave me groups around 2.5-inches. I think the gun will do even better with more time and practice.
I packed this gun in a Blackhawk Products Serpa hip holster, and it rode high and tight to my side. Even though this is a big, full-sized handgun, it was easy enough to conceal with this holster, and the right covering garment. For walking around in the boonies, I put the M17 in a leg holster that I cobbled together. I also have a belt holster from Craft Holsters that works great for concealing this biggish gun.
When it comes to the End Of The World, the SIG M17 would be a fantastic candidate as your one and only gun – if that’s all you can afford. I take this sort of thing seriously, and put a lot of thought into it – no wonder I don’t sleep well at night. Strap on the M17 with a leg holster, and have it stoked with one of the 17-round magazines, and then a thigh magazine pouch, that holds 3 or 4 of the 21-round magazines and you can make a great showing when the lead starts flying.
My long-time friend, Lynn Thompson, who used to own Cold Steel knives, can be seen on the ‘net – firing a Glock 17 at steel plates out to 200-yards, standing on two legs, no support, and hitting those plates every single time. I think with a little bit of practice you can hit man-sized targets out to 100-yards, and with more practice, out to 150-yards. I’ve done it – not bragging, just saying you can do it, too.
Before I forget, I always have some old “range” ammo – this is ammo from different ammo makers – perhaps a partial box here and there, and some is given to me. I don’t have time to sort through this, and I use it as a good test of how a gun will function. Needless to say, no problems at all with the Black Hills fodder. I loaded up several 21-round magazines with this mix of old range ammo, and fired the gun as fast as I could – and there were no problems – no malfunctions at all. I was hitting a big boulder out to 75-yards without trying too very hard. A good test on how well a handgun will work is to mix a lot of different ammo in the same mag, and that will sometimes cause a malfunction – no so with the M17 – there wasn’t a hint of a problem.
In all my testing, I fired more than 200-rds and I know I shouldn’t have – we are still in the worst ammo drought in history. And, I’ve been trying to limit my shooting to around 100 rounds – but this SIG just grew on me and begged to be shot again and again.
It doesn’t hurt to have a handgun the same as our US military has – you can probably scrounge spare parts and magazines, in extremis. Still, in the end, you know that the SIG P320/M17 won the competition for the best 9mm service handgun, and that says a lot if you ask me.
SIG is doing all they can to keep up with demand for the M17, and you can find them – if not the M17, then go with the civilian version P320 – basically the same gun. You will come out a winner in the end.