SIG Sauer P320 Compact 9mm – A Fresh Look, by Pat Cascio

A couple years ago, I reviewed the then new SIG Sauer P320 9mm handgun, that had been recently adopted by the US military – all military forces. And, to be sure, it was and still is an outstanding choice for our military handgun. The military wanted a modular handgun, that could be easily changed from one configuration to another – and in reality, I believe SIG Sauer was the only competitor to submit a truly modular handgun. Save the hate mail, please. I believe the Glock submission would have been an outstanding choice as well.

As with many new firearms that come on the market, there are times when there might be some problems, no matter how much a firearm might be tested at the factory, before being released, it isn’t until the guns get into the hands of the consumers, where problems might arise. So, SIG did a voluntary recall (“upgrade”) on the early P320 handguns – and it is still in effect – no charge for the upgrades. It had been reported that if the early-production P320 was dropped at a certain angle, it could fire the round in the chamber. So, SIG jumped on the problem, and made improvements. All of the M17 handguns delivered to the U.S. government had these improvements, or they were immediately retrofitted.

I recently picked-up a new version of the SIG Sauer P320 Compact 9mm and it came from the factory with the upgrades. A quick look is needed: We have a smaller trigger, that has a 35% light trigger pull, there is an upgraded disconnector and sear as well. All of this contributes to a much better trigger pull, and a safer P320. This upgrade is free and SIG will even send you a shipping label, so it doesn’t cost you anything to have the gun upgraded. And in most cases, you’ll have the gun back in about 2-3 weeks. [JWR Adds: My upgraded P320s  were eachreturned with a kind 35% off coupon for my next purchase at the SIG USA store.]

The P320 9mm that I recently picked-up, is, as already mentioned, the Compact version – all things considered, when compared to the full-sized model – it is compact. It has a 3.9-inch barrel, and is listed as the P320 RX Compact model – it has a red dot reflex sight in the slide – not on top of the slide, as an after thought, but the slide was milled out to accept this Romeo 1 red dot reflex sight. It is installed at the SIG factory, and even zeroed – for 25-yards at the factory. It is motion activated – which means, when the gun is handled, the red dot turns on immediately – and when the gun sits still for 2 minutes, it turns itself off. You can also turn the red dot completely off if you like – for storage. It has a lens cover, however, it is easily lost – be advised – I’m awaiting a replacement from SIG as I type this. The red dot is 3 MOA – so it gives you a nice sight picture. Best of all, this little red dot sight only weighs in at a mere .8-ounces – it adds no appreciable weight to the gun.

SIG also added a set of night sights – they are suppressor height – night sights, so they are taller, and co-witness through the red dot sight window – very nice touch indeed. I founfd that these these night sights don’t snag on your holster during a draw. So, if you are using the Romeo 1 red dot sight, all you have to do is get the red dot in the frame (window) and what ever that red dot is on – that is where the bullet will strike. If you prefer to use the night sights, you can turn-off the red dot feature and just use the night sights – either way works great. I would personally leave the red dot on while using the night sights.

The Red Dot Learning Curve

There is a little bit of a learning curve when using a red dot sight on any firearm – however, you can quickly learn and master it – on the P320, you draw the handgun from the holster and extend your arms out fully forward – just like you do when you’re using the sights – and the red dot will appear in the window of the Romeo 1 – just like magic. My wife had some concerns when she was shooting this gun, using the red dot sight. She said it seemed like the red dot was moving all over the place and she was wondering where the rounds would strike. I explained it was sort of an optical illusion. And, to just pull the trigger – no matter she saw the red dot in the window, and that is where the round will strike. You do NOT have to place the red dot on top of the front sight or line it up on the rear sight…wherever the red appears in the little window, is where it will send the bullet, if you do your part. One things some shooters have a real problem is, closing one eye to use the red dot – it is NOT necessary and faster if you shoot with both eyes open – just that simple. Still some shooters were closing one eye – they just have to retrain themselves to keep both eyes open – it really is MUCH faster getting on-target with both eyes open. And, with both eyes open, the window housing seems to “disappear” from your sight, and the only thing you see is the red dot – sort of “floating” out there in space so to speak.

I do like the much improved trigger pull – very short and light, too – just like SIG said it should be. There is also an ambidextrous slide release/lock – nice. Plus the mag release can be transferred to the other side of the frame if you are left-handed.  I won’t go into all the details on how easy it is to switch out parts – making this gun modular, you can read it on the SIG web site. There is also a Picatinny-style rail on the dust cover, if you want to mount a laser or a light. And, in case you didn’t already know, this gun is striker-fired, not hammer-fired. The slide is actually stainless steel, that is coated – on this sample – with black Nitron.

Since our military adopted the P320 (as the M17) as the official handgun for all service branches, it has been a hot-seller for SIG USA – and many law enforcement agencies are following suit. One of the biggest problems with new handguns on the market is finding holsters that fit them – and this is no exception. You can check the SIG web site, and they sell some holsters to fit this gun. However, the Romeo 1 red dot sight can pose a problem – with some holsters – it won’t fit some holsters because the sight is in the slide. The good folks at Blackhawk Products have already come to the rescue. I received their new M-Bossed Leather holster – this one is a pancake-style. It is made out of the finest leather and the gun fits in it like a glove. I’ve owned custom-made leather holsters, and I had to wait 4-months of longer to get them – and they weren’t as nicely made as this holster from Blackhawk…and the leather appears to be embossed with a basket weave – thus the name “M-Bossed.” The P320 easily rides on my right side and is easily concealed as well – very nice, very, very nice.

Red dot reflex sights are not yet, common military issue, however, they are getting there. Blackhawk has one of their new tactical thigh holsters in the works – no samples were available at the time of this article. This one is called the “T-Series” and it safely locks your handgun in the holster, once you re-holster it – it releases differently than their earlier SERPA holsters, though. Blackhawk does have a model for the SIG P320 in 9mm – however, it will not fit the guns with the Romeo 1 red dot sights – but like I said, they are working on it.

You will notice the picture of the SIG P320 I have, in a Blackhawk tactical thigh holster – however, they do NOT produce this model. It took a little persuasion but Blackhawk sent me a leg platform, and one of their SERPA hip holsters, for a SIG P320 – and the two parts mated together nicely – so I can carry this SIG on my right hip – plus I added two Blackhawk platform pouches to the entire set-up. So, I can go with the gun – 15 +1 rounds in it, and two 15-rd magazines for quick reloads.

I learned that Blackhawk discontinued their submachine gun thigh magazine pouches some time ago – too bad – it would have been a great set-up. Three spare 30-round ETS magazines in those pockets, along with the gun on the other hip with those spare mags and you’d be a force to be reckoned with. Instead, I found some 4-pocket leg pouches and the ETS 30-rd magazines for the P320 fit perfectly – so now I have four of the 30-round ETS mags as back-up to the three mags on my other leg. BTW, you can find ETS extended and standard capacity magazines at Midway USA – and they are outstanding mags. Pick some up while you still can – if you live in a state where you can own them.

I was thinking that, if for some reason, I only had a few minutes to do a “grab and run” from my house, how nice it would be to grab the SIG P320, already in the Blackhawk holster, on the leg platform, with two spare 15-round mags on it, and on the other leg, attach the quad subgun leg pouch, with 4 of the 30-rd ETS magazines fully loaded, and also grab an AR – I wouldn’t feel under-gunned in the least – not with my A.L.I.C.E. gear – with another six fully loaded 30-round AR mags on it, in military mag pouches.

I’ve given lots of talk on the improved SIG Sauer P320 9mm handgun, and all the new and updated features, but how does it shoot? Well, as usual, I never lack for any volunteer helpers – shooters – when the ammo is free and the gun is provided. Out to the range, and we put more than 600 rounds through this pistol – all ammo came from Black Hills Ammuniton – and they produce premium ammo – not junk, if you want the best, then buy from them. I had their 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 124-gr JHP, 115-gr Barnes TAC-XP +P and their HoneyBadger 100-gr +P all copper bullet – the latter is one of my favorite rounds from them.

We “killed” all manner of rocks and tree branches, before we got down to serious shooting. Even though my volunteer shooters like to shoot for groups, the groups I report in my articles, are from my testing, so I’m to blame if something is wrong. The shooting was done at 25 yards, with a rolled-up sleeping bag as a rest. The overall winner was the 124-gr JHP +P load – and this is one of my favorite loads for self-defense. If I was on my game – I was getting 3.25-inch groups – but I think the gun can do better. Everything else was 3.5-inches to 4-inches – once again, I think the gun/ammo can do better than that. I had some larger groups, but it was me – pulling my shots – not the gun/ammo combination. There we no malfunctions during out testing.

I believe that, SIG has worked out the little teething problems from when the gun was first released. What you are getting in the P320 is a near copy of the current U.S. military version, they requested some coating on the inside of the trigger works, and some P20 variants come with a manual safety, just like the military issue M17. However, the civilian version is just fine with me – I’d go to war with it.

This particular version with the red dot Romeo 1 sight on it – isn’t cheap. The sight alone is about $400 and the gun – in the $550 neighborhood – but to my way of thinking, it is well worth it!




3 Comments

  1. I bought a Beretta 92F when they first came out and within 2years I broke the locking lug. It jammed up the gun and it took me a while to make safe and unload a live round from the chamber. I sent it to Beretta and told them it was my competition gun and had about 40,000 rounds through it. Please fix it and bill me. Well they fixed it and didn’t bill me a cent. They told me that we shooters did real time hard proof testing of their guns that a lab couldn’t easily duplicate. So Sig’s attitude is not uncommon in the business. I still have and shoot that 92F.

  2. For the longest time my go to pistol was either a Sig P226 9mm or a 1911 .45 ACP. When SIG launched the P320 Compact I was sold. The P320 was lighter, smaller and had a smooth trigger pull. The pistol was purchased shortly after it was released and required the trigger upgrade. Sig had the pistol back in my hands within two weeks. I have about 2,000 rounds through the P320 and found it perfect for combat accuracy and bullseye shooting as well. No malfunctions or failures to fire. I have a big aversion to adding any external hardware to pistols except changing the sights out for night sights; so no red dots, lasers or lights for me, as I feel they get in the way. If these items work for you, use them. If you have not shot a Sig P320, give it a try, you might find you really like it.

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