Last week, we reported that the US DoD chose the SiG P320 as its new handgun. So let’s take it apart Monday Morning Quarterback style.
First, is this an improvement? Yes, but with caveats. From a shooters perspective, given the choice between a new M9 and a new P320, I’ll take the SiG every day of the week. I like the ergonomics of the P320 better. I like the trigger better. The P320 is one of the new crop of striker-fired pistols that’s been designed to try to compete with Glocks and M&Ps, both notorious for mediocre to lousy trigger pulls by having a good trigger. Plus, it’s a striker fired trigger, and I prefer that to a double action trigger. Also the P320 doesn’t have a slide-mounted safety/decocker. I would prefer one control or the other (i.e. a safety or a decocker, but not both) mounted on the frame. Plus, the P320 is a modern, polymer-framed design, so it’ll require less lubrication and maintenance. The P320 is also equipped with sight dovetails, and comes with decent night sights out of the box. In any case, it’s a lot easier to order/mount tritium sights on the P320. The M9 does not have sight dovetails for the front sight, limiting the changes you can make. Well, without drilling, and I doubt the DoD is going to do that.
There are two caveats here. First, I’ve tried to be as kind to the M9 as I can. The ones in the inventory are mostly ill-maintained and worn out. They’re in need of spring replacements, locking block replacements, and a bunch of TLC. The M9s in inventory are pretty much EOL.
Second, in the grand scheme of things, pistols are relatively unimportant arms. So I might like some more cost analysis, but I think the M9s are too abused to be salvageable in a cost-effective way. Which means the alternative to this sort of winner is rolling in M9A3s to the existing contract. And I don’t think ignoring more recent developments is in any way a good idea. Plus, the DoD wanted a striker-fired design, and wrote the rules accordingly. Good for them.
Okay. So let’s look at the chosen P320 itself, viz.
There’s a few things I like, and one thing I really don’t. Let’s start with the positives: it’s a good design. The DoD wanted modularity, and even though I’m not sold on this being all that useful, they did and got it. And it is cool from an engineering standpoint. I like that the pistols are finished in something FDE colored: guns are a pretty good spoiler of camouflage if they’re colored black as they usually are. So that’s a small thing, but a nice one. The full-size pistol has an installed factory extended mag, and that’s good too. Not a lot of extra length for five more bullets. That’s a tradeoff I’m cool with in a service/duty pistol. And there are flush fit ones for when you don’t want the extra length. Finally, if we look closely at the rear sight, we’ll note that it’s mounted to a large plate. This is removable, and can be replaced with a SIG Romeo 1 mini red dot, or something else with the same footprint. That looks like some planning ahead for once. Red dots are a much nicer sighting system than irons, and it’s really good to see the idea getting traction out of the box in a big contract.
Now, the negative. You guessed it: that manual safety. I don’t like it. I don’t think factory standard striker-fired triggers benefit from one, and it’s one more thing to screw up. If you think otherwise, well, at least it’s ambidextrous and sensibly mounted to the frame. Still. Not needed.
Finally, the thing everyone’s probably wondering: Why not Glock? By all accounts they were part of the downselect.
Well I don’t know. Rampant speculation time. First, that safety I don’t like. If the DoD required one, or wanted one enough to give more points to the design with one, that’d be a good reason. The manual safety on the MHS winning P320 looks reasonably well thought out, if you like such things. I haven’t seen the guts though. Historically, adding a manual safety to Glocks hasn’t ever worked out well. The designs have been awkward. So that’s a possible reason.
Possibility two is a lower bid. Either SiG wanted the contract more, and was willing to go lower, or maybe they had production capacity to deliver faster. I don’t know. But economics is something else that’s good.
Finally, modularity. The P320 is modular, and the DoD really wanted that. The P320 is more modular than the Glock. Those are points in its favor.
So, did the DoD do badly by not picking Glock? Nope. Setting aside any particulars, both Glocks and P320s are good designs. Bet between the two, you can’t go wrong. I’d probably decide based on who could bid lower and deliver faster anyway.
Finally, what does this mean for shooters? Will SiG dethrone Glock in terms of popularity? Well, the future’s hard to figure. So…maybe? But probably not anytime soon, if ever. We can expect some Glock design improvements, to take care of things like that trigger, because competition drives innovation. Plus, we can expect SiG to gain a lot more aftermarket support, which is always great. So this is nothing but good for us shooters.
Also, the pistol the US Military issues doesn’t have any bearing on what pistols I buy, like, or carry. It didn’t before, it won’t now.