February 07, 2018
SIG Sauer's P320 recently won the contract for the U.S. Army's next generation Modular Handgun System, in large part due to their ability to provide the military with a combined handgun system. SIG Sauer wants private citizens to see the advantage in the idea of the weapon as a system, and they've positioned themselves to capitalize on their newly found cache of being the "next big thing" by offering complete training systems.
Complete training systems? Yes. Starting with air pistols and rifles that are clones of their actual firearms, then moving through optics, ammunition and accessories. SIG Sauer wants to control the entire user experience from beginning to end to ensure that the end user has nothing but a quality experience. SIG recently sent Guns & Ammo's Personal Defense a training kit consisting of a P320 clone air pistol, an air pistol target system, CO₂ cartridges, several boxes of practice and carry ammunition, and one of their excellent P320 pistols. The idea is to progress from practicing with the airgun to practicing with the real gun with SIG ball ammo, then eventually deploying the real gun in the real world. As a concept, it's solid. Although, as you'll see, there are some challenges.
The airgun is well-built and dimensionally identical to the real thing. The weight is also comparable at 30 ounces. The real pistol weighs a half-ounce less, but the balance of the air pistol is different. The real pistol, while well-balanced for a polymer-frame pistol, is noticeably top heavy due to the mass of the slide. With the air pistol, most of the weight is in and just above the grip. Because the weight and dimensions are the same, the air pistol fits in every SIG Sauer P320 holster I tried. The Picatinny rail on the dustcover must be in spec because every attachment that I tried on it fit well, with no wiggle or slop.
Because the air pistol balances differently, it doesn't feel exactly like the real thing when presenting from the holster. The sights are identical to the original, with a sturdy front and generous rear notch, allowing the shooter's eye to pick up the front sight easily, even in less than optimal lighting. The air pistol's trigger is slightly longer, and it stacks toward the end, giving it more of a light, traditional double-action trigger than the striker-fired P320's trigger. The pistol is powered from a standard CO₂ cartridge that fits in the backstrap, and the projectiles are loaded into a unique 30-round magazine. The magazine is loaded like a traditional magazine, although it's narrower and fits within a cast magazine baseplate that acts as a latch for the CO₂ compartment.
With standard lead pellets, the air pistol is accurate, dinging the supplied steel targets with regularity at 12 yards. There was a slight drop in accuracy with BBs, but not enough to let lemons, apples and Coke cans off the hook. Advertised velocity is up to 430 feet per second (fps) on a fresh CO₂ cartridge, and it was every bit as fast as that.
The difference in balance between the air pistol and the real pistol isn't a deal breaker, but as I started switching back and forth for range session sustainment training, it became more evident. Use of the airgun helped though, as my drill times improved from range day to range day, even during a two-week dearth of training with the real P320. However, where the air pistol really shines is in the instruction of newer shooters. Because the grip angle is identical and a novice shooter is less likely to notice the balance difference, there is a tremendous value in using the air pistol to instruct fundamental marksmanship without worrying about the expense, the noise or the recoil of live ammunition.
SIG SAUER AMMO
A couple of different flavors of SIG Sauer ammunition was used during the testing and evaluation process. Now, we can all think of companies that dabbled outside of their lane and ultimately failed. I'm happy to report that isn't the case here. The SIG Sauer ammo is of high quality, with better quality control than I've seen in some of the major ammunition manufacturers as of late. SIG Sauer initially started manufacture of their Elite Performance ammo in Eubank, Kentucky, but it's now manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility in Jacksonville, Arkansas. The ammo is completely U.S. manufactured, and SIG takes pride in the fact that both quality and value are high.
I've shot more of their 115-grain 9mm Elite ball rounds than their other offerings, and while it's not a match round, it's much more accurate than Walmart big-box fodder. SIG Sauer claims that the ammunition was engineered specifically for their pistols, but I can't tell the difference. It's accurate in everything I've shot it out of, including SIG Sauer's P320 - but our sample pistol shot everything well. Suffice it to say that both the ball offerings and the Elite V-Crown performance ammunition represent an impressive part of the integrated, systemic approach to personal defense of which SIG Sauer is at the forefront.
SIG SAUER FIREARMS
The backbone of this integrated approach is the firearms that SIG Sauer offers. While the market is inundated with many newer, strikerfired offerings, SIG Sauer has not allowed their traditional double-action pistols to be ignored. They continue to sell boatloads of them, especially the P226 variants. However, the P320 line of striker-fired pistols represents the apex of their defensive line of pistols.
SIG Sauer was a fairly late entry into the striker-fired arena, and that extra time allowed them to learn from others' mistakes. Besides the fact that the SIG Sauer P320 feels great in the hand and the grip is truly modular, they got the disassembly piece right. While it boggles my mind that people shoot themselves when disassembling striker guns that require pressing the trigger, it happens all the time. SIG Sauer has eliminated the need for pressing the trigger or finding hidden levers or any other superfluous steps. Simply rotate the disassembly lever and the sear deactivates. It's simple, brilliant and suitable for duty use across the spectrum of training that is the reality of 21st century military and law enforcement service.
The other area where SIG Sauer hit it out of the park with the P320 is the trigger. It has a short, rolling feel, with minimal overtravel and creep. The sear releases positively, but there's no "bounce" at the muzzle end that can interfere with accuracy. From a reliability standpoint, the P320 is on par with its peers; as long as you keep it slightly lubricated, it's going to go bang and it's going to put the bullets where you need them. As part of an integrated, single-source supplier, it's a crown jewel.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
SIG Sauer has created a one-stop-shop with their integrated package, covering every component from training to deployment. While there are more expensive, sophisticated ways to train than an air pistol, SIG Sauer has taken the concept that military and LE units have been using for decades and put it in the hands of the private citizen for a fair price. If I were training a client who had little experience and wanted to get good fast, I'd put them in a flavor of SIG Sauer P320 that fit their mission, design a training regimen around dry practice and air-pistol practice, and work with them twice a week doing livefire training. It would be more effective than traditional methods and, because of the air-pistol work, it would cost less. Better results, faster results, better value in training. SIG Sauer got this concept right.
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