Photos by Richard King and Joe Trost
Although its origins are contested, the phrase “kick the bucket” is a colloquialism used as far back as the 16th century in association with the end of life; its blunt interpretation is “to die.” The centuries-old euphemism experienced a comeback in popularity in the early 21st century when “bucket list” became a commonly used phrase to describe a list of things one has not done but wants to do before dying. Shooters’ bucket lists include guns we want to own (or at least shoot) and places we’d like to train. The SIG Sauer Academy was an unchecked box on my bucket list, so I enthusiastically accepted an invitation to a media event at the New Hampshire training facility last fall.
The Epping, New Hampshire, facility opened its doors as the SIGARMS Academy in 1996 with an indoor range, two classrooms, a gun vault and an objective to train law enforcement and military entities. After 2001, the desire and capacity to train civilians grew along with the 140-acre facility, which added multiple indoor and outdoor ranges, the region’s only 1,000-yard range, multiple live-fire shoot houses, urban environments, force-on-force training, a maritime training area and a well-stocked pro shop. In 2007, the SIGARMS Academy was renamed the SIG Sauer Academy.
The ticket for my inaugural visit to the SIG Sauer Academy was a writer’s event centric to the SIG P320 pistol. You may have heard that a variant of the P320 was selected in January 2017 to replace the M9 Beretta in the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) solicitation, as there’s been a fair of amount ink spilled on that development.
any way you want it
My day at the SIG Sauer Academy began with a welcome presentation and compulsory range brief, at the conclusion of which the most badass pistol case I’ve ever seen was laid before me.
As has been widely reported, the SIG P320 is a modular platform, striker-fired pistol. The serialized frame and fire controls can be removed from the grip module without tools and reinstalled in grip modules ranging in size (full size, carry, compact and subcompact) and mated with correspondingly sized slide/barrel combinations (caliber changes are also possible between 9mm/.40 S&W/ .357 SIG platforms). The pistol cases we were issued contained a jaw-dropping assortment of 9mm pistol combinations.
Displayed as the centerpiece of each case was a serialized, stainless steel P320 frame surrounded by four 9mm slide/barrel combos representing the spectrum of P320 sizes; the full-size slide was equipped with SIG Sauer’s Romeo1 miniature reflex sight. The floor of the case was overrun with a dozen grip modules reflecting the aforementioned four available sizes and three available colors: black, flat dark earth (FDE) and olive drab green (ODG). Absolute elation was short-lived after being informed that we wouldn’t be taking these magnificent cases with us at the end of the day for an in-depth review, so we wasted no time delving into the SIG-rich war chests to maximize our limited exposure to them while we could.
Once the shooting began, there was plenty of it. Attendees were encouraged to experience the versatility and modularity of the P320 platform in multiple configurations, and SIG Sauer staff even stuffed magazines for shooters to minimize downtime between courses of fire. We shot combat courses, reactive steel plate racks, courses of fire from and around vehicles, and even stretched the legs of the Romeo1-equipped full-size P320 platform to ding steel beyond 100 yards.
Phil Strader, SIG Sauer’s pistol product manager and USPSA Grand Master, stopped by the range and demoed a P320 by burning down the reactive steel plates, thus emphasizing the difference between being a USPSA Grand Master and not being one. All in all, it was a very good day at the SIG Sauer Academy, only marred by having to abandon the P320 pistol case of my dreams at the end of the day. The heartache was partially abated by a trip to the pro shop and the assurance that a P320 would be provided to me for further evaluation.
I wanted a P320 platform that was viable for everyday carry (EDC), and I’ve gone on record for several years as a proponent for pistol-mounted mini red dot sights (MRDS), so selecting the P320 RX Compact was a decision I didn’t languish over.
The P320 RX Compact is a 3.9-inch-barreled, compact-frame pistol equipped with a Romeo1 miniature reflex sight; my pistol was upgraded with SIGLITE suppressor-height, three-dot tritium insert night sights. I’d pre-gamed the arrival of the pistol with the acquisition of a PHLster SIG 320 Classic RH appendix-inside-the-waistband (AIWB) holster, so the pistol was ready to go to work after function testing and sighting-in the optic.
There’s a lot to like about the P320 RX for an EDC platform. The nitron-finished slide is serrated front and rear, providing increased purchase for slide manipulation. As mentioned, the 3-MOA Romeo1 miniature reflex sight sits astride the slide at a height that accommodates a lower 1⁄3 cowitness of the SIGLITE night sights as a means to track the optic’s reticle and as a redundancy should optic failure occur. On the topic of optic failure, it ought to be noted that SIG Sauer’s unlimited lifetime guarantee on the Romeo1 is a welcome benefit when you consider the outright recoil-induced abuse that a pistol-mounted MRDS is subjected to.
If you’ve heard good things about the P320’s trigger, believe it. I have a dollar that says if you sample the trigger of the SIG Sauer specimen I reviewed, you would not predict that the new gun’s trigger break consistently registers on an RCBS trigger pull scale at just over 7 pounds, but it does. The trigger weight deception is due to a crisp break that occurs in just about a quarter-inch of travel after the slack has been removed. Also south of the slide, a 15-round magazine feeds the pistol, and a MIL-STD 1913 rail is on the dust cover for those who’d employ a weapon-mounted light (WML), laser or combination unit.
There never seems to be a shortage of new submissions into the personal defense pistol market, but following platform functionality, I have a secondary metric to assess platform viability. If I have to undertake an Indiana Jones-worthy quest for acquisition of parts, magazines, holsters and accessories for a pistol, it’s not for me. With the Army’s MHS award and the pending acquisition of the P320 platform by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), further adoption by law enforcement agencies and the private sector can be predicted, which will likely be accompanied by a level of aftermarket industry support that Glock pistols have had a monopoly on for some time now.
All things considered, the SIG P320 will get a seat at the EDC table with me, and as far as the SIG Sauer Academy is concerned, I’m going to consider that only partially checked from my bucket list. A few more trips will be in order before that box is fully inked.