August 19, 2019
My years in law enforcement have made me intimately familiar with the quality of SIG Sauer firearms. As a competitor, I earned a “Master” shooter rating using a SIG P229 chambered in .357 SIG. That title wasn’t easy and required tens of thousands of rounds.
When SIG Sauer came out with the P250 in 2006, I found its double-action-only (DAO) trigger less complicated to get comfortable with than the double-action (DA)/single-action (SA) trigger of the P229. Not everyone agrees with me, but as a revolver-toting officer of long ago, I was enamored with the P250’s consistent and rolling 5½-pound trigger. With the popularity of striker-fired pistols growing, coupled with a lack of interest in SIG Sauer’s P250, attention has shifted to the newer P320 series.
Striker-fired pistols are popular for their light, consistent and short-travel triggers. Along with its operation, trigger and low-bore axis — as in the amount of gun including frame and slide that sits above your hand — makes them favored among shooters today. Across the field of striker pistols, a low-bore axis is the benchmark feature of any striker-fired gun. Capacity and a crisp, consistent trigger are secondary.
When SIG unveiled the P320 in 2014, I couldn’t wait to see what this high-end manufacturer had created. I had no idea that it was going to be based on the modular chassis design of the not-as-popular hammer-fired P250. (Did you know that the P250 and P320 can share grip modules?)
My mission as a trainer is to improve a shooter’s performance in a limited amount of time. Striker-fired guns make that job easier. For many, the training required to master the bore-axis of hammer guns, along with two distinctly different trigger presses — DA to SA — is not simplistic. SIG Sauer disappointed me with the P320 series by maintaining the same bore height over the grip shared with the P250. As a fan boy of SIG Sauer quality, I was anxious for the opportunity to review the new-for-2019 P320 XCompact. Could this be a bigger version of the love of my life, the P365?
The Top Half
Like most SIG Sauer pistols, the slide is stainless steel and Nitron-coated for corrosion protection. X-series slides feature SIG Sauer’s XRay3 day/night sights. The front sight is drift adjustable while the rear sight is centered with a stud on a removable sight plate. Modern styled, the front sight has a light-green ring surrounding a tritium diode. Only the tritium diodes show through to the rear without white rings or dots. Attached to the plate, the rear sight is not adjustable for windage.
The sights are coarse, and by that I mean they are big with little light spacing on either side of the front sight when aligned. Coupled with the darkened front sight, a refined sight picture was difficult to manage quickly.
The removable rear-sight plate enables simple changes of rear-sight heights which are available from SIG Sauer. (603-610-3000) Removing the entire rear plate makes this gun optics ready.
Mounting a SIG Sauer Romeo1 ($360) or Leupold DeltaPoint Pro ($520) is as easy as removing the two-sight plate screws from underneath and screwing in the optic directly to the slide. However, you must remove the extractor rod and springs to access the right screw. (While you’re in there, you might as well take the time to clean your striker assembly and channel.) Taking this part of the pistol apart is not hard, but be careful not to lose the loaded chamber indicator and its delicate spring when removing the sight plate.
B&T AG (Brügger & Thomet AG, bt-ag.ch) makes adapter plates for other red dots to attach to the P320 X-series. As a result, I was able to mount and shoot the XCompact with the new Aimpoint Advanced Combat Reflex Optic (ACRO, $660) closed-emitter red dot. That said, the B&T plate is not perfect. It’s not a custom fit, but rather a steel plate on top of the slide that’s held on by two recessed screws. The screws are delicate and the plate offers no index to keep it centered on the gun. The delicate screws made it hard to torque properly without additional tools. I would recommend some Loctite Threadlocker Blue 242 and some time to cure.
The Aimpoint ACRO functioned well and made the gun fun to shoot, but the B&T base often came loose. The loosening caused me to decide to perform accuracy testing using the iron sights, though I would have much preferred using the ACRO’s 3.5 minute of angle (MOA)-red dot.
Similar to the M17/M18 (the U.S. military version of the P320), the loaded chamber indicator (LCI) is both visible and tactile atop the slide. Important to note is that with the Aimpoint ACRO mounted, the XCompact’s LCI impacts the bottom of the ACRO. This is due to the forward offset of the B&T mount.
The Bottom Half
The P320 X Compact is a combination of features and benefits both from the P320 Compact series and the newer 2017 X-frame pistols. Shipped with a medium-sized XCompact grip module, you can always purchase small or large sizes at sigsauer.com for $60.
With the P320 being a chassis gun, what would normally be called the frame is just a polymer grip module attached to a stainless-steel chassis that carries the fire-control system. The chassis is considered the gun and is the serialized part. This platform allows the end user to change grip sizes, colors and texture as well as caliber and slide length on top.
The P320 X Compact offers several enhancements when compared to a standard P320. In a day where Smith & Wesson (S&W) minimized the beavertail design from the M&P M2.0 pistols, SIG Sauer went in a different direction and improved their beavertail for the X-frames. The P320 X Compact features this extended beavertail and includes the X-frame’s high undercut triggerguard to promote a high grip and aid in recoil control. The design will assuredly help in getting your firing hand high on the backstrap without causing fear of slide bite. No doubt, there was a guy in SIG Sauer’s engineering department attempting to improve control of this otherwise top-heavy gun.
Rounding the bottom of the backstrap, a feature SIG Sauer calls a “fastback profile,” is intended to make the gun more snag-free and ergonomically friendly. The magwell is newly contoured offering a wide, beveled funnel to smooth out rapid reloads. Boxed with two steel 15-round magazines, one can start practicing right away.
Lefties will be glad to know that the magazine release is reversible. Requiring a paperclip and a little finesse, you should only have to make the swap once. The pistol is otherwise fully ambidextrous.
Overall, the grip has a slimmer profile and feels friendlier than the original P320. Texturing of the grip is also more aggressive than the original. (Almost functional, in my opinion.) I think it’s a little smooth, but the XCompact is designed as a carry gun and I have rough, hardened hands.
If you want fast reloads, there’s no faster way than using the slide-catch lever to drop the slide into battery. The P320 X Compact features the same extended slide-catch levers used on the X5 models. Though it’s easy to use for locking the slide open and sending the slide forward, I’m concerned with how far they stick out on both sides. The lever is highly functional, but it appears out of place on an otherwise sleek, snag-free carry pistol.
Scrutinizing the trigger before heading to the range, I noticed that SIG Sauer used a flat-faced trigger recognizable by those of us who are already familiar with the popular modification by Grayguns (grayguns.com). Despite being impressed with how the trigger felt, severe over-travel measured 3⁄16-inch on Guns & Ammo’s sample. Being friends with Bruce Gray, renowned master gunsmith and competitor, I called Grayguns and learned that the trigger is not a Grayguns trigger at all, but a reasonable facsimile. As some of you know, Grayguns’ triggers are more than appearance; They are functional. In my opinion, SIG Sauer’s facsimile reflects badly on Grayguns’ aftermarket triggers.
At The Range
I mitigated the trigger’s overtravel by stacking rubber weather stripping behind the trigger, an old bullseye shooter’s trick. Commonly done with revolvers, this gives the trigger somewhere to land after the gun fires. Overtravel is the movement of the trigger after the sear has disconnected and the firing pin has gone forward. Excessive overtravel makes it difficult to produce precise shots due to the movement it imparts on the gun.
Out of the box at 25 yards, any handgun from a major manufacturer should be capable of placing shots on my 12-inch by 18-inch TDI Torso Target from Challenge Targets (challengetargets.com). Standing offhand at 25 yards, I fired one magazine of 15 rounds using standard full metal jacket (FMJ) practice ammo and the P320 XCompact connected with every shot.
Leery of the XCompact’s bore height and trigger overtravel, I did some quick shooting to see how this gun felt against reactive steel targets that require multiple, rapid-fired hits to knock down. As I suspected, dynamic shooting with the XCompact was slower for me. Of course, this is not my primary gun. The trigger breaks clean at 5½ pounds, but the overtravel causes a disturbance in my sight picture.
The grip may be better on the XCompact than the standard P320 Compact models, but it is still a top-heavy gun, which required me to work harder to manage recoil. I’m sure these are areas I could get used to.
Accuracy testing went well with the SIG X Compact. I had expected great things from SIG Sauer’s own Elite load, but the results were on par with almost any brand’s similar load. Accuracy testing was done on a cold dreary day with a constant drizzle blowing, so it was hard to blame a few so-so accuracy results on the gun. Hornady’s 135-grain Critical Duty load reassured me that I could still shoot.
The green color of the X-Ray3 sight is not as bright in low-light conditions. Despite being large and bulky, they do have crisp clear edges. Coupled with the XCompact’s short sight radius, performance testing came out fairly well.
If you are like me and love your P365 and hoped that the P320 X Compact would be a bigger version of it, allow me to assure you that it is not. My feeling is that the P365 is easier to shoot than the new XCompact. However, if you are a fan of the P320 series, the XCompact does feel much better in the hand than the original P320 Compact while offering new features such as the ability to mount a red dot and a flat-faced trigger. If SIG Sauer would make their own rear-sight plate adapters for red dots designed specifically for their slide cut, I’d predict that more shooters would like this model even more.
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