May 03, 2022
By Eric R. Poole
Appropriate for its name, SIG Sauer publicly launched the P322 .22-caliber rimfire pistol on March 22, 2022. The P322 rates our consideration for its unequaled 21-round capacity, and the fact that few base-model rimfire pistols come optic- and suppressor-ready at an un-SIG-like price. The name might lead some to think that this plinker is based on the P320 series, but it is not. The P322 does not feature a removable chassis, and the slide is not a .22 LR-chambered P320. The P322 is a hammer-fired pistol. The encased fire-control assembly is different than a striker-fired system. Its proportions suggest that the P322 might be based on the popular P365 XL, but no. The P322 is an all-new, ground-up design.
Guns & Ammo was invited to attend SIG Sauer’s P322 launch event in Orlando, Florida, on March 9, two weeks prior to the public launch. G&A’s Special Interest Publications (SIP) Editor David Faubion and I were there. Also in attendance were members of the firearms print and social media. Range day was hosted by Volusia County Gun and Hunt Club, which is owned and operated by 2022 USPSA and IDPA Double-State Champion Gorka Ibañez. For those living near Florida, this location is also a new training site for the SIG Sauer Academy. Instructors from the Academy, as well as professional shooters Ibañez, seven-time Steel Challenge Champion Max Michel and SIG Sauer’s Phil Strader attended to provide insight to the P322 and offer us coaching advice. Kicking off the affair was Tom Taylor, SIG Sauer’s executive vice president.
“We’re a burgeoning defense company right now,” Taylor said, referring to the various contract wins since the P320 was adopted as the U.S. Army’s M17/M18 in 2017. SIG Sauer is currently in contention for the U.S. military’s Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) program. “We have a certain personality. If you’re going into a [gun] store and looking for a deal, you’re probably not going to buy a SIG. We have a [minimum advertised price] MAP policy, and it’s working. We’re among the brands that protect themselves against discounting. We enforce it strictly. We are always going to be a high-end, quality brand. Ron Cohen [president and CEO of SIG Sauer] has a philosophy: ‘I don’t want to just build a gun. I only want to do things that are innovative. It’s got to be different.’ Enter the P322.”
The Other Guys
The P322 has a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $479. That said, readers may find the gun for sale at a price closer to its $399 Minimum Advertised Price (MAP), SIG Sauer representatives insisted. Being that the P322’s most distinguishing features are price and magazine capacity (20/25 rounds), it is worth surveying a few competing products in the rimfire pistol category: FN 502 Tactical (two, 10/15-round mags; $519); KelTec P17 (three, 16-round mags; $199); Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Tactical (two, 10-round mags; $639); Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact Threaded Barrel (two, 10-round mags; $435); Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory Threaded Barrel (two, 10-round mags; $469); Taurus TX22 Competition (three, 10/16-round magazines; $533.33); Walther P22Q Tactical (two, 10-round mags; $399).
“We don’t do irreverent things,” said Jason Harris, SIG Sauer vice president of marketing. “Considering the P322, we must tweak that. Capacity is the big story with the P322. Twenty-one rounds make it the leader in this feature set. But the key to its success is going to be the combination of everything else. It’s optic ready to accept the RomeoZero Elite and optics with a similar-patterned footprint. It has a threaded barrel, and you will get to shoot it with the SIG Sauer’s SRD22X. When we considered the sum, we came up with this campaign: ‘21 Reasons to Love the P322.’”
There was a clever writer’s notebook made up for the event and placed at each table for our technical brief. It featured a cover that artfully listed “21 Reasons to Love P322.” Therefore, I decided to consider this first impression based on these advertised bullet points. Faubion and I teamed up to shoot two P322 samples at the firing line, one pistol in a standard configuration and another having SIG Sauer’s SRD22X suppressor and RomeoZero Elite red-dot sight mounted. The only ammunition made available was from CCI, the majority being the Target Mini-Mag with a 40-grain, copper-plated, round-nose bullet. It leaves the P322’s 4-inch barrel with a muzzle velocity averaging near 1,235 feet per second (fps). After a familiarization, we accuracy tested the P322 from 15 yards at a bench, which produced inch-and-a-half to 2-inch groups. (Disclaimer: This is not Guns & Ammo’s standard distance of 25 yards for testing handguns, so no results here. Additional tests are necessary.) There were a few instances of 1-inch, five-shot clusters, but what was impressive were the sub-2-inch 20-shot groupings! I managed slightly better results with the pistol in stock form than with a red dot and suppressor attached, however, a quiet pistol with an easy-to-aim red dot is always going to be more fun to plink with.
The afternoon session moved us to the range’s Steel Challenge course. Rather than shoot one of three box-stock P322 samples available to each group, Strader, SIG Sauer director of product management, advocated to endurance test one pistol for the entire course with our group of five shooters. Having shot 25,000 rounds through each P322 prototype with every available rimfire load, he was confident in the design’s reliability. Through the course of shooting nearly 3,000 rounds of CCI Mini-Mags in one gun — under torrential rain at times — my group experienced zero malfunctions due to the function of the action. Full disclosure: There were several instances that afternoon of stoppages that were due to the arrangement of .22 ammunition in the magazines.
Regarding the magazine, Strader demonstrated and then directed, “Ensure that the follower is pushed down only far enough to fit one round at a time. Pushing the follower down too far and dropping the rounds in the mag can cause stacking issues. A properly loaded magazine will show all 20 rounds aligned and level with the top of the magazine. An improperly loaded mag will have the lower half of rounds facing downwards more than the top half.”
As on other rimfire pistols, having a tab on the side of a rimfire magazine encourages us to pull the follower down to ease loading. The average shooter may become frustrated with the P322 because of the magazine. People will do what many of us in the media did that day at the range: Pull the follower down too far. It allowed the arrangement of cartridge rims to stack in a way that induced these stoppages. SIG Sauer will need to correct this, in my opinion.
With some additional experience added to my notebook after the event, I decided to consider SIG Sauer’s “21 Reasons to Love the P322” — one at a time:
Made in U.S.A.: Many gun owners will not buy a product if it is not made in the U.S. This is a nod to SIG Sauer because these guns are manufactured in Newington, New Hampshire. SIG Sauer employs nearly 3,000, 300 of which are engineers. (Think about that: 10 percent of the company’s staff are engineers!)
Aluminum Slide: Being a rimfire, aluminum can be used to lighten the slide for reliable blowback operation. The barrel is fixed in position, so the large, coiled recoil spring surrounds the barrel. Not a lot of spring tension is required to return the slide into battery, which also means that the slide is easy to rack — great for youth shooters and those with strength or manual dexterity challenges. Aluminum construction also means that the pistol can be manufactured at a lower operational cost. In part, this is how SIG Sauer can compete so aggressively in price.
Cocking Serrations: Some use forward cocking serrations to press check and inspect the chamber. With an optic mounted to the P322, I found myself racking the slide with the forward serrations because of the little resistance from the recoil spring. Of course, a shooter could manipulate the slide by grasping the rear serrations or pulling on the optic.
Optic-Ready: The SIG Sauer RomeoZero Elite red-dot sight is new for 2022, which was mounted on one of each group’s P322 pistols. It utilizes the same footprint as the original RomeoZero, which also means the P322 will accept the Shield RMSc and similar-pattern sights. Few base-model rimfire pistols are optics ready, and some companies only offer the feature on upgraded models. Every P322 is optic ready.
Threaded Barrel: The P322 also features a threaded barrel. Out of the box, the threads are capped with a protector. To remove, lock the slide back and unscrew the thread protector to attach a muzzle device, adapter and suppressor. We evaluated the pistol with SIG Sauer’s SRD22X suppressor, which added 5.1 ounces of weight and 5.8 inches in length to the muzzle end. There were no malfunctions observed when operating the P322 with a suppressor attached. When in use, the Mini-Mag’s supersonic crack was silenced, which left a gratifying clack of the slide cycling and a smack as the bullet struck the target. There was no muzzle rise with a suppressor attached.
Fiber-Optic Front Sight: Strader personally prefers the color green for his sights, so the P322 is standard with green fiber optics. (It can be changed to red, if you prefer.) It was certainly bright and highly visible.
Adjustable Rear Sight: A pair of green fiber-optic dots flank the target-style rear sight notch. The rear sight is a bit counter intuitive; the P322’s windage adjustment has an Allen screw on the top of the sight. The elevation adjustment is at the sides of the sight assembly. It can be tuned for precision with the included Allen wrench from the left side or, if preferred, using a small flat-head screwdriver from the right.
Stainless-Steel Frame: Stainless doesn’t rust or corrode. This one is a permanent part of the grip.
Ergonomics: The feel of the grip will be familiar to those who have handled a P356XL. It isn’t identical, but most shooters will find the contour, bumps and texture appealing. Every control is comfortably within reach and almost effortless to operate.
Ambi Controls: Well, almost. It can be set up for either handedness. Southpaws can enjoy the P322 as much as the right-handers, though. The slide release and thumb safety require little work to use them, and the arrangement mirrors the opposite side. The only control that requires reversal is the magazine release.
Manual Safety: Being a single-action-only (SAO), hammer-fired pistol — with a not-so-heavy trigger — we appreciated the ambidextrous manual safety lever.
Enclosed SAO Hammer: Using an integrated hammer design meant that the trigger press feels predictable and clean. On a trigger gauge, 10 pulls averaged 4½ pounds. The hammer assembly is enclosed in the grip’s fire control behind the magazine and is shrouded by the slide.
Easy Disassembly: Given that the recoil spring wraps around the barrel, disassembly is unusual if you’re only familiar with recoil-operated pistols. First, remove the magazine. With an unloaded P322, ensure that the thread protector (or adapter) is installed on the barrel to retain the recoil spring and bushing, slide forward. Rotate the takedown lever counterclockwise 90 degrees and move the slide backwards and up to remove it from the frame. Reverse to reassemble.
Flat and Curved Triggers: The P322’s unique and modular trigger means that it can be user-equipped with a curved or flat trigger shoe. Removal is easy: Lightly push the inside edges of the upper trigger out while sliding the trigger shoe down and forward off of its base. To intall, start the new trigger shoe onto the base at an angle around both sides and then slide the trigger shoe up until it clicks into place.
Accessory Rail: Having the option to attach a light or laser to a pistol isn’t a bad thing.
Integrated Magwell: Since this pistol was spec’d by Strader, this is no surprise. A generous magwell such as this works like a funnel for speed reloads.
Two 20-Round Magazines: We wish SIG Sauer included three, but at least the P322 comes with more than one. Spares are sold online at sigsauer.com for $30. If your residence restricts you to 10 rounds, two 10-rounders are provided.
Standard capacity is 21 rounds. Twenty plus one is a good thing.
A 25-round extended magazine is available. More of a good thing, but sold as an accessory: sigsauer.com, $40.
A magazine loader is included. The magazine loader tool wasn’t necessary of most of us, but it was helpful in getting the last three rounds stuffed into each mag.
Low-Cost Training Tool: If you’re not exposed to SIG Sauer because of price point, the P322 allows more people to get to know the brand. Twenty-two ammunition is still more affordable than 9mm, round for round. However, what you’re going to find is that you’ll shoot the P322 more often than you would a centerfire pistol. Therefore, you could argue that you’ll spend the difference in savings on ammo.
At The Range
The highlight of the event was my impromptu challenge against Max Michel, one of the most dominant shooters in the world. With suppressed P322s equipped with red dots, we dueled on steel torsos from 10 yards to test our speed and control. To our amazement, the photo finish was caught on camera: It only took 4 seconds to land 21 rounds on steel. The P322 looks like a SIG, feels like a SIG and shoots as good as any of them.
SIG Sauer P322 Specifications
- Type: Hammer fired, blowback operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: .22 LR
- Capacity: 10+1 rds. (optional); 20+1 rds., 25+1 rds. (included)
- Barrel: 4 in.
- Overall Length: 7 in.
- Width: 1.4 in.
- Height: 5.5 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 1.1 oz.
- Finish: Anodized aluminum (slide); stainless steel (internal frame)
- Sights: Fiber optic, green (front); adjustable, fiber optic, green, notch (rear)
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 8 oz. (SAO)
- MSRP: $479
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer, 603-610-3000, sigsauer.com
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