July 09, 2020
Once upon a time, handguns were something that you had to make do with. Customization was an expensive proposition and slow. Enter the Modular Age, and let’s consider the popular SIG Sauer P320 and X-series pistols.
When SIG Sauer introduced the hammer-fired P250 and its unique fire-control chassis system in 2007, few anticipated how disruptive the chassis concept would be. The P250 itself was an OK pistol, but it was a hammer-fired gun introduced into a market dominated by the striker-fired Glock models and Smith & Wesson’s then-new M&P.
SIG Sauer continued to develop the chassis system here in the U.S., introducing the striker-fired P320 in 2014. The P320 took the modular, while maintaining the ergonomics of the P250. In fact, the grip modules between the P250 and early P320s are interchangable. However, the P320 improved on the P250 with a consistent 5- to 6-pound trigger pull. Uncle Sam and several law enforcement agencies noticed.
Unlike the conventional serial-numbered grip frame that would be unserviceable when worn or broken, the P320 offered an easy task to change the other subassemblies, or customize the grip to a shooter. As an individual user’s needs changed, such as a police officer moving from patrol to detective duties, it was simple to transform the pistol from a full-sized duty gun to a compact variant without having to purchase or issue another serialized item.
The serialized chassis also allowed us to experiment with different size grips and texturing. No more did we have to hassle with sending a frame through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder’s business for work. Spare grip modules have always been available for purchase from sigsauer.com/store, starting around $40. We can send them out to a preferred polymer artist without needing to transfer a pistol or pull it from duty. These grip modules are so affordable that many who like to do it themselves(i.e., DIY) have made a hobby stippling and adding texture to their own frames. It didn’t take long for the aftermarket to notice Sure, there are plenty of other pistols that lend themselves to customization, but they are primarily limited to slide, sight and barrel options. I recently reviewed Rival Arms’ excellent Glock mods, but they only involved the top end.
To change the interface with the bottom half of a pistol, most modern polymer-framed handguns feature interchangeable back straps and/or side panels to customize the grip to a specific shooter. But there’s nothing like gripping a pistol that really fits your hand.
I’ve been teaching people how to use firearms since 1995. One of the biggest issues that I’ve dealt with is trying to train the students around their pistol. For example, I love the Beretta 92FS, but trying to teach someone with small hands how to shoot it well can be a challenge due to it’s grip circumference.
Keep in mind, it’s not just how the grip feels in your hand, but it’s also important for you to easily reach the trigger in a consistent manner. It’s about how easy it is for you to manipulate the trigger evenly and straight to the rear without giving up control of the grip. Of the many common shooter errors, there is a tendency to move the muzzle down while pressing the trigger. This can be addressed by offering the shooter a pistol that fits their hand. They must be able to reach the trigger without having to loosen their grip and move their hand forward on the pistol.
We’ve learned that one frame size does not fit all, as we saw recognized by the introduction of handguns with interchangable backstraps. However, SIG Sauer’s patented approach to an interchangable grip module meant that shooters could choose from multiple frame sizes that featured a unique grip thickness and circumference.
While SIG Sauer’s P250 and P320 grip modules were very good, they knew that gun owners would seek out customization, sculpting and stippling, which can be cost prohibative to mass produce.
You are about to see the aftermarket for the P320 and X-series explode as SIG Sauer works with several manufacturers to broaden a shooter’s customization opportunities. Names like Dawson Precision, Grayguns, Parker Mountain Machine are about to become household names for P320 owners. The newest product introduced is an example of this collaboration.
Enter Wilson Combat
The WC320 grip modules are awesome. Bill Wilson’s team has taken the P320 grip module and recontoured it to more approximate the grip angle of a Model 1911. Even though its 137mm circumference approximates SIG Sauer’s “Small” grip, Wilson’s feels perfect for almost every hand size.
The WC320 triggerguard has also been drastically undercut. That, along with the reshaped beavertail, allows the shooters hands to get high on controlling the gun. The distance from trigger to backstrap is also shortened, making the pistol easy for shooters with small hands to manage. In G&A’s tests, there was no twisting or rotating necessary for a short trigger finger to consistently reach the trigger face.
Wilson’s texture is molded to the front and backstraps. It is aggressive, but not so aggressive that it abrades the shooters hand. The side panels feature Wilson’s signature starburst grip pattern, while the front and backstraps are more aggressive with a sand-grit-like feel. Wilson also redesigned the magazine well brilliantly to provides a generous opening without sacrificing concealability.
Wilson’s engineers modeled interior grooves to accept weights, just like those in the X-series frame. SIG Sauer doesn’t sell grip weights for this either, but the main groove accepts a ¼-inch brass or tungsten rod cut to length for added weight. The two adjacent 1 7⁄8-inch-long grooves accept additional 1⁄8-inch rods, as well.
The WC320 is available in both Carry and Full Size modules, meaning that the grip is full sized, but the dustcover accepts either a compact- or full-sized slide.
My X-Carry is a couple of years old. Even though I have 10,000 rounds through it, I don’t reach for it often these days. Still, it is one of the most accurate pistols I own. I’ve never had the inclination to make the gun mine; it was just a test pistol. When I received Wilson’s grip module, I was moved to make the gun special. I added a mini red dot, as well as suppressor-height sights for use in case the something went down with the optic.
Being a stock gun, the slide was set up to only accept SIG Sauer’s Romeo series or Leupold’s DeltaPoint Pro. Fortunately, this is 2020 and the aftermarket has responded. I’ve called my friends at Grey Ghost Precision and will soon have one of their new slides in hand. With compatible parts on the bench, disassembly and reassembly of the P320 and X-series pistol is as simple as a handgun gets. It requires only a couple of minutes to put together a seemingly new gun.
Handguns can be intimate tools. Customizing them has become an important part of the American handgunner experience in this modular age. My old test mule of a P320 has become one of my cherished guns to shoot. Every time I look at it, I feel that in some small way it is a reflection of me.
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