Welcome back, crazies. Hunting season in the midwest has nearly drawn to a close, so we’re back at it and going to hit it hard! Thanks for sticking around, and a big shout out to those of you who’ve been keeping up on Instagram and Facebook. We’ve been gone for awhile so let’s just jump right back in. Today we’re going to take a look at the Sig P320’s successes and failures, and how it nearly put it Sig at the head of the modern pistol market.
The Sig Sauer P320 is a remarkably good pistol. It’s well machined, has that familiar “Sig” feel in the hand, and has excellent performance. The P320 pretty much typifies everything that you’d probably want in a modern, polymer, striker-fired pistol: great trigger, usable sights, simplified takedown, and actual modularity. Not the BS, “change a backstrap” modularity, but true, Transformers like modularity. The P320 is perhaps the best example of a shape-shifting pistol that can actual go from a subcompact backup gun, to a full fledged duty gun with the switch of a frame… and slide assembly that costs nearly as much as a new gun.
That all being said, what really defined the P320 was it’s modularity. Unlike nearly any other commercially viable handgun to date, the P320 could actually do something that everyone wanted for some reason: switch back and forth between various frame sizes. The modularity of the design was ultimately, in my opinion, what lead the P320 to winning the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract (heavy on the MODULAR), and its performance and design ultimately contributed to its adoption by agencies like Dallas PD, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and reportedly DHS ICE.
But why are these contracts and agency adoptions so important? Because Sig knows the rules that Gaston Glock knew so many years ago: the American market buys what it’s military and police carry. In the book, “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun”, Paul M. Barrett outlines how Glock’s shrewd marketing nearly formed a duty weapon monopoly in the holster’s of America’s police departments. But the bottom line was this: despite all of the hookers and blow Gaston could offer to America’s police admins at tactical conferences, price was king. Glock knew that departments are run on budgets, and the cheaper the gun, the more likely they are to be purchased en masse. Sig made their weapons extremely available. The individual officer pricing (IOP) available from numerous dealers was extremely competitive and most guns came already equipped with SIGLITE night sights and at least three magazines. As trivial as that might seem, it was a step above Glock’s Blue Label pricing, and the night sights really put the nail in the deal. Sig seemed to be cruising to success with more P320s entering duty holsters around the country, seemingly with each passing day. And if Sig could get their guns in the holsters of American police officers, they would stand a damn good chance at dominating the public market as well. For whatever reason, Americans like to buy and carry guns that the police and military carry – they’re tested, proven, and often marketed as “duty grade”, or “mil-spec”, and who doesn’t want the best? Sig knew that if they could own the duty market first, their guns would practically drop right into the holsters of the shooting public. See what I did there?
All was well and good until the famous “Drop Gate” of 2017. The P320 was found to have a repeatable safety issue: it would discharge if dropped on the rear of it’s slide an the correct angle. Although Sig stood by their product and claimed that it passed every industry standard test (which it did) it was, and still is, unacceptable for a defensive weapon to discharge without a pull of the trigger. Although Sig quickly issued a recall… I mean, “Voluntary Upgrade” program, the damage was done. News of police departments suspending use of the P320 and officers suing Sig Sauer really, really killed Sig’s buzz. For the most part, Sig has seemingly resolved the issue, but not without likely causing themselves a major issue. Although the military P320, the M17, didn’t suffer from the same flaw due to a design difference, the market has seemed to loose a fair amount of confidence in the P320. Regardless if the gun is now safe with it’s new disconnector and trigger, it doesn’t matter any more. The legacy of the failed drop tests might always haunt the P320.
So, will the P320 replace the Glock as “America’s Gun”? Honestly, it probably could have. Sig was undercutting prices of most competitors and won the MHS bid, which was huge. The gun had performance in the bag over the competition and was actually modular. But the severe shake in consumer confidence will probably keep the Glock soldiering on in duty holsters for the foreseeable future. Maybe Sig has the fabled “Glock-killer”, or maybe someone else does. Only time will tell.