Feds Deny Glock Protest Against New Army SIG, But Two Lawsuits Loom

Here's a full-sized version of the P320 in coyote. Steyr Arms and the New Jersey State Police both have issues with the big gunmaker.
Here's a full-sized version of the P320 in coyote. Steyr Arms and the New Jersey State Police both have issues with the big gunmaker.mfg photo

It's both good and bad news these days for SIG Sauer, one of the biggest gunmakers in the world. The debate over whether or not the gun maker's P320 would, indeed, become the U.S. Army's new sidearm was in question after protests filed with the Government Accountability Office by competing arms manufacturer, Glock, sought to have the feds reconsider the awarding of the 10-year, $580 million contract.

According to this story from ArmyTimes.com, the office has denied the protest, filed by Glock in February after the Army announced it would award the X17 Modular Handgun Contract to SIG Sauer. Glock challenged the Army's "interpretation of the solicitation regarding the minimum number of contract awards required" by the Request for Proposal, the story says.

The GAO denied the challenge, finding that the RFP allowed the Army to make only one award, although three were permitted under the proposal’s terms.

Glock also said in its filing that the Army improperly evaluated its proposal, a challenge the GAO also denied, saying that any errors "did not prejudice Glock in the competition," the story says.

Glock, SIG, or the Army have 10 days to request a reconsideration from the GAO. Despite the original protest, the Army has moved forward with replacing the aging Beretta M9 pistols with the P320, which will be designated the M17.

But that's not all of the drama around SIG's striker-fired, modular polymer-framed handgun. According to outdoorhub.com, Steyr Arms has com forward with their own issues regarding the P320, namely its distinct lower frame.

The P320’s frame is a fiberglass-reinforced, polymer grip frame module that holds a trigger/striker module like a chassis, allowing users to swap out different sized and colored frames along with slides and barrels. The only serialized part that is technically “a gun” is the trigger/action module.

The problem is, Steyr Arms is saying they already hold the patent for the P320’s chassis system—and may demand compensation for it.

The following is an excerpt from Steyr's patent entitled, "Pistol, Whose Housing Is Comprised of Plastic," which was filed in 1999 and granted in 2001, according to outdoorhub.com:

“The pistol comprises a housing composed of plastic and a barrel slide (which contains a barrel and a breech and is guided in the longitudinal direction with respect to the housing) as well as a trigger mechanism. In order to allow plastics technology to be used to a large extent, with high precision and easy assembly, a single multifunction part, which is composed of metal, is inserted removably into the housing, on which multifunction part the guides for the barrel slide are formed and in which the elements of the trigger mechanism are mounted and guided. The multifunction part has a hole which holds the disassembly lever shaft and thus produces the connection between the housing and the multifunction part. Furthermore, a recess for a projection of the multifunction part is provided in the rear wall of the housing.”

“Taking a look at the court documents filed by Steyr, it would appear the company has a compelling case, but these types of cases are known for taking months, even years before reaching a settlement. As far as Sig’s new contract with the U.S. Army goes, it’s still too soon to tell what impact this will have. It’s not too soon however to assume that Steyr might just be seeking a large financial settlement from Sig Sauer in return for a licensing agreement.”

One also must wonder if Steyr has a case against other gun manufacturers who built guns for the Army competition along the same lines, like the Beretta APX and the FN 509.

It seems that half-a-billion-dollar contract has painted something of a target on SIG's back—the news about the Steyr suit comes on the heels of this story from taskandpurpose.com that reports the state of New Jersey is suing SIG Sauer for breach of contract.

The story says the NJ state police tested 19 different handgun options in 2011 and ultimately chose the company's P229 9mm handgun as the new sidearm for its troopers.

The P229 is used by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and many other law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

The NJ State Police ordered 3,000 pistols for a $1,844,000 price tag. So what’s the problem? When the pistols were put into the field during a weapons qualification session in September 2014, many of the P229s “sporadically exhibited a failure to extract,” which means an empty case stays in the chamber and the pistol fails to cycle.

That would not be good for troopers who are using a handgun as their primary weapon.

"An FTE malfunction renders a gun unfit for police use because a Trooper may be unable to fire more than one round of ammunition in a life-threatening situation," says the state's claim, filed by the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

The story says SIG tried to fix the problem over the next 16 months by replacing components in the handguns with no success.

In October 2015, the police finally figured out the source of all the trouble. SIG had supplied them with the wrong gun. They’d ordered the P229 Legacy model, but were sent 3,000 units of the P229 Enhanced Elite, which are nearly identical, except for their extractor system.

The story says replacement models were then delivered to the state police, but those too were found to be faulty.

The suit says police randomly chose 25 handguns from the new inventory for testing.

“Five were immediately red-lined 'because they were so egregiously noncompliant with SIG Sauer’s specifications that they could no longer be used.'"

Five more were tested at the range; three "exhibited numerous FTE malfunctions," the suit says.

After that, the New Jersey State Police had had enough with the P229 and SIG Sauer, switching to a new arsenal of Glock 19 pistols instead.

The state is asking for a full refund of all the P229s it purchased, as well as $856,680.21 “for the cost of holsters purchased for the defective weapons.”

It's also asking for an unspecified sum to cover the cost of ammunition used to test the defective guns, the story says.