SIG-Sauer P320: U.S. Army Gets a New Gun

SIG-Sauer P320: U.S. Army Gets a New Gun
A specialized version of the popular striker-fired Sig Sauer P320, dubbed the M17, and will replace the Beretta M9 as the standard-issue sidearm.mfg photo

It’s official: The SIG-Sauer P320 pistol will be the new standard issue sidearm for the United States Army, replacing the Beretta M9, which has been in service since 1985.

In mid-2015, the Army announced a competition for what it is calling the XM17 Modular Handgun System Contract, with requests for proposals going out in August, 2015, asking gun makers to submit packages including full-size and compact versions of handguns that fit the Army’s various criteria.

Over 20 companies submitted entries ahead of the January 28, 2016 deadline.

In September, 2016, we reported one of the competition favorites, the Smith & Wesson M&P, was taken out of the running, leaving behind the Beretta APX, CZ P-09, FN Five-Seven, Glock 17 and 22, and the SIG P320.

It was difficult to guess which way the Green Machine would go, since the military contract also opened up ammunition possibilities beyond the 9mm NATO cartridge, leading to unconventional entries like the Five-Seven. The one thing the Army was looking for, above all else, was modularity.

The announcement that the came on January 19, the final day of SHOT Show 2017 in Las Vegas, as something of a surprise development.

SIG-Sauer P320: U.S. Army Gets a New Gun
The “gun” part of the P320 is actually the steel trigger assembly. All of the other components are just parts.photo by Tom McHale

According to this post from American Rifleman, the scuttlebutt says the competition came down to the Glock and SIG entries at the end.

"I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System team," said Army Acquisition Executive, Steffanie Easter in the post. "By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our Warfighters. As MHS moves forward into operational testing, the due diligence taken by all of the stakeholders will ensure a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule."

The $580 million contract goes through 2027, but it’s not all one big agreement. There are stages, and the first wave of pistols the Army orders from Sig will likely be in the $80 to $100 million order range.

"We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice," said Sig Sauer President and CEO Ron Cohen in this story from recoilweb.com. "Securing this contract is a testimony to Sig Sauer employees and their commitment to innovation, quality, and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world."

Recoil reports its sources say the Army’s P320s will be chambered in 9mm.

The short recoil-operated, locked-breech P320 was introduced in 2014 as a semi-automatic pistol in 9x19mm Parabellum, which was soon followed by a .45 ACP compact model the following year. It’s now also offered in .357 SIG and .40 S&W.

The P320 is a descendent of the company’s P250 model, using a striker-fired action instead of the P250’s DAO hammer action.

The modularity of the P320 made it a favorite for the M17 slot from the beginning. The main body of the pistol is an internal stainless steel frame fire control unit, which is composed of the integrated fire control group, ambidextrous slide catch, ejector, and four slide rails.

The gun’s serial number is on this fire control unit, not on the grip module. This allows users to choose from one of three fairly inexpensive grip units for different sized shooters—and it also lets users swap out differently-sized slide assemblies (which also come in three sizes) to adapt the P320 to different needs, including a subcompact, concealed carry configuration.

The model that will be delivered to the Army will likely be a specialized version of the P320 by the time its issued as the M17 pistol. Those specific modifications have not yet been made public.

Though word is that the military wants the 9mm version, it’s possible there will be other caliber options, since Sig already offers civilians and LEOs the Caliber X-Change kit, which consist of a slide, recoil assembly, barrel, box magazine, and grip module in the varying frame sizes, grip module sizes, and chambering variants. So the P320 could go from being a duty-sized, high capacity 9mm with a weapon light on the rail to a subcompact pistol chambered in .45 ACP, all without tools.

SIG-Sauer P320: U.S. Army Gets a New Gun
The SIG P320 is offered with three frame and slide/barrel sizes to fit shooters better and to allow the pistol to adapt to different mission requirements.mfg photo

While the P320 doesn’t have any external safeties, instead including an automated firing pin safety, word is the M17 version of the pistol will include an ambidextrous thumb safety, much like the current M9.

As an interesting historic note, Wikipedia says the SIG Sauer P226 was created for the USA XM9 handgun procurement program in the early 1980s, and only lost because Beretta underbid them by $6.

When it comes to current use, you can find the P320 in lots of holsters. When including the company's other models, SIG-Sauer handguns are carried by a full third of U.S. police officers. In June, 2015, we reported the Oklahoma Highway Patrol selected the full-sized configuration of the P320 in 9mm as its department's new gun, making it the first state police agency to do so since the gun's introduction in January 2014.

While the P320 doesn’t have any external safeties, instead including an automated firing pin safety, word is the M17 version of the pistol will include an ambidextrous thumb safety, much like the current M9.

SIG Sauer represents a partnership between Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft of Switzerland and Sauer & Sohn of Germany that is a subsidiary of Lüke & Ortmeier Gruppe (L&O Holding), which also owns Swiss Arms AG. SIG Sauer was originally established in 1985 as Sigarms to import and distribute SIG firearms in the U.S.

SIG Sauer operates a firearms training school in the U.S. led by German specialists, the SIG Sauer Academy, in Epping, New Hampshire.