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My Thoughts on The SIG P320 -30 Degree Drop Failure

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If you’re reading this article then you’ve likely have heard alot in the last week about controversy surrounding the SIG Sauer P320 with regard to drop safety, and SIG’s subsequent announcement regarding a voluntary upgrade to resolve the issue.

The first questions about the drop safety of the P320 can from a retailer called Omaha Outdoors who, as part of their business model, conducts online reviews and testing.  Curious about rumors from a Dallas Texas Police Department regarding SIG P320 drop failures, Omaha Outdoors conducted a specific test using several different variants of the P320, and found that with most P320 models (the X-Five being a notable exception) when they are dropped in such a way as to make the back of the slide hit a concrete surface at a negative 30 degree angle, an uncommanded discharge can occur.  Here’s a link to their blog post and video demonstrating the failure.  Before going further, it should be noted that Dallas Police Department reconsidered its prohibition on the usage of the P320 after conferencing with SIG Sauer technical personnel.  Omaha Outdoors announced they were discontinuing sales of the P320 based on their tests, and the story began to be spread like wildfire on the Internet.

Admittedly, this report is concerning – the P320 is supposed to be “drop safe.”  The video footage shows the P320 being dropped and discharging, so that means it’s not drop safe, right?  Well, not exactly.

All firearms in the US must perform in accordance with the parameters of the industry standard ANSI/SAAMI Z299.5-2016 drop test specified in its Section 5.  Complying with these parameters makes the firearm “drop safe” per the standard.  The problem with the Omaha Outdoors “testing” is that it falls well outside of the parameters set by the ANSI/SAAMI specification for being considered “drop safe.”  This is why SIG is well within their rights to continue to call the P320 “drop safe” and why the corrective action SIG is taking to address the issue (which I’ll discuss further below) is considered a “voluntary upgrade” and not a recall.  No gun is the US is currently required to no fire when dropped on to concrete at a -30 degree angle.

With the above in mind, we can arrive at the following two conclusions:

  1.  The SIG Sauer P320 does meet industry ANSI/SAAMI standards for being considered “drop-safe.”  Which means that at a minimum the P320 is at least as drop safe as any other firearm sold in the US per industry standard testing.
  2. Because the Omaha Outdoors “test” is outside any commonly used industry standard or testing protocol, we don’t know how many other firearms currently being sold in the US would, like the P320, fail under the specific conditions found in the Omaha Outdoors test.  Would all other guns fail?  Maybe some?  Perhaps none – we simply don’t know.  But it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the P320 would not be the only firearm in the US to fail under these specific test conditions.  Again, manufacturers aren’t designing and building their firearms to pass the Omaha Outdoors test – they’re building guns that meet the ANSI/SAAMI industry standard.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE P320 IN COMPETITIVE SHOOTING?

Practical/Action Shooting sports have a degree of enherent risk – particularly those like USPSA, IDPA, and 3-Gun which involve rapid movement.  So clearly anthing that might add risk and liability to the game is undertandably of concern.  Given what we know to date, some have asked the question “should the P320 then be banned from such competitve shooting endeavors?”  The short answer is “no” and here’s why:  there is no data to support the conclusion that the P320 presents any additional risk over any other gun used in competitive shooting.  “But John, we’ve seen videos showing that the P320 can discharge when dropped.  How can you say it’s just as safe as any other gun used in competition?”  Because there is a preponderance of data showing that the P320 is indeed just as drop safe as any other gun in the US as defined by the ANSI/SAAMI industry standard testing, and an absence of data to prove otherwise.  To illustrate, let’s assume for a moment you have three competitors in your match – one with Glock, one with an M&P, and one with a P320.  All three firearms conform to industry standard testing and meet the requirement to be called drop safe.  Is the Glock more “drop-safe” than the P320?  Is the M&P?  Neither has been tested in the manner in which the P320 has been, so it’s impossible to say with any certainty.  There simply is no concrete data which would support the notion that the inclusion of a P320 in a match presents additional or unnecessary risk.

Now, recognizing that human beings often make decisions based less on data, and more on “gut feeling” or “intuition,” is perhaps banning the P320 from competition still the right call?  “But John, even if there’s a chance that P320 could be unsafe, don’t I owe it to you, myself, and the people in this match not to allow it to be used?  Isn’t your life, my life, and the lives all these other people in the match more important?”  That’s a powerful sentiment to be sure.  But it’s also the same argument the left uses to justify the banning of all guns every time there’s a school shooting.  It feels good – but it’s not based on any verifiable facts.

The question that really needs to be asked is if having the P320 included in a competetive shooting match presents added risk over any other gun in the match?  Again, the answer is no.  Firearms used in competitive shooting are often modified from their stock configuration – and such modifications can and often do detract from the ability of the firearm to resist discharge when dropped.  Do a little research and you’ll find a plethora of articles and testing showing that aftermarket replacement triggers commonly used in Glocks (to use a commonly used brand of firearms used in competition as an example) make the modified firearm no longer drop-safe.  Here’s an article from TFB discussing the popular Zev Tech replacement trigger.  Another example would be 1911 style firearm with a pinned grip safety – they also may no no longer be drop-safe.  The list goes on and on.  The point here is that a SIG P320 is going to be far more drop-safe than many of the firearms typically used in competition.  Remember – whatever issues may or may not be present, the stock P320 still conforms to the ANSI/SAAMI drop safe standard, while many firearms that have been modified for competition likely will not.  So for a Match Director to ban a SIG P320 from a match based on recent controversies simply because it “just feels right” or “better safe than sorry” is really going out of their way to ignore a much greater risk than what is presented by the SIG P320 at most competitive shooting matches.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SIG “VOLUNATRY UPGRADE?”  ISN’T THAT PROOF THAT THE P320 ISN’T REALLY “DROP SAFE?”

Again, the short answer is no.  On the surface, this looks like what SIG is really doing is a recall of the P320 – but that’s not at all accurate.  Here’s the SIG press release on the Voluntary Upgrade, the complete details of which we’re told won’t be available until Monday, August 14th.  The longer answer here is that SIG determined that some planned changes to the P320 (planned well before the Omaha Outdoors video) that we being made to satisfy requests being made by the US Miliary actually negate the incidents of P320 discharge in the conditions shown in the Omaha Outdoors video.  So SIG is going to allow current owners of the P320 to send in their P320’s and have the upgraded components installed – it’s purely voluntary and not mandatory.  But whether an owner chooses to send in their P320 for these upgrades or not, it doesn’t change the above proven facts about the P320 being more or less drop-safe, relative to other firearms being sold.

It’s important to understand that the mechanical features which most gun manufacturers design into their firearms to make them “drop safe” can be defeated under the right circumstances and with the right amount of force.  There’s a reason why it’s considered a match DQ if a competitor drops their handgun – for a variety of reasons, there’s always a possibility a dropped gun can discharge.  It’s also why the ANSI/SAAMI drop safe standard exists – the industry is essentially drawing a line in the sand defining just how far they have to go in order for a firearm to be considered drop safe.  It could be argued that the “line in the sand” or the standard isn’t robust enough.  But that’s another subject entirely which I don’t intend to address.

MY LOCAL MATCH HAS BANNED THE P320.  AS A P320 OWNER, WHAT CAN I DO?

As of this writing, no governorning competitive shooting organization has made any sort of a statement banning the P320 from use in competition – and I doubt they will.  However, I am seeing isolated reports of some local club Match Directors that have banned the P320 from use in competition.  In fact, two Match Directors locally to me have formally stated they will not allow any variant of the P320 to be used at their match.

As I believe I’ve well-proven above, it’s a mistake to ban the P320 from competition at this time.  But Match Directors are human beings and will from time to time make mistakes.  They do a difficult job that very few have the necessary drive and expertise to perform.  Your local Match Director can and will make mistakes, but as competitors, we need to continue to support them.  Right or wrong, their intentions are usually good.  With that said, if you find yourself in a situation where a local Match Director won’t allow a P320 in their match, here’s what you can do:

  1.  Try to have a a reasonable discussion – if you sense that the decision making authority doesn’t have a closed mind on the issue, make your case as to why the SIG P320 is not more dangerous than other guns they will allow in their match – hopefully the points made in this article will help in that regard.
  2. Point out that the X-Five has not been shown to fail – many P320 shooters have transitioned over to the competition version of the SIG P320 which was released earlier this year. In the Omaha Outdoors video referenced above, they specifically state (go to about the 2:30 mark in the video) that the X-Five was the only version of the P320 that did not fire when dropped on concrette at a -30 degree angle.  It has been suggested that there are several differences in the X-Five (beavertail, skeletonized striker assembly, lighter flat trigger) which make the X-Five inherently less susceptible to this particular failure.  But whatever the reason, there is no evidence of any failure in the X-Five.
  3. Bring another gun to the match – the Match Directors who banned the P320 from their matches in my area strongly encouraged me to shoot another gun in their match.  In my case, I’ve been training and competing with the my P320 X-Five (with an optic) for months, and as I type this, I’m one week away from what will be the biggest 3-Gun event in I will compete in all year – the Rockcastle Pro/Am.  For me to try to switch to a different pistol one week away from the Pro/Am just doesn’t make good sense, so that’s not an option I chose.
  4. Shoot another match – again, I’m seeing a very small number of reports of the P320 being banned from local competition.  So chances are there will be another match close to you that will allow you to compete.  In my case, I was able to enter in another 3-Gun match about an hour or so away with a Match Director who absolutely saw no issue whatsoever with a P320 being in their match.

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. Andrew Tuohy says:

    Where in the ANSI/SAAMI test protocol does it say that passing their test means a firearm is “drop safe?” I’ll help you out – it doesn’t. Yet that’s exactly what you claim.

    Your logic here – that a gun which will fire when dropped from 2 1/2 feet is drop safe because it passes an abusive mishandling test which doesn’t say firearms that pass the test are considered drop safe – is astounding.

    Watch for our Glock, M&P, 1911, HK VP9 drop test Monday. See if you’re still saying that the P320 is “at least as drop safe as any other firearm.”

  2. JC GRAVILLA says:

    Thank God! Finally an article without all the knee jerk, hand wringing, the sky is falling, pile it on BS! Thank you for a rational explanation without all the Glock loving Sig hating nonsense that seems to be more than abundant these days. I too am a 320 owner (2 in .45 to be precise) and am not terribly worried about this issue. I’ll wait until Monday and see what Sig has to say. I also own several other Sig handguns and a MCX, and have from time to time called Sig’s customer service with questions or concerns. When I’ve called they have been nothing but professional, informative, courteous and helpful. I have every confidence they will go above and beyond to make this right, as an industry leader should.

  3. Andrew – I think what we’re talking about is the difference between stainless steel and stain proof steel. Steel advertised as “stainless” steel is just that – it will stain less, but it’s not entirely impervious to being stained. Similarly, the ANSI/SAAMI drop safe testing standard does not guarantee that any gun which meets the standard is completely impervious to discharge when being dropped – and I never claimed as much in my article as you suggest. The Omaha Outdoors test is essentially (drawing upon another analogy) testing a 5 mile an hour bumper at 6 miles per hour – they’ve exceeded the standards set by the ANSI/SAAMI specifications. Again, the P320 adheres to the same ANSI/SAAMI standards which Glock, M&P, etc. follow, so by definition it is no more, no less “drop safe” than those other products.

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