Review of the Sig Sauer P320 Compact
I love my Smith & Wesson firearms – I have about 12 different examples in my collection (most of which being from S&W’s M&P line). I compete with and sometimes carry a highly modified M&P 9c, and most often carry an also highly modified M&P Shield. My only real complaint with my M&P’s? The cost of the modifying that has to be done in order to turn an M&P from a darn good gun to a great gun. Let’s take a look at what a recently ordered M&P Shield is costing me to make it a gun I’d bet my life on:
M&P Shield (no safety version): ~$400.00.
Modifications (Bowie Tactical): ~$400.00.
The modifications being made include grip texturing/stippling, trigger work, and night sights with installation. when his project is completed, I’ll have over $800.00 into the gun (including shipping costs). The custom work being done will (slightly) exceed the cost of the gun itself. But when its done, it will be an amazing fighting/defensive firearm for concealed carry.
Walking around a gun show this past weekend, I stopped by a SIG Sauer dealer table and looked at a some – I have a few in my collection that, while they don’t get used daily, are greatly loved nonetheless. I asked if they had any examples of SIG’s new polymer framed striker fired guns? “Oh, you mean the P320? Here’s the compact right over here…” and he handed me the Sig Sauer P320 Compact in full flat dark Earth configuration (FDE):
The first thing that struck me was how attractive the gun was. I have a friend who is a big fan of FDE, and has both AR-15’s and pistols in two-tone black and FDE. When this trend started gaining momentum a few years ago, I wasn’t a fan, instead preferring the clean, monochromatic black look. Maybe it’s because I’ve got some many black guns now, or maybe the look is finally starting to grow on my. Either way, the two-tone look of the FDE polymer frame and metal slide is really attractive to my eye.
The other thing I noted right away was the textured grip on the polymer handle – it felt really nice! Smith really doesn’t put much texture on their M&Ps (particularly the Shield) which is one of the modifications most M&P shooters make to their guns to remedy the problem. But my initial take was such steps wouldn’t be necessary on the P320 Compact. I also noted this particular example of the P320 Compact had night sights – Sig has been very good about putting night sights either by default or option on all their firearms. Again looking at the M&P Shield, it took S&W nearly three years to even offer night sights as option – something I was critical of in my initial review of the Shield.
“Mind if I try the trigger?” I asked the gun show dealer. “Go right ahead!” he said, and with that I slid the slide back a bit to effect a reset, and pulled back on the trigger. “Short take up!” I muttered to myself. I was pleasantly surprised to find the reset was also equally short and very perceptible as well as audible. Wow! I reset the trigger a few more times and thought “this is best out of the box, straight from the factory trigger I’ve ever tried on a striker fired gun!
As I drove home from the gun show, my thoughts kept wondering back to the SIG P320 Compact I’d seen and played with. This was the first striker fired gun I’d handled from any manufacturer which I thought could be purchased and used by me without any customization or modification. No added expense. No time lost without the gun. No worrying that modifications made would detract from the factory reliability. A gun that could be used for defensive purposes or for sport and competition. Yep, I was going to buy a new gun. I had to see if the potential I saw in the P320 Compact was truly there.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Thankfully, SIG puts together a very complete package that comes with the P320 Compact. In addition to the box, standard documentation, slide lock, cleaning brush (and of course the gun…) you get a paddle holster and two 15 round magazines. The shop where I bought my P320 Compact had two additional magazines for sale at $41.00 each. The online price for mags (if you can find them) runs about $35-$40.00, but the price difference wasn’t worth paying shipping for, so I scooped them up – two for carry and two for the range. All the magazines are stamped “Made in Italy” – no doubt made by SIG’s magazine maker of choice for many years, MEC-GAR. The included plastic paddle holster isn’t entirely worthless – it might get you though a training class in a pinch or might be helpful at the range. But it’s not suitable for concealed carry purposes in my opinion. But I suppose SIG is feeling some pressure to include a cheap holster because other manufacturers (notably Springfield Armory) do.
I made sure to get an example of the P320 with the optional SigLite night sights – a tritium three-dot system. I believe the addition of the night sights adds maybe $50.00 or so to the price of the gun, but night sights are an absolute must in my opinion to any firearm that would be used defensively – most bad things happen in the dark/low light so it’s nice to be able to see your sights in such conditions. SIG sources their night sights from Meprolight and rebrands them with the SigLite name. I currently have two other SIG pistols which have SigLite/ Meprolight night sights and have always been impressed with how well the sights perform in both lighted and low-light conditions. The rear sight post is also designed such that if you had to rack your slide one handed, you can catch the rear sight post on your belt or shoe to effect a slide rack.
The trigger on the P320 Compact is DAO type with a short take-up to where the actual trigger pressure begins. To my trigger finger, it feels like about 5-6lbs. of effort is needed to fire the gun, which is to say it felt a bit heavier than the triggers on my S&W’s that have custom triggers tuned to provide 1911-like results at about the 4.5lb. range. I suspect that after 500-1000 rounds, the trigger will feel even lighter. The first time out to the range with it, I shot 150 flawless rounds. As any new gun will, it took a bit of getting used to. But within a couple of magazines I was producing tight groups. The P320 shoots very smoothly with very little felt recoil. The high bore axis does produce more muzzle flip than I’m used to, but it’s entirely manageable – again, it just takes getting used to. At no time while shooting did the trigger feel heavy to me. In fact, the shooting experience was remarkably similar in feel to my custom M&P 9c with an Apex Tactical trigger…very impressive. The notable difference was the pronounced reset on the P320.
Ergonomically speaking, the P320 Compact is extremely well designed. My first comment would be that it’s not all that “compact” – it has a 3.86″ barrel and weighs 25.1 oz. Comparatively speaking, it’s going to be closer in size to the Glock 19 than say the S&W M&P 9c. That’s not necessarily good or bad – it’s a matter of personal preference. In order to find the right size model within the P320 line, SIG has created several different size variations within the line (Full-Size, Carry, Compact and Subcompact). Within each of these, SIG offers three sizes of grip modules (small, medium and large). I’ll discuss more on the modularity of the P320 line in a bit…
The oversized magazine release button (which may be reversed for use by left-handed shooters) was easily reached with my medium sized hands, making for fast and easy mag changes . The only other two controls on the P320 are the slide release and take down lever. There are no complicated safeties, de-cockers, or other controls which again make the P320 an ideal choice for defensive purposes. Load magazine. Rack slide. Pull trigger – repeat as necessary. That’s it.
As I mentioned, the P320 Compact does have a nice grip texturing applied. Will it be to everyone’s liking both aesthetically and functionally? No. But I think it’s very serviceable and much better than I’ve seen on many firearms. The nice thing is that with the modular concept of the P320 line, you can purchase additional polymer frames for about $50.00. Want a more aggressive stippling on your P320? No problem – spend $50.00 and stipple away. And you can keep your factory original version in case you ever want to sell the gun.
The P320 Compact does have a few signature SIG attributes worth mentioning. The first is, it really does feel like a weapon designed to go to war – “overbuilt” is the adjective which immediately springs to mind. It’s also got a quality feel that’s a step above most “service pistols” I’ve handled. The design tolerances just seem tighter – no “rattles” when you shake the gun.
The modularity concept of the P320 line (which SIG first introduced in the much maligned P250 line) seemed like a really bad idea when I first heard about it. When it comes to firearms (particularly defensive firearms) simplicity in function is idea. The more a gun tries to be a “jack of all trades” the more it becomes a master of none. Now that I can see and touch the gun and have a better understanding of how this is executed, I’m actually excited about my SIG P320 being a “tactical Barbie Doll” and the options available to me. Essentially SIG designed this P250/P320 platform such that the fire control group can easily be removed from the polymer frame of the firearm:
Simply remove the take down lever and lift out the fire control group (trust me when I say that if I can do it, anyone can). The fire control group is the only serialized part on the firearm – the rest of the components can be changed out. SIG manufactures what they call “Caliber X-Change Kits” which allow you to place your fire control group into what is largely an entirely new gun chambered in a different caliber. So for example, if I wanted to try out my firearm in SIG .357, I’d just order the appropriate Caliber X-Change kit. These kits are available in different colors as well as calibers. My 9mm P320 is in full FDE finish, but I could order a black 9mm Caliber X-Change Kit if I wanted and change the gun to all black anytime I chose. Of course, if I did that, I could also play with mixing and matching colors as well. Unfortunately, the Caliber X-Change Kits aren’t exactly cheap (this is SIG we’re talking about here). It should also be noted that if you want a SIG P320 chambered in .45 ACP, you’ll need to buy a stand alone gun – and that gun (the SIG P320 .45 ACP) like wise isn’t modular. Apparently it won’t work from an engineering perspective to make a .45 ACP X-Change kit that will work on the same frame as the 9mm Lugger/.40 S&W/.357 SIG. There is a bit of controversy online about this because in the minds of some, SIG hasn’t made the .45 ACP modularity shortcoming of the P320 platform abundantly obvious. This has caused some to purchase a SIG P320 thinking that .45 ACP was an option for them. I’m almost exclusively a 9mm guy, so while this issue isn’t a big one for me personally, I can understand why some might get a bit riled up over it.
The price from SIG on one of their Caliber X-Change kits is about $400.00, but I’ve seen them online for closer to $300.00 – considerably less than purchasing a 2nd firearm. You can also order X-Change kits for different sizes within the P320 line – if I wanted, I could order a P320 Sub Compact exchange kit and go back and forth between the two different sizes. According to SIG, they are also planning on making a P320 X-Change Kit which will include an optics ready slide (similar in concept to the M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E). I currently have three M&P 9C pistols which have custom slides milled out to accept an optic (like a Leupold DeltaPoint or Trijicon RMR). Being able to go back and forth between conventional iron sights and a slide mounted optic on the same gun is an attractive option I don’t currently have on my M&P’s. Lots of options are available with the P320 line – options are good.
THE P320 IS RELATIVELY NEW. SHOULD I INVEST IN THIS PLATFORM OR WAIT?
Given that SIG has such a significant presence in US law enforcement, I expect the P320 will be significantly grow in the next 5 years. SIG’s foothold in the LE market is 2nd only to Glock, and they could well eat into Glock’s LE market share with the P320. As I type this, SIG is backordered on P250/P320 Compact 15 round 9mm magazines – a problem for us early adopters. But as the platform is adopted in the LE market and perhaps even the military market, that will change quickly. NOTE: After I published this article, I learned the FBI is targeting the Sig P320 for their next duty weapon.
I believe the SIG P320 is a connoisseurs firearm – it’s a bit more expensive than your average semi-automatic, striker fired service pistol from makers like Glock, S&W, or Springfield, but it also has out-of-the-box features and capability that can only be duplicated in other competing products through expensive custom work. SIG may have been late to the market with a striker fired offering, but the P320 is worth the wait – it is so intelligently designed.
In addition to this written photo review, I’ve recorded a video supplement:
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.