According to a study conducted in 2017 and released earlier this month, the Army’s new service pistol, a military variant of the Sig Sauer P320, has exhibited a number of persistent deficiencies and reliability issues through DoD testing, including but not limited to the drop test failures Sig has already announced voluntary recalls to correct.
The U.S. Army’s announcement that they would be ordering some 300,000 full sized M17 and more compact M18 modular pistol platforms from Sig Sauer has not been without controversy. Almost immediately after the announcement, Glock (who had a vested interest in the competition for the Army contract in the form of their Glock 19X) levied a formal protest, claiming that the P320 did not meet the standards established by the Defense Department in certain critical tests. Now, with other branches considering adopting the military variant of the P320 as their own general issue sidearm, DoD testing would seem to suggest that Glock may have been right.
The results of a series of tests of the M17 and M18 platforms were revealed in an annual report compiled by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, alongside similar testing on a variety of platforms throughout fiscal year 2017. According to the report, the Sig Saur Modular Handgun Systems (MHS) exhibited a number of issues throughout testing that took place between April and September of last year. Primary among them, the aforementioned drop test issue that made headlines late last year. If dropped from the correct angle (onto the dovetail of the pistol) the M17 and M18 platforms are prone to discharging a round.
It is important to note, however, that Sig Sauer has acknowledged and made strides to correct this issue, and although it remains unclear how they went about remedying the issue in the service pistols, it was likely in a similar fashion to the corrections made to the civilian variants seen failing the same test in videos all across the internet.
Perhaps more disconcerting, however, were the other issues the Pentagon’s testing exposed: in two instances, the trigger assemblies in pistols splintered apart during use – an issue that had never come up before Sig implemented changes to the trigger to resolve the drop-test failure. This means the new components intended to solve one problem may have inadvertently caused another.
The report also went on to indicate that the pistol has a propensity for ejecting live rounds alongside spent shells, though it clarifies that this does not usually result in a misfeed or malfunction. Nonetheless, ejecting live rounds could be a concern in combat zones, where every round may count in some survival situations. According to the tests, the issue becomes more prominent the more often the pistol is fired.
That isn’t the end of the MHS’ ammunition woes. While the pistol apparently has no issue cycling the Army’s new XM1153 “special purpose” cartridge, a hollow point round, it apparently does not function reliably when loaded with the standard XM1152 “ball” rounds used most often in service. In order to qualify as a military service weapon, the pistol must be able to fire 2,000 rounds without stoppages at least 95% of the time – a standard both the M17 and M18 pistols were able to meet with hollow points, but with standard ammo, that reliability rate dropped to a dismal 75% in the full size platform, and an even worse 60% on the compact one.
It is unclear what steps the Army has taken to resolve these issues, but the report does indicate that the Army is working with Sig to address them. In the mean time, the pistol platform began distribution to Army units last November, meaning those pistols will either suffer these reliability issues, or will have to be repaired in the near future.
You can watch the P320 fail drop testing in the video below:
Images courtesy of the U.S. Army