The Sig 320 is the most tested and selected handgun in the 21st Century. The advanced modular design won the Army’s Modular Handgun competition and became the M-17 and M-18. After extensive testing involving over one million rounds, the Sig 320 was selected as the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement duty handgun.
Recent internet tales about the M-17 may seem alarming, but they are nothing more than the story of the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense thoroughly testing their new handguns. I fired the M-17 at SHOT and found it well designed.
I have four Sig 320s. None of my 320s are exactly the same as the M-17, but they share many features. Today I went to the range and fired 500 rounds through them collectively, using a variety of ammunition. I had a single failure to lock the slide open on the last round.
I have complete faith in the Sig 320 family and think they will be even better after the Army rings them out. The guys at DHS are shooting their 320s and seem quite happy with them.
There have been several recent stories about the Sig 320. The 101st Airborne and the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade have fielded the M-17. There were YouTube videos of dropped 320s firing and now there is the Annual Report from the Department of Defense Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
I read the report so you don’t have to. The DOT&E report list some issues and describes the solutions. Some problems are already fixed, others aren’t as bad as they seem. Let’s take the issues as they came up in the report:
During drop testing in which an empty primed cartridge wasinserted, the striker struck the primer causing a discharge. SIG SAUER implemented an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to correct this deficiency by implementing light weight components in the trigger group mechanism.
Both the XM17 and XM18 pistols experienced double-ejections where an unspent ball round was ejected along with a spent round. Due to the increased frequency of occurrence during Product Verification Test (PVT), the Army stood up a root cause analysis team to identify the cause of the double ejections in parallel with continued PVT. As of this report, this analysis is still ongoing.
For the MHS, a stoppage is defined as any deficiency that prevents the pistol from operating as intended, but is corrected through immediate action. A failure is defined as a hardware deficiency that requires replacement or repair. Slide stoppages accounted for 50 percent of XM17 stoppages, and 75 percent of the XM18 stoppages observed during Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). In these stoppages, the slide failed to lock after users fired the last round in the magazine.
During PVT, the XM17 with ball ammunition met its requirement for Mean Rounds Between Failures but not its requirement for Mean Rounds Between Stoppages.During PVT, the XM17 and XM18 were tested for MRBF and MRBS with special purpose munition and with ball ammunition with testing out to the required service life of25,000 rounds per pistol.The Mean Rounds Between Failures reliability requirement is 5,000 MRBF for a 98 percent probability of completing a 96-hour mission without a failure. The Mean Rounds Between Stoppages reliability requirement is 2,000 MRBS for a 95 percent probability of completing a 96-hour mission without a stoppage.The XM18 with ball ammunition did not meet its MRBF or MRBS requirement.The XM17 demonstrated 6,944 MRBF (99 percent probability)The XM18 demonstrated 3,906 MRBF (98 percent probability)The XM17 demonstrated 343 MRBS (75 percentprobability)The XM18 demonstrated 197 MRBS (61 percentprobability)
The failures look pretty good, but the stoppages seem excessive. Here is the issue:
The predominant cause of stoppages was the failure of theslide to lock (FSLR) after the firing of the last round inthe magazine (60 of 120 stoppages for the XM17 and 63of 85 stoppages for the XM18). The purpose of the slidelocking to the rear is to inform the operator that the last roundhas been expended, and that the operator needs to reload amagazine into the weapon. Operators who are trained inpistol qualification, as taught by the Army marksmanship unit,utilize what is known as a high pistol grip. This grip placesthe non-dominant hand along the pistol slide on top of theslide catch lever. Many operators stated that the placement ofthe slide catch lever caused them to engage it while firing thepistol, which resulted in the slide not locking to the rear whenthe last round was expended in a magazine. Sixty percentof all FSLR stoppages (75 of 123) were experienced by8 shooters out of the 132 who participated in the IOT&E.The Army Marksmanship Unit experts stated that this is aninsignificant problem that can be mitigated with training andexperience with the weapon.
The MHS met its accuracy requirement that 10 shots at 35 meters can be covered by a 4-inch disk, with the center of the grouping being no more than 4 inches from the point of aim, 90 percent of the time. This was an entrance criterion for the IOT&E.