Sig Sauer dominated the headlines earlier this year when it was announced that they had secured a contract with the U.S. Army to make their new modular pistol system, the P320, the standard issue service pistol branch wide. Other contracts with law enforcement soon followed suit, and with good reason. The pistol has received good to excellent reviews from a number of the nation’s most trusted experts, and it has been touted as the future of pistols in general, thanks to its modular design and simplicity of use.
However, Sig Sauer found its popular P320 back in the headlines this week… but for a decidedly less profitable reason: the new platform adopted by the Army and law enforcement all over the country (as well as sold commercially) will fire a round if you drop it.
Contrary to the common movie trope, modern firearms are designed specifically to ensure the weapon will not fire if dropped. Not only is it the law, it’s just good business. Customers tend to stop buying certain pistols soon after they’ve been shot by them accidentally, and with a significant anti-gun movement within the United States, such a ridiculous fault would certainly bolster cries for gun bans. As a result, all pistols are now drop-tested prior to going on the market – and to be fair, the Sig Sauer P320 did pass the legally mandated tests.
The problem with the standard test parameters is that they specify the angle the pistol is to be dropped at, ensuring the weapon impacts the ground either barrel first, or on its side. The P320 can safely be dropped in either manner without any risk of firing – but when dropped backward, so the dovetail of the pistol strikes the ground first, it will fire a majority of the time. While this doesn’t constitute a failure according to legal requirements, it obviously presents a serious risk to those carrying the pistol at “condition one,” (loaded, with a round in the chamber) as is common practice for military and law enforcement applications – as well as for a fair number of tactically minded civilians.
The story first hit the internet by way of YouTube videos produced by companies like Omaha Outdoors, and since then, a number of new videos have surfaced of other P320 owners demonstrating that their pistols also fire when dropped dove tail first. According to Omaha Outdoors, the culprit seems to be the trigger weight – as the one version of the pistol they tested that did not go off when dropped was the P320X5, which has a flat trigger they claim weighs six percent less than the standard reinforced trigger. That slight variation in weight seems to be enough to carry the kinetic energy of the drop through the trigger assembly, allowing the weapon to fire.
“I discovered that these uncommanded discharges would occur even if the pistol was dropped from below waist height, even as low as 30” off the ground. They occurred whether we used duty (Federal HST), practice (PMC Bronze), or match (Federal Gold Medal Match) primed cases. They occurred in 9mm as well as 45 and they occurred in firearms which had been torture tested as well as a firearm which had not been torture tested.” Andrew Tuohy, who can be seen in the video, explained in his accompanying blog post.
Omaha Outdoors contacted Sig, who claimed at the time that their correspondence was the first they had heard of any such issue – but it would seem they quickly verified it for themselves, and set about trying to resolve the problem, both for models still to be sold, and for those who already own a P320.
On Tuesday, Sig Sauer announced a “voluntary upgrade” to people who already own a P320 and are concerned about the likelihood of a drop-discharge.
Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond U.S. standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge. As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance. SIG SAUER is offering these enhancements to its customers.” Sig said in a release posted to their website.
They haven’t released a full explanation of the changes they intend to implement, but further details are expected to be announced on Monday. It seems likely, based on how quickly Sig Sauer moved to implement this plan, that the issue may indeed be tied to the trigger weight associated with certain models of the P320, meaning they may simply be able to swap trigger assemblies and resolve the problem. However, until they make the formal announcement, there’s no way to know for sure if that’s the plan they intend to enact, or what other “enhancements” will be made during the voluntary upgrade.
Watch the video first posted by Omaha Outdoors below:
Image courtesy of YouTube