Admit it, you’ve thought about buying the so-called “Glock Killer.” Well, so did the Army…and they pulled the trigger.
For years the Army has teased and flirted with gun manufacturers on pistol trials to replace the aging M9.
The Army’s trials were finally opened and the testing began. After what has felt like forever…literally over 5 years, the winner was announced at SHOT show 2017 and the winner is of no surprise.
But enough about us…find out what two active duty US Army Military Police (MP) officers think of the new service pistol.
What Big Army Bought
The Army’s modular pistol program is now over and the top brass has selected the Sig Sauer P320 with a few modifications.
They included the slide cut for an optic, an available threaded barrel, and a specially made external thumb safety.
These additions are of dubious value to the day to day operations of an officer or MP who must carry their weapon while on patrol and seem more applicable for use while deployed.
The available threaded barrel just seems odd, and I’ve yet to find a good answer as to why a conventional force would need a pistol suppressor but hey, not like they’re spending someone else’s money on guns…right?
The Public Opinion Verdict
People have mixed feelings on whether or not the pistols are going to be a good fit.
The people who actually use them however, are excited. Having met several MPs who are unique in the fact they use pistols extensively in their day to day operations that CCW the Sig P320 civilian guns they are excited.
The way a soldier perceives their gear is just as important as the gear itself…and the P320 has been one of the most liked guns since the S&W M&P.
The problem is with those extra “features” the Army insisted on. Time will tell if the P320 is up to snuff in the field in the hands of MP’s and Officers that will be using these guns in the field and not just the range.
Interview Ground Rules
I interviewed two Military Police Officers from the Army that I work with.
No, their real names aren’t Charlie or Mike, but their names aren’t the point.
I sat down with each person individually and their answers give a real insight on to what they think of their pistols. Mike is 29 years old and has been in the military 10 years, 6 in the Air Force and 4 in the Army as an MP.
Charlie has been an Army MP for 23 years and is 40 years old.
No, their answers aren’t always technically correct and parts of their conversations have been slightly altered to make them more legible but the answers they’ve given are the same.
Sitting down with the separately allowed me to see which each of them thought without them influencing each other and even though they’re in separate generations they have the same answers for many of the questions. For the people who’ve never been exposed to someone in the military these answers might shock you, especially the reality of how often soldiers use guns.
The Sit Down
This is extraordinary because not only are they some of the few who use a pistol every day in the Army, they both own and CCW the Sig P320.
This is as good as it gets for seeing what a regular troop who is exposed to both weapons think of the change.
What was your earliest Pistol Shooting in the Military?
Mike: I didn’t shoot a pistol in basic training, I went through my basic in the Air Force and our weapons qualification consisted solely of 20 rounds of 5.56 ammunition. We got 10 rounds of ammo for familiarization fire and then two chances to qualify. It wasn’t until I re-enlisted in the Army for me to get to shoot the M9 at advanced individual training to become a Military Police Officer.
Charlie: I fired the M9 for the first time in basic training. I shot pistols all growing up and in basic we got two magazines to get some trigger time on the M9 and had to qualify once I went through Advanced Individual Training.
What is your favorite aspect of the p320?
Mike: The best feature by far, is the trigger pull. In my opinion, the best striker-fired trigger pull. The physical dimensions of the trigger blade are too large but isn’t a huge deal if you have average or large sized hands, but if you have small fingers you might be out of luck. Either way, the trigger breaks clean, doesn’t stack and is cheerfully consistent with every, single shot.
Charlie: I love how easily it comes apart and how the Fire Control Unit comes out of the grip frame and how easily it can be cleaned. That is the main reason I bought it. I love that I can chuck it all into an ultrasonic cleaner, re-lube it and get back to my life. I’ve washed the grip frame in a dishwasher, however I don’t recommend it.
What about this new gun will change your job?
Mike: I’ll have no excuse to not have my gun spotless because of how easy it comes apart. Seriously, I hated all the nooks and crannies and the open slide design on the Beretta. This gun is much easier to clean and inspections might be more stringent now. I’ll have to get used to a new holster and the extended magazines might need new pouches but this is literally just a gear swap.
Charlie: Nothing, it’s just a new tool in the toolbox.
Is the P320 easier to train new shooters on?
Mike: Yes, by far the consistent trigger pull is easier for new shooters to understand. Minus the thumb safety the gun itself is extremely simple to operate, disassemble, clean and maintain. The greatest strength of this gun is the simplicity, that is why the gun is adaptable and is easily swapped out and customized.
Charlie: The P320 is much easier for a new shooter to shoot. The trigger pull is always the same and is much better than on the older Berettas. The biggest feature of the gun is that it is dead nuts simple. Without the thumb safety, it is literally a point and shoot weapon and the thumb safety might add a few minutes of getting used to but can certainly be trained on.
Do you wish they would’ve picked another gun?
Mike: Yes, I like the original p320. Maybe the Tacops model, the beavertail makes it easy to use with gloves. I hate the thumb safety and I really would’ve liked to see it go bye, bye. I love the P320 and I’m glad they didn’t go with the SEALs and switch to a 9mm Glock variant. The grip angle on those pistols makes me feel like a European.
Charlie: I would’ve liked to see one of the FNX series pistols get in. Yes, they have a manual safety, but honestly if we were going to have to be stuck with one, I think FN did it better. I like the double action to single action manual of arms better. The polymer in those pistols feels higher quality and you still get the removable grip panels. I would’ve liked to see another double action to single action gun but with a decocker only get chosen. I mean, even the Coast Guard got it right… (The Coast Guard uses the Sig P229 because they’re technically part of the DHS).
General opinions on the M9?
Mike: I like the M9 a lot. I think it’s a little heavy but I really enjoyed shooting it. The grip angle is very steep compared to Glock and even feels a little more vertical than the 1911. I can see why so many people like other guns but the design of the M9 combined with the looks is just awesome. I grew up with the good guys all carrying the M9 in movies and on TV. I just think that it’s time to upgrade.
Charlie: I like it and I don’t. I like the way it feels in hand, slightly heavy but well balanced. But I hate the entire slide design. I cannot stand the slide cutout along the barrel, or the slide mounted safety and de-cocker. The combination makes the entire pistol almost impossible to rack with gloves on, especially in a hurry. Under stress, a pinch grip just under the safety wings is just about impossible to get done. I also don’t like the fact the gun is so old; the design just seems antiquated to me.
Opinions on the M9 as a Military Service weapon?
Mike: I think the best thing about the Beretta is the fact that it’s easy to replace parts on, for the time period it was made. The newer guns are absolutely better but for the time period the M9 was designed (Circa late 1950’s)
Charlie: I think it was the best option at the time for the needs of the Army and it has sense been made obsolete by newer designs.
What do the troops think of the M9?
Mike: If you listen to the armchair commandos, we all HATE it. The reality is that besides a few small gripes there just aren’t as many problems as most would have you believe. The Army is moving on because the guns are old and there’s new options on the market for cheaper than it would be to retrofit the guns we already have.
Charlie: Not sure the troops have much of an opinion besides the awful worn out pistols that they got to shoot during infantry school. Many of these troops will never again handle a pistol in uniform and most will never shoot an M9 in the Army at all. Mostly the slide mounted safety is loathed, as is the open slide design that makes it hard to rack with gloves on. Other than that, there isn’t much of a hatred for the gun as there seems to be on the internet.
Why did you buy the Sig P320?
Mike: I liked the fact it came with the red dot sight and had the 21 round magazines available. It seemed like an ideal home defense handgun and I really like Sig Sauer handguns. I also realized after I got it home that this is an ideal weapon to train new shooters because it’s such a simple and comfortable gun to hold and the 21 round magazines makes the gun heavy to reduce recoil. It is also very inexpensive for the base model considering the quality you get.
Charlie: I saw a P250 on display a number of years ago, and thought it would be a cinch to clean. I didn’t like the p250’s trigger pull length but when the P320 came out a few years ago, I instantly jumped on board. I’m a big fan of striker fired designs and when this gun came out I fell in love because the frame comes completely away from the fire control unit. I can rinse the frame out in the sink, drop the rest into an ultrasonic cleaner and then lube and reassemble. Nothing’s easier and I don’t mind shooting these guns for hours and hours because of how easy they are to clean.
Mike: I like .40 S&W I think it’s the most balanced round and I enjoy knowing that it’ll penetrate a car door or auto glass much easier than a 9mm. I have to carry 9mm on duty and I don’t mind at all but I prefer .40 S&W for CCW and home defense. I’d shoot 10mm if I could find a gun I really like in the caliber and it wasn’t so damn expensive.
Charlie: I go to the range a lot. That’s partially the reason I bought the P320. I like to put a lot of bullets down range and I like to have those bullets be as cheap as possible. I like 9mm because it’s cheap, after all if you shoot them and they don’t go down, just shoot them again being that your gun is in 9mm you have more than enough ammo in your gun. Realistically I think if a 9mm won’t kill it you really need a rifle.
What do think of the P320 as a duty weapon?
Mike: I think it holds some really great attributes. I really love the magazine capacity and how easy it is to clean. At first I was a little against a plastic duty weapon because I ding mine all the time, but then I remember that cops have carried Glocks for decades and I’m not concerned. Overall the adaptability of the gun is going to propel it forward and make it really useful to the force.
Charlie: I think it’s going to a runaway hit. I think they need to get the pistols and support gear like holsters and manuals our as fast as possible because if they trickle in some will try and cling to their old guns and the new guns are going to be wasted.
Why do you think the Army moved away from the M9?
Mike: The guns are super old. The newer designs are much better and easier to clean and work on. Not to mention being customizable and lighter on my belt I can’t wait to kiss the M9 goodbye!
Charlie: I think the guns we have reached a point where it no longer makes sense to keep replacing parts on them and we need huge quantities of new guns. With newer designs, it is much, much cheaper to supply troops with polymer framed striker fired gun and the P320 fit the bill perfectly. The M9 excelled in well trained hands but has reached the end of its service life and the Army needs a cheaper option. I n the grand scheme of things, wars aren’t won by pistols.
Should the Army have switched back to the .45 ACP?
Mike: I think that anyone who believes the .45 ACP is a substantial upgrade over 9mm is living in a fantasy land. Countless studies from the FBI and other independent ballistic labs point out there isn’t enough of an increase in terminal ballistics to justify carrying the extra weight and fewer round. As far as cost, the difference for Big Army would be a non-issue simply because the massive amounts of rounds that would’ve been bought. I think having a good bullet, and a good shot is much more important.
Charlie: Currently most guys want a .45 ACP pistol. The special ops troops who sometimes get to choose almost always choose a .45 because with FMJ bullets it IS more effective. Capacity be damned because if you’re reaching for a pistol you have only a second to react and you’ll rarely have time to use all the extra rounds anyway. For situations like the Ft. Hood massacre, where the extra rounds might be useful. A rifle and team of guys would have been far more useful, and was needed and in the future, we’re ready.
What do you think of the decision to include the safety?
Mike: I don’t mind it. Soldiers should be proficient with their duty weapon and a simple thumb safety is easy compared to the dozens of weapons you’re expected to know how to use. I f an infantryman can learn four or five different machine guns, hand grenades, rockets and mortars, then an Officer or MP can learn to use a thumb safety.
Charlie: I think it’s the symptom of a bigger problem. I recognize the fact for greater safety but the truth is most negligent discharges in the Army have been from troops that don’t carry pistols anyway. Live ammo is never used in garrison and the respect that weapons should have isn’t always observed in the field. Safety problems abound and better training could make for a safer force but “Big Army” just decided to put a band aid fix on it. I wish they wouldn’t have included it, especially concerning that it’s a striker design, no added safety comes out of the thumb safety, it just complicates an already awesome design.
Would you be interested in using a mini red dot on your pistol?
Mike: I have a Sig Romeo sight on my P320 that I CCW. I think it’s a great add on and I’m beginning to swear by it. T here’s certainly a learning curve and I hated it in the beginning but I love it now. I don’t think it makes the pistol anymore faster and it can slow a shooter down who isn’t used to it, but there is definitely an advantage, especially at range when you don’t have access to a rifle.
Charlie: As long as I don’t have to pay for it, and I get plenty of ammo to test it out and get used to it. I’ve been shooting pistols for over 30 years and I’m open to change but change isn’t always open to me!
Who will benefit the most from the switch to the P320?
Mike: I think the women that are taking on larger and larger roles in the Army are going to benefit the most because they can tailor the grip to their hands better. I do think there’s going to be a problem with them actually pulling the trigger because it’s huge and needs work.
Charlie: This is an armorers and quartermaster’s wet dream. Everything on this pistol is like a tinker toy. There’s no reason you can’t disassemble this gun and clean it in fewer than 5 minutes. This is a fine pistol for just about everyone but for the guys in the dark room cobbling together weapons, this is a fine option.
What do you see as a possible problem from this change?
Mike: I see a possible equipment problem coming. In days past there just weren’t enough pistols to go around and many times only the officers and mounted MP’s would get pistols and the rest of us would carry M4’s. The truth is there just isn’t a huge need for handguns in the modern military. The guys who need pistols are probably going to keep their other Sig’s and H&K’s and we’ll get the new P320’s over a period of a few years. After all, this is the Army we love to “Hurry up and wait!”
Charlie: Training up the old guys like me who aren’t into guns. The vast majority of MPs I know that have been in for years have survival levels of proficiency with their weapons. T he job of an MP is just too varied to get bogged down in one single job, unless you enjoy pistol shooting like I do and spend large amounts of your own money on ammo and range time. The truth is that many soldiers are going to love the change and embrace it and a few are going to resent and cling to their old guns.
Do you think you’ll have to get more training for this new pistol?
Mike: Probably just a briefing on how to disassemble and clean and maintain it and then qualify with the pistol. As far going through a course on it I expect we’ll slowly get the new gun for training courses before we get it for day to day operations.
Charlie: I think we’ll just have to qualify for with it and have to sit through a brief on how to clean and take care of it. The biggest problem with implementing the pistol is going to be getting the support gear out.
Do you think you’ll ever get a suppressor for your pistol?
Mike: No officer is ever going let us have something that cool. I would love one, I have no idea what I’d use I for but I’d certainly like one. I could definitely see the use of a small suppressor in a vehicle, especially night. Mostly because the suppressor would lower the sound to a safer level inside the vehicle and would almost entirely reduce the muzzle signature. Other than that walking around with an attached suppressor on your hip would be odd.
Charlie: No, I’ve seen special ops troops using suppressors on their rifles at the range but I’ve never seen a pistol suppressor in the military. The overall feeling of the military is supply the least amount of gear possible. I don’t see a need for a suppressor on a pistol in the military. If you’re reaching for a pistol in a tactical environment, you have way more important things to worry about than being quiet because you’ve already been found.
How effective do you think the extended magazine will be?
Mike: More rounds are never a problem and I don’t think it’ll make a huge difference for the majority of soldiers. For women or people with small hands, they might have a problem with the grip being too long, but they could just use standard magazines.
Charlie: The biggest problem with extended magazines is the assumption you need those rounds. I’ve never met a soldier who emptied a pistol magazine in combat, we rarely load magazines to full capacity on the range anyway. I just don’t see why we need to make the grip even larger. When you start shooting the pistol, you probably won’t have time to empty all the rounds in a standard magazine let alone an extended magazine.
Will this pistol change any other equipment you use?
Mike: Holsters, and mag pouches other than that nope, it’s a drag and drop replacement. I do hope we get the hollow point ammo ASAP because that would make a huge ballistic upgrade to our current weapons and the future M17. Hopefully the upgraded ammo will be cleaner too because the current stuff leaves awful powder residue worse than any civilian ammo I’ve ever used or seen. Even cheap Wal-Mart Winchester White-box ammunition is cleaner.
Charlie: It’s a tool, I hope we get upgraded holsters, not just refitted ones and I really hope we better cleaning equipment. I would really love an ultra-sonic cleaner at my unit’s disposal for cleaning the FCU and the barrel. Maybe we’ll get the new red dot sights in the distance future if the Army makes a deal with Trijicon because I’d try it but $600 is too much for me to pay for a pistol sight.
Any final thoughts on the transition to a new pistol for what could be a military wide decision?
Mike: I think more than anything else these guns need to be out to the platoons ASAP. I can’t wait to kick these old M9s. Hopefully they’ll be sold through Beretta s surplus because I’d like to have a real M9 as a memento but as far using this gun for my job, I’m done.
Charlie: I’m curious to see how these guns truly hold us. Yes, several agencies have adopted these guns but a soldier is not a cop and the conditions that an infantry officer is going put their guns through is going to be leagues apart. Big Army has deemed the gun ready to go, but then again, we wore ACU’s for years…
The Good Vibes
On the individual soldier level, after speaking with these two MPs and several other infantry officers who have experience with the M9, the attitude seems almost like a kid at Christmas.
I did run into three people in the Marine Corps who wanted the Sig P229 or the P220. Several units the in the military including the all Special Operations and other like the Army Armor Corps get their own pistols. And while you can’t please everyone, Sig Sauer appears to be a runaway favorite with the guys in uniform.
The sooner Big Army can get these pistols available for the individual troops the better. As a far as the troops are concerned it can’t come sooner.
Looking Towards the Future
Our troops need, and deserve, the finest weapons our country can muster…and the Sig P320 is damn close. There’s a lot of emotions and opinions when it comes to any piece of personal equipment, and a pistol is about as personal as it gets.
The truth about the Army’s new modular pistol is that they made a great choice no matter how you slice it and is going to serve the military well.
When more pistol is needed, the troops will have a slew of options from Sig Sauer H&K and even Smith & Wesson to pick up the tab.
The ability for the soldiers to add in electronic pistol red dot sights, suppressors, and extended magazines allows the pistol to grow with technology.
The addition of the thumb safety on the striker design is odd but was deemed necessary by the brass and can be trained around. The p320 should be a fitting upgrade and a step forward for the Army.
While most Army soldiers will never carry a pistol in combat the perception of the equipment they’re issued is extremely important. Clearly the Army chose a well-liked pistol for the men who’ll be using it. The 9mm cartridge is going to be upgraded with hollow point ammunition and the P320 is going to be loved by armorers, officers, and Military Police.
Any active duty personnel looking forward to the p320? Who thinks the Army made a mistake with the thumb safety? Let us know down below!