Sig P320 issue divides gun industry

The Sig P320 firing during a drop test conducted by Omaha Outdoors. (Photo: Omaha Outdoors via YouTube)

The Sig P320 firing during a drop test conducted by Omaha Outdoors. (Photo: Omaha Outdoors via YouTube)

A video showing the Sig Sauer P320 — the design selected earlier this year by the U.S. Army as its official sidearm — discharge when dropped has had polarizing affects on the gun industry.

In extreme cases, some have exaggerated the impact of the pistol’s flaw to support speculation whereas others have tried to diminish safety concerns as they express uncompromising loyalty to the brand. The crux of the issue though is the design has been shown to go off if dropped at a certain angle but otherwise meets industry safety standards.

The controversy gained momentum earlier this month after Sig responded to a memo issued by the Dallas Police Department suspending the use of the P320 by its officers because of problems with the gun’s drop safety. The company assured the public there have been “zero reported drop-related P320 incidents in the U.S. commercial market,” but later issued a “voluntary upgrade” after allegations had been made in a personal injury lawsuit and online retailer Omaha Outdoors published a video demonstrating the flaw.

Andrew Tuohy, a respected gun writer who conducted the test for Omaha, said the company wanted to explore the issue because it was concerned about selling an unsafe product. Once Tuohy identified the flaw, Omaha halted sales of the P320 design.

He said he was surprised to find the flaw — which he did rather quickly — but was also surprised by the response. He thinks the issue gained momentum like it did because a drop test is fairly simple, as it only requires dropping a pistol loaded with a primed casing onto a concrete slab.

“It’s such an easy thing to do … With this, you just pull a bullet from a case and try it out, so this is a lot easier (than other tests),” Tuohy said. “I think that contributed to the number of people who realized that it was an issue, but there are still some people who can’t accept it or just won’t accept it.”

While it would be presumptuous and unfair to suggest motives, people in that boat range from “fanboys” who boast about their favorite brand in a sportsmanlike manner to industry insiders with financial ties and direct relationships to the company.

NRA American Rifleman’s Mark Keefe called gun writers and bloggers who sought to replicate the design flaw as “a sharknado of internet voices formed when they saw blood in the water regarding the Sig Sauer P320.” He extended the shark metaphor throughout his 1,100-word piece in defense of the international gun manufacturer by juxtaposing home reviews and “‘Jackass’-like behavior” with Sig’s million-dollar testing by engineers.

“After identifying the problem and making sure the replaced components worked, Sig stood up and announced a voluntary upgrade for the 500,000 or so P320s out there,” Keefe said. “The odds of a P320 dropping at the exact angle requisite to induce a discharge might not be as long as a real sharknado occurring, but no one is spending time and effort to induce the latter for YouTube. We can at least be grateful for that.”

It should be noted that Sig sponsors NRA-produce content, as most major gun manufacturers do. However, at one point or another (and possibly in the future) Sig advertised on Guns.com as well.

Bruce Gray, owner of Oregon-based retailer Grayguns, also defended the gun maker and questioned the motives of those who have conducted their own tests.

“Since this Omaha Drop story broke Monday, we’ve watched as the world’s premier gunmaker has been subjected to the nastiest indignities that every partisan fanboy troll and antisocial hater with a meme app can dream up,” Gray said on social media, adding the criticism has drowned out concerns by those “who actually have a stake in this issue.”

Gray’s company also released a statement, saying it is working with Sig to examine the issue closely for possible solutions.

On the other hand, others chose to err on the side of caution. At least one manufacturer announced it would suspend sales of products related to the P320 design. Trigger company Apex Tactical issued an advisory warning customers about the safety issue and announced that it has suspended sales of aftermarket products designed specifically for the Sig P320.

“With the latest release of information from Sig Sauer, we have chosen to discontinue the sale of our P320 aftermarket triggers until such time as we can thoroughly test our products with the latest Sig Sauer upgrades for the P320,” the company said.

Nathaniel F., of The Firearm Blog, discussed Sig’s handling of the issue, accused the gun maker of lying about the matter and listed off a series of questions regarding what the company knew about the flawed design and when.

Since variant of the design passed military testing, which has more rigorous drop safety standards, he suggests at one point or another company engineers examined the design. Plus, the personal injury lawsuit alleging a defect in the drop safety design centers on an incident from January, so he questions what Sig knew about that.

“When the decision was made to omit this feature – and this decision was consciously made at some point, as SIG initially advertised a trigger safety as an option for the P320 – was any testing involved? Did SIG make this decision sight unseen without even determining its impact to the pistol’s safety characteristics, or – worse – did they make the decision in spite of evidence that it would reduce the gun’s safety?”