Well, it appears I have survived another SHOT Show, not to mention a week in the Belly of the Beast, Las Vegas! My Sweetie has been smitten with the SHOT Blight, which, unless I am willing to go into a complete isolation chamber, will undoubtably spread to me later in the week.
Of course, the news of the Big Army's choice of the Sig Sauer 320 as the replacement for the aging Beretta M9s overshadowed pretty much everything at SHOT…it's not every day a company picks up a $580-some-odd million (over 10 years) contract.
I must say I was pretty surprised at the announcement. Not that the Sig 320 isn't a great gun — it is all that and more — but most of us figured that the Modular Handgun System program would crash upon some unseen shoals, as those programs have in the past, or that the Army would suck it up like the SOCOM boys and the FBI and take the easy path of the proven Glock 17/19. That's certainly what Glock thought!
The implications are pretty obvious. As with the Beretta M9, the Big Army contract, the most coveted handgun contract in the world, will launch the already successful 320 into the stratosphere. Validation by the U.S. military makes the gun an easy chose for a potential flood of other agencies. Over the years I have seen estimates of at least the same amount of sales to other Federal agencies, law enforcement and civilians clamoring to own the same gun the military uses. While the caliber was not announced, let me go out on a limb here and suggest that it will be 9mm. Why? I would say logistics…the huge military pipeline is already set up to provide 9mm ammunition worldwide, and changing to a different caliber would be a nightmare. I once had a very long and fruitful conversation on military logistics by one of the most knowledgeable men in the industry — Ron Cohen, the head of Sig Sauer. Funny, that.
The military contract will also open the floodgates of aftermarket parts to support the gun. That aftermarket will be increasingly driven by civilian and LEO acceptance of the 320 as a platform. Obviously, this is already underway with the relationship between Sig and GrayGuns. Bruce Gray, one of the greatest minds in the firearms world, has hammered out the 320 trigger, working essentially as an in-house R&D guy, and has a huge head start on aftermarket 320 parts. There will be lots of others!
Part of Ron Cohen's particular genius is platform expansion, figuring out ways to expand from a single gun into as many niches as possible. Being modular — the gun part of the gun is the stainless steel frame fire control unit — changing the polymer grip frame to different sizes is a snap. But Sig has already gone beyond that. Sig brought former USPSA President Phil Strader on board and charged him with building a competition version of the 320.
I talked to Phil last year, and he outlined to me a very aggressive plan to create an out-of-the-box competitive 320. This year, a justifiably proud papa showed me the 320 X-Five, a full-sized 5-inch 320 with their top-end competition trigger (amazing, but they way), a full profile bull barrel, an internal weight in the grip frame to balance the gun, removable flared magazine well and fiber optic front sight. The rear sight is a neat trick…Phil worked with Dawson Precision, a longtime supplier of competition guns and accessories, to create a removable plate to carry the fully adjustable Dawson-designed rear sight. The plate can be removed so the gun can be fitted with a ROMEO3 red dot optic. The package in 9mm will be delivered with 4 21-round magazines.
A year ago Phil told me his goal was the ultimate competition pistol, and I'll be damned if he didn't hit that goal. The 320 X-5 out of the box can be used in USPSA Limited, Production and with the ROMEO3 Carry Optics division, IDPA SSP (we think) and ESP divisions, 3-Gun and specialty matches like Bianchi. With the included 4 mags, add a holster, mag pouches and ammo, and you're pretty much good to go…all for roughly a grand, MSRP!
There are 2 other guns in the X-Series, including an X-Carry with a 3.9-inch barrel, and a VTAC version as spec'ed by VIKING CHRONICLE's Kyle Lamb. The VTAC is striking gun in FDE with lightening cuts on the slide.
I gotta say the competition X-5 p320 shot irrationally well. I've shot a bunch of 320s, including Bruce Gray's personal competition pistol, and I have to agree that the X-5 is competition-ready out of the box. I stand in awe of a striker-fired pistol with a trigger as good as the trick p320s. Not surprisingly for a champion of Phil's stature, the gun is perfectly balanced, which shaves off critical seconds on stages of fire.
The competition component is important because it will provide a billboard for the p320 platform (it doesn't hurt that Sig has Phil, legendary competitor Max Michel, IDPA champion Tom Yost and…oh yeah…Lena Miculek on board). Combine that with the sheer weight of the Army contract, and the p320 will be a freight train, running over the other "Glock-ish" pistols in the market.
I have said before that the problem other polymer-framed striker-fired manufacturers have is they have to make the "value proposition" of why to choose their products over the the Glock 17/19. That is a lot harder than it sounds. You can talk function and features, but on examination there aren't any huge differences (I might exclude a manual safety from that list). Gaston Glock's evolutionary strategy and the Glock's "long tail" of aftermarket parts, ease of modification and performance enhancements have made making that value proposition a pretty high hurdle. I'd say the p320 just vaulted over that hurdle, and then some.