In 2017, three years after SIG Sauer released the P320 to the market, the internet began repeating the news that the Dallas Police Department found a specific defect with the pistol, causing it to discharge without pulling the trigger. In response, the department instructed its officers to stop carrying it in the line of duty until the manufacturer resolved the issue.
The Initial Incident
In late July 2017, a story about the SIG P320 being unsafe began on gun forums. Users started sharing what appeared to be an internal communication memo intended to be shared between police departments only.
This memo speculated that specific departments had removed the P320 from the list of pistols approved for duty use due to a severe safety concern: the handgun is not drop-safe.
If you’re unaware of the term, a firearm is said to be “drop-safe” when it is designed to prevent accidental discharges when dropped on the floor or struck against a hard surface. Most handguns were not drop-safe in the past, but over time and as firearms technology progressed, drop safety became a standard feature.
Forum users determined that the agency that shared the memo was the Dallas Police Department, causing multiple news outlets to report that the DPD had recommended its officers to stop carrying the P320 out of safety concerns, at least until SIG Sauer fixed the defect.
Many prominent gun news outlets, most notably The Firearm Blog and Tactical Life, independently reached out to the DPD regarding the issue. The agency responded via its public information officer that while no DPD officer had sustained any incidents, they were aware of the potential defect and did temporarily suspend the P320 from duty.
The Gun Community’s Reaction
By August, in an attempt to provide a definitive answer to the question, “Is the SIG P320 drop safe,” several firearm-centered Youtube channels started independently testing the P320.
They determined that a chambered round will fire if the back of the slide is struck at the correct angle and with sufficient force. These findings contradicted SIG Sauer’s statements that the pistol had passed extensive safety tests, exceeding ANSI, SAAMI, and US military safety requirements.
Although the community expected SIG Sauer to issue a recall on the P320, the company instead offered a Voluntary Upgrade Program starting in August of 2017, offering current owners to send their pistols to the company for upgrades to the pistol’s mechanism, completely free of charge.
Despite that, the drop safety incident became the subject of a class-action lawsuit in April 2018 (David Hartley, et al. v. Sig Sauer, Inc.), settled in February 2020.
Part of the agreement requires SIG Sauer to continue providing the upgrade program for 24 additional months past the settlement date and either provide upgrades completely free of charge or refund previously billed repair charges.
In other words, the Voluntary Upgrade Program will remain available until February 2022.
In addition, if SIG had previously notified P320 owners that their pistol was “unrepairable,” the agreement stipulated that SIG has to refund the pistol’s purchase price or send a new, upgraded unit free of charge.
What Were The Changes Made To The P320?
The Voluntary Upgrade Program made various changes to the pistol's trigger mechanism, sear, and striker. It also included a new mechanical disconnector.
When disassembling the upgraded pistol, you will find an additional cut into the slide located to the left of the striker assembly. This cut is a channel intended to engage with the new mechanical disconnector situated to the rear of the pistol’s chassis.
The new trigger mechanism includes a lighter trigger shoe. Trigger pull weight remains unchanged at 6 lb., with the same general feel, break, and reset.
If you drop a non-upgraded pistol on the floor at the right angle, inertia forces may cause the trigger to continue traveling downward despite the ground stopping the rest of the frame. As a result, the non-upgraded trigger could, in the right conditions, effectively travel far enough to engage the sear and cause the pistol to fire.
Functionally, the lighter trigger has less mass, and therefore, carries less inertial energy if the pistol is dropped or struck. In turn, it cannot travel far enough to engage the sear, significantly reducing the chances of causing an accidental discharge.
At rest, the disconnector sits into the slide cut described above and is not active. When engaged (pressed down) by a cycling or out-of-battery slide, the disconnector disables the trigger, preventing virtually any possibility of firing accidentally.
These two mechanisms work together to improve safety, virtually eliminating the possibility of a discharge from a drop or a hard impact.
No changes were made to the frame design, making the upgraded slides and chassis fully compatible with the original frames. There are also no changes to the barrel.
In other words, the upgraded pistols should shoot the same as the non-upgraded versions.
State of the P320 Today
If you were to buy a SIG P320 today, what would be the answer to the question, “Is the SIG P320 drop safe?”
Following the class-action lawsuit, SIG Sauer reassured customers that all P320 pistols manufactured after August 8, 2017, feature the upgrades included in the Voluntary Upgrade Program and that the new, upgraded units are 100% drop-safe.
Independent testing from firearm news media found that the upgraded pistols pass all drop and mallet tests, confirming SIG Sauer’s drop safety claims. The overwhelming majority recommended that owners of non-upgraded units take advantage of the Voluntary Upgrade Program as soon as possible.
Stay Informed and Remain Vigilant
The SIG P320 is a modern, reliable semi-automatic pistol that you can trust and carry with complete confidence. All issues and concerns relating to drop safety have been resolved; if you were to purchase a brand new pistol today, it would be drop-safe.
However, if you intend to buy a P320 used, be careful, as it may not have received the safety upgrades. Because SIG has never issued a mandatory recall, it is possible to find non-upgraded units today.
If you have the opportunity to field strip and inspect a used P320 before buying it, check the inside of the slide and the chassis. If you find the disconnector and its associated slide cut, that’s good news; it means the pistol in your hands is the upgraded version.
If it doesn’t have the upgrades, don’t panic; you can still take advantage of the Voluntary Upgrade Program by sending your unit to SIG Sauer. The Voluntary Upgrade Program is still 100% free of charge and will remain active until 2022.
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