Last year, after a five-year search for a new service pistol, the U.S. Army chose Sig Sauer’s P320 as there replacement to the Beretta M9. But just one year after selecting the P320 for its new XM17/18 Modular Handgun System program, the gun is having some serious safety issues.
According to a new Department of Defense report released this month, the Army’s new service pistol, a military variant of the Sig Sauer P320, is having numerous reliability and safety problems, including drop test failures, ejecting live ammunition, and problems cycling standard XM1152 “ball” rounds.
From the beginning, the selection of the Sig Sauer platform has caused a lot of controversies. Shortly after the Army awarded its $580 million Modular Handgun System contract, Glock (who was also competing for the contract and was pushing their Glock 19X) filed a formal protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, claiming the U.S. Army Materiel Command “improperly failed to complete reliability testing” on Sig Sauer’s compact XM17 entry.
It seems Glock may have been on to something…
The Pentagon Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s overview on its gear and tech programs in 2017, indicated that both the M17 and M18 platforms demonstrated a number of issues throughout testing that took place between April and September of 2017. The most significant problems noted in the report included accidental discharges when dropped from certain angles, ejecting live ammunition alongside spent shells, and relatively frequent stoppages when firing ammunition encased in a full metal jacket.
To qualify as a military service weapon, a pistol has to reliably fire 2,000 rounds without stoppages at least 95% of the time – a standard both the M17 and M18 pistols were not able to meet when loaded with the standard XM1152 “ball” rounds used most often in service. When this ammo was used, the reliability rate dropped to 75% in the full-size platform and all the way down to 60% in the compact version.
Was this a Known Problem?
Even before the Army issued the contract, the civilian version of the P320 was known for having drop safety issues. In fact, after months of online reports and videos from civilian gun owners describing the problem, SIG halted production and finally issued a recall on the P320 Pistol.
SIG recognized the issue with the -30 degree hard surface drop discharges brought to light in an Omaha Outdoors video.
After the video started making its rounds around the web, SIG issued the recall.
What is the Government doing about the Army’s M17 variant of the P320 problems?
To date, the Army has not resolved the issue with the P320 platform. Despite the many problems noted in the report, the Pentagon started fielding P320s on Nov. 28 with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. The new pistol is expected to be rolled out into active service in Afghanistan this spring.
Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly – this is bureaucracy in full effect – the Pentagon is still planning to push both the XM17 and XM18 platforms into the field. Even more shocking, because of the cost savings over the Glock platform, Pentagon officials stated that the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps were interested in adopting more than 220,000 M17 pistols between the three of them.