by Tamara Keel - Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The new SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry, shown above, is one of three models introduced in SIG's P320 X-variant lineup. The other two guns are the X-Five and the X-VTAC.
SIG Sauer has taken multiple runs at the polymer-handgun market. Its first attempt at a polymer-framed pistol, the SIGPro, was not an overwhelming success on the U.S. commercial handgun scene. While the SP2022 variant enjoyed some large overseas contract sales, the conventional DA/SA action was out of fashion in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with “one trigger pull” being an advertising buzzword used by the competition.
SIG’s second try at the polymer-pistol market, the P250, got off to a better start initially. It did have only one kind of trigger pull. However, that one pull was the double-action-only kind and, despite being a short-travel, light, DAO trigger that I’d love on any of my Smith & Wesson revolvers, it just didn’t click with tremendous commercial sales success, either.
The third try was the charm, however. The P320 used the same “removable chassis in a plastic frame” concept as the P250, allowing one gun to be converted to all different manner of frame sizes or chamberings by the simple expedient of purchasing Caliber X-Change Kits from SIG.
The SIG Sauer P320 was the success story SIG needed. Within a couple years of its introduction, the handgun had won the competition to be the U.S. military’s next service pistol as well as the contract for the new Immigration & Customs Enforcement duty handgun. With high-profile contracts like that under its belt, state and local police orders are rolling in, and that pretty much assures an increase in commercial sales down the road.
I purchased an early production model P320 in its full-size 9 mm guise and ran 2,000 rounds through the gun. Despite not cleaning or lubricating it over the course of all that shooting, I only experienced one failure-to-feed, and that was with a magazine I’d retrieved from the deck after ejecting it partially-loaded. Who knows how discombobulated that left the remaining rounds in it?
I parted with it and acquired a 9 mm P320 Compact in its place to use as a test bed for column fodder for this publication, and so when SIG Sauer invited several of us in the press to a sneak-preview range session before SHOT Show this year, I was in-trigued to see what was up.
What was up was the entire “X-series” of P320 variants. We got a chance to get in a little range time with all three variants of the X-series and to hear some back story on how the entire project came to fruition.
It seems that SIG had hired former USPSA President Phil Strader as the product manager for the P320 line. Further, SIG exposed the P320 to a lot of racing at USPSA matches in the hands of its shooting team, headed by legendary pistolsmith and shooter, Bruce Gray.
As the saying goes, “racing improves the breed”, and no doubt much of what had been learned over that time turned up in this new X-series of pistols. The flagship of the trio was the X-Five, obviously devised as a turnkey solution to going racing with a P320. Shootable in USPSA Limited or, by the expedient of removing the mag-well extension, Production, the gun was intended to be competitive right out of the box.
A parallel development was the X-VTAC, which utilized input from Kyle Lamb to make a duty-size fighting pistol out of the X-series. Unlike the X-Five, the X-VTAC has a slide the same length as the standard P320 full-size and should fit all holsters intended for that gun.
Finally was the gun that is the subject of this review, the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry. Of the three, the X-Carry is the one that is most directly oriented toward the CCW market. It utilizes the same basic frame as the other X-series guns, albeit with a shorter slide for a more compact and concealable package.
The X-frame used on the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry is a radical departure from the conventional P320 grip frame. It features a high beavertail in the back and a deeply-scalloped undercut at the rear of the trigger guard where it meets the top of the frontstrap, all in the name of dropping the pistol a few precious millimeters deeper into the shooter’s hand.
The backstrap is straighter and the grip has a more slab-sided appearance and squarer cross section than the regular P320 grip. Basically, the new frame was designed with the dimension and orientation of the P320’s magazine well being the only constant, and then slowly whittling away plastic until the desired results were achieved.
Those desired results were a high grip, a minimum of muzzle flip and as little side-to-side play under recoil as possible to make sight tracking easier. (We tested this at the range and on the clock, more on that later.) If the overall shape and contour of the frame on this gun seems similar to certain other guns frequently found at the top of USPSA production-class standings, well, it’s likely for the same reason dolphins, sharks, ichthyosaurs and attack submarines are all shaped pretty much alike.
Other side-effects from using basically the same frame as the X-Five is that the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry sports a cavernous magazine-well opening. Even without the add-on part, you can about toss a new mag in the well from across the room. And if you’re the sort who likes to practice magazine changes, the X-Carry ships with three 17-round mags with which to do it.
Additionally, the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry frame will work with the same weighted inserts the X-Five uses to help tame recoil, although I don’t imagine anyone would want to add weight to a carry gun.
The slab-sided frame means the circumference measured around the backstrap and trigger face is almost exactly 7 inches even, about a quarter inch more than the Smith M&P, which is something of a benchmark in double-stack guns for having an easy-to-reach trigger.
Speaking of triggers, the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry uses the signature flat-blade trigger of the rest of the X-Carry line. While visually similar externally to the Grayguns PELT (Practical Enhanced Leverage Trigger) bang switch, the internal geometry differs hardly at all from the stock curved P320 unit. The trigger pull on my test gun measured a pretty consistent 5 pounds. One advantage to the straight shoe is that it offers good feedback to the shooter regarding their trigger finger placement. Also, the sear broke as the trigger reached the vertical position, another aid to consistency.
The slide is more or less a shortened version of what you see on the bigger X-series guns. There’s a milled-out window on the top of the slide. This might be to remove weight, and it might be to make the gun look cool. It might be for both reasons. Some people get all bent out of shape over cutouts in the slide, but Glock’s G34 and G35 have cutouts and seem to work OK and, heck, the Beretta 92 slide is practically nothing but cutout.
Sights are SIG’s X-Ray3 tritium night sights like those on SIG’s Legion series of pistols. Broadly similar to Trijicon HD or Ameriglo’s Pro series sights, the square front blade features a tritium vial surrounded by a fat, day-glo green ring, while the tritium vials in the rear sight have smaller conventional white surrounds. These are fast sights and, while capable of precision work thanks to the conventional post-and-notch sight picture, a B8 bull at 25 yards is going to be pretty well hidden behind the wide front blade.
The rear-sight blade has a squared-off leading edge to make one-handed manipulations easier, allowing the shooter to snag the sight on holster mouth or belt to run the gun. What really makes the rear unusual, however, is that it’s mounted to a removable plate. Take the plate off and you’ve exposed mounting holes for SIG Sauer’s Romeo1 miniaturized red-dot sight. (Rumor has it that adapter plates for other red-dot sights will be along in the future.)
Taken together, the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry makes a package that measures 7.25 inches from muzzle crown to beavertail tip and 5.5 inches from the top of the rear sight blade to the bottom of the floorplate of its 17-round magazine. It weighs in on my postal scale at 27.2 ounces empty and 34.3 ounces loaded with 17 rounds of 124-grain Gold Dot JHP aboard.
Taking it to the range to see how it shot revealed that this gun was very likely one of the demo guns SIG had out at that pre-SHOT launch party. I remember that one SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry it had there was shooting a little low and we were cautioned to hold just over the top of the plates out at 10 yards or so to get good hits. Holdover on this pre-production gun with all but the slowest ammo was about 3 inches at 15 yards, and with the deadline, I didn’t send it off to get the correct height sights installed, but it’s an easy fix. Production examples won’t share this quirk.
Shooting off sandbags at 15 yards, five-shot groups averaged under 2.5 inches across three different brands and bullet weights of ammunition. The gun proved plenty reliable across a couple months of range trips, experiencing a lone failure-to-eject over the course of 1,030 rounds of ammunition of all types, including a variety of JHP ammo and 175 rounds of TulAmmo steel-cased stuff.
The acid test, though, was some shooting on the clock to see how well the X-frame delivered on SIG’s promise of better control at speed.
As I mentioned at the top of the article, I have a personally-owned P320 Compact. It sports a frame that’s been stippled and recontoured by Boresight Solutions and a full-on race-ready Grayguns trigger group with the PELT straight trigger and a 3-pound trigger pull. Thanks to the modular nature of the P320 system, we could swap the X-Carry’s slide and trigger group into the conventional P320 Compact frame, as well as dropping the Grayguns fire-control unit into the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry, to test the effects of the various modifications on shootability.
With range buddy Mike Grasso along to serve as a control, we timed five-round strings of fire into an 8-inch circle at 7 yards. To eliminate as many variables as possible, the shooter was allowed to start aimed in on the circle with their finger on the trigger.
After warming up, we ran three runs in each of three configurations to get some non-scientific averages: X-Carry slide and trigger in P320C frame, X-Carry in stock configuration, and then X-Carry with the Grayguns trigger group. Across the three setups, my average strings went from 2.51 seconds with the Boresight Solutions P320C frame to 2.37 with the stock X-Carry to 2.04 with the Grayguns trigger in the SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry.
If I’m doing my math right, the X-frame was good for as much as a tenth of a second in my split times, and that was just from an hour or two’s fiddling around at the range. In another recoil-control experiment, I dropped a .357 SIG slide and barrel assembly onto the X-Carry frame, and it was surprisingly docile and controllable, even at speed. A lot of skull sweat and time went into designing this frame, with a lot of input from actual shooters, and it certainly shows.
I was already impressed by the P320, enough to spend my own dough on it. After spending time with the new SIG Sauer P320 X-Carry, it looks like it may have company in the gun safe.
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