The P320 in military dress
By Dennis Adler
This is where the history of blowback action CO2 air pistols begins to change. Sig Sauer has not only stepped over the threshold of a door that no one had opened before, they also built the door. The M17 could be a game changer for the future of blowback action 4.5mm pellet-firing pistols and that’s a lot to say in an opening statement, but I have had my hands on this pistol for over a month waiting to tell its story. We begin with the P320.
The Sig Sauer P320 CO2 model was introduced in 2017 and was not the epiphany in pellet-firing blowback action CO2 models air gunners were hoping for. But I have a somewhat different perspective on the P320 CO2 model than most, having tested and evaluated the centerfire P320 modular handgun system that evolved into the M17 back in 2016. I knew that when Sig Sauer got into the airgun manufacturing business to build training guns that it could never be the equal of a P320; yes some airguns are the BB-firing version of their centerfire counterparts, including the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911, but when you are talking a pellet-firing semi-auto, you are not going to achieve the same goal, at least not for the price of most blowback action CO2 models. There had to be compromises and Sig Sauer chose wisely for the most part developing a P320 CO2 model that could serve the basic needs of the design for training and still be an enjoyable and affordable recreational air pistol. Not everyone will agree with me on this but the P320 was a means to an end, a stepping stone for a company that moves quickly.
What were the biggest complaints with the P320 CO2 model? It wasn’t size, or handling, certainly not velocity or accuracy at 10 meters (I have shot it accurately out to 45 feet), it was with the separate CO2 loading system in the pistol grip and an incredible misunderstanding of the rotary magazine system. The P320 was a very big step forward from traditional 8 shot pellet magazines or reversible 8+8 magazines. Another complaint and one I agree with was the lack of a separate slide and barrel lug interface which was carried over from the P226 ASP. Negative features versus plusses, it was a very short list but Sig Sauer designers knew the P320 ASP was not the end game. By the time the CO2 model came out Sig Sauer’s centerfire P320 had already won the U.S. Army Modular Handgun contract to replace the military’s aging Beretta 92 service pistols. It was almost a fait accompli because the fundamental structure of the MHS was a handgun that used a modular design that could be easily changed from one configuration (slide, grip, frame, and caliber), to another using one contiguous fire control housing. That was the design of the P320 introduced in 2014. It was Sig’s first polymer frame, striker-fired model and it already met the basic MHS requirement. The final military version added some specific modifications and adaptations to military needs, including extended capacity magazines and ambidextrous thumb safeties.
The P320 ASP CO2 model came in either black or Coyote Tan while the P320-based M17 comes in a variation of the Coyote Tan P320 finish matching the military version. The P320’s silhouette, basic operation and Coyote Tan color, however, is about all the new M17 CO2 model has in common with the P320 ASP.
The nextGen Sig Sauer Air Pistol
If we look at the P320 as a starting point, in less than two calendar years Sig Sauer has again introduced a completely new air pistol that not only matches its centerfire military and civilian M17 counterparts but assuages two of the greatest issues with the first P320 CO2 model, a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine and a realistic looking slide and blowback action. The gun promises hands-on training with an authentic look, a velocity with 4.5mm pellets of up to 430 fps, and unrivaled handling and accuracy and while the magazine release may not be ambidextrous, the manual thumb safeties are.
In Part 2 we begin to unbox the P320 M17 and see what Sig Sauer has done to the world of blowback action CO2 pellet pistols.