Why the Sig Sauer M17 ASP Won
M17 4.5mm vs. M17 9mm – The Real World Test
By Dennis Adler
Of all the new CO2 models introduced this year, why did the Sig Sauer M17 ASP rise to the top to be chosen as 2018’s Replica Air Pistol of the Year? The five distinct categories of comparison and the points system used left it tied with the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 and Umarex Heckler & Koch USP, a solid three-way that was broken by the extra one point given to the M17 for Technology of Design. But there is more to the technology side than just a CO2 pellet magazine, which is definitely a game changer for blowback action pellet firing pistols; there is also the capability of the M17 to be an honest real world training substitute for the 9mm centerfire pistol.
Training with 100 percent matching air pistols has essentially been about learning proper gun handling skills, drawing techniques, re-holstering, repeated practice aiming and acquiring the target, and learning to reacquire the sights on a slide that is moving back and then forward with each shot, and understanding trigger designs and improving trigger control. But for the most part, in terms of real world training, the process ends when you pull the trigger and a .177 caliber steel BB travels down a smoothbore barrel to hit a target set out at an optimum range of 21 to 25 feet. That is a limitation the Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP does not have, and this was another consideration in awarding the one remaining point to Technology of Design. But it represents more than the technology of a new design alone, but rather what that new design can allow the pistol to achieve.
With the M17 ASP, the self-contained CO2 pellet magazine allows accurate magazine changes for training, it eliminates the need to stop and replace a CO2 cartridge in the grip frame, or swap out an empty stick magazine. It allows the same realism as has been achieved with BB models like the Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE and Umarex HK USP, among others, but with a rifled steel barrel sending a 4.5mm pellet downrange at sufficient velocity to extend training exercises from the limited distance of 21 feet to practical close quarter battle distances of 45 feet. How do I know this for certain? For an upcoming issue of Combat Handguns magazine I performed a one-on-one shooting drill with the M17 ASP against the 9mm U.S. Army MHS program M17 semiautomatic version of the Sig Sauer P320. Here is why the M17 ASP won this year’s Top Gun title.
On the firing line
The 9mm M17 extended capacity magazine used for the military model holds 21 rounds, (the standard capacity magazine 17 rounds), the CO2 model, which copies the military extended capacity magazine design, holds 20 rounds. Since there is no means by which a chambered round can be added to the pellet model’s count, 20-shots is as close as you can get. The M17 ASP allows hands-on training with the exact feel and basic operation of the centerfire model, along with a respectable velocity with 4.5mm pellets of well over 350 fps. The CO2 model also has the advantage of complying, by design, with the military model’s use of ambidextrous thumb safeties. The M17 ASP is compatible with all military and civilian holsters designed for the P320. (Due to the CO2 magazine design it will not fit in all standard magazine pouches, and fits best in adjustable military mag pouches).
I shot an entire combat test at a minimum of 45 feet using Law Enforcement Targets cardboard B-27 silhouette targets. This provides a center mass area of 6×9 inches containing the 9, 10 and X rings. Any hits inside that area and the 8 ring score 5 points. Blowback action CO2 BB pistols are intended for shooting distances of 21 feet; pellet-firing models ideally for 10 meter target shooting. The M17 ASP is very good at this distance, but it also delivered accuracy at 45 feet comparable to the centerfire pistols for multiple shooting position training exercises.
I ran several training drills with both the M17 9mm and M17 ASP back-to-back, including drawing and firing (from a UTG tactical vest holster as well as two Galco rigs designed for the P320 M17); shooting short bursts from a kneeling position at right and left angles to the target (noted as RA and LA on the targets); I practiced reloads (I had a spare magazine from Sig Sauer; extra magazines will be available for sale shortly), I shot on the ground and rolling onto one side, I did moving shots across the target’s path and rapid firing (indicated by either RF or M on the target) and shooting from a Weaver stance directly at the center mass section of the target (indicated by circles with no other ID). All rounds were fired using a two handed hold. I expended two CO2 cartridges and the overall test consisted of 80 rounds and two B-27 targets. The ambient temperature for the field test was 49 degrees with no wind. I shot the pellet test with lightweight 5.25 gr. H&N Match Green alloy wadcutters to achieve maximum velocity (an average of 358 fps).
Shooting the M17 ASP at 45 feet is pushing the accuracy with a blowback action pellet pistol but the Sig delivered hits that are equivalent to passing accuracy at that distance with a 9mm M17. I ran the same test with the centerfire M17 using Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 gr. FMJ. When you compare the centerfire and CO2 models side-by-side and on the range running the same tests, the real advantage in using the CO2 pistol for training becomes clearly evident in the actual feel of the gun in the hand, sighting with the white dot sights, the slide movement and moderate felt recoil, and consistency of the DAO trigger pull, which is remarkably close in feel to the 9mm pistol. The only thing missing with the M17 ASP is the heavier recoil, a much louder bang and much more expensive 9mm ammo. The Sig Sauer air pistol passed in every category and I came away with a test target that placed at least 50 percent of the rounds fired within the 9, 10 and X from multiple shooting positions at 45 feet. You could not do this with even the best blowback action CO2 BB model. The windage was close to center (pulling slightly left) and elevation required aiming at the 9 ring to drop shots into the 10 and X. Most were fired at one- to three-second intervals except on rapid fire tests and double taps (DT on the target). After each specific test I circled and labeled each test group so additional shots could be easily distinguished. I then ran the same test with the 9mm M17 and had similar accuracy results for total rounds fired.
The need for training guns, in Sig Sauer’s opinion, has become paramount as a cost effective alternative to centerfire models for basic handling and shooting skills. The M17 takes that philosophy to the next level, one that had previously only been achievable with either CO2 BB guns for handling and basic training exercises (using self contained CO2 BB magazines), or with Airsoft pistols and marking ammo for force on force training. The M17 ASP adds another alternative to practical, affordable training (not for force on force training); live fire with accuracy at actual defensive pistol distances! That is the final reason why the M17 ASP won Replica Air Pistol of the Year. This is going to be a tough act to follow in 2019.
A reminder about safety considerations
Blowback action airguns like the new Sig Sauer P320 M17 ASP deliver the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. This is what air pistol enthusiasts have asked for, but we must all be diligent in our proper use and carrying of these highly accurate air pistols. At a glance if one of these guns is displayed in public (not on a target range or shooting on your own property), it can very easily be mistaken for a centerfire or rimfire pistol, even by law enforcement officers. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply. Remember, we as air pistol enthusiasts, collectors, and sport shooters, bear the responsibility of ownership. This, too, is part of training with airguns and the airgun experience.