July 05, 2018
2017 was a heck of a year for SIG. During the shooting industry's big trade show last year, SIG announced it had won the Army's Modular Handgun System contract with a version of the P320 only slightly different from its commercial model. And at the same show, SIG debuted two new eagerly anticipated versions of the P320: the X-Five and the V-TAC.
Then, late last summer, the Internet exploded with reports- and videos to back them up- detailing how, in certain circumstances, the P320 can fire if dropped. Everyone seemed to lose their collective mind, conveniently forgetting that many firearms (including the vaunted 1911) can also discharge if dropped in the exact wrong way.
The SIG P320 meets and exceeds all U.S. safety standards, and SIG is quick to point out that mechanical safeties are designed to complement and not replace safe gun-handling practices. The Army hasn't expressed any concerns about its choice- although, again, its gun is not exactly the same as the 320 version sold on the commercial market. That said, SIG has a voluntary upgrade program for the P320, replacing the original trigger with a physically lighter one that includes an integral safety lever similar to those seen on many striker-fired pistols.
The subject of this review, the P320 X-Five, is a dedicated competition pistol, but the ironic thing is that because it is equipped with a lighter-than-standard trigger, it is much less susceptible to firing when dropped.
Previous SIG X-Fives were built on P226 or P220 frames, and while the new P320 X-Five was designed, like the rest, from the ground up to be a dedicated competition pistol, it offers new features that will soon make their way into other P320 models. SIG didn't just take a factory 320 and put fancy sights on it and call it a "competition model." People who knew exactly what a competition pistol needs completely revamped the platform.
Let me start with the frame. This pistol, as well as the new P320 V-TAC, features SIG's new X-Frame. The standard P320 has a nearly vertical grip angle, and while it works, it isn't ideal. The X-Frame has been recontoured to feature more of an angle, similar to what you might find on a 1911.
It isn't just the increased angle of the X-grip that is important. It is also the undercut below the trigger guard and at the rear of the frame (which has a nice beavertail). Between the two, your hand will sit about an eighth of an inch higher on this gun than on a standard P320. That may not sound like much, but it does make a difference. It means less felt recoil and less muzzle rise.
What texturing there is on the frame is nicely aggressive, but there is a lot of smooth surface on the grip in-between the textured areas, and the smooth areas are raised above the textured ones. The ambidextrous slide release and reversible magazine release are of standard P320 design and work well.
At the bottom of the X-Five's frame you will see a nice steel mag well. It is easily removable via a single screw at the rear of the grip. Inside the frame at the rear you will also find a weight that is easily removable once you pop out the trigger chassis.
P320s with the X-Frame use the same magazine bodies as other P320s, and four- four!- 21-rounders are supplied with the gun. Note that if you want to use older magazines with the new frame on the 320 you'll need to do a little filing on the base pads because the frame contour is different now. All new P320 magazines going forward will have the new base pad found on the P320 X-Five, and they will work with standard or X-Five frames.
However, even the new 17-round magazines won't lock into the X-Five because of the magazine well. They do fit with a little filing on the front of the base pad, but most competition shooters running flush magazines in this gun- those competing in divisions where magazine capacity is limited or mag wells are not permitted- are going to be removing the magazine well anyway.
The X-Five sports a straight trigger with a flat face that breaks at 90 degrees. Designed with input from well-known SIG customizer GrayGuns, this trigger bar offers increased leverage so the trigger pull will average about five pounds, as opposed to the seven-pound trigger you find on standard P320s. Trigger pull on my sample was five pounds exactly.
The original full-size P320 has a 4.7-inch barrel. With the X-Five the barrel has been stretched to an even five inches and given a target crown. The extra barrel length will give you a little extra velocity if you're worried about your ammo making minimum Power Factor, and the extra slide length gives you a longer sight radius to help your accuracy. In a match, every little bit helps.
Every veteran competition shooter has learned that more reciprocating weight equals more felt recoil and muzzle rise, which is why you'll see cutouts on the top of the X-Five's slide. As a result, while it is 0.3 inch longer than a standard P320 and sports bigger/heavier sights, you'll find the slide actually weighs the same. The X-Five with internal frame weight, mag well and empty magazine in place tips the scales at 35.5 ounces, which is six ounces more than a standard P320- but none of that weight is in the slide.
Let's talk about the sights. Most manufacturers' "competition pistols" hardly live up to the name, and the sights are where they often fall short. The P320 X-Five features Dawson Precision sights. Dawson Precision is a name familiar to competition shooters, and these sights are perfect: a tall post front with a green fiber-optic insert and a serrated plain black fully adjustable rear.
The rear sight is mounted to a removable plate. Take it off and you can mount a mini red dot on your slide. Of course, SIG recommends its Romeo1. The only hiccup here is that to remove the plate you have to remove the striker assembly and extractor parts from the slide because the extractor spring blocks access to one of the retaining screws.
SIG gives no instructions in the owner's manual on how to do this because technically this is an "armorer's level" disassembly, and SIG wasn't comfortable including the step in the owner's manual. However, the disassembly is amazingly simple and takes only a few seconds. SIG is thinking of making an instructional video on how to do this and posting it to its YouTube channel, but this had not been done by press time. However, there are a number of other videos on YouTube detailing disassembly of the P320's slide/striker assembly.
The slide features serrations front and back that are angled to match the grip. The slide is actually stainless steel with a Nitron coating. The silver barrel looks really nice through the lightening holes cut into the top of the slide. Sure, performance is important, but looks count, too. While everyone has different tastes, to my eyes the P320 X-Five is a really attractive pistol.
The barrel does not feature the same locking block profile as a standard P320 barrel, and it's the tightest fitted of any pistol barrel I've seen outside a custom 1911. If you just ease the slide forward, it won't go into battery because the barrel fit is so tight; you have to let it slam home. And the reward for that tightness is excellent accuracy.
With that barrel fit in mind, I checked with Phil Strader, SIG's polymer pistol product manager, wondering where on the spectrum between custom and production the X-Five lies. He told me that the P320 X-Five is a pure assembly-line production gun. "The only tweaking that is typically needed is a slight hone for tight barrel/slide fits, and that's done on the line as needed," he said.
Phil had a hand in making the P320 X-Five what it is, so his background is worth mentioning. Not only is he a former police officer, gun store owner and professional shooter, sponsored over the years by the likes of Smith & Wesson and Remington, but also he was the president of the U.S. Practical Shooting Association. The military would refer to him as a "subject matter expert," so I am not surprised the P320 X-Five lives up to expectations.
The P320 X-Five doesn't have the lowest bore of pistols you'll find in the action sports, but neither does it have the highest. Why is this important? The higher the bore off the hand, the more muzzle rise you get in a pistol, slowing down follow-up shots, which are critical when the difference between winning and losing a match is measured in hundredths of a second. Considering SIG's shooting team captain, Max Michel, has set a Steel Challenge speed record shooting a P320, the design has already been proven fast enough to win.
As I write this, the P320 X-Five has been approved for use as-is in both USPSA's Limited and Carry Optics divisions. If you remove the mag well, it is legal for USPSA Production division. It is legal to use in International Defensive Pistol Association ESP and SSP divisions if you remove the magazine well and use flush 17-round magazines. When in doubt, check the website of the organization in whose matches you want to compete.
I tested this pistol with various factory ammo as well as my competition load, a 147-grain Hornady full metal jacket over 3.3 grains of Titegroup and a Winchester Small Pistol primer using old mixed brass. At 892 fps it produces a Power Factor of 131. In addition to accuracy testing, I stuck the gun in my bag and attended a few USPSA matches.
Whenever I attend a local match with a test gun, the guys I shoot with, who have known me for years, always ask, "So what do you really think?" After shooting the P320 X-Five in practice and at several USPSA matches in Production and Limited divisions, I think it's as close to perfect as you can get for an out-of-the-box USPSA Production division gun, and it's a great choice for any other USPSA/IDPA division for which it qualifies.
All pistols handicap the shooter in some way, and the trick is to find the pistol that handicaps you least. From the factory, this pistol is low handicap- with terrific sights, excellent accuracy, impeccable reliability and a serviceable trigger pull. The SIG P320 X-Five will allow anyone who has the skill and puts in the practice to attain B class- if not A class- in USPSA.
To make this pistol perfect for anyone at the higher skill levels, in my opinion, requires only a little work. First, a trigger job to get the pull below five pounds. Second, a lighter recoil spring, somewhere around 13 pounds, will reduce muzzle bounces. This would require a new recoil spring rod, so at that point you might as well swap out the factory piece with a heavier steel model to put a little recoil-reducing weight out near the muzzle. Third, the gun has too many smooth spots for my taste, so I'd put some stippling on it.
I have already seen the P320 X-Five in the hands of several shooters at local USPSA matches. I talked to those shooters, and they all really liked the gun. In that, we are in agreement. When I first began competing, I would have killed for a pistol like this. I think SIG has a winner on its hands.
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