October 31, 2018
By James Tarr
The modern firearms market is flooded with excellent small, concealable, reliable carry pistols, so any company looking to introduce a new concealed carry handgun needs to introduce something that gets attention. That was the marketing plan with the SIG SAUER P365 (model # 365-9-BXR3), and it seems to have paid off.
As I said, the market is flooded with quality compact and subcompact carry guns, several of which are made by SIG, so SIG knew it had to bring something to market that could capture the spotlight — and the resulting sales. So with the P365, SIG introduced a subcompact striker-fired 9mm semiauto 9mm roughly the same size as its competitors while offering vastly improved capacity.
In photos the SIG P365 looks bigger than it actually is, at least to my eyes, because it seems to have the proportions of a larger gun. But the misperception disappears as soon as you pick it up. I’ve owned .380s that were bigger than the P365. The name of this pistol isn’t a random accident of corporate nomenclature — SIG specifically designed this pistol to be small and comfortable enough to carry all day every day.
The SIG P365 has a Nitron-coated stainless steel slide and a polymer lower half, although technically it is a stainless steel frame inside a polymer grip module. Like the SIG P320, the serialized part is the steel chassis inside the polymer “frame.” However, unlike the P320, SIG doesn’t want you removing the frame from the grip on the P365, and you won’t find any instructions on how to do it in the owner’s manual.
The P365 sports a 3.1-inch barrel and is rated for +P ammunition. Overall it is 5.8 inches long, 4.3 inches tall, and an even inch thick. The flush magazine holds 10 rounds of 9mm. What do those numbers mean exactly?
I process my test guns through Double Action in Madison Heights, Michigan, which is a pretty big retail operation with a relatively comprehensive display of concealed-carry firearms on display in the counter. Seeing a new gun tends to get everyone there excited, and as I filled out the paperwork on the gun, a number of employees took the opportunity to paw over the little auto.
They were impressed with the size of the SIG—especially considering the capacity of its magazine—and proceeded to compare it with samples of perhaps the two biggest-selling 9mm subcompacts: the Smith & Wesson Shield and the Glock 43.
The SIG P365 is smaller than the Shield in every dimension except width across the grip, where the SIG is slightly thicker. The P365 is so close in size to the Glock 43—slightly larger in some dimensions, slightly smaller in others—that overall it’s a draw in size.
When it comes to capacity, of course, the SIG (10) handily beats both the S&W (seven) and the Glock (six). At 17.8 ounces unloaded, the SIG is lighter than both of them as well, and if you pull the top end off the gun you’ll see why. The streamlined design of the trigger group inside the frame makes most guns look cluttered.
SIG calls it a micro-compact frame. I think the six-shot Baby Browning .25 Auto would better fit the description of a “micro-compact” pistol, and the P365 actually reminds me of that gun, perhaps because it is so size-efficient. It is bigger than the Baby Browning, but it packs a lot more wallop.
The P365 comes with two steel 10-round magazines, one of which sports a flush base pad and one has an extended base pad. The undercut trigger guard on the P365 makes a difference, and in combination with the extended base pad, most people will be able to get all of their fingers on the front of the pistol, although the rear of the frame is noticeably shorter. With the flush magazine in place you might find half or all of your pinky dangling below the grip, depending on whether your fingers more resemble hot dogs or shoestring French fries.
SIG does offer an extended 12-round magazine with a textured grip sleeve that is only slightly longer than the 10-round magazine with an extended fingerhook base pad. The 12-round magazine retails for $55. Frankly, I wish companies would stop making extended fingerhook base pads and just offer extended mags the length of said fingerhook. Yes, extended base pads allow you to more securely grip the gun, but they don’t offer any more capacity to go along with the extended length.
If you’re wondering how SIG fits 10 rounds of 9mm into a gun this size, it’s because the P365 is fed by a double-stack magazine. The magazine starts to taper surprisingly early, which allows the portion of the grip that’s even with the trigger to be nicely slender. Most of the other subcompact 9mms on the market offer single-stack magazines, Smith & Wesson’s Shield with its stack-and-a-half magazine being one exception.
Some of you might be arguing the P365 should be compared to the 10-shot Glock 26 instead of the Glock 43 because it has a double-column magazine. But, honestly, there is no comparison. The “baby” Glock 26 is bigger in every dimension than the P365 and weighs almost 25 percent more. Plus, the P365 feels good in the hand while the chunky G26 doesn’t because the grip is too fat for its length.
However, one thing I noticed right away about the P365 is its vertical grip angle. In that respect the P365 reminds me of SIG’s P320, which has gotten so much attention lately. I prefer more of a grip angle on my handguns, but that’s never prevented me or anyone else from being able to shoot the P320 well, and I experienced the same pleasant range time with the P365. It points nicely, and the grip feels like it was intended for the human hand—something missing from a few competing designs.
The grip’s texturing, as well as the texturing on the fingerhook base pad, is the new modern aggressive-as-stippling texturing that wasn’t even possible until a few years ago, thanks to improved injection-molding techniques. I love it. To complement the aggressive gripping surface, SIG provided the P365 with forward cocking serrations. So many small guns are simply difficult to either hold onto or manipulate, but I didn’t have that experience with the P365.
The magazine release has the same triangular shape as on the P320, but it has a much lower profile and is angled to match the curve of the grip. I expect a lot of people will want to carry this pistol in pockets or briefcases where a protruding magazine release could be accidentally depressed much more easily—although if you use a pocket holster as you should, the point is moot.
Both the takedown lever and the slide release are small and designed to be unobtrusive. The grip module has a proprietary accessory rail, and SIG debuted its Lima and Foxtrot series of lights and lasers to fit it, with other companies likely to follow.
The sights on many guns this small are often junk, plastic or both. The sights on the P365, on the other hand, are SIG’s X-Ray3 day/night sights, which have steel bodies. The rear sight has a tritium insert on both sides of the notch. The front sight has a tritium insert for low or no light, and around it is a large green circle designed to be highly visible in daylight.
The X-Ray3 sights are much better than standard black or even the ubiquitous three-dot sights, but I wish the green on the front sight was brighter because I don’t think it’s as visible as a simple white dot would be. Still, the sights on the SIG are steel, and you’re getting factory tritium night sights standard on a subcompact auto that retails for $599.
For decades, a long, heavy trigger pull was considered a safety feature on subcompact pistols, which is why most of these guns have subpar triggers. This is now falling out of fashion, thank goodness, and the P365 has a trigger pull that borders on awesome. Total trigger travel length was not much more than an eighth of an inch, and the trigger broke as crisply as striker-fired guns can break at 5.5 pounds. The trigger itself is a one-piece smooth metal unit that feels good under the finger.
Carry guns are always compromises. Small guns are easy to conceal and carry but harder to shoot as they recoil more and have short sight radiuses. Is the P365 as easy to shoot fast and accurate as any size P320? Of course not. But for what is a tiny gun, the P365 shoots like a much bigger piece, and it is easy to hit a pie-plate-size target as fast as you can pull the trigger at any realistic “defense of self” distance. Unlike most subcompacts, shooting at 10 yards and beyond was not frustrating but rather fun.
After firing the gun for testing and for a week of filming for “Handguns & Defensive Weapons,” I chose to carry the P365 while on vacation. As I walked around town and did a little hiking, the SIG P365 was so small and light that half the time I forgot I was carrying it. It was invisible under a Hawaiian shirt and a long-sleeve knit cotton shirt.
Yes, this is a small gun, but I’m not lying when I say it shoots like a much bigger gun, and that I chose the SIG P365 to carry and defend myself and others should tell you how I feel about it.
I carried it in a DeSantis Inside Heat inside-the-waistband holster made for the S&W Shield, but the rig seemed to fit the pistol just fine. SIG offers several different Kydex holsters for the P365, including an IWB and a dedicated appendix holster, and other companies are already making holsters for it.
With the flush magazine in place, the P365 is small enough to carry in a pocket, but if you’re going to do that you should be using a pocket holster. It will keep the pistol oriented the proper way for a faster draw and protect the trigger guard. Also, whether or not you’re using a pocket holster, don’t put anything but the pistol in that pocket. The last thing you need is for something to get wedged into the trigger guard of this (or any) handgun.
Guns the size of the P365 used to be compromises to one degree or another. They lacked capacity or shootability, a good trigger pull or proper sights. Not anymore.
The P365 has everything you need for a self-defense gun — up to 12+1 rounds of 9mm +P — in a size that works for everyone. I’m pretty sure that the SIG P365 soon will be the subcompact pistol against which all others are judged.
SIG SAUER P365 SpecsType:
black polymer grip module w/stainless steel chassis; black Nitronfinished stainless steel slideSights:
SIG X-Ray3 day/nightTrigger:
5.5 lb. pull (measured)Safety:
SIG Sauer, SIGSauer.com