CONCEALMENT 9 Everyday Carry Review- SIG Sauer’s P365 Rob Curtis SIG Sauer’s 12+1 P365 Might Have Just Won the Self Defense Pistol Market We all relish cold weather because heavier cover garments mean we can carry a full-size, fully capable pistol. When it gets warmer we tuck little pistols into our shorts, accepting the loss of capacity and shootability as a fair tradeoff for concealability. SIG’s pistol product manager, Phil Strader, says of the SIG P365, “We designed something that you could carry every single day, 365 days a year, no compromise and no change in guns.” Bullsh*t, right? When New Hampshire’s SIG SAUER set its course to build the P365, an everyday subcompact, SIG’s CEO Ron Cohen tells us his engineers had one goal — to overcome the well-known shortcomings of subcompact pistols. And there are a lot. But the biggest reason to carry a full-size pistol is its shootability and its capacity. Tiny guns are tough to shoot well; whether it’s the ergos or just mechanical issues inherent in smaller guns, people shy away from subcompacts when they need to hit things past 5 yards. And the limited capacity of the most concealable pistols leaves us wanting. Picking up the SIG P365, it doesn’t immediately feel a whole lot different than its competitors. But, once the mag pops out, SIG’s claims start gaining credibility. 10+1 rounds in a package smaller than a 6+1, single stack Glock 43. And while the rest of the world is comparing the P365 to its subcompact cousins, we see it as a threat to the compact market. The P365’s 12-round mag puts it within chin-rubbing distance of the 15-round Glock 19. We’ll bet plenty of people would pay a three-round tax for the concealability of the smaller gun — that is, as long as it shoots well and functions reliably. And that’s what we’re here to find out. Don’t try this at home. While it’s clearly a chassis gun, SIG says there’s no reason to take the trigger module out of the grip. But, if you do, have a dental pick handy to lift the slide catch spring to reinstall the slide catch. Looking at the feature list, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was a full-size gun. It has a textured grip, predictable trigger pull from a fully cocked, striker-fired action, striker channel safety block, front and rear slide serrations, a low-bore axis, a deep trigger guard undercut for improved grip and control, a proprietary accessory rail, a field stripping procedure that doesn’t require a trigger pull, and two mags and SIG’s excellent X-Ray3 night sights. The 12-round accessory mag that adds roughly a third of an inch to the grip is icing on the cake. When SIG told us the accessory rail was proprietary, we moaned like everyone else. But after thinking about it, we understood the decision. There’s only 1.2 inches of rail length to work with, meaning Streamlight or SureFire Pic rail lights won’t fit on the rail. It has to be a custom interface. (SIG set the MSRP of its LIMA365 Red laser and FOXTROT365 light at $180, while the LIMA365 Green will MSRP for $240, all due out later this spring.) While everyone is comparing the P365 to other subcompacts, we’re thinking the 13-round version competes against the 16-round Glock 19, shown here under the P365. Making Wormholes “It's hard to shoot a small gun, and you compromise a lot with the round count,” said Cohen, “And we asked ourselves, why does it have to be that way? And the mission for six months was not to design a gun, but it was to design a magazine.” The P365’s steel mag is basically a double stack at the bottom that necks up into a single stack. It gives the pistol two things: a thinner magazine at the top, where SIG could contour the grip profile at the thumb/trigger finger so it doesn’t feel like a beer can, and, second, enhanced reliability. Because the rounds are single stacked in the throat, they don’t have a tendency to rub against each other during feeding. It was not an inexpensive endeavor. Strader says the company spent about $15,000 on the first three magazine prototypes. SIG says it designed the P365 around its double-single stack mag, which gives thetiny pistol its superpowers. Next came the process of engineering the lockwork and the chassis module, reducing the space between the bottom of the slide and the top of the trigger chassis. While it is a chassis gun, it’s far from a shrunken P320. Parts were engineered to fit horizontally instead of vertically to close slide/frame gap. There’s some interesting stuff going on inside such as a transverse trigger return spring, and a disconnector that’s under the rail and actuated by the passing slide. Cohen and Strader didn’t explain all the secrets that allowed them to shrink the gun and create a wormhole-like magazine. But Cohen reiterated his belief that SIG is an engineering company that happens to make guns. As such, he explained the focus is on engineering and money gets poured into hiring talent. “I see the financials of the public companies,” he said, “Smith & Wesson just published their financials, and I looked at their engineering [costs]. I thought it was like for three weeks, but it was for a whole quarter. We spend moreon shooting ammo than they spend on engineering development.” An example of the way SIG's engineers conserved space in the P365, the fire control uses a transverse trigger return spring. STIRRED, BUT NOT SHAKEN Even with great talent and big budgets, things go wrong. Looking back at our December 2018 preview of the P365, we had a lot of issues with the gun failing to return to battery on the first day of a two-day, invite-only, press event. At first, SIG employees thought we were limp-wristing, but by sunset the SIG people and the half-dozen writers present all blamed the stoppages on frozen, gummed up lube. That might have been a contributor, as we were shooting on SIG’s New Hampshire range in temps that ranged from 12 to less than 8 degrees Fahrenheit, but it wasn’t the sole cause. We were further lulled into thinking it was the lube when we shot 400+ trouble-free rounds the next day indoors, with fresh Slip 2000 in the gun. The media test guns were destined to be used by SIG at SHOT, so that was the last time we saw those pistols. Instead of writing a full review using a technically pre-production pistol, we waited for SIG to ship full rate production guns for our writeup. In the meantime, the pistols made their way into the world and it became clear the RTB issues we saw were not chemical, but mechanical. Videos and photos began appearing on social media of pistols having RTB issues within a week of the pistol hitting dealers. Not-so-close cousins: the P320 fire control unit, top, the P365 fire control unit, below. This was not the product launch SIG wanted, but it’s the one they got. Strader was stirred to action. Inside of a week of the reports he posted a statement in a SIG enthusiast group on Facebook saying the company was halting shipments to figure out what was going on. A few days later, Strader came back to let folks know SIG resumed shipping the pistols with fixes for this and two other issues he’d seen reported; dead night sights and some wear marks on the barrel shoulder, which we’ll cover in a sec. We give Strader props for wading into the shark pool (or sewage tank) of the web and talking directly with pissed off customers. He told us he was glad to do it, but hopes people understand he can’t respond to the hundreds of questions that followed. That’s SIG’s customer service team’s role, and he’s got a whole pistol program to manage… and, we figure, a few thousand new friend requests to deal with. As far as the fix for the RTB issues, “It was a balancing act,” says Strader, “You can only go so heavy on your recoil spring because there's two problems, you’re making the slide harder to rack and you're going to have issues with the pistol failing to lock back on an empty magazine with lighter loads.” Accordingly, Strader said, SIG lightened up the extractor spring a bit to get an improve lock up, and, we assume, to reduce the tension the extractor places on the chambering round. Strader says this also means, “you can press check the gun a little better without it hanging up.” The freshly hatched gun had two more branches to hit after getting pushed of the nest. Strader acknowledges the first guns shipped with bad sights. “It's never been an issue,” said Strader, ”so we've never turned the lights off after we're done shooting to check to see if a sight was out.” But after seeing the reports online, SIG went over the remaining SIGLITE night sights and realized they had a bad batch of sights. They’d already tested the P365 with the nicer SIG X-Ray3 series sights and knew they held up to the abuse of the P365’s fast slide movement. So, they transitioned to the premium sights. Lastly, there were some reports of barrel shoulder wear. Strader says some of the guns with a tighter tolerance stack had barrel shoulders hitting the inside edge of the slide. “It didn't look pretty,” he said, “but it was cosmetic and had no effecton the function of the guns. But, while we were working with the sights, we also did a relief cut on the sharp corners to mitigate concerns of excessive barrel wear.” SIG decided to take the corners off the barrel shoulder to ward off complaints of cosmetic barrel wear occurring on early production guns. Our test gun came off the line after all these changes were made, so we’re reviewing the current production gun. Customers with early P365s should contact SIG'S customer service team to get their pistol back to NH for the updates at no charge. The remaining problem we had with our December test gun not dropping mags isn’t occurring with our test gun and we haven’t heard about any other guns suffering that malady. The pistol drops full and empty mags without hesitation. RELIABILITY In addition to accuracy testing with our go-to defensive load (Winchester Ranger RA9T) and couple hundred rounds of plinking with Blazer 124gr FMJ, we ran the P365 through a mild, one-day endurance test using a variety of ammo. 50 rounds each of 10 defensive loads, 700 rounds of FMJ practice ammo, and 100 rounds of factory reloads, (even though SIG says not to in the manual.) We had zero stoppages until we hit the reloads. That’s about 1300 rounds without a burp; and that’s with the majority of them shot in one long day at the range. The 124gr reloads, we’re guessing, are lightly loaded and didn’t have the oomph to get overcome the P365s recoil spring. We had seven failures of the slide to lock to the rear in the nine mags of that ammo. So, no stovepipes, no light strikes, no failures to extract, no failures to return to battery, and no sticky mags. We even dumped the mags and gun in some muddy range water and ran it dry. Still no issues. We even froze the gun and shot it to make sure the ghost of our original cold weather RTB issue was exorcised. 10 rounds from a P365 taken directly from a block of ice yielded no RTB issues. The only thing this mighty little pistol couldn’t overcome was weak reloads. FUNCTION TEST AMMO: 50 rounds each: SIG 115gr V-Crown JHP SIG 124gr V-Crown JHP SIG 147gr V-Crown JHP Winchester RA9T 147gr Black Hills 124gr JHP +P Black Hills 125gr Honey Badger Hornady Critical Defense 115gr FTX Hornady Critical Duty 135gr FlexLock +P Remington Golden Saber 124gr +P Federal Premium 124gr HST JHP 700 rounds: Blazer 115gr FMJ 100 rounds: MBI 124gr FMJ (factory reloads) DURABILITY The other ghost in the room was SIG’s P320 drop safety failures. We didn’t throw the P365 at the ground more than a few times, but SIG clearly didn’t want to relive that chapter, so they came up with the SIG Enhanced Duty Handgun drop requirement test and put two P365’s through a special blend of 260 6-foot drops on concrete in 26 different orientations before declaring the new pistol design drop safe. For comparison, if we ran the SAAMI/NIJ, FBI, DHS, MIL-STD, and the Massachusetts approved firearm roster drop tests all in a row, we’d only be dropping guns 100 times from 4 to 5 feet. “You get beat up, you learn something,” Cohen remarked on this point. We made a P365-sicle to test the gun’s cold weather durability and performance. Reliability is the name of the game in a self defense pistol. So, SIG went all in and gave the gun an impressive durability test. “I was pissed that they did the 40,000,” said Cohen jokingly referring to his testing engineers. “I said only a moron would shoot this gun 40,000 rounds. Do you know anybody that shoots a little gun like this 40,000 rounds? Nobody, so why waste ammunition.” But, they wanted to see what the platform could take, and a test like this yields parts replacement intervals. “We don't do it for the average civilian,” says Cohen, “but we always think that DEVGRU, or CAG, or the Brits are gonna ask us what happens when you get the 30,000 or 40,000 rounds? That's the SIG mindset. If it's good for those guys, it's good for us.” With such a small gun, the high slide speed is a concern. “That slide speed is 30% faster than it should be,” Cohen told us, “when I saw the slide speed I said ‘we're dead,’ it's not going to work. And as the months progressed, we were able to build and shoot it 40,000 rounds and the parts are still there.” All that energy means a small engineering miscalculation can result in the gun beating itself to death. So, the major components, the slide, receiver, barrel, and grip module, were subject to this back alley beat down. (Small parts were replaced as needed.) In the end, the pistol’s major components ran the full 40k without cracking or breaking. Oh, and the whole test was run with +P ammo, Cohen said. As far as corrosion resistance, the chassis is wire EDMed, machined, then finished in a ferritic nitrocarburizing, bath that gets in the nooks and crannies. (FNC is also known by the proprietary names Tenifer and Melonite.) The barrel and the slide are DLC coated for smooth, durable finish. ACCURACY Strader tells us he tested four P365s off the line that each averaged 1.7-inch groups, standing, unsupported at 25 yards. This is incredible accuracy for any pistol. Phil is also a USPSA Grand Master and one of the top practical pistol shooters in the country. So, we weren’t too bummed to find we could only print a 1.35-inch group from a standing, unsupported position using Winchester RA9T 147gr 9mm rounds at 7 yards. We also shot some gel to see how effective the P365’s 3.1-inch barrel is at pushing lead. At ten feet, we had 18-inches of penetration with 0.062 inches of expansion and142.6gr of the bullet remaining. We also ran SIG’s ammo, 115gr V-Crown JHP gave us a projectile expanded to 0.5770-inch with 115gr remaining after 15.5 inches of penetration. SIG’s 147gr V-Crown JHP left us a 0.524 wide projectile that weighed 147.2gr after penetrating 19 inches of Clear Ballistics 10% FBI gel. 1.3 inches at 7 yards is an impressive group for a small gun. Heck, it pretty good for a full size gun. We chalk up the gun’s accuracy to its fully railed frame and its refined ergos. Unlike its competitors with short rail sections mounted in a polymer grip, the P365 has 3 inches of continuous rail for the slide to ride. Maybe this helps tighten things up, bringing the barrel back to the same position in the slide after each shot… we can’t say for sure. But, we can say this design is accurate. And the trigger pull, at 5 pounds, is clean, consistent, and without a tabbed trigger safety. The trigger also pulls straight back instead of at a slight angle, and add to all this the amount of grip available with the 12-round mags and you’ve got a lot of things contributing to accuracy. NIGGLES Shooting the gun fast, faster than one really has any reason to caused the slide to prematurely lock back a few times. The little gun does move in your hands, and that slide catch can be pushed up when running the pistol extremely aggressively. You’ll read about it on the internet, but it’s only a concern for guys laying down suppressing fire. Otherwise, while we’re bitching, we’ll just say that $50 is a lot for a magazine. We really hope they last, Ron. CONCLUSION The first few days we were on the range with the P365, we kept forgetting we had more rounds in the gun. We are so used to training with our SIG P938 and it’s 6- and 7-round mags that each time we passed the ninth round, it felt like we won a contest. Grabbing a Glock 19 or a P320 after running dot torture with the P365 feels like putting down a can of Red Bull and picking up a can of Fosters. The analogy works because the little gun gives us just about everything we’d need in a carry gun without the hangover of all that size and weight. And, not just us. We can see some larger organizations moving to a smaller, lighter gun for a number of reasons; especially guys that carry a pistol as a secondary firearm. We asked Strader if the pistol design could be scaled up to increase the capacity of compact or full-size platforms. “I think that's definitely a valid interest. It's been on our radar,” he said, “We’re an engineering company, so we like to tinker, but I'm willing to let this one get some legs before we push it.” Straightforward answer, but the undercurrent belied a concern that an upsized P365 with could really put the hurt on compact P320 sales. With more than 2500 rounds through a couple of P365s, we’re comfortable sticking the pistol down our pants and patting SIG on the back. They made a subcompact we can shoot all day long without tiny-gun fatigue, made it crazy accurate, reliable, and incredibly concealable. We don’t even need to add sights, and, the damn thing holds 13 rounds of real, non-mousegun ammo. The street price of about $499, puts the P365 right in the thick of it. SIG clearly priced the pistol to compete favorable against the Glock 43, and when you take night sights into account, it does that very well. MAKE: SIG Sauer MODEL: P365 CALIBER: 9mm Luger CAPACITY: 10+1 (12+1 optional) BARREL LENGTH 2.96 inches OVERALL LENGTH: 5.8 inches SLIDE WIDTH: 0.9 inches TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT: 5 pounds, 10 ounces WEIGHT: (Flush Mag, Empty) 1.24 pounds INCLUDES: 2 mags (10 round flush & 10 round extended), night sights MSRP: $599 Concealment 9 Explore RECOILweb:No One Needs a Trauma KitEA’s Medal of Honor and LBT Offering Unit Patches51 Days: An Insider's Look at the Waco SiegeADCOR Defense's Innovative "Elite" Rifle System NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOILFor years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included). Click here to get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to a digital PDF of this target pack!