Yesterday, a Canadian news outlet, CBC News, published a story regarding the unintended discharge last year of a SIG P320 by a Canadian Special Operator, resulting in injury and his unit withdrawing the pistol from service. After the accident the unit returned to using the SIG P226 they had planned to replace with the P320.
Unfortunately, the story is not well researched. For example, they edited it after publication, removing an inaccurate description of how the pistol operates. Rather than critique it all here, we leave it up to you to read it.
However, we will point out that the story alleges that the pistols in question do not feature the drop safety upgrades found in the US Military Modular Handgun System M17/18 and current production P320s. Considering they were procured from SIG after the changes were made to the design, this is false and severely undermines the narrative offered up in the article.
While the story was shared in various corners of the web and social media, it didn’t gain near the traction that we had expected. Reactions ranged from confirmation bias from those who don’t like 320s and just read the headline and not the full story; to others who brushed the issue off as a Negligent Discharge; to those who questioned the timing of the story as a hit piece placed by SIG’s competitors.
The last factor is worth examining, considering that the Canadian Department of National Defence is poised to release a tender for a replacement for their long-serving Browning Hi-powers, a firearm which should have been replaced years ago.
In a similar fashion to US “Buy America” directives, the Canadian government requires “Canadian Content.” For small arms, this means Colt Canada, a company which doesn’t manufacture modern, polymer, striker fired pistols.
In 2011, DND tested the waters, surveying industry’s willingness to sell their pistol Technical Data Packages to the Canadian government so that Colt Canada could be involved in the procurement. As you can imagine, the notion fell flat. Almost a decade has gone by and they’ve finally refined their requirement, deciding to open it to international contenders. Word is, they also homed in on a modular design inspired by MHS, with different frame and barrel sizes along with a common trigger mechanism. If true, this gives SIG a serious leg up on the competition.
But back to the firearm. Apparently, the pistol and holster made it to SIG where they attempted to replicate the malfunction. They couldn’t. What they did find odd was that the P320 was paired with a P226 holster which had modified, possibly with a Dremel tool, and heated and reformed. The fit is reportedly, far from optimal.
Naturally, the Canadian government is reticent to address the entire issue, considering the sensitivity of the unit in question. Since it made the papers and a point was made in the story to politicize the weapons purchase (it is categorized under politics for good measure), the Minister of Defence was assuredly briefed.
Absent an official statement from DND, we can only imagine how this affair might affect the upcoming pistol tender. Only time will tell.
However, we do have SIG SAUER’s statement on the matter:
NEWINGTON, N.H., (February 5, 2021) – SIG SAUER is working with Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) to resolve an incident involving the unintended discharge of a P320. An inaccurate and incomplete report of this incident was recently published in the Canadian media that called into question the safety of the P320. While this incident occurred months ago, this erroneous media report is driven by multiple sources, including our competitors, and coincides with the imminent release of other Canadian military and law enforcement tenders, indicating the timing of its release is an attempt to improperly influence the procurements.
The firearm involved has been extensively tested by SIG SAUER and it has been determined to be safe. The investigation revealed the use of an incorrect holster not designed for a P320. The use of a modified P226 holster created an unsafe condition by allowing a foreign object to enter the holster, causing the unintended discharge.
The SIG SAUER P320 is among the most rigorously vetted pistols in the market. The P320 meets and exceeds all US safety standards and global military and law enforcement protocols, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and Department of Justice (DOJ). The P320 is one of the most innovative and sought-after pistols in the firearms market, and the pistol of choice for all branches of the United States Military (M17/M18), along with numerous law enforcement agencies and other military units worldwide.
What caused the malfunction? That’s still up in the air, but the actual pistol doesn’t seem to be the culprit. That leaves poor holster choice or operator error. Regardless, the article served its purpose, to disrupt pistol procurements. If not for DND, at least for LE Agencies in Canada.