SIG SAUER P365: SIG’s Covert Carry Challenger

By Oleg Volk

SIG SAUER’s P365 has received more press attention than most new pistols, along with robust support from numerous holster makers. Since its release to the general public, it has generated an impressive number of positive testimonials. What makes this particular model so popular? Holster maker C&G Holsters reports that P365 IWB holsters are their #1 seller, edging out comparably sized Glock 43 (#4) and Smith & Wesson Shield (#5). The reasons are numerous, and they add up to a well-rounded defensive pistol that doesn’t sacrifice any important qualities to achieve any one of them in particular.

My first cursory experience with the P365 began with the test firing at SHOT Show Media Day at the Range. Used to unpleasant, inaccurate and hard-kicking subcompact pistols, I loaded only three rounds at first. I shot at the 6-yard target, hit it and loaded a full 10-round magazine. I was able to hit several 10-yard targets, loaded up another mag and hit 15-yard steel as well. About 50 rounds into the fun, I knew that my contact at SIG SAUER would get a phone call asking for a T&E sample. Subcompact pistols that shoot that well, sit comfortably in hand and run reliably aren’t exactly common.

The pistol arrived with two SIG SAUER-branded holsters; two more came from C&S Saddlery Co. and one from Galco Gunleather. All proved quite comfortable, to the point of me quickly forgetting that the gun was on my hip. The mag carrier situation was a little different, with the first designs hitting the shelves in early May 2018. The P365 magazine was the first component of the gun designed, and the rest of the pistol was built around it. Double stack at the bottom, single stack at the top, the P365 magazines accomplished the previously impossible 10-round capacity in the footprint of a six- to seven-shot magazine made by others. While their extended magazines add a single extra cartridge, the extended P365 mags fit a whopping 12-rounds. These magazines are even easy to load, without the extra-strong spring pressure evident in certain subcompacts. They lock into the grip easily even when full and drop free as easily. Just in case, the sides of the grip are slightly undercut, with corresponding base plate projections for ripping mags out if necessary. The slide stop is streamlined but remains highly functional and easy to reach.

P365 is fractionally shorter than G43, Shield and XDS, giving up a tenth to a fifth of an inch of barrel length to accomplish that. One-inch width and 4.3-inch height are all within a tenth of the inch of its direct competitors, and 19-ounce weight (with empty magazine) is within an ounce of its competitors as well. It is substantially smaller and lighter than all compact double-stack designs on the market. No magic was involved, just very careful engineering and iterative improvement over numerous preceding designs. All this, the dimensions and the weight, count mainly for the comfortable carry, but handguns exist for the performance. This is where P365 delivers far out of proportion to its size.

The dual recoil spring makes for an easy slide rack. Slide serrations are deep enough to be functional, while all parts of this gun are chamfered enough for comfortable handling even after long range sessions. Similarly, the grip had sufficient but not abrasive texture for retention, improving considerably on a number of mainstream pistols that cause friction abrasions during extended shooting sessions. Excessive recoil and muzzle rise, the typical afflictions of 9mm subcompacts, are absent. Many subcompacts also come with difficult triggers, with pull weight heavy relative to the mass of the firearm, but not so for the P365. The trigger feels precise and easy to control in slow and rapid fire, despite the measured weight of 6.75 pounds—the subjective feel was closer to 4.5 pounds typical of full-size guns. Much of the weight comes from the strong reset spring which, combined with the short reset, makes rapid fire easier to accomplish. The reset happens with a pronounced click at half of the full travel, counting the take-up.

The final component of accurate shooting is consistent sighting, which is helped considerably by tritium night sights with a prominent color outline around the front vial. With the relatively short slide, the prominence of the front sight was a great help in keeping it in focus. At 10 yards, shooting with a target focus produced roughly 3-inch groups, while switching to correct front sight focus shrank the groups down to an inch and a half. Ten shots at 10 yards in a group that size would have been respectable for a full-size pistol and quite an outstanding accomplishment for a subcompact. Since the recoil and the muzzle flip are moderate even with full-power defensive ammunition, the shooter can concentrate more on accuracy and less on managing the weapon motion during recoil. Since slow, deliberate fire isn’t the intended purpose of P365, I tried point shooting. Turns out, it’s no challenge to hit a tennis ball repeatedly at 5 yards. With sights, the same tennis ball centers at point of aim at 10 yards. At 25 yards, placing the tennis ball target just above the front sight gets a solid hit more often than not. All that from a subcompact pistol!

SIG SAUER also reduced the problem of excessive muzzle flash and lower muzzle velocity due to barrels shorter than usual. With a 3.1-inch barrel, P365 would be slightly flashy in low light but for the introduction of SIG SAUER’s new SIG 365 ammunition with powders optimized for the smaller gun. Rated at 1050fps from the subcompact pistol, this ammunition develops about the same velocity as SIG V-Crown but does it with a lot less muzzle flash. The P365 also runs fine with 124 grain loads, but they are loaded hotter and result in slower follow-ups. 147 grain subsonics were somewhere in the middle, with mild recoil but more pronounced flip. It appears that the feed path in the pistol is very forgiving of irregular bullet shapes: all odd cartridges I tried in this pistol cycled fine.

Takedown is simple, with the heavily spring-loaded takedown lever rotated 120 degrees clock-wise with the slide locked back. Once the grip frame and the slide separate, the stainless steel receiver inside the grip frame becomes visible. The captured dual spring assembly comes out of the slide as a block. No further disassembly is required for cleaning, though the magazine catch may be reversed by the user for left-hand activation if desired. For reassembly, the slide stop should be raised to permit the takedown lever to rotate down. The lever snaps up into its regular position once the slide is drawn all the way to the back.

In conclusion, SIG SAUER managed to create a well-balanced subcompact pistol that encroaches on the performance range of double-stack compacts. Its technical merits, combined with well-supported and managed introduction, have already allowed it to challenge the current champions of the covert carry category. Given its modular design and the history of SIG SAUER creating numerous variations of successful designs—like the 16 flavors of P238—I hope to see the P365 line extended as well.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N7 (August 2018)
and was posted online on June 22, 2018


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