A weapon should never be more dangerous to its user than an enemy, and tragically history is filled with such tales of small arms that did in fact put the user in harm’s way.
However, in the modern era, this absolutely should never be the case as gun designs are tested, while prototypes go through rigorous quality control. Despite those facts, earlier this month the Canadian Armed Forces announced that the SIG Sauer P320 was taken out of service after a recent incident in which a soldier was injured in a misfire.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that a member of Canada’s elite special forces counterterrorism unit was wounded last fall when the handgun went off inexplicably during a training exercise at an Ottawa-area shooting range.
“One member sustained a minor gunshot injury during the incident, was treated and released the same day, and was returned to duty,” Capt. Ian Grant, a spokesperson for Canadian Special Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) said in a written statement according to the Firearm Blog.
SIG Sauer P320: A Primer
The P320 pistol is a modular semi-automatic pistol made by SIG Sauer Inc. of Exeter, New Hampshire as well as by SIG Sauer GmbH of Eckernförde, Germany. First introduced in 2014, the sidearm is available in multiple calibers including 9x19mm Parabellum, .357 SIG, .45 S&W, and .45 ACP. It is a short recoil-operated pistol and features a locked-breech Sig Sauer system, which is a refinement of designs based on the work of John Browning and Charles Petter.
While seen as a reliable pistol for civilian, law enforcement and military use, there had been serious issues with the initial production models of the P320. Some production models were known to have a “drop safety” issue – whereby the firearm could discharge if dropped on a specific angle. The company attempted to address the problem with reduced mass while a new striker disconnect made it drop safe.
It is unclear if it was a drop safety issue that caused the misfire, which injured a soldier serving with Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2). CBC reported that the soldier was hit in the leg and received a flesh wound at a firing range at Dwyer Hill, the unit’s principal base. Following an investigation, the Canadian military has withdrawn all of its brand new SIG Sauer P320s from service, and members of JTF-2 will rely on the older SIG Sauer P226 pistols.
SIG Sauer claims that the soldier wounded in the accidental discharge last fall was using the wrong holster for the firearm. “The use of a modified [SIG] P226 holster created an unsafe condition by allowing a foreign object to enter the holster, causing the unintended discharge,” SIG explained in a statement.
According to a source in the Canadian military, as many as 400 of the pistols may have been in service, and those were chambered in the widely used 9mm caliber.
As has been reported, the issue raised troubling questions about whether proper due diligence was conducted by the Canadian military in its acquisition of a new handgun – especially in light of the fact that there had been misfires of the SIG Sauer P320 in the United States, including one that resulted in a class-action lawsuit that was only settled last summer.
JTF-2 was the only unit in the Canadian military that had been using the SIG Sauer P320, so the problem has been seen as contained.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.