Hearing the thwap of a pellet hitting cardboard or the ting off of a steel target is a satisfying sound when recreationally shooting an air gun. Finding an air pistol that matches the shape, weight and feel of a popular firearm can also add some enjoyment.
In this review, I review the SIG SAUER P320 Air Pistol. These airguns are specifically designed to imitate the feel and look of the US Army’s new pistol. As such, they may play a role larger than mere backyard fun. It is possible that the guns could have a role in training.
Here’s my take on the gun from both perspectives.
About the Gun
SIG SAUER describes the P320 Airgun as being part of a “next-generation air pistols” line that “closely measure up” to the centerfire handguns sold by the company.
Currently the company offers three basic models: the P320 Air Pistol (the subject of this review,) the 1911 MAX CO2 BB-Gun and the P226 Air Pistol. The names make it fairly obvious which air gun is modeled after which firearm. Different color/finish options are available for each model of air pistol.
The SIG P320 Air Pistol is powered by 12 gram CO2 cylinders. These are the small, metal canisters that have traditionally powered air guns, paintball guns and a variety of other things. Under ideal conditions, SIG states the cartridge can propel a projectile up to 430 fps.
This gun uses .177 caliber pellets and BBs. These projectiles remain the most common for air guns, and should be easily found at any sporting goods, Walmart or similar store. You can also buy them easily online at places like Amazon.
A 30-pellet magazine feeds this gun. It is a flat magazine that hinges open to load BBs or pellets into a chain-type feeding system. Each pellet must be fit individually into each hole in the chain. It works, though I found the loading process tedious. An extra magazine or two should be considered mandatory, but SIG only includes one with each gun. I highly recommend buying a second to go with this pistol.
SIG lists the weight of the air pistol at 2.2 pounds. That works out to be 35.2 ounces. According to the company’s website, the full size Nitron P320 weighs 29.5 ounces unloaded. That’s a fair difference between the two.
However, I weighed my sample P320 air pistol on a postal scale. Without a CO2 cartridge or pellets in the magazine, the gun weighed 28.2 ounces. With only about one ounce of difference between the two guns unloaded, I’d say the weights are close enough to live up to the company’s claims of similar weights.
My sample P320 air pistol had a similar feel to that of the firearm version. It did not feel identical, but it was close. For example, the air gun has a less solid feel to the grip. This is probably because it is designed to come apart.
The back strap comes off with the magazine well to access the CO2 cartridge compartment. This, unfortunately, introduces some wiggle into the feel of the grip.
Sights on this review gun are a 3-dot style similar to what you can find on a normal SIG P320 pistol. The slide does reciprocate mimicking that of a real firearm.
My test gun was finished in coyote tan, The finish looked very good. The metal parts appeared well made and the plastic that made up the frame was well molded with no sprue and only faint molding lines.
Many factors alter the muzzle velocity of the projectile. A few of these include the temperature, altitude and projectile design. Colder temperatures tend to result in slower velocities while warmer days drive pellets faster.
This is not a hunting gun, so the typical velocities of projectiles fired from this gun are well below those of more powerful hunting air rifles. According to SIG SAUER, the maximum velocity of pellets fired from this gun is 430 fps.
Here is the velocity information I recorded:
|Crosman Copperhead BB||
|H&N Sport Baracuda Match domed pellet (10.65 gr)||
|SIG SAUER Match Ballistic Alloy flat point pellet (5.25 gr)||
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital at an approximate distance of 2' from the muzzle of the air pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots with a fresh CO2 cartridge.
The average velocity numbers do not tell the whole story. As you fire, each subsequent round drops in velocity. So, you may start a string of shots above 400 fps, but by the time you are at the 10th, you could be down around 300 fps.
With each CO2 cylinder, I was able to fire two magazines worth of pellets (60 pellets total) out of the gun before velocities dropped too low to reliably hit the targets. Environmental factors can influence this. As points of reference, it was about 85˚ F, humid and I was only about 20′ above sea level when shooting this pistol.
Plinking with an airgun is always fun. From poking holes in targets to knocking cans off of a log, there is a lot of enjoyment that can be had with a pistol like the P320 CO2 pistol.
For even more fun, SIG SAUER offers a number of airgun targets for practice and friendly competition. I shot on three of them: the Reflex Target, the Quad Shooting Gallery and the Texas Star Spinner Target. You can read my reviews of each of those targets by clicking the links above. Unfortunately, due to the lack of precision of this pistol (see more below) and the minimum safe distances required by SIG when shooting these target systems, they are more suited for air rifles than the P320 airgun.
I’m afraid that the SIG P320 air pistol does not meet my needs as a training tool for professionals like police officers and soldiers. Nor does it make a lot of sense to me for concealed carry and self-defense training.
However, for teaching a young person about the handling of firearms, it does work well. Let me explain both of my views a little more.
Professional and Self-Defense Training
My background is in law enforcement and law enforcement training. I worked for many years as a street cop and know that poor quality gear can get you hurt. So, I approach nearly everything in the gun world first with the question “What practical use does this have?”
For the SIG P320 air pistol, its practical use in training would presumably be as a safer alternative to a centerfire handgun.
However, it is not a truly safe alternative as it still fires projectiles that can take your eyesight or cause other injury when mishandled. Since it is not a safe, inert pistol, its use in a classroom environment is limited. For the most part, you need to use the same precautions when handling this gun as you would with a 9mm P320.
For presentation drills (drawing from a holster,) I see no improvement over using this instead of an unloaded P320 firearm.
Magazine changes are not analogous between the air pistol and centerfire handgun. The mags are completely different, and you stand a very good chance of breaking the one for the air gun should you try to run a mag swap as hard and fast as you would in training with the actual firearm.
The trigger on the air pistol feels different than that of the P320 pistol. In my opinion, dry fire drills with the real firearm are still a better choice for improving control of the trigger press.
Lastly, simple target practice is difficult due to the relative lack of accuracy of the air gun. Significantly varying velocities of the projectiles hinders precision. Additionally, the gun does not have the power nor the projectiles the mass to hold any real accuracy at longer ranges.
At about 10 yards, I was able to put four of the SIG SAUER pellets into a 1.75″ circle with the fifth going who knows where. While I would normally chalk that up to poor shooter discipline, I repeated five shot groupings on 3″ marker targets and got similar results every time.
Watching my son shoot the pistol, he also encountered similar issues. Shooting on a coyote shaped target, he would make 3-4 heart/lung shots and then have a flyer strike a lower leg or fly high.
Unfortunately, I see little use for this airgun as a training tool for professionals. It sounds good in marketing materials, and at first blush, it might sound good to you. But, at the end of the day, I think you are better off saving your money and training with the real P320.
Introductory Training for Kids
Teaching kids about shooting, however, has a much stronger position in the usefulness of the pistol. All of the safety rules can be taught with this gun.
Plus, since it can be shot in the back yard instead of the range, the child can be free of the loud cracks from other guns being fired nearby. This helps to provide an enjoyable environment for the kid to learn the hobby of shooting.
This gun is fun to shoot. If you are looking for an air gun that is great for a little target shooting in your backyard, the P320 airgun is hard to beat. It mimics the look and feel of a centerfire P320 while giving you the chance to shoot cheaply and without the need to pay range fees.
However, if you are looking for a training tool that will replicate the actions of the P320 firearm, you may be disappointed. While the weight and feel of the air gun are similar to the full size firearm, the similarities pretty much end there.
The trigger pull is significantly different, and the accuracy of the air gun is insufficient to get good feedback on your shooting fundamentals. The magazine in the air gun bears no resemblance to the magazine in the firearm and would likely break very quickly if you tried to run magazine changes as rapidly as you would need to with a real firearm.
For my money, the SIG P320 air gun is a fun product to own and shoot. But, I don’t see it as a serious training tool. Buy one (get Amazon’s best price here) and just have a good time with it and your kids or friends.
You deserve to know about any influences or biases that may have affected me as I wrote this article. So, here is a summary of things you might want to know. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by leaving a comment in that section below.
The P320 airgun was provided to me without charge by SIG SAUER for the purposes of reviewing it. Along with the gun, the company sent a single package of CO2 cylinders and one tin of .177 caliber pellets. SIG also provided the Texas star spinner, quad gallery and reflex spinner targets shown in this article.
No promises were made of a positive review, nor were any requested by SIG SAUER. No forms of compensation were offered, requested or received for this review. SIG SAUER is not an advertiser, nor we in any discussions for the company to be one.
I do not have any financial interests in SIG SAUER or any other manufacturer in the firearms industry.
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