Faulty Firearm: Local law enforcement respond to safety concerns

Published: Aug. 15, 2017 at 9:52 PM CDT
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A major gun manufacturer is responding to safety concerns over one of its popular sidearms. There's a potential defect that could lead to unintentional firing. The very same firearm is used department wide at a local law enforcement agency.

Recent testing done by online sporting goods dealer, Omaha Outdoors, sparked increased concern among people who own the Sig Sauer P320 and police departments that use them. In a video posted on youtube, the gun is shown numerous times unintentionally firing off during drop testing when it hits at a specific angle on a hard surface. It's important to not that Omaha Outdoors used primed cases during the drop tests in its video where the bullet and powder are removed from a factory round.

The Dallas Police Department recently suspended the use of the gun. Scott County deputies are issued these very same pistols and they continue to carry them. An unintentional firing hasn't happened for the Scott County Sheriff's department. The Sig Sauer P320 is what all deputies carry and they have for about a year. Sheriff Tim Lane says it came as a surprise to hear the pistol has a potential problem.

"There's always a chance that something like that could happen, but it is fairly remote," said Sheriff Lane.

The P320 has internal safety mechanisms, rather than an external switch or trigger safety. Testers believe part of the problem is the weight of the trigger itself. When a dropped gun would hit the ground at a certain angle the inertia can keep the trigger moving, essentially firing itself.

One day after Omaha Outdoors posted their findings online, Sig Sauer announced it had a fix that would be a voluntary upgrade for owners. Meantime, law enforcement agencies like Scott County are faced with a decision.

"That's a difficult question that I had to face, which is: do we buy all new weapons, all new holsters, then go through the training that is required?" said Lane.

Expecting it to take about a month to get new guns, Sheriff Lane says he's not pulling the current ones. However, any extra shooting or qualifications deputies might normally do will halt for now.

"I believe the gun is very safe and it's very appropriate for law enforcement and it's going to continue to be safe for these next 30 days," added Lane.

Sig Sauer confronted evidence of a dangerous defect in a media statement. It read in part:

"P320 pistol meet requirements for industry and government safety standards... recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond U.S. standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge. As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, Sig has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance."

Sig Sauer does not recommend that any consumer perform drop testing before or after this upgrade.

The company also notes online that, "Minimal reported drop-related P320 incidents have occurred in the U.S. commercial and law enforcement markets, with hundreds of thousands of guns delivered to date. These instances occurred in conditions that appear to be outside of normal testing protocols. The current P320 design meets and exceeds all U.S. safety standards. As it relates to the ad hoc media drop tests, these were not part of standardized testing protocols, and they were performed using firearms in unknown conditions."

"Sig will actually upgrade the trigger unit with a mechanical disconnect which will in theory hopefully make it that this pistol can not be fired if it is dropped," said Jason Paskvan, General Manager of Davenport Guns.

On the consumer side of things the Sig P320 has been a popular choice at Davenport Guns, but for now, the retailer isn't selling them. Staff members are is encouraging current P320 owners to look into the voluntary upgrade.

"I wouldn't want them to drop their pistol and have an accident that could cost somebody their life," added Paskvan.

The U.S. Army chose a variation of this handgun as its new official sidearm. That 10-year, $580 million contract was announced earlier this year. Sig Sauer says that version is not affected by this issue.

If you own this gun the company just rolled out the upgrade program. Find more information here:

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