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Critics Say Popular Handgun P320 Discharges With No Trigger Pull

The P320 is one of the nation’s most popular handguns. A variant of the weapon is the standard-issue sidearm for every branch of the U.S. military. Since its introduction to the commercial market in 2014, manufacturer SIG Sauer has sold the P320 to hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the gun has been used by officers at more than a thousand law enforcement agencies across the nation. It has also gruesomely injured scores of people who say the gun has a potentially deadly defect. More than 100 people allege that their P320 pistols discharged when they did not pull the trigger, an eight-month investigation by The Washington Post and The Trace has found. At least 80 people were wounded in the shootings, which date to 2016. “The number and frequency of injuries are strongly suggestive of a design flaw versus a human performance error,” said Bill Lewinski, of the Force Science Institute, a leading expert on accidental shootings. “What we’re seeing is highly unusual." Interviews with more than a dozen victims, video recordings, and a review of thousands of pages of court documents and internal police records show a pattern of discharges that were alleged to have occurred during routine movements. These have included the holstering or unholstering of the P320, climbing out of vehicles, and walking down stairs.

SIG Sauer, based in Newington, N.H., denied that the P320 was capable of firing without a trigger pull. It cited accounts of unintentional discharges with other firearms as evidence that such issues with the P320 are neither uncommon nor suggestive of a defect. “These reports, among others, support three conclusions,” the response reads. “(1) unintentional discharges are not uncommon amongst both law enforcement and civilians, (2) improper or unsafe handling is one of the most common causes of unintentional discharges, and (3) unintentional discharges occur with several types of firearms and are not unique to the P320.” Critics say the P320 versions used most often by civilians and police are essentially cocked at all times, with no external safeties to prevent the guns from firing in cases of malfunctions. These design features make them especially vulnerable to unintentional discharges, critics say. Firearms, as a product, are exempt from federal consumer product safety regulations. As a result, no regulatory body has the power to investigate alleged defects or impose a mandatory recall of guns. While thousands of P320s circulate in the civilian market, waiting for buyers, SIG Sauer faces lawsuits from at least 70 people who allege the company is selling a defective product.


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