The first large-capacity micro-9 is a game-changer
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to shoot many different handguns without having to purchase them. Many of these handguns are EDC pistols. Most perform well. Some have features or designs that stand out from the others, and others are very good simply because they offer the familiarity of their big brothers.
And, once in a while, something truly special comes along.
Enter the SIG Sauer P365 9mm, released in January 2018. Most things in life are a compromise—your car, your house and your firearms. Some EDC pistols make that compromise less apparent than others. However, the SIG Sauer P365 does this better than any other EDC pistol in recent memory.
As a striker-fired, polymer-framed, micro-compact pistol, it is small, but it shoots big. The grip is large enough to hold well, especially with an extended grip magazine, but small enough to conceal easily. With a sight radius of almost 5 inches and SIG’s X-RAY3 Day/Night sights, getting a good sight picture is as easy as with a mid-sized or compact pistol.
The real kicker is the P365’s magazine capacity. Two 10-round magazines are standard for a loaded capacity of 11 rounds. One magazine has a flat base for better concealment, and the other has a finger rest for a better grip. An extended, 12-round magazine is available for a loaded capacity of 13 rounds. This approaches mid-sized/compact territory—but in a micro-compact size.
All of this comes in a package virtually the same size and weight as either a 9mm M&P Shield or a Glock 43.
What Makes the P365 Tick?
The basic design of the P365 is that of the now-common, recoil-operated, semiauto, center-fire, striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol. As such, it shares many features with its competition. The one thing that the P365 doesn’t have is a trigger safety. There is no blade in the trigger shoe or pivoting trigger shoe that must be actuated to allow the trigger shoe to move to the rear. It does have a striker block that prevents the striker from moving forward unless the trigger is pulled.
The stainless steel slide has fore and aft cocking serrations. There also is a rectangular opening at the top rear of the barrel hood that allows the operator to visually determine whether or not there is a casing in the chamber. In my mind, this feature negates the need for front cocking serrations, which are generally used to perform a “press-check” to determine the condition of the pistol. Generally, press-checks are not a good idea: The slide might be left out of battery because it hasn’t had the full force of the recoil spring(s) to return it to battery.
A large, slide-mounted external extractor makes sure no cartridge is left behind in the chamber. The recoil rod assembly uses dual springs. I did find the slide easier to rack than on either the Glock 43 or the M&P Shield.
Grip texturing on the polymer frame is adequate, but I added Talon black rubber grips to the P365 I evaluated, because I like their feel and stickiness.
The takedown lever is located directly above the trigger and in front of the slide lever. Neither is bilateral or reversible. A contoured, triangular magazine release button is located at the lower rear of the trigger guard on the left side. It is somewhat protected in this position, and I found that I had to consciously press the button in order to release the magazine. For left-handed shooters, the magazine release button can be relocated to the right side of the frame.
The tang is high, and there is a relief cut in the underside of the trigger guard to allow for a high hand position. Relief cuts have been molded into the upper part of the grip portion of the frame on each side behind the trigger guard to provide a thumb rest and to guide the trigger finger to the trigger.
The integral accessory rail is proprietary SIG Sauer and does not accept 1913 MIL-SPEC accessories. SIG has said that accessories are on the way; these include a laser and light.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the P365 is the design of its magazine—rightly so, because SIG developed the magazine first and then developed the P365 around it. While many manufacturers of micro-compact pistols use true single-stack or slightly staggered magazines, SIG Sauer developed a new “modified” double-stack magazine to allow for a higher capacity without a wider grip.
The P365’s magazine is more of a double-stack magazine that has been narrowed slightly so that casings are aligned closer to side by side than vertically, as with a 1.5 stack—a “stack and a half.” The top of the magazine is narrow so that the top two rounds are single-stack, and the third is just slightly staggered. From there, the magazine widens to full width. To me, the magazine design is the key to the success of the pistol.
SIG’s decision to make the X-RAY3 Day/Night sights standard was a good one. I believe that an EDC handgun is ill-equipped if it doesn’t have night sights. The serrated black rear sight with twin tritium vials and front sight with a large, fluorescent green dot with a tritium vial in the center are easy to pick up day or night. They provide an excellent three-dot sight picture at night and a standard post-and-notch (with dot) during the day. On most other EDC pistols, they are either a $100 option or they must be purchased and installed after the purchase of the pistol.
Takedown and reassembly are pretty straightforward, and it is not necessary to pull the trigger prior to disassembly. However, there is one slight catch: When reinstalling the assembled slide onto the frame, before it can be slid all the way on, the slide lock lever must first be pushed up, and then, the takedown lever can be rotated clockwise a full 90 degrees from horizontal. Once the slide is on, it’s easiest to lock the slide to the rear and then flip the takedown lever rearward into the horizontal position.
Currently, the only model available is chambered in 9mm Luger. It has a Nitron finish and XRAY3 night sights. Line extensions are sure to follow. And SIG could easily knock $75 to $100 off the price by deleting the night sights.
I presume SIG will eventually offer the P365 in different color combinations. In addition, as far as chambering it for other cartridges, I don’t see that in the near future. The .40 S&W has fallen from favor recently, so why chamber it in .380 ACP when you have the same size pistol in 9mm Luger? Some might ask for .357 SIG, but I suspect that would be a bit of a stretch for the P365 and be of limited interest.
I think that SIG Sauer has hit the sweet spot just as it is.
For this evaluation, I used more than 16 types of 9mm Luger factory ammunition. All functioned without any problems. Fourteen types of ammunition from four different manufacturers were evaluated for accuracy and velocity.
SIG Sauer rates the P365 for +P ammunition. Both defensive hollow point and full metal jacket ammunition were used. Bullet weights ranged from 115 to 150 grains.
I have chosen the SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown JHP load as my carry ammunition. I like the bullet design and velocity; plus, it has good accuracy. Most importantly, I shot enough of it to be confident that it will function without a problem if I ever need to use it in a defensive situation.
I also had the opportunity to shoot some of SIG Sauer’s new 365 V-Crown JHP 115-grain and 365 FMJ Elite Ammunition 115-grain. This ammunition is formulated specifically for CCW handguns.
The first P365 I received had a minor early-production “teething” problem, but the slightly later production pistol used for this evaluation operated flawlessly. All 16-plus types of ammunition I fired functioned flawlessly, and all the magazines fed properly and dropped free when the magazine release was pushed. No magazines were dropped inadvertently.
As on any micro-compact handgun, there isn’t a lot of real estate to hold onto, so it is imperative that the operator be cognizant of their hand position. I have small hands, so it is not a problem for me, but many shooters have a tendency to ride the slide lock lever and/or takedown lever on a small pistol such as the P365, thus creating a user-induced malfunction.
The P365 is a bit snappy, but not as much as I thought might be the case. I actually found it quite easy to control, and long sessions at the range shooting the P365 were not a problem. I found the limiting factor to be how many magazines I wanted to load, not the recoil of the pistol. The 10-round magazine with the finger rest and the extended 12-round magazine with the finger rest definitely made the P365 more pleasant to shoot.
I found the accuracy of the P365 to be quite good. Freedom Munitions’ Pro Match 135-grain XAP ammunition proved to be the most accurate factory load at 15 yards. The average for three five-shot groups was 1.43 inches, with the smallest group measuring 1.33 inches. Federal Premium 150-grain HST JHP defensive ammunition came in second, at 1.61 inches for three five-shot groups. I consider all the ammunition used acceptable for use in the P365. Obviously, I would only use the defensive ammunition for concealed-carry purposes.
|Freedom Munitions Pro Match 135-grain XAP||851||73||21.3||1.33||1.43|
|SIG Sauer 115-grain V-Crown JHP||1,131||45||13.9||1.32||1.56|
|Federal Premium 150-grain HST JHP||853||71||22.9||1.5||1.61|
|SIG Sauer 124-grain FMJ||1,048||55||25||1.83||1.86|
|Federal Premium H-S Deep 135-grain||1,005||83||27.6||1.48||1.86|
|SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown JHP||1,086||41||13.7||1.37||1.92|
|SIG Sauer 147-grain FMJ||939||41||11.5||1.63||2.02|
|SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ||1,118||35||13.5||1.69||2.02|
|SIG Sauer 147-grain V-Crown JHP||896||60||16.8||1.33||2.09|
|Hornady Critical Defense 115-grain FTX||1,048||78||23.6||1.74||2.12|
|SIG Sauer 365 115-grain V-Crown JHP||1,075||35||12.7||1.47||2.19|
|Federal Premium 124-grain H-S JHP||998||20||6.1||1.84||2.21|
|American Eagle 124-grain FMJ||1,037||118||32.2||1.88||2.22|
|SIG Sauer 365 115-grain FMJ||1,064||40||14.3||1.48||2.42|
Notes: The velocity, extreme spread (E.S.) and standard deviation (S.D.) were measured/calculated at the muzzle using a LabRadar device and are an average of 10 shots. Group average is in inches, taken from three five-shot groups fired at 15 yards using a sandbag rest.
SIG Sauer 365 Elite Performance Ammunition
In early May 2018, SIG Sauer announced the release of a new line of 9mm Luger ammunition designed specifically for use in the SIG Sauer P365 micro-compact pistol and other short-barreled, concealed-carry pistols. Two types are currently available. One load is a 115-grain full metal jacket training round; the other is a 115-grain V-Crown JHP CCW personal-defense round.
These loads are not only optimized for use in the P365, they are also designed to perform complementarily to each other ballistically, with a muzzle velocity of 1,050 fps and with the same recoil and point of impact. This allows a seamless transition from the 365 FMJ (#E9MMB1) training ammunition to the 365 V-Crown JHP (#E9MMA1) personal-defense load.
I compared both the FMJ and V-Crown 365 loads to their non-365 115-grain counterparts and to each other. The 365 ammunition definitely has less recoil and made less noise than its non-365 counterparts. The 365 FMJ and 365 V-Crown loads averaged 1,064 and 1,075 fps, respectively, at the muzzle and were quite close to the 1,050 fps advertised by SIG from the 3.1-inch barrel of the P365 pistol. The muzzle velocity of the 365 115-grain V-Crown ammunition was 56 fps slower than the non-365 115-grain V-Crown ammunition. The 365 115-grain FMJ was 54 fps slower than the non-365 115-grain FMJ ammunition when fired out of the P365.
I also fired both types of 115-grain 365 ammunition at dusk with the P365 and experienced almost no muzzle flash. Smoke from all the SIG Sauer 115-grain ammunition was light and roughly equivalent.
Without looking at the terminal performance of the 115-grain 365 and the 115-grain non-365 ammunition, I would say that the 365 ammunition is roughly equivalent to the non-365 ammunition—but with less noise and recoil. The SIG Sauer P365 handgun functioned flawlessly with all four SIG Sauer 115-grain 9mm loads that were evaluated.
At the P365’s initial introduction, there were few holsters available for it, other than those offered by SIG Sauer and made by BlackPoint Tactical.
Those holsters consist of the IWB “Mini Wing” and DualPoint AIWB Kydex holsters. Both are very well-designed and manufactured. I used the Mini-Wing version extensively for over a month and found it both comfortable and secure. However, I could not find a comfortable position for the DualPoint AWIB holster, so my experience with it was very limited. Both SIG Sauer BlackPoint Tactical holsters retail for $80.
Since the introduction of the P365, many other holster manufacturers have developed custom-fit holsters for it. By the time you read this, I’m sure many holster options will be available.
The grip surface on the P365 is adequate for self-defense purposes, but I chose to install a Talon grip surface for a better feel. I chose the Rubber-Black version for concealed-carry purposes. Rubber-Moss (think “coyote”) and Granulate-Black versions are also available.
Installation is much easier than the instructions might lead you to believe. I have installed a dozen or more over the past two years; it takes me about 15 minutes to install a one.
I have used Talon grips on both Glock G42 and G43 EDC guns, and they show no signs of wear or of coming loose. (MSRP: $18; add $2 for Rubber-Moss)
Take a Hard Look at This One
From the first time I fired the P365 at SIG Sauer’s Range Day the Sunday before the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew the P365 was special. That was substantiated as I later put more than 1,500 rounds through two different P365s.
The fact that I have replaced my Glock 43 with the SIG Sauer P365 as my everyday-carry gun says it all. I can now carry 23 rounds (10+1 in the pistol and 12 in one spare magazine in my pocket), versus 19 rounds (6+1 in the pistol and two spare 12-round magazines in my pocket) for the G43.
I carried a G42 or G43 for several years, mainly because of their similarity to the other Glocks I shoot almost daily. Due to the similarities between the majority of the polymer-framed, striker-fired, micro-compact EDC pistols today, I don’t feel I am giving up anything by carrying the P365 in return for extra capacity. I also didn’t have to install tritium night sights after I purchased the P365.
Anyone looking for an EDC pistol would be remiss if they didn’t take a hard look at the P365. Shoot a friend’s P365, or go to a range at which you can rent one for an hour and give it a good workout. Then make your decision.
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
- Model: P365 NITRON
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Action type : Semiauto, striker fired
- Grip material: Polymer
- Frame and slide: Stainless steel with Nitron finish
- Overall length: 5.8 inches
- Barrel length: 3.1 inches
- Overall height: 4.3 inches
- Width: 1.0 inches
- Weight: 18.5 ounces (with empty 10-round, flush-fit magazine)
- Trigger pull: 6 pounds, 15.5 ounces (average of 10 pulls using a digital Lyman Trigger Pull gauge)
- Rail: SIG Rail
- Sights: SIG X-RAY3 Day/Night sights
- Capacity: 10+1 (12+1 optional)
- MSRP: $600
SIG Sauer: SIGSauer.com
BlackPoint Tactical: BlackPointTactical.com
Federal Premium: FederalPremium.com
Freedom Munitions: FreedomMuntions.com
Hornady Ammunition: Hornady.com
Talon Gun Grips: TalonGunGrips.com
Editor’s note: The full version of this article is available in the September 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.