If you've ever attended our Every Day Carry concealed carry courses or had a discussion with me regarding Concealed Carry/Every Day Carry guns, you have undoubtedly heard me sing the praises of the M&P9 Shield 2.0. I mean, it's a great gun, it really is. It is easily concealed, fairly high capacity, and most importantly, it shoots more like a full-size handgun and less like a pocket pistol. It comes straight out of the box a high performer and once you put an Apex trigger kit and Dawson Precision Charger Sights (blacked out rear, fiber optic front) you have what I have long considered just about the perfect EDC handgun. So, at least in my mind, the Shield 2.0 is pretty good standard to compare the P365 against.
Along those same lines, if you know me well, you probably know that I am no fan of SIG handguns, this especially goes for any of the P2XX line. A lot of that angst has to do with issues I've observed with them as issued duty guns by the federal agency I work for and also seeing students struggle with those guns on the firing line during Paramount handgun courses. In my opinion, between thumb safeties, decockers, combined with the inherent challenges of DA/SA triggers, there's more going on there than there should be for a duty or carry gun. I realize all of that can be overcome through training but knowing how humans perform under stress, I'm a fan of keeping things simple. The nice thing about striker fired guns is you have to spend very little training time or mental resources learning/defeating the peculiarities or “safety features” of the firearm itself.
So when the P365 came on to the market, my SIG prejudice prevented me from being all that interested. I thought it was just another attempt to capitalize on the EDC community’s ravenous appetite for easily concealed handguns. The biggest problem with the market being flooded with firearms that are designed to be easily concealed, or in other words guns designed to be as small as possible, is the fact that concealability and performance are antithetical to one another. The more of one, the less of the other. So many handgun manufacturers have been in such a rush to get compact and subcompact guns on the market they have put very little thought into performance… or at least performance was not the top priority.
Too often it seems as if the goal is only size reduction and performance is an afterthought. When we’re considering a device that's sole intended purpose is saving lives in the worst conditions possible, performance must be the primary consideration. Sure, we want to make it as concealable as possible but without diminishing that performance. Due to poor design and ergonomics many compact handgun features aren’t conducive to a fast draw, and due to a lack of controllability during recoil, simply don’t allow for the accurate, rapid fire engagements close quarters defensive shooting requires. Most of these small guns are good for one shot and then they shift so much in your hands, fast follow up shots are all but impossible.
When it comes to handguns, bigger is better; full-size handguns are easier to shoot than small ones. Inexperienced shooters and gun buyers often believe that a small gun equals less recoil. Contrary to that common perception, physics has determined the opposite is true. This is why so many women show up to firearms courses with the smallest gun their husbands could find for them at the gun shop, and in turn why so many women hate their first experience shooting and never shoot another gun again.
Shooting small guns really should be considered an advanced skill. People need to understand that small guns have more felt recoil, less gun to hold onto and control, shorter sight radius, more misses, and less ammunition. That is a lot of compounding factors working against you. Now throw in a life or death scenario and without proper training and experience, you end up with a very bad result. The smaller the gun, the more strictly the fundamentals must be applied in order to control and shoot that firearm with the speed and accuracy most defensive situations require. These factors are why we require clients at a minimum, to attend our Level I and II Defensive Handgun Courses with full size guns and outside the waistband holsters before they can attend any courses with smaller guns and inside the waistband holsters. There are few things more dangerous than sticking small pistols inside your pants then yanking them out and responding to threats under stress.
Ok… back to the P365. Last year we were running a Tactical Carbine Course and during the lunch break, one of our clients mentioned he just got a P365 and asked if I wanted to check it out. I don’t even think the P365 had been officially released yet or at least they were not widely available at the time. I could also tell he was excited about his new purchase and even though I’m no SIG fan, I did want to see the gun for myself. Its high capacity intrigued me. When I first heard it could fit 10 rounds in its flush fit magazine, I assumed it was as big or bigger than the M&P Shield. I remember when my client first pulled it out, cleared it and handed it to me, I was shocked at how small it really was. 10 rounds… in this? No way! And once he handed it to me, I also couldn’t believe how good and solid it felt in my hands. My cynicism quickly turned into, “you mind if I put a few rounds through this?”. I loaded it up and got in front of a steel target about 15 yards out and squeezed the trigger… heard the ping and saw the impact on the target at my point of aim. It felt great and I remember thinking, “that shoots better than my Shield”. I then unleashed a few strings of fire of 3-5 rounds to see how fast and accurate I could actually shoot it and again, “this shoots better than my Shield”!
A few days ago, I finally got my own P365 in and a friend of mine, Jason, who is a Paramount instructor and federal agency firearms instructor, and I got to spend some quality time with it on the range. We each put about 400 or so rounds through it. We ran several drills with it and both of us were impressed with its performance. After shooting it one time you can tell that SIG put some serious time and effort into its design and most of that time went into the ergonomics of the grip. It feels great throughout the firing process and even though it’s so small it is unbelievably controllable, feels very comfortable, and very solid in the hand. We ran both full metal jacket ammunition and a particular hollow point that was known for not feeding well, and the gun ran flawlessly the entire session. Not one malfunction the entire time.
The only major change I had to make in my grip while shooting the P365, was my support thumb. For me, there isn’t enough frame to keep my support thumb in contact with it, and my thumb would come off the frame every time I fired. This was more of an annoyance than a performance issue and once I surrendered to the fact that I just wasn’t going to be able to keep my forward thumb on the gun, I tucked my thumb down onto my support index finger and everything was fine. With a gun this small, you’re never going to get as much meat on it as you would like to and that’s just the way it is.
As previously mentioned, you can tell a lot of time, effort, and engineering went into the ergonomics of this gun. It has all the right features to make it as controllable as possible given its diminutive size. The grip is generously stippled and it has just the right amount of texture in just the right places. It’s not overly aggressive but it does a good job providing the friction needed to keep the gun from slipping around in your hand due to recoil. I have a couple of handguns that the stippling is so aggressive that after a couple of magazines they are no longer fun to shoot. After 400 or so rounds in one session, the P365 was still comfortable to shoot and had I more time, I would have gladly put another 400 rounds through it.
The P365 comes with a well-executed cutout under the trigger guard. The stippling ends just short of where the middle finger rests under the trigger guard and this area is smooth and rounded. This is just another well thought out feature usually seen on custom firearms that provides additional comfort, support, and control while shooting.
Another nice feature is the very significant beavertail. It’s surprising to see such a large beavertail on a pistol of this size. It definitely contributes to the controllability and prevents slide bite on those of us with larger hands.
One cool feature this little gun has that the Shield does not is an accessory rail. After a quick search, I found that there was already several light and laser options for the P365. All the light options I saw were fairly low in the lumens department (~100) but I’m sure that will quickly change in the coming months and years.
The P365 trigger is one of better out of the box triggers I’ve experienced on a striker fired gun. There is quite a bit of take-up, some creep, but the break is crisp. There is very little over travel and the reset is short, audible and tactile. It’s a good trigger, but there’s plenty room for improvement and I’m sure there will soon be plenty of aftermarket options available. A quick google informed me there’s already one replacement option and bunch of YouTube videos on DIY trigger enhancements for it already.
The P365 comes with “X-RAY3” tritium night sights. The best part about these sights is they come in a blacked out rear and high contrast front sight configuration. I’m a huge fan of this setup. I put Dawson Precision Charger blacked out rear and fiber optic front sights on all of my guns. I’m a big believer that 3 dot sights cause more issues than they solve by confusing the eyes, especially during rapid fire and or high stress events. Time and time again, I’ve seen having the rear sights blacked out and the front sight being the loudest option in the field of view dramatically help the performance of students that were struggling. The fact that the P365 comes stock like this is great as they will introduce a new concept to many shooters, and they keep me from spending money on sight upgrades.
We didn’t break out a rest so I can’t say anything super definitive about accuracy. Jason did some slow aimed fire at 15 yards and his groups were around 3”. I was more concerned about the controllability of the gun during strings of fire, so I was shooting 3 -12 round drills from the draw at 3,5, and 10 yards. I feel it was plenty accurate but not something we specifically spent a lot of time on. The fact is, this gun allows you to put multiple rounds on target very quickly and with predictable shot placement.
The P365 comes with two 10 round magazines that are steel with a polymer base plate. One is flush fit and one has a slight extension so that your pinky isn’t flapping out there in the wind. The difference in overall length in the gun (from the top of the slide to longest portion of the magazine) is .20”. With the flush fit magazine it measures 4.27”. With the magazine with the finger extension it measures 4.47”. Given how small this gun is and the fact that I was not overly concerned with a little extra magazine length, I immediately purchased two 12 round magazines, and those are what I use daily. With the 12 round magazines, it only measures 4.67” or exactly .20” bigger than the one with the finger extension.
Interestingly, as you go up in scale, each different size mag adds .20” to the overall length of the grip. So even with the largest mag 4.67” is still plenty concealable and I have 12+1 rounds! This gun really is the clown car of ammunition. Looking at it and there’s just no way all that ammo should fit in there.
To put this into perspective, my Shield 2.0 with the flush fit 7 round magazine measures 4.46”! With the 8 round extended magazine it measures 4.95”. I usually run my Shield 2.0 with Hyve +2 extensions to give me a carrying capacity of 10+1 and with those on it measures 5.65”! So even though the Shield with the extension is just shy of 2 inches longer, it still has 2 rounds less capacity.
I had a hard time getting my head around that until I took a close look at the P365 magazine which is more of a double stack than a single. Even so, the P365 grip width is still only .96” in width versus the slightly thinner Shield at .94”.