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Review: Century Arms RAS47

Century Arms RAS47 review - 2Totally American-made, Century’s RAS47 further hones Kalashnikov’s classic design.

If the modern equivalent of the Japanese katana is the AR-15, the AK-47 is a battle-axe. It's not as precise or refined, but it's inarguably effective. This metaphorical chopper originally rose to prominence among American shooters with a combination of its near-mythic reliability and its affordable nature. Most shooters who bought one in the last 30 years did so from a single company: Century Arms.

For decades, the Century Arms business model for Avtomats was to import parts kits from military AKMs, then rebuild them stateside with enough U.S. parts to make them 922r compliant. As these rifles became sparser for political and other reasons, their cost increased along with the end product’s price. The budget-priced WASR rifle of the early 21st century quickly rose to the price of an entry-level AR-15.

In response, Century future-proofed its AK carbine sales by moving all production stateside. Thus, the milled C39 was born. Now, Century has used this experience coupled with decades of AK-construction knowhow to develop and produce a 100-percent American-made AKM rifle — one incorporating desirable features, classic aesthetics and the same unequalled reliability that made the rifle famous more than half a century ago.

Century RAS47 review - 3Enter the RAS47
The RAS47, or Red Army Standard, is a semi-automatic, long-stroke, piston-driven carbine chambered in the AKM standard 7.62x39mm. It feeds from detachable box-type, staggered column AK-47 magazines ranging in capacity from 5 to 100 rounds. The RAS47 ships with two 30-round polymer AK PMAGs made by Magpul. While the most common types are made from steel stampings, they’re also available in polymer, aluminum and even imitation Bakelite.

The RAS47 represents a clear departure from Century’s initial entry into the all-American avtomat market, the C39. Where the C39 is a modernized milled rifle designed to offer shooters not concerned with traditional aesthetics the next evolution of the AK, the RAS47 instead appeals to traditionalists and pragmatists concerned with weight and modularity.

Century Arms RAS47 review - 4This is why it’s available in two basic configurations: one with traditional blonde wooden furniture and another donned in Magpul polymer furniture. Aside from the furniture, Century’s newest carbine is a Mil-Spec AK carbine. As such, it accepts standard AKM furniture and accessories. By doing so, it opens itself to a tremendous array of aftermarket parts, allowing shooters to configure the Soviet-inspired rifle to suit their needs.

Like all Mil-Spec AKM carbines, the RAS47 uses post-and-notch iron sights. The front post is adjustable for both windage and elevation, while the rear notch features elevation settings ranging from point blank out to 1,000 meters. While somewhat rudimentary, these sights are all but bomb proof, and surprisingly effective at close to medium range.

Century Arms RAS47 review - 5Another military-grade feature is the Russian-type side rail. This rail allows shooters to mount optics to the carbine using any standard AKM mount or optic. While the number of mounting options available for the AK is somewhat limited by comparison to the ubiquitous AR-15, there are more than enough choices available to suit virtually every occasion. If you’re scratching your head wondering why anyone would mount optics on such an inaccurate rifle, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Century Arms RAS47 review - 6Tales of AKs producing “minute-of-bad-guy” groups are grossly overstated, though older mil-surp AK builds are often unimpressively accurate. In an attempt to remedy this, Century builds its RAS47 with a 4150 Green Mountain black nitrided barrel. The results are incredible.

In testing, the RAS47 proved more accurate than nearly every AK commercially available. In fact, I was capable of regularly engaging 8-inch steel gong targets out to 300 yards with iron sights. When coupled with a 4x Primary Arms optic with 7.62x39mm BDC reticle, 12-inch targets were successfully hit at nearly 500 yards.

The RAS47’s black nitride barrel is lacking one thing though: a bayonet mount. Functionally unimportant to most shooters, purists may find its absence upsetting. It’s one of only four areas where the RAS47 makes a serious departure from Mil-Spec, and arguably the only one that could be interpreted as a downside.

The other non-Mil-Spec areas include the magazine release latch, the safety lever and the pistol grip. The release latch is slightly longer than usual and about three times as wide. This is a definite step up from Mil-Spec, as it allows shooters to more easily remove magazines from the rifle.

Century Arms RAS47 Review - 7In the same vein of improved ergonomics are the safety selector and the pistol grip. The lever features a small square cut that permits it to double as a bolt hold open when engaged, a must at some ranges that require firearms be placed in this condition. The grip is built from polymer and features molded finger grooves and aggressive checkering for better retention. Shooters not enamored with either of these can swap them with Mil-Spec parts or any AKM-compatible replacements.

Century Arms RAS47 review - 8The same can also be said of furniture. Whereas, in the past, AK owners were limited to either Mil-Spec options or limited offerings from U.S. makers, the current AK aftermarket furniture business is rapidly catching up to the prolific AR-15.

This is so much so that Magpul, the most prolific accessory maker for the AR-15 family of rifles, now also makes furniture and magazines for the AKM. Century clearly understands that this is a popular upgrade to AK carbines, offering the RAS not only with traditional wood but also black polymer Magpul furniture from the factory.

Accurate, modular and modern, the AKM has truly evolved since its introduction more than half a century ago. Thankfully, during this metamorphosis, the engineers at Century haven’t forgotten what made the AK great: reliability. The RAS47 was fed half a dozen varieties of ammo from as many different magazines and ran without issue. The self-regulating ventilated gas tube and robust long-stroke piston action hungrily devoured everything it was fed. This is a rifle a shooter can count on even in the worst of conditions.

Century Arms RAS47 review - 9The RAS47 is the result of taking a great design and further honing it to a fine point. It may not have the razor-sharp accuracy of the AR-15, but it more than holds its own. Shooters looking for a solid bug-out rifle, an inexpensive plinker or a dependable ranch rifle won’t be let down by Century’s RAS47. Whether adorned in wood or polymer, the RAS provides an affordable, reliable rifle to the masses, something its progenitor sought to accomplish nearly 70 years ago.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the May 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

AK Optics Solutions

AK_Optics_SW02-FThe AK platform poses unique challenges when it comes to optics. Here are some AK optics options for shooters who want to stretch out their rifle's range and capabilities.

“Kalashnikov rifles are inaccurate, crudely-made guns all but worthless past 100 yards.” If you’ve heard this, or something very similar, from either shooting buddies or cantankerous gun shop staff, you’re not alone. While the best-known myth of the AK-47 is its unstoppable reliability, its alleged inaccuracy is a close second.

Wait, myths and allegations?

You read that right. The AK may be inherently less accurate than rifles with less reciprocating mass or free-floating barrels, but the little Avtomat is still capable of successfully engaging targets well past 300 yards. There’s a catch though: The AK has more than just its violent, long-stroke piston-driven action working against it; it also suffers from lousy iron sights and rounds with a drastic ballistic curve.

The solution to these performance impediments is a simple one; something distant shooters and marksmen have known for decades. A shooter can’t hit what they can’t see. So take the obvious step and purchase an optic for your AK. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Utilizing optics on Kalashnikovs is a somewhat tricky proposition. Thankfully, we’ve assembled this concise guide for your journey to reaching zen-like precision with your AK (or something like that).

Mounting Options

The biggest hurdle to overcome when installing optics on your Russian lead-slinger is finding the best way to attach them to the rifle. While most modern rifles have rails of some built in to the receiver or barrel itself, the AK comes from an era when only spotters and snipers utilized optics on combat.

Well, there is one other type of soldier equipped with optics: night sentries.

Japanese night raids in the pacific theater of operations taught the USMC the value of illuminating the inky-black perimeter around forward operating bases with a modified version of the M1 Carbine equipped with an infrared scope, the T3. Along these same lines, the Soviet military developed the AKMn in 1954. This rifle featured an effective flash suppressor and a side rail mount for enormous Soviet night vision scopes.

For nearly six decades, the Soviets utilized this mount for specialized units and rifles but waited to equip their standard infantry rifles with these rails until the early 1990s. The design is largely unchanged, with all standard-pattern AKM side rails capable of using the same mounts. Non-standard mounts like those found on Yugoslavian/Serbian rifles exist, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to Soviet-pattern.

What this means for shooters is that in order to mount optics to their AK without modifying it or buying new parts, they must utilize a side rail mount. Shooters willing to replace parts or install new ones have more options, but side mounts are the most common and easiest to utilize.

Side rail mounts, such as RS Regulate's AK-300 series, are the easiest way to get optics on your AK.

Which brings me to my first recommendation. I have run a ton of different mounts on dozens of AK carbines, and after running plenty of “good” mounts I finally found a perfect one. This may not seem groundbreaking to most readers, but rarely in the gun industry is something objectively superior in all regards to its competitors: The RS Regulate AK-300 is one such product.

At least for shooters looking to mount Trijicon ACOG magnified scopes or Aimpoint 30mm reflex sights. The reason is due to the modularity and flexibility of the system. I say system because, unlike most mounts consisting on a singular component, the RS Regulate is a two-part system. Just like AR-15 receivers, the mount has an upper and a lower.

RS Regulate does this so shooters can buy special uppers designed for specific optics, like their ACOG-friendly AKOG. Another benefit of this modular design is that it allows you to keep a desired upper, while purchasing a different lower that either affects the fore/aft position of the optic or which side rail it mounts to—including the atypical mounts found on Yugoslavian and Serbian rifles like the NPAP.

What’s more, the mount allows for lateral alignment with the rifle’s barrel. Because of the “L-shaped” design of side-mounts, if the rail or mount doesn’t align the optic directly over the barrel, you will have to deal with point of aim/point of impact horizontal alignment issues. Not totally unlike fighter planes of WWII with wing-mounted guns that had to be adjusted for point of convergence, or where the path of both barrels meet.

That said, unmagnified optics like reflex sights aren’t as affected by these alignment issues as magnified ones. Simply due to the size of the sight’s aiming dot—a four MOA dot represents a one-foot circle at 300 yards. Because of this, these types of optics aren’t typically used at longer ranges where any misalignment concerns are drastically multiplied.

While the AK-300 series of mounts are great for magnified optics and reflex sights alike, for RMR-style mini red dots, I prefer a scout-type setup. This raises some unique issues with the AK, since the vast majority of available models on the market lack a monolithic rail.

Which leaves two options: Replace the rear sight assembly with a picatinny rail segment, or utilize a railed handguard. Each has its own pros and cons. The replacement segment is very minimalistic and lightweight, but it tends to mount too high with most optics and is situated slightly too far back for my personal taste. Ideally, a red dot could be installed on the muzzle itself, but that isn’t realistic.

The next best thing on the AK is to install one on a railed handguard. There are a few options available, but every polymer one I’ve tested failed to correctly hold zero. So shooters will have to use either a steel or aluminum railed handguard.

Mounting mini red dots on a railed aftermarket handguard is another good optics option for AK users.

The problem with these is that they’re usually bulkier and heavier than either wooden or polymer handguards, and they consequently make the rifle feel sluggish and nose-heavy. One of the few exceptions comes from one of my favorite AK aftermarket parts makers: Manticore Arms.

This small machine shop has been churning out specialty parts for Tavors, Steyr AUGs, AR-15s and AKs for years. One of its best-selling products is the ALFA Rail. Available in standard and extended lengths, the ALFA rail is a KeyMod aluminum handguard that closely matches the shape and size of wooden handguards.

The ALFA Rail from Manticore Arms is the author's favorite choice for mounting mini red dots in a forward position.

It features KeyMod slots on both sides as well as 45-degree offshoots, permitting shooters to mount lights, lasers, foregrips and other accessories however they want. Not only that, but it also includes a Picatinny railed upper handguard. This is one of my favorite aspects of the ALFA.

Like other railed handguards, it lets shooters mount reflex optics in a forward location, ideal for sights of this type. Unlike most railed handguards, the ALFA is lightweight and lacks all the jagged edges of competing designs covered in picatinny rails.


Choosing optics isn’t always an objective process. While light reception is important, some people just prefer certain brands, reticles and even tube diameters. Thankfully, the list of compatible AK optics is much shorter than those that function correctly with the AR-15.

First off, most optics designed to co-witness with an AR-15 are a poor choice for the AK. This is because they mount far too high to be comfortably used by the shooter. One exception is the Primary Arms PAC5X scope.

Normally, the PAC5X prismatic scope would sit far too high to be considered an ideal optic for an AK, or AKM carbine. However, the PAC5X utilizes the same mount as the Trijicon ACOG. This is important, since RS Regulate makes an upper for their scope rails that fits ACOGs perfectly.

The Primary Arms PAC5X pairs well with RS Regulate's mounting system, greatly expanding the capabilities of a typical AK-style rifle.

Thus, shooters can utilize a fixed magnification, ultra-bright prismatic scope like the PAC5X on a platform that rarely sees such high-end optics. What’s better is that the PAC5X is available with a 7.62x39mm BDC reticle, making it a great fit for the traditional AKM carbines chambered in the Soviet cartridge. Shooters looking to run one on a 5.56mm or 5.45mm AK can utilize the 5.56mm BDC version, which affords them the benefits of a high-end, ultra-bright optic with many of the same features, at a much more affordable price.

Shooters looking for a different magnified scope option should take a look at offerings from Hi-Lux. Shooters can mount the new Hi-Lux CMR-AK762 optic with ease on their AK’s side rail, with either a 30mm RS Regulate upper, or a Midwest Industries mount.

In either case, the optic’s adjustable magnification and built-in 7.62x39mm BDC help stretch the relatively slow-moving .30-caliber round’s legs. This makes the CMR optic a great tool for shattering myths about the round’s allegedly limited range.

As far as reflex sights, any will do so long as they can be used on a pistol slide as well. Though this isn’t so much a requirement as a helpful suggestion. The last thing a shooter wants after sinking money into upgrades and accessories is to find that their new optic sits too high to be comfortably used with standard AK buttstocks.

Obviously, this is just a small sample of the sight options available for the AK platform today. As the rifle gains more and more followers and owners, the aftermarket parts trade will swell alongside it. So if you don’t see an option on this list that fits your definition of the perfect aiming solution, sit tight—the next best optic might be just around the corner.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2016 Issue of Gun Digest the Magazine

Featherweight Plinker: Ruger 22/45 Lite Review

Ruger 22/45 Lite Review.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite is an accurate, lightweight and fast-shooting rimfire pistol that’s now available with a sharp, OD green finish.

The new Ruger 22/45 Lite features an OD green finish and comes ready-made for customization.
The new Ruger 22/45 Lite features an OD green finish and comes ready-made for customization.

Ruger’s reputation as the king of rimfire is well deserved. For decades it has produced affordable, accurate plinkers, varmint rifles and handguns. Countless shooters made their entry into the world of shooting with a Ruger rimfire handgun. Indeed, my first rimfire pistol was a bull-barrel stainless MK II. While I love this handgun for reasons equal parts nostalgia and objective appreciation, it does have a few shortcomings.

The grip angle is comfortable and works well but doesn’t directly translate to any centerfire handgun other than a P08 Parabellum or Nambu—neither are suitable home defense or competition pistols. Additionally, the European heel-type magazine release doesn’t lend itself to expedient magazine changes.

Ruger addressed both of these concerns with the introduction of its 22/45 and MK III series of handguns. Yet two additional minor concerns remained as my shooting tastes evolved: weight and suppressor compatibility.

All-steel Ruger MK II and MK III pistols are hefty pieces of equipment, especially with a bull barrel. While the 22/45 series of handguns does much to relieve this, replacing the steel lower assembly with a polymer one, the pistol becomes nose heavy and tiresome to hold on target. My other issue with Ruger’s prolific plinker is its inability to readily accept muzzle devices like suppressors and compensators. At least, that was the case until the recent release of the Ruger 22/45 Lite.

The author enjoyed the loading assist nub, which takes pressure off the top round for easy loading.
The author enjoyed the loading assist nub, which takes pressure off the top round for easy loading.

The Ruger 22/45 is a semi-automatic, single-action-only, direct blowback pistol chambered in .22 LR. It feeds from a single-stack box-type magazine containing 10 rounds of ammunition, and it ships with two in the box. One thing I personally love about these magazines is the loading assist nub.

This little button protrudes through a vertical witness cut running nearly the length of the magazine body. It’s directly attached to the follower, and allows shooters to release pressure from the top most round, thus permitting effortless loading of cartridges. One thing to note, though, is despite the similarity to the Ruger MK III magazines, the 22/45 Lite cannot use them without modification.

However, the new 22/45 can use all magazines intended for other versions of the 22/45 pistol.
The new Ruger gets the Lite portion of its name from the incorporation of a few weight-reducing improvements to the design. The receiver is constructed from aerospace-grade aluminum, which provides comparable strength to steel at a fraction of the weight.

Additionally, the barrel shroud is ventilated, shaving a few extra ounces off the design while providing additional airflow to the barrel. This is important, because as the barrel heats up from shooting, the material expands and shifts the point of impact. The added ventilation allows heat from the barrel to quickly dissipate, preserving accuracy.

Ruger-22-45-Lite-Review-5This new featherweight aluminum receiver is available in a number of anodized colors, including blue, red, black and the olive drab model reviewed. The lower receivers are constructed from high-impact Zytel polymer and, while normally all black, some distributor exclusives offer atypical camouflage patterns like Muddy Girl.

One unexpected benefit of the 22/45’s use of an M1911-style lower assembly is its capability to accept standard 1911 grip panels. This effectively opens the pistol up to an exhaustive selection of aftermarket grips. However, the left side grip panel does require minor modification to fit, due to the location of its safety and slide release lever.

The 1911 influences don’t end there. The Ruger 22/45 Lite also features a serrated front strap and flat 1911-inspired backstrap. As someone who learned to shoot on a government-sized 1911, the pistol felt immediately familiar and comfortable.

I really enjoyed the grip angle and material, though I wish the included panels were a tad thicker; as it stands, the grip is so narrow it doesn’t properly fill the swell of a shooter’s palm. Given that the pistol is chambered in .22LR, the recoil-absorbing benefits of this are negligible.

Even still, the Ruger points very well. Bringing the pistol to target was extremely quick, and not simply because of its lightweight construction. The grip angle and generously sized post and notch iron sights make target acquisition lightning fast.

While the pistol’s front sight is fixed, its rear sight is adjustable.
While the pistol’s front sight is fixed, its rear sight is adjustable.

The sights are also the perfect height to clear most muzzle devices attached to the pistol’s 1/2x28mm threaded barrel. Shooters preferring reflex sights can utilize the included scope rail attached to the pre-tapped receiver.

Personally, I’m not a tremendous fan of optic-equipped pistols. I generally find they impede fast shooting, not enhance or accelerate it. I make an exception for Ruger MK II/III pistols and their derivatives, simply because I have won bullseye pistol matches with them outfitted with optics. I don’t know if they promote faster shooting, but the Ruger MK III series of handguns are definitely easier to shoot accurately with an optic.

I had a chance to run a few different types of ammo through the Ruger 22/45 Lite OD green and found that it ran flawlessly with most types. A few specialty rounds like the Aguila Super Colibrí wouldn’t always feed, but even the massive 60-grain SSS subsonic rounds fed and functioned perfectly.

As cliche as it sounds, the 22/45 was an absolute tack-driver; I expected nothing less from the platform. Ruger attributes this inherent accuracy to the inline bolt design, but it’s mostly the result of two influences. The barrel is very well made, and, equally as important, it doesn’t move.

Because the Ruger is a direct blowback pistol, the bolt is locked simply by spring pressure, nothing else. This is also why the 22/45 makes such a great suppressor host. Because the barrel is stationary, the weight of the suppressor doesn’t affect the action’s functionality. Thus, it doesn’t require a recoil booster to cycle properly.

The Ruger 22/45 Lite comes with a threaded barrel for attaching a muzzle devices.
The Ruger 22/45 Lite comes with a threaded barrel for attaching muzzle devices.

I confirmed this with a Griffin Armament Checkmate QD suppressor, provided by SilencerShop. Even with the sound suppressor installed, the pistol ran perfectly. I later used the pistol in this configuration to teach a few new shooters how to properly use a handgun. Since the pistol was quiet enough to use without hearing protection, the students better understood my instruction. This, combined with the minimal recoil of .22 LR rounds, made for an effective teaching tool.

The new colors available on these pistols may be a little wild, but at the core they’re still the rock-solid handguns developed by Bill Ruger half a century ago. Many folks believe old world quality is dead, but Ruger proves once again it can offer solid firearms with modern features and rugged over-built quality not normally found on guns at this price point.

Ruger 22/45 Lite OD Green
Caliber:    .22 LR
Type:    Semi-auto, direct blowback
Barrel:    4.4-in., 1/2 in.-28 threaded
Overall Length:    8.5 in.
Overall Height:    5.5 in.
Overall Width:    1 in.
Frame:    Polymer
Receiver:    Aluminum
Finish:    OD Green Anodized
Weight:    22.7 oz.
Sights:    Fixed front, adjustable rear
Magazine Capacity:    10
MSRP:    $549
Manufacturer:    Ruger.com

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


Top-Tier Transformer: SIG Sauer P320 Compact

SIG Sauer P320 Compact review.

The new SIG Sauer P320 shifts shape and caliber with stunning ease, offering shooters a level of modularity never before seen with pistols.

The author was able to fire the P320 with a SilencerCo Osprey 45 suppressor and found it to be a nice pairing.
The author was able to fire the P320 with a SilencerCo Osprey 45 suppressor and found it to be a nice pairing.

If the AR-15 has taught manufacturers anything, it’s that Americans love modularity. Hell, people have been customizing cars, shoes and everything under the sun since antiquity. So it’s strange that no pistol has been as configurable and customizable as America’s favorite black rifle. At least, that was the case, until the recent introduction of SIG Sauer’s ultra-modular polymer-framed handgun, the SIG P320.

Skeptics out there are already bemoaning the impossibility of matching the AR-15’s countless array of aftermarket parts and ability to change calibers at will. They’re not wrong, but SIG is circumventing the limiting nature of pistol designs regarding caliber by redefining what the pistol legally is. As with any firearm, the ATF classifies the serialized part as the de facto firearm. That serialized part cannot be sent directly to an individual’s home without a proper FFL.

Raise Your Sig Sauer IQ

This is important because for most polymer pistols, shooters wanting a different color grip or a new variation must buy a new handgun. SIG’s solution is to create a modular internal frame component consisting of a trigger group and serialized receiver that can accept different grip types, colors and even calibers. Because those parts aren’t considered “firearms,” they can be sent directly to the shooter’s home. SIG even renamed the grip component as a Grip Shell to further distinguish it from the serialized portion.

I know what you’re thinking: I mentioned the word “serial” a lot in the previous few paragraphs, and also, the concept of modular Grip Shells sounds familiar.
It should.

SIG P320 Compact. SIG introduced this idea back in 2007 with its P250 line of handguns. The major difference between the two is the method of cartridge detonation; the P250 is hammer­-fired, while the P320 is striker-­fired. The reason SIG made this change is because they found, like so many others, that Americans are now fully accustomed to striker-­fired handguns. Between their ever-consistent trigger pull, snag­free internalized design and idiot­proof simplicity, these pistols are an easy sell to new shooters and veteran handgunners alike.

The model reviewed is the P320 Compact. It differs from the full-sized model in three regards: It has a smaller grip shell, shorter slide/barrel and takes reduced capacity magazines. However, the Compact’s grip shell still accepts full-sized magazines and even the full-length slide assembly. Alternatively, the full-sized barrel can be installed in a compact frame, but it protrudes out past the end of the frame.

The obvious advantage of this modularity is for shooters who want to buy a carry pistol that can also be converted into a full-sized bedside gun or competition handgun. The less obvious benefit is the translation of skills and muscle memory from range plinker to carry gun. Most people don’t get enough trigger time on their concealed carry pistol to be as effective as possible in a life or death situation. The reasons are many, but for most it boils down to carry guns being unpleasant to fire.

They choose something too powerful, too compact or both. The P320 alleviates this by making the choice less permanent. Shooters who bought the P320 Subcompact in .357 SIG can change their pistol’s configuration to a compact model in 9mm Parabellum if the recoil and cost of .357 SIG is too great.

The SIG Sauer P320 is an excellent choice for carry, plinking or home defense. Shown here with a suppressor and laser sight. Author Photo
The SIG Sauer P320 is an excellent choice for carry, plinking or home defense. Shown here with a suppressor and laser sight. Author Photo

Another benefit of the interchangeable Grip Shell system is it also takes pressure off new shooters looking for a first pistol. Many newbies don’t yet understand what constitutes a properly fitting handgun, but after weeks or months of shooting experience, they may find their chosen handgun could be better. Now, these shooters can purchase additional Grip Shell sizes as their taste matures.

For example, I’m a small-handed shooter, and my first handgun was a second generation Glock 17—basically a polymer 2×4. After thousands of rounds downrange, I became proficient with the handgun and learned to work around the ill-fitting grip, but I could have been much better served with a thinner or smaller-gripped pistol. With the small diameter grip on the P320, even my petite wife can reach every control on the pistol without shifting her grip—something she can’t even do on a 1911.

The number of controls on the P320 is also very limited. There are four controls on the entire firearm: the trigger, magazine release, slide stop and disassembly lever. Notice the lack of external safety on the handgun. To the uninformed, this may seem like a recipe for disaster, but truthfully it shows SIG understands what combat or concealed carry pistols need most. Simplicity.

The most innovative feature of the P320 is its ability to swap between different configurations courtesy of its unique Grip Shells. Author Photo
The most innovative feature of the P320 is its ability to swap between different configurations courtesy of its unique Grip Shells. Author Photo

Lethal force experts like Massad Ayoob speak at length on tachycardia and the resulting loss of fine motor skills during firefights. With a shooter’s heart beating loud enough they can’t hear their surroundings, the last thing an adrenaline-fueled, shaky-handed defender needs is to mess with a safety lever.

Self-defense theory and tactics aside, the P320 lives up to SIG’s reputation for creating solid, dependable handguns without compromise. In testing, the P320 Compact was shot with all frames and two variations of magazines (full and compact length) and ran without issue across 600 rounds of various ammo types. This included Hornady TAP, Wolf, Tula Brown Bear, Winchester White Box, Winchester +P NATO spec and even some Buffalo Bore rounds.

Additionally, since SIG was kind enough to include their P320 Compact Conversion Kit, I ran all the variations of barrel and slide assemblies possible and never managed to cause the pistol to malfunction. I even had a chance to run the P320 Compact with an extended, threaded barrel topped with a SilencerCo Osprey 45 sound suppressor. Surprisingly, the SIG made an excellent host—not simply because of its great ergonomics and stellar reliability, but also due to its reduced weight. This is surprising because I was initially concerned the light heft of the P320 Compact would balance strangely with the oversized suppressor. In reality, the handgun’s insubstantial mass helped counter the added heft of the can, making for a quick-shooting, fast-pointing dynamic duo.

Accuracy from the P320 is on par with other handguns of the same size, performing better than most shooters can manage. The fixed sights were thankfully dead on from the factory and—much to the delight of defensive-minded shooters—are photoluminescent for fast sight acquisition in low-light settings.

The pistol ships with a kydex holster, two 13­-round Mec-Gar magazines and a fitted polymer carrying case. Additional Grip Shells, holsters, magazines, barrels and other accessories can be purchased either directly from SIG or other resellers. The P320 Compact retails for between $628­-$713 depending on configuration and package. Additional Grip Shells run a little under $50, which is significantly less expensive than a new pistol.

Changing between calibers is easy with the P320’s Grip Shell system. The shooter essentially gets four calibers within one firearm. Author Photo
Changing between calibers is easy with the P320’s Grip Shell system. The shooter essentially gets four calibers within one firearm. Author Photo

With an MSRP under $700 and street prices even lower, the SIG P320 is one of the least expensive ways to get a high quality SIG pistol. Add to this its ability to incorporate different frames, calibers and colors, and shooters get an ultra-modular pistol from a trusted manufacturer with decades of experience building combat-ready pistols. Shooters torn between various sizes and capacities of pistols can’t find a better solution to their pistol woes than the SIG P320 Compact.

SIG Sauer P320 Compact
Caliber    9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
Type    Semi-auto
Barrel    3.9 in.
Overall Length    7.2 in.
Frame    Black polymer
Weight    25.8 oz. with magazine
Trigger    5.5 to 7.5 lbs.
Sights    SIGLITE Night Sights
Grip    Interchangeable polymer
Magazine Capacity    15 (9mm); 13 (.357 SIG/.40 S&W); 9 (.45 ACP)
MSRP    $628-$713
Manufacturer    SIGSauer.com

This article appeared in the November 2015 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to download the full issue.

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