Milwaukee Police Report Issues With Sig P320's Discharging

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Several years ago, there was an issue discovered with the Sig P320s. It seemed that if they were dropped and landed just wrong, they could discharge.

It wasn’t just any drop that would do it, either. It had to land just so, which made it an odd fault, to say the least. Sig Sauer offered “voluntary upgrades” in an effort to address the problem.

However, Milwaukee police report problems with their P320s.

It was a cruel irony the situation Adam Maritato found himself on a summer night last year. The Milwaukee Police officer had just been shot in the leg less than six months after witnessing his partner also take a bullet in the line of duty.

When Robert Parks was injured in February 2020, police officials said it was during an exchange of gunfire with a man who, police said, had been running from a vehicle which had crashed during a chase. Parks was hit in the leg. The gunman, according to official accounts, would later die by suicide.

Five months later, on July 14, 2020, Maritato would be the one with a gunshot wound to his leg.

But this bullet came from his partner’s service gun.

The two partners were assisting fellow officers who had been chasing a man on foot after he led police on a chase following a traffic stop, according to a criminal complaint filed against Isaiah Yancey.

Once officers caught up with the man and took him into custody, Maritato and Parks were tasked with putting the handcuffed man into a squad car, the complaint said. In the document, prosecutors alleged Yancey resisted and the result left Maritato with a gunshot wound just above his knee.

“During the struggle, a shot was discharged from one of the arresting officers’ firearms, striking another officer,” Milwaukee police Cpt. Paul Lough told reporters near the intersection of West Garfield and West Lloyd streets that night.

According to an internal police memo, written 13 days after Maritato was shot, body camera video showed Parks’ gun side was against Yancey during the struggle. “From this video, it was unclear if Yancey manipulated Officer Parks’ gun in the holster,” Milwaukee police Sgt. Allen Groszczyk wrote in the memo.

Groszczyk added, “I am awaiting further evidence of DNA swabs taken from the pistol and holster in this incident.”

It would take five months for the DNA results to come back and leave investigators to conclude Yancey did not pull the trigger on Parks’ gun.

It seems that a spring was missing from the weapon, only discovered when an armorer broke down the weapon to make sure there hadn’t been any modifications to the weapon.

There didn’t appear to be any.

However, a memo dealing with the P320 issues found the following:

According to the memo, the two armorers identified several concerns about the internal design of the gun:

  • Lack of safety lever springs in pistols
  • Metal injection molding, which can lead to inconsistent surface areas
  • Potential for “walk-off” of the striker from the sear and the double notched sear

Reached by Zoom, Villani explained the importance of those concerns. Villani, who is a certified armorer of the P320 and an expert on its design and function, said the P320 is a striker-fired pistol.

“What that means is the firing pin, or they call it a striker now, is pulled all the way to the rear and locked in a charged condition. The spring is compressed, holding the striker back by the sear. So when you press the trigger, the sear drops and the striker goes forward,” Villani said.

When the striker goes forward it hits the back of a cartridge, causing the internal explosion which sends a bullet down the barrel of the gun.

A “walk-off” he explained was when the sear, because of the microscopic measurements, falls on its own, allowing the striker to hit the cartridge causing a discharge.

Yeah, that’s not good.

Look, I’ve been hard on Sig in the past, but I really want to be a fan of the P320. I would have preferred them to have issued a recall on the guns several years ago, but I figured the voluntary upgrade was hardly the worst thing in the world. Some simply weren’t worried about the issue with the weapons and so they wouldn’t upgrade. That’s fine. Whatever.

Yet all indications are that this firearm discharged while still in the holster. That’s a significant issue, especially for law enforcement.

It’s also not the only case of an officer being injured with their own weapon. At the time, I wrote:

Now, I’ve been a little hard on Sig, but I don’t see how this is remotely possible. The known problem with the Sig involved the weapon being dropped. Even then it had to hit at a certain angle to cause the weapon to discharge, meaning a lot of people could drop the weapon and never have an issue even without the voluntary fix Sig put in place.

I can’t remotely imagine how feeding a belt through a holster can make the weapon discharge without something wonky going on.

In light of this report, we can start to see how this incident might have happened.

Now, these don’t seem to be common issues, but how much of a chance do you want to take with a tool you may have purchased to save your life? Does it do you any good if it may go off during a scuffle?

I don’t think so, but you have to decide for yourself.