I-TEAM: MPD officially switching handguns due to safety concerns; how do they compare?

The Sig Sauer P320 has three known unintentional discharges with the Milwaukee Police Department
Sig Sauer vs Glock
Posted at 1:09 PM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 19:38:46-05

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Tuesday, the Milwaukee Common Council approved the Milwaukee Police Department's request to purchase new handguns, after three unintentionally discharged since 2020.

According to the Common Council, MPD will spend $450,000 from the MPD Federal Forfeiture Revenue Contribution Account to purchase duty weapons and holsters. These weapons will be Glock 45s after the department spent the last four years using the Sig Sauer P320.

Sig Sauer vs Glock
SIG Sauer has 27 federal lawsuits filed against it because of unintentional discharges by the SIG Sauer P320 (top) causing injury. The Milwaukee Common Council approved the switch to the Glock 45 (bottom) Tuesday.

The Sig Sauer P320 has three known unintentional discharges with the Milwaukee Police Department, including two non-life-threatening injuries to officers. These incidents led to the Milwaukee Police Association suing the city. The MPA says it will drop the lawsuit with the switch to Glock. MPA President, Andrew Wagner, provided the following statement regarding the approval by the Common Council.

“Today as we come into the Thanksgiving season, our officers are thankful that we will soon be able to put the situation of unintentional discharges of our weapons behind us. I want to thank both Mayor Johnson and Chief Norman who have worked together to resolve this issue. I also want to thank our friends in the local media who have shined a light on this problem. This is a perfect example of positive change when we all work towards a common purpose.”

“The safety of our community and officers are paramount to the Milwaukee Police Association. With two officers being shot and injured recently, we are grateful that they will no longer have to worry about a tool in their belt injuring someone without provocation. With the common council approving this change today, the Milwaukee Police Association will keep its word and dismiss the lawsuit against the city. We thank all of those who have made this possible.”

The differences between the two guns appear very slight. The Sig Sauer P320 is slightly longer and a little heavier than the Glock and, according to Jake Fleischmann, Range Safety Officer at the Beararms Indoor Shooting Range, they perform remarkably similarly as well.

Jake Fleischmann shooting
Jake Fleischmann, at Beararms Shooting Range, demonstrates how the SIG Sauer and Glock shoot.

“Going back and forth, the grip feels different,” Fleischmann said. “But if you’re talking about, a fist-sized grouping, if an MPD Officer had to use it, it will be within that range.”

Fleischmann showed the I-Team a demo of the two guns. Firing several rounds at the range, he was able to mimic near-identical results with the two guns. Afterward, he pulled both guns and showed the I-Team some of the finer details.

“The Sig does not have an external trigger safety on it,” Fleischmann said. “The Glock does. It has this little safety on the front. If you were to pull this little trigger without it, it does not go off that way. The Sig, put anything on the trigger and pull it, it will potentially go off that way.”

Because of those unintentional discharges by the Sig Sauer P320, it’s opened up the door for questioning how reliable the weapon can be for Milwaukee Police Officers.

“If you’re going to slow down the officer’s response because they are now going to have that hesitation of, is this going to work?” Gary Monreal said. “You are creating a potential hazard not only for the officer but for any innocent citizens that might be involved in that situation.”

Monreal is a tactical instructor and consultant. He’s traveled around the world to educate law enforcement about tactical procedures.

And he knows his stuff when it comes to handling guns.

“I know how to fix a gun, how to clean a gun and how to put the gun back together,” Monreal said.

With the reports of the unintentional discharges, Monreal has maintained a keen eye on the concerns around the Sig Sauer P320.

“The gun went bang when it wasn’t supposed to go bang,” Monreal said. “Sig Sauer is a top-of-the-line firearms manufacturer. To have an unintentional discharge where no one was pressing or near the trigger, I would think it started to throw up red flags as to why. When you research it, if you come across other similar incidences, there would be concern.”

Milwaukee Police aren’t the only ones to experience unintentional discharge. Sig Sauer is facing a lawsuit after a U.S. Army Veteran suffered a serious leg injury when his holstered P320 discharged. In Texas, a detective nearly died when her Sig Sauer P320 discharged while in her purse.

There are at least 27 federal lawsuits filed against the company since 2018 for personal injuries after the gun discharged with no apparent trigger pull.

“I would try not to have a knee-jerk reaction to just start pulling firearms off the streets,” Monreal said. “You have a union that says we have the rank and file that now have lost trust in this piece of equipment you’re issuing them. I don’t think that’s a knee-jerk reaction at all. I think they saw enough concern that they’re willing to make that change.”

Monreal says there needs to be more research done to discover exactly why these handguns are going off. He showed the I-Team how different handguns have different safety features.

“Every manufacturer will put a spin on a weapon that says, we’re different and this is why you should buy our gun and not their guns,” Monreal said.

Monreal says these safety features are in part meant to prevent unintentional discharges, among their other safety benefits. Because of his extensive work with law enforcement agencies and his expertise working in use of force and tactical strategies, he says he’s been approached by heads of law enforcement agencies looking for guidance on what to do with the Sig Sauer P320.

“I’ve had a couple people ask me, not only in classes, but outside of classes,” Monreal said. “I had one chief in a social situation ask if we should be concerned. I pretty much said, you should look into the matter. If you are not confident in the information that you give, then you should protect your officers and protect our citizens and maybe consider swapping out.”

The I-Team heard a similar concern from a local police department that wished to be unnamed. That department says, even before MPD started having issues with the Sig Sauer P320, an officer surrendered their service weapon because of safety concerns. Those concerns stemmed from a 2018 voluntary upgrade program issued by Sig Sauer due to reports of guns firing after being dropped.

“I would charge my administration to research this and to see if there were any more validity that would give us further concern,” Monreal said. “If there are more red flags out there from other departments that say, ‘We had this happen too. We have yet to have a resolution. We haven’t found a definitive answer.’ That would cause more concern.”

Though the Milwaukee Common Council approved this switch, no other Milwaukee County law enforcement agencies have indicated they will be following suit. The I-Team found at least five other departments in Milwaukee County use the Sig Sauer P320 but none have reported any issues.

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