Every new gun evaluation always seems to wind up focusing on one key element of the firearm. For some it’s the trigger, other times it might be aesthetics or accuracy. And although this is the first polymer-framed pistol that SIG has branded with their LEGION moniker, the moment I picked it up I knew what this story would be all about – it’s weight!
It could just be that I’m getting older, but the phrase, “now I’ve seen everything”, comes to mind. When polymer-framed pistols first arrived (HK, then Glock) it literally revolutionized the firearms industry. Lighter and more flexible than steel, and clearly less expensive to produce, the polymer-framed handgun has become the norm. We even have polymer-framed 1911’s for crying out loud – and revolvers with polymer frames!
And, just as the audiophiles and hipsters have rejuvenated the market for old-fashioned vinyl records – there has been a growing new appreciation for the heft of an all-steel handgun. There are young men and women shooting IDPA and USPSA matches today that have never known a time when most handguns were not at least half plastic. And so, for them, the “retro” thing to do is shoot all-steel pistols. And in doing so, many have discovered that the added weight of the gun greatly aids the shooter in managing recoil and controlling muzzle lift. It’s simple physics – the energy of the fired round can’t move the heavy steel as much as it can move the lighter polymer. It started with the ubiquitous model 1911, but look around you at a match and you’ll see CZ’s (and the many copies of it), Beretta 92 variants – I’ve even seen a Browning Hi-Power at a match.
But one comment I’ve heard over and over from competitive shooters that are using steel-framed guns is that they wished it had the flex of a polymer. Well, once again the engineers at SIG Sauer have stormed Area 51 (or perhaps just snuck in late one night) and stolen alien technology. Last year they gave us the P365 that holds 11 rounds of 9mm in less space than 11 rounds of 9mm takes up…. And this year they are giving us a polymer-framed handgun that weighs MORE than many steel-framed handguns. It begs the question from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?”. Well, science it is apparently.
SIG has found a way to infuse tungsten into the polymer during the molding process of the frames. I learned this before holding the gun, and thought it was mildly interesting and perhaps another win for the marketing department in New Hampshire. I didn’t realize just how much tungsten they were talking about – this thing weighs a ton! Well, maybe not a real ton… 43 ½ ounces to be exact. My copy gained nearly another ounce when an optic was installed.
There is more to this new Legion than just extra weight. Let’s review the main features, with a reminder of what the Legion Series is about. When the Legion concept was introduced some years back, SIG Sauer talked about them being out-of-the-box ready with the most frequent upgrades done by customers. Things like upgraded sights, a nicely tuned trigger, better grips, etc.
To distinguish the sub-brand name, SIG treats each gun with the “Legion Gray” PVD finish. Once you buy your pistol, you can register the purchase with SIG online and you’ll receive a nice molded case with cutouts to precisely fit your new gun, along with a challenge coin that is specific to each model Legion made. There is no additional cost for these items, you bought them when you bought the gun.
There is also a Legion product line that includes custom holsters and mag carriers, knives, and swag. Your membership to this club gives you access to it.
The X-Five Legion comes with a nice set of Dawson Precision adjustable sights – a green fiber front sight is mounted, and spare light tubes in green and red are provided. The rear sight is a blackout style with a medium-to-wide notch. The slide is pre-cut to accept an electronic red-dot sight, however, support for the industry is limited to a select few optics – SIGs Romeo1Pro and Leupold DeltaPoint Pro are the two I can name for sure at this time.
SIG Sauer has a history of making their guns somewhat proprietary when it comes to aftermarket accessories, and this continues that tradition. When you remove the cover plate to install an optic, you also remove the rear sight. What’s worse is that there is no dovetail to mount another, taller rear sight that might co-witness. Yes, some optics have options for a backup rear sight, but this once again paints you into a corner. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I am. I’m not a fan of proprietary basics on guns. The silver lining in this Legion gray cloud is that the optics it is compatible with are among the best on the market, and sooner or later, adapters will exist.
The trigger is also upgraded for the Legion version of the X-Five. This one is a lighter, skeletonized trigger that requires less spring force to reset. I measured the trigger pull to be 3 lbs., 13 oz. with my Lyman digital gauge. This compares to 5 lbs., 9 oz. using the same gauge on the “regular” P320 X-Five. The trigger is light and crisp with a wonderful reset. The barrel is essentially the same 5” heavy barrel, but it is finished in SIG’s traditional Nitron® finish and looks good against the gray exterior. And you’ll see it easily through the lightening cuts in the top of the slide. Most everything is the same as the non-Legion version, with a couple more exceptions. The P320 X-Five Legion comes with three 17-round magazines, each with a nicely milled metal baseplate with the Legion logo engraved on the bottom. Lastly, SIG provides a different guide rod/recoil spring assembly system for the Legion. Instead of a captured flat spring, as on the non-Legion, this pistol uses a non-captured coiled wire spring. And you get two of them – a 14 lb. spring comes installed, and a 12 lb. spring is in the box. The presumption is that many competitors shooting lower power ammo can use the lighter spring and still achieve proper cycling of the action. Those springs slip over a much heavier guide rod than found in the regular X-Five.
Virtually all the weight difference is in the frame itself. I put the bare frames of each, the X-Five original and the X-Five Legion on the scale (both with the grip weights included). The original frame weighs 7.75 oz., while the new tungsten infused frame tips the scale at 16.6 oz. Mathematically, that accounts for the difference between the guns, which leaves me scratching my head just a bit – because the Legion also has a heavier guide rod, but probably just by fractions of an ounce… and I don’t do fractions very well, just ask my math teachers.
SHOOTING THE X-FIVE LEGION
If you’ve never shot the P320 X-Five at all, then you have been missing out on one of the most competition-ready handguns in mass production today. I know a good number of very fussy competitors who have switched to the X-Five and not looked back. The Legion edition of this performance machine takes it up more than one notch. I have to talk about the weight again – because that is the single biggest difference and the one that you’ll notice immediately. At 43 ½ oz. vs. 35 ½ oz. for the ‘regular’ X-Five, there is no guesswork at all about which one you’ve picked up. But all that weight is very balanced and does not feel “heavy” while shooting.
Even during slow fire trying to print good groups, the long period having the gun fully extended at arms’ length was not fatiguing. Where it pays dividends is during fast fire. The weight of the gun gives the 9mm round something substantial to try and move, while the flex of the polymer absorbs the micro-shocks as they move toward the shooter’s hand. The gun shoots flat and allows you to maintain a sight picture through the follow-up shot. The combat style shooter will appreciate the light and crisp trigger, while the added weight and choice of recoil springs will allow you to safely achieve power factor without the penalty of added muzzle lift.
As I am apt to do when the opportunity presents itself – I ran this new Legion through a complete 5-stage IDPA match (note: The X-Five Legion is ½ ounce too heavy for IDPA, and must be shot in NFC unless you remove the extra weight located in the backstrap of the grip frame). Did I mention I did that without firing a single test shot first? No, I didn’t win the match, because I suck (I’m a middle of the pack sorta guy) – but it wasn’t because the gun couldn’t do it. It was almost perfect, except for one ammo malfunction I had with my match hand loads. Once I cleared an early feed jam, it ran flawlessly the rest of the day – and has since. I suspect the 12 lb. spring would have prevented that problem (which is why SIG supplies it, I reckon).
To test accuracy more formally, I made careful 5-shot groups from 20 yards with a variety of ammunition, using a CTK Precision rest. I shot the gun with open sights, and again with the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro installed. The red-dot optic does nothing for the gun or the ammo, but can certainly aid the shooter. Even so, results with the optic were not significantly better – except that it did allow me to hold more precisely to get a sub-half-inch group (0.464”) with SIG’s 124-grain defense ammo. The SIG V-Crown also printed the best 3-shot group (0.574”) using the standard sights. I guess it likes the family label.
There is no doubt that the weight of this gun is the big story and the key distinguishing factor of the new P320 X-Five Legion. Does this pistol warrant a trek to the local gun shop to trade in your lightweight X-Five for the Legion? For some, it will. SIG Sauer has delivered more than just the same gun painted gray. Although speaking of the gray PVD finish – it seems a bit flatter versus other Legion models, and still seems prone to being easily worn. But the slide to frame color match is very good (always a challenge with steel vs. synthetics). I’d have liked to have seen the Legion medallion in the grip frame, even if it had to be a molded version. The only Legion moniker on the pistol is on the removable slide plate.
JUST MY OPINION
Is the Legion name a marketing creation, a fanboy club, or an elite line of enhanced firearms? Yes. Which of those is most applicable depends on the buyer – but if you’re after the latter… you’ll get it.
Serious competitors are always looking for ways to shave tenths of seconds from their time and I think this pistol can do that. Trigger divas of all shapes and sizes will benefit from a trigger that pulls at about a third lighter than the already good P320 X-Five. It comes down to your perceived value and needs (or wants… wants count too). If you do not yet own a P320 X-Five and are considering it then I strongly suggest you head straight for the Legion. It may have features you don’t yet need or appreciate – but you’ll grow into them. The innovative approach that SIG has taken to give a polymer gun the same weight as a solid steel gun just shattered another industry paradigm. Price? SIG doesn’t publish the MSRP, at least not yet. Early online offerings show some sellers asking about $1,149, but you’ll find them for much less, under $900.