Canadian soldiers — and eventually sailors, aircrew and military police — will be getting new pistols to replace their World War II-era handguns, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced Friday.
And federal procurement officials chose the SIG Sauer P320. The firearm has been the subject of multiple lawsuits in the United States and an internal investigation by Canadian Special Forces – an investigation that was launched after a soldier was injured in a misfire incident in November 2020.
The US$3.2 million contract for new pistols and holsters was awarded to MD Charlton Co. Ltd. of Victoria, British Columbia, the authorized distributor of the weapon in Canada.
The initial contract involves the purchase of 7,000 pistols with an option to purchase up to 9,500 more. The pistols are given a Canadian designation of C22.
If full contact is exercised, the cost of the deal — along with training and spare parts — could top $7.6 million.
The new handgun replaces the Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol. Delivery of the new weapons is expected to begin next year.
The DND statement announcing the purchase cited the fact that “the Sig Sauer P320 is used by several armies around the world, including Denmark, France and the United States”.
Last year, Canadian Special Forces and DND investigated a misfire incident involving the P320 and Canada’s elite commandos during range training.
The soldier, part of Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2), was hit in the leg and suffered a flesh wound in the accident, which took place Nov. 5, 2020 at a firing range in Dwyer Hill outside Ottawa, the main base unit.
CBC News reported on the accident in an exclusive article in February 2021.
Special Forces had just started using the gun when the incident occurred. The weapon was temporarily withdrawn from service, but was reinstated earlier this year after an investigation cleared the gun for use.
At the time of the initial CBC News report, the US gun maker claimed the special forces soldier injured in the accidental discharge was using the wrong holster.
Early complaints from some users of the SIG P320, which has been in production since 2014, involved claims that the weapon fired without the trigger being pulled.
SIG Sauer, a German arms manufacturer with US headquarters in Newington, NH, upgraded the weapon in 2017. That hasn’t stopped a string of lawsuits — most of them launched by injured members of the American law enforcement. Some of these lawsuits are ongoing.
The company settled a class action lawsuit in 2020 regarding weapons that had not been upgraded. In court documents filed in connection with the settlement, SIG Sauer argued that the P320 is safe and pointed to its free voluntary modifications, which replace certain gun components.
Last month, a U.S. federal district court judge in New Hampshire dismissed another class-action proposal brought by an Arizona gun owner who argued his gun had lost value due to of the alleged design flaw involving the gun’s trigger.