Thoughts and Feelings on the M17


I picked up a M17 Surplus from my dealer Monday, got to shoot it today. I thought I’d share my thoughts on it. Don’t think of this as a proper review, but more like assorted feelings.

The M17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) is based of the SIG P320 pistol.

I previously posted up some photos here:

I’d much rather take this to a fight than a M9. It feels much better in my hands. While this is a large gun, it doesn’t feel as huge as the M9 does. I do think I would prefer the compact M18 over it. It certainly says something that the Army picked the full sized M17, and the rest of the branches picked the compact M18 pistol.

I think the idea of a modular pistol is a good one, but I’d bet that the majority of people would just buy the stock configuration and not modify it. Also by the time you are buying additional slides and frame I think many people would just buy a whole additional gun. I think it is a shame that SIG didn’t make it truly modular and that you can’t convert to .45. If I were setting up a P320 for my self, I think I would go with the small (front to back) grip module.

SIG includes a second recoil spring assembly with the M17 saying that their pistols are sprung for the higher power NATO spec ammo. The second recoil spring assembly is weaker for shooting the lighter loaded factory 9mm ammo that is commonly available on the market. The Gen 4 Glock pistols got a good bit of bad press as they were set up for the hotter NATO spec ammo and when they were released in the US they were chocking on the light ammo. I tried shooting Wolf 9mm in the M17 and I had no issues. This gun is broken in, so as I expected, it was able to function just fine with the lower power ammo.

When I first got the gun, I thought the trigger was ok. There was a little slack, then some sponginess, then a firmer spot right before the trigger pull broke. Then I cleaned and degreased it and thought the trigger pull was absolutely terrible. But once I was actually out shooting, the trigger pull was plenty fine.

The sights were marked as being manufactured in 2017. In the past I thought I wouldn’t like orange rear dots with a green front dot, but having been able to use that on this pistol, I rather like it now. The Tritium in these SIG sights seem much dimmer than Trijcion sights I have had for many more years. Sight picture is somewhat obstructed by the massively wide rear sight. I have no idea why SIG made that rear sight so wide, but they did and it covers up more field of view than the rear sights on my other handguns. Past that, the sights worked fine.

When I first handled the gun, I was worried that the safety would make it hard to hit the slide release. The grip was just large enough that I had to shift my grip to hit the slide release or the mag catch. I figured it would be awkward when I shot the gun. I was wrong there, manipulating the M17 while I shot it felt natural and easy. But I do have a complaint about the safety. I wish it were a little larger to the rear. I found it just small enough to make it an annoyance to use. If I were carrying a P320 with a safety as a self defense gun, I would try and find a little larger safety.

Towards the end of the session as I was approaching my target I decided to try a little 25 yard shooting with the M17. Aiming at a 3/4 inch dot at 25 yards was rather hard for me. When I focused on the front sight, the little dot I was aiming at would disappear. Still firing 5 round of Wolf I was pretty surprised by how I did. It makes me curious what it could do with good ammo, and a proper target to aim at.

At closer distances I tended to be shooting a ragged hole, unless I pulled a shot.

I did a little rapid fire when I was trying the pistol. Decided to end the day with double taps. Starting with controlled pairs, I quickly moved to hammered pairs. The M17 is just very easy to shoot. The last 10 round of the 20 I fired at the top dot were just raising the pistol and pressed the trigger twice with out even getting a sight picture. It is just an easy gun to shoot. But to be fair, most full size 9mm fit that description.

I really like the 21 round magazines. While they are extended, they (to me) are a reasonable size. Glock’s 33 and 24 round magazines are a little large for practical carry purposes.

My biggest complaint would be that if you ride the slide closed, it almost always won’t close completely. You can see in the first picture above that the pistol is out of battery. When you are loading a round, and releasing the slide from the rear it isn’t an issue. But when you are handling it and checking if it is unloaded, it seems and feel bad that the slide won’t close completely.

There are some interesting rumors about these released M17s. First SIG says that the Army returned them because of the coloration. That the first M17s have tan controls and a different shade of tan on the slide. That seemed plausible. Easier for SIG to provide new pistols than the rebuild the old ones.

Rumor came out that these first M17 pistols were not drop safe. SIG denies that, but interestingly enough the slides were clearly milled after they were finished. So the slide was made, than later retrofitted to be drop safe.

A SIG rep denies this, but then claims that the first batch of SIG M17s were always planned to be returned to SIG. That seems pretty doubtful that SIG would make 4000 or so pistols with the intent that they would be returned. It is possible that these pistols were retrofitted to be drop safe before they shipped to the Army, but I can’t say.

There is somewhere around 4000 of these Army Surplus guns out there now for sale. It is very unlikely that more will become available and we may never see the surplus compact M18 pistols ever. It is very rare to be able to buy modern US military surplus firearms. If you want one, get one now before prices get crazy.

I would gladly carry a M17 into combat. But owning Glock pistols, I wouldn’t bother to pick a P320 over a Glock. But if you didn’t have any Glocks, the P320 seems like it would be an excellent alternative.


  1. I don’t have a Glock. Not particularly against them, just never really wanted them.

    When I bought my full sized P320 it was with the expectation of getting the caliber exchange kit to make it compact sized. I saved up the money and went looking for one. While trying to find one in stock, I ended up saving up the extra $150 or so and just bought a compact sized one. Then I got the carry sized grip assembly to put on the compact, and now the smaller of the two can use the 17 round magazines the bigger one uses.

    A couple of notes about getting the smaller grip assemblies for the full sized pistol is that there is a little bit of a gap between the front of the grip assembly and the bottom portion of the slide, where the recoil spring sits. And the compact frame uses the 15 round magazines, so the 17 round magazines will not fit flush. They lock into place just fine, but theres a gap between the bottom of the grip and the baseplate of the magazine.

  2. “Rumor came out that these first M17 pistols were not drop safe. SIG denies that, but interestingly enough the slides were clearly milled after they were finished. So the slide was made, than later retrofitted to be drop safe.”

    I can’t remember why, but when all the P320 drop-safe folderol was going on, I got the distinct impression that Sig was being less-than-forthcoming about what they knew and when they knew it. I generally like Sig’s products, but that left a very bad taste in my mouth.


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