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How the Authors of the Washington Post/Trace Hit Piece on the SIG SAUER P320 Faceplanted

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We wrote back in August of 2021 about the slowly accumulating lawsuits against SIG SAUER. A small, but growing number of people — mostly police officers — were claiming that the P320 pistol was prone to what their attorneys called “un-commanded discharges.”

ABC News had just aired a couple of reports on the lawsuits, interviewing one of the officers involved and her attorney, Jeffrey Bagnell. Bagnell made the case for the cameras that if all of these highly skilled and extensively trained individuals — cops — were having problems, something must be wrong with the guns. Because as everyone knows, no one is more skilled and practices safe gun handling quite like law enforcement officers.

But as we pointed out in that earlier article, there were obvious problems with many of the lawsuits that had been filed. The officer who ABC interviewed, Brittany Hilton, had been carrying her P320 in her purse when she says it discharged. Another cop was carrying his gun in a gym bag, wrapped in a towel. One gun store owner shot a finger off while checking to see if the gun was loaded. Another P320 owner blew a hole in his hand while, he said, he was putting his pistol down on his nightstand.

Far too many of the suits that were filed involved, let’s say, questionable circumstances and obvious cases of people handling P320s in clearly unsafe ways. Never mind the obvious incentive that exists on the part of cops to claim that their negligent discharge was the gun’s fault…to save their own jobs, let alone avoid the obvious embarrassment.

So color us unsurprised by the latest update in the SIG P320’s Fire All By Themselves! narrative. Our good friends at the Michael Bloomberg-funded anti-gun agitprop outlet The Trace teamed up with someone with a lot of time on his hands at the Washington Post to update the story.

Champe Barton is the credited Bloomberg minion and Tom Jackman is the WaPo’s writer. The story is published here by the WaPo and here by The Trace. They interviewed a range of plaintiffs against SIG SAUER along with some “experts” in another attempt to claim the P320 is “uniquely dangerous.”

But once again, just as before, a careful reading of the story reveals more than a few problems with their claims and the people whose stories the authors used to support it. Taken as a whole, it sheds more doubt on the allegation of a problem with the P320 than it makes that case that there is one. In other words, the authors have done a lot of hard work that, on balance, ends up discrediting their narrative.

The Design

The first, most egregious aspect of the WaPo/Trace story was their misrepresentation of how the P320 is designed and the safety features that are built into the gun. I won’t go into that detail here as Jeremy, who has a background in engineering, did that really well in our earlier post here.

Suffice it to say that SIG SAUER told us they provided the writers with the above animated illustration of how the P320’s fire control unit works. They also gave the writers a raft of detailed information about the P320 and answered a number of their questions before the article was published.

Virtually all of that was ignored in the final article. And rather than using SIG’s animation, the authors created their own version which leaves out a key component of the P320’s safety system. Strange, no?

For support in making their case that the P320 design is somehow unusual and allegedly inherently unsafe, the authors rely on a report written by a gunsmith and paid witness for the plaintiffs, James Tertin. Tertin claims that “a foreign object or pressure against the holster can leave the gun unacceptably vulnerable to a discharge without an intentional trigger pull.”

This, however, is the same expert witness who testified in a deposition that “the P320 cannot fire without its trigger being fully depressed.” Yes, that directly contradicts his report’s conclusion that the P320 is “unreasonably dangerous and defectively designed.” It seems that testifying under oath tends to concentrate the mind.

Oh, and did we mention that James Tertin works for Magnum Research, part of Kahr Arms…a competitor of SIG SAUER? No? Well…he does.

The authors were apparently self-aware enough to realize that Tertin’s conflicted and contradictory opinions don’t really help them make their case against the P320. As a result, they claimed that they talked to “other experts” — but refused to name them — who “said the P320 could fire if jostled or slammed while the trigger is depressed enough to disengage the gun’s internal safeties.”

Yet if the P320 is so dangerously delicate and prone to “going off” if jostled, surely these experts who were consulted by the authors, or those paid witnesses who were employed by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, were able to demonstrate how that happens in real life. Right? Actually, no.

The fact is, no one has been able to induce a P320 to fire without the trigger being pulled. Ever. That includes whatever tests the military put the gun through as part of their modular handgun system evaluations.

As even the authors themselves were forced to concede . . .

Despite the many lawsuits against SIG Sauer and claims of errant discharges, legal teams and police departments have been unable to document the gun’s alleged defective discharges…

The authors tried to downplay that terribly inconvenient fact by asserting that it’s “notoriously difficult to replicate mechanical failures in guns,” but that just doesn’t fly. You can’t claim the design of the P320 is “dangerously delicate” and overly prone to un-commanded discharges on one hand, and then note that no one has ever been able to make it do what they’re saying it too frequently does.

You’d think that someone with an interest in making a P320 go bang without pulling the trigger — plaintiffs, attorneys, paid witnesses, competitors — would have been able to induce and document an un-commanded discharge by now, but that has never happened.

The Numbers

Another aspect of the story that works against the claim that the P320 just “goes off” on its own is the sheer numbers involved.

Since the P320 was introduced back in 2014, the company has turned out over 2.5 million of them. More than 500,000 are in the hands of the military and over 2 million have been bought by civilians and law enforcement agencies. Yet as the authors detailed, SIG’s been targeted with only about 70 lawsuits.

It doesn’t matter if you make flatware, line-trimmers, automobiles, or firearms, there will always be people who buy your legal, well-made products and do stupid and/or dangerous things with them. A not insignificant portion of those people will then deflect blame for what they’ve done and try to extract a pile of cash from the companies involved. That’s a maddening, but very real cost of doing business in a litigious society.

While SIG SAUER is now the largest gun maker in the world, it’s probably not the most well-known brand in the US. Companies like Smith & Wesson, Ruger and GLOCK, to name just a few, are probably better known to the general public and historically have far more firearms in the hands of civilians and law enforcement. GLOCK likely has more guns in the holsters of more LEOs than any other brand, though SIG and Smith are certainly well-represented there.

Given the numbers involved, those other companies are no doubt hit with as many or more lawsuits claiming their firearms are somehow defective, allegedly poorly designed, and just “go off,” too. As for law enforcement officer lawsuits, we don’t have access to the information — and GLOCK surely won’t disclose the data — but we’d wager a pretty penny that the Georgia-based gunmaker is hit with far more lawsuits from cops who’ve negligently discharged their guns than SIG is.

GLOCKs have long been the subject of similar unfounded criticism for being a striker-fired gun without a manual safety. Yet consumers and law enforcement agencies choose them again and again as their handgun of choice. Why? Because just like the P320, they make very good guns that work.

That won’t, however, stop them from being targeted by careless owners and opportunistic attorneys. If you want an example, just look to…the Washington Post.

Back in 1998, they ran a story on the extraordinary number of Washington, D.C. cops who had negligently discharged their duty guns. D.C. cops had touched off 12 NDs in the first ten years that the GLOCK 17 had been adopted as the department’s duty pistol. Some claimed the guns were obviously the problem.

Was there actually anything wrong with the GLOCKs? Not at all. Instead, the problem was a lack of training and discipline on the part of D.C.’s finest.

[T]he department stinted on training for recruits and failed to keep veteran officers to a twice-yearly retraining schedule that experts consider the bare minimum for firearms competence. A Washington Post investigation found that 75 percent of all D.C. officers involved in shootings during 1996 failed to comply with the retraining regulation. One officer waited so long to come to the range that firearms instructors found a spider nest growing inside his Glock.

Several factors contributed to this neglect, including the reluctance of hard-pressed commanders to spare officers from street duty, lapses on the part of officers themselves, problems with lead contamination that shut down the shooting range in the early 1990s and poor management, according to interviews with officials and independent studies of the department.

D.C. police officials repeatedly studied the phenomenon of accidental discharges, invariably concluding that there was no fundamental problem with the Glock itself – as long as users were properly trained.

Go figure. What do you suppose the chances are that exactly the same phenomenon is at work now with the P320?

The Claims

As we did with our article back in 2021, we read the WaPo/Trace article with the eye of someone who’s been trained in the use of firearms and knows more about them than your average corporate media reporter or Bloomberg-paid hack. Yes, that’s a low bar, but it was revealing nonetheless.

Take for example, the story Harvey Winingham. The writers describe him as a 74-year-old retired Air Force veteran. Clear implication: he was in the military, so he must know how to handle a gun, right? But they wrote this . . .

…as he inspected the weapon for a chambered round, it fired a bullet through his hand, Winningham said. 

Have you ever press-checked your pistol with one hand over the muzzle? Would you ever do that? Of course not. It’s a clear sign of either a bogus story or obviously negligent gun-handling. But the WaPo and Trace writers don’t know enough about firearms or their safe use to realize that including a claim like that in their story badly undermines their narrative.

And then there’s the case of School Resource Officer Jonathan Cross. Cross carried a P320 as part of his duties as a middle school SRO. But he had a nasty habit of playing with his gun.

[Pasco County, Florida Sheriff Chris] Nocco said Cross has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office since 2005 and has been stationed at Weightman for two years. According to the sheriff, Cross admitted to having a habit of “fidgeting” with his gun, and a student also told investigators he had seen Cross “fool” with the gun in the past.

In 2019, Cross fooled with it once too often. Watch the security video below as he partially draws the gun and then re-holsters it for no apparent reason at all.

 

Fortunately, no one was hurt when Cross launched a 9mm round in the school lunch line. He was fired as a result. As for the conclusion of the subsequent investigation . . .

“Only one thing caused that gun to go off — it was him,” [Sheriff Nocco] later added.

For some inexplicable reason, the WaPo and Trace writers actually included the above video and Cross’s story as support for their contention that the P320 is prone to firing on its own.

Finally, one more aspect of the article is worth pointing out. The writers include the accounts of three people whose P320s allegedly fired on their own, and who now suffer from almost crippling embarrassment as a result. One is a Georgia assistant district attorney . . .

“The physical injuries were much less substantial than the toll this has taken mentally,” said Matthew Breedon, 43, an assistant district attorney in Springfield, Georgia, who says his P320 shot a bullet through his leg when he drew it from its holster at his office. News stations and tabloids ran stories about the shooting with headlines like, “Georgia assistant district attorney accidentally shoots himself inside courtroom.”

“Every time I meet somebody, I wonder: Did you see this? Do you believe this is what happened?”

And this from a 55-year-old man who put a round in his own thigh . . .

[George] Abrahams, the Army veteran from Philadelphia, didn’t tell his son he had been shot for almost two years.

Or Dwight Jackson from Georgia . . .

Jackson, whose P320 shot him in the foot in Locust Grove, Georgia, didn’t tell anyone about his injury — he explained his monthslong absence from work by telling colleagues he had fallen off a ladder.

Again, this simply doesn’t wash. If, in each of these cases, the P320 “just fired on its own” as these three people claim, why the embarrassment? Why are they reluctant to tell family and coworkers what happened? Would you be shy about telling people that you own a “defective” firearm that “just went off” and wounded you?

This, as they say in poker, is a tell. It’s the behavior of people who, it seems reasonable to assume, played a part in causing their own injuries and were simply too embarrassed about it to tell anyone what really happened. But the WaPo and Trace writers either couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize it for what it clearly seems to be.

 – – – – – – – – –

In the end, there are simply too many obvious problems and inconsistencies in too many of the accounts that the Post and Trace writers used to make their case against the P320.

While it’s no doubt been extremely expensive, SIG has been fighting these lawsuits and winning in the courts. They sued Jeffrey Bagnell, the attorney who appeared on ABC back in 2021, for “publishing a false and defamatory video animation purporting to show that SIG’s P320 pistol…is susceptible to firing without a trigger pull….”

Bagnell had created his own animation of the P320’s fire control system that SIG claimed misrepresented how the gun actually works. Does that sound familiar? Bagnell has since been forced to remove the animation from his site. Will SIG go after the Washington Post and The Trace for doing essentially the same thing? Wouldn’t you?

Most of the suits that have been filed are still pending. The gears of the justice system grind slowly. SIG has won one unanimous jury verdict (the only case that has made it through a complete trial), and three others have been dismissed by judges.

As for the safety of the P320 pistol, I have one IWB on my right hip as I type this. Clearly, I’m not worried about it firing on its own. Apparently, neither are the dozen or so other people I know who own some version of the P320…people who know guns, how to use them, and how they work.

As one of the experts hired by ABC News for its report said back in 2021, “I do not have an explanation for why the updated version should have complaints from trained individuals. If it’s not legal momentum, it would have to be some other mechanism of failure.”

From reading most of the accounts of those claiming their P320 fired on its own back in 2021 and now in this recent article, legal momentum, embarrassment, and the need to deflect blame for negligent discharges seems the odds-on favorite for what’s really behind the vast majority of these lawsuits.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that a couple of gun-ignorant “journalists” don’t know enough about their topic to realize that — or are simply too hoplophobic and refuse to acknowledge it.

 

 

Read the full article here

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