The American manufacturer of the new pistols belonging to Canada’s special forces claims the soldier wounded in an accidental discharge last fall was using the wrong holster for the weapon.
SIG Sauer, a German weapons maker with its U.S. headquarters in Newington, N.H. issued a statement Friday in response to a CBC News report earlier this week which revealed the Nov. 5, 2020 incident and the fact the weapon, the SIG P320 had been withdrawn from service while the military conducts an investigation.
Canadian Special Forces Command has not said what caused the gun to go off unexpectedly, but the company said a conclusion has been reached.
“The investigation revealed the use of an incorrect holster not designed for a [SIG] P320,” said the statement, which was released Friday and posted to a U.S. online pro-industry publication, Soldier Systems.
“The use of a modified [SIG] P226 holster created an unsafe condition by allowing a foreign object to enter the holster, causing the unintended discharge.”
Contacted late Friday, a spokeswoman for special forces said the investigation is still ongoing and would not confirm the company’s findings.
“I can say we are aware of the statement released by SIG SAUER,” said Maj. Amber Bineau.
“DND/CAF is not in a position at this stage in its investigation to offer insight into the potential causes because our investigation scope is broader than the technical aspect pertaining to the unintended discharge of the pistol.”
Companies stay silent
Canada’s highly-trained counterterrorism force, JTF-2, is the only military unit with the SIG P320 in its inventory right now.
The weapons are currently on the shelf and the soldiers have returned to using their older model SIG P226s.
Bineau added the review is looking at so-called “ancillary equipment” (meaning the holster and other items) as one element of that broader investigation.
“We will respect the ongoing investigation and will not offer further comment at this time,” Bineau said.
CBC News reached out to Sig Sauer and its Canadian distributor, M.D. Charlton, headquartered in Victoria, B.C., for comment on its original story, but neither responded.
Both companies, instead, took to pro-gun industry forums to offer a rebuttal, giving no opportunity to answer questions.
On Thursday, M.D. Charlton posted to the online commercial forum Canadian Gun Nutz, describing the CBC News piece as “inaccurate” and promising SIG Sauer would release a statement.
The U.S. manufacturer went a step further in its statement Friday, stating without evidence or attribution, that the timing of the article was intended to undercut its chances in the federal government’s upcoming bid to replace all of the handguns in both the military and RCMP.
“While this incident occurred months ago, this erroneous media report is driven by multiple sources, including our competitors, and coincides with the imminent release of other Canadian military and law enforcement tenders, indicating the timing of its release is an attempt to improperly influence the procurements,” the statement said.
The federal government intends to order up to 20,000 pistols for the military to replace its Second World War-era Browning Hi-Power handguns in a project that could be worth up to $50 million.
The SIG P320 has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, including one class action case, in the U.S. over injuries sustained because of accidental discharges.
The weapon had a history of going off unexpectedly when it was dropped at a certain angle.
But SIG Sauer said it has rectified the issue with upgrades, including one made for the U.S. military which court documents, filed as part of one of the lawsuits, show resulted in substantial changes to the weapon’s internal design.
The pistol is popular with commercial gun owners and law enforcement south of the border.
Jeff Bagnell, a lawyer in Westport, Conn., who has litigated 10 cases, mostly by commercial gun owners, related to SIG P320 misfires across several U.S. states, took note of the accident involving the Canadian special forces soldier.
He wasn’t aware of it until contacted earlier this week by CBC News and suggested it was relevant in ongoing litigation in the U.S.
“We look forward to reviewing the incident in discovery in the United States,” he said Friday.