Firearms Handguns Reviews

Sig Sauer P365 XL

Slimline pistols are hot. They are light-weight, easy to conceal, comfortable to carry, and practical tools for self defense. The P365 XL falls into this category and some say it’s punching above its class. Let’s take a look at it.

I should start off by addressing a recent Instagram post where I mentioned that I was underwhelmed by the Sig Sauer P365 XL. Some folks took this to mean that I thought the pistol wasn’t good, which is not the case. While there are few things about the pistol that could be better, it has a lot going for it and I think there is a lot to like about the P365 XL. After having slept on it, I’m certain the underwhelming feeling was due to a couple of factors. The first was that the range trip consisted of handling three other pistols which I found more fun and easier to shoot well. I realize now the other factor was that I expected to shoot better than I did with the P365 XL. In other words, I expected more out of myself rather than expecting more out of the pistol. As such, I apologize for any confusion the Instagram post may have caused.

With that said, let us back up a bit. I was really excited to get my hands on a P365 XL recently. That excitement was a result of various factors. You see I was super excited when the P365 was first introduced to the market. The idea of a thin, light-weight, ultra-concealable pistol with double digit 9mm capacity was groundbreaking. I jumped on that bandwagon as soon as I was able to. I remember the gun being very shoot-able for its size and held it in quite high regard even though the pistol had a tendency to leave me with a fair bit slide of bite every time I took it to the range. As time passed and I learned more about concealed carry and armed self defense, the P365 disappeared in the dark recesses of the gun safe never to be seen again. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a bit (the last time the P365 saw range time was in January of 2020). Recently, my interest in slimline pistols has been rekindled and the specifications of the P365 XL are right in what I consider to be the sweet spot for this type of pistol. It’s optics ready, has about a 4″ barrel, has a 15 round capacity, and has a short trigger reach. Those are basically the same characteristics that got me interested in the Glock 48 MOS and the fact is that the G48 and P365 XL are two dominant pistols of this form factor that defensive pistol instructors I know and trust carry.

Needless to say, when the opportunity presented itself to get my hands on the Sig Sauer P365 XL, I jumped on it. And here we are. With a current street price of about $650 here is what one gets:

  • A typical Sig Sauer hard-sided foam-padded pistol case,
  • a manual,
  • a cable gun lock,
  • optic plate removal tools,
  • two twelve (12) round magazines,
  • and the pistol itself.

The 20.7 ounce mini blaster measures 6.6″ in length, 4.8″ in height (with the flush fitting 12 round magazine), and is 1.1″ thick. At the very front of the business end of this pistol we find the muzzle of the 3.7″ barrel that is chambered for 9mm Luger (also known as 9mm Parabellum and 9x19mm). Right below that is a one piece steel guide rod and recoil spring which is a little stiff. This stiff spring may make slide manipulations challenging for folks with limited hand or grip strength.

Surrounding the barrel, the guide rod, and recoil spring is the slide on top of which sits the front sight of the XRAY-3 sights. I’m a fan of these sights. I’m especially a fan of the front sight which has a large green dot with a tritium insert right in the middle. The large green dot is highly visible which makes it easy to acquire and track.

Continuing past the front sight along the sides of the slide are the front slide serrations. The serrations are functional and can be used to conduct press checks and assist in other slide manipulations. However, I think they could be a bit more aggressive as I’ve lost grip on those serrations more than once during dry fire practice sessions.

Moving a bit further back along the top of the slide we see the ejection port and the exposed barrel hood. The barrel hood has a small semicircular cut out where it meets the breech that can be used to visually check to see if the chamber is loaded. This cut out is in lieu of a loaded chamber indicator. I’m not opposed to the inclusion or exclusion of these features as I can’t remember a time I’ve used them. Frankly I don’t quite see the need for loaded chamber features since we should all be in the habit of assuming a gun is loaded until the pistol’s condition is confirmed as per the first rule of safe gun handling and confirmation does not require the use of these additional features. By the same token, the presence of these types of features doesn’t hurt anything.

Just below the barrel hood along the left side of the pistol is the take down lever and slide stop (or slide release depending on the preferred nomenclature). They function as expected. I will say that the position of the slide stop is far enough forward that folks who shoot right handed with a short thumb reach, like me, may not be able to actuate the slide stop with their firing hand thumb during reloads without tweaking and compromising the firing hand grip. This means they will either have to actuate the slide stop with their support hand thumb (similar to how the slide stop on a 1911 is actuated) or rely on the hand over slide, grip, and release technique.

Below the slide stop is the XSeries straight trigger. I have to say I’m not in love with this trigger. The total trigger pull weight averaged to 6.02 lbs when I put the trigger pull gauge on it. That’s awfully heavy. However, there was a lot of variance from trigger pull to trigger pull that depended on how low I could place the trigger gauge. When the gauge was placed high (closer to the slide) trigger pulls were in the neighborhood of 6.5 lbs. While I wasn’t able to place the gauge at the bottom of the trigger, the readings closest to the trigger guard came in around 5.5 lbs. Variance is normal with hinged triggers as actuation further away from the hinge results in more leverage which translates into less force required. However, it’s important to note that the reason I was unable to place the gauge at the bottom of the trigger shoe is because there isn’t a lot of room between the trigger and front of the trigger guard given the starting angle and the placement of the trigger. This lack of space might pose a problem for folks with a large chunky trigger finger or gloved hands. In terms of feel the trigger pull begins with about 0.5″ of take up, followed by a 0.25″ or so of wall creep before the break with an overall feel of spongy resistance. The reset is positive and tactile after releasing the tigger about 0.25″ or maybe a little more. I estimate the total trigger travel to be about an inch, maybe a little shy of that. There are worse factory triggers and better ones too.

The trigger, take down lever, and slide stop are part of the fire control unit or FCU which is the serialized part of the pistol. The FCU is pinned securely into the grip module which will be covered in a bit. The FCU approach to the handgun, which is currently only a Sig thing today, is a fantastic design element that enables modular customization. Don’t like the grip? No problem. Simply purchase (or print) a different grip module and swap it out. Want a different slide or barrel? Same drill. The FCU approach is something I would like to see become a standard practice in the modern pistol market.

The magazine release button is just behind the trigger where the trigger guard meets the grip. While the button isn’t ambidextrous, it can be reversed so that it can be actuated from either side of the pistol grip. I find that the factory configuration which is meant to be operated using the strong side thumb of a right handed shooter is easy to reach without compromising the firing grip even with my short stubby thumb that has below average reach. The button is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of pressure in order to allow the inserted magazine to fall freely. However, it requires enough pressure that accidental button depression is not something I’ve encountered or heard anyone else encounter.

Looking at the same area of the pistol from the opposite side we find the external extractor directly behind the bottom of the ejection port.

The rear sides of the slide offer additional serrations. Like the serrations on the front of the slide, the rear serrations are functional and provide a fair amount of grip for slide manipulations. Again I would have liked the serrations to be a bit more aggressive than they are, but that’s just me.

An optic plate cover with the integrated rear XRAY-3 sight is found on the top rearmost part of the slide. The rear sight is a black serrated square notch with tritium inserts. Once again I will mention that I am a big fan of the sights. However, the XRAY-3 sights lose all of their luster once the optic plate is replaced with a red dot sight. Part of the reason is that the rear sight is lost when the plate cover is removed. I think the intention was to drive owners to purchase and install Sig’s Romeo Zero sights which install directly to the plate without any additional adapter and include rear sight notches in their design. The Holosun 507K I slapped on the P365 XL has a similar design. However, the small rear notches and the visible portion of the factory front sight are extremely small and difficult to acquire and use making them virtually useless. I suppose it’s better than nothing, but it’s a disappointing design given it appears like there is enough room on the slide to have installed the rear sight directly into a dovetail notch allowing the owner to utilize whatever aftermarket sights they prefer. It also appears as though Sig has become keen to this disappointment as a dovetail rear sight is now found in their newer P365 variants: the P365-380 and the P365 Spectre Comp.

Optic choices are also somewhat limited for the P365 XL. The mounting pattern on the factory slide essentially conforms to the Shield RMS/SMS mounting standard with a small modification. There are several mini red dot sights that use this footprint, but given there is very little aftermarket adapter plate support for the P365 XL the owner is limited to picking from red dot sights that conform to this mounting footprint unless the owner is willing to purchase an aftermarket slide. The exception to dots that use this mounting footprint is the RMRcc for which Trijicon offers a mounting plate specifically for the P365 XL.

Under the bottom of the rear part of the slide we have the grip which is surprisingly small yet oddly functional. It isn’t very long and it’s quite narrow, but it’s tall enough to get all three fingers of the firing grip on it. It’s not so small that the gun becomes unwieldy as is the case with older single-stack pocket-sized 9mm (like the Ruger LCP), but it does remain small enough that folks with large hands may have to put in some effort to find a grip that works well for them. While I can manage to get a full three-finger firing grip on the P365 XL without having to free float the pinky, I do have a bit of palm meat that extends beyond the bottom of the grip which I have managed to pinch while inserting a magazine. The texture on the grip has a moderately aggressive texture that is reminiscent of skateboard grip tape. It’s a good texture, but it’s not great. Given the size and weight of the pistol, it has a snappy recoil impulse profile. While it’s certainly a very manageable recoil impulse, I think a more aggressive texture would go a long way in helping with recoil management. However, I recognize that a more aggressive texture might make this gun less comfortable to carry which is one of its desirable characteristics. One more thing that I think could improve the grip and therefore the shoot-ability of the pistol is a bit more palm swell on the sides of the grip, but again that is just my opinion.

The bottom of the grip we have the magazine well which happens to have subtle flare to assist with magazine insertion. This is where the two included 12-round flush-fitting magazines go. The magazines work fine, but loading them is a different story. The spring tension on the magazine follower so abundant it seems absurd to me as it feels like loading the magazine to capacity is a feat for strength. Speaking of magazines, I can’t understand why Sig wouldn’t include at least one (15) round magazine given that it a 15+1 capacity is a marketing point. Maybe it’s because the 15 round magazine increases the overall height of the pistol by about an inch and that somehow diminishes its concealment and compact characteristics. I don’t know. I can’t seem to make sense out it. All I know is that everyone I know who owns a P365 XL has sourced at least one 15 round magazine which retails for about $55. Perhaps that was the point o f not including one in the box.

I almost forgot to mention the proprietary accessory under the front part of the grip module. I don’t have much to say about it. I’m not a fan of proprietary accessory rails, but I understand that the market hasn’t established a standard for them on slimline pistols like the P365 XL. It’s cool that it has one, but I’m not thrilled about it.

Me attempting to zero the Holosun 507K on the P365 XL

I’ve said an awful lot about this pistol without talking about how it shoots. I mean I’ve mentioned the recoil is a little snappy and critiqued some features that I think would help improve it’s shoot-ability. Given what I’ve said about it, some folks might have inferred that I have a negative opinion of it. However, that is far from the truth. I’m critical of this pistol because it’s quite good and I like it a lot. Having finally gotten my grubby mitts on one, I can understand why it’s one of the dominant options for a pistol in this form factor. In my opinion, it shoots better than it should. While I’ve only put a few hundred rounds down range with it, I’m not ready to speak to its reliability, but I haven’t had any issues. Yes, I will continue to describe its recoil profile as snappy because compared to a duty sized pistol like the VP9 it is just that – snappier. I know it’s not a fair comparison, but duty-sized double-stacked 9mm pistols are ubiquitous and most folks can use that as a point of reference.

Now, if I compare the P365 XL against other pistols in this size and weight category, then I’d say it’s either on par or better. This is somewhat subjective and my ability to interface with the gun plays a large role in that opinion. This gun fits my hands exceptionally well and I found it easier to shoot than I have other pistols of this size and weight. That said this form factor, and more specifically this pistol, is new to me. As such, I haven’t developed much proficiency with it. My lack of proficiency and unfamiliarity coupled with snappier recoil than I’m used to leads to me being unable to shoot this pistol as well as I would like. That has more to do with my shortcomings than it does with the pistol.

So yeah, I don’t think the P365 XL is perfect. There is certainly room for improvement, but for the money it’s an excellent foundation for a small light-weight defensive pistol. One that has a fair amount of custom holster maker and aftermarket part support. One that I’m planning to continue to build on and explore. One that I will likely compare to the G48 in future posts. It is certainly one that I will continue to suggest to folks who want something in this form factor for defensive carry or to folks with small hands and short finger reach who struggle with finding a gun that fits them well.

2 comments

  1. I’ve been carrying a 365 original for a few years. I added a Hogue grip for a little more purchase on the handle, a straight trigger, and an extended mag, but it has been a wonderful EDC. I liked the XLs that I’ve shot, but I already had the money tied up in the current rig. The SIG 365 and XL are great pistols. I’ve owned Glocks, Rugers, Kimbers, etc. The SIG is the one I’ve stuck with the longest.

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