Gun Test: SIG’s P516 Close Combat Weapon System
By Will Dabbs, MD, American Handgunner
American gun laws are an arcane amalgam of tedious minutiae striving to describe and regulate consumer products not readily described or regulated. For instance, in the absence of some fairly onerous Federal paperwork and a $200 transfer tax, a rifle with a barrel less than 16″ is a felony good for 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Build that identical gun up from scratch with a short barrel but dispense with the buttstock and you have a legal pistol and no worries.
Now take that same pistol and affix a vertical foregrip on the front and you have an unregistered “Any Other Weapon” (AOW) and another felony. Angle that foregrip backward and you are good to go. Incorporate something looking a bit like a stock but actually just straps to your arm for stability, and you have a legal pistol again. Confused yet? It all seems fairly silly to me, too.
Perhaps more than any other major firearms manufacturer, SIG understands what American shooters really want. We want tools sufficiently reliable and effective to protect our families when the zombies come. We want guns representing the state-of-the-art in materials science and Information Age engineering. What SIG uniquely appreciates, however, is we also want guns that can be all those things and still look awesome, to use a technical term.
The folks at SIG have read those arcane regulations and have designed firearms representing the absolute apogee of what can legally be had in this country without a transfer tax. No firearm on the market exemplifies that axiom as well as the SIG P516 pistol with their nifty Pistol Stabilizing Brace.
The SIG P516 begins life as a piston-driven AR action available with either a 7.5″ or 10″ barrel. The SIG piston system runs much cleaner and cooler than a comparable traditional direct gas impingement design. Advanced metallurgy and low-friction, no-maintenance coatings yield an action that will keep shooting despite ridiculous amounts of abuse and neglect.
The lower half of the SIG P516 has all the bells and whistles. Built-in push button sling attachment points, a checkered magazine well and a clever ambidextrous magazine release take Gene Stoner’s already extraordinary ergonomics to the next level.
Were we to be completely honest with ourselves, what it really frequently comes down to is cool points. Unlike some of this other iron that requires a tax stamp and costs the kids’ college fund, the SIG P516 with its extraordinary Pistol Stabilizing Brace transfers like any other handgun and, while spendy, is not ridiculously so.
The extraordinary AR-15 platform has sufficient versatility to prevail through the ages. The new SIG P516 is the ultimate iteration of this storied weapon system.
Just What Is That Thing?
The patented Pistol Stabilizing Brace incorporates a Velcro strap to affix the weapon rigidly to the operator’s shooting arm. While this device bears a striking resemblance to a collapsed M4 stock, a recent ruling by the BATF Firearms Technology Branch established that this brace, even if used as a short buttstock in tactical applications, does not classify the host gun as a short-barreled rifle. A copy of the BATF ruling accompanies the device in miniaturized form suitable for inclusion in a range bag just in case you have to prove that to somebody.
Happiness is a tricked-out SIG P516, an EOTech Holosight and a Beta C-mag stuffed full of top-quality HPR ammunition. There is no better counter-zombie platform to be had without a transfer tax.
A gun oozing this much concentrated testosterone needs some proper accessories. I mounted an EOTech 512 Holosight with an integral laser battery cap to keep it shooting in the right direction. The Holosight projects the same sort of holographic sighting reticle used by fighter pilots in modern strike aircraft and is a staple for the most advanced military units on the planet. The laser battery cap drinks from the same batteries as the Holosight and projects a 5 mw red laser for up-close work.
The gun feeds from a Beta C-mag 100-round drum magazine. Unlike the cheap imported knock-offs, the original American-made Betamag has its own national stock number for military issue and is sufficiently robust to have been used in combat in the Global War on Terror. It’s surprisingly compact and utterly reliable while being easily loaded via individual rounds or GI-issue 10-round stripper clips. Like most things, with drum magazines you get what you pay for.
The SIG P516 pistol is unimaginably cool. Compact, powerful and legitimately effective, the P516 brings a whole bucket of awesome to the range.
So what is the SIG P516 really like sporting an EOTech holographic sighting solution and a 100-round Betamag? Friends, words very nearly fail me. This is a thermonuclear handgun. With the stabilizing brace in place you sight the weapon with the firing arm rigidly outstretched á la the stockless HK MP-5K, or just shoot from the hip at bad breath ranges using the EOTech laser. Bracing the device from the shoulder is simply surreal. The Betamag will reliably keep you shooting until you get tired of doing it.
Running room-clearing drills, the gun is as effective when braced on the shoulder as a conventionally-stocked rifle. It points naturally and is compact enough to operate inside a vehicle without much more fuss than a traditional handgun. Muzzle blast is just nuts. Muzzle flash at dusk is simply breathtaking.
Even after extensive range sessions the receivers are still cool and tidy without the voluminous carbon spooge so typical of classic direct gas designs. My suspicions are that short of intentional abuse this gun is indestructible and would run forever with trivial maintenance.
So What’s It Really For?
You must be kidding. This is the coolest-looking firearm I have ever seen. The P516 will induce the vapors among your shooting buddies and can be owned almost anywhere in the country without any special government permission. On top of that the gun is a genuinely effective tactical tool. My tricked-out SIG P516 has now become the standard Dabbs family counter-zombie tool, displacing some pretty prestigious hardware to earn that coveted title.
Even with 100 rounds and a Holosight onboard the gun is maneuverable and even nominally concealable, while providing a simply shocking volume of firepower, whatever that term really means. So ask yourself if you are ready to take your shooting experience to the next level and then build up a SIG P516 Close Combat Weapon System of your own. Just get yourself mentally prepared in advance. Not just everybody can handle this much raw unfiltered awesome.
Okay, I just said awesome, but I actually meant it. Honest.
Photos By Sarah Dabbs