Improper holster contributed to accidental discharge

Jun 30, 2021

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command has confirmed that an improper holster was a contributing factor in the accidental discharge of a new pistol that wounded a Joint Task Force 2 member last November.

“The investigation found that the procurement process and execution of the training event were not contributing factors to the incident, and that no technical failure occurred within the pistol,” CANSOFCOM said today in an email to FrontLine. “The pistol functioned as per the requirements as demonstrated by the weapons technical experts who trialed thousands of rounds without a reoccurrence.”

The incident with the SIG Sauer P320 – a contender for a major Canadian Armed Forces procurement of thousands of pistols and holsters in which the deadline for industry proposals is August 3 – occurred at JTF-2’s Dwyer Hill training range just west of Ottawa. As a result, the P320s were withdrawn from service, leaving the JTF-2 with their older P226s.

Even though the probability of a recurrence is “assessed to be extremely low,” CANSOFCOM said it has ordered a third-party “safety/risk assessment . . . before taking a final decision on a way forward.” It expects this to take “a number of months” during which it’s understood the P226s will remain in service.

“The investigation concluded the primary probable cause of the incident was due to a partial depression of the trigger by a foreign object combined with simultaneous movement of the slide against the pistol frame that then allowed a round to be fired whilst the pistol was still holstered,” CANSOFCOM said.

“The investigation also determined that the previously issued holster employed at the time had not been modified for the new pistol. While the investigation concluded the use of a holster not specifically designed for the new weapon was found to be a contributing factor, it determined the use of any other holster would not necessarily have prevented the incident.”

However, the initial investigation yielded several recommendations, including how “leading-edge equipment” is purchased and how weapons are modified. “Central to the decision on the way forward is ensuring our members’ utmost confidence in the effectiveness and safety of their equipment and weapons.”

CANSOFCOM’s explanation essentially echoed an explanation issued in February by SIG Sauer, which had been the target of several lawsuits in the U.S. over the P320, which it has made since 2014.

The German company – which has U.S. headquarters in New Hampshire and a Canadian distributor, M.D. Charleton, in Victoria, B.C. – said in that statement that “the investigation revealed the use of an incorrect holster not designed for a P320” and that “the use of a modified P226 created an unsafe condition by allowing a foreign object to enter the holster.

About the same time, SIG Sauer was hit by a $10-million lawsuit by a former U.S. Marine and Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) officer who said his P320 had discharged while still holstered, seriously wounding him during a quarterly proficiency training session last September.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, where Keith Slatowski was assigned by ICE, states that “the bullet struck him in his upper right hip and exited out the back of his lower thigh, causing substantial injury, maceration of tissue, blood loss, and nerve damage.” It also states that “potentially deadly design defects” that permitted the pistol to discharge without the trigger being pulled. His lawyers also state that a design flaw has resulted in more than two dozen accidental discharge incidents involving law enforcement officers, 15 of whom were injured.

In March 2020, SIG Sauer agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit, reimbursing approximately 100 civilian P320 owners who had paid for repairs or upgrades to prevent accidental discharges.