Evaluating the Modern Stocked Pistol: USW-320 at Desert Brutality 2022

This year I was able to shoot Desert Brutality twice – one during the normal match and once the day before as part of “Trooper” division. That’s where you carry all of your gear for the whole match (including food and all ammo) through all of the stages, shoot the whole match in one day, and don’t get to use anything you didn’t bring with you in the morning.

I figured this would be a good opportunity to try out the Brugger & Thomet USW-320. It’s a SIG 320 pistol (registered as an SBR, for legality) in a B&T grip module with a folding stock; really a modern incarnation of the classic stocked-pistol concept. The match this year had no shooting longer than 200 yards, and much of it was done in 50 yard pistol bays. So I figured I could get a good challenge with the long-range stages, but should be able to complete everything else reasonably well. So, let’s see if I was right!

0:20 – Introduction
2:02 – Stage 1
6:08 – Stage 2
10:18 – Stage 3
12:08 – Stage 4
14:47 – Stage 5
17:10 – Stage 6
19:11 – Stage 7
20:43 – Conclusions


  1. Interesting, but I do expect that it would be possible to improve on the SIG/USW in this context. As noted, standard pistols (and pistol optics) don’t have the accuracy to fill a carbine role, but that’s at least partly because they’re designed for unstocked use, where nobody can aim well enough to hit silhouettes past a hundred or so meters and even a premium manufacturer like SIG is going to reach the point of saying “we’re wasting time and money trying to make this more precise than it is”.

    So I wonder what happens if you design the pistol with a 5″ barrel with rotating rather than tilting-breech locking, and generally tighter tolerances. Design the optic with more attention to parallax, and maybe a chevron rather than a dot. And either a BDC reticle or a flatter-shooting cartridge (an updated 7.62 Tokarev might be nice), or both.

  2. A USW based on something like the Laugo Alien would potentially have much better mechanical accuracy than a Browning-style system. Pair it with a red dot that’s specifically design for the needs of a USW and you might just have something that really could take the place of a PCC in many applications.

  3. I lean more toward sighting issues than mechanical inaccuracy. In military trials Browning-lockup pistols, in mechanical rests, are capable of all the accuracy 9mm can deliver. A sight on a fixed bridge would help, though only to a point (with the P320), because there’ll still be flexy plastic involved.

    While “gun guys” appreciate how modern JHPs have made 9mm steadily more effective, many often forget that militaries are right back in 1902 with icepick FMJs, requiring very precise hits. A conventional pistol is an expert’s weapon, and can be effective as a backup for SOF or professional infantry. Paradoxically, the troops whose only defense is a pistol are generally those least likely to be selected or extensively trained for small-arms expertise. While military sidearms are fully mechanically capable of meeting their 50yd range spec, unless a cook or staff officer is an avid private shooter, his chances of making stopping hits at that range are miniscule. That’s where these come into their own.

    • “(…)Browning-lockup(…)”
      Observe that Browning-type short recoil operation with vertically tilting barrel was used in FK Field Tactical automatic pistol
      which was designed as 100-meter pistol, it does use proprietary ammunition (7.5×27 FK), nonetheless shows that described solution might be used to attain greater range than in commonly used automatic pistols.

      • Daweo,
        Yes, the FK pistol is an excellent example, although it will only live up to its full potential (in ordinary hands) with a stock or brace.

        Regarding your other comment, the intent to replace pistols with M1 Carbines shows that experts, on the basis of extensive combat experience / research, have understood the pistol paradox for decades. OTOH, the fact that carbines still have not done so illustrates the challenge with designing and procuring “PDWs” – an umbrella term for two very different mission sets:

        1. Arming frontline troops whose main weapon (ATGM, mortar, artillery) is unsuitable for self-defense. A Carbine can be ideal in this role.

        2. Arming troops (or police, home defenders, etc.) whose role is not to seek close combat, require self-defense (but not concealability), and do not have space or hands free (due to the nature of their work and/or vehicle constraints) for a conventional long gun. It is in this role where a PDW like the subject of this article is much more suitable than a 3′ Carbine (or even the more compact M4).

    • Perhaps a stocked pistol like the USW would be a better choice for a PDW than the traditional PDW designs like P90 and MP7. You can’t comfortably carry either one in a holster (I know there are holsters for the MP7, but they look pretty bulky still), but the USW is not much bigger than a regular pistol. The integral folding stock nicely removes the problem of slow deployment, which plagues pistols with a holster stock like the Stechkin. The only significant shortcoming I see is the lack of full auto option, but is it really that important?

      Of course the effective range is also shorter than with “real” PDWs, as clearly demonstrated by Ian, but does a PDW really need a 200 meter effective range? Wouldn’t a 100 meter range, which is still much better than non-expert pistol shooters would be able to attain, be sufficient? I don’t know, but to me the USW in general seems like a more realistic solution to the PDW requirement than dedicated PDWs, which just seem too big and bulky compared to a semi-auto pistol.

      • Euroweasel,
        I agree, FA capability is counterproductive (for the users in question), unless using a very low-recoil cartridge.

        Regarding range, WW2 showed 200m as a reasonable range for infantry combat. This type of PDW is best suited for the average non-infantry who have no real training or ability to even identify targets at that range, though it could certainly keep heads down long enough to seek cover and backup.

  4. I’m going to need someone to put an RMR on a stocked Broomhandle Mauser for evaluation purposes. And a tangent leaf sight for a Glock 40.

  5. I’d have used a M1-A1 carbine as is, since only hits count. Newer often isn’t better, nor even as good. A long barreled .357, e.g., MR-73, may also have done better.

    • “(…)only hits count(…)”
      I must disagree, if rules dictate that don’t get to use anything you didn’t bring with you in the morning overall mass do count, that being said mass of M1 Carbine should be acceptable, as it was designed (among others) to replace automatic pistols.

  6. I agree with mike, I think the issue is the sights. A pistol red dot is meant to me used at arms’ length. With a stocked pistol, you have it much closer to your face, and I suspect that increases the parallax issue.

    It would be interesting to see if a frame mounted (so non-reciprocating with the slide) mount and a compact rifle/carbine red dot might have less parallax, being designed for use closer to the eye, and being a multi-lens tube rather than a projection on a single lens.

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