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SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Semiautomatic Pistol: Full Review

The SIG Sauer P365XL semiauto pistol from the Custom Works Spectre line finds targets like a homing device and sports a battle-worn distressed finish. Here's a full review.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Semiautomatic Pistol: Full Review

(Michael Anschuetz photo)

Although it looks hard-used, the pistol shown throughout this report is actually a brand-new, high-end version of the SIG P365 pistol that revolutionized concealed-carry guns a few years back. Made in SIG’s Custom Works division, it features a special grip, slide, and trigger treatment. That battle-worn look is intentional, and it is called “distressed.”

There are two versions of the Custom Works Spectre line. This is one, which I’ll detail shortly, and another one has the same mechanical upgrades but features a TiN Gold finish on the trigger and barrel and a clean, new-looking Nitron finish on the slide. It has the bling. The distressed one featured in this report has the attitude.

Before diving into the special features and characteristics of the XL Spectre versions of the P365, let’s take a pause and address my “revolutionized” statement. When the P365 hit dealers’ shelves, it was unprecedented. Previously, concealed-carry pistols were either bulky and held lots of ammunition, or they were small and didn’t hold many rounds. The P365 is both tiny and high-capacity. It’s about the same size as common compact and slim 9mms with single-stack magazines that typically contain six or seven rounds, or maybe eight in an extended magazine.

The standard P365 that was introduced first was smaller than the competing models, yet it held 10 rounds, plus one in the chamber. It’s slim, it’s tiny, and it feels fantastic in the hand. An extended magazine holds 12 rounds. Instantly, the P365 made classic short-and-fat subcompact pistols, such as Glock’s G26 and Springfield’s Subcompact XD, nearly obsolete.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Unique Features
High-visibility night sights, a straight trigger, X-shaped lightning cuts, an optics-ready cut and plate, enhanced grip stippling, and a distressed finish make the P365XL Spectre unique. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

This was emphasized “with prejudice,” as the saying goes, when SIG introduced the P365X (3.1-inch barrel) and the P365XL (3.7-inch barrel), both of which have a 12-round standard magazine capacity. Want even more? Buy an optional 15-round extended magazine.

For a year or two, the P365 series was unequivocally the most practical line of 9mm concealed-carry pistols made. It forced other manufacturers to step up. Springfield introduced the 13-round Hellcat. Smith & Wesson introduced the 13-round M&P Shield Plus. Glock introduced the 10-round G43X. All are compact, slab-sided, high-capacity 9mm pistols that are 1.1 inches or less thick.

Plus, SIG hasn’t been resting on its laurels. As other manufacturers scrambled to gin up a gun to compete with the P365, SIG created line extensions. The P365 won awards, and it was designated America’s #1 selling handgun.

Currently, if I count correctly, SIG offers seven distinct variations of the P365, plus a “build your dream P365” website function wherein you purchase the serial-numbered chassis, and the Custom Works division builds whatever configuration you specify.

Okay, let’s dive into the P365XL Spectre pistol and see just what it offers.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Magazines
The new P365XL Spectre’s magazines hold 12 rounds. With one in the chamber, total capacity is 13 rounds. Plus, optional 15-round magazines are available. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

P365XL Spectre Specs

Like so many other pistols these days, most notably SIG’s own P17 and P320 that won the military sidearm contract, the P365 pistol utilizes a small chassis-type skeleton frame. Made of stainless steel and coated with extremely durable Nitron, this is the part that bears the serial number.

SIG terms the rest of the lower half of the pistol the “grip module,” even though it feels like it should be called the frame. In the case of the P365XL Spectre, the grip module features an extremely ergonomic LXG X-Series grip (dare I say the most comfortable in the industry?) that houses the aforementioned 12-round magazines. The “XL” designates its longer-than-the-original P365 grip, and it’s laser stippled with an excellent non-slip waffle-type pattern. While grasping the P365XL, all three of my supporting fingers fit on the grip comfortably. This is a big deal, since your pinky finger has a lot of influence on how dramatic your muzzle jump is. With maximum distance from the axis of the bore, it has maximum leverage. As a result, the P365XL handles recoil beautifully, even when firing zesty 9mm +P ammo.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Disassembly
Disassembly is easy. Clear the gun, lock the slide back, rotate the slide pin lever down, pull the slide forward off the frame, and separate the barrel and recoil spring assembly. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

A slightly extended beavertail and high-cut rear grip profile enable maximum recoil control with a good high grasp and protects the web of the hand from abrasion from the reciprocating slide while firing. The rear of the trigger guard is likewise high, providing plenty of relief for the middle finger and further enhancing the feel and control of the grip.


Up front, the module features SIG’s simple, low-profile accessory rail beneath the barrel. Some might protest that the industry-standard 1913-spec Picatinny-type rail would be more versatile. I argue that such is too bulky for a hideaway gun. SIG got it right.

Another piece of the easy-to-use puzzle is inside the mouth of the magazine well. Edges all around are generously beveled, enabling fast, sure reloads.

A small, low-profile magazine release and slide lock are located on the left side of the pistol in the traditional locations. The magazine release is on the cusp of too small and too hard to access, but it will likely never be inadvertently activated and as such is perfect for a deep-concealment sidearm.

By the by, the P365 family is easy to disassemble. Remove the magazine, clear the chamber, lock the slide back, rotate the slide pin lever (found near the slide lock) downward, and pull the slide assembly forward off the frame. It’s that simple.

Lift the recoil spring and guide rod from inside the slide assembly, followed by the barrel. Reassemble in reverse order.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre and Speer’s 147-grain Gold Dot G2 for everyday carry
Joseph likes the way the new P365XL Spectre shoots, and he chose Speer’s 147-grain Gold Dot G2 for everyday carry because it hit so perfectly on point of aim. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

From what I can tell, all of the X and XL versions of the P365 are fitted with the XSeries Straight (flat-faced) trigger. It functions internally as a safety, but externally appears to be a traditional one-piece trigger without little moving parts and pieces visibly embedded into it. Of two-stage design, my pistol’s trigger consistently breaks at 4 pounds, 11 ounces.

Mechanically, the Spectre is a P365XL. It has a 3.7-inch barrel, a sturdy 0.165-inch-wide external extractor, and a robust fixed mechanical ejector. The ejection port is generous, enabling empties to clear with no interference. A captive flat-wire recoil spring surrounds the guide rod.

It’s up top that the Spectre treatment sets this Custom Works P365XL apart. Along with the special grip stippling mentioned earlier, that is.

This pistol’s stainless-steel slide is machined with SIG’s exclusive Spectre X-pattern cuts, which shape and contour the front half of the slide and perforate it in areas. It looks cool, and it makes the pistol lighter.

Aft, the top of the slide is cut to enable mounting an optic. A special XRay3 night sight features a base that fits the cut, so the pistol is sleek and clean-cut without an optic, too. Be aware that it’s an either-or setup. If you replace the plate/rear sight with an optic, you’ll have no iron rear sight.

The front sight is a big, bright, green-encircled night sight. It’s dovetailed into the slide and can be drifted right or left to bring point of impact to point of aim if necessary.

The slide serrations are broader and less numerous than on the standard version of the P365XL. With the Spectre X-pattern cuts, the cutting-edge stippled grip, and, most of all, the distressed finish treatment atop the Nitron, the combined result is visually quite arresting.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Grip and Recoil Control
Although it’s sleek and slim, the compact P365XL Spectre grip fits the author’s beefy hand perfectly. Recoil control, as a result, is excellent. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

Performance Gains

Does the P365XL Spectre offer performance gains as well as visual upgrades? Well, sure. Simple but noteworthy is the enhanced grasp provided by the laser-engraved stippling on the grip module. Additionally, carry weight is reduced because of the metal machined away from the upper front of the slide. And, of course, compact red-dot optics are all the rage these days, and the capability to mount one easily is not just significant, it’s necessary on a top-shelf pistol.

All that said, candidly, the dominating characteristic of the Spectre is that it just looks incredibly cool. The suggested retail price of $1,137 is a lot, nearly double the cost of a base-model P365.

I intend to use the P365XL Spectre as my daily carry gun for the foreseeable future, so when I gathered up supplies for accuracy and reliability testing, I dug out all the top-performing personal-defense loads I could find and one load that’s not suitable for everyday carry. In all, I headed to the range with eight different factory loads.

Although this is a compact handgun capable of deep concealed carry, I opted to accuracy-test it at 25 yards rather than the 15 yards I commonly use when testing such small pistols. From sandbags, I fired three consecutive five-shot groups and averaged the results with each load.

As set from the factory, the sights put bullets on—or ever so slightly right of—my point of aim. Two of my favorite carry loads stacked impacts precisely on point of aim at 25 yards.

The iron sights are crisp and clear, even to my fading middle-age eyes. Recoil is brisk due to the pistol’s relatively light weight but quite comfortable, owing to the excellent ergonomics of the grip design.

My only complaint—and it’s a small one—is with the trigger. Although it has a nice, smooth take-up through the first stage, it feels sort of mushy when I contact what should be the wall of the second stage. And after contacting the wall, as I continue to squeeze, the second stage has considerable creep. It moves rearward, still mushy-feeling, for a ways and then suddenly releases, and the pistol fires.

Not a big deal; it just doesn’t have the crisp wall and release that I prefer in a two-stage trigger. Admittedly, I’m a horrible trigger snob, and no striker-fired trigger is ever truly crisp.

That one nitpicky detail aside, performance was excellent. Fifty percent of the various loads averaged less than 2.00 inches. Both the Hornady Critical Duty and Critical Defense loads and the Speer 147-grain Gold Dot G2 load shot groups more like 1.60 inches, which is very good 25-yard accuracy for a compact hideout gun. Because it impacted so perfectly on point of aim, the Gold Dot G2 load is what I intend to carry in my Spectre.

SIG Sauer P365XL Spectre Accuracy and Velocity Chart

It’s worth noting that when loading the 12-round magazines, the last couple of rounds get harder to insert, and the final round is quite difficult. It’s entirely doable and gets easier with practice, but it’s not something your 90-year-old grandmother would want to attempt. I suspect as the magazine springs break in, they’ll get easier to compress. The good news is, even when the magazines are brand-new, the first 10 or so cartridges go in very easily.

Full magazines may be seated into the pistol with the slide in battery, but they do require some force. That is as it should be. With the slide locked back, as if you’ve just emptied the pistol and ejected the empty magazine, a fully loaded, fresh mag goes in easily. Just drop the slide and you’re back in action.

After completing the formal accuracy testing, I stepped away from the bench and fired casually, shooting up dirt clods and running spontaneous drills. I fired strong hand, weak hand, and rapid-fire. Away from the sandbags, the spongy second stage of the trigger was less noticeable.

What surprised me the most was how naturally the pistol points. Sights seemed to find my targets like a homing device, and to my surprise, I could hardly miss. Small wood blocks leaped in the air, bullet holes appearing in them as if by magic. Dirt clods vaporized with every shot.

Pointability and inherent shootability are wonderful characteristics to discover in one’s new concealed-carry sidearm.

You’ve probably already gathered this, but in the world of compact polymer handguns, this little SIG gets my vote for the most capable concealed-carry gun on the market.

P365XL Spectre Specifications

  • Manufacturer: SIG Sauer,
  • Type: blowback, tilting-breech semiautomatic pistol
  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Magazine Capacity: 12 rounds
  • Barrel: 3.7 in.
  • Overall Length: 6.6 in.
  • Width: 1.1 in.
  • Height: 4.8 in.
  • Weight, Empty: 20.7 oz.
  • Grips: Integral to polymer frame
  • Finish: Nitron, distressed
  • Sights: X-RAY3 night sights
  • Trigger: 4.69-lb. pull (as tested)
  • Safety: Trigger safety
  • MSRP: $1,137.65

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