SIG SAUER 1911-22 Pistol
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The nice folks at SIG SAUER were kind enough to send us one of their 1911-22 pistols for this review. This is the SIG entry in the rimfire 1911 pistol field, presumably intended to allow 1911 aficionados an opportunity to practice their gun handling and marksmanship with a 1911 pistol that is much more economical to shoot than a centerfire 1911. Indeed, nothing is less expensive to shoot or potentially more accurate than a .22 rimfire.
Made in Germany, the blow-back operated SIG 1911-22 is an all metal pistol, except for its wood grips. The barrel, barrel bushing, hammer, slide stop and most internal parts are steel, while the slide, frame, thumb safety, grip safety, trigger and magazine are made of an unspecified, non-ferrous metal (probably aluminum alloy). The metal finish is a dull, matte black.
The SIG 1911-22 is obviously a well made pistol. Careful manufacture and assembly is evident and results in close tolerances. For example, there is almost no play in our test gun's slide to frame fit.
As it happened, our SIG and Browning 1911-22's arrived simultaneously, so we were able to compare them side-by-side. Both show evidence of careful manufacture. The Browning 1911-22 A1 is built to 85% scale, while the SIG is identical in size and weight to a centerfire 1911 pistol. We deemed the Browning's reduced size more appropriate for a .22 pistol, but for use as a sub-caliber 1911 trainer, the full size SIG gets the nod.
The SIG 1911-22 operates exactly like a centerfire 1911 pistol and features the same control layout. Actually, the SIG 1911-22 represents a modern, "enhanced" 1911-A1 with an ambidextrous, extended thumb safety; radical beavertail grip safety; loop style burr hammer; long reach, skeletonized trigger adjustable for over-travel; grooved backstrap and low profile, three-dot, combat sights. It is very much in the style of SIG's "21st Century" .45 ACP 1911 pistols. Internally, SIG has added a magazine safety, drop safety and firing pin safety to the 1911-22. These are in addition to the usual 1911 hammer "quarter cock" safety, grip safety and thumb safety!
The high visibility front and rear sights are dovetail mounted in the round top slide. The rear sight, secured by a set screw, is drift adjustable for windage adjustment. A set of three front sights (low, medium and tall) are provided for elevation adjustment. A carrying case, Owner's Manual, gun lock, small tool set (including an open-end wrench, chamber brush and a couple of small Allen wrenches), as well as the previously mentioned spare front sights are provided with the pistol. SIG is to be commended for including such a complete kit with their 1911-22 pistols. The only accessories most owners will ever need to buy is a spare magazine and, perhaps, a holster. The 1911-22 should fit in any holster intended for a full size 1911 pistol.
The magazine release button is located in the customary 1911 position behind the trigger guard. The single-stack magazine drops free when the release button is depressed. It is easy to load and functions perfectly.
The typical 1911 grip safety means that two hands are required to de-cock the pistol. John Browning felt the grip safety unnecessary, but the U.S. Army insisted on it; we agree with John Browning. Why civilian manufacturers didn't eliminate the grip safety decades ago is hard to fathom.
The trigger of our test gun functioned correctly, in that it made the pistol go bang. However, the trigger pull has a long take-up with two noticeable hitches before it finally releases at a very heavy 6-1/8 pounds, per our RCBS pull gauge. The best thing that can be said about this trigger is that its over-travel screw was adjusted correctly at the factory. The trigger pull of our test pistol is simply atrocious and a trigger job is definitely required.
Although the SIG 1911-22 operates exactly like a centerfire 1911 pistol, internally it is quite different. Like most .22's, but unlike John Browning's original tilt-barrel 1911 design, this is a blow-back action with its barrel attached to the frame. Due to its fixed barrel (a plus for accuracy compared to tilt-barrel pistols), the takedown and disassembly procedure is quite different from centerfire 1911 pistols. Unfortunately, the proper procedure is too long to repeat here. Suffice to say that to remove the complete slide/barrel assembly from the frame there are six steps and you need to remove a couple of pins and use one of the provided Allan keys. Seven more steps are required to remove the barrel from the slide. Read the Owner's Manual for details.
An open-end wrench (provided) is required to remove the threaded cap from the front of the barrel. With this muzzle cap removed, it appears that the barrel is factory threaded to accept a silencer. (Sorry, "suppressor.")
The SIG's take-down procedure for cleaning is far more complicated than field stripping a Ruger or High Standard .22 target pistol. It is also considerably more complicated than required for a centerfire 1911 pistol, itself more difficult to field strip than more modern designs, such as Browning's later P-35. Fortunately, a .22 pistol generally doesn't require frequent disassembly. Apparently this internal complexity was required to combine 1911 external operation and controls with more modern, fixed barrel internals. It was worth it, though, as the SIG proved more accurate than the tilt-barrel Browning 1911-22 A1 that we had at the range at the same time.
While we can live with the hassle of occasionally field stripping the SIG in return for improved accuracy, we could not live with most of its "21st Century refinements." We found it very difficult to manually cock the burr hammer, mostly because of the unnecessarily extended beavertail grip safety. A burr hammer is harder to cock than a conventional spur hammer in the first place, which is a definite drawback on any pistol that must be manually cocked for the first shot. (Why any manufacturer would use a burr hammer on a single action pistol is a mystery to us.) Add to that the overly long, hooked and pointed (!) grip safety tang on the SIG and two hands are required just to cock the hammer. This is unacceptable and potentially unsafe, although a "quarter cock" hammer notch is provided to catch the hammer if it slips. Our fix was to grind about 1/3 of the grip safety's tang off and round its contour. It is still plenty large enough to prevent hammer bite and now the 1911-22 can be thumb cocked with the shooting hand.
We are right handed and will never be left handed. Therefore, the ambidextrous thumb safety is a waste and merely served to interfere with our fingertips when racking the slide. We decided to remove the leftie safety lever. The extended safety lever for right hand shooters proved so oversize that it caught on things and was easy to inadvertently move. We ground it down to normal proportions.
The magazine safety means that the magazine must be inserted to operate the action when practicing, which makes us uncomfortable. We want the magazine removed from the pistol when it is handled and therefore a magazine safety has the effect of making the gun less safe. Since a lot of handling and "dry" practice at home is necessary for proficiency with any handgun, we removed the magazine safety.
While we had the SIG apart, we mirror polished the thumb safety lever, grip safety and backstrap. Purely cosmetic, polishing these parts considerably enhanced the visual appeal of this otherwise monotonously flat black pistol. The result looks much like SIG's 1911 Carry Nightmare centerfire model. None of these changes affected the accuracy or reliability of the SIG 1911-22. It would shoot exactly the same right out of the box. We just "personalized" it to make it more user friendly. Due to the modifications we made to get the SIG ready for the range, we will be purchasing the test pistol.
One thing we didn't do prior to the shooting portion of this review is lighten the trigger pull. Since the Browning and SIG 1911-22's arrived at the same time and were going to the range together, we thought it only fair to test both pistols with stock triggers. Both have heavy trigger pulls that we intend to fix post review.
We did our shooting for this review at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle and pistol range south of Eugene Oregon. The weather was typical for springtime in Western Oregon, which is to say overcast with impending rain showers. Wind was not a factor. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Gordon Landers, Rocky Hays and Jim Fleck did the shooting for record. We fired 5-shot strings (flyers were deleted from the scoring) from a shooting bench using a Pistol Perch rest at 25 yards. Slow-fire pistol targets were used throughout our range session.
The SIG 1911-22 is designed to function with .22 Long Rifle High Velocity ammunition ONLY, so that is what we used for this review. The brands we tried included Federal American Eagle (38 grain HP), Remington Golden Bullet (36 grain HP), Winchester Super-X (37 grain HP) and CCI Mini Mag (40 grain RN). All of these loads use copper plated bullets. Unfortunately, the low priced and apparently lower velocity American Eagle ammo (although it says High Velocity on the box) proved unreliable in both the Browning and SIG SAUER 1911-22 pistols we were reviewing, as well as very inaccurate, so testing with this inferior load was discontinued. Here are the shooting results with the three surviving loads:
Chuck achieved the smallest group, using Winchester Super-X ammunition. SIG states that they use CCI Mini Mag .22 LR ammunition for their factory testing, but this pistol preferred Winchester brand ammo. As we have written many times, all guns are individuals and your results may, and probably will, vary.
Overall, we had more flyers than usual, which we blamed on the SIG's heavy and creepy trigger. On the other hand, the 1911-22's Patridge sights are easy to see and align on the target. The sight picture is good, with the rear notch leaving an appropriate amount of space on either side of the front blade. Not too fine and not too coarse.
The gun shot pretty much where it looked at 25 yards, using the medium height front sight installed by the factory. We found no reason to change front sights.
Functioning was perfect, except with the afore-mentioned American Eagle brand cartridges, and that problem proved to be ammunition (not gun) related. At the range, the big SIG .22 never missed a beat. The slide locks back after the last cartridge is fired.
Worth noting is the ease with which the slide can be racked. The relatively massive, centerfire size slide, combined with the relatively modest back thrust of the .22 LR cartridge, allowed the SIG engineers to use a reduced power recoil spring.
The SIG's weight makes it rather heavy for carrying in the field, but also makes it easier to shoot accurately than the smaller and lighter Browning 1911-22 we also had at the range. Both pistols came out of the box with very heavy (six pound plus) trigger pulls, but the greater mass of the SIG meant that its aim was disturbed less by its heavy trigger pull. Jim preferred the Browning's (6.5 pound, but cleaner) trigger pull, while the other three shooters preferred shooting the SIG. As expected, the fixed barrel SIG proved to be intrinsically more accurate.
For the owner of a Government Model 1911 pistol who wants a .22 rimfire understudy, the SIG SAUER 1911-22 deserves serious consideration. It is accurate, reliable, well made and reasonably priced. With a trigger job and perhaps a few other simple modifications outlined in this review, it should give many years of satisfying service. Given the price of centerfire ammunition, saving the cost of about 20 boxes of .45 ACP (1000 rounds; equal to two bricks of .22 LR) by practicing with the 1911-22 will pay for the SIG pistol!
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