SiG-Sauer’s P-226 9x19mm Pistol

By David Tong

Sig P-226
Sig P-226. Photo by David Tong.

I find it interesting that, despite the overwhelming acceptance of the polymer-framed, striker-fired Glock pistol among American uniformed law enforcement agencies, more Federal LEO’s carry variants of the “traditional” DA/SA SiG P-Series pistol than any other. Guns & Shooting Online readers know what esteem most of the staff has for contemporary DA pistols like the SiG, so I decided to test a clean, used example which came into my local gun emporium. The P-226 is a conventional, aluminum alloy framed handgun, taking a capacious 15-round 9mm magazine, firing from a modified Browning-style tilting barrel short recoil system with a conventional hammer.

Proponents of striker fired pistols state that one of the advantages to that system is a much lower bore center due to the need of the more conventional hammer pivot point location lower in the frame, thus also lowering one’s hand position. With the SiG design, this is true. Compared to my Browning BPM-D, the bore center is at least 1/2” higher and this figures, as the Browning is about a ten-year newer design.

The SiG features scalloped frame rails (for dirt clearance, inter alia) and full length support. Typical German attention to tolerances means that lockup is tight and slide play minimal. Late 1980s production guns had some issues with frame rail cracking. As a warranty repair rep for a major gun shop in Los Angeles at the time, I remember sending back 4 or 5 P-series pistols back to the manufacturer, who replaced them without question. A change in alloy eliminated the problem.

The slide is one of the earlier types, in that it is of folded sheet-metal construction, with the forward slide end cap welded on and with a roll-pinned breech block, which contains the firing pin and extractor. I have heard that there are SiG aficionados who prefer these so-called “light slide” versions, compared to the current models CNC machined from stainless bar stock, because they cycle faster and recoil a bit less (due to the reduced mass).

The pistol, when field-stripped, appears FAR simpler than other designs; the Beretta 92 comes to mind immediately, as they were in direct competition for the Joint Services pistol contract in the early 1980s. While we all know Beretta won the coveted military contract, there are many who believe the SiG is a superior design from the accuracy and durability standpoints.

Technical specifications:

  • Caliber - 9mm Luger (9x19mm)
  • Barrel length - 4.25”
  • Sights - Fixed (Siglite night sights available)
  • Sight radius - 6.3"
  • Frame - Aluminum alloy (stainless steel frame also available)
  • Slide - Stainless steel
  • Metal Finish - Nitron
  • Grips - Polymer
  • Length (muzzle to grip tang) - 7.75”     
  • Width (across grip) - 1.55”           
  • Height - 5.43” to top of rear sight from heel of butt          
  • Weight - 28.4 ounces without magazine; 3.0 ounces with empty magazine
  • 2008 MSRP - $840 ($935 with stainless steel frame; $1009 with night sights)

Lockwork is conventional double-action, trigger-cocking first shot with single-action thereafter. Trigger stroke on that first shot is very heavy and uneven, I’d estimate 12 pounds with a reduction in pull weight to the back 1/3 of the stroke. This trigger stroke constitutes the mechanical safety against negligent discharge, as the piece has no manual thumb safety. SiG intentionally designed the pistol without a manual safety, equipping most of the P-series with a left side mounted decocker to safely lower the hammer for administrative handling.

Subsequent single-action shots are about as good as a DA/SA auto gets; ¼” or so of take-up before a very crisp break of 4.5 pounds. The trigger also has a fairly short reset distance, thus making firing controlled pairs easy.

The pistol can only be field stripped with the slide locked open and this method is the archetype of my BPM, as well as the far more famous Springfield XD series handguns. The rotating take down catch is located on the left frame flat and can only be turned when the radiused clearance cut of the slide appears above it (when the slide is open).

The pistol also has a double-wire recoil spring and steel guide rod, both features I applaud because they appear to offer greater durability than the more standard single wire coil and plastic components found on many other modern designs. The pistol breaks down into five major assemblies; slide, barrel, recoil spring guide and rod, frame and magazine. All are large and not easily lost.

At 28.25 ounces, it is slightly lighter than an all-steel Colt Commander, though the butt is very wide, making it harder to manipulate for small handed personnel. The trigger is a serrated blade and situated quite forward within the generous (for gloved use) trigger guard, meaning there’s quite a long length of pull. SiG offers a thinner (front to back, non-serrated) bladed trigger to alleviate this pull length and facilitate easier DA control.

The test pistol has 1992-dated Trijicon night sights, which still glow green, albeit dimly. Since they are only warranted for 12 years, I won’t complain.

Shooting the piece is mild, due to the small 9mm cartridge’s recoil pulse, the grip width to spread the forces over a larger surface area and that light slide. Due to the higher than average bore center, there is a bit more muzzle flip to contend with, probably a non-issue for anyone with experience.

The butt width of the test piece is exacerbated by wider than stock Hogue rubber grips, although fairly large hands are required to work this pistol even with the issue plastic checkered stocks. I found it stretching my just average hands to their limits in properly placing the pistol in line with my forearm for proper base of support and being able to manipulate the heavy first DA pull. Also, the slide width of the P-Series is typically larger than many other competing designs, which makes concealed carry more difficult. Careful holster selection is paramount to comfort.

Later versions of the pistol have a grooved accessory rail ahead of the trigger guard for the mounting of white lights or lasers. The P-226s carried by the U.S. Navy SEAL's have these rails and it is their official sidearm. It is also issue for the Texas Rangers.

Accuracy for a combat pistol is debatable. While Col. Cooper once opined that “accuracy, power, and speed” are an inviolate triumvirate, one must remember that “minute of bad guy” is usually sufficient at ranges where one typically employs a handgun in anger, say, 5 feet to 25 yards. "Minute of angle" is best left to one’s long gun. The accuracy that matters most is how well it works in one’s own hands.

I’m a bit of an accuracy bug myself, although I think its best kept in perspective in a legally-defensible, typical suburban setting. However, the SiG is generally known for better than average results at the target range.

In shooting 115 grain PMC ball, Winchester White Box 115 grain ball, Winchester 115 grain JHP +P+ and Winchester 127 grain JHP +P+, I was able to obtain 3” to 5”, 5-shot groups from a sandbag rest at 25 yards. I think that both the cloudy range conditions, black sights against a black target and the dark glasses I was wearing at the time (I forgot my clear shooting glasses) mean that the pistol can do better.

Anecdotal reports of the pistol’s durability indicate that well over 60,000 rounds can be fired without major component breakage or replacement, which is quite a bit better than its major competitor, the Beretta 92, if not as good as a Glock 17. However, these are all very reliable pistols.n>

With prices over $1,000 MSRP for some versions, including "match" single-action-only variants, it had better be good and it is. I much prefer a hammer-fired, rather than striker fired pistol, as the state of readiness is immediately apparent and unsubtle and also because the potential for a far better SA trigger release, is realized in the SiG P-226. While I prefer an SA-only design, I would not feel ill-armed with a P-226 and some decent JHP ammunition.

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Copyright 2009, 2011 by David Tong. All rights reserved.