SIG-Sauer P239-9-TAC 9mm Pistol
By David Tong
The standard version of the SIG-Sauer P239 pistol is available in 9mm Luger (9x19mm), .357 SIG and .40 S&W. The P239-9-Tac (tactical) model differs from the others by being available only in 9x19mm. It is equipped with an extended and threaded barrel for suppressor attachment, SIGLITE tritium night sights, SIG Short-Reset Trigger and is supplied with two extended ten-round single-stack magazines and one eight-round, flush-bottom magazine.
As regular readers of my articles on Guns and Shooting Online know, I am enamored by most of SIG-Sauer's pistol offerings. In the past, I have stated that they build perhaps the most consistent quality production grade, all metal pistols on the market.
At first blush, the all metal P239 feels heavier than its relatively slim profile would make you think it should be. In this regard it is old school, compared to the New Age of polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols that are all the rage these days.
Like any single-stack pistol (pistols that carry the rounds of ammunition in a straight, not staggered, magazine), the grip can be thinner than those with a larger capacity, double stack magazine. In this regard, the P239 does not disappoint.
There are gripping serrations at the front and back of the slide. Some like to use these forward cocking serrations to "press-check" the loaded status of the chamber. Typically I am not a fan of this method. I would rather use a finger pad to feel for the slightly protruding edge of the extractor, or retract the slide slightly by its rear serrations to accomplish the same thing.
SIG's fixed sights are available in six different rear and five different front sight heights and thus can accommodate just about all available 9mm loads. At the likely ranges that a self-defense pistol will be used, I think this arrangement is adequate. (If you are willing to engage in a great deal of potentially expensive and time consuming trial and error testing. -Editor)
There are a lot of compact and subcompact 9mm pistols out there. While true there are very few that are suppressor capable, the expense and legal hassle of owning a suppressor is impractical for many shooters in the United States.
This pistol's premium pricing indicates to me that the functioning and accuracy of this pistol should be of a very high order. The usual SIG-Sauer consistency of barrel to slide and barrel to locking cam were there. No play was detected when vigorously wiggling the barrel and only the slightest bit of play in the slide to frame fit was noted.
Ergonomically, I find the P239 comfortable. It is a medium size pistol with rounded contours. My medium sized hands, as well as those of G&S Online staffers Jim Fleck and Chuck Hawks, use all of the available grip length, including the flush-fitting pinky extension on the magazine baseplate. (One had best extend the pinky before pressing a fresh magazine into place to avoid pinching.) Its bore axis is higher than many other designs, yet it feels quite a bit more slender than the majority of the SIG offerings that carry more ammo. With its 1911 grip angle, it points naturally for me and its heft and balance are good.
This is a nearly perfect pistol for appendix inside the waistband carry (AIWB). With its rounded edges and medium size, the P239 will also work when carried at the 3:30 position in an appropriate holster. The hammer spur has been truncated to help reduce snagging on clothing while drawing, but it is still fairly easy to thumb-cock.
The grip is truly is no bigger than it has to be; those with larger mitts may find it a tad too small. Another minor quibble with the grip is that I think the front strap is a bit square and should be more convex (rounded). The soft, molded-in stippling pattern on the grips does not abrade clothing or skin, but the grips can be somewhat slick in sweaty hands. I wish the front strap had fine checkering for a more certain grip.
Although the P239-TAC is a compact service pistol, at nearly 30 ounces empty it is not a lightweight arm. However, it compares rather favorably in size and weight to older designs, such as P-38, Soviet TT-33 Tokarev and the Beretta M1951 Brigadier, which also sport single stack, eight shot magazines.
Among popular 9mm pistols, the P239-TAC comes closest in size to a Glock 19. The SIG has a narrower butt section, however, which is the hardest part of a handgun to conceal. On the other hand, the G19 is much lighter and carries 15 rounds in its flush mount magazine. You would have to carry both to decide whether the Glock's 15 round capacity and substantially lighter weight is enough of an advantage for you to deal with its extra butt girth.
The control layout is standard SIG. The take-down lever is located just below the slide and above the trigger. The de-cock lever is just below the slide and slightly behind the trigger guard. About 1/4 inch aft of the de-cock lever is the catch used to hold the slide open. All of these controls are properly located for a right handed shooter and work as expected.
One nice thing about the extended barrel is its four-inch length. Four inches is the standard test barrel length for 9mm Luger pistols, so factory load ballistics should be close to the claimed catalog velocity.
The sights are blocky, snag resistant, SIGLITE night sights with self-illuminating tritium elements. There is substantial space around the front sight, as seen looking through the rear sight. A "finer" sight picture would be more conducive to accurate aiming.
All P-Series SIG-Sauer pistols have rebounding hammers that remove the hammer face from the rear of the firing pin when at rest, much like all double-action revolvers. Adding a firing pin block was a "belt-and-suspenders" response to the issue of drop safety and preventing inadvertent discharge.
The extended 10 round magazines supplied with the test pistol feature a grip extension. Made of an aluminum alloy, the extension greatly increases the grip length, thus relegating them (for me, anyway) to reloads, rather than carrying a 10 cartridge magazine in the pistol. The magazines drop free when the release button is depressed and are easily disassembled for cleaning.
The pricing (nearly double the cost of similar pistols) makes purchasing this P239 Tactical difficult to justify. There are a lot of other choices that can get the job done at about half the price, or less. Is it worth it? Perhaps our time at the range would provide the answer.
We did out test shooting at the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon on a chilly (around 50 degrees F) and damp autumn day. Three types of ammunition, including Winchester/USA White Box 115 grain FMJ, Winchester/USA White Box 147 grain TMJ Train and Defend and Remington/UMC 115 grain JHP were used. We shot 5-shot groups at 25 yards over a sandbag on a solid bench rest for the record. The shooters included Managing Editor Chuck Hawks, Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck and myself.
We used a bench rest with a sandbag to steady the hands and reduce, as much as we reasonably could, shooter error to give a more reliable indication of the gun's intrinsic accuracy. However, even from a bench rest, the shooter remains responsible for the consistency of his grip, sight picture, breath control and trigger squeeze for every shot.
The best group fired on this day was by Chuck, with the Remington 115 JHP load. However, The pistol's front sight proved to be way too short. All of us shot between 8 to 10 inches above the point of aim at 25 yards with all three factory loads. This is totally unacceptable and must be rectified.
While I am not enamored with the DA to SA trigger transition, the DA pull is of usual SIG quality, meaning a linear, stage-free pull. The approximately 4-1/2 pound SA trigger pull was creepy and inconsistent, which caused some flyers during our test shooting, another problem with this pistol SIG needs to fix. Dry firing the pistol showed the hammer visibly camming back as the trigger was pulled in SA mode.
I am going to call SIG-Sauer to see if these issues can be rectified and will update this article with the result in an addendum. Hopefully, they can make it right, as none of the six prior P-series DA/SA pistols I have owned had either of these issues.
This was my first extensive encounter with SIG's Short Reset Trigger. Having only handled one in passing several years ago at the SHOT show, I expected a much better return to fire capability than the standard trigger. I think the company's claim of 60% less reset distance is an accurate description. It is both audible and tactile. This is good for fast repeat shots, although several modern striker-fired handguns equal or slightly better it.
There were no malfunctions of any kind during our test firing. All rounds fed, fired, extracted and ejected in normal fashion. The slide always stayed open after the last shot was fired. The single stack magazines were easy to load.
The pistol's size and weight are both a blessing and a curse. It is soft in recoil, as you would expect with a loaded weight of nearly 33 ounces, but some will object to that weight for daily concealed carry. I do not, being quite willing to have a 33 ounce pistol that is easy to use and soaks-up recoil.
I like the immediate visual verification of state of readiness provided by an external hammer. The attenuated hammer can be manually lowered from the full cock position by thumb, or by using the reliable SIG de-cock lever located on the left side of the frame at the top forward edge of the grip. Of course, with no manual safety, every P-Series SIG is always ready to fire, hammer down or at full cock.
I suspect that the greatest appeal of this pistol will be to special forces operators, who might find use for a 9x19mm caliber, suppressor capable pistol that can be discreetly carried (with the suppressor dismounted). For the rest of us, while it is a bit heavy for its size, the SIG P239-TAC is a handy, reliable, soft shooting, premium priced pistol. A bonus is that 9mm factory loaded ammunition is significantly less expensive with which to practice than most other centerfire semi-auto pistol calibers.
I telephoned SIG-Sauer customer service one early Friday morning, explaining the point of impact issue and the creepy single-action trigger pull. They sent me a FedEx tag to return the pistol to Exeter, New Hampshire for service. It went out the same afternoon and they returned the gun to me a week later, which is excellent turn around time.
One of their gunsmiths confirmed the front sight was too low and that groups fired at the short ranges of five, ten and fifteen yards were high by 2.5 inches, 3.5 inches and 4.5 inches, respectively. Interestingly, both the front and rear sights were exchanged for taller versions, not just the front.
A test target fired at 15 yards with SIG-TAC V-Crown 124 grain JHP ammo was in the box when my pistol arrived. The five shot group measured 1-13/16 inches and was nicely centered.
The gunsmith's notes also indicated that the trigger pull was 4.0 pounds and "meets standard specifications," so nothing was done to it. SIG customer service stated that they use the official NRA weight system to measure the pull. That system uses a roller to center the tool on the trigger face. I tried the trigger on a digital trigger gauge to confirm the pull weight and it averaged slightly over 4-3/4 pounds for three attempts.
Perhaps this single action pull meets their specs, but it does not meet my expectations, particularly considering I have owned six other SIG-Sauer pistols over the past thirteen years. I know what a four pound trigger should feel like, having shot pistols so equipped for over three decades.
I may ask the Company if they will do an action job. Historically, SIG-Sauer pistols have had among the best trigger pulls in the business, so I know they can be better than this. In the course of this review, all of our test shooters found the heavy trigger pull an impediment to accurate shooting.
Copyright 2016 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.