Choosing a handgun for self-defense is a helluva decision, almost too important for an individual to make. While it is a personal decision at the end of the day, it really needs a committee to vet the decision and narrow the choices, similar to the military choosing a new service weapon. Of course, you could skip all of the hoopla and look to service weapons. The SIG P226 for instance was a favorite of the U.S. Navy SEALs for many years.
Some choose a pistol based on appearance; others seek a plenum of truth and search for answers as to pedigree, performance, and reliability. There are certain baselines useful in making a credible choice. Reliability is the most important factor to be considered. A baseline of power begins with the 9mm Luger cartridge. Handling and ergonomics are important criteria. The service-grade handgun must fit the majority of hands and work well for most shooters. Service-grade accuracy is generally considered as the ability to place five shots into a 4-inch group at 25 yards. Superior accuracy is welcome, but it takes a trained shooter to manage this from a solid benchrest position.
A positive demonstration by the scientific method defeats opinion and hyperbole. Based on imperative testing programs, SIG’s P-series handguns are some of the most reliable in the world. The Ohio State Patrol handgun test program fired some 228,000 rounds more than a decade ago, and the SIG P226 was the most reliable handgun tested.
Other test programs, including the U.S. military test that chose the compact SIG P228 9mm, are impressive, if smaller in scale. An even larger program in Texas chose the SIG. In Europe, the French gave SIG a 20-year contract to arm every peace officer in the country, as well as sailors, marines, airmen, and soldiers. This is impressive; especially considering the SIG is never the low-bid handgun during a test program.
The P-series pistols were developed to combat terrorists during the first wave of terrorism in Europe. Most German police were armed with Walther PPK handguns. A few were issued .38 revolvers as a stopgap. A police trial was undertaken to choose a handgun chambered in 9mm Luger with excellent reliability, good human engineering, and sufficient accuracy for hostage rescue use. The pistol also had to be simple to operate. A manual safety was not desirable, although safety features were.
The P220 featured a long but smooth double-action trigger, a handy decocker to make the pistol safe without touching the hammer and a positive firing-pin block. The P220 9mm spun off the P226, a high-capacity variant of the P220, P225, P228, P229 and others. The P226 equaled the Beretta 92 for reliability in U.S. Army trials, and many believe SIG came in second only on the low bid. The U.S. Navy adopted the P226 pistol. The Navy SEALs and many other organizations have used it. Arguably, the P226 pistol is among the most successful service pistols of all time.
The SIG P226 is a double-action first shot semi automatic pistol. As such, the finger comes down in an arc off the frame to press the trigger to the rear. After the first shot, the recoiling slide cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action fire with a short single-action press of the trigger. The pistol is also a double-column magazine design. The 15- to 17-round magazine takes up a certain amount of space, resulting in a larger grip area than some find comfortable.
These complaints are leveled against all handguns in the class, including the Beretta 92 and the CZ 75. SIG has addressed the issue with its small grip and short trigger modifications. The new short grip is very similar to the handle used on the P227 high-capacity .45-caliber pistol. Serious design work went into making a high-capacity pistol comfortable for most hand sizes.
The short trigger is designed to give more leverage for those with shorter fingers or less hand strength. Truth be told, the average-size male will benefit from this trigger design. The pistol’s trigger action is shorter, feels smoother and is more controllable. This results in greater speed to an accurate first shot. The pistol illustrated is also equipped with SIG night sights. The P226 incorporates a rail for mounting lights in the latest renditions. In total, this is a handgun that leaves little to be desired for service use. The SIG P226 is arguably among the finest handguns ever built.
The P226 illustrated has proven reliable in firing examples of most of the service-grade loads available. Like all quality handguns, it prefers one load to the other, but results have been good. Some 2,500 rounds of ammunition over a six-month period proved the pistol’s reliability. Six service-grade loads averaged 2 inches for 25-yards groups—well-above-average results—confirming SIG’s reputation for accuracy. Practice loads using FMJ loads were seldom as accurate, but all fell into service-grade accuracy.
Accuracy table from a solid benchrest firing position, average of two five-shot groups at a distance of 25 yards.
Group in inches
|Magnus 122-grain FP/WW231||980 fps||3.0|
|Black Hills 115-grain Blue Box Reman.||1,160 fps||2.5|
Group in Inches
|Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP||1,180 fps||1.9|
|Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP +P||1,230 fps||1.5|
|Fiocchi 124-grain EXTREMA||1,121 fps||1.4|
|Fiocchi 147-grain JHP||905 fps||1.9|
|Hornady 115-grain Critical Defense||1,170 fps||1.75|
|Hornady 124-grain XTP||1,102 fps||1.5|
|Speer 124-grain Gold Dot||1,099 fps||2.0|
|Speer 147-grain Gold Dot||975 fps||1.65|
Economical handloads using the Magnus 122-grain FP hardcast bullet have also given good results. There are no restrictions concerning the SIG and lead bullets. The P226 is suitable for personal defense, service use, IDPA, and home defense. When the pistol was fired at man-size targets at the maximum possible speed, its short trigger proved tractable and a real improvement over the standard trigger. When firing the pistol, shooters of average hand size felt in control and never had to pause and adjust the firing grip.
The SIG P226 is a great gun. With the small grip and short trigger option, it’s even better. Do you own or have you shot a SIG P226 or P228/M11? Share your review in the comment section.
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