SIG Classic P226 and Sig Ammunition Review

Can the P226 really be improved upon? With the P320 winning the MHS contract, and the ever encroaching polymer framed, striker fired only handguns slowing taking over the market, is there really a lot left to compete against with the venerable P226 design? Sig Sauer thinks so, and definitively makes it a point with the companies flagship handgun, the P226 Rail in 9x19mm.

The original P226 was designed for the XM9 Service Pistol Trials in 1984, of course losing to Beretta. Ironically, the P226 pistol itself actually cost less than a Beretta, but it was the additional package of magazines, cleaning equipment, and servicing that lead to the price point of the U.S. Army being able to buy two Berettas for the price of one Sig. Nevertheless, the handgun was introduced to the civilian market, and began to take off very rapidly. Today, the P226 has morphed into a number of variants, such as the compact P229, the .45 ACP P220 & P227, and even a subcompact .380 ACP P238 among numerous other entries into the handgun market. However, the P226 has probably been the most popular of all, being offered in all sorts of different finishes, grip styles, and magazine options. Handguns were initially made in Europe, but manufacturing has since come over to the New Hampshire-based facility. Initially quality was superb with the European-made Sigs, but when manufacturing was moved to the United States, quality control took a hit, and these handguns have suffered. But, through a number of changes at Sig Sauer’s headquarters in the U.S., the U.S. made handguns are on par or even better than the European ones from the 1980s and 1990s.

For this review, Sig Sauer sent TFB a very standard, and plain jane P226 Rail, with the company’s current grip offering. The box contained the normal assortment of manuals, care instructions, a cleaning rod, and two magazines. In addition to the handgun, Sig Sauer also sent us some V-Crown 115 Grain JHP, and some of the Elite Performance line of 115 Grain FMJ rounds to test as well. Through a range trip, using the handgun in various drills, accuracy testing and then using the handgun in an IDPA match, we wrung both the handgun and the ammunition through its paces. In addition to the Sig Sauer ammunition we had on hand, we also used reloads from Freedom Munitions, steel cased from Tula Ammo, and factory loads from Sellier & Bellot. The Sig Sauer ammunition was strictly used in the initial range testing for accuracy and holster drills, while the other manufactured ammunition was used in the IDPA match.

First Impressions

My first impressions upon receiving the handgun was the same initial impressions I always get when I gaze upon a Sig Sauer product, which usually well-founded respect of a handgun made right. This P226 was right from the factory and brand-new. The handgun even had whatever finishing grease is applied to it when it is boxed up. For those who aren’t familiar with the P226 series, the magazine capacity is 15 rounds, there is no manual safety, and the trigger is a Double Action/Single Action operating system with a manual decocker located on the left side of the handgun by the slide release. Some new shooters often get the decocker confused with the slide release, but really simply pointing it out, or a range session is all it takes to not mix the two up at all.

Grip Curvature

The biggest change I like from the earlier P226 is the grip curvature. Earlier 226s have very traditionally straight walled grip like most handguns introduced in the 1990s and prior have. It never really affected me much with my personal P229, but realizing the capabilities actually out there with this reformed grip opened my eyes. For those who have carried a P226 for a long time, maybe even since the 1990s, the newer grip curvature will make a huge difference in handling the handgun. Upgrading to a new P226 wouldn’t want to miss looking at this particular feature. Why I specifically liked it was because I could get a much firmer wrap on the grip while the handgun was holstered, thus making presentation better as well. In addition, actually shooting it allowed my right hand to wrap itself better around the grip of the handgun.

Rail Section

The P226 has a Picatinny rail section, but it is Sig Sauer’s rail which has a sort of curve to the rails and not a flat section like a true M1913 Mil Std Picatinny rail like the company’s Mk.25 has. Regardless, the overwhelming majority of lights on the market can be fitted to the rail without any issue, as is evidenced by this Streamlight model.

Luminous Night Sights

The P226 comes with luminous sights, which I assume are from Trijicon unless the company sources them from elsewhere. The luminous sights help with day acquisition because of the while circular appearance, but at night is where they really shine with the below photograph taken in total darkness in my room. In addition, the rear sight has a 90 degree angle, and thus can serve very well in operating the slide with the heel of a shoe or other flat object should a shooter’s support hand become incapacitated.

The Only Issue: One Failure to Feed

I have to be honest here, and in doing so, the only issue I can report from the range day AND the IDPA Match, was a single Failure to Feed malfunction. This was while shooting the first several magazines of JHPs, when I chambered the first round on an empty chamber. Now, I don’t see this as a large issue at all, because the gun was NIB from the factory, and certainly within the usual 100-500 round break in period recommended from most manufacturers when it comes to purchasing new handguns.

When the malfunction happened, myself and a buddy proceeded to randomly check all the JHPs in the four 25 round boxes that were delivered. We did this by loading rounds from each box into four different magazines of varying capacity and make. Some from Sig Sauer, others after market. Each magazine would only have two randomly selected rounds at a time. Then we loaded the first round into the barrel on an empty chamber, while loading the second round in on a slide rack. This way, we were not only checking each box of ammunition, but also each magazine, thereby trying to eliminate as many errors as possible through the experiment. Throughout the loading of all these rounds, I can happily report that the initial malfunction was not replicated at all. And neither did it happen with the rest of the JHP ammunition in the ensuing range session and the match.

Thumb Over Slide Release

This certainly isn’t a problem with just the P226, but plagues other handgun designs. If you have a high firm pistol grip on the P226, sometimes a shooters right thumb will inadvertently rest on the slide release, thus preventing the slide release to not function properly when the last round has been fired. I alleviate this by resting my right thumb over the web of my left hand, thus removing the issue before it even begins. However, you have to be cognizant of this issue with the P226 because it has a slide release and not a slide lock, which tends to be less of a concern because of the minimized dimension.

Accuracy Test

We shot the multiple five round groups with the P226 at 10 meters, two handed with both the FMJ and JHP ammunition, first round on double action and the ensuing four on single action. The overall size of the groups was 2 inches, regardless of ammunition source. My groups shot consistently low left, while my buddies shot either center or to the right. A front sight adjustment and a change of rear sights would be in order if we wanted the gun shooting true center mass every time. Let it be known that we were aiming for the corners of the orange square with each group. However, when it comes to ammunition, the P226 Mk.25 actually outshot the rest of the groups with the factory P226. The Mk.25 did have a short reset trigger so that must have come into play.

With the JHP.

With the Sig Sauer Ball Ammunition.

IDPA Match

I took the P226 to an IDPA match held at Atlanta Conservation Club outside of Indianapolis. Holster used was a Safariland ALS with the quick release tab on the left. There I used a number of ammunition sources, all 115 grain loads from Freedom Munitions. Sig Sauer JHPs, Tula Ammo, and S&B were used in particular. Often I loaded and used different magazines of different ammunition, mixing it up to see if any one would malfunction or cycle worse than the other. And at the end of the day, all the ammunition worked fine in the P226, without a single malfunction. The only issue was the thumb over slide release as I mentioned earlier, but that’ll always plague me with the P226 and P229 series.

Below is video taken from the shoot.

Disassembly

The handgun is disassembled by locking the slide to the rear, and pivoting a takedown lever clockwise until it reaches the 6 o’clock position. The slide can now be released forward under spring pressure, thus allowing it to come fully off and allowing the barrel and recoil spring to be taken out. Currently there isn’t a model of the P226 with an ambidextrous or dedicated left hand magazine release.

Updated Magazine?

With the current way things are moving in the shooting crowd, I believe the magazine could be updated for the 21st Century by way of the floorplate specifically. Although the magazine functions flawlessly and worked fine, I think if the magazine came from the factory with a wider and larger floorplate that could even increase capacity shooters would be pretty happy. A larger baseplate allows for better manipulations and magazine changes because of the added surface area a shooter’s hand can grab ahold of on the magazine. These older magazine floor plate might have been fine for earlier times, but I believe shooting philosophy has changed a great deal, and is putting emphasis on the individual shooters ability instead of the mass actions of a large police force or military.

Pictured below are after market Mec Gar magazines that were also tested with the handgun.

Conclusion

If you don’t want a polymer frame strike fired handgun, and aren’t about to jump on that bandwagon yet, then the Sig Sauer P226 is a worthy contender for the majority of us that want to remain on that external hammer, DA/SA platform for the time being. The various issues associated that we encountered with the P226 can easily be alleviated with proper grip placement and after market magazines. In addition, if you don’t want the added features like the Legion series, or the various Nitron or Combat names, this plain Jane P226 can still be had in the sub-$800 price range, keeping it very competitive with other modern handguns on the market.



Miles V

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the Middle East & North Africa, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, feel free to message me at [email protected]


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  • Major Tom

    Sounds like one more tool with which to fight the Aglockalypse!

    • guest

      Glock is love, Glock is life.

      • Stew Pidasso

        Isn’t Glock Austrian for “Hi-Point?”

        • iksnilol

          No, it is Austrian for “Clock”.

          • Stew Pidasso

            Are you really that obtuse?

          • iksnilol

            No, I mean, “Glock” is literally “clock” or “bell” in German.

            And they speak German in Austria.

            Fur fox sake, people.

          • Stew Pidasso

            Yes, Austrian isn’t a language… and my comment was a joke. I’m sorry that you weren’t intelligent enough to realize that. If you are so hell bent on being obtuse, then you must allow that “glocke” not “glock” literally means “clock or bell” in German. “Correcting the joke” with wrong information, is just ridiculous. Heck, trying to turn a joke into something literal is just ridiculous by itself! Have a nice day out there in your own world! 😉 Bye

          • iksnilol

            What… what did I just witness?

            I am confused now.

          • Baggy270

            I’m with you. I didn’t get it either. Guess we are both obtuse?

          • ChiptheBarber

            He’s sad now because his joke wasn’t very funny. Here’s a joke; How many elephants can you fit in a Volkswagen? Answer: 5. 2 in the front, 3 in the back, and 1 in the glove compartment.

  • Joe

    P-series is an international standard for a reason.
    I wish their SAO was on par with standard P226 pricing; even with an E2 grip and short trigger on my P228 didn’t allow proper finger placement in DA.
    I’d just buy a REX, but the backstrap is solid so no compact E2 style grip.
    I have stubby Trump digits, so YMMV.

    • You must have some really small hands.

      • Joe

        Large/medium palm, medium/short fingers. Gloves are a PITA. My wife has a smaller palm, but slightly longer fingers than I do. I should probably stick to single stacks.

        • Big palms can be an issue. I have fatty palms and couldn’t shoot a Glock with a proper high grip until the beavertails.

        • Beju

          I’ve got the same issue, with medium palms and short fingers.

          However, the P226 fits me fairly well, but, oddly, the P229 just doesn’t feel right in my hands.

  • “…I think if the magazine came from the factory with a wider and larger
    floorplate that could even increase capacity shooters would be pretty
    happy. A larger baseplate allows for better manipulations and magazine changes because of the added surface area a shooter’s hand can grab ahold of on the magazine.”

    You mean to rip the magazine out? Because that is what the lip on the front of the magazine is for. Beyond that I never had any issues with reloads when I shot SIGs. My 228R certainly showed how often I practiced reloads.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/14a418b618a5a28a6af0cbd585d90b41e22deed666fb676874745a00af39382d.jpg

    Anyways MecGar offers different magazine styles. Including extended magazines, but all offer extra capacity because MecGar uses a smaller follower.

  • Sam Damiano

    A little exaggeration on the price of a SIG. It was rigged for Beretta, they lost until they dropped their price for parts kits. Political round and gun selection.

    • thedonn007

      Looks like sig learned from their mistakes with the P320.

    • SerArthurDayne

      We DID need a home for those Stealth Bombers … Aviano was the real reason we took the Beretta

      • So in 1985 we were looking for bases for an airplane that didn’t even exist yet?

        Even the F-117 was brand spanking new then.

        • Don Ward

          One suspects that there was a startling overlap of people who used to buy gun magazines at the supermarket and those who bought the Weekly World News for the articles on Batboy and Elvis sightings.

          • anonymous

            What caliber is best for defending yourself if attacked by Batboy?

          • Don Ward

            The best weapon is a well-made 3-barrel German drilling. One barrel is loaded with 12 gauge #8 birdshot with the other loaded in 12 gauge BBs for taking Batboy out when he is flying. Some individuals prefer having the third rifled-barrel loaded in .22 Hornet so as not to waste a lot of the Batboy meat but I prefer the .303 British in this application.

        • SerArthurDayne

          You realize the project that became/produced the B-2 started in the 1970s, right? It was considered one of the absolutely-most-crucial military pieces to national security for decades to come. And you do realize that the military and government, you know, plan for the future when they’re planning for the future….

          • No one

            You don’t seem to know how the real world works, you also seem to miss the part where the Beretta stomped the SIG in reliability testing, particularly against dried mud.

            This is The Firearm Blog, not The Tinfoil Hat Blog.

          • Don Ward

            No, no. You see man. The United States got permission to use Aviano Air Force base in 1954 in a shady backroom deal where they promised the Italian government that they’d guarantee a contract to purchase Beretta handguns 30 years later in the mid-1980s.
            It’s all there if you just open your eyes.
            WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!!

          • Don Ward

            I also love how this guy doesn’t realize that Aviano is used by tactical fighters, the 31st Fighter Wing, and not B-2 bombers…

          • SerArthurDayne

            NOW they aren’t, as the “Cold War” has gone “Cold” (recent years nonwithstanding. ) Aviano was seen as an ideal location for our ‘stealth bombers’ to use as a forward-staged base in the event the Cold War went hot, for several reasons we can get into if you really require it.

          • No one

            And this still changes nothing about the fact that Aviano was a tactical fighter wing at the time and that we had access to it, and Have Blue was such a black project not a word was breathed about it to anyone who didn’t srticly need to know about.

            But clearly a contract for pistols for a base we already had access to and weren’t even using for stealth bombers or planning to at the time was completely vital!

            Can you tell me more of your works of fiction? Maybe about lizard people or how the US only adopted the 6 pounder in WWII in Exchange for helping the UK defeat the Loch Ness monster.

          • Only if you count the very earliest of the program. Yes US has been research how to make aircraft less noticeable by radar since WWII. But the break through program, Have Blue, was started until the late 70s and that directly lead to the F-117.

            During the early 80s that the XM9 program would’ve run, the F-117 was the blackest of the black program for the USAF. Coffee cups that were made with the distinctive tails of the Have Blue demonstrator were considered classified material and had to be locked up at night. The actual program that would lead to the B-2 wasn’t started until the late 80s. And it rarely uses bases outside the US, they are more often flown from the US to the target and back.

            The fact is that SIG first lot on the mud test, and then lost on overall price. I detailed the bid prices in another post.

    • No one

      Well, that and the SIG got it’s ass kicked in the dry mud testing by the Beretta which people love to forget.

    • Actually no. SIG failed the mud test, they were only brought forward because the Army needed a second pistol for the competitive bidding phase.

      The price difference between the SIG and the Beretta was $2.17 in favor of SIG.

      But Beretta magazines were $2.65 cheaper, and the Army was planning to buy 4 times as many magazines as guns. And yes the Beretta spare parts kits were also $12.37 cheaper But that wasn’t as big of as factor as the Army was only factoring to buy 10% as many spare parts kits as pistols. So on a per pistol basis the magazines were a $10.60 price in favor of Beretta while the spare parts were only a $1.24 per pistol.

      • CommonSense23

        Which if you read the some of the GAO reports they pretty much take the dry mud test to task along with a lot of other parts of the M9 trials as poorly ran and tested. The XM9 trials was pretty badly run. Did the military get a solid pistol out of it. Yeah, but it was a absolute failure of testing and acquisition.

    • Don Ward

      Except – as others have mentioned – Beretta stomped Sig’s head into the ground in actual reliability tests and is the far superior weapon as evidenced on how many tens of thousands of rounds have gone through them in their 30 years of service. But yeah. “Rigged” tests and politics.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    The one and only consistent problem I have encountered with Sigs is failure to feed hollow points. Ive sent three guns back over it.

  • Galen Burgett

    My apologies for nitpicking… The P226 didn’t morph into the P220. The P220 was in the USA long before the P226 arrived. If I am not mistaken the P220 was being imported by the mid to late 1970s and was the first really commercial SIG in the USA. I believe the P210 was in the USA well before that, but was not a common or well known pistol.

    • SerArthurDayne

      Right…. the P220 was SIG ‘s answer to the 1911… a large combat-framed .45ACP duty pistol in DA/SA. The 226 was based off it.

      • Actually no. The first 220s were in 9mm, and had a heel release. They were made to replace the P210s in use by the Swiss Army. Making them in 45ACP came later.

        The P225 came next as a smaller more concealable option for LE, and finally did they bring out the P226 as LE asked for high capacity.

        • retfed

          The first P220s that I know of were marketed in around 1977 as Browning BDAs (Browning Double Action) and marked “Browning Firearms, Ogden UT and Montreal PQ.” (They also had Sig markings on them, but did not carry the P220 designation anywhere on the gun.) Nobody had heard of SIG back then. The guns had a heel magazine release and were catalogued in .45 ACP, 9mm, and .38 Super, but I never saw a .9mm or a 38 Super. For a while in the early 80s, P220s were marketed as “European” (heel release) or “American” (button release, the way JMB and God intended).
          I bought one in 1977 and it made me a lifelong Sig fan.

    • Scott Wagner

      The 226 also didn’t ‘morph’ into the 238. They just re-branded an old Colt.

  • thedonn007

    I prefer my CZ 75 P-01 and SP-01 over my Sig P226. The grip fits my hand much better.

    • Noishkel

      Yeah the CZ platform just fits my own hand great. Although technically I only have a EAA Witness myself… but similar enough for this case and I love the fit and balance even if it’s not my EDC.

  • No one

    “Can the P226 really be improved upon?”

    Yeah, It’s called selling it and buying a CZ-75 SP-01 for less money instead.

    • Yeah if you like tool marks on the interior parts.

      • thedonn007

        How does the tool marks affect the performance of thr firearm?

        • When it is on parts that touch the fire control parts, it affects the trigger pull. That is why virtually every competition CZ is worked over to remove them.

      • John

        My p229 has tool marks on the interior.

      • iksnilol

        That’s normal… for like, any guns except slicked up guns you pay a ton for. Even then, it is mainly to be fancy.

  • Noishkel

    I’ll take Sig over Glock any day. Even my ‘crappy’ Sig 2340. I’m just not at all impressed by Glock ‘perfection’, let alone that crap factory DAO triggers on them.

    • No one

      “And unlike Glocks I’ve never had a single malfunction in my Sig.”

      Yeah, gonna go ahead and call bs on this one.

      • guest

        The triggers on Glock are not DA, and they are not SA either. The striker is cocked half-way and upon pressing the trigger it is cocked fully and released.
        And as an avid shooter of two different Glocks I can tell you the only “issue” with that is either the shooter being used to SA striggers and can not manage to hold gun steady enough and twitches due to “heavy” trigger pull. If you have that twitch, then you need to get rid of it as SA triggers only remedy the result and not the problem. Get your self more trigger time and/or start gaining some muscle mass on your arms if holding a handgun steady is that much of an issue for you.
        As far as reliability is concerned – don’t humor me.

        • No one

          ….Why are you arguing with me when you essentially just agreed with me?

  • Todd Stowe

    A quick note about the mag catch – It can be removed and installed on the other side for lefty shooters. It’s not the easiest thing to do because the detent for the release is hard to access and you can loose it, but that’s why the mags have two cuts.

    • CommonSense23

      Why would a lefty need to move it.

      • Why are you a Lefty? If you’re not Right, you’re Wrong….
        jokes, jokes, jokes….

  • John

    “manufacturing was moved to the United States, quality control took a hit”. Sadly, Sig, like MANY other American manufacturers, still suffers from quality issues every now and then. No one is immune. Remember the Glock recoil spring issue? This is because corporations have placed profit above performance for many years now and the problem is only going to get worse. Generally speaking, the more money you try to squeeze out of a product the worse the product becomes.

  • Jeff Smith

    I bought a good condition 1980s W. German P226 for $400 a while back. They’re fantastic guns, for sure.

  • The_Champ

    Metal frame, external hammer, DA/SA. Sigs are nice guns.
    CZ is a great and easily overlooked option as well.

  • Tom

    The P226 is a great gun, proven, durable and accurate. Where it fails compared to many of the striker fired guns is reliability when dirty and contaminated. I’m not talking about shooting powder burn dirty after a few hundred rounds at the range, I’m talking about muddy/sandy etc. dirty. In those conditions a glock, XDm, 320 etc. will run well past what a 226 will tolerate and still function. That and the cheaper cost of the striker fired guns are why they are now becoming the standard for MIL/LEO contracts across the globe.

    Also while US made P226’s are not bad, the are not in the same league in fit/finish and QC as the german versions, period. It goes for every SIG model I’ve compared that’s moved production here. It’s not that the US versions are bad (plus the only game in town now) but the German models were just better and more consistant. SIG got caught up in the Kimber game of offering tons of models that are just slightly different, and it’s good marketing, but they should spend some more of that $ on quality control.

  • supergun

    Out of all the H&Ks (love those H&Ks), the CZ 75-SP 01 9mm, Smith and Wesson M&P, Springfields, and Desert Eagle 1911,,,,the Sig Sauer P-226 9mm Navy Desert with Trin. sights was the finest shooting pistol I have ever shot.