In 1988 the Sig P226 was my dream gun. I was lucky enough to be working for a police department that needed to replace their blued .357 revolvers and they went about it the right way: getting an assortment of pistols to test and then selecting what they felt was the best. For them, the Sig P226 won. Since that time I've had numerous conversations with many service veterans--many from the Navy Special Warfare community--and the Sig P226 keeps popping up as the favorite. Let's take a look at the pistol and see what commands such loyalty from those who have "been there and done that."
In the past I've done a few articles on how to select a pistol for personal defense use. In those articles I cited some sources of information about the various types of pistols, and in part two of that series about pistol selection, I detailed out the people I had asked and their backgrounds. Four of those cited are former Navy Special Warfare personnel, and three of the four cited the Sig P226 as their pistol of choice. One man cited "twenty years of experience with the gun and many thousands of rounds fired through it without a malfunction." That kind of reliability is impressive and has earned the SigArms (the American branch of Sig Sauer) weapons a steady following.
So, what made the Sig P226 stand out so well? For one, at that time, it was quite a unique pistol in that it didn't have a manual safety, but instead had a decocking lever. In the mid-80s, when police agencies began to follow the lead of the Army in a move toward adopting 9mm high capacity pistols, the selection varied from no manual safety (such as the Glock) to a manual safety like the Beretta M9. Many police agencies I'm familiar with don't even use the manual safety as a manual safety, but instead train with and use it as a decocking lever. The market demand for a non-safety decocking lever drove Beretta to create a varient of the M9, whereon the lever WAS only a decocking lever. That was what the Sig P226 offered from the get go... but it wasn't all.
The grip angle on the Sig was different than many of the other popular pistols and the difference appealed to a lot of shooters. The relief cut at the back of the trigger guard--where it meets the front strap of the grip--was deeper than on a lot of other pistols and allowed for the weapon to be held lower in the hand. Lowering the pistol in the hand means that the recoil is more straight line and less arched. That translates into less torque on the wrist and a more comfortable weapon to shoot. Easier to shoot--in this sense--means easier recoil control = faster back on target = faster follow up shots.
When my agency tested a battery of pistols in 1988, we selected the Sig for a couple of reasons:
- It had a 15+1 capacity in 9mm
- We liked the non-safety decocking lever
- We liked the ease of field stripping the weapon
- We liked that the slide had to be locked back to move the disassembly lever
When I went to the armorer school for Sig in 1988 (they were still in Virginia back then), I learned to like the P226 design even more. Sure, there were a couple of roll pins to deal with, but the gun--by and large--was fairly simple and highly reliable. During our selection process, all officers who shot the Sig found it more comfortable than the other pistol options and most had no trouble qualifying with it as well as, if not better than, they did with their revolvers.
Of course, just like everything, the Sig P226 has evolved across the years. Back then, when I attended the armorer school, Sig was changing the frame rails to give greater strength to the mating of the slide and frame. Now, like every other full size "service" pistol on the market the Sig P226 has a Picatinny rail mounting system on the dust cover. For some reason, the whole industry seems to think that a pistol can't be a service weapon unless you can mount a light on it. Long time readers know how I feel about lights mounted on pistols, and I for sure and certain don't understand why manufacturers are putting accessory rails on LITTLE guns.