Journey to the Dark side

This month I bring you SIG SAUER’s P226 Elite Dark handgun in 9 mm. Although the firearm resembles the P226 models, the new Elite Series is a dramatic improvement upon earlier designs. At 34 ounces and an 8.2-inch OAL, this duty handgun is about...


This month I bring you SIG SAUER’s P226 Elite Dark handgun in 9 mm. Although the firearm resembles the P226 models, the new Elite Series is a dramatic improvement upon earlier designs.

At 34 ounces and an 8.2-inch OAL, this duty handgun is about the right size and weight for a duty holster, while still being portable enough for the thinner belt one wears for court.

The Elite Dark looks different right out of the box with its new ergonomic beaver tail. Since it has completely new geometry on the back end, I’m surprised they didn’t go with a completely different nomenclature. It looks different. It feels different. It is enough to make P226 original version owners jealous. On the business end, it fits the same holsters and has the same dimensions. It has new front strap checkering, which definitely increases the shooter’s ability to hold on, and front cocking serrations on the slide. Front cocking serrations aren’t just decoration. Many shooters like to grip the slide in this area for a press check.
SIG SAUER also offers this model with an SRT (short reset trigger). This trigger design has approximately a 60 percent shorter reset than conventional triggers, thus allowing for a faster trigger return. For shooters who practice sear reset, the short trigger allows shooters quicker follow-up shots and faster strings. This might sound like it only gives an advantage to the recreational shooter. But actually it benefits all shooters. The officer who does sear reset drills spends more concentration time on target acquisition skills. That is, target observation/site alignment time while getting trigger time is beneficial.
The sear reset, the time/distance a fully pressed trigger can be let out on a gun in battery to firing configuration, may not be a factor on the duty gun, but it can improve shot strings.
The model we tested was not the SRT model, it was the conventional double/single action gun. This P226 has a tremendous double action feel but I noticed a little more slack than usual in the single action take up. The single action firing is crisp and the gun is a pleasure to shoot.
I have never liked the aggressive curve in the P226 trigger, although it really allows for gloved finger use. The curve in the trigger causes the finger pad to center on the deepest point of the curve. I like to touch my finger as low as possible on the trigger. You know, the furthest from the fulcrum, the greater the mechanical advantage.
SIG SAUER has vastly improved the mechanical advantage on the P226 with the best beavertail they have ever designed. The trigger guard, which is slightly undercut above the front strap, allows more hand to get closer to the axis of the bore and the beavertail allows the web of the hand to plant high on the rear of the gun. Both features let the top of the hand get closer to the axis of the bore. Like their new P227 (which is similar in dimensions to the P220R and P226R) shooters can get a new gun and keep the same holster.
So you’ve heard me mention the P227. This is my favorite SIG SAUER, for the same reason that everyone (including our testers) like the P226 Elite series. It is everything the predecessor has, but feels and shoots better.
SIG SAUER guns have never fit me well. Still, their fit in the hand has never eliminated them from my list of Top 10 guns to carry when fighting toward crew served weapons. I’ve always liked them because of their clocklike reliability and downrange precision. In fact the P239 in .357 SIG has always been on my Top 5 list.
The P227 and P226 Elite have made me shuffle my list a bit. No longer do we have to buy aftermarket grips to make the gun fit. The new grips feel like a skateboard deck with the need for Band-Aids.
It’s interesting to note SIG SAUER uses roll pins for several critical parts. That is, rather than making a pin from a forged rod, or similar structure, it is a flat piece of metal rolled into a pin. This contributes to the overall reliability. The sheer strength and wear resistance is inherently higher on roll pins.
I know several SIG owners who have guns with high round counts. Regular maintenance and keeping it clean will encourage any SIG SAUER product to last the career of its owner.
These barrels are hammer forged, then CNC milled. The slides are milled from a single blank. The frame anodization is always consistent, and their quality control is legendary. Like similar high-end duty handguns, there is always a lot more material engineered in critical parts than necessary. This is especially true with supported areas of the barrel on a SIG SAUER. Considering the +P rounds I ran through this one, it’s rewarding to have confidence in their engineering.
Most users of P226 Elite models will find the magazine changes are smooth, a product of the shallow taper of the magazine and slight beveling of the mag well.
The P226 Elite Dark uses the iconic SIG SAUER decocker. I can remember when these were just becoming popular. They created a separate range command (“decock and holster”), along with my agency’s prohibition of the early models with heel magazine release for reasons I cannot explain to this day.
The reason why this style of gun was popular when it first was adopted by agencies is the reason it is still popular today. When the adrenaline is pumping, the motor skills to operate this gun are more than adequate. This style of gun has been used in some of the worst environments in the world by some of the best operators in the world.
My P226 Elite Dark came with adjustable combat night sights. The front sight is easy to pick up and they allow the user to quickly empty full magazines. I am not big on adjustable sights on duty handguns. You know, fewer moving parts.
On the range, the P226 Elite lived up to the SIG SAUER mystique. Not only did it feel good, but it printed some fairly impressive targets. Probably the most notable quality is the fact that of all the handgun models from SIG SAUER I have ever tested, this one controls recoil the best. After this testing was completed I wished I had ordered the 40-caliber model.
Because I tested this particular gun in a state where the laws take simple things and make them complicated, the model I tested has a loaded chamber indicator and magazine safety. The magazine safety prevents the gun from being fired when there is no magazine in the well. As everyone knows, more gun laws like magazine capacity limits and new levers and devices, coupled with disarming the population, have been successful in wiping crime off the planet. Fortunately these devices did not change the trigger pull, ejection or ease in which the magazine fell from the gun.
The P226 Dark Elite seemed to prefer Winchester’s 124-grain +P bonded cartridges, a terrific choice for duty. I have run plenty of these into gelatin, past barriers and into paper targets. The P226 Dark Elite did well in taming the recoil of this duty round.
I think the strongest feature of the P226 Dark Elite is its pointability. From the holster, the P226 comes up to the sighting plane, as ordered. There are several popular handguns whose grip angle points the muzzle toward the ground at its most natural grip.

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