The SIG P226 is a full-sized, service-type pistol made by SIG Sauer. It is chambered for the 9×19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .22 Long Rifle. It was developed to use higher capacity, staggered-column magazines in place of single-column magazines. The P226 itself has spawned further sub-variants; the P228 and P229 are both compact versions of the staggered-column P226 design. The SIG Sauer P226 and its variants are in service with numerous law enforcement and military organizations worldwide.
The P226 was designed for entry into the XM9 Service Pistol Trials (see also Joint Service Small Arms Program), which were held by the US Army in 1984 on behalf of the US armed forces to find a replacement for the M1911A1. Only the Beretta 92F and the SIG P226 satisfactorily completed the trials. According to a GAO report, Beretta was awarded the M9 contract for the 92F due to better durability during endurance testing and a lower total package price. The P226 cost less per pistol than the 92F, but SIG’s package price with magazines and spare parts was higher than Beretta’s. The Navy SEALs, however, chose to adopt the P226 later.
Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft is a Swiss company and Swiss law severely restricts the export of firearms. Consequently, SIG entered into an agreement with German gun manufacturer (and eventual owner) J.P. Sauer & Sohn to facilitate an export market for their products. For the U.S. military XM9 trials, the P226 was imported by SACO. Interarms took over importing when the pistol was introduced for civilian sales. SIG-Sauer eventually founded SIGARMS, Inc. in the United States, to handle importation of their products.
The P226, like the other members of the SIG Classic family, operates by the locked breech short-recoil method pioneered by John Browning. On firing, the slide and barrel are locked together for a few millimeters of rearward movement, after which the barrel is cammed down at the rear. By this time the bullet has left the barrel and the pressure has dropped to safe levels, whereupon the slide completes the rearward stroke, ejecting the spent cartridge. The recoil spring then propels the slide forward, stripping a round from the magazine and in the last few millimeters of forward movement the barrel is cammed upwards, locking the slide and barrel together again.
Instead of the locking lugs and recesses milled into the barrel and slide of other Browning type weapons (such as the Colt M1911A1, Browning Hi-Power and CZ 75), the P226 locks the barrel and slide together using an enlarged breech section of the barrel locking into the ejection port. This modified system, which was devised by SIG, has no functional disadvantages compared to the original system, and has since been copied by numerous firearm manufacturers.
The slide of the pre-1996 P226 was a heavy gauge, mill finished sheet metal stamping with a welded on nose section incorporating an internal barrel bushing. The welding was so well executed it was almost impossible to detect. The breech block portion was a machined insert attached to the slide by means of brazing and a roll pin visible from either side. Since 1996, production has shifted to CNC machining and the slide is now milled from a single piece of stainless steel. Therefore the current standard P226 has a black anodized, stainless steel slide. This resulted in a stronger slide, which was necessary to chamber the more powerful .40 S&W and .357SIG cartridges. The frame of all models is made from hard anodized aluminum alloy. While designed for ease of production, the SIG P226 is of the highest quality.
The standard SIG P226 incorporates a decocking lever on the left side of the frame above the magazine release button, which first appeared on the Sauer 38H prior to World War II, which allows the hammer to be dropped safely. In chambering or firing a round, the actuation of the slide automatically cocks the hammer. By using the decocking lever, the hammer can be de-cocked without actuating the firing pin disconnect, making it impossible to accidentally fire the weapon by using the decocking lever. Furthermore, using the decocking lever makes the weapon “drop safe,” which means the firing pin will be blocked from striking a loaded round unless the trigger is pulled. Pulling the trigger and slowly lowering the hammer does not make the weapon “drop safe,” and can result in an accidental discharge if sufficient force is applied to the hammer. Properly decocked, the pistol can be holstered safely and can be fired in double action mode by simply pulling the trigger. There is no manual safety to manipulate, as the SIG P226 incorporates only internal safeties. Double action trigger pressure is approximately 10 lbs. Subsequent shots are fired in single action mode with a lighter trigger pressure of approximately 4.5 lbs. As with other DA/SA pistols such as the HK USP and Beretta 92F, some training is required to minimize the difference in point of aim caused by the different trigger pressure between a first double action shot and subsequent single action shots. The hammer may also be manually cocked at any time by the user to fire in single action mode.
Variants of the SIG P226 include:
The P226 Rail (or P226R) is the same as a P226, but it has a rail on the underside of the frame, just forward of the trigger guard. The P226R’s rail has a more rounded contour than the military standard M1913 Picatinny rail and while most Picatinny-rail accessories will fit, not all will. This has now become the standard P226.
A P226R with an extended 5 inch barrel and external threads to accept a suppressor.
U.S. Navy SEAL teams started using the SIG P226 in the 1980s. The first Naval Special Warfare mil-spec P226 pistols to be offered to the public were the NSW Commemoratives, issued in early 2004. The SIG P226-9-NAVY is a version of the SIG P226 that is produced to the exact specifications of the pistols supplied to Navy SEALs, including special phosphate corrosion-resistant finish on internal parts, contrast sights, and a stainless steel slide engraved with an anchor to designate them as Naval Special Warfare pistols. SIGARMS raised $100,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation through the sale of these NSW serialized pistols.
Introduced in 2007, the SIG P226 Blackwater was designed in cooperation with the Blackwater Training Center. It featured SIGLITE front and rear night sights, the Blackwater USA logo on the slide and wood grips, an integral Picatinny rail, black anodized frame, and Nitron-coated stainless steel slide. It was only available in 9×19mm Parabellum, with a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger. The gun was sold with five 15-round 9mm magazines. The P226 Blackwater was discontinued in 2009 with the release of the P226 Blackwater Tactical… a nearly identical pistol also with 20 round 9mm magazines. The Blackwater Tactical has since been discontinued, having been replaced by the Tactical Operations. It is essentially the same weapon, but lacks Blackwater markings.
The P226 SCT (Super Capacity Tactical) is an all black, Nitron finished P226 featuring front cocking serrations, accessory rail, a SIGLITE rear night sight, a TRUGLO Tritium Fiber Optic front sight and comes with four newly designed 20-round magazines for the 9mm version or four 15-round magazines for the .40S&W version.
The P226 Equinox comes chambered in .40 S&W and features a two-tone accented design. The design is achieved by the brush polished flats of the slide and nickel accents of the gun’s controls. The P226 Equinox comes with a TRUGLO Tritium Fiber Optic front sight, rear SIGLITE night sights, SIG accessory rail, and gray laminated wood grips.
The SIG Sauer P226 ST was a limited production all-stainless version of the SIG P226 pistol. It is heavier than a standard P226 because the frame was made of stainless steel instead of aluminum. Weight with the magazine was a hefty 42.2 oz vs 34.0 oz of the standard aluminum-framed version. The added weight of an all-stainless frame is claimed to provide greater recoil reduction and a quicker return to target between shots making it a common choice among Practical Shooting competitors. The P226 Stainless had a blued barrel and featured an M1913 Picatinny rail. These frames were made in Germany. Prototypes were tested in 2006 and it went into production in very limited numbers. The P226 ST is no longer manufactured.
SIG Sauer Homeland Security Pistols (HSP) are the same models SIG builds for the United States Department of Homeland Security. This is a limited production run of 1,000 P226R HSP pistols available engraved with the American flag and Homeland Security X of 1000. Additionally, each pistol comes in .40 S&W caliber and is engraved with serial number barcoding just like those which were shipped to DHS. The HSP also features the new DAK trigger, a stainless steel Nitron slide topped with SIGLITE night sights, and a light weight alloy frame with rail.
The SIG Sauer P226 X-Five is a competition only variant of the P226 with a 5.0 inch slide and barrel, beavertail grip, and an adjustable rear target sight. Intended for IPSC, Wa1500, bullseye and other centrefire competitive shooting, the X-Five is hand-fitted and assembled in Germany, and its resulting accuracy accordingly rivals the legendary SIG P210. Available in 9mm or .40 S&W, there are four models being offered in the United States:
- The “Competition” model has a single-action-only (SA) trigger, ambidextrous thumb safety, flared magazine well, and high-capacity magazines (19-round 9mm/ 14-round .40 S&W).
- The “Level-1″ model adds a special adjustable SA trigger and Nill wood grips.
- The “Allround” model has a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger, a decocking lever and a standard magazine well designed to accommodate P226 magazines.
- The “Tactical” model comes with a black Ilaflon finish, and features a heavy-weight alloy frame with a SIG rail, and fixed contrast or tritium night sights. Available in either SA or DA/SA configuration. (US models only come chambered for 9mm, but a .40 S&W model is available in Germany.)
All SIG P226 X-Five models include a factory test target with a sub-2.0 in 5-shot grouping from 25 yards.
The SIG P226 X-Six is designed, manufactured, and marketed as a precision pistol under SIG’s sporting firearm line. The X-Six features an extended slide and frame to accommodate a 6.0 inch barrel, an ambidextrous manual safety and a trigger adjustable for pull weight, distance and stop. To further enhance the X-Six’s sporting pedigree the pistol features as standard low profile adjustable sights, grip grooves cut into the front of the frame, lightweight magazine extension and NILL sporting grip plates.
- The P226 X-Six is also offered with an aluminum frame. This model, designated the P226 X-Six AL is identical to its steel frame counterpart in every way yet weighs in at only 38 oz.
Like the P220 Combat before it, the two models, P226 Combat and P226 Combat TB (Threaded Barrel), are available in DA/SA. Their frames are “Flat Dark Earth” in compliance with the Combat Pistol program. The Combat model comes with night sights, a Nitron-finished slide and barrel, fore slide serrations, desert tan polymer grips and a military standard M1913 Picatinny rail as well as phosphate coated internals. The TB model features an extra .59 inches on the barrel, and external threads to accept a suppressor.
Introduced at the 2010 SHOT Show, the P226 E2 at the time was a significant update to the P226 line. ‘E2′ (pronounced either as ‘E-squared’ or simply ‘E-two’), or otherwise known as “Enhanced Ergonomics”, is SIG Sauer’s attempt to make the large frame gun more ergonomic for persons with small and medium sized hands. A reduced grip size and reduced reach trigger bring the trigger face back more than 0.5 inches, thus potentially allowing better trigger manipulation and control for a greater number of shooters. Other standard features include the Short Reset Trigger, aggressive grip finish texture, and a new wrap-around, one-piece grip panel configuration. The gun was discontinued from the P226 model lineup at the end of 2010 but the E2-style grip system has been adopted on and carried over to other P226 variants.
P226/P229 Classic 22
This .22LR models primary purpose is as practice or range pistols. The Classic 22 has an aluminum slide with a nitron finish (instead of the centerfire stainless steel slide) and a barrel chambered in .22LR. The Classic 22 slide assembly is complete with a lighter recoil spring and plastic guide rod. It also incorporates the same frame and operation as center fire P226 models. The Classic 22 model is available as a stand alone firearm or as a conversion kit to an existing center fire P226 or P229. Likewise, conversion kits (the Sig Sauer X-Change Kits) exist to convert a .22LR into 9mm, .40 S&W or .357 Sig. The conversion can be accomplished by field stripping the firearm and replacing the slide assembly and magazine – a process that can be accomplished in minutes.
The Classic 22 use a 10-round polymer magazine in lieu of the steel magazines used by the center fire models and conversion kits. The P226 Classic 22 should not be confused with the Sig Sauer Mosquito .22LR pistol. The Classic 22 is a full-sized P226 while the mosquito is modeled on the P226 but is 90% of the size. Also the Classic 22 is manufactured by Sig Sauer while the Mosquito is made under license by German Sport Guns GmbH.
SIG released an altered version of the double-action only (DAO) pistols called the DAK (for Double Action Kellerman, after the designer of the system). The DAK capability is available in 220, 226, 229 and 239 models. When firing the pistol the first trigger pull is 6.5 lbs compared to 10 lbs for the standard DAO. After the pistol fires and the trigger is released forward, the trigger has an intermediate reset point that is approximately halfway to the trigger at rest position. The trigger pull from this intermediate reset point is 8.5 lbs. If the trigger is released all the way forward, this will engage the primary trigger reset and have a trigger pull of 6.5 lbs. To engage the intermediate reset, the trigger must be held to the rear while the slide is cycled, either manually or by the recoil of a round being fired. The pistol can be cocked by pulling the trigger just past the trigger reset, then stopping, then releasing.
P228 ( M11 )
A compact version of the P226, the P228, is in use with the US military, designated as the M11. The P228 has a shorter slide and barrel than the P226. Unlike the P226, the P228 is available only in 9×19mm Parabellum with a 13 round magazine, but can also use P226 15 or 20 round magazines. The P229 is nearly identical to the P228, however its slide is made from milled stainless steel (vs. the P228′s forged carbon steel slide) and is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 SIG. From a distance, the P228 can be differentiated from the P226 by comparing the trigger guards (the P228′s is curved, while the P226′s is slightly hooked) and the barrel and slide lengths (the P228′s barrel is 3.9 inches, thus having a corresponding shorter slide). Also in a side by side comparison the P228 would appear slightly shorter 0.59 inches shorter than the P226. The larger capacity P226 magazine can also be employed in the P228 although it extends from the base of the grip. Civilian sales of the P228 were discontinued with the introduction of 9mm chambering in the P229 but was recently reintroduced in limited quantities to civilians with an accessory rail and designated P228R
The P229 is a compact firearm, often used for concealed carry purposes. The standard version features a DA/SA trigger, but it is also available with a DAO trigger. The pistol has also been made available in a DAK (Double Action Kellerman) model, which is a DAO system with two trigger reset points, and a lighter, smoother pull than that of traditional DAO handguns. Most of the above-mentioned factory variants of the P226 are also available for the P229, including the Equinox option, Elite lineup, as well as a SAS GEN 2 model.
The P229 differs from its cousin the P226 in several respects, and was originally introduced to supplement and then replace the P228 by adding the .357 SIG and .40 S&W as available chamberings. The P229 was the second production handgun introduced that could chamber the .357 SIG round. The P226 and P228 were originally manufactured using a stamped-steel slide on an aluminum alloy frame. The P229 consists of a CNC-milled stainless steel slide, typically colored black with a Nitron finish. The P229′s milled steel slide was introduced to handle the higher slide velocities created by the .357 SIG and .40 S&W loads, which the stamped slide of the P228 could not handle without the use of a much stiffer recoil spring. This would have made manual slide-retraction much more difficult and the use of a milled stainless slide (coupled with the new milling and stainless production capabilities found in the U.S. factory) with a standard weight recoil spring made more sense.
SIG firearms are manufactured both in Eckernförde, Germany by J.P. Sauer und Sohn GmbH, and in Exeter, New Hampshire, United States by SIG Sauer Inc., formerly SIGARMS Inc.