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Carry On Handgun Reviews

SIG Sauer P226R Elite Dark Review

by James Tarr   |  August 30th, 2012 8

Sig-Sauer-P226-Elite-Dark_001I have been a fan of the SIG P226 ever since I had a chance to test the now-discontinued USPSA editions. That is a turn-around for me, because I didn’t really care for the first SIG I ever spent serious trigger time behind.

Back in 1992, I used a borrowed SIG P226 to go through the Oakland Police Academy. I never really cared for it, but I could shoot it. It was accurate, and when not being fed the horrible reloads the academy gave us, completely reliable. But it never seemed to fit my hand right.

Fast-forward about 15 years and I got both versions of the USPSA-edition SIGs to test: the all-steel two-tone version, and the black with silver accents one with the standard aluminum frame. After competing with and carrying 1911s exclusively for over 10 years, I shot (and still shoot) everything with a thumb-high hold. I don’t know if it was that, or just the extra years behind a trigger, but when I put my hands on the SIGs this time, I liked it. They were obnoxiously accurate, of course, but they now felt good in my hand, like SIGs in the past didn’t. SIG has not changed the grip contour, so I suppose the change was in me.

The all-steel SIG was great for competition, but a little heavy for carry. When not carrying my regular Glock, I would carry the aluminum-framed USPSA SIG. The more I spent with it, the more I tweaked it to my personal tastes. I swapped out the polymer recoil spring guide rod for a steel one from Gray Guns. I beveled the tight magazine well, put on thinner aluminum Hogue Extreme grips and changed out the sights with Trijicon HD night sights.

And I now realize that everything I did to “improve” my USPSA edition SIG comes standard on the new SIG P226 Elite Dark, plus a few others.

The Elite series from SIG is easily recognizable by the beavertail on the frame. SIGs sit pretty high in the hand, and I don’t think anyone who doesn’t play for the NBA would have an issue with hammer bite, but that beavertail adds to the looks and coolness factor in the pistol in a way that can’t be measured.

What isn’t just for looks are the forward cocking serrations of the slide. You may not use them, but I and a lot of other people prefer to work the slide from the front, and for that forward cocking serrations are a must. I only wish Glocks came with them.

Sig-Sauer-P226-Elite-Dark_003SIG Elite guns come with checkering on the front of the frame and trigger guard. As soon as I picked up the Elite Dark, I noticed that the checkering seemed more aggressive than on my USPSA edition, and I compared the two. Sometime in the last few years, the engineers at SIG changed the checkering; instead of the (approximately) 30-lpi of the USPSA edition, the Elite Dark has what looks to be 25-lpi checkering on the front strap and trigger guard, and the checkering on the trigger guard covers more area. Full-size 9mm autos don’t have much recoil, and SIGs have less recoil than most, but it’s still nice to be ensured a secure grip even if your hands are sweaty.

The SIG engineers have also apparently redesigned the 226 extractor, because the one on the Elite Dark is about four times the size of what I’m used to seeing on the P226. Bigger extractors are always better.

It is named the “Elite Dark” because it is entirely blacked out, unlike my USPSA SIG, which has hardchromed controls and grip screws. Standard on the model are thin aluminum grips with an aggressive pattern. I prefer thin grips on the 226 because my hands are not big. While SIG does make “enhanced” guns with reduced grip circumference, the profile of those frames tends to move the shooter’s hand even further down on the gun, exactly what you don’t want on a gun that already has a high bore.

The pistol comes equipped with SIGLITE night sights. These consist of a dovetailed front and an MMC-type fully adjustable rear protected by beefy ears. The polymer recoil spring guide rod of the USPSA models has been replaced by a steel model.

The magazine well is slightly beveled, but it is still tighter than I would like. The pistol is supplied with two 15-round magazines. Other than buying more magazines, the only thing I would do to this pistol before carrying it is put in a reduced power hammer spring. The trigger pull on the Elite Dark was good and about as advertised by SIG (10-pound DA/4-pound SA). The single action was nice and crisp. However, SIGs are very oversprung, and a 17-pound hammer spring from Wolff should reduce the DA pull by 2 pounds and the SA pull by at least a pound, all without affecting reliability.

If you are a fan of SIG 226s, or just of full-size 9mms, you should check out the Elite Dark.

Action Type: DA/SA
Caliber: 9mm (.357 SIG and .40 S&W also available)
Capacity: 15+1
Barrel Length: 4.4 inches
Overall Length: 8.2 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Weight (empty): 34.0 ounces
Sights: SIGLITE nightsights—post front, fully adjustable rear
Accessories: Two 15-round magazines, lockable case
MSRP: $1,218

  • DR Anil soni

    i want springfield Armory XD HAND GUN CRITARIA FOR BUY

  • Scooter

    James, YOU ARE AN IDIOT. You are also NOT serving your readers well and potentially issuing advice that could get some of them KILLED.

    So, why do I say this, it's rather simple. To quote what you have written "Other than buying more magazines, the only thing I would do to this pistol before carrying it is put in a reduced power hammer spring.". So, now you are a fully trained Sig Armorer who has also tested this particular variant of the P226 with every ammunition available in addition to being a gun writer (sarcasm).

    What you have done with that bit of advice is suggest to everyone reading it that there won't be any issues cause by reducing the energy provided by the mainspring. That they won't have problems with Misfires. That the weaker mainspring wont lead to a decrease in control of the slide, or increases in muzzle flip to to the slide hitting the stop harder. That the slide stop or frame won't be battered more due to the drop in slide retard provided by the hammer. All of the above are potential effects of reducing the power of the mainspring on a Sig Sauer.

    In short, your advice could lead to a misfire in a life or death moment and will with certainty increase the "hit" when the slide reaches the end of it's travel. As a result the muzzle will flip more and you will be battering the frame of that pistol more than is necessary.

    Here's a hint. If you can't shoot well with a 10 lbs. double action trigger you should put in more trigger time with a double action trigger. Personally, I would suggest a good revolver, they are much more convenient for this type of practice that de-cocking after each shot. In addition, revolvers allow you to practice intensively at speed with a heavy trigger and that will improve your ability with any trigger type made.

    • James Tarr

      Scooter–after my quote about the reduced power hammer spring, I also wrote, "However, SIGs are very oversprung, and a 17-pound hammer spring from Wolff should reduce the DA pull by 2 pounds and the SA pull by at least a pound, all without affecting reliability."

      While I appreciate you coming to the website and voicing your ill-informed opinion that I'm an idiot, I did not just make up the information in the above article. I have extensive experience with SIGs, both with the factory-weight springs and reduced power ones. How do you know I'm not a fully trained SIG Armorer? The fact of the matter is that whenever any changes are done to a pistol, it should be test-fired for reliability before being used for self defense.

      • Tom from texas

        Afraid I have to agree with James on this one. Fact of the matter is, Weapon manufacturers go to great lengths to build weapons that are reliable and have decent longevity. The old saying if it ain't broke, don't fix it applies perfectly.
        Someone, anyone, that isn't able to be accurate and comfortable with a weapon as it comes from the factory, needs to do one of two things. They need to pick a different weapon, or just just quit shooting all together.
        Now you don't know me, but I can say with absolute certainty that at my age, I've handled, fired and trained on more weapons than you've thought about.

    • James Tarr

      That said, if you think SIGs are so delicate that you can't put in a lighter spring without beating the gun up or causing it to jam, you really haven't spent enough time around them. And… springs have vastly different weights than ones on well-used five year old guns….does that mean those used guns are inherently dangerous? Spring weights also vary from gun to gun.

      Go take your P226, put in a reduced power hammer spring from Wolff, maybe even a reduced power recoil spring, shoot ten thousand rounds of factory ammo and assorted handloads through it under grueling conditions, then talk to the professional shooters who shoot tens of thousands of rounds a year through their SIGs, and then come back and tell me if you've learned anything. At that point, at least we'll be on the same level, even if we still don't agree.

      • Chip

        I own a 229 Enhanced Elite in 9 mm. Though I am experienced with rifles, I just got my first handgun last March. it was a Glock. One of the things, I didn't like about the Glock was the no safety feature. While that is good for professionals, I feel it is dangerous for novices. I do find your insight and suggestions great food for thought, and I certainly like reading about mods. However, I would just suggest that you advise those who are new to shooting not to make these changes. I believe one of the reasons Sig engineered the d/a pull to 10 lbs. is for safety. It is hard to pull, so it is harder for a mistake to be made. I have read that accidents have happened while drawing from a holster. The 10 lb pull, in my mind, helps to prevent a accidental trigger pull. As an example, I was lucky enough to shoot a competition modified 1911 at the range a few months ago. The trigger was so light, I ripped off 3 shots before I realized I pulled the trigger. I would love to read your thoughts.

  • doubtingthomas777

    Nice article; thanks for the review. I've been preparing to purchase my first handgun, and after a lot of reading, I've narrowed my search down to this model, and the Sig Sauer P226 Tacops 9mm. Do you have any experience with the TACOPS model? I'm wondering if the Elite Dark model will take the 20rd mags used in the TACOPS since they're both p226.

  • mrwicked98

    I picked one up today and it is absolutely fantastic. I see no reason to replace anything on the gun. The only thing this gun needs is lots and lots of ammo.

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