September 24, 2010
A sterling out-of-the-box single-action competition gun from SIGARMS
The X-Five is a single-action variation of the P226 with a longer and heavier dustcover. It comes with one magazine and two Allen wrenches that are used for trigger adjustment.
For one who is usually paying attention to all things USPSA/IPSC related and always looking for cool new guns, I stumbled onto this one. I had called Paul Erhardt, the PR honcho at SIG, to borrow a Model 210 for test and evaluation. For those who don't recall, the SIG 210 was once considered to be the benchmark for 9mm accuracy. An all-steel single-stack single-action, it was the pistol that won the first IPSC World Championship back in 1975.
If the trigger reach is too long, it is easily adjusted. It worked fine for the author as set by the factory.
Finely machined and fitted, the gun's somewhat portly rail section was due to the slide riding inside of the frame instead of outside as on the 1911. I wanted to borrow one to do accuracy tests and comparison--and also because I hadn't shot one in more than 20 years and I wanted to see if the new ones shot as well as I recalled the old ones shooting.
Paul let me down easy. "I don't think we have a 210 in the loaner pool. But the X-Five is just as accurate." He knew what I was looking for. There's only one reason a gun writer wants to borrow a 210. But an X-Five?
"What's that?" I asked, more interested in information than looking like I knew everything. "Our new competition gun. Let me send you one along with some GSRs."
|MANUFACTURER: ||SIGARMS |
|CALIBER: ||9mm or .40 S&W |
|TRIGGER: ||Single action, adjustable; 2.2 to 3.53 pounds |
|LENGTH: ||8.82 inches |
|HEIGHT: ||5.87 inches |
|WIDTH: ||1.73 inches inches |
|BARREL LENGTH: ||5 inches |
|OVERALL LENGTH: ||8.82 inches |
|SIGHT RADIUS: ||7.17 inches |
|WEIGHT: ||47 ounces with magazine |
|CAPACITY: ||19 (9mm), 14 (.40) |
|FINISH: ||Stainless, others available |
|SIGHTS: ||Low-profile adjustable |
|PRICE: ||$2,499 |
Which is how I happened to have this factory racegun from SigArms on my desk.
The X-Five is basically a 226. The frame is stainless, and the dustcover is longer and thicker than it is on the 226, adding weight. Sig says the weight is 47.2 ounces with an empty magazine. Mine registers exactly 46 ounces on my postal scale.
The longer dustcover is proportional to a longer slide and barrel. The barrel is 5 inches long, and combined with a longer slide, it gives a full seven inches of sight radius to the X-Five.
The rear sight is an adjustable unit, machined into the slide. That is, Sig didn't just machine a dovetail in the slide and press a sight in place. The slide was machined to accept the adjustable parts of a rear sight. My first thought on seeing it was, "Nice sight." My second thought was, "Will Sig sell just the sight so I can see if it fits a 1911 slide?"
The magazine and magazine well are notable. Sig took a standard 226 high-capacity magazine and installed a hollow extended baseplate on it. The standard .357 Sig/.40 S&W magazine holds 12 rounds. The X-Five magazine holds 14 rounds. (You can also have an X-Five in 9mm, where the magazine holds 19 rounds.)
Unlike a regular 226, there is a magazine funnel to the X-Five--a big one. The magazine catch is a lot taller than your standard Sig 226 mag catch. It stands 5/16 inch out from the frame.
The grips are wood, held to the frame with two screws each, and nicely checkered, if somewhat round. Those who have shot Sigs before won't notice any difference, but I come from a 1911 background and find the grips a bit on the round side, but not so much as to be a problem. And they are wood, after all. They can be changed if you find them to be a problem.
The front of the frame is checkered. Combined with internal beveling, this makes reloading a lot faster.
(Left) The well-designed beavertail does a lot to distribute recoil and dampen the impact. (Right) The front sight is a basic target blade in a transverse dovetail. It's easy to adjust or replace if necessary. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. Instead of a dove
tail, Sig machined the slide to take the moving sight parts.
But the real changes, and the big improvements, done to create the X-Five are in between the sights and grip. Let's start at the back end. The frame has been altered, and there is a beavertail highly reminiscent of a 1911 back there. It is upswept and dished for the hammer, and when I saw it I wondered if someone at Sig R&D had chopped off a custom 1911 beavertail and welded it to a prototype frame. The result is a frame that, in the .40, is very soft in recoil.
Next is the safety. It doesn't look like a Sig safety at all because the X-Five is a cocked-and-locked, "condition one" pistol. Insert a loaded magazine. Work the slide to chamber a round, press the safety up, and the hammer stays cocked. The ambidextrous safety blocks the sear. While the parts involved differ from the 1911, the effect is the same. And best of all for me, the offside safety lever doesn't bang against my knuckle. I can get my accustomed high grip and not worry about ambi-safety pain.
OK, so we have a cocked-and-locked Sig, with competition sights and a longer barrel. So what? Feast your eyes on the trigger. First, note the screw in the side of the trigger itself. That exists so you can adjust the length of pull. No need to pay a gunsmith lots of money to install a longer or shorter trigger. Just adjust it yourself.
Turn over the X-Five, and look at the triggerguard. Note the holes, fore and aft. The front hole is the weight-of-pull adjustment screw. The rear hole is the overtravel adjustment screw. In case you have any lingering doubts about just who is supposed to be making these adjustments, the correct-size Allen wrenches to adjust the trigger are included. That's right--a competition pistol on which you yourself can make the changes to trigger pull as needed.
The ambidextrous safety is not a hammer-dropping safety. It works like a 1911. The X-Five is meant to be carried cocked-and-locked.
I found I did not need to make any changes. The trigger pull as the X-Five came out of the box dropped the hammer at 31?2 pounds. The overtravel was set with just enough to allow for a high-speed rest but not so short that you could get into trouble. Too many competition shooters seek the "perfect" trigger pull by eliminating all overtravel. What I found 20 years ago (and this is still the case for me) is that if I try to make the overtravel and rest too short, I end up short-stroking the trigger at high speed. I tie up the trigger, pressing again without having allowed it to reset.
The factory setting for length of pull was within the correct range for me. I have large but skinny hands, so I can get along with many setups. However, a trigger that is too long has me pushing shots left. I never had that problem with the X-Five.
The inside of the slide is also a place you will find changes and competition-driven improvements. The recoil-spring assembly has a regular braided recoil spring up front. In the middle is a steel collar, and behind the collar is a single-wire spring. You're looking at the Sig recoil-spring buffer system.
|SHOOTNG RESULTS |
SIG 226 X-Five .40 S&W
|AMMUNITION||VELOCITY (fps)||GROUP (ins.) |
|Black Hills (blue) 180-gr. FMJ||932||1 |
|Cor-Bon 135-gr. P'wrBall||1,241||1.5 |
|CCI Blazer 180-gr. TMJ||1,026||1.25 |
|Armscor 180-gr. FMJ||889||1.25 |
|Speer Gold Dot 165-gr.||1,097||1.5 |
|L-SWC 175-gr. w/ 4.8 Bullseye||1,003||1.25 |
|T-LC 180-gr. w/ 4.5 Bullseye||902||1.5 |
When the slide moves, it first bottoms out against the buffer collar, and then the buffer collar compresses the second spring. When you go to take apart the X-Five, you'll notice the disassembly lever takes a lot more force to pivot. That's the secondary spring resisting. The barrel is a standard-looking 226 barrel but longer--at 5 inches--which adds a bit of velocity.
The only way to remove the human element is with machinery. Here the author puts the X-Five through its paces while it is clamped in the Ransom rest.
If you're shooting the X-Five as a competition gun (or a carry gun), you need a holster. It won't fit a holster that's made to fit a 226 tightly. It is too long, and the larger dustcover won't fit in holsters made specifically for the 226. Never fear. Competition race holsters are skeletal affairs, and adjusting them to fit is no problem. A tactical thigh holster often has enough extra room to take the X-Five. And for those who think "Kydex" when holsters are mentioned, making something for the X-Five should be no problem to makers such as Blade-Tech or Cen-Dex.
I put a couple of boxes of ammo through the X-Five to see how it worked and to find out any peculiarities. I found that whoever does the test-firing at the factory (the stamped name of "O. Kachel" was on the test-fire target) zeroed the X-Five too high for me. On the backstop 30 yards away, I was half a foot high. It took more time to find a screwdriver in my heap of range bags than it did to crank down the sight a half-dozen clicks and solve the problem.
For handling, I set up the classic El Presidente: three targets at 10 yards, back to the targets. Two shots on each, reload, then two shots on each again. For the spare magazine I simply used a standard 226 .40-caliber mag and reloaded with the X-Fiv
I found that the Sig grips caused a predictable problem for me: At speed, I started losing my index. The round grips caused occasional wide shots left or right. I found that if I tried to press the envelope and shoot under six seconds, I'd get flyers. If I shot it at a relatively sedate six seconds flat, I could shoot it with all "A" hits and no flyers. For me, the X-Five would be great if I took those beautifully checkered rounded grips and whacked them flatter with a belt sander. As Sig was kind enough to loan me the gun, I did not alter the grips.
Accuracy testing posed a slight problem: The X-Five is not a 226. The Ransom-rest inserts wouldn't fit. Luckily, I checked them before heading off to the range, or else I'd have been in trouble. The standard inserts wouldn't fit around the beavertail. And if I tried to simply torque down the knobs, the inserts would bind against the thumb safety. The binding safety would not clear the hammer, and there would be no "bang." So I modified the inserts (sorry about that, Ransom) until the inserts fit the frame.
This was the first group the X-Five shot from the Ransom rest. Things mostly got better; rarely did it shoot worse.
I had a bunch of ammo along to test and a nice overcast day to spend trudging from bench to targets and back again. The drudgery of accuracy testing was immediately relieved with the first group. I had used Black Hills 180-grain Full Metal Jacket to settle the gun into the inserts. (Sometimes a subject gun needs a few groups to squirm into solid and consistent contact with the inserts, and then it starts shooting well.)
The first group was one inch across. And the next one. And the next. This particular X-Five hardly cared what ammo I fed it; it was going to shoot groups under an inch and a half, center to center, at 25 yards.
(Left) The front of the frame has a patch of machine-cut checkering, big enough to produce a nonslip grip. (Right) The X-Five has a dual-spring buffer system. The single-coil spring buffers the final impact of the slide against the frame while the braided spring does the rest of the work.
What did it like? The better question is, What didn't it like? The two "losers" in accuracy that day were Speer Gold Dot 165-grain JHP and Armscor 180-grain fmj. And in any other handgun, the groups fired by those loads would have been cause for celebration. I've seen custom 1911s used in competition that couldn't shoot groups as good as the "bad" ones this X-Five shot.
(Left) Until the supply is used up (or stamping dies get replaced as they wear), we'll be seeing markings like these on magazines. (Right) If you can miss a mag funnel this big, perhaps you need more practice. Only the most attentive and particular competition shooter would find it necessary to go filing, stoning or polishing to improve it.
So, what do we use such a gun for? Considering its size, it sure isn't a concealed carry gun, not unless your idea of a cover garment is a woolen mackinaw. Paul Erhardt mentioned there had been some interest in it as a tactical gun. And why not? You could either have a gunsmith bolt on a light rail or get a good machinist/gunsmith to simply machine a rail right out of the dustcover. It's stainless, after all, so it can take it. Then a coat of flat-black bake-on epoxy finish, and you've got your "Ã¼bertactical-ninja" sidearm. But I don't expect to see many X-Fives in law enforcement holsters.
No, the raison d'etre of the X-Five is USPSA competition. You can use it in Limited 10, but the better choice would be Limited. There, the high-cap magazines offer you a competitive amount of ammo. While 14 rounds is a good start, it isn't up to what competition guns can deliver. Many guns in matches hold 18 rounds in a magazine.
Ah, but the X-Five magazines are short. USPSA regs allow a Limited magazine to be 140mm long. The X-Five baseplate stops a quarter-inch, or 6mm, from that. I'm sure there is a gunsmith out there right now machining hollow baseplates that go right up to the allowed 140mm. And with a little follower trickery and spring tuning, I can see an X-Five magazine holding 17 rounds.
With commercial reloads, in this case Black Hills, the X-Five performed better than a lot of custom guns the author has tested.
The .40 gets you to Major in scoring, and the accuracy--oh, the accuracy. With a gun that can deliver groups under an inch and an "A" zone on the target that measures six by 11 inches, you need not worry about having enough accuracy.
For those who live in a state that still has restrictions on "assault weapons" and magazine capacity, the X-Five would make a sterling out-of-the-box Limited 10 gun. As an IDPA gun, it is too heavy, at 47 ounces, to pass as an ESP gun, even if the other race parts didn't disqualify it. And concealing that magazine funnel would take some work. But as a ready-to-go Limited gun for USPSA competition, it's great.
Now to the matter of cost. The MSRP of the X-Five is a cool $2,499. However, as with all things in a consumer environment, what something really sells for is usually less than what it "should" sell for. Add in the ability to do a lot of the adjusting yourself, and the X-Five looks even better. Many a competition shooter has a love/hate relationship with his gunsmith. Yes, the guns are great, but every little thing requires another trip back to the 'smith. With the X-Five you don't need a trip to adjust trigger pull, length, overtravel. You do it yourself.
And if you think just over two grand (the probable price in your local gun shop) is too much, you haven't priced custom Limited guns for USPSA competition lately--or custom high-end single-stack 1911s either. You can easily close in on $3,000 for either.
In that context, and considering its performance right out of the box, the X-Five is a bargain.