May 14, 2012
The SIG P226 has an enviable reputation. Designed for the Joint Service Small Arms Program trials in the early 1980s, it lost out to the Beretta 92, mostly due to a minor cost difference in the parts and magazine package. Adopted by the SEALs nonetheless, it has proven to be durable, reliable, accurate and adaptable. What it has not had a reputation for is compactness. As a high-cap, double-stack magazine pistol, it is as big as any duty pistol out there and larger than summer carry would have us desiring.
The P224 is a P226 shortened on both ends and features all the improvements the current generation of combat pistols have. The frame is aluminum alloy given a black hard anodized finish. The front of the frame has a checkered panel, and the pattern of the checkering is duplicated in the finger rest of the magazine.
The frame does not have checkering on the back of the frame, as the grips wrap around the back, and you get the laminate, grooved and scalloped for a nonslip grip.
The slide is stainless steel; the barrel is carbon steel, which is induction-hardened for durability. Both the slide and barrel feature a Nitron finish. The sights are Siglite night sights. The front of the slide is chiseled off at an angle, so you will be less likely to catch the edge of the slide on a holster, while re-holstering or gearing up for the day.
The magazine is of necessity a short one, holding (in this pistol) 10 rounds of .40 S&W. Were it chambered in .357 SIG, it would also hold ten10 and the 9mm version will hold 11 rounds. So depending on your caliber choice you have 10+1 or 11+1 rounds available. The gun also takes P229 magazines for the .357 and .40 versions; in 9mm, you'll need the 229-1 magazine for extra capacity.
If you go with these extended-magazine options, you can get 12 or 14 rounds in .357 and .40, and 13, 15 or 17 rounds in 9mm. That's a lot of extra ammo, comforting in places you may have to enter.
The trigger is the DAK (Double-Action Kellerman) that has quite a following in defensive-carry circles. It is a smooth and light double-action-only trigger, with restrike capability. In stroking the trigger, I get more of a sensation of using a slicked-up revolver than I do of a double-action pistol. It is light and smooth enough that is doesn't hinder accurate shooting, but it is long enough that you know you're pulling the trigger.
I can't get all three fingers on the short frame, which means the muzzle will rise in recoil. And so it does. But the P224 doesn't snap in recoil; it sort of bounces up and then comes right back down again. If you're used to the recoil force and pattern of its big brother, the 226, you may find the 224's recoil pattern disconcerting at first, but you can't expect a compact pistol that weighs just over 25 ounces empty, chambered in .40 or .357 SIG, to be sedate, can you?
As you'd expect, filling the magazine is work at first. The first few times I filled the magazines, I had to practically pound the last round into place with a mallet. And, once loaded, I had to push hard to get the magazine to seat with the slide forward. The magazine spring has to be stout in order to lift the stack and keep up with the slide as it shuttles back and forth. The P224 is not at all alone in this, many compact and some non-compact pistols have this as the break-in process.
When you consider the matter of a compact carry gun, you have to have some way to carry it. We're in luck because the profile of the P224 is essentially that of the 226/229, meaning the entire range of holsters will work—although some of them just may have an excess of leather or Kydex.
Galco was kind enough to send me a Quick Slide holster and a dual-mag pouch. The Quick Slide worked just fine, as it was designed to be the minimal amount of leather that would hold a 226 securely. The 224 is also held securely.
The dual-mag pouch is another matter, but it's not Galco's fault. The pouch, designed to hold a full-size magazine even against running, simply swallows up the stubby 224 magazine. If I pushed the magazine all the way down into the pouch, about the only way to get it out was to hook my fingertips on the base plate. Again, the SIG is not unique in this regard, as all stubby magazines can be hard to access.
Disassembly of the P224 couldn't be simpler. Unload the gun and lock back the slide. Check the chamber, then check again. Now pivot the disassembly lever (on the left side) down and leave it there. Grab the slide and press the slide stop down, then ease the slide off the frame. At that point it is like every other self-loading pistol.
Now, if the P224 Extreme isn't to your aesthetic tastes, then SIG has three other models. The SAS features a one-piece polymer grip. The Nickel has a nickel-plated (matte finish, not mirror bright) slide, slide stop, takedown lever and magazine button that accent the black anodized frame, plus Hogue Custom G-10 grips. The P224 Equinox has a two-tone polished slide done in Nitron, with the slide stop, mag catch and takedown lever nickel-plated, plus Hogue black diamondwood grips. On top, the Equinox has a fiber-optic front sight, matched with a night-sight rear blade.
So, is the SIG Sauer P224 the carry handgun for you? That depends. Clearly, a 10-shot .40 or .357 SIG pistol, in a compact form, is a good carry choice.
What you will have to decide is if the grips is a bit too short, too much of a good thing, and can you get a good grip on the draw. Can you shoot quickly and accurately?
And can you adjust your shooting to the DAK trigger? As good as it is, it is a bit different from all the others, and that takes some getting used to. If you do not spend time practicing, no pistol, no matter how good, is going to serve you well. Coming from a strong revolver background, I found the DAK trigger an easy transition.
The grip, while small, is big enough, but I sure won't turn down an opportunity to put a bigger magazine in the P224. So the only real question for you is which caliber.
- Type: hammer-fired DAO semiauto
- Caliber: .40 S&W (tested), .357 SIG
- Capacity: 10+1
- Barrel: 3.5
- OAL/Height/Width: 6.7/4.5/1.3 in.
- Weight: 25.4 oz
- Finish: Nitron, black anodized
- Grips: laminate wrap-around
- Sights: three-dot w/night-sight optional
- Trigger: DAK, 5.5 lb. pull
- Price: $1,146
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
- Smallest avg. group: (tie) 180 gr. Hornady Steel Match, 180 gr. Hornady TAP, 165 gr. Winchester PDX1—3.0 in.
- Largest avg. group: (tie) 155 gr. Hornady TAP, 180 gr. Winchester FMJ, 135 gr. Federal Guard Dog—3.5 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (6 types)—3.25 in.