[Review] Sig Sauer P226: Super Solid

World-renowned. Masterful. Premier. A force to be reckoned with.

Those are just a few of the words and phrases SIG Sauer uses to describe their P226 line of pistols.

Sounds impressive, right?

Sig P226 looking awesome
The SIG Sauer P226 Nitron is sort of the baseline P226 of the line-up but it’s a solid pistol you’d probably love shooting.

Thanks to the SIG marketing team it certainly does..the P226 sounds almost like a pistol that loads itself, fires itself, and polices its own brass afterward.

This leads us to wonder what the P226 is really like and whether it lives up to the hype.

Let’s find out!

Table of Contents

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Brief History

You should be able to predict by now that I’ll plunge headfirst into firearms history.

In the case of the P226 you may already be familiar with its background but for the uninitiated, this might prove interesting.

And as you may have guessed it involves the military (because what uber-popular handgun doesn’t?).

Freedom Angel
Freedom Angel!

Back in the 1970s the United States Air Force asked for better ammunition based on the belief changing to premium ammo would solve their handgun troubles.

As governmental requests tend to go this resulted in an investigation which dug up the information that there were literally dozens of different handguns being used by the USAF alone.

Dozens.

dozens of us
USAF Pistols, circa 1970sish, probably

A Congressman by the name of Addabbo made the statement that “the current proliferation of handguns and handgun ammunition in Air Force inventory is intolerable.”

Guns in use by the military at large included the expected M1911A1 in .45 ACP and the Smith & Wesson M13 in .38 Special.

smith and wesson air crewman
Smith & Wesson M13 Aircrewman, a pre-Model 12 revolver designed as a super lightweight defensive revolver for aircrews!

On the heels of this statement came the decision to find One Handgun to Rule Them All.

At the time the US Military was the only major force that did not yet have a standardized NATO handgun and ammunition. You could say it needed to be fixed.

The journey to find that one handgun launched the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP). In the words of the great Inigo Montoya, there is too much, I sum up.

princessbride sum up

In typical military fashion, they came up with a rather exhaustive list of 85 requirements for the new handgun, 72 of which were mandatory.

The mandatory stuff included a need for a magazine release that could be operated with one hand, a first-round trigger pull in double-action with follow-up shots being single-action, and a 9mm chambering.

They also wanted it to be durable – no more than eight malfunctions allowed per 5,000 rounds fired – and a minimum capacity of 13 rounds. 

Quite a few big names threw their firearms hats into the ring for the first round including Beretta, FN, Steyr, Heckler and Koch, and Smith & Wesson. It wasn’t until round two that SIG Sauer got involved with their P226.

Sig P226 side on wood

They’d designed the P226 specifically for JSSAP and it performed well. By round three it was clear the SIG P226 was one of the best, holding its own alongside the Beretta 92FBS.

It was during the end-of-trial bidding that SIG lost to Beretta so it seems safe to say SIG’s not being selected as the winner wasn’t about performance, it was about money.

All was not lost, though. The US Navy SEALs decided to use the SIG P226 beginning in the 1980s, a move that would make the gun something of a legend.

Sig Mk25
Sig Sauer Mk25, the pistol that the Navy SEALs adopted

I mean, who doesn’t want a gun so tough, accurate, and reliable the SEAL teams guys rely on it in combat?

Be honest. It kind of makes you want one.

P226 Design

Onward and upward.

Or inward as the case may be. The P226 was originally made to fulfill those JSSAP requirements and hasn’t seen a lot of change since then.

After all, if the SEALs, a bunch of federal agents, and LEOs from the Texas Rangers – among others – are happy with it, why mess with awesomeness?

The P226 Nitron is the “older” and more original design. There are quite a few variants out there such as the extremely cool Legion P226 but if you want to stick to the gun’s roots, this is your model.

Sig P226 controls 2
My only real issue with the P226 Nitron is the trigger because it has noticeable take-up, some stacking, and a seriously long reset. Even so, it isn’t a bad trigger, just also not the best ever.

The gun comes in a trio of calibers – 9mm, .357 SIG, and .40 S&W – but the 9mm is the classic and it’s the one I have. It’s a semi-auto, of course, with the DA/SA feature JSSAP required years ago.

The P226 Nitron has a full-size, alloy frame with a hard-coat anodized finish and a stainless steel slide with a Nitron finish. This is a solid pistol and you feel that durability as soon as you pick the gun up.

Features time. This gun has a 4.4-inch barrel, an overall length of 7.7 inches, overall height of 5.5 inches, and width of 1.5 inches. It weighs 34 ounces, empty, so you could say it is a sizeable gun not suitable for deep concealment but that isn’t what is was made for, anyway.

A SIG accessory rail makes it easier to mount a laser or light to the underside of the frame and the grips can be changed out, if you want.

Sig P226 rails
The SIG accessory rail makes it so you can throw a light or laser on your P226 if you want one.

Personally, I think the factory grips work just fine. The P226 Nitron also ships with SIGLITE Night Sights and has a fifteen-round capacity.

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at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Since some of you are going to ask about safeties, here you go. The P226 Nitron has a series of safeties built into it including a firing pin safety block, a safety intercept notch, and a trigger bar disconnector.

It also has a decocking lever. There is even a shroud of sorts protecting the firing pin from outside impacts. Suffice to say it does have plenty of safeties.

sig 226 rear sight
SIG designed the P226 so the slide extends to shroud the firing pin, protecting it from outside impacts. It’s also made so the hammer is held away from the firing pin until the moment you pull the trigger.

Pew Pew

The first time I saw a P226 I wasn’t immediately drawn to it. It’s kind of a bulky, blocky pistol with what appears to be an unattractively designed grip. Here’s the thing: as soon as I picked it up, I understood some of the hype.

The backstrap swell of the P226 Nitron and the rough grip texturing fit my hands as though they were made for them.

Seriously, it fits me that well. Although my hands are relatively narrow they’re pretty long – my fingers are longer than those of a lot of guys I know – so bigger guns tend to be my preference.

Sig P226 grip
When I first saw the grips of the P226 I was skeptical but the moment I held it in my hand I knew I loved it.

This one is no different. Not only does it fit me but the controls are within reach so I can manipulate them without radically adjusting my grip.

The exception is the hammer, of course, which requires me to move my strong hand back and up in order to operate it.

Sig P226 hammer back
The hammer on the P226 Nitron is textured so you can get a good hold on it even if your hands are wet. I’ve run this gun in the rain and will attest to its hammer texturing and deep slide serrations being handy.

Let’s jump right to the trigger. The P226 Nitron’s trigger is all right but not my favorite trigger ever (the SIG P226 Legion has a stellar trigger, see it in action in the video below!).

It has a clean break but there is some take-up, a touch of stacking, and reset is rather long.

That said, the double-action pull is consistent and single-action is beautifully crisp (except for that take-up frustration marring the experience a bit).

Shooting double-action the P226 Nitron has a measured trigger pull weight of 8 pounds, 1 ounce and a single-action pull weight of just 3 pounds, 9 ounces. 

The gun has cycled reliably and eaten a somewhat ridiculous variety of ammunition from Inceptor 9mm 65 grain ARX to Federal Syntech 9mm 115 grain TSJ to Remington UMC 9mm 115 grain FMJs.

55
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And of course, I’ve thrown in Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115 grain FTX and Winchester 9mm 115 grain JHPs. There’s more, but you get the idea. The P226 Nitron has run everything I’ve loaded it with to varying degrees of accuracy.

Best 9mm Self-Defense (124 gr)
25.75
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Firing from the bench at 25 yards the gun produces five-shot groups between two and three inches. I’ve spent some time running playing card drills with it, too, and haven’t gotten the precise little groups I’d hoped to see.

At ten yards it does nail one-hole, five-shot groups with most ammunition.

The bottom line is it isn’t a crazy precise gun but it is accurate. Part of the problem is probably the trigger but really there is nothing to complain about.

This is a perfectly capable self-defense gun.

Carry

This isn’t a gun you’re likely to use for concealed carry.

It isn’t that you can’t because you totally can – if I can conceal full-size guns, so can you – it’s just that it’s a sizeable pistol and there are easier to conceal guns out there.

42
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

When it’s loaded to capacity at 15 +1 it weighs more than two and a half pounds so you do feel it on your belt.

The width and shape of the slide make it slightly more difficult to conceal IWB but for me, it’s the grip swell that presents a challenge.

Possible, just not easy. For that reason, I’d say this is more of an open-carry gun. 

Finally

The SIG P226 Nitron is a nice pistol.

Yes, I like it.

I’m not a SIG fanboy/girl/creature so no, I do not love every SIG that comes along. This one I do like. If you want a full-size 9mm for open carry or range days this gun is a fantastic option.

If you want one for concealed carry you can still consider it, just be aware it’ll take some effort and possible adjustments to your wardrobe.

The P226 does seem to live up to the durability side of the hype. If you just want a good workhorse gun for the P226 Nitron; if you want a precise pistol, check out the P226 Legion!

Sig Legion P226
Sig Sauer P226 Legion

Pretty much any gun you choose from the P226 line is good to go. Maybe buy more than one of them. Hey, you can never have too many guns.

By the Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

The P226 has proven itself as a reliable gun. It does need to stay lubed – when I’ve run it in the rain and dry it got a little fussy – but I’d still say it’s reliable.

And considering the variety of ammo it’s eaten I’d say it is good to go with just about anything you throw at it.

Ergonomics: 4/5

SIG did a nice job designing the grip to fill the palm of your hand. It fits naturally and improves your grip which, in turn, enhances accuracy. It’s designed for hard use and fulfills those parameters.

Is it an aesthetically awesome gun? Not really, but I prefer function over form anyway. 

Accuracy: 4/5

It’s a relatively accurate gun but not super precise. You’re going to hit what you’re aiming at you just won’t get gorgeous groups consistently.

26
at GunMag Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Thing is, you don’t need a precise pistol for self-defense, you need an accurate, reliable gun you can run well.

Get used to the trigger on this gun and learn to run it double-action, not only single-action, and you’ll find your shooting gets better.

Customization: 3/5

You can swap out the grips and mount a light or laser to it. Technically you could also send the gun off to be Cerakoted, so that counts as customization. Beyond that I wouldn’t say these are extremely customizable guns.

Value: 4/5

This is a well-made, solid pistol that’ll get the job done. Prices will vary, but used or new the P226 is a great buy.

Overall: 4/5

Parting Shots

I’d trust it with both my life and my daughter’s life, so you could say I’d recommend it.

If it is too big for you to conceal it’ll still make a great home defense gun. Just saying.

What is your go-to full-size pistol? How do the designs of the 1970s stack up to today? Let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in more awesome pistols, take a look at the Best Handguns for Beginners!

Looking for a CCW? The Sig P365 might be the best one on the market!

P365 Upgrades The Whole Lot
Sig Sauer P365

12 Leave a Reply

  • Ryan

    The p226 mk25 was my first handgun and still possibly my favorite for many reasons. The grips were a little big for me but once I swapped them out for the Hogue g10 grips I loved it Other upgrades that I've done was the SRT (short reset trigger) upgrade, added a Streamlight tlr-2, and I bought the 22lr conversion kit for some plinking fun. I've since added a p229 Legion SAO to my collection.

    7 hours ago
  • Rane

    I have the elite dark TB variant and got a milled slide for a Romeo. I then put G10 piranha grips and a gray guns flat trigger on it. It’s my suppressor host for my octane 9. It’s been my best pistol, and I own quite a few. It’s my home defense weapon along side my MP5K clone which is also suppressed. Which brings me to my next point, which is noise suppression. This gun is the quietest suppressed 9mm I own, and that includes my carbines. It’s so good at being quiet that most suppressor manufactures use it as their test gun. It’s also dead nuts reliable with or without a suppressor. Best full sized handgun to date with the USP as a close second.

    5 days ago
  • Jeffrey

    My only complaint is the Nitron has a Sig proprietary rail whereas the MK25, the one with the anchor stamp that Sig calls identical to SEAL the version, has a Picatinny rail. I heard and read about problems unless you buy your accessories from Sig Sauer.

    5 days ago
  • GunjeeGab

    You forgot to mention that the 80s Sigs were all made in Germany with stamped steel slides rather than milled stainless slides of SIG US. German SIGs were much better than US made in terms of quality, but the stainless slides are machinable for a red dot.

    5 days ago
    • Hammer

      Someone always feels compelled to point out that "German Sigs were way better than US-made Sigs." Whatever - I've owned several US-made P226s (and P229s, and a P225A-1....) and they have all been excellent and run flawlessly.

      1 day ago
  • Dan C

    The Sig P226 Legion SAO is the best handgun I have ever owned. It's like a 1911 and a P226 had a love child...simply phenomenal.

    6 days ago
  • Steve Murphy

    Good article Kat, when I was reading it I thought it was Pew Pew, not relevant, good content. I bought a P229 police trade in for $370~, sent to Sig for the service plan (SSP)and night sights for $200 and after cleaning the barrel thoroughly it is very accurate. More compact than the 226 but I have a MK25 in that role. I also have the P220 and another P229 RX. I bought the RX slide from sig for a discount and stumbled on an e2 frame on GB. Matched up perfectly and is an excellent carry piece. The RX is a different discussion but the two minute auto off is huge. I have turn into a Sig after getting tired of looking for a gunsmith to tune my 1911 ala P220. I find them accurate, reliable and ergonomic. If you shop you can find great deals on line. I have never paid over $750 - 800 for any of them. -hth -ET1USN

    6 days ago
  • T Kocián

    I love my 226. 500 rounds through it and not a single malfunction. I open carry, and have a Conceal Carry coat for winter. It's big, but I am 6'5" and have large hands... This gun fits me perfectly.

    6 days ago
  • Simón Olguín

    But there is a .22 LR version isn't? And Sig Sauer 226 Mosquito isn't? I love shoot 22s LR. It is my favourite caliber for the range.

    6 days ago
  • Francis

    The first p226 I tried was the MK-25 rental at the local range, I really liked the gun overall. Before I bought one I picked up a new 226 legion in a store and after checking out the trigger I knew I wanted one, a bit on the pricey side but I will never regret buying it, everyone ive ever let shoot it raves about it. Two of my 3 daughters shoot with me and its always everyone's favorite, Mine still has the factory curved short reset trigger and the only change I might make is to put a straight trigger in it.

    6 days ago
  • Mike

    I bought a 226 in the 80's, great gun, very accurate. The problem was the reach to the trigger for the 1st shot. So I got and installed a factory short trigger, perfect reach in double action, way to short for single action. Finally sold it. A very nice pistol that just didn't fit me.

    6 days ago
  • Todd Noebel

    I picked up a P226 Extreme as a used gun and I love shooting this pistol. It's more than accurate enough, has a short reset trigger, and simply runs smooth no matter what ammo I feed it. It is a bit large of daily concealed carry. Frankly, that's my biggest "complaint", but I didn't buy it for concealability. In short probably my overall favorite pistol.

    6 days ago
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