The SIG SAUER P226 Elite Single Action Only 9 mm – A Review

The SIG SAUER P226 Elite Single Action Only 9 mm- A Review

The SIG SAUER P226 Elite Single Action Only 9 mm- A Review

SIG SAUER has a reputation for its high-quality guns and the standard 226 DA/SA Model which has been around for some time has proven its accuracy, reliability, quality, and ergonomics already. Mine has never let me down and is very reliable. The full-size, metal 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 military Service Pistol Trials in 1984 by the military to find a replacement for the single-action M1911A1 chambered in .45 ACP. Only the Beretta 92F and the SIG P226 satisfactorily completed the trials. The Beretta was awarded the contract for the 92F because of a lower total package price and cost. The P226 cost less per pistol than the 92F, but SIG’s package price with magazines and spare parts was higher than Beretta’s. However, the Navy Seals and other agencies chose to adopt the P226 later.My friend Adam, Director of the SIG SAUER Academy, was using the 226 Elite Single Action Only (SAO) model when we recently visited the Academy. The standard 226 is in DA/SA configuration, not in SAO. I really like SAO handguns, primarily because they are just Single Action with the trigger only releasing the hammer. This makes SAO guns not require as much trigger press as a Double Action (DA) to fire which, in turn, usually means less movement, an easier to shoot handgun, and thus improved accuracy… at least for me. The heavy slide helps me control recoil and enhances my accuracy. For these reasons, that is why I like my 1911s and SAOs. I had to try the 226 SAO version for myself. But, do you really get what you pay for? Let’s look at some things about the P226 Elite SAO, other than its classy appearance.



Since 1996, 226 production involves CNC machining and the slide is milled from a single piece of stainless steel. Therefore the current P226 has a Nitron coated, stainless steel slide. This results in a strong heavy slide to chamber more powerful cartridges. The black frame of most models is made from hard anodized aluminum alloy. The P226 Elite adds an ergonomic extended beavertail, front cocking serrations, front strap checkering, adjustable SIGLITE night sights, and the Short Reset Trigger (SRT). SIG engineers designed the SRT to provide the same safety and action of the SIG DA/SA trigger with a reset that is 60% shorter for faster trigger return during high speed shooting. I can tell the nice difference between my 226 DA/SA and the 226 Elite SAO with its shorter reset.

In the picture, you can see the slide stop lever is moved forward to make room for it and the manual safety. The safety is wide, easy to engage with a nice solid contact, and is a very natural rest for those who prefer the high-shooting-thumb position. Its placement required the slide stop to be moved a little forward and is not a concern for my support thumb. In fact, I like the feel and position of it. It comes with two standard 15-round magazines and it takes both the old and new generation P226 mags. The grips on my DA-SA are SIG’s popular E2, which stands for “Ergonomics Squared.” To me they feel real good and the gun is rounded and smooth in the right places, although probably not a carry gun for most folks. The grips on the SAO are two-piece polymer.


Below are My 10 Criteria for evaluating the SIG P226 Elite SAO in 9mm handgun for my purposes here– home defense and range shooting. My process is to assign a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points and then a Recommend, Highly Recommend, or Not Recommend. You can certainly add your own additional criteria or desires and subtract any of mine. Here are mine: 

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Performs well consistently without reoccurring malfunctions, stoppages, and feeding or extraction problems, which results in accurate target hits with a maximum of a 4″ inch hit group   at 10 yards and less and is dependable;

2. Trigger Press maxiumum of about 5.0 pounds (for single-action)- lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and press that is crisp and identifiable;

3. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);

4. Barrel length of between about 4.0-5.0″ (a longer barrel lessens felt recoil, means higher muzzle velocity & means more distance between the sights (sight radius) which enhances accuracy);

5. Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see; fast target acquisition; for my purposes- adjustable for windage and elevation- for Range Targets & IDPA);

6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 30 oz or more for IDPA, Range use, & home defense); Larger, heavier pistols tend to be more accurate GENERALLY than smaller ones, due to their fit in the hand, their reduced recoil (the weight of the gun tends to absorb more recoil & reduce muzzle flip) and stability); the weight of one pistol can cause fatigue faster than another (different for every shooter) & once fatigued, accuracy can suffer — so decide for yourself;

7. Caliber match to your needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference;

8. Capacity of at least 9 minimum in a 9mm magazine, but prefer 10 rounds or more in mag (quality factory original steel or OEM mags without feeding issues);

9. Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; and

10. Miscellaneous – Finish, Tight Fit, & Appearance; Extras (like magwell, checkered front strap, hand-polished feedramp, full-length guide rod, wood and/or good grips, company representatives friendly, helpful, & good service); Ease of Disassembly-Assembly; etc.


After shooting the SIG P226 Elite SAO, here’s my report. I shot 200 rounds of Federal American Eagle 115 grain FMJ 9mm and a few Federal HST 124 grain+P JHP 9mm. I did not have any malfunctions of stoppages and was pleasantly surprised at the gun’s performance right out-of-the-box. The first 10 shots were great at 10 yards. What follows are just my opinions and observations. You must shoot and handle it for yourself. For each criterion, I give my evaluation for the gun and for my home defense and all-purpose use.

1. Accuracy and Reliability – No malfunctions, stoppages, feeding or extraction problems whatsoever. A very accurate and reliable handgun for me at 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards, slow-firing about 250 rounds of both FMJ and JHP rounds. Group sizes ranged from 2-2.5 inches at 7 and 10 yards to 4-5 inches at 20 yards. Very dependable. Score: 10

2. Trigger Press – My Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge measured about 5 to 5.25 press for the 226 SAO. SIG rates it at 5 pounds, so pretty close. Nice crisp press. Score: 10

3. Trigger with short travel distance – Upon release, the trigger traveled just the right distance to allow quick follow-up shots; the reset point was also just right for me- fairly short and identiable. Consistent trigger press- love the single-action smooth, soft, and short first press compared to DAO. Score: 10 

4. Barrel length – The 4.4 inch long barrel helped to reduce my felt recoil and enhanced my accuracy. Score: 8

5. Sights – Standard SIG Night Sites were acceptable, but I changed to a Fiber Optic Front Sight and blackened the rear sights (Night Sights still can show thru)- much better target acquisition for my “older-than-dirt” eyes. Score: 10 (Fiber Optic). 8 Night Sites.

6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil The 34.4 oz weight with mag inserted was acceptable for my purposes, since I prefer a heavier about 30 oz or more for home defense, IDPA, & Range use. This full-size larger & heavier pistol was accurate for me, fit my hand just right & recoil was very soft and very controllable. Pleasant to shoot. Score: 10

7. Caliber – I prefer the 9mm given my carpal tunnel problem and since it allows me to spend less on ammo and practice more often. Score: 10

8. Capacity – It met my capacity requirements since it holds 15+1. The original factory mags are steel and are nice quality without any feeding issues at all. Score: 10  

9. Ergonomics – The 226 was very comfortable in my medium-sized hands and I could handle the controls well. A great fit for me. Score: 10

10. Miscellaneous – This gun was typical SIG high quality, with a nice appearance given the black hard anodized frame and finish; solid feeling when you grip it; nice tight barrel fit; nice beavertail Elite frame, front cocking serrations, ambi safety, checkered front strap, & polished feedramp. The 226 Elite SAO was very easy to disassemble and re-assemble quickly. Travis the Pro Shop Manager at the Sig Academy helped me buy this 226 and he was very helpful, friendly, and provided very good service. Score: 10

Total Possible Points:  96  (with Standard Sights– not with added Fiber Optic Sight) –   HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 


I hope this review of the SIG SAUER P226 Elite SAO in 9mm will help you and provide you some information for  YOUR decision.This model of the classic and reliable standard P226 is certainly worth considering. While the suggested retail price is $1,243, you can buy this high quality and accurate handgun now for much less at street prices. I believe that you DO get what you pay for and that you need a quality, reliable and accurate gun,  especially for home defense and personal protection. Consider the above are just my points of view with limited live-range fire. As always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what’s important to you ahead of your range live-fire time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with various ammo types and brands, different magazines, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds.

Continued success!

SIG SAUER Contact Information:

Phone: (603) 610-3000

Photos by author.

This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.   

© 2014 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • [email protected] says:

    I am a proud owner of only one pistol a West German Sig Sauer P226. This is a true combat weapon and was designed strictly for “business.” Its ergonomics and 4.4″ barrel yields better ballistic performance and accuracy than any of its other counterparts. That is why since the early 1990s the P226 remains the side-arm of choice by so many military- security- and civilian- professional users. One of the features in the original is that it is DA/SA. The P226 allows judicious use of the decocking lever. One can have a chambered round fully drop-safe, a round ready-to-fire, in DA (Double Action) mode and then, thereafter, firing subsequently in SA (Single Action).

    Other advices that need to be expressed:

    – Capacity for the model under review, and my handgun, is not just 15+1 but OEM magazines are available for 18-rounds and 20-rounds.

    – DA/SA configuration (original) is really not a problem or a negative preference, in fact it is probably preferred. It is part of the 4-point Sig-Sauer safety features, as fully explained above.

    • I think I’d rather have a 220. I like the larger caliber. How does the 250 compare?

      • Handgun Basics

        [email protected] replies:

        The P220, that you prefer, was the basis of what is now a large family, including the P225, P226, P228 and P229 pistols. The P220 was developed for the Swiss Army as a replacement for the SIG P210, which had been developed during World War II.

        As far as the ‘calibre’ preference of this family of handguns, the P series is available in different calibers – although the true answer to ‘caliber’ is ‘shot placement.’

        The P250 is available with a 3.60 in (91.4 mm), 3.86 in (98.0 mm), or 4.7 in (119.4 mm) barrel depending on the size (sub compact, compact, or full-sized, respectively). It also can be chambered in a choice of calbers — .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 9×19mm Parabellum, and .380 ACP.

        However, for my money, the P226 (I would then select the 9x19mm Parabellum caliber) is probably the ultimate gun to possess.

        • It depends on the carry situation. Where I live now I don’t have the luxury of winter closes to cover a larger gun. Smaller is better, especially with shorts and tee shirt. I like the full size guns better as they are easier to shoot well and are better for a home gun. That said, I like the quality of Sig products. A friend of mine had a 220 and I always admired it. For carry, I’d like to get a LC9s or a XDs. For home use, what I have now is ok. Now, the reason for the 45 or 9mm is to keep my ammo consistent. If I really want to stomp someone that breaks in, I’ll use my 444 rifle.

      • Handgun Basics

        [email protected] wants to know James:
        Why do you “like the larger caliber”?

  • Vanns40

    We all shoot and carry what we’re comfortable with. I’ve owned and carried Sigs and now own three Glocks. After more than 200K rounds each I was able to rebuild them completely myself. For the price of one Sig I can buy two Glocks. To each his own.

  • bullet2354

    A significant difference here is the safety latch. Most 226’s don’t have independent safety latches – and simply rely on the DA feature to act as a safety.

    In my view this one of the main selling points of classic DA/SA Sigs. I just don’t want to have to ‘think about’ whether or not my safety in on or off when I desperately need the gun to work.

  • mike connor

    Great review. I have a P229, while a little smaller it is fun to shoot. I would have a tough time on my next purchase, because I would want a good 1911 or sig p226.

  • Cal Greco

    Nice gun; but price? I try a Beretta but handle was to bulky for medium small hand so I ended up with a CZ 75b sao, and I really like it and more importantly it fits my hand like a glove.

    • Col Ben

      The G10 Checkered Grips really help the purchase on my 226. They are nice and thin and pricey, but worth it. Like my 75b SAO grip, but better. Try them some time. Continued success.