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.
SIG P226 ELITE SAO SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES
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.
CRITERIA AND CONSIDERATIONS
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.
RANGE SHOOTING REPORT
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.
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].