As you will read in a number of my articles, during my law enforcement career, I was fortunate to work for agencies that allowed varying degrees of flexibility, when it came to agency firearms policies. This was especially the case, when I served as a U.S. Customs Service Patrol Officer, Air Officer, Special Agent and Senior Special Agent. Having this level of flexibility enabled me to carry various government issued and personally owned firearms in different calibers. In federal service, this level of flexibility authorized the carrying of handguns chambered in 9mm, .45 ACP, .38 Special, .357 Magnum and .380 ACP caliber.
THE 9MM SIG 226
Shortly, after I transferred to Miami in 1985, SIG Sauer established a company based in Virginia called SIGARMS. SIGARMS was the entity that imported SIG Sauer firearms into the U.S. Initially, the DA/SA SIG 220 was the first SIG pistol imported into the United States. As a point of information, the Swiss adopted the P226 in 9mm, also known as the P75, as their military service pistol in 1975. Unlike the more modern design, the original DA/SA SIG 220 was a 9mm pistol that utilized a single column magazine and the European “heel mounted” magazine release, that was located at the bottom of the grip. Because the 1980s was the era when high capacity 9mm pistols were coming into widespread law enforcement service, SIGARMS reacted to this trend by creating the 9mm SIG 226. In essence, the P226 was a SIG 220 with a redesigned aluminum frame, that accommodated a 15 round magazine and a more traditional frame mounted magazine release button. The early SIGs were also manufactured with a carbon steel slide assembly.
As soon as the now famous 9mm SIG 226 became available, a buddy of mine put me in contact with a senior gunsmith at SIGARMS. One thing led to another and before long I became the proud owner of a P226. When I mentioned my concern about corrosion, due to being stationed in Miami, my new contact at SIG sent me an un-cataloged Parkerized 9mm SIG 226. Bear in mind, that during this period of time, night sights were initially unavailable.
I took a brief vacation from carrying my 9mm SIG 226 when I transferred to U.S. Customs Air Operations and I was issued a .45 ACP caliber S/A Colt Series 70 Government Model 1911 and a S/A 9mm Browning Hi Power. When I was promoted again and I became a Special Agent assigned to the Miami Air Smuggling Investigations Group 7, I adopted the 9mm SIG 228 as soon as this pistol became available. The compact P228 was adopted because this pistol was better suited to my new duties as a criminal investigator.
The 9mm SIG 225 was also available at that time. The P225 was a SIG 228 size compact pistol that utilized a lightweight alloy frame, that accommodated a single column 8 round magazine. The original P225 also carried the designation of P6 when used by the West German Police. (The SIG 228 is basically a high capacity SIG 225. The 228 was designed to appeal to a market that was gravitating toward the use of higher capacity 9mm pistols.)
Even though I had one of my 9mm SIG 226 pistols Parkerized to aid in corrosion resistance, at no time have I ever owned a firearm that became damaged, or inoperable due to corrosion. In fact, when I worked in NYC as a uniformed police officer, I carried an issued blue steel Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special service revolver in a duty holster in all four seasons. I also carried a number of other revolvers and pistols that were constructed in “blued steel.” None of these handguns ever failed to work as designed, despite being constantly exposed to the elements. This included my carbon steel 9mm SIG 226 and my carbon steel 9mm SIG 228, both pistols that were carried in torrential rain storms, in and around salt water, throughout the Caribbean, in harsh winter blizzard conditions, as well as in desert terrain.
I mention this because you should be concerned about the impact of corrosion and the use of firearms in harsh operating conditions. The simple truth is, that even firearms that have a reputation for holding up after exposure to the elements and extensive use, need to be properly maintained. As a result, I maintain all of my firearms the same way, regardless of how they are constructed and whether they have a corrosive resistant finish.
In order to accommodate being chambered in .40 S&W and .357 SIG calibers, SIG developed the SIG 229, a compact pistol on par with the 228, only the 229 was manufactured with a blackened stainless steel slide assembly and a lightweight alloy frame. This also resulted in the development of a “new” P226, the P226 MK25 Navy, the 220, 220 Carry, the 220 Compact, the SP2022, the 239, the M11A1, the 225A1 and the 224 models with the same type of stainless steel slide construction. To aid in corrosion resistance, a Nitron coating was applied to the stainless slide assembly.
The DAK trigger system also came into service as SIG’s version of a Double Action Only style operating mechanism. Personally, I always believed that the DAK trigger was underrated and deserved more attention. The DAK trigger system was especially easy to transition to, for end users who were revolver shooters. In fact, one of THE MOST accurate SIGs I ever owned and trained with, was a P220 Carry Model in .45 ACP, that was fitted with a super smooth DAK trigger. I also evaluated a SIG 224 with a DAK trigger that was also very easy to shoot with precision.”
Personally, I never cared much for the Single Action Trigger that SIG offers on some of their Classic Series of pistols. I felt this way, because the SIG S/A trigger on a Classic Pistol like the 220, isn’t really the same S/A trigger that you find on a 1911 style pistol. Instead, the S/A trigger that is offered on Classic SIGs feels like the same S/A trigger that is used on a DA/SA pistol.
In all of the years that I have owned and evaluated SIG pistols, I have never experienced a malfunction or a stoppage of any kind, with any carbon steel made 9mm SIG 226, 9mm SIG 228, 9mm 225, or with a blackened stainless steel made 9mm SIG 226 MK25 Navy Model, a 9mm SIG 226 DAK, a DA/SA SIG 226 in .40 S&W, a DA/SA SIG 226 in ,357 SIG, a 9mm DA/SA SIG 239, a 9mm SIG 239 DAK, a 9mm 239 SAS, a 9mm DA/SA 229, a 9mm 229 DAK, a 229 in .357 SIG with a DAK trigger, a 9mm DA/SA SP 2022, a DA/SA sig pro 2340 in .40 S&W, a DA/SA SIG 220 Carry Model 45 ACP, a SIG 220 DAK in .45 ACP, two different S/A SIG 220s in .45 ACP, an all stainless DA/SA SIG 220 .45, two different DA/SA 220 Compacts in .45 ACP (one two tone and one black Nitron finished), a 9mm SIG M11 (228), a 9mm SIG M11A1 (228), a SIG 224 DAK in .40, a 9mm DA/SA 224, or a DA/SA SIG 232 in .380.
Of the four full size DA/SA SIG 220s in .45 ACP that I have owned and or evaluated, three were flawlessly reliable. This includes the SIG 220 in .45 ACP that I carried during my career as a U.S. Customs Agent. One of the four full size black Nitron coated 220s experienced one malfunction that was my fault. In this instance, I took this 220 to the range after storing this pistol in my safe for a number of months. Due to a complete lack of lubrication this pistol experienced one stoppage. Once this 220 was lubricated in the field, it returned to performing without any problems. This same pistol also experienced a malfunction that was ammunition related.
In addition, one of the DA/SA SIG 229s in 40 S&W that I owned experienced one malfunction due to a defective magazine. Once the magazine was replaced the pistol functioned flawlessly. This is why you should NEVER carry any magazine fed firearm before you field test your magazines, to insure that they function reliably at all times, with all kinds of ammunition. I also experienced a feeding problem with a DA/SA SIG 229 in 40 S&W, while using an early interchangeable .357 SIG barrel Once this pistol was sent to the factory forinspection, it returned in fine working order. As stated above, all of the other 229s that I have owned and field tested were flawlessly reliable.
I also tried field testing a new in the box 9mm SIG 226 Enhanced Elite that had to be a factory lemon, because this pistol was horribly unreliable, so much so it wasn’t worth continuing the test. As you can see from the rather detailed data provided above, encountering a reliability problem with Classic Series SIG Pistols is a very rare occurrence. The fact that it can happen is the main reason why you must test fire and periodically train with the firearms that you rely on for personal protection and home defense.
TALON TO THE RESCUE
Now that I am older and have arthritis, I noticed that I was beginning to feel the effects of recoil, even though my Classic SIG pistols were equipped with after market screw on rubber grips. At this point I had two choices. One was to stop carrying my Classic SIG pistols. The other option, was to see if installing a set of Talon Rubber Grips on a SIG 228 would provide improved ergonomics, while also serving to tame the effects of recoil. Much to my surprise, the Talon Grips provided just enough textured rubber material covering the surface of the factory SIG grips, to make my P228 comfortable to grip and shoot with a wide variety of ammunition. Where I’m from they call this a “good deal.”
After conducting this side by side comparison, I also decided to replace the screw on rubber grips that are currently on my SIG 226, with a set of Talon Rubber Grips. However, be advised that if you intend to remove the original screw on factory SIG grips, once they are covered with Talon Rubber Grips, you need to remove some additional material. This is necessary to expose the original side panel screws and allow for the removable of the grips.
In a day and age when all kinds of new and improved striker fired pistols are being manufactured, I still find my DA/SA Classic Series carbon steel 9mm SIG Pistols to be just as capable and effective, as any of the more modern designs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t own and carry more “modern” Personal Defense Weapons. I use what works for me, because in the end, that’s all that matters.
About the Author
Nick Jacobellis is a Medically Retired Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Customs Service who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working in undercover operations. Prior to joining the U.S. Customs Service the author served as a police officer and investigator for various law enforcement agencies in New York. To date, the author has published over 180 magazine articles and eight books.
The author has a Bachelor of Science Degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is married and has two sons and two grandsons.
Nick’s books include: