The SIG Sauer P229 is widely recognized by SIG pistol fans as one of the best designed and proportioned of the SIG P series pistols. The P229, in some ways, builds on the compact P228 9mm. However, the short and heavy slide of the P229 has no counterpart in a full-size pistol. Many American law enforcement officers, including the Secret Service and Federal Air Marshals, use the P229. As peace officers using the SIG may rightly state, “When the brass chooses the SIG for the rank and file, you know they have not purchased the low bid.”
The ancestor of the P229, and cornerstone of the SIG P series, is the SIG P220. Precision manufacture, excellent accuracy and top-flight reliability characterize the P220, which features a smooth double-action trigger press and excellent the trigger leverage. The trigger press actuates a draw bar that both cocks and drops the hammer, hence the term double action. After the first shot, the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for additional single-action shots. To safely lower the hammer from the full-cock position, a handy frame-mounted de-cocking lever is located just forward of the left grip and above the push-button magazine release.
The Slide and Lockup
The slide runs inside the frame rails rather than on the rails, as is the case with most competing designs, which gives the SIG a lower bore axis than most double-action pistols. The height of the centerline of the bore above the hand means a lot in handgun geometry. The lower the centerline of the bore or bore axis, the less leverage for the muzzle to rise in recoil. Even though the double-action pistol usually has a higher bore axis than a single-action, the SIG is an efficient design.
The P series uses the proven lockup now generally called the “SIG” lockup. Rather than using locking lugs, the barrel hood butts into the ejection port. The system allows excellent practical accuracy. The original P220 came in 9mm, and the .38 Super and .45 ACP followed. Then came the the modified, compact versions, including the P225 and the high-capacity P226 9mm pistol. The P228 is a compact version of the P226.
SIG introduced P229 pistol in 1992, designing it with a solid, durable stainless steel slide to absorb the recoil and increased momentum of the .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge. At the time, the slide design was unique to the P229. While some believe the SIG P229 is based on the 9mm SIG P228, that is difficult to rationalize, although they are much the same size and general appearance.
The P228 and full-size P226 each feature stamped-steel slides with solid breechblocks. The P229 is heavier so that it functions reliably with the high-pressure .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge. SIG purposely designed the P229 as a service pistol and, at the time, had no full-size .40 service pistol in its lineup. The heavy slide makes the pistol as heavy as a full-size P226, with a superb balance.
The P229 was among the best-selling new editions for SIG Sauer. The relatively compact pistol could be concealed if needed and is a good service pistol. The best thing about the P229 in particular, and the SIG pistols in general, is the reliability. The P229 is as reliable as a machine can be, with reliability defined as the propensity of a firearm to fire and continue to fire with each trigger press. The SIG pistols were proven in European and North American trials.
The Ohio State Patrol fired some 228,000 rounds in service pistol competitions to choose the SIG P226 as their service pistol, and the Secret Service has chosen the SIG P229. The heavy slide helps control recoil as designed, although the trigger action makes the pistol a joy to use and fire. The double-action trigger compression of the SIG P229 is one of the lightest and smoothest available, at just more than 11 pounds. The single-action trigger in my personal example breaks at a smooth 4.25 pounds. Trigger reset with the SIG is not as rapid as some designs, and it is a service design, rather than competition oriented.
The P229 continues with the excellent engineering inherent in the SIG line. The pistol is easily field stripped:
- Remove the magazine.
- Rack the slide to the rear.
- Lock the slide open using the slide stop.
- Check the chamber to be certain it is unloaded.
- Rotate the frame-mounted take-down lever to unlock the slide assembly.
- While controlling the slide, release the slide assembly and let it run forward off the frame.
- Lift the guide rod and recoil spring assembly off the barrel.
- Press the barrel out of the slide.
The requirements for maintenance and cleaning are that simple, and reassembly is the reverse. During many years of owning SIG pistols, and working at more than one agency that deployed the SIG, the only issues I have seen were the result of hard use. In either case, the magazine springs had weakened and caused short cycles, which usually occurs in high-capacity magazine firearms, so be sure to periodically check magazines for proper spring tension.
The SIG P series introduced good combat-worthy sights at a time when most self-loaders came with small military-type sights, and they improved the design through time. The illustrated SIG P229 is typical of late-model SIG manufacture. The sights feature an undercut above the rear white post that defeats glare in most light conditions and offer an ideal sight picture. At moderate range, use the standard black sight picture for rapid fire and coarse aiming in personal defense situations. For precise fire, use the white outline sight.
Shooting the SIG P229
The SIG design allows a practiced shooter to make hits well past 50 yards. The P229 retains the accuracy potential of the SIG P series pistols; however, the short sight radius limits absolute accuracy. The P229 handles and balances well, although the accuracy potential is not quite the same as the P220 and P226. This is no criticism of the pistol; it is simply a reflection of the law of physics and reality of diminishing returns.
When testing a number of SIG P229 pistols, a unique opportunity arose. The pistol is available in 9mm Luger, .357 SIG and .40 Smith and Wesson chamberings. I obtained a slide and magazine in 9mm Luger to test fire the pistol in 9mm. The original caliber is .40-caliber Smith and Wesson. Of the three, I believe the .40 caliber offers superior wound potential, while others may argue for the high-velocity .357 SIG. In the end, marksmanship is everything, and the 9mm Luger is definitely the most economical choice.
I also fired the pistol in .357 SIG using of a SIG factory barrel. The only thing to change when firing either .40 or .357 SIG ammunition is the barrel. The breech face and magazines are the same. Always exercise magazine and ammunition discipline if you own multiple barrels and slides for a single handgun. Firing a 9mm in the .40 chamber would result in a burst case; the .357 in the .40 chamber would be a disaster. You must change the slide and magazine to fire the 9mm in the P229.
Firing results were interesting. The 9mm Luger cartridge proved very pleasant to fire in this handgun, accurate and controllable. The recoil impulse in this 32-ounce pistol was quite controllable. Even moving to the hot Black Hills +P 9mm loading control remained excellent. The original .40 caliber set up was as expected, with more push—depending on the loading—and good accuracy.
The .357 SIG surprised me, and I admit little experience with that cartridge, which which increased the slide velocity. Recoil was almost whippy, although not unpleasant. It was faster, and the report of the cartridge louder. Even with single hearing protection, it was not actually more uncomfortable than the .40 caliber, and accuracy was excellent. While fired with a limited amount of ammunition, the .357 SIG was definitely the most interesting caliber.
I hope this gives anyone interested in the P229 food for thought. It is not often that a single handgun proves reliable, accurate and useful in three different calibers, with no fitting of the slide or barrel used. The P229 proved to accurate, reliable and useful with each caliber.
This handgun may be SIG SAUER’s best pistol yet.
Five-shot groups fired at 25 yards. Average of two five-shot groups fired from a solid bench-rest firing position.
SIG P229 with 9mm Barrel and Slide
|Black Hills 115-grain JHP +P||1244 fps||2.4 inches|
|Hornady 124-grain XTP||1101 fps||2.0 inches|
|Winchester 115-grain FMJ USA||1080 fps||2.5 inches|
SIG P229 .40 S
|Black Hills 155-grain JHP||1121 fps||1.9 inches|
|Hornady 180-grain XTP||954 fps||2.2 inches|
|Winchester 180-grain JHP||972 fps||2.3 inches|
|Cor Bon 115-grain JHP||1390 fps||1.75 inches|
|Hornady 135-grain Critical Duty||1203 fps||1.5 inches|
|Hornady 147-grain XTP||1190 fps||1.4 inches|
Features and Specifications
- Caliber: 9mm or .40 S&W, .357 SIG
- Action Type: DA/SA
- Trigger Pull DA: 10.0 lbs
- Trigger Pull SA: 4.4 lbs
- Overall Length: 7.1 in
- Overall Height: 5.4 in
- Overall Width: 1.5 in
- Barrel Length: 3.9 in
- Sight Radius: 5.7 in
- Weight w/Mag: 32.0 oz
- Mag Capacity: 10 or 13 rounds (9mm), 10 or 12 rounds (.40S&W, .357SIG)
- Sights: Contrast, SIGLITE Night Sights available
- Grips: Black Polymer Factory Grips
- Frame Finish: Black Hard Anodized
- Slide Finish: Nitron
Have you used the P229? What was it like? Would you recommend it to others? Do share in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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