Range Report: SIG SAUER’s Best Pistol—the P229

By Bob Campbell published on in Range Reports

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 Trigger

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

This Nitron finished P229 features a light rail and night sights.

This Nitron-finished P229 features a light rail and night sights.

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 SIG P229 Ships with Everything you Need

This two-tone SIG was purchased with a spare 9mm slide and magazine.

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.

Field Stripping

The P229 continues with the excellent engineering inherent in the SIG line. The pistol is easily field stripped:

  1. Remove the magazine.
  2. Rack the slide to the rear.
  3. Lock the slide open using the slide stop.
  4. Check the chamber to be certain it is unloaded.
  5. Rotate the frame-mounted take-down lever to unlock the slide assembly.
  6. While controlling the slide, release the slide assembly and let it run forward off the frame.
  7. Lift the guide rod and recoil spring assembly off the barrel.
  8. 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 Sights

The SIG P229 with a focus on the combat sight.

The SIG’s combat sights are well suited to the task of quickly engaging and hitting a target.

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.

P229 with 2 Slides on a gray background.

When you have a pistol on hand with two slides for two different calibers, ammunition and magazine discipline is vital. But the utility is something to consider in times of ammunition shortages.

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 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 no less comfortable 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.

A young woman in a light blue shirt with ear protection shoots the SIG P229 at a target.

The P229 fits most hands well and is a popular service pistol. This Army wife enjoys handling the SIG.

This handgun may be SIG SAUER’s best pistol yet.

Accuracy Results

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

Load Velocity Group
 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

Load Velocity Group
 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

.357 SIG

Load Velocity Group
 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

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Have you used the P229? What was it like? Would you recommend it to others? Do share in the comments section.

SLRule

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 Shooter’s 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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (65)

  • Jim McDonald

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    One point of issue with this article. In the Slide and Lockup section, the slide is described as being inside the frame, and in my 229, it is outside.
    In my CZ 75, the slide IS inside the frame, and is my favorite 9MM.
    I am suprised that this was not caught.

    Reply

  • John Friesen

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    Most of us have fired many different pistols with many different calibers, do yourself a favor and give the P 229 sas in .357 sig a try and you will see for yourself that the potential is built into that platform/caliber combination, to give yourself confidence and peace of mind, should you find yourself—- in harms way !

    Reply

  • CharlieSubmariner

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    I see this is the author’s carry. I’m a lefty. I know some Sig’s are ambidextrous. How would this rate? I don’t have “meat hooks”, but not small hands either. This or another good for concealed carry?

    Reply

  • Jason Bowman

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    I purchased my first sig earlier this year the p229 40 and it’s by far the best hand gun I’ve ever owned very accurate and so simple to field strip a perfect firearm

    Reply

  • César Manuel

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    Soy el feliz poseedor de una sig 228 y estoy asombrado de como dispara. La consegui usada de casualidad. Vivo en la Argentina que lamentablemente estamos proximos a una ley de desarme civil. Espero que no ocurra. Vivan las armas y vivan los hermanos norteamericanos!!! viva la cultura estadounidense, que fue la que tuve en mi infancia y estoy agradecido por ello. Reniego de la cultura indigena que legamos de los indios. Deberíamos haber sido USA en toda su extension hacia el sur y seriamos la nacion mas grande. Abrazos fraternos.

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

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      A rough english translation ~Dave Dolbee
      I am the happy owner of a sig 228 and am amazed at how fired. I got used the chance. I live in Argentina we are sadly coming to a civilian disarmament law . I hope that does not happen. Live weapons and live the American brothers !!! American culture alive , which was what I had in my childhood and I’m grateful for that. Disown the indigenous culture of the Indians bequeath . We should have been used throughout its extension to the south and we would be the largest nation. Fraternal embrace.

      Reply

  • Spacegunner

    |

    Just sayin’ (from looking at SIG Sauer’s website). It appears from the pictures that the entire line of SIG P22x pistols has “reverted back” to the 2-piece slide/firing-pin block as used in the original P220, P225, P226, & P228 (M11). The pictures show the double roll pin that holds the FP block into the formed/welded slide instead of the one-piece extruded/machined slide that first appeared on the original P229’s.

    There is no detriment to either slide design, and I have never had issues with my P226 (.40 S&W & .357 SIG) or my P228 (9 mm). I find it interesting that the pictures show the old slide design. Maybe a call to SIG will get clarification.

    Nothing against any other brand/make, but I am a SIG shooter, and will always be for defensive & competition handguns. They work for me, I am very familiar (muscle memory of drawing, sighting, shooting, de-cocking, reloading, holstering, etc.) with my SIG’s.

    I know of at least two instances of LE officers who shot themselves in the leg at a popular shooting school because they decided to switch away from their usual carry weapons to unfamiliar platforms for the high-intensity training courses.

    Being SAFE (#1) & proficient (#2) comes with familiarity & consistency of equipment, techniques & practice. While it is OK to shoot different weapons, one must be aware of what platform is being employed.

    Enough said – for now!

    Reply

  • Joey

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    I tried the p229 in 40 and was amazed. I could put a whole mag in a playing card standing up firing at a pretty rapid pace at 25m. I’m sold on them and they say the p226 beat the 92f in the military tests but politics got in the way- same thing happened between the m-14 and fal. The 92f is a good gun- Incan hit silouhettes at 100 yards witha p226 or a 92f. But yeah that p229 is excellent.

    Reply

  • Michael R

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    As many of us regret selling one of our firearm and we see an article like this and really regret selling a firearm. This is one gun that I sold several years ago due to financial issues. I have owned some cheaper priced 9mm’s from other manufactures and it makes me really miss the gun. One day I will hopefully be able to purchase a Sig again.

    Reply

  • Johnny D

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    I purchased the Sig P229 after extensive research and my own personal needs (mainly DA/SA 9mm). This is still one of the best purchases I have made to date. When I think of a perfect combat handgun, the P229 is what I picture.

    Reply

  • DarthVaderMentor

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    I could be an idiot or maybe it’s your ignorance, but the Glock 19 I saw in pieces was pretty shattered. Even Beretta M9s, as bad as they are, don’t fall to pieces when they get a direct hit.

    Reply

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