As a writer, I do my dead-level best to test and evaluate every firearm that crosses my desk in a professional manner, including extensive range testing. Many of the commercial firearms are new and unproven, even when based on a proven handgun design. Every modification and new idiom must be proofed. Occasionally, I encounter a firearm that is proven more so than the rest. And then, there are the legends. For legends, there is little I may do to add or detract from the firearm’s reputation with my own test program. That is the case with the Sig Sauer P226 MK 25 or Navy Model.
This handgun has been in every hot spot on earth with our sailors and Navy Seals. To many of us this is the bottom line: the operator. While the mechanics of firearms are interesting and well worth anyone’s study, it is the people who use the firearms who are most interesting. As such, this is a handgun that most people approach with reverence. The type has been used in many actions, including an operation that was among the most important and successful anti-terrorist operation of all time.
Navy Declares P226 Superior
Let’s go back a few years and look at the decision to adopt the SIG 9mm pistol over the Beretta 92 for Navy use (in spite of Beretta getting the M9 contract). The SIG P226 is a high-capacity variant of the original SIG P220 9mm pistol. While military handguns, such as the Colt 1911, are sometimes adopted by civilians and the police, in this case, a purpose-designed police pistol became a military handgun. Without going into detail and opening a can of worms again, it seems that, in the original competition, the Navy chose the pistol with little consideration of ergonomics.
The Navy believed the SIG featured superior ergonomics and that, in light of certain failures during testing of the M9, the SIG is the superior handgun. Both handguns had received excellent grades and proven very reliable. The Beretta won the contract based on the low bid for a contract that included the pistols and spare parts. The Navy disagreed and purchased the SIG anyway. That is a simple view of a complex test, but the Navy made a good choice. While the SIG was not adopted by the U.S. Army, the P226 handgun secured thousands of police sales.
At the time of the military pistol trials, many police agencies were transitioning to the self-loading pistol. Some found the SIG ideally suited. The SIG P220 9mm handgun is a product of West German pistol trials. Designed with human engineering, reliability and accuracy foremost, the SIG P series are attractive handguns. The SIG P220 features a smooth, double-action trigger. After the first double-action trigger press, the pistol fires and the slide cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. There is no manual safety.
The double-action trigger is the safety feature. The handy, frame-mounted de-cocker lever allows you to de-cock the handgun easily, safely lowering the hammer to the ready position from full cock. Experienced users regard the SIG de-cocker as the superior system among service pistols.
The original P220 was chambered in 9mm Luger. SIG then offered a .45 ACP for the American market, and the high-capacity SIG P226 9mm proved highly popular as well. The Michigan state police were among the first American agencies to adopt the SIG P226. It is still a modern and reliable handgun and was an innovative design when first introduced. The pistol features a double-action trigger with a smoother compression than any handgun in its class. Compared to the external drawbar of the Beretta 92, the SIG P226 features an internal drawbar connecting the trigger to the hammer.
The original design featured an innovative lockup that the industry has adopted extensively. The lockup uses the barrel hood to lock into the slide. There are no locking lugs. Angled camming surfaces lock and unlock during the recoil cycle. The frame-mounted de-cocker is much easier to manipulate than the slide-mounted de-cocker/safety of the Beretta 92. Many tout the SIG pistol as having no manual safety but safety features. Among those is a positive firing pin block that locks the firing pin in place until you press the trigger completely to the rear.
Once SIG introduced a handgun with a firing pin block, all competitors followed suit, incorporating a positive firing pin block or drop safety into their designs; otherwise, they abrogated a chance at institutional sales. The sights have evolved from the original but have always been excellent combat sights. The pistol features a high-grade aluminum alloy frame, and the modern SIG P226 has a stainless steel slide.
SIG has offered the plastic grips in a number of different configurations and stippling. Series production runs of the SIG P226 handgun exhibited minor variations on the grip-strap checkering and control surfaces. Originally, SIG manufactured the pistols in West Germany, but today, they are made in Exeter, N.H.
A Reputation Well Earned
The SIG P series has earned a reputation as the most reliable handgun in the world. While this is a bold statement, the evidence and history speak for themselves. As just one example, the Ohio State Patrol (OSP) chose the SIG P226 as a service pistol after a grueling 228,000-round test of more than a dozen different handguns. As a side note, the SIG replaced the previous Beretta pistol in service with the OSP.
An interesting point about the OSP test is that they used a modified version. Often when a design is significantly modified from its original specifications, reliability suffers. The SIG that captured first place in the OSP test was a double-action-only variant in .40 caliber. Despite being chambered for a high-pressure/high-momentum cartridge and that the action was a major modification of the original, the pistol was the most reliable they tested. Overall, it was one among other impressive showings.
The pistol illustrated is a recent-production MK 25. A tell-tale sign of late-model production is the extractor design. The new design is easier to fit and replace, and while the original was more than serviceable, the new design is an improvement. The first production used steel slides and the original extractor design; the newer guns feature black-finished stainless slides and the domestic extractor design. An advantage of the SIG over most aluminum-frame handguns is the frame is Nitron finished.
The usual finish for aluminum-frame handguns is anodizing, which often wears during service use, leaving sections of exposed aluminum. Nitron finish is much more durable. The Picatinny rail is the most obvious design feature of the MK 25, compared to the original P226 pistol. During the test program, I used an Insight combat light with good results. The night sights are an excellent design and feature a good, crisp sight picture. The sight picture is ideal for defense use. The trigger action is smooth, breaking at 12 pounds in double action. The single-action trigger press is crisp and breaks at 4.25 pounds.
Reset is different from most double-action pistols. You are always in control with the P226 action. Reset is not as rapid as a competition handgun, but the action is ideal for a service handgun. If desired, you may fit the SIG Short Reset Trigger (SRT). The MK 25 is supplied in a locking plastic case, along with a total of three magazines, a realistic minimum with one in the pistol, one on the belt and one resting.
Prior to range testing, I lubricated the pistol and loaded the magazines in the preferred way to preserve reliability in high-capacity magazines. I loaded the magazine with three rounds and tapped the magazine base on the boot heel to ensure the rounds seated. I loaded the magazine that way until there were 15 rounds in each magazine. I gave the magazine a final rap to securely seat all the cartridges. That method ensures good feed reliability.
I performed the first firing test with Winchester 124-grain ball ammunition. That “white box” loading is accurate enough for meaningful practice and reliable. For the initial testing, I executed rapid presentations from holster ready. The pistol feels good in the hand, and the combination of good sights and a smooth trigger press added up to good hits. The recoil impulse is straight back.
A pistol this size is very controllable with the 9mm cartridge. Rapid-fire hits were sure and accurate. As the front sight hit the target and I pressed the trigger, I had a hit. For those who practice, the SIG P226 is a pistol that responds well to the proper technique. It was no problem to put every round in a magazine into the center mass of a man-sized target at 25 yards. During the initial evaluation of the new-in-the-box pistol, there were no failures to feed chamber fire or eject.
Some 20 years ago, an agency I served with issued the SIG P226 pistol. Although I later qualified with and carried the SIG P220, I gained a great respect for the P226 pistol. That was my introduction to the SIG P series, a positive experience. The M25 variant is slightly more accurate than the P226 I carried on duty. The added weight of the light rail seems to dampen recoil to an extent. After the first evaluation with training ammunition, I fired the pistol with service-grade ammunition.
The 9mm demands an expanding bullet for adequate wound potential. The projectile should penetrate a minimum of 12 inches in ballistic media and expand to 1.5 inches of its original diameter. That demands a +P or even +P+ loading. Among the loadings that enjoy an excellent reputation in service is the Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+. That load exhibits an ideal balance of expansion and penetration. Function is good and so is accuracy. The 127-grain SXT breaks 1,240 fps from the SIG P226, making it an estimable loading with a good track record. A reasonable alternative that is more readily available is the Winchester 124-grain +P, which exhibits 1,198 fps in velocity. Both loadings are accurate, reliable and tactically sound.
There is always a counter argument in wound ballistics, and some prefer a bullet that is heavier than standard, drives deeper in penetration, and has a balance of expansion and penetration that favors penetration. There is also the argument that a heavier bullet with longer bearing surface demonstrates greater accuracy potential. That is difficult to prove, but the 147-grain-weight bullets are often quite accurate. I would be remiss not to test at least one heavyweight in the SIG P226.
The Fiocchi 147-grain Extrema has proven accurate and reliable in a number of handguns, and the SIG P226 was no exception. That load breaks 950 fps from the P226. Penetration is on the deep end. The load is mild to fire and burns clean. The firing evaluation went well, without a single malfunction. If the heavy 9mm bullet is your mantra, this is a good example of the breed. Once I proofed the pistol with a variety of service loads, I fired it for absolute accuracy from a bench rest. The results were excellent for a service pistol. SIG designed the original SIG P220, the primogenitor of the P226, for accuracy. The German police in the 1970s trials demanded that the handgun be accurate enough for hostage rescue shots. The SIG P series was born out of the war on terror, and today, it continues to serve on the front line in that capacity.
Average of two, 5-shot groups from a solid bench rest at 25 yards.
|Winchester 124-grain FMJ||3.0 inches|
|Winchester 124-grain +P||2.0 inches|
|Winchester 127-grain SXT +P||1.8 inches|
|Fiocchi FMJ123-grain Combat FMJ||2.1 inches|
|Fiocchi 147-grain Extrema JHP||1.65 inches|
- Caliber: 9mm
- Action Type: DA/SA
- Trigger Pull DA: 10.0 lbs (actual weight, 12 pounds)
- Trigger Pull SA: 4.4 lbs (actual compression, 4.25 pounds)
- Overall Length: 7.7 in
- Overall Height: 5.5 in
- Overall Width: 1.5 in
- Barrel Length: 4.4 in
- Sight Radius: 6.3 in
- Weight with Magazine: 34.4 oz
- Magazine Capacity: 15 rounds
- Sights: SIGLITE night sights
- Grips: Black polymer factory grips
- Frame Finish: Black hard anodized
- Slide Finish: Nitron
- Accessory Rail: Yes
- Features: UID identification label, anti-corrosion coatings on controls and internal components, anchor engraving
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Do you use a SIG P226 Navy Model M25, and why or why not? What is your experience with the legendary piece? Tell us about it in the comment section.