By Massad Ayoob
Although the polymer-framed, striker-fired designs predominate in police pistols today, the all-metal, hammer-fired double-action semiautomatic has not left the law enforcement armory by any means. Within that genre, the SIG Sauer currently predominates. When I was at the SIG factory in New Hampshire doing the research for the second edition of Gun Digest Book of SIG Sauer that came out last year, the SIG execs told me their single most popular pistol in current police service is the P229.
The P229 comes with a strong pedigree, descended from the P220 of the 1970’s. When the .40 S&W cartridge came out in 1990, as an answer to the question “16-shot 9mm or 8-shot .45,” some gunmakers jumped on the bandwagon by simply chambering their 9mms to .40, and came to grief. The new cartridge’s greater pressure and slide velocity were enough to cause problems. SIG wisely saw that coming, and took a couple of years to engineer for the .40 from the ground up.
As a result, when the P229 was introduced in 1992 it was good to go for .40 S&W. Extensive durability and torture testing, including the famous ICE tests, would prove that. Capacity was 12 rounds in the mag and of course, one more in the chamber. The pistol’s size was very close to the great old P228 9mm Compact, which meant if a department adopted it, the same gun could be used for uniform patrol, or plainclothes assignments and off-duty wear. It was also made available in 9mm, with larger capacity magazine, and in 1994 was offered chambered for .357 SIG with 12+1 standard capacity.
With SIG’s own 165-gr. duty ammo, P229R in .40 has put five
shots in 3.05″ from 25 yards. Best three are in 1.35″.
The P229 was an instant hit, and remained so. SIG tells me the .40-caliber is their larger seller in the P229 line. A P229R (with light rail) was the department issue weapon in the controversial but justified shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. As an expert witness, two of the officers I’m retained to speak for fired P229 .40’s when the crap hit the fan.
The P229 is also one of the most popular .357 SIG’s out there. Last I knew the state troopers of Delaware and Virginia were still carrying P229 .357’s and still extremely happy with their performance. The Air Marshal Service and the US Secret Service have likewise issued the .357 SIG P229 for quite some time. Personally, I’ve found the .357 SIG’s to be the most accurate of the P229 caliber choices. That said, I’ve always found the P229 to come a little short of the famous accuracy of its big brothers, the P220 and P226.
Like other SIG’s, the P229 comes in a variety of finishes. Most come to departments with SIGLite night sights, giving an excellent sight picture no matter what the light conditions. Its external hammer design has safety advantages: when holstering, holding the hammer down with the thumb is one more fail-safe if something (a jacket adjustment cord, or the shooter’s finger) gets between holster and trigger. That same thumb-on-hammer technique has proven reassuring to a generation of cops who carry concealed in the appendix position.
This P229R with E2 grips has just put 60 timed shots
into tight group on a qualification run.
P229R .40 works fine with TLR-1 light attached, gave this 2.85″ group
at 25 yards with Black Hills 180-gr. JHP. Best three hits are in 1.35″.
The P229R earns its suffix from the rail on the dust cover. Like other “classic-line” SIG’s, the P229 series can be had in “traditional double action” format with a long, fairly heavy pull for the first shot and a lighter, easier trigger pull for follow-up rounds. The rationale here is reduced likelihood of unintended discharge if a finger strays to the trigger under stress, but better hit potential in a hot and heavy gunfight going beyond one shot. For those agencies fearing their personnel may forget to de-cock before they holster, the DAK (Double Action, Kellerman) trigger option is one of the best double-action-only options out there, due to its extremely controllable pull.
Fit of gun-to-hand is a major concern in a general issue sidearm, and while the polymer pistols answer that with interchangeable backstraps, the P229 series takes a different approach. I’m very partial to their E2 grip design, standing for “Ergonomics squared.” A shorter reach trigger can also be ordered from the factory, or retrofitted by a SIG armorer.
The double-action auto pistol’s time in police holsters is a long way from over. The SIG P229 is one reason why.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index