Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sweet Carryin’ 9s part III—the SIG Model P239

The P239 was SIG’s answer to the model 3913 which was Smith & Wesson’s compact carry 9mm. It was a slender single stack pistol which made it easy to conceal and no hassle to wear. The S&W 3913 debuted in 1989 and, at that time the only SIG in competition was the single stack P225. The 225 was (it is no longer produced, being replaced by the 239) a part of what is still considered to be the “classic” line of SIG pistols whose classic profile can still be seen in their model s 226, 229, and 220.
The 239 that we are examining today is from their SAS (SIG Anti-Snag) line. This is an attractive two-toned pistol with a very nice set of wood grips. The 239 SAS is definitely designed to be a carry pistol as all of the sharp edges have been rounded off, hence the Anti-Snag moniker, and this model is also Double Action Only (DAO). The pistol also has the short reset trigger for faster follow-up shots and, my favorite, night sights.
Here are the P239’s stats:

Overall Width: 1.20"
Barrel Length: 3.6"
Sight Radius: 5.7"
Sights: SIGLITE® Night Sights
Weight w/ Mag: 27.5 oz / 29.7 oz
Mag Capacity: 8 Rounds
Grips: Custom Shop Wood Grips

Perhaps SIG felt that they needed something new to compete with Smith’s 3913 but, for whatever the reason, in usual SIG fashion they did not rush to market and waited until they had something worthy of being a part of the SIG line-up. So, seven years after the S&W 3913 hit the market SIG brought out the P239 and to my eyes it looks more like a Smith & Wesson semi-auto pistol than it does a classic SIG. The timing of the 239’s introduction was a coincidental and ironic marketing coup. In 1996 the American shooter was encumbered by the Clinton Crime Bill which ridiculously mandated a magazine capacity of no more than 10 rounds (remember how crime just plummeted…neither do I). This was a boon for smaller pistols like the 239 for a couple of reasons. For starters no one wanted to buy a full size pistol that normally held between 15 and 19 rounds but was now regulated to only 10. Most people felt that if it only held 10 rounds you might as well give the height and length a more proportional fit. The second phenomenon that occurred came as more and more states seemingly rebelled against the liberal anti-gun manifesto and passed concealed carry legislation allowing their law abiding citizens to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms for their own protection and people who had never carried before were much more comfortable in doing so with a smaller pistol.

The other advantage to SIG with its model 239 was an option of calibers; you could have your 239 in the ever popular 9mm or go for more power with the same pistol in caliber .40 S&W. The Smith 3913 could only be had in 9mm as their engineers could not figure out how to make it work with the .40 caliber cartridge. Eventually the 239 was also available in .357 SIG (but good luck finding one). Thus the 239 became a very viable self defense option as you had a relatively small package (however it is the largest of the pistols examined in this series), a good trigger pull (SIG lists the DOA 239 trigger pull at 7 pounds but my three pull average came in at 6.14 pounds) with easy trigger reach, and excellent sights with night sights available.

The only problem I have with the pistol is the grip frame. The grip feels too wide to me (and it is the widest of all pistols examined at 1.4 inches) especially as the grip frame is only housing a single stack magazine. The wide feel of the grip frame was the same whether or not the pistol was wearing the stock wood grips, SIG polymer grips or Hogue rubber grips. My remaining gripe, and it is a picky one, is the rounded trigger guard. I know that it is no longer in vogue but I still place my left index finger over the trigger guard. I’m sorry, but that was in fashion when I learned to shoot handguns, as taught to us by an instructor from the Chicago Police Department, and whenever I try to change my grip my accuracy goes out the window. I don’t pretend to be a great shot but I am a lot better than when I got serious about shooting in 2003 so I don’t want to do anything to mess that up.
The shooting advantage to the 239 is famous reputation for SIG reliability and accuracy. So, let’s look at the targets:

All targets fired for range fired with 115 grain FMJ Ammo:

25 rounds at 21 Feet

50 rounds at 21 Feet

16 rounds at 31 Feet

16 rounds at 50 Feet

30 rounds at 75 Feet

Defensive Ammo all fired at 21 feet:

5 rounds of Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point @ 21 Feet

5 rounds of Buffalo Bore 115 grain +P JHP

Although I do not find the grip to be comfortable for me, the 239 is extremely reliable and and accurate and that provides enough comfort to make up for the displeasing (to me) grip.