Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SIG P229 – .357 SIG

SIG builds pistols that are renowned for their reliability and accuracy. They have become widely adopted by State, County, and Municipal law enforcement departments and probably split the majority of that market fairly evenly with Glock. In terms of Federal Agencies SIG clearly dominates. The full sized service pistol, the model 226, in 9mm was adopted by the Navy Seals after they encountered too many problems with their Beretta pistols and the more compact 229, in .40 S&W, was selected by the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security and from all reports everyone who has put the SIG into service has been very happy with them. Several agencies have opted for the .357 SIG caliber which can be found in the holsters of the Air Marshals, FBI, and Secret Service.

As mentioned above, the 229 is shorter in length than the 226 (7.1” versus 7.7 inches), is shorter in terms of height and carries 13 + 1 rounds. The shorter length and height makes the 229 a bit more concealable underneath the jackets of the FBI and Secret Service agents.
The SIG P229 was introduced at the SHOT Show in 1990. It is basically a Model 228 that has been beefed up to handle the .40 S&W cartridge that Smith & Wesson debuted in 1990 as a compromise between the 9mm and 10mm. After the devastating 1986 FBI shootout in Miami the Feds felt that their 9mm pistols, loaded with Winchester Silvertip 115 grain Hollow-Point ammunition failed them. While they toyed with the idea of switching to the time and battle tested .45 ACP, they eventually settled on the Smith & Wesson Model 1076 in 10mm. The 10mm was a pretty hot cartridge and the S&W 1076 was a fairly large pistol so this was not a fit with female and smaller male agents. Smith & Wesson convinced the Federal Cartridge company to make the .40 ammunition and Smith & Wesson began making a pistol to shoot it, although Glock beat them to the marketplace with their own pistol chambered in the new .40 Caliber.

With SIG’s outstanding reputation for reliability quickly rushing a problem pistol to market would not do, so even though it was introduced in 1990 it was did not hit the dealer’s shelves until 1992 and it was only chambered in .40 S&W at that time. It would be two more years before they brought it out in 9mm and then .357 SIG.

The .357 SIG Cartridge

The .357 SIG answered the call by law enforcement agencies that liked the capacity of semi-automatic pistols but were not completely pleased with the performance either the 9mm or .40 S&W round. They wanted a semi-auto pistol coupled with their .357 Magnum revolver round. As I wrote when preparing the review of the Glock 32C in .357 SIG (my apologies for repeating this to the liberal blogger who was offended by the upcoming description of the .357 SIG’s performance):

“SIG partnered with the Federal Cartridge company to provide police officers with a semi-auto pistol round that gave them the same performance as their magnum revolvers by putting a 9mm bullet in similar weights to the revolver cartridge into a necked down .40 caliber casing so that they could give it some more power. With a 125 grain bullet the .357 SIG zips along at a rate between 1350 and 1375 feet per second with a muzzle energy between 500 and 525 foot pounds. If you want a little more sizzle you can slip in a 100 grain CorBon Powerball which smokes out of the barrel at 1600 feet per second with 568 foot pounds of energy. But first, a word of caution; the .357 SIG pistol only fires the .357 SIG or .357 semi-auto Cartridge; unlike the .357 Magnum revolver you cannot put a .38 caliber round into the .357 semi-auto pistol, not even a .38 Super cartridge.”

The Delaware State Police were probably the first to employ the SIG P229 in .357 SIG followed by the Virginia State Police. Since then I think it was been approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the federal agencies mentioned in the first paragraph.

Shooting and Handling Impressions

The .357 SIG is a snappy little cartridge but not impossible to handle. You definitely know that you are firing a hot round, especially in the 125 grain JHP Remington load. SIG pistols tend to sit very high in the hand, meaning that the top of the slide is higher above the web of your hand than a CZ or Glock which causes more muzzle flip. This is not a pistol for someone who is sensitive to recoil.

The 229 is a classic SIG design with this pistol having the traditional DA/SA action. This pistol was also topped off with night sights which I feel is a must for any pistol which will be employed as a defensive tool. As would be expected with a SIG there were no failures to feed and the pistol operated very smoothly.

My only complaint with the 229 is grip width. Although the stated width is 1.5 inches I would swear that it feels more like 1.75. Swap the plastic with SIG wood grips and you will increase the girth even further. If you want to slim this pistol down you will have to go aluminum either through SIG or Hogue and neither is inexpensive; the SIG aluminum will set you back $180.00 and Hogue will siphon $140.00 out of your bank account. And…don’t forget to order the slim grip screws because the standard ones that came on you plastic grips will be too long.
The SIG 229 .357 has a reputation for accuracy that is on par with its revolver cartridge brethren and you can easily see that in the targets below:

Two targets at 21 feet both fired on with Sellier & Belloit FMJ ammo.

Target at 31 feet with the same ammunition:

Target at 50 feet with the same ammunition:

Target at 75 feet with the same ammunition:

Two Defensive Loads; target on the left was shot with Speer 125 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammunition at 21 feet and the target on the right was shot with Remington 125 grain Jacketed Hollow Point ammo.

There are those who have discounted the .357 SIG stating that it is still just a 9mm bullet. True but it basically has the same diameter, weight, velocity output, and energy displacement as the .357 Magnum so the argument has only the slightest of merit. Similarly, in one book I was reading, someone further discounted it saying it was really only a 9mm +P++. To which I would ask “is that a bad thing”?


Brian said...

ballpark how much did it cost and do you possibly know any dealers down toward red wing?

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...

Prices are all over the board right now with a lot of gouging going on. I would expect to pay in the neighborhood of $800.00. The are some better deals on GunsAmerica.com and you can always buy a .40 S&W and put in a .357 barrel. The only gun dealer I can find in Red Wing is A2Z on 4th street. I have no experience with them.

Skeeter_rtte said...

Great article!