Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sig P226 VS Glock 19 - Combat Sidearm Comparison

Striker vs Hammer, Polymer vs Steel

The Sig P226 is often touted as the chosen weapon of the Navy Seals thus giving it the stamp of approval as the best option out there for a combat sidearm.  I bought one partially on that assumption but also on the long standing reputation that Sig Sauer has for the production of premium grade weapons.  I am a Sig Fan to the extent that I agree they make an elegant weapon and have designs that originated a safe system of reliable operation that set a standard for fast-into-service combat sidearms.

The safe function of the weapon is one reason that I chose to try the P226 since I always wondered if I would some day have a negligent discharge with the G19.  Regardless of  the theoretical safety measures to me there is little standing between your training, loss of attention, a mistakenly pulled trigger, and a very bad day.  The long trigger pull in DA(double action) of the Sig P226 stands as a more reliable safety mechanism than the trigger safety of the Glock in my opinion.   Of course another option exists where you don't carry a chambered round and chamber the round as part of your presentation into use.  While training this method can suffice though it is not the ideal.

Rather than spend a tremendous amount of time of technical aspects of the P226 I want to give you my take on this weapon compared to the newer designs that have over time surpassed this once innovative pistol, but time has now demonstrated some deficiencies compared to the improved and updated alternatives currently available.

A Maintenance Queen compared to the Glock
An all metal gun requires lubrication and the Sig P226 doesn't like to operate without full lubrication on the rails and other working metal surfaces.   You can fire the Sig dry but it will wear the bearing surfaces on the slide and frame much faster and may notice it is not smooth in operation.   This does make the weapon one that requires more regular maintenance  than many are used to in the world of polymer guns like the Glock.  If you don't have a penchant for consistent cleaning and maintenance on the weapon I suggest you consider staying with polymer.   Because many military grade weapons have an armorer to maintain them it is much more likely that these can be kept working in top condition.  The G19 doesn't care and you can virtually operate it dry or simply oiled since the slick surfaces of polymer don't seem to have any wearing effects on the steel slide.  I do add lubricant but know it is not critical on the Glock.

Take-Down Is Easy
Take-down is easy enough.  Just lock the slide back and rotate the take-down lever until it is vertical.  At that point you can remove the slide forward.  The P226 is very easy to take down.  I find  it is as easy the Glock19 when it comes to separating the slide from the frame.

Sig P226 Parts - 5 Easy Pieces
Once you've removed the slide you have 5 basic parts to manage which in that regard makes it an easy gun to clean.  The main thing is that you should clean it regularly and put gun grease on the rails to insure reduced wear on metal on metal surfaces contact points.  This is an intricate weapon to complete an armorer breakdown  despite the limited number for a simple take-down for cleaning and lubrication. 

Glock 19 Parts - 4 Easy Pieces
The Glock has a 4 piece take-down for cleaning and lubrication.  The spring is integral to the recoil assembly and guide rod so there is no chance of inverting the spring incorrectly or losing it.  The current cost of a recoil assembly for a Glock 19 is around $7  compared to the guide rod for the Sig at $14 and the spring at $8.  With a Glock you can have 3 extras versus one for the Sig at the same price.

Barrel Height Argument - Bore Axis
There is an argument about the higher than ideal bore axis in the P226 relative to the grip.  The effect of it is to make the front of the barrel push up with rotational force centered on the fulcrum of the hand on the grip thus driving the grip downward into the V between the thumb and index finger.  This direction of force puts strain on the hand and muzzle flip slows recovery efforts despite a heavy and longer slide and barrel.   The grip size has an effect on this so the original Sig grip size helped manage the flip by giving you a greater purchase on the weapon, but larger hands liked this grip better than small hands many of us have.  When I replaced the full size grip with the E2 grip it felt better in my hand but I felt a loss of control rather than an increase in recoil management.  Comparing the recoil of the standard Glock19 to the Sig P226 I find the recoil more manageable in a G19 weighing 7 ounces less which cannot easily be explained unless you include the barrel height, grip shape and size, recoil spring, and slide weight and length.  Unfortunately, no one has been able to decisively outline to my satisfaction what effect each of these has on the felt recoil of a given weapon likely because there are too many variables.  Individual choice and perception then comes into play.  So I am essentially giving you an opinion based on my experience to assist you in choosing a personal weapon system.  If you have trouble controlling the Sig P226 it may be due to the combination of a higher than ideal barrel height combined with grip size and shape to create a hard to mange firearm.

Specification Comparisons
I performed these measurements with a postal scale and tape measure.  The barrel height/bore axis determination was simply the highest point my hand could reach on the grip to the center of the barrel.  According to my interpretation Glock measures barrel height as the distance between the point furthest forward on the grip so the numbers come up differently but I don't have Sig Specs on this and therefore needed to have a consistent means of measuring.  Converting this to a ratio or percentages should clarify the results. Other methodology might be more technically correct but the focus here is to get a ratio and percentage of the difference so that shouldn't change appreciably regardless of method.  The bore axis of the G19 is 54% of the SigP226.  This means that the net effect of the rotational force on the Sig is almost double that of the Glock and despite the 7 ounce weight difference the Glock still has a feeling of less muzzle rise.

As you can see the Sig carries 7 oz. more in weight and you would hope a proportional decrease in felt recoil due to the added mass.  All things being equal this should apply but the shock absorption of the polymer combined with the comparatively low bore height gives the Glock 19 a discernible reduction in shock against the hand.  Muzzle flip also seems more manageable along with follow up shots.  Without a methodology to measure these variables we are left with subjective opinions and my opinion is that the Sig P226 has much greater muzzle flip than the Glock and also delivers considerable shock to the shooting hand that I never noticed in the Glock.

Sig P226 -Weight Unloaded 28.2 oz  - Bore  Height - Bore Axis to Grip Distance Approx 1.4"
Glock 19 -Weight Unloaded  21. oz  -  Bore Height - Bore Axis to Grip Distance Approx. .75" (Glock identifies their bore height at 1.25")

Bore Height:  Glock uses the term bore height in their specifications while Sig doesn't include this information on their specification list.   Many writers have used the term bore axis but in specification literature it is probably best to stick with terms the engineers and manufacturers use.   I use both.

The image below is a 25 foot grouping I was able to get with a rental Sig P226.  The truth is that I could never match this group again with the one I later purchased.  I am a long term Glock shooter and found that I was aiming low on this gun.  Still I was impressed with the tight group and figured that I could eventually learn to keep it in a bulls eye.

As time progressed and I developed the ability to manage the muzzle flip and recoil which you can do but this takes a considerable amount of range time, at least it did for me.   Later when trying a P229 I found the muzzle flip less noticeable and less of a control issue.

My accuracy with the Glock is equal to this image but it will go to the bulls eye instead at 25 feet.   Much of this is training I am sure but the fact is that the Glock is more accurate than most shooters are so the issue is in learning to use the gun.

As an added bit of information.  I spent hard cash on a Sig action enhancement along with the SRT installation.  There is no doubt that this greatly improved the feel of the trigger and it did help my accuracy to the point where I was then close to my Glock 19 results with a factory trigger.  By this time I was well over $1200 invested into a handgun that wasn't really a joy to shoot.  I also have a Sig P229 E2 that handles much better and seems to generate less muzzle flip.  The long DA trigger pull is something I would avoid but it does give you that element of safety on the first shot not available on the Glock.  I don't like safeties at all since in a stressful situation it is really embarrassing to pull the trigger and get no movement.  If you ever had that happen at the range it is really disconcerting.  I still hesitate to say just get a Glock since you may be looking at other options for that added safety element that I have searched for so the search continues, but in the meantime I'd have a Glock 19 in my collection.

Trigger Reset
 The trigger reset point on a standard P226 is nowhere near as good as a Glock 19 reset point.  If you are trained on a Glock for the reset you will find the P226 difficult.  Also, you will find the long double action pull of the P226 hard to manage without considerable training.  The newer E2 versions of the P226 have a smaller grip and come with a short reset trigger (SRT), and will improve your performance and accuracy considerably.   If you have an older version or can get a good deal on a used one you can upgrade by purchasing the kit or sending it back to Sig for upgrade for around $100.  Often they will have a seasonal promotion that will allow you to upgrade at a much lower cost than usual.  Sig P226 Upgrades.

.22 conversion Kit

The .22 conversion kit works well for the Sig but it does have one issue related to function.  The Sig doesn't hold open after the last shot unlike the Glock .22 conversion kit.  I don't know if this risks damage to the firing pin like it does for most rimfire weapons but I usually found myself counting shots to prevent any possible damage.  Also know that you have to use high velocity .22 LR rounds.  The only ammo I found that works well in this conversion is .22 Mini Mags by CCI.

Why is the Glock 19 the Reference Comparison Weapon
 The Glock 17 is probably a more direct comparison in size to the Sig P226, but since I don't currently have a Glock 17 I thought the 19 would substitute quite well.  Also, the P226 has a standard capacity of 15 rounds making it the same as the G19 in terms of capacity.  You can get aftermarket magazines for the P226 that will hold 18 rounds flush but you'd have to seek them out.  You can do the same with a G19 if you add an extender to give it a 17 round capacity.

Other reasons for comparing it to the Glock 19  are that it stands as the best example of current handgun technology and is the younger brother to the Glock 17.    It fills the role of a simple,  reliable, low cost, combat accurate weapon that is size and weight efficient.   It can fill the dual role of a service arm and a concealed carry weapon.   I also chose to compare the Sig P226 to the Glock 19 simply because I am a G19 user and have been so ever since that model came out in the 1980's.    I am fully acclimated to the Glock trigger, reset, and safe handling methods and see the Glock weapon system as the basis of an ideal compromise between firepower and stopping power.  I did have a Glock 17 but found the grip size was better for me on the 19 and realized then as now that the G19 in general can be an all around all purpose sidearm.

Update: February, 24, 2019             -------------------------------------------------

Glock 19 Added to the Navy Seal Inventory

Why the Navy Seals are Shifting from Sig to Glock

U.S. Navy Switches to Glock 19 - bluesheepdog.com

Glock 19 in the Hands of Navy Seals - loadoutroom..com 

How the Navy Seals went from the Sig P226 to the Glock 19 - nationalinterest.org

As you can see, the switch to the Glock 19 from the Sig P226 seems to be a done deal for the Navy Seals.   It's no surprise to me that eventually all of the Sig P226 pistols will be replaced with a gun at less than half of the cost each leaving more money for ammunition and training costs.  Additionally, the maintenance costs and need for armorer maintenance will be reduced drastically.  I wouldn't be surprised if all Navy Seals eventually become certified Glock Armorers as part of their training thus making them self sufficient for complete care of this tool of war.


  1. You are correct in that a Sig P226 requires a more trained shooter than a Glock so it is not for those who need a light trigger and simple to operate gun. There has to be a reason why the U.S. Military, even the elite special forces, never ask for Glocks to fight with.

    1. I need to research more why the military and government agencies go with these. I suspect that the original decision to use these also included the fact they were made in Germany to very high standards as compared to the newer ones. This is what I have read.

  2. I own a sig p229, but the military is a little bias with a gun that does not have second strike capabilities. The second think that a glock lacks is the external safety. I don't think glock is that interested in changing the design for the U.S military, but other countries use it quite well

    1. Your points on the U.S. military preferring an external safety and a second strike are very good. I have heard that before and it makes sense especially since retraining an Army for a new system is expensive. I go back and forth on this regarding the Glock and safety. There is nothing more embarrassing than putting a hole in your foot or leg by firing the gun accidentally whether putting it into the holster or removing it. I like the Sig P229 for the similar size it has to the Glock19 and the better feeling of balance. I don't like manual safeties in general because I have many time pulled the trigger at the range and found the safety on, another embarrassment. The simplicity of the Glock is still one of the main reasons to choose that as your sidearm. The Israeli method of pulling the slide while drawing the weapon is probably the safest way to avoid a negligent discharge.



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