By Don Palmer
Written on 03/01/2004
The comparison between the Sig Pro and the Sig P229 has been touched upon in previous articles. I do not intend to repeat much of their statistical information in this, but to instead, give you a user point of view instead of technical. The Sig "P" series dates back to the 1980s, when Sig developed the P220 in response to demand for a less expensive pistol than the venerable P210. Since this time the P220 has been the model that every other "P" series pistol has been developed from. The P226 was designed to meet the needs of the U.S. Military in competition against the Beretta 92 when it was decided by the powers that be that the 1911 had lived its term. Sig lost the contract to Beretta because of price; the Sig was simply too costly. During the testing however, Sig impressed so many with its accuracy and functionality, that it has become the standard side arm for many special warfare groups. Since this time, the Sig P226 has become the standard issue side arm for many federal and local law enforcement agencies. The Sig P229 is essentially a compact version of the P226.
The Sig P229 has been compared against Glock time and time again in law enforcement circles. I will be the first to tell you however, that these comparisons are simply skewed. Why? Because the Sig P229 is a very expensive duty sidearm, where as the Glock is a very inexpensive option. To give you an example, my department has been offered Glocks new in box for around $350.00 each. The Sigs best price was about $650.00 each. The only pistol for law enforcement that costs more than Sig would be the HK, and this is one of the main reasons why you see more Glocks in your local department's holsters than Sigs; they are simply less expensive. It would be fairer to compare the HK to Sig than to Glock. The Glock is for the "functional" and "fiscal" type of departmental budgets and administrative decision makers; the Sig is essentially for "the best money can buy" minded.
In 1999 Sig introduced the Sig Pro series weapons to the market to try and take advantage of some of the runaway success Glock has experienced. The departmental price of the Sig Pro is very competitive with the Glock and has recently been getting more attention. I personally believe it will be another few years before regular acceptance of the Sig Pro will occur; after all, it took years for the Glock to be accepted as a viable option. The Sig Pro will give the officer on the street the features and functions he wants and provide the budget setters with the price that they demand. So when you read the following comparisons, be mindful that the Sig Pro was designed to compete against Glock not other Sigs, so it would be fair to say that my comparison is no less faulty than those who compare Glock to Sig.
Upon my first purchase of a Sig I decided to go with the Sig Pro SP 2340 in .40 S&W. I paid $399.99 plus tax for this weapon, which to me, seemed like the deal of the century. I took the gun and stripped it down to clean. The first thing I noticed is that this gun is built completely different than the Sig "P" series. The take down is much more like that of a Browning Hi Power than that of a Sig. According to the Sig website, they stated that they had no preconceived ideas or deadlines when designing this pistol, upon breaking one of these down, you begin to believe them. I took the Sig Pro to the range and quickly discovered that I did not like the smaller stipple grips that came with the gun. I gave a call to their customer service and they sent me the larger padded grips free of charge, amazing customer service. I then removed the old grips and slid the new ones on. It took me a second to figure out how to do this, but upon reading the documentation (duh) it was not a problem. When the grips were off I saw the action mechanism, which I later learned may be switched out to alter the gun to be double action only or (DAO), which should please those obsessed with the liability that supposedly follows the DA/SA. This is a great selling point to officers because many departments and private security operations require double action only guns to be used exclusively. The transition is supposed to be easier as well for those used to using a revolver. The new grips, just as the old ones, looked to be a part of the frame. They fit seamlessly into the frame of the gun, a very unique and effective design. Another interesting thing is the frame says "made in Switzerland," which is different than both of my P229s, which say "made in Germany."
I took the gun back to the range for another 200 rounds. The first time I went to the range with the old grips, the gun functioned perfectly and was more accurate than I was, but because I constantly had to adjust my grip, it was hard to tell how accurate. I shot all 200 rounds with Winchester White Box Value Pack ammo, 155 gr. And at 33 feet. I was shooting the face completely out of the silhouette targets. It was my best shooting score ever. I tried 50 feet. Head shots? 95% and the misses were my fault entirely. The trigger was a little gritty so after the range session I took it home, broke it down, cleaned it and lubed it. I then took a snap cap (completely unnecessary according to Sig) and dry fired it about 2 or 3 thousand times. The trigger worked itself in to a buttery smooth action. I decided upon my very next trip to the range, I need to buy another one, so I did, I love these guns.
My Sig P229 came almost new in box. It was purchased from an acquaintance that had not had it long and had lost his job. If 500 rounds went through this thing I would be amazed. I broke it down and cleaned it. I went to the range and it seemed to be every bit as accurate as my Sig Pro but heavier. I did not find it necessary to change the grips since this weapon accommodates my hands almost perfectly. The P229 has an alloy frame and all the wonders you have come to expect from any "P" series Sig Sauer weapon. The trigger has worked itself out nicely and I am able to nail 50-foot head shots about 95% of the time just as with my Sig Pro. I wandered around Cheaper Than Dirt one afternoon and happened upon a factory demo P229. It had grip tape on the front strap, Hogue soft rubber grips on the back and sides and Tritum night sights from the factory. The sweetest thing about this weapon was the "factory" trigger job, all for $615.00. I bought it on the spot. Oddly enough this is the only Sig I have ever had that was ammo picky. I tried to put 200 rounds of Sellier and Belloit 180gr. FMJs through it and after about 100 rounds, it would only feed the round about half way. I decided to clean the P229 again and try it with Winchester. It worked flawlessly and has since. This gun simply does not like the S&B brand ammo. The trigger on this particular P229 will surprise you. The action is so smooth that it is almost impossible to "anticipate" or predict the hammer drop. The SA pull is much the same. So now let us go and compare the two models head to head.
I started off shooting a volley of 10 shots with the P229 at a 2.25-inch shoot and see from 33 feet. I put 9 rounds into the little target with my first DA pull going about an inch too far to the left. I shoot the same type of target using my factory custom P229 and all 10 hit the bullseye, one ragged hole. I shoot my first SP 2340 and all 10 hit the bullseye with one ragged hole. My second SP 2340 got 9 in the bullseye with the first DA shot going to the left about an inch. My second SP 2340 has not been lubed and dry fired yet. I perform the test again and get very similar results. If anything misses, it is me, not the guns. I back up to 75 feet. The guns still shoot the same. If I were to show you pictures of 21 feet to 75 feet for the P229 and the SP 2340 you would not be able to tell which is which. I did notice however that the first SP 2340 did have a tighter hole than any of the others, but that is not saying much since all guns fired one ragged hole.
The recoil on all guns was more than acceptable, but in this category I have to say I was shocked by the SP 2340's, which had the softest recoil of all of them. At 27 ounces and with a bore sitting higher in the frame you would think the P229 to be the natural winner but it was not. The SP 2340 would eat recoil and became an absolute pleasure to shoot. The padded grip really made a difference. The P229 with the Hogue grip was a close second, but the grip tape on the front strap got annoying after a while.
Trigger pull on all guns was great. It is readily apparent that none of these guns are afflicted with a bad trigger pull. The best of the bunch in my opinion was the older SP 2340. I knew exactly when it was going to go off in both DA and SA. The second contender was the stock P229 in SA. For DA mode the custom P229 won, I feel the SA on this one was a little too unpredictable, I never knew when it would go bang, which some people like, some don't. The last place goes to the newest SP 2340, which was still a bit gritty because the trigger has not been broken in yet. You will notice while shooting these weapons that there is more "play" in the trigger of the SP 2340 than that of the P229 in the SA shots. The DA trigger pull is much more revolver-like and smoother in the broken in SP 2340 than the stock P229. The customized P229 is simply too much for words. Smooth, consistent, good are some that come to mind, reminds me of a fine Ruger revolver. The play is not distracting in any of the pistols and if you like a crisp take up with a predictable shot, the P229 stock wins. If you don!Gt mind a little play in the trigger, the SP 2340 is merely a tad heavier and requires a bit more authority to drop the hammer, but light enough to easily stay on target without extra effort. All of these guns are excellent.
No discernable difference between the two models of guns. Both point naturally in my hands, both have great triggers each with their own unique personality. Both are equally accurate however the SP 2340 eats recoil a little better. If I had to pick a winner, I would pick the SP 2340 for the simple reason that the grips are padded and recoil is very pleasant. The Hogues on the custom P229 come close, but not quite. There was a slim margin to win by on any of these, we really are splitting hairs here by choosing a winner.
Upon breaking these two down side by side you will notice some very different engineering features. For starters, the P229 has slide rails almost the length of the gun. They are part of the alloy frame. The Sig Pro has metal slide rails, but they are short, only about a quarter-inch on the front and back part of the frame, the front being only slightly longer. Though it sounds like very little surface contact, the Sig Pro's slide rails are quite noticeably larger and thicker, they seem much more heavy duty. It has been written that you could build a bridge on these, well I doubt that, but you could consider it.
The springs and mechanisms within the Sig Pro are also quite larger than on the P229. The gun seems like it was built Tonka Tough, very thick and robust metal parts and springs as well as fewer of them, than in the finesse engineering of the P229's inner workings. The P229 and the "P" series in general are known for legendary reliability but I wouldn't doubt for one second that the new Sig Pro series could compete with them every step of the way.
Both guns break down easily, however, be warned that the Sig Pro is much different than the P229. It is much more traditional in design than the P229. Think "Browning High Power made in a Tonka Truck factory" and you will have a good idea of the way a Sig Pro is assembled. The barrel will take a little maneuvering to get into place, but the slide stop will pop right in. After a few take downs you will have it. It takes me about 10 seconds to break mine down now, and about 5 seconds for the P229. Not much difference, though in this category I have to give the nod to the P229 for ease of cleaning, but not by a large margin.
I carry a Sig P229 at least 8 to 10 hours a day on duty 5 to 6 days a week, it seems that it is almost permanently attached to my hip. The Sig Pro is the gun you will likely see me carry off duty however. Why? Simply put, it is lighter. The balance of the Sig Pro will feel strange the first time you pick one up without a loaded magazine, a bit top heavy. Once you load the magazine with your brand of choice however, "balance" is exactly what you will find. The Sig Pro simply rides better in a concealment holster, but I am not ashamed to admit, there are times when my P229 finds its way into a Don Hume JIT. The balance of the P229 is equally good as that of the Sig Pro when the Sig Pro is loaded, but the Sig Pro is merely a tad lighter even though the P229 is physically smaller than the Sig Pro. I would consider the P229 a compact and the Sig Pro more of a mid-compact. For the uniformed police officer, the Sig Pro might be the better choice due to its size. For plain clothes work the P229 due to its size. For that weight conscious the Sig Pro is the best choice. To be brutally honest, it's pretty darn close. Again we are splitting hairs. The Sig Pro is lighter and requires less maintenance to keep clean than the P229, but the P229 is physically smaller. Which wins? I don't know, I carry the Sig Pro more often due to the weight, sweat factor and I live in Texas. Polymer is simply not affected by sweat.
Both guns are exceptional without a doubt. The Sig Pro is the better value over all in my opinion and is able to keep paces very easily with the P229. The P229 is still the Cadillac of compacts though and has a finesse that is unique unto itself. One area where the characters of the guns show most immediately is in the decocker. The P229 has a seemingly two-stage decocker that politely lowers the hammer down. The Sig Pro has a much more authoritative "get the job done" one-stage type of decocker. You will know what I am talking about if you try them. The polymer frame of the Sig Pro is so nicely finished, that from more than one or two feet away, you can't even tell it is polymer. There is almost no seam between the two halves. The alloy frame of the P229 is the stuff legends are made of. No-nonsense black with easy to reach controls. The decocker on the Sig Pro is more recessed and out of the way than the P229, but the P229's can be engaged without adjusting grip. Both have equally accessible slide release mechanisms and magazine drops. The Sig Pro and P229 can both be switched from .357 Sig to .40 and back again with a mere barrel drop. The Sig Pro is easier to tailor to individual hand sizes than the P229 and may be converted to DAO with a $70.00 part. The accessory rail is standard on the Sig Pro but optional on the P229. Both may be converted to hi-cap 9mms with a Bar-Sto or Fire Dragon Barrel, and both have proven to be equally reliable. In all the time I have had all 4 guns, the only time I had any trouble was with S&B in the P229. My pick? The Sig Pro for price, adaptability, robustness of design. The P229 is still my "classic car in the garage," however, and is still a hair's breath away from being the overall favorite. The P229 is the kind of gun you pass on to future generations. The Sig Pro is more of a get the job done kind of gun. Remember the purpose of each of these weapons. The Sig Pro is the Glock rival, the P229 is said to be rivaled by none. Both are superior weapons.