Coming away from the Sig Sauer booth, and especially their shooting bay at Media Day at the Range, SHOT Show 2012, my overwhelming thought was, boy oh boy, do I want to try some of these new guns! Sig is known for an extensive line of duty-quality weapons that are bulletproof reliable and durable enough for years of solid service. This year Sig took a bunch of guns we already know and love, and that many of us own, and gave us more options.
On the pistol front the big news is the Sig P224. Think of it as the little brother to the P226, the original and most famous pistol in the Sig Sauer line. The P224 is the first double stack compact from Sig, and if you already carry the P226, it is a perfect backup or off-duty weapon. Some of the marketing pictures show it as a chopped P226 in fact, showing you that that P224 is the same gun, but with a slightly shorter frame and magazine for concealed carry.
Including the magazine, the P224 weighs in at 25.4oz. empty. It is 6.7 inches long, 4.5 inches tall, and 1.3 inches thick. The barrel is 3.5 inches, and it comes in two triggers, the standard double action/single action, at 10 and 4.4lbs. pull, or a constant 6.5lb. pull on the Sig DAK trigger. It is hammer fired, like the P226 and the capacity is 11 rounds of 9mm, or 10 rounds of .40S&W or .357 Sig. The P224 is a really good looking firearm as you can see in the pictures, and with the Sig Sauer name for reliability, accuracy and long term durability, I am sure the Sig dealers will have a good year with this new compact.
On the rifle side, there is a lot of news, but the biggest is probably the SIG716. It is a 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) addition to the Sig line based on their success with the SIG516 platform. You can’t tell the difference between a 516 and a high-end AR-15 on the outside. The 516 has ambidextrous controls and sling mounts, and they use a Magpul stock, but inside the 516 and now the 716 are entirely different guns. The inside of the stock of a standard AR-15 is a buffer tube for what is called a “gas impingement system.” And while this system does serve our US Military and a good deal of American shooters just fine, they can have reliability problems with sustained use.
Sig is one of the firearm manufacturers that have taken the pluses of the AR-15 platform, and removed some of the minuses, and the result was the SIG516, and now the SIG716. These guns use what Sig calls a short stroke pushrod gas system that has a 4 position gas valve. We have never actually shot and taken apart one of these guns, but hopefully we’ll get one this year. They have been a big hit with law enforcement, and they represent the next evolution in the modern rifle.
The new SIG716 Patrol Rifle has a 16 inch barrel and is 35.1 to 38.3 inches long overall. It weighs 9.3 pounds with the Mil-Spec collapsible stock, and it comes in black and both the popular tan and OD colors. It takes Magpul P-MAGs, and does use the same short stroke pistol found in the SIG516. I didn’t get a chance to shoot this gun at Media Day but we hope to get one in soon to take a look at, and to take apart to show you the difference in the two systems.
There is also a new SIG516 “Russian,” which is the 7.62×39 variant that shoots the AK-47 round and takes AK magazines. This is a significant development if you are a fan of the round, but don’t care for the poor accuracy and shoddy workmanship of most affordable AK rifles. It does tend to be cheaper to shoot than 5.56 NATO, and if you are looking for a duty-quality rifle, this SIG516 would be the most cutting edge rifle available for the round. Ballistically there isn’t a whole lot of reason to use a 7.62×39 over 5.56NATO, but each to his own.
The SIGM400 is the flip side of the SIG516 in standard 5.56 NATO. Because though the 516/716 is an evolutionary step in ARs, it is proprietary, and if you are a police armorer with racks of standard ARs in inventory that you have to maintain, keeping a separate parts inventory for even a superior rifle design isn’t practical. No matter how far we go forward with the AR-15 design, there are always going to be millions of legacy rifles in the racks, and as above, in most situations a standard AR works just fine. The M400 is Sig’s answer to all of the Sig armorers and fanatics out there who have demanded a true AR-15 rifle from a manufacturer they know and trust. Everyone in the firearms world knows that if Sig puts their name on a gun, you won’t ever find a sub-standard part in it just because “Company A” bid a contract a little cheaper, and this has led to a solid trust from those who rely on Sig guns. In a world full of ARs and AR companies, it can be difficult to decide which one to buy. After decades of guns that serve and serve and serve, without breaking down, the easy answer for someone who has relied on Sig products and now just needs a standard AR, is “just buy the Sig.” Now you have the M400.
One of the guns I actually got to fire at Media Day is a lesser story in the Sig rifle line, but one that I found really interesting. I was at the Sig plant in Exeter, NH back when the first SIG556 rifles were being shipped to the public, and I became an instant fan of the gun. Many people don’t understand the most important detail of the 556, that this was not a new firearm design. It was based on a tried and true Swiss firearm design, the Swiss 550, and it is far simpler and inherently more reliable than a standard AR (there we go beating up ARs again). As battle rifles go, the SIG556 is a formidable example, and now Sig Sauer is releasing a special version that is almost exactly like the original Swiss rifle called the SIG551-A1.
The new A1 has a folding buttstock like the original, and unlike many folding buttstocks out there, it looks extremely durable and feels solid. The gun comes only in the original grey, and it takes only the Swiss polymer mags. If you don’t know this already, you have a choice in a standard 556 rifle. They can take a standard AR mag, the Swiss mag, or in 7.62×39, the standard configuration AK-47 mag. The SIG551-A1 is only available in 5.56 NATO (.223 Remington), and it is 36.7 inches long unfolded, 28.3 inches folded, and weighs 7.9 lbs empty. It has a 16 inch barrel with a 2 stage 7.5lb. trigger out of the box.
And the final story for Sig is that you can now get all of these guns in an SBR, or Short Barreled Rifle version. The standard barrel length will be 10 inches on these SBRs, and some are available with 7.5 and 12″ barrels. You should be able to order them through your local Sig dealer. If you are not familiar with SBRs, they are a special exemption in the National Firearms Act rule that limits the barrel length of any single projectile firearm (ie. not a shotgun) with a buttstock to 16 inches. If you are law enforcement or you live in a state where you can own an SBR, Sig now makes all of their popular rifles, and even the new guns, in an SBR configuration. As a civilian you can file a special form and pay a $200 tax to the BATFE to own one of these 10 inch barreled guns. The tactical market has taken to SBRs over the last few years, but remember, the shorter the barrel, the bigger the muzzle flash and the boom, because more powder burns outside the barrel. I prefer a full sized rifle or 16″ carbine.
If you step back and look at all of these products new for this year from Sig Sauer, the theme seems to be that they took guns we already know, and that many of us own, and gave us more options from the company thought to be the most reliable name in firearms. There are more on the list, some new 1911 variants, and some new options and colors on many of the other popular Sigs. My favorite is definitely the SIG716 and I hope we get a chance to both shoot it and take it apart and look inside this year. There isn’t a gun that Sig makes that isn’t considered the gun to beat in its class, and with all of the 7.62 AR guns out this year, I bet the 716 is going to be yet again the gun to beat. The Sig Sauer name is always without question, and if you have always considered the 5.56NATO lacking, there could be a SIG716 in your future.