The SIG SAUER P226 is a badass pistol. No doubt about it. This gun is a dynamic full-sized 9mm handgun capable of extraordinary accuracy known for its proven dependability. The P226 is in service with numerous agencies and is currently used by the Navy SEALS. SIG makes numerous versions of the P226, but this one, in my considered opinion, is the best. The P226 Tactical Operations (TacOps) is a typical P226, with a couple of significant upgrades. The result is a gun that’s functionally ergonomic, fast out of the holster, and faster on target. And when it does run dry–after you’ve run through the 20 rounds in the magazine, the mag-well makes it that much easier to feed.
I was first introduced to the full capabilities of the P226 when I attended a handgun class taught by Daniel Shaw at Thunderbird Tactical in Wichita, Kansas. This was almost a year ago, and before Daniel began writing the occasional review for GunsAmerica. At that class, he was using a SIG P226. I’d seen the gun before, but hadn’t spent much time behind the trigger. After a couple of magazines during the class, I came away convinced. I borrowed one from another writer and got to work.
Almost a year later, I took another class with Daniel. This time, I was ready. I’d gotten SIG to send me a TacOps for this review. I’d had the gun in long enough to put it through its paces. A serious training class is the best practical way to truly evaluate how a gun works. I’ve yet to find a better way to push reliability, test holstering and ergonomics, and learn the controls of a gun. And training also will allow you to learn how you work with a given gun. I went into this class knowing that the P226 was a good fit for me, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
P226 Tactical Operations SPECS
What makes it a P226?
The SIG P226 line (which includes 25 different models) is unique. The guns are chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 SIG. The guns don’t have external safeties. The exposed hammer can be decocked with a lever on the side of the pistol. The heavy double action pull (10+ pounds) sets up successive single action pulls that are much lighter (4.6 pounds). The trigger has a short reset, at about .25″. The frame is aluminum (but it is still substantial in size) and the slide is Nitron finished stainless steel. The pistol uses the locked breech short recoil system familiar to 1911 fans, and even has a beaver-tail that follows in the tradition of Browning’s venerable single action.
Unlike the 1911, the P226 locks the barrel into the slide without a locking lug. Yet the 1911 heritage is easily seen, even in the lines. The P226 was SIG’s entry into the pistol trials that placed the Beretta M9 in thousands of holsters back in 1984, the trials to replace the 1911. For many fans of the older single-action, the SIG seemed like more logical transitional gun than the M9. And in the years since, the P226 has continued to gain traction. There’s even a single action version of the P226. You can read our review of it here.
What makes it a P226 Tactical Operations?
One of my favorite upgrades is truly an extra–the TacOps comes with four 20 round magazines. The most noticeable feature will be the grips. These one-piece dynamos have a deep contour for the back of the hand. They also have a wrap around lip at the base that flares out to serve as a guide. This grip makes reloads a bit faster, as you can move with less pinpoint precision. The round on the top of a double-stack magazine will act as an arrowhead of sorts. Get it close to the center, and the extra grip extension will guide it home.
On top of the gun, the front sight is a TRUGLO tritium fiber-optic bead that glows green in both low and no light. TRUGLO has a great combination with this. The tritium lights it up just enough for it to glow in every situation. I did a review of these for a GLOCK 42 recently, and was most impressed. The rear sight is SIG’s SIGLITE Night Sight. It has just enough bulk to be useful as shelf for cocking the gun one-handed–a must for a gun in this class.
There are front slide serrations, and an upgraded trigger. Even the beaver-tail has been extended, which is a great feature for those of us with larger mitts that like to hold high on the gun. It isn’t a beauty queen, like some of the old single actions, but it is complete collection of functional features that make it ideal for–wait for it–Tactical Operations. If you’ve got any tactical operations in your future, this may be the gun for you. Says so in its name.
How does it shoot?
The P226 is fast. The balance is perfect, even with 20 rounds in the grip. The ergonomic shape of the grip and the way the P226 points combine to make it incredibly reliable for point shooting. I’m not 100% in love with the sight combination. I’m learning that I don’t care for two-tone sights. The green between the white is harder for me to line up. On the compact GLOCK, with three green dots, I didn’t have the problem. With the two-tone set up, I find my focus shifting more between the green and white.
The result is a more complicated refined sight picture, at least for me. The same odd phenomena makes point shooting incredibly fast, as I can see that green glow very easily, and have no problem indexing it as I transition from a draw to a fully extended stance. A fully loaded P226 is heavier than a lot of the polymer framed competition, so you’ll have to accommodate that. I think the weight is what keeps more people from considering the P226 for competition. But it would certain serve those purposes well.
For my purposes, this is a full-sized fighting gun. I like the 9mm round (if not the ballistic performance of 115 grain ball). The capacity and capabilities of the TacOps make this a home-run.
From where I’m sitting, none. I’ve carried this gun a number of times and put more than 1,000 rounds through it in the last two months, and I’ve had no failures. I’ve yet to find a bullet shape that it won’t feed. I’ve had no failures to eject. I can shoot it right handed or left handed, and control it well with both. I respect SIG’s decision to make guns without external safeties–there’s one less hangup between the impulse to shoot and the ability to do so. If I were to design a set of features for a fighting pistol, this would be it. It might have more classic lines, and it could have an even longer barrel, but it would do what the TacOps does.
But there are those less enamored with the gun. Some folks want a safety. The weight is an issue for some. I get it. Both are valid concerns. There are those thrown by the decocker. Consistency of carry is also an issue I’ve heard mentioned. Some shooters don’t like the heavy double action pull. Then, at the end of a string, the gun should be decocked before putting it back in the holster. This makes it safe and sets it back up for a double action pull. The P226 doesn’t have a really good option for drawing from the holster without this single action pull. Those who like to have a single action set-up, made safe with an external safety, may not jive with this set up.
Think of it this way–if I pull this gun, I’m going to shoot it. I was talking to Jacob Epstein, my go-to for such philosophical ponderings, and he presented this as an issue. For police and military use, where guns are often drawn and not fired, this heavy pull is less of an issue. One can stand with the gun presented on a target for a long time. If I’m pulling the TacOps in a defensive situation, though, odds are I’m going to pull the damn trigger. In Jacob’s mind, the heavy pull on that first pull is more of an impediment than simply dropping an external safety and pulling with a lighter trigger. Adrenaline being what it is, I’d prefer to pull the trigger. Jacob, not so much. There you have it. Which one of us is right? It is a difference of opinion that we pray we’ll never settle.
I’ve been carrying the TacOps in a Safariland ALS Paddle Holster. It is sufficiently strong, making it a natural for everyday carry. The wide paddle slips in and out easily, but grips the belt and pants securely. It is my favorite design for convenient retention. The Safariland paddles are super easy to put on and take off, but offer really innovative retention. The ALS lock is dropped with a natural approach to the gun. Your thumb falls on a lever that clears the retainer. It is fast. I’m able to draw and fire (with an accurate hit) in 1.4 seconds. And I’m no speed demon.
For those of you keeping score at home, SIG deserves another point for bringing their own line of ammo to the table. They sent me some to evaluate. While I haven’t done the formal evaluations of speed consistency or gel block testing, I’ve been shooting some of the ammo. It seemed fitting to shoot some SIG ammo through the P226. I had halfway expected to see sparkling lights and hear angels sing. Not so. But it shoots well. We’ll have a lot more on the SIG ammo soon, as soon as we get some gel to poke holes in.
At the risk of dating this review, I’ll provide an anecdote. Last week, when the Ferguson Grand Jury decision was announced, I found myself in an odd situation. I was driving across the top end of the south on my way to visit relatives. I watched the events unfold on that Monday night, very leery about making any kind of road trip. We’d planned out our trip well, but had a limited window for travel, and would be driving through Tuesday night, through several metropolitan areas.
I’m always prepared to one degree or another. While I wasn’t expecting massive road closures (much less L.A. Riot style bullshit–or the chaos that I could have encountered in Missouri), I still packed my bug-out bag. And I carried the P226. Concealed carry reciprocity allowed me to carry the whole way. I tucked the P226 under the tail of my Carhartt field coat, with a couple of magazines on my hip. I rolled out that night with 60 rounds of good 9mm and the confidence that comes from serious training with a serious handgun. I could have done worse, I think.
That’s what the P226 is. It is a gun that goes with you when you have to prepare for the worst. It isn’t a logical choice for concealed carry, but it can be concealed. Its 20 round capacity puts it at the top of its class. The balance is ideal, the controls are accessible, and I’ve yet to find a gun that I can get on target faster.
It isn’t cheap. The MSRP on the TacOps is $1,329. This, though, includes four of these magazines. That’s something. Still, I know some of you reading this will balk at the price. So be it. The gun is worth it.