Evolution Of The
SIG Sauer P226.
Successful handgun designs constantly evolve. This is for a variety of reasons, stemming mainly from market and technological impulses and pressures, magnified by ever-changing mission requirements of end users. The SIG SAUER P226 TACOPS model is the poster child of this design modification creep. The P226 TACOPS traces its heritage in the SIG family tree back to the 1970s. The original SIG P226, which the TACOPS is a version of, was spawned from the P220. The P220 resulted from the Swiss wanting a less expensive — and less intensive to manufacture — sidearm in lieu of the P210. The P226 reflected SIG’s quest to generate an entry for the early 1980s’ XM9 Joint Service Pistol Trials, conducted to find a replacement to the M1911A1. The initial P226s were modified P220s, made to accept double-column magazines. When the dust settled after years of testing and evaluation in the Pistol Trials, only the Beretta 92F submission and SIG P226 satisfactorily completed the trials.
The P226 TACOPS breaks down into four pieces — slide, barrel, frame
and recoil spring — for easy cleaning. Its simplicity and quality of
construction is a major reason behind its reliability.
P226 was not chosen to replace the venerable M1911A1. The Beretta 92F was given the nod for a variety of factors outside the scope of the article; however, not too much sympathy should be sent SIG’s way, as the P226 quickly gained favor in various military units, many with elite status, and law enforcement agencies in the US and around the world. Early on, it was evident that the P226’s reliability, accuracy, safety and capacity set it apart from its handgun peers.
SIG offers a multitude of P226 models. The one tested herein is the P226 9mm Tactical Operations, or TACOPS for short. Other chamberings in the TACOPS line up are .40 S&W and .357 SIG. A pronounced beavertail, recognizable to anyone familiar with the 1911, immediately sets apart the P226 TACOPS from most other SIG P226 models.
There are other nuances to the TACOPS that further distinguish it from the crowd. The polymer 1-piece magwell grip is formed in a way to blend with a 20-round magazine when inserted. The TACOPS comes with four of these 20-round magazines as standard equipment. These extra capacity magazines in lieu of standard P226 15-round magazines, are a notable departure from the norm for the TACOPS model. Other TACOPS features include front cocking serrations, black hard-coat anodized aluminum frame, stainless slide, integral accessory rail dust cover, TRUGLO Tritium fiber optic front sight mated to SIGLITE rear and the SIG Short Reset Trigger (SRT). An optional SIG factory threaded barrel tops off the TACOPS’ no-nonsense aesthetics. The barrel features 13.5x1mm LH thread pattern.
The TACOPS is a full-size handgun, measuring over 5.5″ tall, 8″ long, with a sight radius of 6.3″. Weight with an empty magazine is 34.4 ounces. The P226 TACOPS is pure SIG DA/SA design, with DA trigger pull listed at 10 pounds, and SA listed at 4.4 pounds. The decocking lever resides on the left side, in front of the slide stop lever. I am not a fan of DA/SA semi-automatics, due to the difference experienced from breaking the first shot in hammer-down carry mode, to subsequent rounds in the magazine. SIG’s inclusion of the SRT trigger design on the TACOPS makes the DA/SA trigger one of the nicest I’ve experienced, and has me reevaluating my blanket opinion of DA/SA handguns. The SRT is a great enhancement, generating one of shortest trigger resets on the market. Once the SRT trigger control is mastered, which takes surprisingly little orientation training, the SIG P226 TACOPS is very capable of firing multiple shot strings with the utmost accuracy, thanks to short trigger pull and reset.
The P226’s track record of proven performance on the battlefield and street, grant the P226 TACOPS instant credibility. The P226 TACOPS’ modified profile, such as the extended beavertail, threaded barrel and modified grips wrapped around high capacity 20-round magazines, makes it ideal for duty as a nightstand handgun, open carry or for tactical response LE teams or special military units. The P226 TACOPS’ nearly 5″, cold-hammer-forged barrel and SRT DA/SA trigger, combined with near perfect lock-up in the stainless steel slide/barrel interface, insures maximum reliability and accuracy. The fixed sights found on the P226 TACOPS are 3-dot type, featuring tritium inserts with a twist. SIG added a TRUGLO Tritium front sight; providing a solid sight picture even if you’re in a hurry reacting to an adversary. This stems from more and more data showing defensive engagements happen in low-light conditions, where the tritium sights are more conducive to solid shot placement.
The SIG P226 TACOPS disassembles quickly, typical of SIGs, via locking the slide open and rotating the takedown lever downward on the frame, freeing the slide from the frame. The quality of the SIG fit and finish speaks volumes as to how the P226 TACOPS obtains such levels of accuracy, without having to resort to full-blown, hand-tuning custom work. There are no tool marks evident, and no lateral play in the slide’s fit to the frame, or the barrel’s to the slide. The barrel locks up tight when in battery. The P226 operates via Browning’s locked breech short-recoil method. SIG slightly modifies Browning’s design by moving the locking recess from the barrel. It instead utilizes a single locking lug milled above the barrel’s chamber, using the slide’s large overhead ejection port as its locking recess. The front contour of the barrel lug cam slot has been cut square to direct counter-recoiling forces up and forward into the barrel itself, in order to reduce stress on the lug.
T&E was conducted at Echo Valley Training Center, a private range located near Winchester, Va., where many local and federal law enforcement tactical team members train. It’s difficult to convey how many shooters at the range perked up when first exposed to the SIG TACOPS. Many confessed ignorance that SIG even offered a package like the TACOPS, with beavertail, SRT and optional threaded barrel. Every time one of them got to handle and shoot the TACOPS, a convert was obtained. Their duty weapons span the gamut, including custom-tuned 1911 pistols, but all appreciate what the P226 TACOPS offers in terms of accuracy, reliability, handling and capacity.
Considering the SIG P226 TACOPS design intent borders on it being an offensive handgun, especially when using with a mounted suppressor, in lieu of the more typical defensive-purpose handguns; it was decided to dedicate some time evaluating the TACOPS using several drills experienced during training at Tactical Response, STORM MOUNTAIN and other schools. Drills included working around breaching facades, door entries and other CQB activities typified by experiences encountered in shoot-house environments. A premium is placed on a quick handling, accurate handgun such as the TACOPS, with multiple rounds fired in quick succession being the norm in putting a target down. The natural pointability of the SIG P226 TACOPS comes into its own in this realm.
The P226 TACOPS impressively handled all brands, bullet types and weights of ammo with equal aplomb. Its ergonomics and handling characteristics are quickly appreciated, and make a user understand why the P226 is well thought of. The full-size grip frame and overall balance of the TACOPS made felt recoil negligible. The slide moved so smoothly, it seemed to reciprocate on ball bearings. The sights tracked smoothly in between shots fired. I used Black Hills Ammunition, Federal, Hornady and Winchester. Loads fired spanned 115-grain to 147-grain with hollowpoints and FMJ bullet types utilized. Significantly, no malfunctions were experienced while test firing over 700 rounds. It’s not my normal protocol to bench test handguns for accuracy, due to reliability and quick engagement of targets being more paramount in a martial handgun. A weapon like the P226 TACOPS should be fired as it is designed to be used — standing without support and while moving to get off the “X.” This is the true measure of accuracy, combining trigger pull, grip and sights. After a few runs orientating myself to the first-round DA trigger pull, first round hits became the norm. In the spirit of the TACOPS design intent, a BLACKHAWK! SERPA thigh rig was used for evaluation purposes. I was able to consistently produce 2-3″ groups at 25 yards — fired from standing, unsupported positions. Bench testing could not be resisted after witnessing the unsupported accuracy results. Sub-2″ groups at 25 yards were not unusual, and probably would have been smaller if not for my rudimentary bag support, and only cursory interest in bench testing. The advantages of the SRT trigger were quickly evident during the bench testing, where accuracy was the goal, with its compact, minimal creep pull.
The Nielson piston design allows one suppressor to fit on almost any
type of pistol by simply acquiring the correct YHM universal adapter piece.
The YHM Cobra M2’s overall length is 8″ with a diameter of 1.3″. It weighs
only 11.5 ounces, while offering a -35db noise reduction. In the spirit of the T
ACOPS design intent, a BLACKHAWK! Serpa thigh rig was used for evaluation purposes.
Mounting a suppressor to the TACOPS’ threaded barrel was an obvious decision, in order to evaluate the TACOPS to its full potential. A Yankee Hill Machine Cobra M2 suppressor was utilized for this. The YHM Cobra M2 was affixed by simply removing the barrel’s thread protector and screwing on the Cobra M2. The YHM Cobra M2’s overall length is 8″ with a diameter of 1.3″, and weighs only 11.5 ounces, all while offering a -35db noise reduction. Initial range time consisted of testing the Cobra M2 to verify established accuracy and reliability parameters of the SIG TACOPS were not compromised. The Nielsen piston in the Cobra M2 suppressors allows the user to adjust the point of impact of a specific 9mm load. This system allows the suppressor to be adapted to any semi-automatic handgun for flawless functioning. The design allows one suppressor to fit on almost any type of pistol by simply purchasing the correct adaptor. The Cobra M2 utilizes stainless steel components to minimize wear of the threads and the Nielsen device. Cobra M2 sound suppressors are constructed using Sound Tech’s patented baffle design. The Cobra M2’s baffle stack is not only optimized for sound reduction, but is also designed to come apart, allowing for easy cleaning.
147-grain 9mm loads are typically subsonic, and the obvious choice for use with a suppressor. This is one of the reasons why 9mm handguns are favorite candidates to suppress. The 147-grain 9mm’s ability to reliably function the TACOPS slide, while still being subsonic, is another important advantage offered by suppressing a 9mm handgun. However, the YHM Cobra M2 proved effective at taming the muzzleblast of even 115-grain and 124-grain +P supersonic loads. With the YHM Cobra M2 suppressor installed, all loads could be comfortably fired without the use of ear protection, even in an indoor environment.
A variety of 147-grain 9mm loads were tested with the SIG P226 TACOPS, including Winchester PDX and Ranger brands, Hornady TAP, Federal Hydra-Shok and Tactical brands, American Eagle and Engel Ballistic Research (EBR). The EBR brand may surprise some readers, as it is not that familiar to the public. I was fortunate some time ago to discover Engel EBR as a primary source of quality, dedicated sub-sonic ammunition due to the variety of calibers and loadings offered; especially calibers that are not as conducive to sub-sonic factory loads as the 9mm. EBR comes into its own with sub-sonic ammunition for rifles including the 5.56, 7.62×39, 7.62×51, .300 Win Mag, 338 Lapua and pistol calibers such as .40 S&W and .44 Magnum.
SIG P226 TACOPS features include front cocking serrations, black, hard-coat
anodized aluminum frame, stainless slide, integral accessory rail dust cover,
TRUGLO Tritium fiber-optic front sight mated to SIGLITE rear and the SIG
Short Reset Trigger (SRT). An optional SIG factory threaded barrel, used for
this evaluation, tops off the TACOPS’ no-nonsense aesthetics. The barrel
features 13.5x1mm LH thread pattern.
147-grain 9mm loads are typically subsonic, and the obvious choice for use
with a suppressor; each need to be tested to verify if it is indeed sub-sonic,
and avoid a supersonic “crack” when fired. I was fortunate to discover Engel
EBR as a primary source of quality, dedicated sub-sonic ammunition.
It doesn’t take a drastic imagination leap to visualize what roles the SIG TACOPS would fill with the YHM Cobra M2 suppressor mounted. Anything from sentry removal, canine or other, or CQB operations indoors come to mind. The added weight of the YHM suppressor didn’t prove a hindrance to weapon manipulation, and the extra capacity 20-round magazines are much appreciated, minimizing the likelihood of needing to change magazines during a typical engagement where the TACOPS would be the primary weapon. The TACOPS tested did not come with extended iron sights to “see” over the mounted suppressor. These are easily accessible items for those who desire them. However, this did not prove a hindrance in the sub-10 yard arena, with solid hits possible on the steel man targets set up for testing using point-shooting techniques, or simply sighting down the extended length of the mounted YHM suppressor. As a side note, while the elevated suppressor iron sights have their place, if the weapon is not dedicated to suppressor use, the sights make holster selection problematic. Further offensive role enhancement with the TACOPS could be achieved by mounting an infrared laser target designator, such as the Insight Technology LAM 1000/ILWLP on its integral rail, combined with an operator using night vision goggles. This obviously is a very specialized application, relegated to operations associated with those at the tip of the spear.
The key point with the SIG P226 TACOPS, is it’s eminently adaptable to individual, department or unit needs, albeit mission or budgetary based. Everything from the homeowner with a light/laser combo, to an elite military team with night vision and infrared target designator and suppressor mounted will find the SIG P226 TACOPS a handgun worthy of consideration. The pistol arrives ready to go right out of the box, especially if the SIG threaded factory barrel is specified. Kudos to SIG SAUER for including the right features for maximizing performance, without turning it into a finicky or fussy competition gun. The buyer is gaining a lot of value for the listed TACOPS purchase price of $1,302.
A weapon like the P226 TACOPS should be fired as it is designed to be used —
standing without support, and while moving to get off the “X”. This is the true
measure of accuracy, combining trigger pull, grip and sights.
By Todd Burgreen
Published In The American Handgunner 2012 Special Edition
For More Info:
Engel Ballistic Research, Inc.
Black Hills Ammunition
Echo Valley Training Center
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