SIG Sauer P226 vs P229 (2023 Update)
Are you considering a new SIG pistol and have narrowed it down to the P226 and the P229? This guide covers the primary differences between the Sig Sauer P226 and the P229, including the origins of both guns, size differences, applications for each, and the options both of these guns are offered in today.
By the end of the guide, you’ll have a better understanding of both pistols so you can make a more informed decision about which is better for you.
The main difference between the Sig Sauer P226 and the Sig Sauer P229 is the P226 is the better choice if you’re looking for a larger framed pistol, while the P229 is a superior option if you’re looking for something slightly more compact and concealable. Both pistols are offered in the same calibers and of comparable magazine capacities, but the P229 is the smaller handgun.
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Specs Comparison: Sig Sauer P229 vs. P226
|Category||SIG Sauer P226||SIG Sauer P229|
|Country of Origin||Switzerland||Switzerland|
|Caliber Options||9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .357 SIG Sauer||9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .357 SIG Sauer|
|Magazine Capacity||15-18 rounds (9mm Luger) – flush fit|
12-13 rounds (.40 S&W and .357 SIG Sauer) – flush fit
|15 rounds (9mm Luger) – flush fit 12 rounds (.40 S&W and .357 SIG Sauer) – flush fit|
|Height||5.5 inches||5.4 inches|
|Barrel Length||4.4 inches||3.9 inches|
|Overall Length||7.7 inches||7.1 inches|
|Width||1.5 inches||1.5 inches|
Origins of the P226 and P229
It’s impossible to talk about either of these guns without discussing the gun that served as the genesis for both: the SIG Sauer P220.
Both the P226 and the P229 are from the SIG Sauer 220-series of pistols, which originates with the P220.
Development of the 220-series
In 1975, a Swiss arms manufacturer named SIG (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) joined forces with a German arms manufacturer called J.P. Sauer & Sohn to form a new company called SIG Sauer GmbH.
Prior to this merger, SIG had designed and manufactured the P210, a single-action only 9mm pistol that had been serving as the standard issue sidearm of the Swiss military since 1948.
Sauer was also known as a manufacturer of military-style handguns, such as the compact Sauer 38H .32 ACP pistol that had served as one of the primary sidearms of the German Luftwaffe during World War II.
Following the merger of the two companies into SIG Sauer, the P220 was developed.
Unlike the prior P210, the P220 was a double-action/single-action handgun. It’s also noted for having a decocking lever on the left side of the frame, a firing pin block safety (to prevent the gun from being fired if dropped over a hard surface), and an enlarged breech locking the barrel and slide together.
This is important to note because the design of the P226 and P229 are modeled identically after the P220.
The P220 was also a single stack pistol chambered in 9mm Luger and .45 ACP (the 9mm version has since been discontinued). The 9mm variant at the time was adopted by the Swiss military as a modernized replacement for the aforementioned P210 pistol.
The P220 was the first SIG Sauer pistol released to the United States civilian market as well, where it found success and has remained popular since.
As the 9mm P220 only held 9 rounds in the single stack magazine, it was only inevitable that a double stack variant with a higher magazine capacity would soon be developed and released as well.
This gun was the P226.
Overview of the P226
The P226 was a direct evolution of the P220.
In the early 1980s, the United States military announced that they would be replacing the aging Colt M1911A1 .45 ACP service pistol with a new handgun. This new sidearm was to be a double-action/single-action pistol in 9mm Luger and with a magazine capacity of 15 rounds.
To enter the trials, SIG Sauer essentially widened the 9mm P220 and gave it a double stack magazine of 15 rounds. This is why at first glance, the basic profiles of the early P220 and P226 pistols look nearly identical.
In the resulting tests conducted in 1984, only the Beretta 92F and the SIG Sauer P226 successfully completed the trials, with both guns offering equal performance. However, since the overall price of the Beretta was lower (when spare parts and magazines were factored in), it was declared the victor and won the contract over the SIG.
This did not end the P226, however. On the contrary, the pistol has gone on to find phenomenal success amongst military and law enforcement units and civilians alike across the globe.
Most notably, shortly after the trials, the United States Navy SEALs later with a P226 variant with a tactical rail and superior corrosion-resistant finishing (known as the MK25) as their standard service pistol.
SIG Sauer also began selling the P226 on the American civilian market, and it’s remained a very popular pistol ever since.
Overview of the P229
A compact variant of the P226, called the P228, was later released by SIG Sauer.
The P228 is the same gun as the P226, only with an overall smaller size, reduced 13-round magazine capacity, and a slanted trigger guard (in contrast to the curved hook of the P226).
This pistol was adopted by the United States Air Force as the M11, replacing the .38 Special Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers that until then were in service.
In 1992, SIG Sauer released the P229, which was the same gun as the P228, only with a heavier slide. This was done to give the weapon greater strength in handling the hotter .40 S&W and .357 SIG loads.
Shortly after, SIG discontinued the P228 altogether and started offering the P229 in 9mm as well. The .357 SIG version of the P229 was adopted as the standard issue sidearm of the United States Secret Service and the Federal Air Marshal Service.
The standard magazine capacity of the P229 was later increased to 15 rounds as well.
Primary Differences Between the P226 and the P229
As noted before, the P226 and the P229 are essentially the same gun with one significant difference: the P229 is slightly smaller.
The P229 is marginally shorter than the P226 (5.4 inches for the P229 vs. the P226’s 5.5 inches) and is also shorter in overall length (7.7 inches vs. 7.1 inches). The width of the two guns is identical.
And both guns follow the same design that was started with the P220. Both are double-action/single-action (meaning the first shot pulled is long and heavy, and all subsequent shots are short and crisp until decocked) and with SIG’s distinctive decocker lever easily accessible on the side of the frame.
Both guns are also hammer-fired and built on an alloy frame with a stainless slide.
The frames of both pistols are coated in a hard-coat anodized finish, while the slides are nitron-finished. Both of these finishings offer excellent rust and corrosion resistance.
Both guns have a well-deserved reputation for reliability and durability, which is something that SIG Sauer, as a company, is known for as well.
The quality and manual-of-arms between the P226 and the P229 are identical. The magazine capacity between the two is identical in all calibers in magazines from the factory as well (15 rounds in 9mm Luger and 12 rounds in .40 S&W/.357 SIG Sauer).
However, aftermarket magazine manufacturer MecGar (who is very reputable and also manufactures the magazines for several handgun makers) issues 18 round flush fitting magazines in 9mm and 13 round flush fitting magazines in .40 S&W/.357 SIG Sauer for the P226. Overall, with the MecGar magazines, you can get slightly more rounds to fit into the P226.
Choosing between the Sig Sauer P226 and P229 comes down to asking yourself one question: do you want a full-sized service pistol in the form of the P226, or do you want a slightly more compact pistol in the form of the P229?
Even though we live in an era where polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns have taken precedence as sidearms amongst military, law enforcement, and civilian markets, both the P226 and the P229 remain popular.
SIG has been continuously producing both handguns ever since their inception, and they offer many variants of both today as well:
- P226 Nitron Full Size: the base model of the P226 offered today, the Nitron pistol has a smaller E2-style grip to better accommodate shooters with smaller hand sizes and a tactical rail for adding lights and lasers.
- P226 Equinox Elite: comes equipped with nickel-plated Equinox slide, X-ray night sights, and a black Hogue G10 grip.
- P226 Legion: comes with a very durable Cerakote Elite Legion gray coating, G-10 grips with SIG’s ‘Legion’ medallion, and Electro-Optics X-Ray night sights.
- MK25: closely replicates the MK25 that served as the standard issue sidearm of the US Navy SEALS.
- P229 Nitron Compact: the base model of P229 offered today, this pistol has the smaller E2-style grip to better accommodate shooters with smaller hand sizes and a tactical rail for adding lights and lasers.
- P229 Legion: comes with a very durable Cerakote Elite Legion gray coating, G-10 grips with SIG’s ‘Legion’ medallion, and Electro-Optics X-Ray night sights.
- P229 PRO: comes with a PRO-CUT slide and optics-ready so you can easily add red dots (compatible with the RMR, Delta Point Pro, and ROMEO1PRO red dots); also comes with X-Ray night sights, Piranha G10 grips, and a beavertail on the back of the slide to help prevent slide bite.
- M11-A1: closely replicates the look of the P228/M11 adopted by the U.S. Air Force, but still keeps the stronger slide of the P229.
Recap: Sig Sauer P226 vs P229
Both the P226 and P229 pistols are known for their excellent quality and reliability.
Both guns operate exactly the same, have been adopted by numerous military and law enforcement units throughout the world, and will last you a lifetime to be passed onto future generations.
Choosing between the two ultimately comes down to determining whether you want a full-size handgun or one that’s slightly more compact and easier to conceal.
Or, like most of us, you may end up going with both!