Over the years I have enjoyed something of an up and down relationship with Sig Sauer pistols. Early in my career my department allowed for personal carry, but a decocking pistol was required. Given the chance to try a P220, it became my duty pistol for quite some time. The grip angle was the same as my 1911 pistols. The magazines were similar, and it was incredibly accurate, reliable and chambered in 45 ACP. It remained my primary pistol until 1911s were authorized.

“Shot off-hand, the P226 SAO was easily the most accurate factory 9mm pistol I’ve tested in a long time…”

Several years later, while training with a couple of federal tactical units, the chance to wring out a P226 arose. It quickly became one of my favorite decocking pistols to use. It was lightweight, easy to carry, reliable and incredibly accurate. The only drawback for me was the decocker. While a favorite for many, it is just not for me. It is one of those long-standing arguments that will never end, but to me it is just an unnecessary manipulation. My preference remains a single-action (SA) pistol, or a striker-fired weapon with no need for mechanical safeties. I remained a little dissatisfied with the P226—until now!

Attending several schools at the Sig Sauer Academy rekindled my fondness for the P226 pistol. It seemed every instructor was carrying an SA P226 pistol with similar configurations. They were kind enough to let me handle them during breaks. It’s as if the engineers had asked me what my perfect P226 would be and had decided to build it. An ambidextrous safety and extended beavertail accommodated my large hands. Unlike for the X-Five, holsters are prolific in most any configuration. The instructor’s pistols also had Hogue’s aggressively checkered grips and mag wells similar to the X-Five Tactical. Dry firing the pistol, the trigger was crisp, pretty clean, and broke exactly where a tactical pistol should. It really piqued my interest—now I just needed to shoot it!

That opportunity came up the next day while testing the new Sig Sauer MPX submachine gun. Sig’s Jeff Creamer was helping photographer Sean Utley and me with the test, and Jeff is a not only the marketing director, but a real gun guy. He provided a P226 SAO for use in my gear to facilitate the photography and some transition drills. After the test was completed, he allowed me to send some ammunition downrange. I was hooked! Given a few rounds to zero in at 30 yards on the 4-inch hostage-rescue plate, it was almost too easy to swing it back and forth. Shot off-hand, the P226 SAO was easily the most accurate factory 9mm pistol I’ve tested in a long time. It was impressive enough that I ordered one immediately upon my return home.

The P226 Elite SAO includes ambi manual safeties, a spurred hammer and extended beavertail to prevent hammer bite.

The P226 Elite SAO includes ambi manual safeties, a spurred hammer and extended beavertail to prevent hammer bite.

Gun Details

Sig Sauer’s Elite SAO starts with the aluminum Elite frame. This frame includes a tactical rail and an extended beavertail. More aggressive checkering is found on the front strap, as well as some on the front of the triggerguard. Elite frames will accept the mag well seen on the X-Five Tactical. The SAO is a single-action-only (SAO) model with an ambidextrous safety. Unique to this design is the ability to manipulate the slide with the safety engaged. The Elite P226 frame will accept 15-round factory magazines as well as the 20-round tactical versions.

The slide houses a match-grade, 4.4-inch barrel. Cocking serrations are at both the front and rear. SigLite Night Sights come standard with a ledged rear sight facilitating unconventional magazine changes and malfunction drills. The frame is hardcoat anodized and the slide is coated in Nitron. Two 15-round magazines are provided in a plastic hard case.

The P226 Elite SAO features Sig’s proprietary front and rear SigLite Night Sights, which, thanks to tritium inserts, are easily visible in low light conditions.

The P226 Elite SAO features Sig’s proprietary front and rear SigLite Night Sights, which, thanks to tritium inserts, are easily visible in low light conditions.

While the SigLites are great, my 50+ year-old eyes prefer something a bit brighter, especially for daylight shooting. Trijicon’s HD sights have become my favorites and were installed using my MGW sight mover. Available with either an orange or green front sight, orange is my preference. It contains a tritium insert surrounded by a large photoluminescent-painted doughnut. The rear sight is ledged with tritium inserts, keeping things simple. Hogue’s Chain Link Extreme Series G10 grips were installed for operation in adverse conditions and tactical operations. A RoCo Firearms X-Five-style mag well was added to round out the package.

Most of the testing was completed using a set of Kydex holsters made by NSR Tactical. The company’s Kydex work is excellent, and its delivery time is better than most. Based in Paulden, Arizona, NSR was able to deliver them to me at Gunsite during a 250 Pistol class I was working. NSR provided magazine pouches as well as holsters that accommodate the pistol alone and with a SureFire X300U tactical light. Molded in A-TACS Urban, it matches most of my gear. These holsters have proven to be very well constructed and made from the finest Kydex.

“I purchased the Sig P226 SAO for use as a duty pistol during department training, but I carried it concealed, and still do.”

“I purchased the Sig P226 SAO for use as a duty pistol during department training, but I carried it concealed, and still do.”

Range Time

I began testing the Sig P226 Elite SAO at Gunsite, which allowed me to carry it on the range for several days and during after-hours trips to the city. Loaded with 15 rounds, it was surprisingly easy to carry concealed and quite comfortable to carry. NSR’s holsters wrap around and carry a bit higher, making them easily concealed with a coat or outer cover. It held the pistol firmly yet allowed for a smooth and fast draw. Although considered a full-sized pistol, it was as good or more comfortable to carry than my usual full-sized 1911 pistols. Live-fire training was minimal but satisfyingly accurate. The ability to keep the safety activated during manipulations was appreciated, especially during demonstrations.

“Whether you are carrying for work, play or self-defense, give this pistol a look: It may be just as perfect for you…”

Moving back to my home range, it was time to wring this pistol out. Working with my Battle Belt and Safariland ALS holster, I found the pistol fast to the draw, intuitive to aim and easy to control. The trigger is predictable and very similar to most combat-oriented 1911 pistols. Transitioning between my Colt Delta Elite and the P226 SAO was seamless. Accuracy was excellent, with my best group measuring 2.5 inches at 25 yards, with 4 out of the 5 rounds closer to an inch. Barnes 115-grain TAC-XPD ammunition was the best, but it shot everything well. It was not my day for tiny groups, but there is little doubt the Sig P226 SAO is accurate. Given a mechanical rest, it will easily stay inside an inch and half at 25 yards. Shooting on the move and under stress at 15 yards, it was as accurate as a combat-ready pistol gets. Completing “follow the bullet“ drills, it cut one solid hole at 15 yards. Trigger control is excellent, allowing for controlled and precise fire no matter the conditions.

Function was as expected—flawless. The P226 Elite SAO is one of the most operationally proven pistols in the world. Over the course of a few weeks it ate up over 500 rounds of Black Hills 115-grain FMJ with almost boring accuracy. Self-defense ammunition, including several +P loads, were equally as reliable. Used as a primary pistol for some concerted work on my draw, reloads and malfunction drills, it was very comfortable to shoot. The grip and extended beavertail provide for precise control. Its ability to be rock-solid in the grip with gloved hands also makes it well suited to adverse conditions. Hogue’s grips were aggressive but comfortable to shoot during intense range sessions.

All of the Sig Sauer factory magazines functioned well with the mag well. The opening in the front makes it easy to load factory magazines using the flat base plate; the 20-rounders are about perfect. If you’re using aftermarket magazines, you are going to need to alter the baseplate, or order those designed for use with the X-Five and X-Six pistols. Mec-Gar’s 18-rounders are the most popular but would require some grinding to get them to fit.

The business end of the P226 Elite’s 4.4-inch match-grade barrel. Note the forward slide serrations.

The business end of the P226 Elite’s 4.4-inch match-grade barrel. Note the forward slide serrations.

Final Thoughts

I purchased the Sig P226 SAO for use as a primary duty pistol during department training, but I carried it concealed, and still do. After carrying a 1911 for decades, I found this pistol pretty easy to conceal. It was certainly no harder than any other full-sized pistol suitable for duty or tactical use. It has become a favorite to carry as it provides ample firepower, accuracy and complete reliability in any self-defense situation. Carrying full-sized pistols concealed is not for everyone, but this one works great if you do. Add a tactical light and it serves incredibly well as a secondary weapon capable of 20+ rounds of reliable firepower. It really is an incredibly versatile combat handgun.

The Sig P226 Elite SAO may not be for everyone, but for dyed-in-the-wool SA guys like me it is perfect. Short of some very high-dollar custom builds, high-capacity 9mm 1911 pistols suitable for carry use are rare. The P226 Elite SAO provides a proven pistol with excellent magazines and tremendous holster support. Whether you are carrying for work, play or self-defense, give this pistol a look: It may be just as perfect for you.

For more information, visit http://www.sigsauer.com or call 866-345-6744.

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