Cutting edge when introduced, the Sig Sauer P229 was foisted on me in 2005 and, after we learned to get along, has grown to become a favorite.
Introduced in 1991 as a more compact version of the P226, the gun traded a bit of length and height on the classic Sig 15+1 9mm, giving up a little bit of sight radius and magazine capacity in the exchange. The result was a gun that fit dimensionally into the same size envelope as the vaunted Glock 19, albeit about a half-pound heavier.
With a 13+1 capacity in 9mm (12+1 in .40 S&W), the P229 still carried enough cartridges to give someone who carried two extra mags 40 rounds on tap.
Speaking of which, fast forward our story to 2005.
That was the year Hurricane Katrina sucker-punched the Gulf Coast and left my then-profession with Ma Bell somewhat on the ropes. Dusting off my firearms trainer certs, I soon took a gig with a Department of Homeland Security contractor to train guards working the myriad of FEMA sites that sprang up like mushrooms. Intending this to be a temp job until I moved back into telecom, I wound up with the company for almost a decade, running courses all over the country on a variety of different contracts.
I stood on the range and watched well over 100,000 rounds of ammo burned through four pallets of Sigs in very short order. - Chris Eger
Long story short, the company was contractually obligated to use the then DHS-standard P229R for its guard force. This meant, at one time or another, I had upwards of 200 brand-new Sigs on hand fresh from the factory. I had to issue these out and put candidates through a 500-round training cycle followed by a certification course of fire observed by a gold-badged federal inspector. Fun, right? In its most basic form, I stood on the range and watched well over 100,000 rounds of ammo (all Speer Gold Dot!) burned through four pallets of Sigs in very short order.
As a prerequisite to the training, I had to trek to the state trooper academy in Florida – those are some humorless guys there – and take a Sig P-series armor course. How much did I need that course? It turned out not very much. Of those 200 pistols running 500+ rounds each, I had to fix a couple of pins walking out of the slide, reinstall two rear sights that jumped off, and replace a takedown lever that a student rotated past the stop point to the extent that it just spun like a helicopter. Not bad.
With that, I bought a couple of personal-use P229s at the same time and spent several years attempting to melt them down. Satisfied with the performance of these guns, they were carried often and shot on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. Here is what I have to report.
On the range
Double action trigger pull is stout, running about 10 pounds, but that drops significantly in single action. To help with the trigger, I installed one of Sig's short reset trigger kits – a longer safety lever and a modified sear – along with a short trigger. The result is a trigger that resets after about a third of an inch and has a 4-pound pull on SA. Did I have to make the mod? Of course not, but it did smooth out the performance while sticking to factory parts.
With its alloy frame, the gun flexes less than a polymer gun during firing, and the extra weight helps keep the muzzle down on follow-up shots, allowing the P229 to "hang" on target well.
My "other" P229 is a DAK model, named for the Double Action Kellerman trigger system, a full-time DAO that runs a thick trigger with a homogenous 6.5-pound break. The biggest problem I had with it is that I had spent so many thousands of rounds with the standard DA/SA model that my muscle memory kept trying to work the decocker that wasn't there.
The elephant in the room on the P229 is that the pistol is downright heavy compared to polymer-framed 9mm handguns with a similar capacity. While roughly the same length and height as a Glock 19, a P229 loaded with 14 rounds of 147-grain JHPs hits my kitchen scales at 37 ounces. The G19, with 16 rounds loaded, weighs 31 ounces. You need both a stout belt and a good holster to help mitigate that weight and make for a comfortable carry.
Over the past decade and a half, I have cycled several thousand rounds through my two P229s. While I have noted a few jams over that journey, I never felt reliability was a problem, and the jams were usually dunce-level operator errors that were easily cleared through an emergency action drill. Typical range loads are Winchester white box, Federal red box, and the occasional random box of Wolf. Carry loads have alternated over the last 16 years but are typically Speer (I, um, had access to a lot of it for a long time) or Hornady, which have patterned well and performed 100 percent on the range and in gel.
To keep the guns running, I've swapped out the recoil springs a couple of times – Sig recommends every 5,000 rounds or whenever they start picking up extra loops or you start experiencing a sluggish slide on recoil. It is an easy sub-$20 fix that requires no gunsmithing training. It's a good idea to keep a few around JIC.
Speaking of springs, I've had to swap out more mag springs than anything else, with a few factory mags nosediving the rounds over time. However, once replaced, the mags run like they are good as new. Of note, Sig has marketed a few different P229 mags over the years. This includes zipper-backed German-made mags, a gray phosphate mag, and Italian Mec-Gar mags with a shiny Teflon finish that drops clear every single time. I prefer the latter.
Other factors on "duty" pistols over a decade old are dead night sights. Sure, once the vials go dark, the sights still work fine under regular conditions, but if you want that green glow of satisfaction in a dimly lit hallway, you must be prepared to swap them out. This is easily accomplished with a sight pusher in about five minutes. Others have found good results with a vice.
Looking back, I could have made worse choices than the P229, and I have during the same period owned and used comparable Glocks and Smiths of various models. In the end, I'm happy with the platform, finding it durable in every aspect, and I would recommend it to others with few caveats.