Today, we are looking at the iconic SIG Sauer P229 in .40 caliber. SIG’s P22- series pistols were the “it” duty guns in the 1990s. Heralded for their robustness and reliability, the guns’ unique silhouettes stood out in TV shows and movies.  

The 226 was the Navy SEAL gun, while its baby brother, the 229, was also adopted by numerous militaries and law enforcement agencies worldwide. I always thought of it at as “the” Secret Service gun. Designated the M11 by the U.S. military, the P229 was intended as a compact sidearm for soldiers who needed a more concealable weapon.

Let’s find out a little more about it.
 

Table of Contents

Video
Details
My Impressions
Pros & Cons
Conclusion


Related: My 16 Year Journey with the SIG Sauer P229

Video

 

 

Details


The P229 was designed as a slight upgrade to the P228 in the 1990s, a time when there was a big firepower debate. Infamous law enforcement engagements such as the 1988 FBI Miami Shootout spurred many agencies to search for large caliber rounds for their officers.
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
The P229 is a beefier version of the P228 capable of handling more powerful cartridges like .40 S&W, in this case. (All photos: Don Summers/Guns.com)


The P229 was SIG’s answer. A beefed-up version of the 228, it could handle some of the more powerful ammunition. The 229 was designed to withstand the .357 SIG and .40 S&W cartridges. Mechanically, the 228 and 229 are identical. 
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
The 229 is mechanically identical to its little brother, the P228. 


The P229 is a hammer-fired, aluminum-framed pistol with a Browning tilting barrel action. It uses a traditional double-action trigger system, which means the first trigger pull is a long and heavy, so you must deliberately pull it, but subsequent shots are short and light, single-action pulls for fast follow-up shots.
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
The aluminum frame is hefty enough to tame the .40 S&W with ease.


It features a decocking lever, slide stop, and magazine release. There is light checkering on the front strap and trigger guard. The used version I got has an accessory rail and dovetailed front and rear night sights.
 

My Impressions


Anyone who wants a traditional double action in this size will find the P229 robust, reliable, and accurate. Time and combat have undeniably proven this. 
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
Controls are easy to reach, even for someone with short thumbs like me.


I like the control placement on the 229. The slide lock is easily reached, even for people with short thumbs like me. I also like the decocker location. Some say it’s bad because you must break your grip to actuate it, but I think this is a plus. You don’t need to decock quickly in a high-stress situation. You only need to decock as an administrative action, so breaking your grip makes sense.
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
The double-action trigger pull is long and heavy, but after that first shot, the single action is short and crisp. Note the trigger guard's front serrations.


There is also a good trigger for a duty gun. Yes, the first pull is long and heavy, but as a double action, it’s supposed to be. Although heavy, the double-action pull is smooth and consistent. It’s easy to get good at this trigger pull. The single action and its subsequent resets are short, crisp, and outstanding.

SIG has continued to improve and develop this pistol over the years, integrating numerous upgrades into each new generation and model. A 1990s P229 is different from one produced today. Everything from safety to reliability has been improved little by little. Currently there are versions with accessory rails, front slide serrations, steel frames, improved triggers, and optic cuts. 
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
I prefer more texturing on the grip for a carry gun...


Despite all its positive attributes, the P229 won’t be the first pistol I pick up, but not because of any mechanical issues or defects. I just don’t shoot it well. For some reason, the grip, trigger, and slide just don’t work well for me and my hand. Could I train this out? Probably. 
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun
...and I find the shape just isn't quite right for my hand. But my objections are purely personal preference.


If I practice enough with this pistol, I could become proficient and learn to like it. I just haven’t had the time to do this. I stress this is personal preference. There are thousands of diehard fans of this platform, so you just have to try one for yourself to know.
 

Pros & Cons

 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun in holster
The double action and exposed hammer are good safety measures for carrying in the appendix position.


I’m a proponent of the traditional double-action system, especially when carrying in the appendix position. The heavy double-action-first trigger pull adds a level of safety that is not present with lighter striker-fired trigger pulls. I’ll take a smooth double-action trigger over a twangy striker trigger any day.
 

SIG Sauer P229 .40 S&W handgun in holster
Just keep your thumb on the hammer while re-holstering to ensure no movement of the trigger. 
 

Also, the exposed hammer gives you tactile index of any trigger movement when re-holstering. I keep my thumb on the hammer so I can feel if something caught in the trigger guard is inadvertently pulling on the trigger.
 

A closer look at the exposed, serrated hammer. 


Another bonus is the weight. Some might think it’s a detriment, but when shooting some of the heavier calibers as this gun was designed for like the .40 S&W, believe me, you will appreciate the extra heft. 

I mentioned the feel isn’t right for me, but there are a few other cons I want to mention. First, the bore axis is high. This can give the feel of slightly more muzzle flip. In general, I think the bore axis debate is overblown. I know many shooters who can shoot this gun just as fast and accurately as any other low-bore-axis gun. But I can feel the difference, so I just wanted to make you aware of this nuance.
 

The high bore axis on the P229 may contribute to slightly more muzzle flip than a similar gun with lower bore axis.


Second, I don’t think the grip texture is adequate. The front strap checkering is very light and the grip panels traction is barely adequate. Shooting high volumes fast and accurately requires a sure grip, and I don’t think this gun has enough.
 

On this older generation P229, slide serrations are found only at the rear of the slide and don't extend its full height.


Third, slide serrations are lacking on this older model, although some updates of the 229 have more slide serrations. On this gun, serrations are only present on the rear end of the slide, and even those don’t run the entire height of the slide. Next, it’s not ambidextrous. Only the mag catch is reversible. Otherwise, it’s set up for a right-handed shooter, period.

It’s also a bit thick compared to more modern designs with the same capacity. Although compact, it’s not the easiest gun to carry concealed because of the width. Finally, I think it’s a little expensive, as even used on Guns.com, these guns go for $700-800. I think that’s a testament to how much people like these guns that they are still in demand and command that price, but I think you can get a pistol that does the same job for less money.
 

The width might deter some from carrying a P229 concealed, but it's not a dealbreaker.


Pros:

  • Proven robust and reliable 
  • Double action trigger
  • Control placement
  • Weight handles larger calibers well
  • Each generation sees improvements

Cons:

  • High bore axis 
  • Grip texturing and slide serrations lacking on this older model
  • Controls not ambidextrous
  • A bit thick for concealed carry
  • Pricey
     

Conclusion


As you can see, the SIG P229 is just as relevant in 2023 as it was 30 years ago. If anything, it’s better than ever. I think people are starting again to appreciate the benefits of a heavier double-action carry gun. If that is you, make sure the SIG P229 is on your list.

revolver barrel loading graphic

Loading