Pat’s Product Review: SIG Sauer P226 MK25

I still remember the very first “SIG” pistol that I ever saw. It was back in 1980, and I was an FFL dealer. A fellow asked me to order him a Browning BDA .45 ACP. At that time, I hadn’t heard of the Browning BDA. It wasn’t until I actually received the gun for the customer, that I discovered the Browning BDA, was, in fact, a SIG. At the time, this fairly new gun, was being imported by Browning. It just didn’t take off back then, for some strange reason – it was probably a little bit ahead of it’s time. [JWR Adds: The Browning BDA (in 9mm) was developed to compete in the U.S. Army trials for a replacement for the M1911. Eventually the Beretta M92 won out, to become the U.S. M9, and it is still in service. But SIG’s compact P228 did win a later contract, and was designated the M11.]
How things have changed! The SIG Sauer lineup of handguns and long guns has really grown over the years. And, it wasn’t too long ago, that SIG handguns were being made in Germany, and imported into the USA. Now, most SIG firearms are made right here in the USA. Part of the reason for making SIG firearms in the USA was a financial decision – the (then) German currency was killing the US Dollar, and SIG firearms were costing a lot of money. I was hoping that when SIG started manufacturing firearms in the USA, the prices would come down a bit, Well, they did, but only a little bit. [JWR Adds: Buying a few spare firearms of popular models in common fighting calibers is a good hedge on inflation. My first Ithaca 37 riotgun cost $180, and my first S&W Model 28 cost $208. Inflation marches on…]
What one will find with many SIG handguns is that they have a metal frame (aluminum) instead of polymer. Oh, that’s not to say SIG hasn’t jumped on the polymer-framed bandwagon. They have done so with some of their handguns such as the modular SIG P250. And, today, many people think that only polymer-framed handguns are worth having, or are the ars nova — “the” thing to own. Well, I guess I’m still a little old fashioned in that I still like metal frame handguns, and the SIG Sauer P220/P226 family of pistols is made with aluminum alloy frames. Some of the later ones are made with stainless steel slides. With the SIG Sauer P226 MK25, however, the stainless slide is Nitron coated. This is a dark, blue/black coating. The slide is still stainless steel under that coating.
I’ve lost track over the years, of the number of SIG Sauer handguns I’ve owned, but its safe to say, I’ve owned several dozen different versions. My favorite SIG, the P228, isn’t being made any longer – it was replaced with the P229. I thought the P228 balanced better in my hand than the P229 does, but that is just my take on it. Over the past three years, I’ve owned a number of full-sized SIG P226 handguns, in both 9mm and .40 S&W. I prefer my P226 in 9mm, as the .40 S&W versions only hold 12 rounds in the magazine. If I’m going to pack a full-sized handgun in .40 S&W, then I’ll pick one that holds 15+ rounds in the magazine. Again, just my feeling on things. Though the .40 S&W is a better man stopper than the 9mm, if you stoke a 9mm pistol with some good hollow points, a person won’t be able to tell if they were shot with a 9mm or a .40 S&W. (And I don’t care to get into a debate over which round is “better” for self-defense…it’s a debate that has no end, just like the 9mm vs .45 ACP debate that raged for years. It still comes down to shot placement, no matter what caliber you are shooting.
I’ve owned the “basic” SIG P226, as well as a factory rebuilt one, also the P226 Combat, with a desert tan frame. I really liked that one. (I wrote the front cover feature article for the Guns magazine Annual 2010 edition with the P226 Blackwater limited edition.) SIG broke away from Blackwater after some unfavorable publicity that Blackwater received in Iraq, and they discontinued the relationship. SIG now produces the Tac Ops, which is basically the same gun as the Blackwater gun – without the Blackwater markings. I’ve also had a SIG P226 in .40 S&W as well – bought it used. The gun under review today is the newly released P226 MK25.
For all intents and purposes, the MK25 starts out as a basic SIG P226, and some changes were made. The MK25 is the current US Navy SEAL 9mm handgun, and the SEALs gave SIG permission to sell this gun to the public. The slide is Nitron coated, and the frame hard anodized black. All external and internal parts are “phosphate” coated, for resistance to salt water – and the SEALs operate in water, so this was needed. The barrel is also phosphate coated externally. We also have night sights on the MK25, and there is an anchor on the left side of the slide, as well as the Federal Government UID tag on the right side of the slide – the same markings that are on the guns sold to the US Navy SEALs – this is an exact duplicate of the gun issued to the SEALs.
As with all later P226 handguns, it has a 4.4″ barrel, weighs 34-oz, and comes with an accessory rail for mounting lasers or lights – or both. The MK25 is ship with three 15-round 9mm magazines. Most other P226 9mms come with only two magazines. Nice to have three mags – one rides in the gun, and you can carry two spares on your belt or tactical holster. For concealed carry, I would recommend the Blackhawk Serpa belt holster.
As already mentioned, there are night sights on the MK25. SIG calls them SigLite night sights. They afford a great sight picture in daylight hours, and outstanding sighting in low light. The SigLite night sights really glow brightly, too – brighter than I’ve seen on some other brands of night sights. We also have a 10.0 lbs double-action trigger pull, and the single-action trigger pull is a super sweet 4.4 pounds. That is an outstanding single-action trigger pull if you ask me. It has just a little take-up, and the gun goes “bang” after that. There is the frame-mounted decocking lever. If you have fired the gun, the hammer stays cocked after the first round, for subsequent single-action shots, but you can safely de-cock the gun using the frame mounted decocker.
Over the years, I’ve never had a SIG P226 that wasn’t an outstanding shooter in the accuracy department. I’d be hard-pressed to say one P226 shot more accurately than another for the most part. And, the MK25 isn’t any different when it comes to accuracy. I tested the MK25 with 9mm ammo from Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition and the only ammo I used was either +P or +P+ loads for this article. No wimp loads!
Now, to give the MK25 a really different type of test, I ran the gun dry – no lube on the frame rails or or slide – the gun was completely dry! I don’t recommend anyone do this as a regular practice, though. However, I wanted to see what the MK25 could do under harsh conditions where lube might not be available. I only had one bobble – that was the first round fed out of the magazine – it didn’t fully chamber for some reason. After that, there were zero problems – the gun just kept running and running.
I like a 124 grain JHP round in 9mm, as I feel they penetrate a little bit deeper than 115 grain JHP do, and they usually shoot a tad more accurately in my experience. However, the MK25 shot the new Black Hills 115 grain +P Barnes hollow point best – if I did my part, I could keep my rounds slightly under 2″ most of the time. I’ve been doing a lot of testing with this Black Hills Barnes bullet in different calibers and I’m really sold on it for self-defense work.
I fired the Black Hills 124 grain JHP+P as well as their 115 grain JHP +P rounds, and they were great performers – giving me groups about 2 1/2 inches – again if I was on my game and doing my part. I also fired several different +P and +P+ loads from Buffalo Bore…the the SIG thrived on the +P+ loads, it really seemed like it was enjoying those +P+ loads for some reason. I fired both 115 grain JHP and 124 grain JHP loads in +P and +P+, as well as the Buffalo Bore 124 grain FMJ +P+ “Penetrator” load. This is the load you want if you need super-deep penetration from your 9mm handgun.
As I already mentioned, I did not have any problems, after the first round didn’t fully chamber. I did note however, that towards the end of the 400 round mini torture test, the slide was getting a little sluggish – but the gun never failed to chamber a round and go “bang” when the trigger was pulled. That says a lot about any handgun – if they can run without lube – there’s not a lot of handguns that can do this – I know that Glocks can, but every other gun that I’ve tested dry, have stopped working in short order.
I really like SIG Sauer handguns, and one of the reasons is because they are sooooo accurate. The new MK25 is no different than any other SIG I’ve shot over the years when it came to accuracy. I’m sure if I did more testing, I’d get those groups down to under and inch and a half. I would probably have to resort to non+P ammo for that, as some of the hotter rounds don’t always give the best accuracy. However, the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore 9mm +P and +P+ rounds were putting all the shots where I wanted ’em to go at 25 yards, over a rest, across the hood of my car. As an aside, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’ve ever shot my car when shooting over the hood. Well, the answer is – yes! It happened once, with a .22 LR rifle with a scope. I put a crease in the hood of my car – but I’ve never actually shot through any car parts.
With many new magazines, the springs are stiff in the SIG 9mm handguns. I’ve run across this with quite a few handguns. What I like to do is, load-up all my magazines to full-capacity, and let ’em sit for a couple weeks. After that, the magazines are much easier to load without resorting to using a magazine loader – I rarely use one of those, though.
I also obtained some Mec-Gar SIG P226 magazines – these hold 18 rounds, instead of 15 rounds like the ones that the factory provides. I don’t know how Mec-Gar does it – getting those extra 3 rounds in the mag. The SIG factory mags have a flat metal floor plate. The 18 round Mec-Gar mags have a polymer floorplate that only extends a tiny bit below the mag well opening – not enough to really matter. The Mec-Gar mags loaded easier than the factory SIG mags did, for some reason. And, the SIG factory mags are actually made by Mec-Gar over in Italy. The 18 round Mec-Gar mags seemed to feed a little smoother, too – or it could have been my imagination. For my money, I’d go with the Mec-Gar 18 rounds – as they are giving you 18 rounds on-tap instead of 15 rounds. And, in a fire-fight, every extra round you have on-tap might be needed.
There’s nothing bad I can say about the new SIG P226 MK25, it performed great under the harsh conditions I set for this test and evaluation. The accuracy is better than you get with many other handguns – then again, SIG Sauer is known for producing accurate handguns (and rifles), so it came as no surprise that the gun was so accurate – it’s good enough for SWAT work, and if it’s good enough for the US Navy SEALs, then its more than good enough for me. The full-retail price is $1,142. That is a steep, but then again, you get getting renowned SIG quality and reliability. Personally, I’ve always thought the P226 should have won the US military contract for a new 9mm pistol – but Beretta won. Nothing wrong with Beretta, but I think the SIG P226 is a better gun all the way around.
I don’t know how long SIG will sell the P226 MK25, but I’m betting it will be limited. I’ve got mine, and it’s not going back to the factory. I just wish the IRS refund check would get here soon so I can pay off my test sample. – Pat Cascio (SurvivalBlog’s Field Gear Editor)