The P290 is a hammer-fired design and, as behooves a pistol designed for concealed carry, the hammer is bobbed to provide a smooth, snag-free outline. It has a double-action-only (DAO) trigger mechanism but does not have double-strike capability. In case of a misfire, the slide must be retracted slightly and released to reset the trigger mechanism.
Shooters familiar with other SIG pistols will quickly see that the P290 has a locking system that is common to most SIGs. The barrel hood moves up into and bears on the front edge of the ejection port, locking the barrel and slide together. Upon firing, the slide and barrel move rearward a short distance until the barrel is cammed down, allowing the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case. A dual recoil spring under the barrel then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round from the magazine and chambering it as the slide goes into battery. A cone-shaped muzzle ensures that the barrel is positioned correctly in the slide for enhanced accuracy and reliability.
Unlike many of the new breed of mini-9mm pistols, the P290 does not have a manual safety, relying instead upon the long trigger stroke. As this system has proven quite satisfactory on double-action revolvers for more than a century, SIG apparently didn't see any reason to complicate matters.
Accurate for Its Size
SIG kindly provided me with an early production P290 to evaluate. Quality of materials and assembly were as to be expected from a company with SIG's reputation. It was well balanced and pointed well. The trigger pull was rather heavy with a definite staging about halfway through the stroke, although I assumed this would smooth out with use. My other concern was that the attenuated grip left the little finger of my shooting hand dangling in the air.
I test fired the P290 for accuracy from a Caldwell Matrix rest at a measured 15 yards with four brands of factory ammunition. (See "Shooting the SIG Sauer P290" on page 24.)
While it printed more or less to point of aim, the heavy trigger pull required a bit of concentration and nursing along. As has been my experience with most compact 9mm pistols, the P290 showed a preference for heavier, slower moving bullets and performed best with Black Hills' 147-grain load.
Myself and my brother Vince, a deputy with the Lonoke County (Ark.) Sheriff's Department, ran the P290 through a series of offhand drills on a combat target at seven yards. As we did not have a suitable holster, we began each drill with the pistol in the low ready position.
We performed the following drills: