I'm not telling the readers of POLICE anything they don't know when I say the law enforcement market in the United States is dominated by five manufacturers of pistols.
Of these five gun makers, three are best known in contemporary law enforcement for their polymer frame designs. The other two—one of which is SIG Sauer—also make polymer frame guns, but they are best known for their traditional metal frame pistols.
SIG has been making guns for more than 150 years.
Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft (SIG) was established in 1853 to manufacture railway rolling stock. The company was transformed into a gun maker in 1860 when it won a contract to manufacture 30,000 rifles for the Swiss army.
For most of its first century in business, SIG was strictly a rifle maker. Then in 1949 the company introduced its first handgun, the SIG P210, whose quality of manufacture and performance led to many experts calling it the "Mercedes Benz of handguns."
In the post-1945 period, so as to circumvent strict Swiss laws regarding the export of military firearms, SIG formed a partnership with the German gun maker Sauer & Sohn. A few years later the company introduced the 9mm P220, which was adopted by the Swiss army, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and a number of Middle Eastern and African armies, as well as numerous police forces worldwide.
The 1980s saw SIG pursuing the American market at a time when most police forces were considering changing over from revolvers to semi-auto pistols. To address this market SIG introduced a high-capacity pistol, the P226, which proved to be a very popular duty pistol.
The P226 and its corresponding compact, the P229, are now used by numerous federal, state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies. The company's guns are also popular in the American civilian market.
To address the growing law enforcement and civilian concealed carry markets, SIG introduced the P290 series of subcompact polymer frame pistols in .380 ACP and 9mm. But while the P290 was an attractive item, there were still a significant number of officers and agencies that wanted all-metal pistols, especially ones whose construction and operating drill are similar to their SIG duty pistols. That demand led to the development of the P224.
Look and Feel
A quick glance at the P224 dispels any doubts you may have about its heritage. Its looks, feel, and heft scream "P226," although when you pick it up the differences are immediately evident. The P224 is lighter, smaller, and sports a shorter barrel than either the P226 or P229.
One of the biggest advantages the P224 provides is that it has the same operating drill as the P226, P229, P220, P227, and SP2022, which greatly eases training, retraining, and cross-training.
In common with its brethren, the P224 is a rugged all-metal handgun. It features a steel slide with a rather squared-off profile, which sits atop a lightweight alloy frame.
A large ejection port and an extractor of truly heroic proportions ensure that spent cases get out of the way fast and reliably. Sharp cut grasping grooves allow positive slide retraction while the SIGlite night sights are large and easy to align.
The slide unit contains a 3.9-inch barrel and a recoil spring riding on a full-length guide rod to ensure reliable functioning. The slide reciprocates on full-length frame rails, which provide complete support for the slide during movement for improved reliability, better slide/frame lock-up, and enhanced accuracy.
Controls and Features
In place of any type of manual safety the P224 uses a de-cocking lever at the top of the left grip panel that allows the shooter to safely lower the hammer on a loaded chamber. It can be manipulated by the thumb of the shooting hand without the shooter changing grip. Additional security is provided by an automatic firing pin safety block, safety intercept notch, and a trigger bar disconnector, all of which require a full stroke of the trigger to overcome.
While the P224 I received had a traditional DA/SA trigger, this model of SIG is also available with the Double-Action Kellerman (DAK) trigger. In addition, the short-reset trigger (SRT) option is available on those pistols having a DA/SA trigger.
Five versions of the pistol are available: the Nitron, SAS, Equinox, Nickel, and Extreme.
Another nice feature is that the P224 will accept newer P229 magazines, allowing users to carry a full-size spare magazine as a backup and officers will appreciate not having to carry separate magazines solely for their backup guns.
On the Range
SIG Sauer sent POLICE a P224 Nitron to evaluate. As with the other metal frame SIG pistols I have tested, it had a hand-filling (albeit shorter) grip and a reassuring heft to it. The DA trigger pull was rather stiff but broke according to my trigger pull scale at about 11 pounds while the SA had a bit of take up before 4.5 pounds of pressure tripped the sear.
I was especially impressed with the large, easy-to-see sights and the secure purchase the G-10 grips provided, although the abbreviated grip did not allow a full three-finger grip.
When test fired for accuracy at 15 yards the new SIG proved capable of producing well-centered, sub-two-inch groups, which I feel is excellent performance from any subcompact pistol.
I ran the P224 through a series of drills from five and 10 yards. All the controls were well positioned for positive manipulation, and while I was less than thrilled with the short grip, the pistol's weight and the G-10 grips combined to provide very good recoil control.
The heavy DA trigger pull caused several of my shots to wander away from the center of the target. Still, the majority chewed up the X and 9 rings in a most pleasing manner.
I would suggest that SIG consider two improvements. A lighter DA trigger pull would be a big help for first shot accuracy while a finger rest extension on the magazine floor plate would allow a full three-finger grip without compromising concealability.
The SIG Sauer P224 is a bit larger and heavier than some other subcompact pistols in its class, but its handling qualities and accuracy are above reproach. If your agency already issues SIG pistols, or you just prefer an all-metal pistol for undercover work or off-duty carry, the P224 rates serious consideration.
Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer and is a frequent contributor to POLICE.
- Caliber: 9mm (also available in .357 SIG and .40 S&W)
- Capacity: 12 rounds
- Overall Length: 6.7 inches
- Barrel Length: 3.5 inches
- Height: 4.5 inches
- Width: 1.4 inches
- Weight (unloaded): 29 ounces
- Trigger: DA/SA, hammer fired
- Construction: Slide, steel; Frame, aluminum alloy
- Sights: SIGlite night sights
- Grips: Hogue G-10
- Comes With: Spare magazine, cleaning rod, box, lock, owner's manual
- Price: $1,108