A Critical Look at the SIG-Sauer P225

 

Never as common in the police or military communities as either the P220 or P226 and pretty well replaced by the P228 and P229 today, the P225 remains a popular conventional DA/SA 9mm semiautomatic pistol.  Lightweight and easy to carry concealed, many private citizens carry these guns as have uniformed police in other countries, particularly what was then West Germany where it was known as the P6. The P225 can be thought of as the "Commander" version of the P220. Like the Star Model BM this gun can be found new or like new albeit at a higher price than the Star commands.  It seems to generate some interest on gun boards so I wanted to do an extensive report on these guns for those potentially interested in buying one.

 

Specifications:

 

Length: 7.09"

Height: 6.37"

Weight: 1.81 lbs. (empty)

Barrel: 3.86" (1:10 twist with standard rifling)

Width across grips: 1.255"

Action: conventional double-action first-shot with single-action after

Locked Breech: yes

Frame: anodized aluminum alloy

Slide: stamped steel with solid breech face pinned in place

Sights: fixed and dovetail-installed front and rear (On this gun No. 9 rear and No. 8 front)

Sight radius: 5.7"

Magazine: single-stack, 8 shot, and removable floorplate

Magazine release: at rear of trigger guard; not reversible

Stocks: checkered black plastic secured by two screws on each panel

Beveled magazine well: yes, barely

FLGR: yes, one-piece, recoil spring not captive

Recoil Spring: braided and factory standard @ 16 lbs.

Mainspring: coil and factory standard @ 24 lbs.

Extractor: internal

Internal firing pin block: yes

Half-cock notch: No, but the hammer cannot move forward and strike the firing pin unless the trigger is in its rearward position.  This is not a half-cock notch per se but does the same thing.  Not only is the firing pin blocked until the trigger is pressed rearward but the hammer cannot even touch it until that point.

External safety: no

External slide stop lever: yes

Decocking lever: yes

Trigger pull: DA/SA rated at 12.1 and 4.4 lbs., respectively.

 

It is also interesting to note that the slide rails extend the full length of the frame. There is a steel insert in the frame at the lower rear of the hammer. The hammer is a serrated, somewhat abbreviated spur type that is not prone to biting the hand shooting the gun. The trigger is stamped and has a smooth face. The stocks cover the rear grip strap of the gun. The ejector is stamped and part of the internal portion of the hold open device. This conventional DA consists of 58 parts counting grip panels and washers.

 

The SIG-Sauer P225 is a compact 9mm renowned for reliability with a wide variety of ammunition and quality construction. This does not mean that it is perfect.  Bluing tends to be thin on SIG-Sauer handguns and prone to quickly wear and rust.  Anodizing of the frame is very well done. In the picture above, the take-down lever can be seen slightly above the trigger.  With the slide locked back and the magazine removed, the spring-loaded take-down lever is pressed ninety degrees downward. When the hold-open is released, the slide assembly can be eased off the front of the gun. The recoil spring guide is then pushed forward and upward to free it from the barrel.  It can now be removed toward the rear of the assembly.  Likewise, the barrel is lifted and removed rearward.

 

Here is the field-stripped P225.  Other than removing the grips, further disassembly is not usually recommended nor required. On the top of the slide the solid steel breech face insert is visible, as are the full length slide rails.  At the top of the stocks we see the decocking lever (front) and slide release lever (rear). People who shoot other make pistols often get the positions reversed and release the slide when intended to decock or try and release the slide with the decocker. Note also that the barrel does not have the Browning type locking lugs.  The "lug" is the higher chamber which engages the slide in a flat plane all the way across. This is simpler to produce than the John Browning design. The disconnector is toward the rear of the slide rail cutout not shown.

 

Some have opined that the design is "poor" or "fragile" because of the use of stamped steel parts including the slide, the stocks cover the mainspring as there is no back strap on the frame, and because some parts are kept in place with the grip panels.  I have not noted this to be more than theoretical and of no relevance in real world use of the pistol.  Consider that the P226 has been used for several years now by England's SAS (Special Air Service) as well as our own Navy SEAL teams.  I hardly think these warriors would use something not up to the task. Recall that the Walther P38, a seasoned veteran, also shares this trait, as does the Makarov. I have seen P225's, P226's, and P220's used in police service for years with no problems due to being fragile because of the stock design. One does need to make sure that the grip screws are tight.  SIG-Sauer grip screws are relatively short and if loose, easily lost.  On this gun there are lock washers in the grips below the screw heads to help prevent this. They are very precisely fitted along the rear grip strap with the seam being minute and relatively difficult to see.

 

While I have heard of a few cases in which the steel breach face insert gave way, they have been rare.  It can happen but is the exception rather than the rule in my experience.  Over 11 years as a police firearm instructor I saw quite a few SIG-Sauer handguns used long-term with no slide breakage.  I have seen some SIG-Sauer slide rails crack on the frames, but not many.  In these cases, SIG-Sauer took care of the replacements at no cost to the owner.  Cracked frames in aluminum frame guns is not unheard of regardless of the maker.

 

The front strap is neatly serrated with to promote a secure grip.  Note that the area beneath the rear of the trigger guard is slightly relieved for a slightly higher grip. There is a slight swell in the grip around the magazine release to keep the thumb off of it, but it's also relieved so that deliberately pressing the magazine release is easy and quickly done.

 

The P225 does not have a removable barrel bushing ala the 1911 or some Star firearms. Nevertheless, the barrel can be expected to fit the slide with no perceptible movement when in battery.  I've checked perhaps half a dozen of these over the years with the same results. Slide-to-frame fit is also excellent. I can usually find very small lateral movement on the slide and none vertically.  While closely fitted, the P225 "glides" into battery without any "crush" fit.

 

 

The P225 does not have a removable barrel bushing, as do some pistols.  The gap visible at the top is to allow for the upward cant that occurs when the barrel is unlocked from the slide during firing. Barrel-to-slide fit is tight and without perceptible felt movement.

 

The barrel appears to have a one-piece feed ramp and a ramp is present but like the 1911, part of the feed ramp is in the frame. Do not try and polish the abbreviated feed ramps on the SIG-Sauer line of pistols unless you know that you can do it without removing any metal.  The dimensions from the factory are critical and if altered too much, ruin reliability. They usually don't need polishing anyway.

 

This pistol uses a single-stack 8 round magazine.  It has 7 witness holes and a steel follower. As can be seen from the picture, the magazine seam is both dovetailed and spot welded.  The floor plate is easily removed for disassembly and maintenance.

 

Shooting: The P225 is obviously intended as a carry gun but one of slightly reduced dimensions when compared to the service pistol class of handguns. Obviously it is not intended as a formal target pistol, but it turns out that these guns are capable of very good mechanical accuracy. Their degree of "practical accuracy" (how easy they are or are not to shoot well) greatly depends upon the individual user. What is comfortable to one person may not be to another.

 

The gun will not have as short of a trigger reset as the 1911, but then, what does? There is a small amount of take-up present on the double-action and more on the single. In single-action reset is more akin the Hi Power than the 1911, so if this offends, the P225 is probably not the best choice. Considered an advantage to some users, the double-action trigger pull is an anathema to others who prefer both a lighter and consistent trigger pull from first shot to last. While I prefer the single-action auto as found in the Hi Power, 1911 and some Star's and CZ pistols, I have not found the double-action first shot to be as "terrible" as other shooters. While a master trigger specialist like Teddy Jacobson can do great things with the SIG-Sauer pistols, we will not be able to get so light a pull as in single-action.

 

To me, the double-action pull on the P225 is indeed a bit heavy, but it is smooth and shorter than on some other double-action automatics and I do not find it particularly slow nor burdensome to transition to single-action after the first shot is fired.  This will not hold true with everyone depending upon his or her personal perceptions and preferences.

 

Ten Yards: For the reasons previously mentioned I fired several shots strictly double-action at this somewhat "long" combat distance.  Starting with the gun in a low ready position, I raised and fired as soon as I could get a flash sight picture. A two-hand hold was used.

 

Using PMC 115-gr. Starfire JHP ammunition I fired one shot at either the chest or head of the NRA Law Enforcement target shown. It was not particularly difficult to get solid hits in this mode of fire, but neither is it as easy as with a single-action pistol. I estimate the time per shot at a second or slightly under.

 

Fifteen Yards: These groups were fired seated and using a two-hand hold and a rest. All shooting was in single-action and in slow-fire. Not intended to replicate defensive shooting, the exercise was to see how tightly the P225 could be made to group in my hands.  Some shooters will do better but I believe it is clear that the P225 possesses more than adequate mechanical accuracy for 99% of most people's shooting requirements.

 

These two targets were shot at 15 yards in slow-fire.  Speer 147-gr. Gold Dots were used on the left target while Remington 115-gr. JHP +P was used on the right. I do not know if the two flyers on the right target were due to the pistol or me.  All of these shots felt "good." Human error is probably the main culprit so they were probably my fault. I found it interesting that elevation didn't vary that much between these two loads and that the slight differences in windage were more apparent.

 

Due to time constraints I did not shoot this gun at any greater distances.

 

Shooting results are intended neither as recommended defensive or target training.  They are not devised to represent anything except if the gun can be shot comfortably at speed and to wring out its inherent accuracy while minimizing human error as much as possible with braced wrists. They are hoped to provide a sort of baseline for what other shooters might expect and nothing more.

 

While I find the P225 to possess considerable mechanical accuracy, I do not get quite so small of groups as with the P226.  I flat do not know if this is due to the latter's greater sight radius or if the design's geometry is maximized in the full size gun. (In some of the 9mm S&W automatics I found I could get somewhat tighter groups with the smaller versions!)  In any event I believe most of us will find the P225 to possess more than enough accuracy for self-defense purposes.  I have not done extensive searches for what loads group the best in this pistol. At the same time, I have not shot any that refused to group pretty well.

 

Being as this pistol is intended primarily as a defensive arm, I opted to chronograph several factory 9mm loads from light to heavy for caliber.  Shooting was done 10' from the chronograph screen and 10 shots per load were fired.  Velocities, extreme spreads, and standard deviations are in ft/sec.

 

SIG-Sauer P225 Chronograph Results:

 

Load:

Average Velocity:

Extreme Spread:

Standard Deviation:

RBCD 50-gr. Tactical

1884

115

43

Remington UMC 115-gr. FMJ

1125

22

7

Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ

1086

58

19

Federal 115-gr. JHP

1098

34

12

Remington 115-gr. JHP +P

1198

53

20

PMC 115-gr. Starfire JHP

1093

47

17

Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P

1163

13

5

Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P

1337

24

10

CCI Blazer 124-gr. FMJ

1067

16

6

PMC 124-gr. Starfire JHP

1014

31

15

Hornady 124-gr. TAP (XTP)

1081

18

6

Remington 124-gr. GS +P

1109

40

16

Winchester 127-gr JHP +P+

1215

34

14

Remington 147-gr. GS

942

55

24

Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot

939

33

14

 

Another pistol, the Glock 26, is often considered for the same role as the P225 and I thought that it might be interesting to compare velocities with some of the chronographed loads common to both. Average velocities listed are in ft/sec. The Glock uses polygonal rifling and has a 3.46" barrel compared to the conventional rifling in the P225's 3.86" tube.

 

Chronograph Results: Glock 26 vs. SIG-Sauer P225:

 

Load:

P225:

Glock 26:

% Difference (Glock):

Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ

1086

1180

+ 8%

Federal 115-gr. JHP

1098

1111

+ 0.2%

Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P

1163

1181

+1.5%

Hornady 124-gr. TAP (XTP)

1081

1100

+ 1%

Winchester 127-gr. JHP +P+

1215

1246

+2.5%

 

It becomes clear that they very well may be something to the claims that polygonal rifling reduces velocity loss more than conventional rifling at least with some loads.  A more exhaustive study would be required to be meaningful.

 

In my P225, these loads were the most consistent and had standard deviations of 10 ft/sec or less! From left to right: Hornady 124-gr. TAP, Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P, Federal 115-gr. JHP, Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P, CCI/Speer 124-gr. FMJ, and Remington UMC 115-gr. FMJ. Note also that the LOA and bullet ogive vary significantly between these rounds.  The P225 digested all with no hiccups.

 

Observations: There were no malfunctions of any kind.  The closest thing to one appeared to be with the RBCD 50-gr. Tactical ammunition.  This is a standard pressure load and even at its high bullet velocity there was barely enough momentum to eject cases.  With this load, fired cases ejected only about a foot or so!  Everything else was from approximately 5' for the PMC Starfires to about 12' for the Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P, which also gave the greatest felt recoil of any load fired.

 

The P225 showed no preference in feeding one type of ammunition over the other.  Chambering was slick and without hesitation. For personal defense in this pistol I liked the performance of the Corbon DPX +P as its felt recoil was equivalent to standard velocity ammunition, but the bullet has proven to expand quite well and reliably though various intermediate targets. I found the 115-gr. DPX +P to be quite a bit more controllable in rapid-fire than the same company's old standby, the 115-gr. JHP +P. This round has quite a following among 9mm fans concerned with self-protection and if I foresaw lots of it in my P225's future, I'd increase the recoil spring from 16 to 17-lbs.  I would also increase the mainspring from 24 to 26-lbs.  Were I going to use the RBCD 50-gr. ammunition, I'd go the other way to insure reliability.

 

Heavy-for-caliber 147-gr. JHP ammunition is favored by more than a few using the 9mm by choice or mandate.  Reports exist that such ammunition may not be reliable in some pistols, but in this short test, the P225 fed it without complaint.

 

Felt recoil was not excessive for a 9mm in this size and weight.  The gun exhibited slightly more muzzle rise than longer pistols but was by no means hard to control.  No sharp edges were felt and there was no hammer bite. In short, it's comfortable to shoot.

 

The interior of the barrel proved very smooth and clean up was easier and less time consuming than with some other 9mm pistols having rougher bores.

 

I like the P225.  It is not the best vehicle by which to exploit the ballistic capabilities of the 9x19mm cartridge, but it still provides bullet speeds compatible with expected 9mm performance. They're easy to carry.  Though certainly not a pocket gun, the piece will easily drop into a large overcoat pocket and with a proper belt holster they are comfortable to carry for long periods.

 

Here we see the P225 in a Galco belt slide holster. (It's marked YAQ202) and spare magazines in a Blade-Tech carrier. This combination would be adequate for most lawfully concealed individuals.

 

The P225 will not be replacing my Browning Hi Powers but neither is it a pistol I'm anxious to be rid of.  I've never been a great SIG-Sauer fan, but somehow cannot bring myself to be without my P220 in .45 or this little thing.  In fact, these are the only two SIG-Sauer handguns I own having traded off my P230.

 

I doubt that this pistol will ever be accused of being "elegant" or having "classic lines" like the Hi Power, 1911, or S&W revolvers, but it does appear rather "businesslike".

 

It does not match the magazine capacity of the P228/229 pistols having double-stack magazines.  At the same time, I believe that it holds enough for the vast majority of defensive scenarios assuming that the shooter can hit his mark. It's relatively compact size combined with light weight and good ergonomics make this gun a viable choice for folks wanting an "upper tier" handgun that can be found at prices from around $375 to $500. Spare parts and extra magazines can be had without much problem and holsters can be found for these pistols in most price ranges.  If a person likes the cartridge and finds cocked-and-locked unacceptable for whatever reasons, this pistol really should be on their short list for an accurate carry gun that can be counted on for dependability and simplicity in getting into action.

 

Best.

 

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