There are designs that transcend time. Like the 1911 handgun. Or the early Ford F-100. Or the P-51 Mustang. They’re designs that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional at the same time, which is why they tend to stick around. One such design is SIG SAUER’s P226, which has been a favorite of law enforcement, military and civilian shooters since 1984. SIG recently released the version used by the Navy SEALs for civilian sale, and one email later I had a box with my name on it on the way to my FFL . . .
The standard P226 is an over-engineered marvel of gunsmithing. Whether it’s the polished finish on the frame or the butter-smooth feel of the slide slipping back and forth on the rails, there’s just something about the design that shooters love. The fact that the things last forever doesn’t hurt either. My first P226 was a police trade-in I bought for $300 and despite YEARS of heavy wear, the thing never had a single malfunction and shot as straight as an arrow. Even my latest P226, a West German 1987 manufacture, has been running like a Swiss clock despite being older than I am (yep, you read that right).
But as with any gun, there were some things that could be improved upon from the original design. From the looks of things, SIG SAUER made a list of all those improvements, funneled them into a single design and then christened it the MK25.
When I showed the MK25 to Chris and Joe in Portland, they didn’t see much improvement over the standard design. “The only difference is the anchor! And for that price, it better be painted with ground-up unicorn horn.” And to the untrained eye there isn’t much new and different. But the reality is that while the changes are relatively minor, they come together to make something much better than a stock P226.
The first thing you notice (besides the gold pressed latinum anchor) is the rail on the front of the gun. While a rail might not be something that everyone thinks they need, take it from someone who just competed in a midnight 3-gun: you need ALL the light you can get when you’re shooting at night.
For that competition I didn’t have a light on my handgun and I really suffered for it. I could barely see the targets in the gloaming and a handgun light would have made everything much better. Like this TLR-1 that I have lying around.
Even if you’re never going to be running a midnight 3-gun or chasing bad guys in the dark of night, a light on a handgun is still something that is EXTREMELY desirable especially if you plan on using your pistol as a night table gun for home defense. Being able to ID your target before you pull the trigger is essential to keeping you and your family safe and felony free.
The only issue is that the very same rail makes it damn near impossible to find a holster to fit it. Since the shape of the holster is determined by what gadgets you throw on the rail, you’ll need to pick an illumination option and stick with it to use that holster (and if you take it off, the holster won’t quite work anymore). It makes holster selection annoying, but not impossible. Blade Tech and Safariland both have an assortment of holsters for various attachments available for purchase.
There are a couple other improvements over the original model that make this a superior handgun. First and foremost is the chunky external extractor on the slide, which is less prone to breaking than the original skinny extractor. It’s also much easier to replace.
Hand in hand with that change is the movement away from a removable bolt to one that’s integrated into the slide itself. That removes the need to replace the pins holding the bolt together every couple hundred thousand rounds. There has also been some lightening of the slide and refinement of its design that goes with the integration of the bolt.
There are some other nice upgrades as well like a chrome lined barrel, tritium night sights, and a 3-D barcode that makes inventory much easier in military armories (which actually isn’t a bad idea for my gun safe). But with all the improvements, the “feel” of the gun hasn’t changed. She’s the same old workhorse that I fell in love with oh those many years ago.
Its a functional gun that shoots well and is amazingly reliable — except when you use the crappy jam-tastic ProMag 30 round magazines.
Which isn’t to say I don’t have have some minor gripes with the gun.
When they upgraded everything else, they apparently forgot the trigger. The MK25 comes with the EXACT SAME trigger mechanism that I have on my 1987 P226. That means the first double action pull takes MILES and then the reset for each single action round after that is still quite long.
SIG has a trigger kit for the P226 called the SRT or Short Reset Trigger which would have made the trigger far superior to the existing P226, but they decided to leave it alone. The SRT will only set you back $50 and the consensus is that its easy to do by yourself, but it really should have been included. Then again, it wouldn’t have been EXACTLY IDENTICAL to the Navy SEALs MK25, so I guess that would have (a) added to the cost and (b) removed some of the cool factor of owning a Navy-issue MK25.
The other gripe I have also has to do with the trigger, but this one’s about the design of the blade itself. On my old SIG, the trigger blade is one solid piece of metal. On the MK25, though, there are some cutouts in the back of the trigger. I suppose it could be a weight saving measure to make the trigger lighter and faster, but I would have preferred my old solid design.
The MK25 is a good step forward in the P226 design, but the best part about it is that it is 100% compatible with existing gear for your P226 — except the holster.
Lights, lasers, magazines…everything that fits your old gun will fit your new one. And since this gun has been around for close to three decades there’s tons of stuff out there. I’ve got it set up right now as the perfect night stand home defense gun (just missing the silencer…), but it will work just as well as a 3-gun pistol and give you plenty of options should you ever find yourself needing to shoot at night.
Or you could just do what Joe Grine does and slap a pisol bayonet on it for laughs.
That’s what I like about the gun: it gives you options you didn’t have with the original design. And especially given that it’s only $100 – $200 more than a brand new P226, there really isn’t any reason not to go with a MK25.
SIG SAUER P226 MK25
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum
Weight: 34.0 oz. empty
Capacity: 15 (factory) / 18 (flush aftermarket) / 30 (lolwut)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative to other similar guns, and the final score IS NOT calculated from the constituent scores.
Accuracy: * * * * *
I regularly get one ragged hole in my target at the range.
Ergonomics (Handling): * * * *
For me, it’s perfect. If you have small hands it may be a little less perfect. The only reason I knocked a star off was the damned slide stop (see my review of the P226 for more on that feature).
Ergonomics (Firing): * * * * *
Besides the trigger issue I mentioned, there’s nothing wrong with this gun. Nothing at all.
Reliability: * * * * *
SIG has a habit of making extremely reliable handguns. My first P226 was made in the 1980s but ran thousands of rounds a year without a single issue.
Customization: * * * *
There are tons of accessories for this gun and especially thanks to the rail in the front, there are nearly unlimited options for how you can doll it up. There’s even a mount you can get that straps to the rail out front and provides a mounting surface for a red dot sight. But that rail also makes it tough to find a good holster, which made me drop a star off the end.
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
Give me an SRT trigger and we’ve got a deal, SIG. But for the money ($900ish at Bud’s Gun Shop) I really can’t complain.
Full Disclosure: This handgun is currently on loan from SIG SAUER for testing, but I am in the process of handing them cash in exchange for not having to ship it back. This will be P226 #3 for me.