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(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Sergei Shirokov

In the past few months there has been a lot of hubbub about the newest pistol offerings from SIG SAUER USA. Some have called the Legion series overpriced hype that’s not really worth the money. Others reviewers have gone touted it as an entry to the “Tactical Illuminati”. Being more than a bit of a SIG fan-boy myself, I had to get to the bottom of this.

Is the P229 Legion overpriced? Is it appreciably better than a near identical (and significantly less costly) M11-A1? Does it really help me with my tacticool mall ninja street cred? Only one way to find out.

Naturally, I got in line at my local purveyor of ballistic hardware and ordered the newest shiniest offering in the SIG catalog. This is where my fun began. As it turned out, the Legion series handguns were back ordered almost immediately upon their announcement.

When I went to my LGS in late October of 2015, I was informed that it could be several weeks before I got my own example. Unfortunately, the production and availability of these pistols didn’t really meet the demand and it was January of 2016 before I was able to even get started with my little comparison.

What comes in the box?

Well, the Legion shipped in the exact same packaging as the M11A1 I picked up almost a year earlier and that has been riding in my shoulder rig ever since the weather turned cold and I could easily conceal it. While advertising shows a neat little thermo-molded case with a shiny Spartan Lambda emblazoned challenge coin, what you get is standard SIG fare.

The gun ships with a simple chamber flag (which I promptly managed to lose before taking these pictures), some SWAG (stickers, decals, lube samples, paperwork etc), three magazines, and a perfectly functional standard SIG carrying case.

It’s not bad, but you’d think that SIG could have put their top-tier tactical gun into their fancy case without requiring you to call their customer service department (wait for about a half hour on hold) and have the thing shipped to you.

Is it better than some guns that ship with a single magazine and a cardboard box? Yes. Is it the customer experience you expect when buying a top-ticket item? Nope.

How do the two guns stack up externally?

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If it wasn’t for the badging and PVD coating… I would have a hard time telling the two guns apart. The sights are 99% identical tritium insert night sights with the Legion having a slight emphasis on the front sight.

But WAIT! I hear the cries of the Tactical Illuminati. The Legion also sports some low profile tacti-cool controls! Well… Not so much. When compared side by side, the difference is apparent. However, in practice, you would be hard pressed to notice which is which.

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Next we have to take a look at the grips. I’ll give the Illuminati one thing. The grips on the Legion are far grippier than the M11A1 and look just plain awesome.

But performance makes all the difference. Right?

Well, yes and no. I have, as of date of publication, run several thousand rounds through both guns. The only failure in that time was the M11A1 failing to ignite a Tula steel case round. After the mandatory wait for the hang fire, I found the primer caved almost completely in after the double strike. Definitely not a gun issue.

In terms of going bang when you pull the go pedal, both guns are damn near the level of perfection that Glock enthusiasts claim to adore. No failures to feed, chamber, fire or extract that could be attributed to the weapon despite me running everything from cheap Tula 9mm steel case to Hornady’s latest wonders.

The only real difference I could feel is the slightly better trigger on the Legion. The M11A1 is in line with more or less any other off the shelf SA/DA trigger on the market. DA is heavy and long, SA has some takeup, but with a nice crisp break. Where the Legion shines is the SA side of the operation. The DA is, to my uncalibrated finger, almost identical. However, the SA trigger is like breaking the proverbial glass rod.

So in the end, performance wise, the Legion has a competition grade trigger, while the M11A1 has a perfectly functional Mil-Spec equivalent.

Comparison ratings (out of five stars):

P229 Legion         Category         M11A1
$1428                           MSRP              $1149
The M11A1 comes in at  about $300 less than the Legion. Keep this in mind when you’re looking at the differences between the two.

Style * * *
This one I definitely have to give to the Legion. The enhanced grip panels with the lambda medallions along with the distinctive color choice of the Legion makes it stand out. If you’re going to open carry both guns, there is little question as to which one gives you the most style points.

Ergonomics * * *
The Legion grips were grippier, the trigger was nicer, and the sights were a bit easier to distinguish in both bright light and low light conditions. That being said, the low profile controls on the Legion can be a bit harder to manipulate depending on your hand size and training. But how often do you use a decocker and slide release in a gun fight or competition? Because of this I just couldn’t bring myself to give that last star to the Legion.

So which one would I pick if I could only have one? Honestly, I’m not sure.

The M11A1 is like a Ford Taurus that gets me to and from work every day. The Legion is that exact same chassis in its SHO incarnation. Same basic car, different purpose.

That being said, you can make an M11A1 perform to almost Legion levels by spending far less than the MSRP difference between the two guns. You’re basically paying for someone else to go through the trouble of figuring out what works, and selling it to you.

Reliability * * * * *

Both guns went bang when I pulled the go switch 99.99%+ of the time. The one time they didn’t it was clearly a bad round. Double strike capability made it very easy to make sure that I had a dud, and not a light primer strike.

Customize This  * *
Not having a rail on a 21st century semi-auto is just plain bad. While there are trigger kits, grips, and sights available for the M11A1, the gun just doesn’t enjoy the market support of a GLOCK or a 1911. The Legion scrapes together an average rating with the addition of a rail, but in fairness, most of the customization has already been done to this gun before you take it out of the box.

So which one would I pick if I could only have one? Honestly, I’m not sure. The M11A1 is like a Ford Taurus that gets me to and from work every day. The Legion is that exact same chassis in its SHO incarnation. Same basic car, different purpose. That being said, you can make an M11A1 perform to almost Legion levels by spending far less than the MSRP difference between the two guns. What you’re basically paying for, is for someone else to go through the trouble of figuring out what works, and selling it to you.

40 Responses to Showdown: SIG P229 Legion vs. SIG M11-A1

  1. Damn, I just upgraded from 226R to 226 Enhanced Elite for my carry.
    Now you got me looking at this thing.
    I guess Mr. Potterfield’s wife is right – how many guns does one man need ?
    Damn you and all things new.

  2. “The M11A1 is like a Ford Taurus that gets me to and from work every day. The Legion is that exact same chassis in its SHO incarnation. Same basic car, different purpose.”

    Thought I’d repeat it again, just to make sure.

  3. I have a West German P228. It never leaves my side. Fantastic gun with a very intuitive aiming ability. My gun is very much like the M11-A1.

    • The P228 is actually a very different gun. The slide is the folded carbon steel German version. They’re much more accurate and well put together than the American counterparts. I know saying that hurts the feels, but I’ve got a German P228 as well as American made SIGs. The German guns shoot better and are lighter as well.

      • I’ve shot plenty of both and the only sig i currently own is a triple serial west german p228.

        I can honestly say what you’re reporting is nonsense.

        Functionally the only difference i’ve seen is that new hampshire sigs have better DA triggers and grip panels and WG/G made sigs have slightly better balance.

        Both are about as good as you can ask for in a gun as far as reliability and accuracy in their price ranges.

  4. I have a P229 SAS Gen 2. I much prefer the non rail, full melt treatment, and the SRT trigger makes all the difference in the world. That, and it’s less $ than either of these variants.

    • Quite aware, thanks. I thought that I included a request to not be in the contest. The article finish date just happened to coincide with the contest.

  5. You didn’t mention the usefulness of that “beavertail” thingie. Not having that on my M11-A1 or any of my other three P-series SIGs, I’m curious about whether it has a purpose or is just cosmetic.

    • I got the Enhanced Elite specifically for the beaver tail. (and the SRT is nice too).
      And yes, I do use the front serrations on the slide.

      • Mine all have the SRT and three have the E2 kit as well. Can’t remember which came with what, but the kits are inexpensive, install easy enough and are worthwhile.

        The question on the beavertail though was about utility. Has anyone ever had a P-series SIG slide slice his hand? Serious question.

  6. Having owned the P226 Legion and then selling it, I can attest that Sig’s Classic series still has a lot to offer the consumer. But to be fair, the sights are triggers are vastly different. Anyone who tells you differently either has an agenda or doesn’t know the difference. The reset on the Legion is about half what it is with Sig’s SRT with pull weights of 11.5 vs. 10.5 lbs, and 5.5 vs. 4.5 DA/SA between Classic series and Legion Series respectively. The 3D X-ray sights are also very different than the Sig Sig Light Night sights, and require a different sight picture. The price differential is also a lot less. It’s $200 instead of $300, and the Legion can be had at $1200 street instead of the $1400 and change quoted.

  7. I too have a West German P228 that I bought many years ago when I went through the police academy. It is a great gun. I only have two complaints. They are very prone to rust, seriously the finish on the steel parts has no corrosion resistance whatsoever. Most of the guys I worked with at the time had theirs nickel plated. I know the new stainless steel slides fixed this. The second problem I have with them is the hump on the left grip below the slide stop. It makes it very difficult to get your left thumb and hand pressed under your right thumb. I wish it had a flat grip like the P226.

    • The Hogue G10 grips completely fixes this. On each grip panel, there is a little notch where your support hand thumb wants to be when using a high, thumbs forward grip. That was my initial complaint with my P229 Legacy as well.

  8. Just wanted to point out since it it mentioned in the article. The special case for the legion is sent to you for free if you register the gun with SIG.

    I guess they really want people to register, otherwise why bother with the cost of shipping two cases for a gun.

  9. I have a West German 226 with no rail, and prefer that greatly to any railed version. Of course, mine also has had an action job and SRT kit installed by one of Sig’s own armorers, who teaches armorer classes, along with the E2 grip. This grip is far superior to anything else that Sig makes. If I want slightly smaller than the 226, I’ll go with one of my two 225s, also worked on by the same armorer. I would not made the beavertail, but otherwise would take the “regular” gun, too. BTW, Sig also makes the E2 grip mod for the 228/229.

  10. I enjoyed your review. My first Sig was an import P6 (225). Loved the gun but couldn’t find mags except for truly shitty Promags, so I sold it. My next 2 Sigs were American made…and they suuuucked. P320 and Scorpion 1911. Both went back to the factory three times, then gone. My wife continues to collect Sigs, but I am all team Glock now.

    • Oh, I’m not complaining. Just like I would rather buy a Shogun than build one. I just think people should be aware of what they are getting.

  11. I just bought an M11-A1. 500 rounds through it so far and I think I’m sold on Sig. The SRT surprised the hell out of me the first time.

  12. The 229 Legion can be had for some cool discounts if you know where to look and are willing to wait. I haven’t shot mine yet, and I still need to order a holster. It’s not easy to conceal, but I won’t need to when I’m in WI.

  13. I have a Sig P226 Mk25 9MM Navy pistol that shoots perfectly and is very accurate. The finish is great with no issues. I like practicing rapid fire and fifty yard shots at a steel target. Never had a failure in about 1000 rounds. I paid about $900 and really do not see a need for a Legion pistol. As a matter of fact, I may buy a Sig P320 Carry pistol, $600, for a light weight conceal carry pistol. Sig’s striker fired pistol.

  14. Do p228 mags fit in the M11a1? Or am I confusing mag incompatibility issues with the old vs new P225? PS: totally agree with the post about the finish on the older sig pistols being terrible.

  15. Sergei, enjoyed your review and as an owner of a 229R and 229Legion, found it well reasoned and accurate although I have to respectively suggest that maybe our Legions have differently tuned triggers as I found that it communicates far better on the DA pull as well as on its extremely short SA. Granted, the 229R doesn’t come with the SRT trigger like the M11-A1 but in my limited experience with SRT on other Sigs, the Legion trigger is in a league of its own with feel. Think you’re right, there is a premium charged for the Legion but I’m happy with it’s overall value. Looking forward to your next contribution.

  16. I sure do wish I had submitted an “old vs. new” comparison review after all. I had asked about it but never getting a reply, plus general business and procrastination on my part, meant I had only one free day and less than the recommended 500 rounds on hand with no funds to get more ammo. So I passed. Shame on me, because I REALLY, REALLY like that 229 Legion.

    And what was the old/new, you might ask? Smith&Wesson 4003 vs M&P40 Compact (my EDC sidearm).

    Tom 🙁

  17. i didn’t think i would be this way but i like the m11-a1 better. larger slide release and more round edges. legion is definitely prettier though.

  18. I overall liked the article but I have to disagree with the assessment that the sights are 99% similar. I find 2 major differences. The first is that in the “old” siglite sights the round “dot” portion which houses the tritium is much larger, somewhat resembling a bubble, and I’ve found that in certain lighting conditions they will refract a tiny amount of light causing a tiny glare. This might be nitpicking, but when I am trying to focus on the front sight, I find myself distracted by this tiny glare. In contrast, the tritium casing on the legion is much smaller, meaning no glare, and no distraction when acquiring the front sight. The second is that in low light conditions, the legion sights are much more definited and clear, like 3 little pin points, where as the siglite sights appear blurry and much more dim. I think there is a lot to be said about the improved G-10 grips ($110 if purchased by themselves). I also think there is as much improvement as could possibly be expected from a “stock” trigger. I think the difference in sights, trigger, and grips, more than make up for the $300 difference in the price of the firearms. But that is just one guy’s opinion.

  19. I believe a closer comparison to the Legion would be the Extreme. It has the front serrations and Extreme grips and rail. Is probably why this model is so hard to find because it was too close to what the Legion has to offer.

  20. I have a Sig M11-A1, sent it to Sig for an action enhancement package and swapped P228 grips for Sig aluminum grips. The result, love it! Trigger pull and action are smooth. Grips are now more compact and fit my hand.

  21. The only noticeable differences in the exterior are the PVD finish ( which is much more than a color change)and the 99 o/o similar sights?you didn’t notice the grips,under cut trigger,checkering,beaver tail,rail and cocking serrations?not to mention the Grayguns trigger and polished internal parts.Theyre both great guns but no one can honestly argue that the upgraded Legion Series isn’t even nicer

  22. Did he really say” overall the Legion scrapes together an average rating”?and stating that you can turn an M11A1 into a Legion for far less than the price difference is just plain lazy and idiotic.he obviously did no homework on this one but others have .You would have over $1800 into a 226 after doing all the upgrades a Legion has.I paid $975 for mine

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