(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?
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.
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.