If you want a big Sig in 9mm, two leading contenders are going to be the Sig P320 vs. P226. Both of these guns are solid service pistols, built to go to hell and back and keep shooting every step of the way.
Both pistols have found their way into service roles, the former with the US Military (though M17 pistol is actually different in some ways to the P320) and the latter also with the US Military as well as others and many, many police departments the whole world over.
That said, there are some BIG differences between the two. They’re about as different as chalk and cheese. While there are things everyone can like about both, people are likely going to strongly prefer one over the other.
When it comes to service pistols as a whole, and certainly if deciding between the Sig P226 vs P320, the Sig P226 is one of the standards by which all service pistols are judged. Few pistols are as reliable, accurate and simple to understand out of the box. It’s the Porsche 911 of handguns; with a bit of care, it will run longer and harder than almost any other of the type.
The P226 is an all-steel, double-single action semi-auto, chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W or .357 Sig. It holds 15+1 of 9mm or 12+1 of the other two rounds. It’s also a big gun, with a 4.4-inch barrel and 7.7 inch overall length. It stands 5.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches wide and tips the scales at 34 ounces. To carry this gun, you better get a strong belt.
While it’s Sig’s most lauded gun, it isn’t regarded as the best Sig concealed carry gun.
Trigger pull in DA mode is 10 pounds, reducing to 5.5 pounds in single-action mode. Sig Sauer also has one of the most logical DA control layouts, with a decocking lever (in lieu of a safety) placed behind the trigger guard, in easy reach of the thumb. The user, therefore, can safely de-cock the pistol and carry in double-action mode, guarding against negligent discharges but also making it easy to get the gun into the fight. You could also select the Double Action Kellerman (or DAK) trigger (about an 8 pound trigger pull) for DAO operation…but hardly anyone does.
Up until recently, you could choose a railed or non-railed model. Today, it’s railed or nothing. Three-dots are standard, but you can get SIGLITE night sights if desired. At least one model of the P226 has an optional red dot sight, and there are premium models for competition available as well.
The slide of the P226 is interlocked with the frame and rides the entire length. While not the same as a CZ-75 (the ’75’s slide rides inside the frame) it’s very similar, so lockup is tight. This makes the gun accurate and smooth, but does require good lubrication to stay that way. That said, with minimal care, it’s a tank; service lives of several hundred thousand rounds are not unheard of.
Sig Sauer has advertised that something like one in four service pistols carried by police in the USA are their pistols. Shoot the P226 a few times and you’ll understand why. It’s proof that classics are classics for good reasons.
The P320 is a big Sig for the 21st Century. It’s also a big gun, but instead uses a striker-fired mechanism and all that comes with it.
The P320 (full size) is 8 inches long, with a 4.7-inch barrel. It’s 5.5 inches tall, 1.3 inches wide and weighs in a bit lighter due to the polymer frame, at 29.5 ounces. The firing mechanism is a striker-fired operating system, with a 5.5-pound trigger pull. The frame comes railed on all frame sizes save the subcompact.
The P320 also comes standard in 9mm, but can be had in .40 S&W, .357 Sig and .45 ACP. The 9mm model holds 17+1 with the base magazine, but an extended magazine holding 21 can be had. Capacity for other chamberings in the flush-fit magazines are 14 of .40/.357 Sig or 10 of .45 caliber.
The P320’s party piece, though, is its modular design. Yes, there’s the full-size model, but the trigger group can be swapped into a compact or subcompact frame and slide. You can even change calibers if you want. “Today feels like a .357 Sig day,” you can say, and change the appropriate parts, if you bought the caliber swap kits. Or, you can swap the trigger group into the subcompact for carry and to the full-size for range work.
As of now, there are also two trigger options available – a conventional blade and a tabbed trigger. The conventional blade trigger, however, is the one implicated in the drop fire issue, so you may want to hold off on that until they’ve got a fix.
Just like the P226, the base model is fine but there are options. Competition and tactical models, night sights, reflex optics…if you’re willing to go for optional gun mods, they’re all there. It’s a great platform to work with.
The P320 vs. P226 decision depends on what you like in a gun and some other factors. Some people are going to be better suited to one over the other, for sure, as choosing between these two is not like choosing between the P938 vs Kimber Micro 9, which are basically the same gun. These two pistols are very different from each other.
The Sig P226 is an old-school gun, one of the classics. It’s a proven, battle-tested pistol platform that you can depend on to save your life if need be. However, it’s double-action, so you have to get used to/be okay with the longer, harder first trigger pull. That said, it’s not the hardest of DA triggers by a long shot. The controls aren’t ambidextrous, so right-handers are going to be the best-served.
However, some folks prefer the long, hard trigger pull of a double-action pistol. It acts as a passive safety which other types of firing mechanisms can lack. Yes, striker systems are technically inert until you pull the trigger, but anything that can pull the short, light trigger can cause an unintentional discharge. As a result, there are people that prefer DA and cocked-and-locked single action pistols to this day, and the P226 is one of the best DA pistols ever made. Then again, you don’t have to worry about discharges if you buy a decent holster and don’t do anything stupid.
In my experience, the P226’s go pedal is slightly better than the P320’s. In truth, the P320’s trigger has never impressed me all that much. It’s light, short and has a good reset, but it has a dull plastic “thud” to it that I don’t care for. The P226 has a very decent single-action trigger, and the DA pull isn’t BAD…but there are smoother DA triggers out there (the CZ P07, for instance) and for less in sticker. Then again, both are plenty usable.
What if you want to carry them?
The P226 is all-steel; the thing is a brick. Some people like that, some people don’t. It’s not the easiest gun to carry everyday, though there are some people who carry one concealed often. The P320 is much the same in the full-size configuration, and in truth is not a whole lot easier in the Compact or Carry frames, which are “compact” only in comparison to an aircraft carrier.
Another consideration is cost. The P226 costs $1087 MSRP for the base model; the premium models cost almost $500 more. The P320, however, starts at $679 for the base model full-size; you can get the full-size gun and a conversion kit for a smaller frame size for the same amount as the P226.
That said, a top tip is to look for surplus police 226 pistols. You can get them cheap and since parts are readily available, you can replace anything you need to. Be prepared for some dings and dents, but they run forever.
If you want an old-school warhorse, a gun you can go to battle with that will come back unscathed and everything else be darned (and don’t mind spending on quality) then the P226 is the ticket. If you want the latest and greatest, with the latest in innovations available right now, then the P320 is really the better fit.
That said, get to a range and handle them both. Shoot both; get a feel for them. The on-paper stuff doesn’t matter as much as the feel. The one that feels better and shoots better is the one to get. When you head to the range, use one of our free printable 8.5″ x 11″ shooting targets.
Have you shot these firearms? What did you like, and what didn’t you?
Let us know in the comments below!