SIG Sauer P226R – Evolution of Combat Handguns

Getting a new gun is always a fun time. My latest pistol is a new twist on a classic: the SIG Sauer P226R. This new SIG handgun has updated ergonomic features and a now ubiquitous accessory rail.

I’ll cut to the chase early: I really like the gun and if you want one, go and buy it without any hesitation. The gun is not perfect (none are), but I absolutely trust it with my life and have every confidence that it will perform the job it is designed to do.

Let’s dive into this SIG P226R review.

Where to Buy SIG P226

Where to Buy the SIG P226

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The Updated P226 Line

SIG SAUER developed the P-series of pistols over many years. Early versions of the guns lacked an accessory rail and had ergonomics best suited for people with large hands. No thought was given for people with smaller hands.

By the 21st Century, SIG realized it had alienated a large part of its potential market by sticking with a large frame pistol. In an effort to change this, the company introduced the E2 series.

Short for “ergonomics squared,” the E2 pistols sought to improve the shooting characteristics of the old P226. SIG succeeded. Read my P226 E2 review here for additional information on that gun.

For a brief time, this created a split product line with the standard P226 and the newer P226 E2. To remedy this, the company eliminated the original P226, added renamed the E2 as the P226R. Over time, the R was dropped from the name leaving only the classic P226 name.

This review is of the P226R before the extra letter was deleted from the model name.

Basics of the P226R

The most visible change to the P226R was the backstrap reduction high on the grip. This is the area where the web of the hand grasps the pistol.

This reduction was about 0.15″, which doesn’t sound like a lot in writing. However, pick up the pistol and you feel a vast difference between this and the original.

SIG P226R review

For me, I’ve always had a problem getting the correct amount of finger on the P226 trigger due to the fact I have relatively short fingers. So, this grip reduction was enough of a reason – for me – to upgrade to this pistol from the older style.

I have spoken with a number of police officers who transitioned from the old P226 to this new pistol, and virtually every one of them prefers the new design. Some of these guys have extremely large hands, yet they still gave the higher praise for the new grip reduction. I have never seen any pistol upgrade so rapidly accepted by a group of people.

Grip Panel Change

Another change to the new SIG P226R was the grip panels themselves. Gone are the two-piece panels that screw to the gun’s frame. A new grip panel was a single-piece unit that has a clamshell-like attachment to the gun.

SIG claimed that the design is exceptionally secure, and I had no issues with it after extended shooting and carrying.

The hard plastic panels are covered with an improved texture that allows the shooter to better hold the gun with sweaty hands. This is a welcome change.

SIG P226 without flashlight

The P226 E2 that I previously shot had the Short Reach Trigger installed, and it was my understanding that it would be standard on all of the guns with the E2 designation. My P226R does not have the Short Reach Trigger installed.

Interestingly, the photos of the P226R on the SIG website appeared to show the Short Reach Trigger when it was first introduced. Since then, the images were updated and match the pistol I reviewed.


The Short Reach Trigger does not alter the trigger pull weight or any of the mechanical operations of the pistol. It merely reduces the distance between the backstrap and the trigger face, which allows stubby-fingered folk like yours truly, to better control the trigger. I have a Short Reach Trigger installed on my classic P226 and will be installing one on my new P226R.

P226R Specifications

The specifications of the current P226R handguns are pretty straightforward. The specs on my P226R are:

  • caliber: .40 S&W (also available in 9mm and .357 SIG)
  • magazine capacity: 12 rounds (15 for 9mm)
  • barrel length: 4.4″
  • weight: 34.0 oz (with empty magazine)
  • sights: SIGLITE (night sights)
  • action: double action/single action
  • trigger pull: DA: 10.0 lbs, SA: 4.4 lbs
  • finish: black Nitron
  • MSRP: $1068 ($993 without night sights)

Range Time

At the time I wrote this review, I was a full-time police officer with an urban agency. Both then and now, the reliability of a firearm is the most important aspect of the gun to me. If the pistol doesn’t work when I need it, crisp trigger pulls and tight groups are useless.

So, when getting the gun to the range, I try to run a variety of ammo through the gun plus shoot from a variety of positions and at varying rates of fire.

SIG P226 Winchester Ammo

I was pleased to find the SIG Sauer P226R did not need any break-in period to become reliable. The gun was taken out of the box, given a quick field strip and cleaning and had the slide rails oiled. From there it was straight to shooting.

After putting 24 rounds of mixed-brand, ball ammo through the pistol, I went through a department qualification course shooting Speer Gold Dot 155 grain JHP. The course includes drawing, firing and reloading drills. The gun performed without any malfunctions.

Since the initial unboxing, I have put more than 2,000 additional rounds of FMJ and JHP ammunition downrange. The P226R has been 100% reliable without a single hiccup.

For roughly 95% of my shooting was done with a Streamlight TLR-1 white light attached to the gun’s rails. The light did not induce any problems with the pistol. Side note: the Streamlight continues to work extremely well in spite of all of the shooting.

SIG Sauer P226R front sight

Shooting the P226, even with the relatively high-pressure .40 S&W cartridge, is very comfortable. The grip texture and reduced grip both serve to make the gun a better fit to my hand. Shooting on an outdoor range here in Florida (yes, even in December) can get a little warm, so the improved grips are a huge benefit. The gun doesn’t slip around in the hand.

The SIG is a little heavy when compared to the polymer duty guns that are on the market. While that is a drawback for carry, the extra weight helps with reducing felt recoil. I’m not about to make some crazy claim about there being no recoil, but the gun is pleasant to shoot.

My P226R has the standard double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger pull. While I know there are a lot of people who like this set up, I am not one of them. I am a firm believer in having a consistent trigger pull on a firearm. I don’t care if it is a single-action 1911, a striker-fired Glock or a double-action S&W revolver.

SIG P226R Rear Sight

I’ve groused about this before, so I won’t bore you with a rehash of my gripe here. Let’s just say I would much prefer to have the SIG DAK trigger on this gun and leave it at that.

The sights are standard SIGLITE sights: three-dot style with tritium vial inserts. In non-stress conditions, these sights work fine. I prefer something different for actual self-defense work, but you have to go to the aftermarket for that.

SIG P226R Sights

The tritium inserts do provide an advantage in low light conditions. They seem a little weak for my tastes, but they are useable. As I get older (not old – just older), experience and weakening eyes have both taught me that a big, bright front sight is the best thing to have to ensure you are putting rounds on target. The sights standard on the vast majority of handguns aren’t quite doing it for me – it isn’t just a SIG thing.

Ammunition Performance

I measured the following performance from ammunition tested in the SIG P226:

Federal HST 180 gr JHP1,017 fps413 ft-lbs
Hornady Critical Duty 175 gr FTX1,015 fps400 ft-lbs
Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 60 gr JHP2,098 fps587 ft-lbs
Speer Gold Dot 180 gr JHP1,019 fps415 ft-lbs
Winchester PDX1 Defender 165 gr JHP1,141 fps477 ft-lbs

Final Thoughts: I’m not a Navy SEAL

I’m not a tank mechanic in the Navy SEALs or some other high-speed mall-ninja operator. But I do carry a SIG P226R daily for the express purpose of combat. Mine is holding up quite well in the normal elements that I encounter (sun, humidity, rain and salt air.) Thus far, I’ve had no issues with surface rust or other corrosion. This is an improvement over my classic P226.

SIG P226R Duty Holster

At my department, our SIG pistols have been deployed in multiple shootings, and all of them have performed exactly as intended. No malfunctions and rounds went right where the guns were aimed. At the end of the day, I don’t think there is anything else you can ask for out of a sidearm.

SIG P226 Disassembled

The P226R is a great shooting handgun, ultra-reliable and I am very happy to have upgraded from my original P226. If you like this company’s guns and have been looking at this pistol, do not hesitate to buy it. The SIG Sauer P226R will not disappoint.


The P226R in this review is not a T&E gun sent from SIG Sauer. SIG has not paid me a dime in any form of compensation for this review. I don’t have any business stake in the company, etc. All of the opinions are my own.

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