February 28, 2013
By Frank W. James
For the past several years the term "downsizing" has had ominous connotations for most every industry and its employees. While the people running the company make claims to the stockholders about improved efficiencies and increased profits, the people below them who are responsible for making the big gears turn know all too well what the unofficial implication of the term means. Someone, often many and multiple someones, are soon going to be on the unemployment line.
Here, in this instance, however, I use the term not in such a negative manner, but as a means to describe the SIG Model P224.
Unlike many of the newer additions to the reduced size, lighter weight concealed carry pistol market, this new pistol from SIG, the P224, is a throwback in more ways than one to the more traditional means of creating a smaller, easier to conceal self-defense pistol.
They have mechanically "abbreviated" it and by that I mean the main features on this pistol are the shortened slide and the reduced grip length when compared to SIG's classic pistols like the SIG P226, whether the latter pistol was chambered for the 9x19mm cartridge or the .40 S&W/.357 SIG round. Another more traditional aspect of the SIG 224 is the fact it is an all metal gun and not one made from a polymer compound.
These characteristics are not the norm today and to really appreciate them, a brief examination of this pistol's heritage will offer an explanation why I think it is worthwhile.
SIG's Classic Pistols
I've long been a fan of the SIG P226 in 9x19mm. My personal SIG P226 is an aged one having been made in West Germany — it says so on the right side of the slide — and was imported into the USA when SIG was located in Herndon, Va. — marked on the left side of the slide. That was a long time ago. This gun has digested a large number of rounds over the decades and years, but to be truthful I have absolutely no idea as to how many.
It was sent back to SIG for an overhaul a few years ago that was needed more in terms of cosmetic enhancement as opposed to any true mechanical overhaul. I've owned the gun for more than three decades, so I can say with honesty that I'm familiar with the design, its operation and it remains one of my favorite 9x19mm caliber semi-auto pistols.
Yet, it is also a dated design because my old SIG P226 features the two-piece mandrel slide as opposed to the one-piece examples machined today totally from stock at the SIG plant in Exeter, N.H. Additionally, as sweet as the double action/single action trigger pull is on my personally owned P226, it is not the latest in terms of what's being offered to those in law enforcement or those civilians needing a personal protection handgun.
That would be the "DAK" trigger system like that found on the test SIG P224. DAK in this instance stands for "Double Action Kellerman," with Kellerman being the man responsible for this new-age SIG trigger system.
One of the reasons why I'm a big fan of SIG's Classic line of semi-auto pistols can be traced directly to the shape of the trigger found on most any SIG pistol using the traditional double action/single action trigger system. I've learned the hard way that pistols featuring a safety blade in the middle of the trigger face have a tendency to wear more than blisters on my somewhat fore-shortened trigger finger during intensive high round count training sessions.
In fact, it gets worn raw and being the wimp that I am, I migrated to a pistol that was accurate, held up well to extensive use and didn't remove layers of skin off the trigger finger pad during high round count training sessions. In many ways, the smooth SIG trigger face reminds one of the well-tuned double action revolvers that I cut my teeth on during the majority of my shooting career and it's easy on my trigger finger.
The DAK trigger found on the sample P224 is just an extension of that success, but it was designed with a more real world application as opposed to those of us who routinely punch holes in brown cardboard with pistol fire. The DAK trigger system changes things from the traditional SIG layout in that there is no tab or lever at the front of the left grip panel to safely drop the hammer when shooting is completed and the firearm remains cocked.
That's because it is a version of a commonly seen double-action-only system, but here the system relies upon a somewhat lengthy trigger pull. It's not difficult to manipulate nor could it be classified as heavy, but the situation does get somewhat complicated when you add in the reduced grip length of the SIG P224 into the equation because there isn't a whole lot for the shooter's hand to grasp and control during that lengthy trigger pull.
As for the management of the trigger pull, I found that slowly staging the double-action DAK trigger yielded the best groups in terms of accuracy, but for me that took exceptional concentration because I am so used to the old trigger system.
Still, like my much beloved SIG P226, the trigger face is smooth and attention has been paid all over the gun to remove any sharp edges so its outside surface and edges fall into that "well-worn-bar-of-soap" category that so many manufacturers of concealed carry pistol claim membership in, but few really understand the secret handshake that comes with it.
James calls the P224 grip a 'two finger ' grip because that's about as many as anyone is going to be able to use. The checkering on the front of the grip frame helps a little.
A key feature of the DAK trigger system is even though the gun remains a hammer fired design, there is no hammer spur, nor is there any single-action semi-auto capability.
SIGLITE night sights have two tritium powered dots positioned on either side of the U-notch on the substantial rear sight blade.
The front sight is dovetailed at the slide front.
James noticed the P224's ejection port was noticeably smaller than the one on his P226, yet the gun ran flawlessly throughout testing. 9x19mm or .357 SIG versions will be made.
The .40 S&W and the .357 SIG magazines hold 10 rounds, while the 9x19mm magazine will hold 11. Witness holes make it easy to see how many rounds remain in the magazine.
Once the slide is locked to the rear, the take-down lever can be rotated downward and the slide removed from the frame. Everything after that is simple and easy.
James achieved his best groups in testing with the milder recoiling loads like these 165-grain FMJ loads from Remington. This five-shot group was shot at a distance of seven yards.
There are four specific models of the SIG P224 and the one received for testing is the sole example of the four offered with a nickel-finished slide. In comparison to my aged P226, the sample P224 had a slide that measured 6.25 inches in length versus 7.125 inches for my older gun. The gun only weighs 25.4 ounces with an empty magazine.
You can see the reduction in slide length really isn't that great, but the reduction in grip length on the aluminum frame was noticeable. Measuring from the bottom of the slide to the bottom of the magazine (empty, but in the gun) the distance was 3.375 inches. The same measurement on the P226 was a full inch longer.
That missing inch is noted when shooting robust loads, rapidly, as I had a terrible time shooting good groups with some of the hotter loads I tried. I did shoot a couple of decent groups with yellow box 165-grain Remington FMJ loads, but they were pretty much the mildest loads I used in testing the sample pistol and the distance was a short 7 yards.
It's a Metal Gun
The introduction of the P224 has in one sense made a liar out of me because I've been saying over the last few years we would probably never see a new pistol made completely out of metal. Well, the SIG P224 is an all metal gun and not one made with polymer in the frame, but it's not a completely new gun in that it is a modification of an existing and extremely successful design, so maybe I'm half-right.
In comparing it to my old reliable P226, slide thickness was pretty much the same. There were differences in the frames in a couple of areas, but on the P224 that was because someone paid attention to potential sharp edges and they were eliminated by removing corners.
One of the more interesting dimensional differences I discovered was the much smaller ejection port on the new gun. The SIG P224 has an ejection port that measured 1.050 inches in length on the right outside while the older gun has a port that measures 1.200 inches in approximately the same location. On top of the slide the ejection port on the old P226 measures 1.354 inches while the same location on the new P224 measures only 1.195 inches and it is important to note the older gun is chambered for the 9x19mm round while the new gun is in .40 S&W caliber.
The front of the short grip section is checkered on the front, and the grip panels have deep scallops on the sides and the back. Still, the shortened grip allows only a two-finger grip at best, and any increase in grip control is one that is deeply appreciated with this design.
The sights are SIG's SIGLITE night sights with the tritium powered dots; two on either side of the U-notch on the rear blade and a single dot on the ramp back face of the dovetailed installed front sight. They worked extremely well in the limited light of the indoor range I used for testing the SIG P224.
Magazine capacity for the SIG P224 is 10 rounds of .40 S&W and 11 rounds when chambered in 9x19mm. These short magazines drop free and consist of metal tubes with a synthetic follower and baseplate. There are witness holes on the back of the magazine tube to verify the number of rounds loaded. Of course, the beauty to this design is in its role as a back-up gun as it can utilize the full length and full capacity magazines normally associated with the SIG P229, P226 and P228 designs if the both guns are the same caliber.
The SIG P224 is a downsized self-defense concealed carry pistol of the old school. The major components are all metal and the downsizing that took place here were reductions in slide length and grip length, not some total redesign of the gun to be used with a polymer frame. The beauty of the gun lies in the fact it will use the same magazines as its larger brethren and that is a big bonus. Plus it also comes with a trigger system built and developed for today's real world environments, not just the formal target range.
No, in this instance, downsizing was not a bad thing at all.
The SIG P224 is available in 9x19mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W chamberings. MSRP is $1,125.