Sig Sauer P226 vs Sig P226 Legion: A Comparison Review of a Classic

As Sig Sauer continues to design and produce amazing and well-made enhanced handguns, it can be easy to forget the original models that started it all. The Sig Sauer P226 is one such gun. It’s been reimagined and reiterated a few times, but the reality remains that the original model P226 is a great gun. But sometimes, collectors want something a little more, and we end up with something like the Sig P226 Legion. The P226 Legion is a collector-grade version of the P226, featuring a few performance and cosmetic upgrades.

Today, we’re comparing the base model P226 to the P226 Legion.

sig p226
This is a full-sized gun chambered in 9mm. (Photo: Kat Stevens)

A Quick History

The Sig Sauer P226 was first designed in 1980 and has been in production ever since. It’s offered in four calibers—9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .22 LR—and has even been offered in military and police service variants, with the Navy variant seeing extensive use by Navy SEALs.

The P226 handgun was originally created for a military small arms competition in the 1980s called the XM9 Service Pistol Trials. That competition and the importation of the P226 are part of what brought the gun maker into the United States under the name SIGARMS (which would eventually become Sig Sauer). In the end, Beretta won that particular competition due to a lower overall cost, according to a report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. But the P226 almost made it and was the only gun the military felt met its needs—aside from cost, apparently—other than the Beretta model. And just like that, a fantastic pistol that would enjoy decades of use was born.

sig parts
Shiny, clean parts of the Sig P226 slide and barrel assembly. (Photo: Kat Stevens)

The Sig Sauer P226 Base Model

The P226 is a full-sized handgun. Though the size of the gun doesn’t necessarily preclude it from concealment, it does make concealed carry more of a challenge. This gun has a 4.4-inch carbon steel barrel. The frame is alloy steel and is hard coat anodized for resistance to use-related wear. It has an overall length of 7.7 inches, an overall width of 1.5 inches, and a height of 5.5 inches. It weighs 34 ounces empty, which isn’t as bulky as it might sound.

Further, this is a hammer-fired gun, and the hammer itself is also ridged to help the shooter’s fingers find purchase during use. The gun is available with a Picatinny/M1913 or a Sig Sauer accessory rail in front of the trigger guard (the review gun’s is Picatinny), which is great for adding lights, lasers, or whatever aftermarket accessories you prefer. This is not an optics-ready pistol—that option didn’t start showing up until well after its design—and it ships with basic SIGLITE iron sights.

Other features of the Sig P226 base model include a standard curved trigger, textured E2 style grip, and a square trigger guard. The gun also ships with a pair of 10-round magazines.

sig p226
Controls are ridged to make it easier to use them without slipping. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

How does it shoot?

Although far more ammo has been put through this gun over time, I used a few specific loads for this review. Those included the Hornady American Gunner 9mm 115-grain XTP, Fiocchi 9mm 124-grain FMJ, and Federal Premium Personal Defense 9mm 147-grain JHP. Over the years, the P226 has been known to have an occasional failure to feed, typically with lighter-weight loads. During the review, however, it cycled reliably.

One of the things that’s different about this original P226 is the shape of the grip. It has a larger palm swell that angles backward to fill your hand. This can have mixed results depending on your hand size. But for the most part, this gun fits my hands well, and the texturing on the grip does help me keep a solid grip. Controls can be operated without significantly adjusting my grip, which is important.

At 10 yards from the bench, the P226 creates nice, one-hole, five-shot groups. Moving to 25 yards, groups broaden to about three inches for five shots, as long as you shoot from the bench.

Felt recoil is negligible. The pistol’s design and weight do a lot to soften recoil and reduce muzzle rise. This gun isn’t snappy or otherwise uncomfortable to shoot. The same can be said for the .40 S&W chambering if you’re curious.

Like any gun, the P226 prefers to be lubed rather than dry during live fire. That’s not odd or surprising at all, though it does seem to require lube with a bit greater frequency than some. It’s not a big deal to keep your handgun lubed, though.

Okay, so what about the P226 Legion?

The Sig Sauer P226 Legion is nearly identical to the P226. Though the original P226 was incredibly popular as it was, competitive shooters, law enforcement personnel, and collectors started demanding more high-class performance features from the factory.

sig legion
The gun has black G10 grips with the Legion logo on both sides. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Chambered in 9mm Luger ONLY, the P226 Legion features a 4.4-inch barrel. Dimensions of the P226 Legion include an overall length of 8.0 inches, an overall width of 1.5 inches, and a height of 5.5 inches. The sight radius is 6.3 inches, and the gun weighs 33 ounces when empty.

Further, the gun boasts diamond-textured black G10 grips with the Legion medallion embedded in the grip panel. A P-SAIT trigger with a curved blade is standard with the P226 Legion, as are factory-installed XRAY iron sights. There’s an accessory rail in front of the trigger guard that works well for any lights or lasers, and the gun’s barrel is made from carbon steel, yielding incredible durability and superior accuracy. As for the frame, it’s made from alloy steel, and the slide is stainless steel. The entire gun has an Elite Cerakote finish that’s resistant to wear and gives the pistol a nice, clean-cut appearance.

This gun is made according to exacting specifications and designed for greater precision than the original P226. All controls are textured for easier operation, and the hammer is ridged for the same reason. Serrations are placed at full height at the rear of the slide and on the lower half of the front of the slide for manipulation. The gun has a gentler curve than the aggressive palm swell of the first P226.

SIG P226 Legion
The handgun fits the hands comfortably and produces minimal felt recoil and muzzle rise. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

How does the Sig Sauer P226 Legion shoot?

For this review, a combination of target and defensive loads were used. This included SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 9mm 115-grain JHP (jacketed hollow point), Sig Sauer Elite 9mm 115-grain FMJ (full metal jacket), Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115-grain FTX, and Aguila 9mm 115-grain FMJ. Frangibles made by Sinterfire were also used, specifically their Special Duty 9mm 100 grain frangible HPs. Throughout testing, the P226 Legion cycled everything with no failures.

The slimmer, refined shape of the P226 Legion’s grip makes it a more comfortable fit in the hand than the original model. Although some shooters might find it a little thick at 1.5 inches wide, it’s not excessive. The gun has a 15 +1 capacity, hence the wider grip. The gun’s beavertail is slightly extended and offers a high, secure hold. All controls are easy to operate with no need to adjust your grip, assuming your hands are average or large size.

X-RAY iron sights are dovetailed and come standard on this gun. They work well out of the box. The gun is a good length for a full grip—that’s a big plus of being full-sized, it means no dangling pinkies. For me, this gun works best with thumbs forward. Felt recoil and muzzle rise are negligible both due to it being a 9mm and because it’s designed to be a flatter-shooting gun. That means high round count classes using the P226 Legion have been a breeze as far as hands getting tired (no issues whatsoever).

Precise and Accurate

This gun is beautifully precise. Single-hole, five-shot groups are easy to accomplish at five yards, and even when I upped it to ten shots fired the precision remained. Extending that out to 25 yards, groups hover around two inches if you’re shooting from the bench. At 50 yards, groups understandably widen. Push to 100 on steel, and it is possible to consistently ring steel once you’re familiar with the drift and drop. Overall, this is a very precise and reliable gun. If you did want to use it for self-defense purposes, you certainly could.

The Sig P226 Legion feels so good in my hands and is so precise on paper that it’s a favorite gun of mine. There aren’t a lot of guns that deliver impressive, consistent performance, but this one does. The question then becomes, what are you going to use it for?

For classes where you want a full-sized handgun, the P226 Legion is a logical choice. It can handle the round count and repetition and keep on functioning well.

If self-defense is your focus, the P226 Legion would be a great option for home defense where it being full-sized doesn’t matter and is, in fact, a plus. As for carry, it’s easier to carry outside the waistband rather than inside, and you can conceal it that way with an appropriately sized cover garment. Concealed carry inside the waistband is possible with the degree of difficulty depending on your body shape and the holster and belt being used.

Should you get a Sig Sauer P226?

The standard P226 is a nice gun to have on hand. It’s rugged, durable, and cycles well, although with the occasional hiccup. If you want to use it for defensive purposes, take the time and money to run 500 rounds through the gun. Do that in a combination of target loads and your chosen self-defense ammo. It should feed all 500 rounds with no failures.

If it can’t do that, it’s either not the defensive gun for you, or you can restart the test at zero and try again. That’s not specific to the P226 but goes for all potential carry guns. Now, it’s true that 500 rounds get pricey, so dropping that back to 300 is perfectly acceptable and understandable. Just make sure at least 100 of those rounds are the defensive load you intend to use.

If you want a precision handgun, the SIG P226 Legion is a good way to go. It’s high quality, durable, reliable, and precise. This is a gun you’ll use extensively for years to come. I highly recommend it.

Either way, the P226 is one of those guns you get because it’s a bit of a classic and you want to have one around. It’s comfortable to shoot, and it’s incredibly accurate. Don’t let the fact that it isn’t as pretty or fancy as the newer variants dissuade you from getting one. Sometimes, simpler is better. The P226 is absolutely worth a closer look.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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