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January 03, 2004

Range Report: Two .40 calibers - SIG P229 and Glock 23

SIG P229This week it's Switzerland vs. Austria in the battle of the forties.

It's a fair matchup. Besides being chambered in the same caliber, both guns are compact versions of larger service weapons - the SIG P220 and Glock 22. Both have blocky, drift-adjustable sights that will take plenty of abuse. Each is resistant to corrosion, but for different reasons. Glocks have a polymer frame, with a Tenifer finish coating the remaining steel parts. The SIG I shot was stainless steel.

SIG P229
The SIG is a double-action pistol. It can shoot from a cocked hammer position (single-action) or uncocked hammer position (double action). The first shot from an uncocked hammer has a long, heavy trigger pull. The recoil from the first round drives back the slide, cocking the pistol for a shorter, lighter pull for the second shot.

Transitioning between two trigger pulls is one of the challenges of double action automatic pistols, and requires some training time. Once I got used to it, I could put double taps a few inches apart at seven yards. When shooting single-action only, fuhgedaboutit - this pistol is phenomenally accurate, producing tight clusters and ragged holes. Bullseyes cry when the SIG's nearby.

One advantage of the long pull on the first shot is that you're less likely to accidentally fire a round while drawing the gun or reacting to a noise in the middle of the night. That's also why double actions are popular with police departments. In the event of a shooting, your opponent's lawyers will call a light single action pull a "hair trigger."

Racking the slide chambers the first round and cocks the hammer. When it's time to store the SIG (loaded or unloaded), you need to decock the hammer, since the SIG, like many double actions and almost all revolvers, doesn't have a safety. (Neither do Glocks.)

The P229 I shot held 10 rounds of .40 S&W. Pre-ban 12 round magazines are also available, though the prices will remain high until the ban expires in November, 2004. (The ban has a clause that allows law enforcement agencies to get clips larger than 10 rounds.) Because the magazine had been limited to less than its intended capacity, it was easier to load than is typical for large-caliber pistols. Even with a beefy magazine, the SIG's grip feels great, filling the hand without overwhelming it.

P229s in .40 caliber can also shoot .357 SIG, which is a .40 S&W case necked down to 9mm (.355 inch) diameter bullets. I didn't have the chance to try it, but apparently you just change out the barrel to switch between the two calibers. SIG also makes a 9 mm version that holds 10 or 13 rounds in the magazine.

Glock 23Glock 23
Glocks have a unique "safe action" mechanism that isn't exactly single or double action, though it's officially classified as double action by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. (Alcohol, tobacco and firearms? Hey, there's an idea for a fun combination! OK, maybe not.)

When you rack the slide on a Glock, it partially compresses the spring that controls the striker. If the striker were to accidentally release without the trigger being pulled, there isn't enough spring tension to fire a cartridge. Pulling the trigger back compresses the spring the additional distance needed so that it has enough force to ignite the primer.

The result is a trigger pull that's light, or at least can be. Typical trigger pulls are about five pounds, though many police departments use much heavier triggers because of liability concerns. For all you you need to know about Glock triggers, see this Chuck Hawks article.

The Glock's other claim to fame is its polymer frame that drastically reduces weight. Like all Glocks, this one has a tactical rail in front of the trigger guard for attaching lighting systems, laser sights, and other goodies.

The Glock's advantage is its light weight thanks to the polymer frame. The SIG's big advantage is its incredible accuracy. If I had to carry one I might choose the Glock for its light weight and slimmer profile. For accuracy and the sheer pleasure of shooting, though, I'd choose the SIG.

 Glock 23SIG P229
Capacity10, 13, 1510, 12
Weight empty21.2 oz.28.1 oz
Sight Radius6.0"5.7"

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Posted by Les Jones