Tag Archives: handgun review

First look at the SIG P226 Legion


SIG P226 Legion in original factory hard-shell plastic case

In my view, the SIG P22(x) series of pistols are about the best built handguns currently on the market at their price point. You’ve seen me review some of these pistols before (see: SIG P220 Equinox — Beauty is More than Skin Deep and SIG P229 Enhanced Elite — An Exercise in Indulgence). Sure, I’ve heard the griping about a supposed reduction in quality control since most production was moved from Germany to the U.S., but I’ve yet to see that in any SIGs I’ve fired. They’ve all been rock solid. At the apex of the SIG P22(x) line is their Legion series. Today I present a first look at the SIG P226 Legion, this particular one in my preferred double-action/single-action trigger configuration as opposed to single-action only.

SIG Legion thermal case; sent free of charge once your Legion is registered with SIG

The Legion and three magazines come enclosed in SIG’s standard hard shell plastic case. When the gun is registered with SIG, you will receive in the mail an upgraded “thermal” case with a “challenge” coin that is matched to the pistol variant you purchased. For instance, the coin below is stamped “P226” and displays an image of the double-action/single-action variant. The reverse side of the coin replicates the Legion medallion on the grips and on the thermal case. The thermal case even includes a removable cutout for the optional, additional charge (at a hefty $499.95) SIG XM-18 Rick Hinderer knife.

 

SIG Legion thermal pistol case and P226 DA/SA coin

As previously mentioned, the SIG Legion comes with three magazines. That’s something I wish all gun manufacturers included, but which I’ve only seen with regularity coming out of SIG and FNH.

SIG P226 Legion comes from the factory with three magazines

The pistol itself is finished in a dark grey PVD (Physical Vapor Depositon) finish that, unfortunately, developed a reputation for flaking off in early examples released to the public. Later production examples appear to be more resilient, according to online comments.

SIG Sauer P226 Legion

The controls on the double-action/single-action are classic SIG. The slide stop, decocker, take-down lever (above the trigger guard), and magazine release button are pictured below. On the single-action only variant, the decock lever is missing, and a 1911-style thumb safety is placed directly behind the slide stop.

SIG Sauer P226 Legion

The Legion comes with black G10 grips upon which is embedded the Legion medallion.

Black G10 grips with Legion medallion

SIG installs on the Legion some very good sights. These are the SIG X-RAY3 sights that were engineered by SIG’s Elector-Optical division. This resulted in the sights initially receiving a rather confusing and misleading designation of “Electro-Optical X-RAY3 sights”, as there is nothing either “electro” or “optical” about them. They are, however, excellent day/night tritium-filled rear sights with a tritium-filled fiber optic front sight. Visibility is reportedly exceptional in all lighting conditions, and from my perspective I have to agree. They’re simply great in both dark and bright light situations, although the photo below does a poor job reflecting that on the rear sight.

Rear X-RAY3 sight

Front X-RAY3 tritium fiber optic sight

Disassembly is SIG simple. Lock back the slide, rotate the take-down lever 90° clockwise, disengage the slide stop, and pull the slide forward off the frame rails.

SIG P226 Legion disassembled (note the rotated take-down lever)

The trigger is exceptional, as is pretty much the case with any SIG P22(x) series double-action/single-action or single-action only pistol. But in the case of the Legion series, SIG have gone a step beyond. They’ve incorporated into the Legion an enhanced, polished, P-SAIT (P-Series Precision Adjustable Intermediate Trigger) short-reset trigger designed by Grayguns. As the name implies, the P-SAIT has an adjustment for over-travel.

SIG have also installed into the Legion series a solid-steel guide rod, which increases mass in an effort to reduce felt recoil and muzzle-flip. These are, after all, target-grade competition pistols.

Solid-steel guide rod

The price for entering the Legion club may seem exorbitant at first, but that’s only until you start adding up the cost of all the included extras. A stock P226 with nitron finish and SIGLIGHT tritium sights has an MSRP of $1,087. The P226 Legion is listed at $1,413. X-RAY3 sights for the standard P226 would be a $159.99 upgrade, then throw in the G10 grips at $109.95, the solid steel guide rod in black at $30, the short reset P-SAIT trigger at $39. Add all that up and your stock P226 is up to $1,425.94, and you still don’t have the PVD finish, the special Legion case and coin, or the Legion medallion embedded into your G10 grips.

Put all that together and that additional $326 over the initial price of a stock P226 begins to look like a real bargain.

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First look at a Rock Island Armory Ultra FS in 10mm


Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

People tell me that 10mm is a fun cartridge to shoot, especially out of a 1911-style pistol. I’ll let you know when I get around to trying it, but for now I’m just going to give my first impressions an a used 10mm 1911 from Rock Island Armory. Rock Island Armory have no connection with the famed U.S. Army Rock Island Arsenal. This Rock Island Armory is a subsidiary of Armscor, and is located in Marikina, Philippines.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

Rock Island Armory (RIA) is known for making an affordable (read: cheap) yet reliable 1911 copy. In other words, it’s a good bargain, and if you’re buying something for only occasional use and which you don’t care if it gets beat up in a holster while hiking in the woods, then cheap and used are the way to go. Thus, the RIA Ultra FS 10mm you see here today.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS 10mm

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the RIA’s 10mm. Fortunately, reliability isn’t one of them, according to most reviews. What reliability issues I have seen reported appear to be what would normally be expected during break in of a new pistol using a very powerful cartridge. Finish, however, isn’t up to Colt standards. But, then, neither is the price. A new RIA Ultra FS 10mm comes in at around $300 to $400 less (street price) than the Colt Delta Elite. And for that cost advantage you get the added benefit of having a fully supported chamber, which may hold up better when firing full-powered 10mm loads. There are reports of catastrophic case failures with the unsupported chambers of some 10mm pistols such as the Delta Elite, but I’m not convinced that isn’t more attributable to home reloaders pushing the envelop on an already powerful cartridge.

Rock Island Armory Ultra FS comes with only one magazine

Another difference compared to the Colt Delta Elite is the addition of a bushingless barrel, which supposedly improves barrel-to-slide fit, thus increasing accuracy. The bushingless design also requires a wider “bull” barrel, which slightly increases mass and thus may reduce felt recoil. However, I doubt that the very slight increase in mass here would be enough to result in any real benefit in this regard.

Bushingless design

Note the wider bull barrel at the muzzle end

You can see from the following photograph this particular 1911 has a tendency to eject the casings in such a manner that they strike the upper portion of the slide behind the ejection port. Again, not something I’m very worried about, and I could probably remove those marks without marring the Parkerization.

Ejection marks

Rear sights are adjustable.

Adjustable rear sight

The front sight is fiber optic. Nice touch! Together, here is what you see looking down the slide:

Rear sight

Fiber optic front sight

Watch for a firing review after I get this thing to the range.

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A Tale of Two Berettas — 92FS and 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”


Standard Beretta 92FS (top); uncommon 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”

The Beretta 92 family of handgus  is a design that until recently I hadn’t much interest. It’s big, bulky, and heavy, and there are smaller, lighter high-capacity pistols out there — the exceptional Walther P99 comes readily to mind (for a review of the P99c AS compact see: When Fashion Goes Macho—Walther P99c AS in 9mm). And while Beretta would love for you to believe they invented that locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation, first with their M1951 (1949-1980) and later with the more famous Model 92 (1976-current) the fact is that Walther beat them to it by eleven years with the P38/P-1 (designed in 1938, produced 1939-2000).

Beretta 92FS with 15-round magazine; 17-round magazines also available

 

But, darn, if that Beretta isn’t just one sexy looking pistol with that beautiful, sleek, naked Italian barrel peeking up through that indecent, open-top slide.

Open top slide with exposed barrel

Indeed, exposed barrels are a bit of a thing with Beretta. Another way to put it is that Beretta makes the world’s largest ejection ports. To illustrate what I mean, here’s a family portrait featuring a 92FS, 85FS Cheetah, and a 3032 Tomcat (for additional information of the latter two see: Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FSPocket Pistol Week — Beretta Tomcat  and  Fun Firearms Friday — Pocket Pistol Shootout: Colt Mustang vs. Beretta Tomcat):

Three different Berettas — all with open slides

Beretta Family Portrait

So, when one day I stumbled across a used (2013) 92FS in good shape at a reasonable price, I was intrigued. That this particular 92FS was actually manufactured in Italy rather that the U.S. made me reconsider my previous reluctance in acquiring one. Yeah, I’m a bit funny that way — if I’m going to get an Italian pistol then I prefer that it come from the original Italian factory. Consequently, that particular 92FS followed me home like a forlorn puppy looking for a good home, complete with the original box, both magazines, and all the extraneous goodies:

Used Italian-manufactured 92FS

While this example may be “used”, it certainly is clean:

Italian-made Beretta 92FS

Field stripping and cleaning the Beretta 92FS is pretty straight forward. Step one in disassembly is locating the take-down button on the starboard side of the pistol and push it:

Beretta take-down button

While holding in the button, locate the take-down latch on the opposite side of the pistol:

Beretta 92 take-down latch

Rotate the lever clockwise 90°:

Beretta take-down latch rotated to disassembly position

Pull the slide and barrel forward off the frame as a unit. Unlike a SIG P22(x), FNX, and many other pistols, you don’t even need to lock back the slide to engage the take-down controls. Taking apart the barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring is a straight forward operation from this point:

Disassembled Beretta 92FS

As previously mentioned, the 92FS uses a falling locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation rather than John Browning’s more familiar tilt-barrel design used in most locked breech pistols made today. Here is the locking block in both positions:

Locking block engaged (position when the barrel is locked with the slide)

Beretta locking block dropped (the position when the barrel disengages from the slide)

The 92FS is a combat pistol. It’s the M9 version of this pistol that in 1986 began replacing the famed Colt M1911, which had been in common U.S. military use for the preceding 75 years and which some U.S. military units continued to use until just recently — over 100 years in service! Being a combat pistol, the 92FS uses rather basic but functional three-dot sights:

92FS rear sight

92FS front sight

I’ve not yet fired this pistol (or any other 92 for that matter), but I have studied its operation and manipulated the controls. I rate the double action trigger pull as fair, about what one would expect from a double-action/single-action hammer-fired pistol (rated at 11.3 pounds)/5,100 grams). Single action pull is a tad on the heavy side for what I would expect (rated at 6.6 pounds/3,000 grams), but it breaks cleanly and predictably. In comparison, a SIG P22(x) trigger is rated at 10 pounds/4,400 grams double action and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams single action. The double-action/single-action striker-fired Walther P99 comes in at 8.8 pounds/4,000 grams and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams respectively. No wonder I love my P99 pistols and variants!

As for use as a concealed carry pistol, well . . . . Did I mention that the 92FS is huge? And heavy? The Beretta 92FS weighs in at a hefty 33.3 ounces/944 grams empty, even though it sports an alloy frame. The SIG P229 also has an alloy frame, yet weighs in at 29.6 ounces/839 grams. And that polymer frame Walther? An empty full-size P99 comes in at a relatively svelte 21.3 ounces/605 grams. Nevertheless, I’m sure the Beretta will acquit itself quite well at the range. Watch for a firing review at a future date.

Now let’s take a look at that other reason I bit the bullet (pun intended) on this example, the roll mark:

Beretta Gardone V.T. (short for Val Trompia) — Made in Italy

Are Italian-made Berettas superior to those made here in the U.S.? No. But that isn’t the point. Would you rather have a Walther PPK/S stamped “Made in Germany” or one marked “Houlton, Maine”? A SIG P225 proudly bragging “Made in Switzerland”, or one from Exeter, New Hampshire?

Which brings us to this next 92FS, which I stumbled across at my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange). This one is rather unique and somewhat hard to find in that it’s a “reverse two-tone”, meaning that the slide is Bruniton, the barrel matte blued, and the alloy frame set in “Inox” finish even though it’s not an Inox (stainless) frame. If you decide to track down one of these pistols for your collection, the model number is SPEC0523A.

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS

Unlike its all Bruniton (slide)/black anodized (frame) brother, this pistol also comes with an ambidextrous safety:

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS with ambidextrous safety

And, yes, this one also comes from Gardone Val Trompia, Northern Italy.

Beretta Gardone V.T. — Made in Italy

The reverse two-tone 92FS appears to have come to the U.S. in very limited quantities, and I believe none have been imported since around 2012. This particular example was made in 2011, and like its 2013 Bruniton brother it was never registered with Beretta by any previous owner. That’s my tip of the day for collectors, by the way. Always check to see if a used firearm has been registered by the previous owner with the manufacturer or distributor. You would be shocked at how many times this isn’t done, and you become the “first” owner in regards to warranty as far as the manufacturer/distributor is concerned.

This 92FS has been fired, and there are a couple of minor scratches on the left front frame and slide, but otherwise it’s in excellent condition. As such, this pistol’s days at the range are over. It’s been cleaned, treated with Renaissance (museum restoration) Wax, lubricated, and slides greased, and now officially retired.

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