Picture two equally rough cowboys, facing off from either side of a dusty street in a western gold rush town. Which one is tougher or faster on the draw? That’s what it’s like trying to compare these two veteran combat handguns.
In the U.S., many civilian law enforcement officers carry a Glock of one model or another, while plenty of people in military special operations carry a Sig Sauer model. Across the pond, you’ll find plenty of Glocks and Sigs in both military and law enforcement use. Many of them, and many other people who give serious consideration to what they shoot, use either a Glock 19 or a Sig Sauer P229, because they will always go bang when needed. Both of these pistols have earned a reputation for extreme reliability in tough conditions.
The Glock 19 is a medium-sized, 9mm handgun built for discreet carry. The striker-fired design makes it easy to shoot as every trigger press feels exactly the same. The Sig P229 is also a more compact 9mm, although later we’ll discuss variations in other calibers. It also packs 15 rounds of 9mm but operates as a double-action / single-action—we’ll get into those details in a minute.
In a showdown like this particular matchup, the end result is not so much a winner and runner-up scenario as it is a personal preference. Both of these handguns are proven fighting pistols that have performed with stellar reliability in the very worst of environments. To help you decide which might be best for you, we’ll get into the differences in detail.
What’s Your Action?
The right model for you depends on your action preference. I’m not talking about how you spend your weekends; I’m referring to the different operational approaches of these two pistols.
The Sig Sauer P229 is a double-action/single-action, hammer-fired pistol. For the Sig to fire, the hammer must be cocked first so it can fall and strike the firing pin, thereby igniting the cartridge. This doesn’t mean you have to cock the hammer manually. The “double-action” operation means that the trigger on the Sig performs two functions. Pressing it can cock the hammer and release it to strike the firing pin, hence the “double” part of double-action. Once the first shot is fired by this double-action sequence, the movement of the slide cocks the hammer for the next shot, so the subsequent trigger press requires far less pressure.
The net effect is this: The first shot requires a heavier and more deliberate action by the shooter. Subsequent shots require less force as the trigger only performs the single function of releasing the hammer. To put numbers on those forces, the double-action press may require ten pounds of pressure while the single-action requires about four.
The Glock 19 is a striker-fired pistol, and it has no hammer. Instead, the firing pin is “cocked” by an internal spring until the trigger releases it to strike the cartridge. To get a little deeper in the weeds, when you rack the slide of a Glock to chamber the first round, the firing pin is only partially cocked. That provides a degree of safety because the gun can’t fire from the partially cocked configuration. When you press the trigger, the cocking operation is completed until the backward motion of the trigger releases the fully cocked striker. With the striker-fired design, every trigger press feels the same. The force required to break the standard Glock trigger is about 5.5 pounds.
Both approaches have their pros and cons, so deciding which is better is purely a personal preference.
The Sig Sauer P229 requires a more deliberate trigger press to launch the first shot. Many shooters view this as an extra layer of safety that helps prevent a negligent discharge during a high-stress situation. The trigger weight for follow-up shots is less than that of the Glock 19, which can enable faster and more precise shooting. The drawback is that the shooter must manage the transition from a heavier trigger press and lighter trigger press for the next shot. On the other hand, notable instructors like pistol guru Ernie Langdon can show you how to make that first double-action sequence work to your advantage by staging the trigger as you press the gun forward into final firing position.
The standard-model Glock 19 with its striker-fired action has a trigger press weight of 5.5 pounds. Other trigger options are available that make the weight lighter for competition use and sometimes heavier, as with the 7.5-pound “New York Police” trigger. The Sig Sauer P229 has a double-action trigger press weight of about ten pounds. Once the hammer is cocked after the first shot, the single-action weight is about 4.5 pounds.
What people like about the Glock 19 design is that all trigger presses feel the same, from the first shot to the last. The trigger pressure is lighter than that of the Sig P229’s first shot, but heavier than that of the Sig’s single-action mode. Glock proponents believe that the 5.5-pound trigger weight is enough to provide a measure of safety against negligent discharges. Of course, the real safety against an unintended shot comes by keeping the finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
I have to respectfully disagree with the entire shooting industry for a minute here (so this may be my swan song article here at range365.com. Hope you enjoy it!). You may have noticed that the Glock 19 is commonly referred to as a “compact” gun. When I hear the word “compact,” I think of comparatively tiny little things, such as Smart cars. Maybe that’s just me, but it’s why I see the Glock 19 and Sig P229 more as “mid-size” pistols. They’re smaller than full-size, but not those teensy little wrist busters you have to hold with two fingers. Since this is my digital ink, I’m going to refer to both of these pistols as mid-size models.
There, I feel better.
Let’s compare the sizes and weights of the two pistols. Because the Sig Sauer P229 is offered in numerous variants, I’ve listed the specs of the base P229 model here.
There’s a major difference in construction between the two. The Glock 19 has a polymer frame mated to a steel slide. The Sig Sauer P229 uses a frame made from anodized aluminum with a steel slide. Glock 19 magazines are made from polymer; Sig mags are steel.
Gun forum trolls make much hay about Glock factory sights. The standard Glock sights are made from polymer, and this drives some purists crazy. You’ll occasionally see comments from online couch commandos like these:
“They could break!”
“In the middle of the fight, they can melt and cause Jupiter to plummet right into Toad Suck, Arkansas!”
Technically speaking, they are made of polymer, and they could break. But melting sights probably won’t cause Jupiter to wipe out the state park with the greatest name ever. I think Jupiter would be more likely to land in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina. But seriously, next time you leave the house, take a look at the guns your local law enforcement officers are carrying. There’s a good chance they’ve got a Glock of one model or another on their belt. Oh, and the sights are probably the standard Glock factory models. The odds are pretty good that your standard Glock sights won’t ever give you grief. And if you don’t like the default sights, which have a white dot up front and rear notch surrounded by a white “U” outline, you can order your Glock with night sights. Or, since most sight companies make compatible models, you can install whatever sights you like.
Like Glock, Sig Sauer offers basic factory sights, but they’re made from steel. Sig uses the three-dot model, on which the rear sight is flanked by two white dots instead of the “U” outline of the Glock. Sig also offers three-dot Tritium night sights, which glow in the dark. And on the new P229 Legion models, you can order the new XRAY3 Hi Vis Night Sights. The front dot on these is not only enlarged, but also has a Tritium night sight center, surrounded by a fiber optic circle that glows in daylight conditions. The big glowing circle leaps into view, day or night.
Both pistols have huge followings, which means that there are plenty of compatible aftermarket sights. Whatever brand and style you like is almost certainly available on either the Glock or Sig.
Calibers and Variants
If you’re willing to stretch the definition of a Glock 19 just a tad, you’ll find that it’s also available in .40 S&W and .357 Sig. Technically speaking, these alternate caliber offerings are no longer Glock 19s, but they share identical exterior dimensions and the same internal design. If you want a Glock just like a Model 19, but in .40 Smith & Wesson, just ask for a Glock 23. If you prefer the zippy .357 Sig caliber, you’ll be wanting a Glock 32. There’s also a Glock 38 in .45 ACP that’s almost the same. Of course, since cartridge sizes differ, the magazine capacity varies when you change calibers.
The Glock 19 is available in three primary variations: the traditional Glock 19, the Glock 19 Gen 4, and the new Glock 19 MOS. The Gen 4 has improved grip texture, replaceable backstraps, a new recoil spring design, and improvements to the magazine release. The MOS model allows you to mount a red dot sight directly to the top of the slide.
While Glock assigns individual model numbers to guns with different calibers, Sig Sauer takes a different approach. Their model designation, the P229 in this example, refers to a basic size and style of pistol, and is available in various calibers. For example, you can order a P229 chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, and of course, .357 Sig. As I write this, there are at least eleven variants of the P229 family, each available in different calibers. Some have threaded barrels, different finishes, and even different action types.
Owing to the different materials used, you’ll see a not insignificant price difference between these two pistols. The Glock 19 retails for $649 while the base Sig Sauer P229 is marked at $1,087. In both cases actual street prices will be less, and it pays to shop around.
I’ve performed hard-core accuracy tests of these two pistols and have almost always gotten slightly better accuracy results from the Sig Sauer P229. While that looks good on paper, it’s really irrelevant from a practical perspective.
The Glock 19 will regularly shoot quality ammo into groups under three inches at 25 yards. The Sig Sauer will more frequently shoot groups measuring less than two inches at the same distance. So what? Both pistols are far more mechanically accurate than the overwhelming majority of people can shoot anyway, especially under stressful conditions. If you do your part, either the Glock 19 or the Sig P229 will deliver your shots to the right place without fail.
From a purely subjective “feel” perspective, you’ll find that the Glock 19 has a more squared-off shape. While the new backstraps add some curve to the grip, a cross section of the grip still more resembles a rectangle than a circle. The newer Sig P229 pistols have a much more rounded grip profile.
The grip shapes are yet another reason to try them both. Pick each up and assume a natural firing grip. Now look at how the slide aligns with the bones of your forearm. The two should form one straight line. Does one align more naturally than the other?
The Bottom Line
The most important consideration is really the choice of action. You’ll find equally credible people who bet their lives on both the double-action/single-action and striker-fired designs. You’ll find special-forces operators using Glocks and Sigs. While we each have our own opinion, the sum total of real world performance points to the fact that either type of pistol will perform up to the user’s level of training, practice, and skill.
If you’re serious about choosing between these two pistols, then arrange for a good instructor to teach you how to make the most of either design, then shoot each. After a few boxes of ammo, you’ll most likely have a clear preference.