While at this year’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Nashville, I had one of those awkward moments when you bump into someone you think you know, but you’re momentarily stumped. While at the Sig Sauer booth I saw a guy that looked very familiar, but I couldn’t place him. It turns out it was Lou Riley, former CEO of GAMO USA. Riley is now heading up the brand new air products division of Sig Sauer. That’s right–Sig is making its own air guns, ammo, and accessories.
To me, this was pretty big news. Quality air guns can be used most anywhere, and ammo is inexpensive with a nearly infinite supply. When I asked Riley what he was planning, he directed me to a wall display and showed me samples of P226, P250, MCX, and MPX air guns and a slew of accessories. When he told me I could shoot them at an air-gun range there at the convention, I jumped on the opportunity, and begged to get some early samples to test out.
Now that I’ve had some trigger time with two of the test models that thousands of people shot at the convention, I’m not sure whether the operative word for these guns is “fun” or “training.”
A good air gun is always going to be fun to shoot, but the new Sig Sauer models add a whole new dimension. Because they’re made by the same folks who make real P226 pistols, these air guns are made to the exact same factory-drawing dimensions. They’ll initially be available in black and flat dark earth color schemes. They look like the real thing, feel like the real thing, and are made of actual metal that makes that satisfying clinking sound—even the slides reciprocate when you shoot them. As such, they can be used for genuine training with all of your “real” gun gear like holsters, lights, and lasers. The difference is that you can safely train in your garage or backyard without frightening the neighbors.
The P226 air gun is a dead ringer of its centerfire cousin. There are a few functionality differences, of course. For example, there is no open ejection port, nor is one needed, as pellets don’t eject anything. The slide lock latch is also immovable, as it’s also irrelevant with this semi-automatic air gun.
The P226 air gun is powered by a single 12-gram CO2 cartridge. A hinged door on the grip swings open to reveal the CO2 compartment. As you close the door, a cam mechanism presses the cartridge into place, piercing the canister, and releasing gas to the action.
The gun takes removable magazines, unique in design to accommodate pellets rather than cartridges. Each magazine holds 16 pellets total, split into eight-pellet drums at each end of the magazine. The action rotates a new pellet into place, so the semiautomatic mode works about as fast as you can pull the trigger. After eight shots, you eject the magazine, flip it upside down, and reinsert the magazine to get the next set of eight. You’ll get somewhere north of 70 shots before you need to think about changing the CO2 cartridge.
I took this pair of P226 airguns to my back deck and set up my Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet away to see what kind of velocity the pistol was delivering. Using standard Crosman 177 caliber lead wadcutter pellets, the average velocity clocked in at 325.7 feet per second. Switching to lighter and more aerodynamic Gamo platinum power pellets, the velocity jumped to over 400 feet per second. Obviously, speed will vary based on the specific weight and profile of your ammo, so these numbers represent rough guidelines from some very used guns.
There are plenty of air guns on the market, ranging from plastic models sold at big-box stores to premium target models. The Sig Sauer P226 pistols straddle the middle ground. The price point is surprisingly affordable at around a hundred bucks, but they feel and perform like far more expensive models.
To me, the unique characteristic of the P226 is its usefulness as a substitute for the real thing. Feel, weight, size, and operation are all exceptionally realistic. During my test, I used it as a practice version of a real P226. I used it with a number of my regular carry holsters, including a Galco V-Hawk, a KingTuk, and concealable models. Obviously the air gun models are a bit lighter than the centerfire versions, but the important actions like draw, aim, fire, and magazine changes are similar. Even the safety lever acts in a consistent way with the de-cocker. Just press down to enable the safety, just as you would when de-cocking the real gun.
In these troubled times of 20 cents per round (and higher) centerfire ammunition, the idea of an air gun clone for your regular pistol is a pretty nifty idea. Yu can shoot at home, indoors or outdoors. Make no mistake, these are not toys—you still need to exercise proper gun-safety techniques and wear eye protection, but you can do so without hearing protection, massive target backstops, and the associated expenses.
Obviously, other companies have been making knock-off air guns for various handgun models for a long time, but now you can get the real thing. You can pre-order the Sig Sauer air pistols online. They should be available in mid-July. MSRP is $110.99, but street prices are less than a hundred bucks. Keep an eye out for the other models like the P250, MPX, and MCX—you’ll be hooked once you pick one up.
Sig Air Guns Specifications
Caliber: .177 (Pellet)
Power: Patented CO2 cartridge system
Action: Semiautomatic, blow-back
Magazine capacity: 16-round magazine (8×2)
Front Sight: Blade
Rear Sight: Fixed