P226 Face-Off: SIG P226 Nitron vs. SIG P226 Legion

Is the Legion grade of SIG firearms worth the significant price bump? We find out.

the sig sauer p226 nitron and legion
The SIG P226 Nitron and the SIG P226 Legion.Kat Ainsworth

It’s been a few years now since SIG launched their Legion line of handguns, a series of guns offered as upgrades above and beyond the base models. The line was first launched with a trio of guns including the P226 and P226 SAO, but it’s continued to grow for the past three years.

A common question among gun owners both on social media and off has to do with wondering whether the SIG Legion guns are worth the price bump. After all, the standard P226 Nitron can be purchased for around $699, but the P226 Legion has an MSRP of $1,413, more than double the price (you can find them for sale around $1,100 now). That’s a significant price bump.

To answer this question once and for all, I ran the P226 Nitron and P226 Legion side-by-side, carried them, and generally worked to deduce which one is the superior gun. This is what I learned. But first, a brief look into the background of the model.

P226 History

sig sauer p226 on white background
The SIG Sauer P226 was released in 1984.SIG Sauer

The original SIG Sauer P226 traces its beginnings back several decades—the early 1980s, to be exact—and was originally designed for the military. Back in 1984 SIG created the P226 as their entry into the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP), the program with the purpose of selecting a standard weapon for the various United States military branches.

JSSAP came to be when the military realized and admitted they were having issues with their M1911A1s and also that the .45 ACP was not the best choice for a NATO round, due in part to its unpredictable availability globally. In the end the program listed 85 requirements for guns submitted for possible selection, 72 of which were mandatory (13 were optional).

Requirements for JSSAP entries included being chambered in 9mm, having a first-round trigger pull of double action with follow-up shots being single-action (so DA/SA), and a detachable magazine with a minimum capacity of 13 rounds. They also wanted an ambidextrous thumb safety and decocker. And in the typical tradition of the military JSSAP ended up involving multiple rounds of testing and quite a few years.

SIG did well with their P226 entry. Not only did the gun hold its own against all the others, it out-performed most of them. So, why wasn’t it selected? Because, in the end, Beretta’s 92FBS submitted a lower bid. The 92FBS became the M9 and the rest is, as we know it, firearms history.

Nitron Features

sig p226 nitron
The SIG P226 Nitron chambered in 9mm.Kat Ainsworth

The P226 Nitron is the standard P226 model with a Nitron finish, as the name suggests. It’s available in 9mm, .357 SIG, and .40 S&W. This is a full-size gun which doesn’t meant you can’t carry it concealed—you totally can—but it is definitely on the larger side.

It has a 4.4-inch barrel, an overall length of 7.7 inches, and a height of 5.5 inches. At 34 oz. the Nitron’s empty weight isn’t too bad, but when you load it, you’re absolutely aware of its presence on your hip.

A quick run-through of other Nitro features: alloy frame, hard coat anodized, stainless steel slide, DA/SA trigger, and yes it does have a SIG accessory rail in front of the trigger guard.

The fact that it has a Nitron finish does increase its resistance to corrosion and general wear and tear. It’s a tough, durable pistol.

Legion Features

sig p226 legion gun and clip
The SIG P226 Legion does have an edge for accuracy and improved grip.Kat Ainsworth

So, how do the Legion features differ from the Nitron’s?

At first glance, they don’t.

The Legion version is slightly longer at 8 inches and sports a Cerakote Elite Legion gray finish. Somehow it manages to remain at 34 ounces, empty, despite the added length. It does ship with SIG SAUER Electro-Optics X-RAY high-visibility night sights which are a step up from the SIGLITE Night Sights on the Nitron, but those SIGLITEs are good sights as well.

The Legion was designed for a somewhat slimmer profile. SIG accomplished this by reducing the beavertail (they also contoured it to give shooters a higher grip). The gun’s decocking and slide catch levers were also streamlined to reduce risk of snagging on clothing and inadvertent activation.

The checkered grip of the sig p226 legion
Checkered G10 grips with an embedded Legion medallion give you a firm, comfortable hold on the SIG P226 Legion.Kat Ainsworth

Additionally, SIG added more aggressive 25 LPI front strap checking, checkering under the trigger guard, and an X-Five undercut to the trigger guard. Front cocking serrations were added, too, but that only makes me ask what you’re doing racking your slide from the front rather than the rear.

There were also some internal changes made to the Legion version of the P226 such as an all-metal guide rod and improved trigger. The guide rod being metal does add some front weight and balance to the gun, a definite bonus. As for the trigger, we’ll get to that shortly.

Range Tests

the sig p226 legion and nitron side by side
The Legion (rear) and the Nitron side-by-side.Kat Ainsworth

Running the two guns alongside one another was an exercise in contrasts and proof I am easily entertained. Both are well-made, reliable pistols; both fit my hands well. However, they run like two entirely different guns.

SIG P226 Nitron Range Test

The Nitron fits my hands well which is always a good first sign. The grips are textured on both the sides and the back strap and there is checkering on the front strap.

Yes, you can get a solid grip on this gun, even if your hands get wet. One big pro of this gun is that I can operate the controls without adjusting my grip; the mag release, slide catch, and decocker are all readily accessible and easy to work with your thumb.

Although there is no external safety on this gun it does have quite a few safety features. Perhaps most importantly is the fact the hammer does not rest against the firing pin.

If you decock your P226 Nitron the hammer will set close-but-not-quite next to the firing pin when in the down position. There’s also a spring in the gun’s slide that keeps the firing pin pulled away from the primer of a cartridge. When the trigger is pulled, a lever disengages the locking bar holding that spring in place. So yes, there are safety features.

a close up detail of sig p226 trigger and takedown lever
A close look at the P226’s trigger and takedown lever.Kat Ainsworth

Let’s talk triggers.

The Nitron is a DA/SA gun but don’t be tempted to only shoot it single-action. You need to be well-versed in double-action, so spend time running your gun both ways.

When firing double-action the Nitron has a measured trigger pull weight of 8 lbs. 1 oz. (I used my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge and averaged pull weight based on ten measurements). In single-action, the measured pull weight was 3 lbs. 9 oz.

Of course, what really counts is the pull itself. Running double-action, the Nitron’s trigger has some take-up and slight stacking ahead of the break. The break itself is crisp. Reset is on the long side. Single-action the take-up remains although stacking is lessened. It isn’t a great trigger but it also is not the worst I’ve used. It falls somewhere in the middle.

sig p226 nitron stripped down for cleaning
The SIG P226 Nitron is easily to field strip for cleaning.Kat Ainsworth

Accuracy with the P226 Nitron was reasonable but not fantastic. Shooting the gun from the bench at 25 yards produced consistent five-shot groups typically over two inches with some closer to three inches. Running a playing card drill with the Nitron resulted in a five-shot group that wasn’t the single ragged hole I had hoped to see but was instead a group of obviously separate shots.

Is it accurate? Yes. Is it precise? No. Some of that may be hindered by the trigger which does present some challenges.

That SIG P226 Legion, Though

The first thing I noticed with the Legion was that more of my hand makes contact gripping this gun than it does with the Nitron. This is likely due at least partially to the different grips on the Legion; the Legion’s grips are checkered custom G10s and are, to my mind, slightly less rounded on the sides than the Nitron’s.

sig p226 legion nitron back strap
The back strap of the SIG P226 Legion is not aggressively curved like the SIG P226 Nitron is made.Kat Ainsworth

The back strap is also straighter on this model, lacking the visibly curved flare of the Nitron. As a result it fits comfortably in the palm of my hand and provides a nicely secure grip. The shape also affects the angle of my grip; suffice to say my grip angle on the Legion is superior to the angle on the other gun. Some of that comes down to hand size.

Operating the controls on the Legion is a bit different than on the classic Nitron. The slide catch lever is flush with the uppermost portion of the grip, something SIG did to reduce snagging. This means it takes more effort and focus to manipulate than the other, easily captured slide catch lever but it is not really a downside, just an observation.

The mag release is also flush with the grip but is simple to use. As for the decocker, it remains easy to use and is designed with a vertical, checkered face instead of the angled design textured with horizontal lines found on the Nitron. Which lever is better is a matter of personal taste but I do prefer the Legion’s decocker design. It is a bit stiff but has improved with use.

Safeties on the Legion are the same as those on the Nitron and function reliably. The fact that these guns are DA/SA is also a pro, because it means you can carry double-action for the first shot fired, meaning it will take significantly more pressure to pull the trigger.

sig p226 legion playing card as target practice
The SIG P226 Legion repeatedly nailed single-hole playing card drills including this ten-round drill.Kat Ainsworth

The trigger is where the Legion shines. This gun is shipped with a Grayguns P-SAIT trigger, an intermediate-reach model that’s adjustable for over-travel. Firing double-action it has a measured pull weight of seven pounds, nine ounces; single-action the measured pull weight is three pounds, one ounce. The trigger has a smooth pull and crisp break. Quite simply, it’s awesome.

If you aren’t a big fan of double-actions, this is a gun for you to try out, because it just might win you over. As for its single-action performance, it is absolutely phenomenal. Bruce Gray of Grayguns knocked it out of the park with this trigger, as usual.

Accuracy with the Legion is dead on. Shooting from the bench at 25 yards it reliably produced five-shot groups of two inches or less. Running playing card drills was flat-out fun thanks to the single ragged hole that kept appearing in the cards.

I even ran 10 shots through a playing card instead of limiting myself to five, and was treated to the same single hole. Fractions of an inch may not seem like a lot, but they add up fast the further out you’re shooting and as adrenaline floods your system.

The Legion rocked everything I did with it.

sig p226 nitron and legion night sights
The SIG P226 Nitron (left) ships with SIGLITE Night Sights and the SIG P226 Legion (right) ships with XRAY3 Day/Night Sights.Kat Ainsworth

A bit of a side note. I also ran the Legion in MAG-20 Live Fire, a Massad Ayoob Group class that was taught by David Maglio. The class spanned a weekend and included one-handed drills, Double Bill Drills, and rain and thunderstorms.

I purposefully did not lube the gun the night between class days and by the time we got toward the end of the second day the gun began having issues cycling.

This wasn’t the fault of the gun as much as it was my letting it run a high round count in the rain without cleaning or lubing it. A little lube fixed the problem immediately. Lesson learned: keep your gun lubed.

The Winner

sig sauer p226 legion
The controls on the SIG P226 Legion are designed to be low-profile and snag-free.Kat Ainsworth

Yes, the SIG P226 Legion is superior to the standard SIG P226 Nitron.

The Grayguns P-SAIT trigger alone would make it worth the extra expense but it does have other features to recommend it.

The G10 grips are a vast improvement as are the X-RAY3 Day/Night Sights.

There’s nothing wrong with the night sights on the Nitron, but the X-RAY3 sights do give you an edge and facilitate faster target acquisition. That is especially important on follow-up shots.

It isn’t membership into SIG’s members-only Legion club that makes the gun worthwhile. The larger, sturdier plastic box the pistol comes in is nice and the medallion it comes with is cool.

Then there’s the access to various members-only specials. Also cool, sure. But it’s the gun itself you should be interested in investing in and it is well worth it. Although the SIG P226 Nitron is a solidly built pistol that is also a good purchase, the Legion is the clear winner here. I whole-heartedly recommend it.

Ballistics, SIG P226 Nitron

Manufacturer Federal HST Winchester SIG V-Crown
Grain 124 115 115
Bullet JHP FMJ JHP
Muzzle Velocity 1139 fps 1188 fps 1167 fps
Muzzle Energy 364 ft-lbs 362 ft-lbs 359 ft-lbs
Standard Deviation 14 12 16
Average Group (25 yards) 2.28 inches 2.49 inches 2.58 inches
Best Group (25 yards) 2.02 inches 2.11 inches 1.99 inches

Ballistics, SIG P226 Legion

Manufacturer Federal HST Winchester SIG V-Crown Inceptor
Grain 124 115 115 65
Bullet JHP FMJ JHP ARX
Muzzle Velocity 1144 fps 1194 fps 1164 fps 1544 fps
Muzzle Energy 364 ft-lbs 362 ft-lbs 359 ft-lbs 393 ft-lbs
Standard Deviation 11 10 7 10
Average Group (25 yards) 2.09 inches 2.21 inches 2.44 inches 2.11 inches
Best Group (25 yards) 1.97 inches 1.88 inches 1.96 inches 1.84 inches

SIG Sauer P226 Legion Specs:

sig sauer p226 legion
The SIG Sauer P226 Legion.SIG Sauer
  • Caliber: 9mm (tested), 357 SIG, 40 S&W
  • Action: Semi-Auto
  • Frame Size: Full-Size
  • Frame Material: Alloy
  • Frame Finish: Legion Gray
  • Slide Finish: Legion Gray
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Accessory Rail: SIG Rail
  • Barrel Length: 4.4"
  • Overall Length: 8"
  • Overall Width: 1.5"
  • Height: 5.5"
  • Weight: 34 oz., empty

SIG Sauer P226 Nitron Specs:

sig sauer p226 nitron
The SIG Sauer P226 Nitron.SIG Sauer
  • Caliber: 9mm (tested), 357 SIG, 40 S&W
  • Action Type: Semi-Auto
  • Frame Size: Full-Size
  • Frame Material: Alloy
  • Frame Finish: Hard Coat Anodized
  • Slide Finish: Nitron
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Accessory Rail: SIG Rail
  • Trigger: DA/SA
  • Barrel Length: 4.4"
  • Overall Length: 7.7"
  • Overall Width: 1.5"
  • Height: 5.5"
  • Weight: 34 oz., empty