Revisiting Sig Sauer Part 1

Revisiting Sig Sauer Part 1

Moving at the speed of air

By Dennis Adler

No company has tried harder to meet the needs for CO2 firearms training and the demands of the consumer airgun market in so short a time. Since late 2015, when the P226 ASP was unveiled, until mid 2018, Sig Sauer has developed and introduced seven air pistols and two semi-auto tactical air rifles. Shown are six of the seven CO2 pistols currently sold by Sig Sauer, (clockwise from the top) the P226 ASP, shown in FDE with suppressor kit, the Spartan 1911, X-Five ASP, WE THE PEOPLE 1911, Max Michel 1911, and P320 in coyote tan.

A little over two years ago international armsmaker Sig Sauer, manufacturer of military, law enforcement and civilian handguns and rifles, did something quite unexpected; they introduced a CO2 powered pellet pistol based on their P226 9mm semiautomatic handguns. The P226 was the same pistol being carried by U.S. Navy SEALs and other U.S. military units, and as federal, state and local law enforcement sidearms. The reaction to Sig Sauer’s introduction of the P226 ASP was summed up in a January 2016 article by the editors of On Target magazine, who wrote: “What would you give for a CO2 powered, semi-automatic, .177 Cal. pellet pistol that looked just like, weighed about the same as, had all the same controls – including the trigger system – and fit in the same holster as your center-fire P226?  How about $110.99? For our money (and not much of that), this is the absolute best practice gun available for P226 shooters.” A few weeks later I had the chance to do a T&E on the new P226 ASP in Combat Handguns magazine (this is before I began writing the Airgun Experience column for Pyramyd Air in May 2016) and in my review I noted that, “The Navy SEAL version ASP has an overall length of 7.75 inches including the threaded 5-inch barrel, a height of 5.5 inches and width 1.26 inches, including grips and safety/decocking lever. The P226 Combat 9mm specs out at 8.3 inches in overall length with a 5-inch threaded barrel, 5.5 inches in height and 1.5 inches in width; once again right in the ballpark for handling exercises right down to pulling the trigger.” Dani Navickas, Sig Sauer’s ASP Air Division product manager backed that up by noting, “We designed our initial offering of airguns to look and feel like Sig Sauer centerfire guns, with similar weight and trigger pull for training purposes.”

The P250 ASP (bottom) CO2 model was introduced at the same time as the P226 ASP. The P250 was a pioneering design for Sig Sauer utilizing a polymer frame which was carried forward into the P320 design and the P320 ASP (top). Both guns, despite their lack of fully operating features provide the basics for hands-on training with the corresponding Sig Sauer centerfire models. This was Sig Sauer’s initial objective with the CO2 models.

This was not the beginning of CO2 air pistols for handgun training, but outside of Umarex (Walther), it was the first time a major arms manufacturer had directly put its name on a CO2 powered, semi-auto pellet pistol designed for training. There is a fine distinction between a company licensing their name to an airgun manufacturer (like S&W and Colt do with Umarex), to being the airgun manufacturer. This is equivalent to Webley building their legendary MK VI revolver as a CO2 model. Sig Sauer had taken a significant step.

The P226 ASP, introduced late in 2105, features a DA/SA trigger that is very close in feel to the centerfire models, plus a functioning decocker/safety. In terms of size and operation it is almost identical to the 9mm models. The magazine and slide releases are functional but the takedown lever is cosmetic only. The gun also comes with a treaded barrel for use with a faux suppressor. It is basically a Navy SEAL version in CO2.
Loading the ASP model requires placing 8 pellets into each end of the reversible rotary stick magazine, which inserts into the grip. CO2 is loaded into the grip frame by opening the backstrap. Closing the backstrap automatically seats and pierces the CO2 making this an almost automatic function and much faster than conventional CO2 loading systems (outside of self-contained CO2 BB magazines).

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And then came the naysayers 

Almost immediately everyone complained that the P226 fell short of the mark because it used an old style reversible 8-shot rotary stick magazine, the slide couldn’t lock back, and the gun had several inert (non-functioning) controls like the slide release, which Sig Sauer deemed unimportant because the internal operation of the gun precluded any means of the slide locking back, so why have a functioning slide release. Those who came forth with criticisms had “anticipated” a more groundbreaking design. But these same people failed to see what Sig had accomplished with the P226. It was a very practical, very affordable training gun for anyone who carries a P226 and aside from the general airgun consumer market that was the intent of Sig Sauer’s first offering. They had hit a bullseye but not on the target airgun enthusiasts were looking for. This was in the spring of 2016. We are now in the summer of 2018 and look what has Sig Sauer done in that roughly 16 month stretch of time. Most airgun manufacturers have introduced a couple of new models.

Simplicity of design but complexity of appearance (fit and finish) were paramount in Sig Sauer’s 1911 models all based on actual Sig Sauer centerfire pistols. Although the Spartan 1911 uses a stick magazine it is an otherwise excellent and visually striking design.
The Max Michel 1911 CO2 model (top) was based on the actual 9mm 1911 model designed by Sig’s shooting team captain Max Michel. Again a great deal of effort went into the appearance of the gun while it used the same internal operation as the Spartan and a stick magazine. Both the Spartan and Max Michel were designed as price point guns and suitable understudies to their centerfire counterparts. Both guns have a redundant thumb safety that has taken a lot of deserved criticism. Sig learned from each gun what consumers preferred. And remember this was still less than two years since the first ASP model.
One and the same at a glance but the Sig Sauer 1911 at the top is the actual .45 ACP WE THE PEOPLE model. The matching blowback action CO2 version is a remarkable duplicate that shares every practical feature in common until you pull the trigger.
Lessons learned from the Spartan and Max Michel were put to good use less than a year later with the introduction of the 2018 Sig Sauer 1911 WE THE PEOPLE blowback action model utilizing a self-contained CO2 BB magazine and full operating features.

Sig Sauer has developed and introduced the companion P250 pellet model, Sig Sauer 1911 (centerfire pistol inspired) Spartan, Max Michel, and groundbreaking WE THE PEOPLE .177 caliber 1911 BB models, the pellet-firing P320, with an innovative rotary pellet magazine, and Sig Sauer X-Five ASP competition pistol, plus two rotary magazine fed semi-auto tactical rifles, the MCX and MPX. Now Sig Sauer is ready for the fall introduction of a new CO2 model based on the company’s U.S. military contract M17 P320 pistol. And this new blowback action model will introduce yet another groundbreaking feature, a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine.

It has barely been two years since Sig Sauer introduced its first CO2 model. Anyone with an interest in collecting airgun history should have one of each Sig Sauer CO2 pistol, because each design is a stepping stone to the next, and in the case of Sig Sauer, they aren’t stepping, they’re sprinting!

The 2017 Sig Sauer P320 ASP introduced a full-size duplicate of the 9mm P320 Nitron version (left). The CO2 model has a full length dustcover accessory rail to mount lights and light laser combinations for training practice, and like the centerfire model, the P320 ASP is a polymer frame with metal slide.
The P320 ASP magazine design was another big step forward with a 30-round capacity (later reduced to a more efficient 20-round design) rotary belt system. This design was derived from the Sig Sauer semi-auto CO2 rifle magazines. Loading CO2 in the P320 was a step back from the P226 ASP by resorting to a one-piece removable backstrap and magazine base. The CO2 is manually pierced by an integral seating screw with a folding handle.
Sig Sauer rolled out another new 2018 model with the X-Five ASP, a 4.5mm pellet-firing blowback action model. The X-Five ASP is a hand filling CO2 pistol with a 5-inch rifled steel barrel. Standard features include an oversized beavertail, manual hammer (that can be cocked or de-cocked), and ambidextrous thumb safeties.

Rained Out

Late last month Sig Sauer had a press preview for its new ASP20 gas spring breakbarrel air rifle at their U.S. headquarters in Exeter, New Hampshire. Both Tom Gaylord and I were among those invited. As Tom has already mentioned in his latest Airgun Blog articles, weather prevented me from attending but Tom finally made it up to New Hampshire, and you can read all about this innovative new air rifle in his current review. As for me, I returned to a wet and rainy central Pennsylvania and began getting information directly from Sig Sauer thanks to their remarkable public relations department headed by Shannon Jackson, and Sig’s Dani Navickas. While Tom is regaling you with what he has dubbed “the next FWB 124” in the Airgun Blog, I want to give you a first look at the CO2 pistol that will likely rewrite the book on blowback action pellet-firing airguns. What things may come, will be revealed Saturday with a look at the CO2 version of the M17.

To be continued….

1 thought on “Revisiting Sig Sauer Part 1”

  1. It seems that Sig is fully committed to its’ airgun products , not as most do, just licensing out their name and collecting royalties. Count me as one who turned up their noses after buying after buying a 226. The We the People 1911 left their other 1911s in the rear view mirror. The big news as you stated will be the replacement 320 with self contained co2/pellet mag. Not much seen or heard about the Blowback 365 understudy. That is a very hot selling 9mm pistol, and a c02 understudy makes lot of sense. Contrast that to the non blowback initial offering from Umarex/Glock. I for one would like to see Sig look at a product line that is largely ignored, the pocket pistol ,and do a blowback version of their 232 380 pistol. It would immediately obsolete the Walther ppk/s. Nice review of the past , present and future at SIGAIR

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