Recoil - - Contents - BY DAVE MER­RILL

Over­haul­ing a Vin­tage West Ger­man P226

Like most love sto­ries, it started in a gun shop.

The West Ger­man SIG SAUER P226 re­mains a de­sir­able and ac­quirable pis­tol to this day. Whether it’s due to the unique man­drel-stamped slide, sheer nos­tal­gia, ap­pear­ance in aw­ful ac­tion movies, or his­tory, we know not. But find­ing one at a de­cent price and cham­bered in 9mm al­ways brings the boys to the yard. There are prob­a­bly thou­sands of old P226s lan­guish­ing in old desk draw­ers or shoe­boxes tucked into clos- ets. Af­ter all, it was a very pop­u­lar LEO pis­tol through the ’80s and ’90s. There are many out there who have ei­ther in­her­ited an old duty P226 or will very soon. And a lucky few will come across one in a gun shop for a song — count us among the lat­ter.

In fact, we picked up this gem at a gun shop full of aw­ful own­ers. And the only rea­son we felt good buy­ing it from them is be­cause it was priced at just over $400, in­clud­ing three pe­riod cor­rect “zip­per” mag­a­zines and a plas­tic Pa­le­olithic pre-Pel­i­can case. It’s like we stole at least $200 from them. (Be­fore you cry foul, un­der­stand that they asked us if we “had felonies” at least three times be­fore call­ing in a NICS check. Us hav­ing an FFL/SOT be damned, ap­par­ently).

Just be­cause it’s old doesn’t mean it’s use­less or a mere wall hanger though. No, it doesn’t have an ac­ces­sory rail. Yes, that “bat­tle worn” fin­ish was ac­tu­ally earned. No, it isn’t the lat­est and great­est tac­ti­cal weapon, but there’s

still some fight in it yet. To­day, we’ll go through our re­con­struc­tion and mod­ern­iza­tion, and look at the trou­bles and warts along the way.

Our nor­mal or­der of up­grades with any new pis­tol pur­chase would be sights, mags, and lights, in that or­der. How­ever, since we’re deal­ing with a gun that was born be­fore at least half of our read­er­ship, there are some ad­di­tional con­sid­er­a­tions — namely, re­li­a­bil­ity. Which brings us to our pre­lim­i­nary point.


The first thing you should do when over­haul­ing an old pis­tol is to re­place all of the springs that you can. There’s no way to know how many rounds have been put through that vin­tage SIG, and it’s a fairly easy up­grade. There are some caveats, of course.

The new-style trig­ger bar spring will drop right in, but it may not nec­es­sar­ily work with the orig­i­nal grips. Of­ten­times, a re­lief cut will have to be made on the right-side grip to ac­com­mo­date it. Hello Dremel tool. Of course.

One of the real moth­erf*cks of th­ese old guns is the main­spring hous­ing. We’re sure they were never in­tended to be re­moved, and we have a cut or two to show for it. The newer E2 main­spring isn’t only in three easy-to-in­stall pieces, but doesn’t in­volve a ham­mer, punch, and pro­fan­ity to re­move. Once again, your grips may or may not ac­com­mo­date the E2 main­spring — but if they don’t, that’s a wor­thy up­grade for this fea­ture alone.


We’re not sure if the sights on this P226 were con­sid­ered “low light” when the gun was made in 1984, but they cer­tainly aren’t in 2018. We took ad­van­tage of the new sup­pres­sor-height SIG SAUER X-Ray3 sights. In the day­time, they have a blacked-out rear and a bright, easyto-find green dot on the front sight. At night­time they’ll pop like any other green tri­tium lamp three-dot sights.

In­stal­la­tion is fairly stan­dard, and can be per­formed with a brass punch, non­mar­ring ham­mer, and a care­ful hand. Bear in mind that it’s not ter­ri­bly hard to snap off the front sight dur­ing in­stal­la­tion, es­pe­cially the taller sup­pres­sor front sights. If you’re un­sure of your own prow­ess, well, send it some­one who knows bet­ter. Ac­tu­ally, that last piece of ad­vice goes for damn near ev­ery­thing we’re cov­er­ing to­day. If you’re not handy with a ham­mer or a punch, just read, en­joy, and send off your pis­tol to the SIG Pro Shop. You’ll save a lot of dis­gruntle­ment.

While a red dot would cer­tainly be nice, we’re not about to mill out a man­drel-stamped slide. Your mileage may vary.


We set out to make this pis­tol a sleeper. Have it look ex­ter­nally like the old war­rior that it is, and have it en­tirely full of new guts, parts, and pieces. This is eas­ier said than done, how­ever. The SIG P226 has changed sev­eral times through­out the years, to a point that it leaves us scratch­ing our heads a bit. Surely there would be some changes when man­u­fac­tur­ing was moved from

West Ger­many to New Hamp­shire, but that doesn’t ex­plain the sub­tle seven or so dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions that have cropped up over the years.

You ab­so­lutely can­not ex­pect ev­ery new part to just drop into an old pis­tol with­out some tin­ker­ing, test­ing, and mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Oh yeah, and a bit of hair pulling and frus­tra­tion along the way.

We pur­chased a brand-new Si­lencerCo P226 threaded bar­rel. And it took us two hours to get it to fit prop­erly. Granted, we were go­ing slow, as to not dicker the new bar­rel, but in gun­smith hours that adds up to a few hun­dred bucks. New parts for the lower in­volved some sim­i­lar griev­ances.

Did you know that a new P226 trig­ger bar has to be mod­i­fied to fit an old P226? Well, we know now.

Ul­ti­mately up­grad­ing the in­ter­nals to cur­rent-spec smooth and nice DLC­coated parts meant a lot of test­ing and tri­als. And just be­cause some­thing worked for our par­tic­u­lar pis­tol doesn’t mean it’ll work for yours, the vari­ances be­ing what they are. Like the Dutch boy with his fin­ger in the dike, ev­ery fix seemed to fur­nish new is­sues. This isn’t for the light­hearted.

One up­grade we def­i­nitely liked was the short re­set trig­ger (SRT) parts kit. You can’t mix and match th­ese sear and safety levers with old ones, but man does it make for a much nicer trig­ger.

Af­ter re­plac­ing the trig­ger, sear, ham­mer, safety lever, and main­spring hous­ing, our sin­gle-ac­tion trig­ger pull didn’t change ter­ri­bly too much; both sat com­fort­ably at just over 4 pounds. But the dou­ble-ac­tion trig­ger pull? It went from just over 12 pounds down to a smooth 10 pounds and 5 ounces. Put a check mark in the win col­umn.

It’s been said that a gun truly isn’t your own un­til you bleed on it. If that’s true, this one is un­con­di­tion­ally ours, as one hand was pour­ing blood pro­lif­i­cally at one point, and we ad­mit that a main­spring hous­ing spring pos­si­bly made our face bleed. Who­ever owned this pis­tol prior must’ve cursed it, but now no one else can own it like us. Call it voodoo, but it runs like a bas­tard now.


Back in the ’80s not too many peo­ple were rock­ing weapon-mounted lights. Dou­ble-so on hand­guns. How­ever, it isn’t the ’80s any­more. We con­sider a white light to be es­sen­tial for a firearm used for home de­fense, and a few of us even have them on our carry guns.

But we wanted to keep it look­ing tra­di­tional and still be func­tional by mod­ern stan­dards.

When Sure­Fire first be­gan pro­duc­ing weapon lights and lasers, the pis­tol Pi­catinny rail didn’t ex­ist. They had to de­velop work­arounds, and they did so for the SIG P226. The Sure­Fire P114-se­ries was specif­i­cally de­signed for the non-railed 226. There were sev­eral vari­a­tions, some al­low­ing for con­stant-on, while oth­ers had a kill switch. All of them in­cluded a plas­tic adapter that se­cured to the trig­ger guard with four screws. They ac­cepted stan­dard P60 bulbs, usu­ally 65 lu­mens.

And that’s when the fire started.

The P60 bulb for­mat is über-com­mon. Old Sure­Fire 6P? P60 bulb. G2? P60 bulb. Mil­len­nium se­ries ri­fle light? P60 bulb. M900? P60 bulb. We think you get the idea ...

They’re so com­mon, in fact, that a whole cot­tage in­dus­try ex­ists just to up­grade th­ese old low-pow­ered in­can­des­cent bulbs to some­thing more use­ful.

So of course, we dropped an all-flood 1k+ lu­men triple bulb head into it. For

a split sec­ond when we pow­ered it on, ev­ery­thing seemed right in the world. Then, it shut off. And smoke started pour­ing from the sides. In a panic, we turned off the power switch and re­moved the now blaz­ing-hot bat­ter­ies.

As it turns out, Sure­Fire used small rib­bon ca­bles in th­ese older lights. While they were more than ca­pa­ble of the cur­rent draw of a 65-lu­men light, the am­per­age re­quired of this af­ter­mar­ket bulb was more than it could han­dle. All was not lost, for two rea­sons. First, some­one at Sure­Fire found a re­place­ment P114 WML in the back of an old dusty closet some­place, and sec­ond, we took apart and care­fully rewired the now-burned WML with wires ca­pa­ble of han­dling the new juice over the course of a week­end.

Looks old school. Pumps out a ton of lu­mens. Win­ning all around.

If you’re not mar­ried to the look of a ’90s movie SWAT cop, you have other more mod­ern op­tions. The NC Star WML adapter ac­tu­ally works very well (be­lieve us, we’re as sur­prised as you). Not only is it a lower pro­file than the Sure­Fire adapter, it’s metal, locks up tight, and al­lows the use of some­thing dis­tinctly more mod­ern such as an X300U. Even a bro­ken clock is right twice a day.


We learned a lot about the in­ter­nal work­ings of the P226 dur­ing this re­vamp­ing, and also came to some hard les­sons. If you find your­self with a West Ger­man SIG P226, we rec­om­mend not do­ing all sorts of f*ck­ery with the in­ter­nals, but in­stead fo­cus on chang­ing springs and sights. While the SRT trig­ger sys­tem is cer­tainly bet­ter than the Cold War con­tents, the amount of pain in the ass with test­ing and mod­i­fi­ca­tion and test­ing again likely isn’t worth it for a pis­tol you won’t be re­ly­ing on for de­fen­sive use.

Like many trips, it’s more about the jour­ney than the des­ti­na­tion — but we hit a sh*tload of pot­holes along the way.

The new par ts (right) have some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the old war­rior ones, but still some sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences. The sup­pres­sorheight X-Ray3 sights are ab­so­lutely a wor thy up­grade

The new pro­duc­tion Si­lencerCo bar­rel took a con­sid­er­able amount of fit­ting. The added par ts and pieces of the (formerly on-fire) Sure­Fire.

The NC Star adapter (we know!) is sturdy and wor thy of an X300U.

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