There are some things in life we have lost that we now long for. Maybe what we lost truly was better, or maybe we just like basking in the nostalgia of something that is no longer made. Sig Sauer firearms are a classic example of this, as their German-made handguns of the past are respected for their almost boutique quality. With 2016 bringing a complete stop to the importation of German-made Sigs, it seems that an era may finally be over. But let’s rewind to a just few years ago when Sig firearms were still partly made in Germany, and some of them were completely manufactured there.
In 2011 Sig Sauer was going through a transitional period. Up until that year its most popular handguns, such as the P226, still used a German frame with an American slide. By the next year that production had completely moved to the US, except for the more unique guns like the P210, the P232 and the X-Five. During this transitional period there was a small batch of completely German-made P226’s that made it onto US soil. These guns were unique because they were the first (and only) German-made P226’s with a rail to be sold in the United States. All of the other fully German-made P226’s were more than a decade old and lacked a rail.
This P226R that slipped into the US came in two different versions: One with a classic stamped carbon steel slide, classic grips, and night sights (this model was known as the E26R-9-BSS-GER). The other had a milled stainless steel slide, E2 grips, and classic sights (known as the E26R-9-B-GER). Both versions had triple-proof markings; meaning a serial number on the frame and barrel, and production markings on the slide, indicating that the gun was completely made and assembled in Germany.
Only about 500 examples of each model made it onto US soil for sale. Oddly, the official Sig Sauer website had this gun listed under their products as the “P226 German” up until early last year, even though it was only a limited release from 2011. For the purposes of this review I will be referring to the gun simply as the “P226R German.”
This review will be on the E26R-9-B-GER model with the modern stainless steel slide. While both versions are unique, the stainless steel model is the closest comparison to the modern American-made Sigs. In fact, other than being made in Germany this gun is the same P226R you are going to get in the US…or is it? Emotions run high when debating the quality between US and German-made Sigs. You can read all about that debate in my West German P220 review, but for this review I’ll be focusing more on the history and the quality of the gun itself.
So what brought this gun to the states even though it had been years since Sig imported a German P226? Information on the P226R German is scarce, but from what I’ve gathered it seems that these guns were run-offs from European government contracts. Sig Sauer made too many, and decided to sell the extras in the United States. This answer seems plausible given the fact that only about 1,000 total were brought over, and quickly sold off. This was never a regular production gun for the US market. Also, operators in Europe still use German-made Sigs, and the P226R German with its triple-proof markings can be seen in the hands of European soldiers.
Not surprisingly, the Sig P226R German caused some eyes to get wide in the Sig community when it was announced. Unfortunately Sig wasn’t going to be bringing back the German P226, but that was what some were speculating. Others were quick to jump on the fact that the E26R-9-B-GER had a stainless steel slide, somehow making it “less German” than the carbon steel slide model. Seeing those comments were surprising, since this was the first time that Sig had imported a Sig P226 with a stainless steel slide. You would think that Sig fans would be more excited for the stainless steel model. To each his own; some of the old-school Sig fans are diehards for the lighter carbon steel slide. While I would love to have the carbon steel model as well, both examples are unique because Sig simply no longer imports German P226’s for US sale.
2011 was the year that the Eckernförde, Germany facility was switching over from carbon steel to stainless steel slides. The German facility has now completely switched over all of its production to stainless steel. So the E26R-9-BSS-GER model is the last carbon steel Sig ever imported the United States, while the E26R-9-B-GER model is the first stainless steel model imported to the United States…and probably the last.
So while the Sig Sauer USA facility had been producing stainless steel Sigs for years, this was Sig Sauer Germany’s first ever importation of a standard P226R with stainless steel slide. So the P226R German in this review and the American P226R are essentially the same. So how do they stack up to each other?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an American P226R on hand to compare it to. I will concede though that the P226R German does have something about it that simply feels different than the American Sigs. The way the slide racks is fluid and precise. There is no play between the parts, which gives some credence to the old notion that the German Sigs are built with more attention to detail. The P226R German reminds me of the P220 West German—extremely well balanced and awesome fit between parts. The P226R has the newer nitron finish as well, making the finish even nicer than the older West German Sigs.
This isn’t to say that the American Sigs are less worthy. Not at all. It’s just that there truly is something about the German Sigs (from the ones I’ve handled) that gives them a more “boutique” feel, with craftsmanship matching a custom shop gun. This was the kind of stuff that made the Sigs from the Eckernförde factory legendary. German steel paired with master gunsmiths won the hearts and minds of many American shooters and special ops units.
Once again this Sig is a match made for my hands. In fact, most Sigs fit most people very well. They just design their ergonomics to naturally fit your hands; no interchangeable backstrap needed. The newer E2 grips this model has are also great. They are a slim and more “grippy” version than the classic Sig grips (think sandpaper, but not as rough). I don’t need slimmer grips but the E2 grips are awesome nonetheless. And while the classic Sig grips take the cake in the looks department the E2 grips look equally aggressive and they take the cake overall for performance. In addition, these grips feel just a hair more solid than the classic Sig grips because the E2 grips are one piece, therefore eliminating any possibility of play. We all know that you have to tighten the screws on the classic grips every once in a while.
At the range the P226R German performs flawlessly. I’ve shot boxes of PRIME ammo, Blazer Brass and Winchester white box with no problems and exceptional accuracy. The classic bar sights this gun has is also a bonus, as I can easily line up the front sight with the bar on the middle of the rear sight (not that I’m paying that much attention to the rear sight, but the white bar still helps with target acquisition). Below are some examples of groups I shot with 124 grain PRIME ammunition.
The P226R German on the range.
All-in-all the Sig Sauer P226R German is a solid performer. There isn’t much more anyone can add about the P226’s quality and performance, since countless articles on the P226 have been written since the late 1980’s. What I will say is that the P226R German solidifies the old adage that there is something special about the German Sigs. It’s also the last of the P226’s to ever come out of the Germany, so in that regard alone it’s a special piece of history, and a final ode to the legendary craftsmanship of the Eckernförde facility.