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Meet the SIG Sauer P228 9mm Pistol (A Great Gun or Not?)

SIG Sauer P228. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
SIG Sauer P228

Without a doubt, the German-Swiss firm SIG (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) Sauer is one of the world’s most popular gunmakers, and rightfully so, as they’ve been churning out accurate, reliable, durable, and ergonomically-friendly firearms – especially handguns – since 1953. 

The list of commercially successful and historically significant SIG Sauer firearms is a long and impressive one indeed. In 1949, we had the debut of the P210, which many experts still consider to be the most accurate 9mm pistol ever made. Along came the P220 in 1975 as the first traditional double-action (TDA) autopistol in the all-American .45 ACP cartridge, ironically beating out all-American gunmakers Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger to the punch in that category. Then in 1983 came that company’s first “Wonder Nine” (high-capacity double-stack 9mm), which attained meteoric success thanks to its adoption by elite military and police units around the world such as the U.S. Navy SEALs, Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) and FBI SWAT. And most recently, you have the P320/M17/M18, which was chosen in 2017 by the U.S. Armed Forces to replace the Beretta 92FS/M9 after the latter gun had served as the standard-issue U.S. military sidearm for 33 years. 

But, as the saying goes, “You can’t win ‘em all.” Even a great company like SIG has produced its fair share of outright lemons – such as the P250 (blecchh) – or guns that weren’t true flops but were only moderately successful comparatively speaking and eventually got left by the wayside. One example was the compact P225. Another is our current subject, the 9mm P228. 

SIG Sauer P228 mm M2.0 History and Specifications 

As noted by gun writer Jim Davis (not to be confused with either the creator of Garfield the Cat or the late TV actor who played Jock Ewing in “Dallas”), in a July 2020 article for GunMag Warehouse, “Back in the day, when the P228 was first introduced in 1988, it was considered to be fairly compact as far as service pistols were concerned. When I unboxed my “new” P228, it was like shaking hands with an old friend, a very familiar, satisfying feeling. What struck me, though, is that the P228 now seems to be a very large pistol! Which got me to thinking that we are spoiled in that we now have pistols built on very small frames…But it’s a P228! I consider it to be one of the best combat handguns in the world.”  

Jim was far from the only gun expert to become enamored of the P228. As Jim Comus stated in “The Gun Digest Book of 9mm Handguns – 2nd Edition,” published in 1993. “Essentially, the P228 is a high capacity variant of the P225…When a shooter grasps this model, it has a comfortable feel. It points about as naturally as any of the SIG Sauer line, and might be considered one of the better bets for self- or home-defense. It is configured such a way that shooters with smallish hands would have no problem handling it. Yet, it fits larger hands, like the author’s, comfortably. That’s quite an achievement.” 

Apparently quite a few military and law enforcement agencies concurred with the assessment, as they chose to adopt the P228 as their standard-issue sidearm, including the U.S. Secret Service, Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID), and Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI); the latter two agencies officially redesignated the gun as the M11. (The Beretta M9 remained standard issue to conventional U.S. military forces, however.) 

Sounds great. So then, what happened to the P228? Well, it was discontinued in 2005 because, as Mr. Davis writes, it was “replaced by the P229, which is a stronger version of the P228. The P228 is plenty strong for the 9mm, but newer calibers were being introduced, such as the .40 S&W and the .357 Sig, which operate with higher pressures. 

Personal Shooting Impressions 

I have to harken back all the way to the Spring semester of 1992, my junior year at North Hollywood High School, in order to recall the one time I fired a SIG P228. My next-door neighbor at the time was a fellow big-tine gun enthusiast, and he knew I was looking for something to replace my frustratingly unreliable “90s Edition” (read: pre-bankruptcy and revitalization) Springfield Armory M1911-A1 .45 ACP, so he specifically recommended I try the P228; he convinced me by praising its ergonomics with a hilariously uncouth analogy: “It feels like a *** in the hand.” 

So with that in mind, I headed off to Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A. to try out their rental P228 along with 50 rounds of their in-house full metal jacket (FMJ) reloads (not sure if they were 115- or 124-grain) and a BT-5RA paper target. As my long-distance shooting skills were still a few years away from being honed, I did all my shooting at 7 yards, firing from the Isosceles Stance (I didn’t become a Classic Weaver devotee until my U.S. Air Force Security Forces days).  

After all the eager anticipation from that aforementioned conversation with my neighbor, that P228 shooting experience turned out to be…er, fairly tame and underwhelming. As was true of most of the SIG Sauer brand live-fire experiences prior to the past year, it shot okay, but not great. (Given my more recent and enjoyable experiences with a variety of SIGs, I imagine I’d shoot the P228 a lot better nowadays), But at least it was 100% reliable.  

Want Your Own? 

True Gun Value states that “A SIG SAUER P228 pistol is currently worth an average price of $858.96 new and $703.33 used. The 12 month average price is $858.96 new and $679.39 used. Cabela’s currently has an M11 variant for $1,099, whilst Guns.Com has two listed, one at $749.99 and the other with an asking price of $1,259.99.                          

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).