The SIG-Sauer 226 X5 Competition Model 9x19mm


by Mike Cumpston

photography by Mike Cumpston

August 8th, 2009




Since the early 1980s, the evolution of the SIG SAUER pistols has been marked by steady improvement both in structural elements and attention to  the needs of an increasingly diverse population of end-users. This is an important consideration as, while many pistols undergo regular changes, all too often the changes are devolutionary in nature, cheapening the product to reduce production cost and delivering an inferior product to the consumer. Early imported as the Browning BDA (Browning Double Action), the SIG pistols earned a reputation for reliability, accuracy and a favorable service life. Over the years, the European style heel magazine release was replaced by a frame-mounted button.  Early slides were stamped sheet metal with pinned in hardened steel breech blocks.  The slides are now of monolithic forged stainless construction. This goes beyond simple cosmetics. An instructor at the Texas Department of Public Safety Academy told me that on occasion, the roll pin retaining the breech block would shatter, causing the part to fall out of the pistol. The change to the milled slide began with the introduction of the Model 229 in .40 S&W caliber.  It added to production costs but successfully addressed the issue of durability and the value of the pistols to the consumer. While alloy frames remain the mainstay of the SIG service pistols, several models are available with stainless steel lower units. 

In late 2004, the company developed the 226 X5. Geared toward IPSC competition, the single action pistol has a five-inch barrel. It is of all steel construction, possessing rugged low mount target sights and an innovative trigger system that affords adjustment for weight of pull, trigger reach and overtravel. The model is now available in 40 S&W and 9x19mm. The current variations include the Competition Model, the Tactical and the All Around. These lack the walnut Nil grips of the original and the adjustable trigger system.  The Tactical has fixed combat sights and the All Around has the traditional SIG trigger action that includes double and single action.  All variations are promoted as capable of two inch groups at 50 yards-taping the legacy of the SIG 210, the Swiss service pistol introduced in the late 1940s and variously heralded as "The Most Accurate 9mm Ever Made; or, " The Best Pistol In The World," and even, "The Bentley of Auto Pistols."

My Competition model came in a hard case that included a spare 19 round magazine ('though SIG has recently announced that the guns will now have only one magazine). Also included is a tube of SIG proprietary grease, a set of Allen wrenches that would fit the trigger adjustments on the basic X5 but have no application to this model and an owner's manual that is specific to the full featured X5.  There is also a 25 -meter test target fired by Herr A. Koch.  It suggests two things to the trusting and hopeful. The target indicates that the pistol is very accurate and that the pistol has been test fired and is functional right out of the box. What a concept!     

The pistol itself is very attractive. In overall appearance, to those attuned to Platonic/Pythagorian (not to mention Gnostic) cosmogony, the X5 Competition Model evokes the image of the Quintessential Pistol as it might appear in the Mind of God.  Fit and metal treatment are impeccable. The overall impression suggests something made by a superior craftsman rather than the highly mechanized processes that no doubt played a large part in producing the instrument. The owner's manual suggests that all packing lubrication be removed and the gun re-lubricated with the supplied grease. Such things are particularly important with closely-toleranced arms and in the case of this pistol, the injunction extends to the sear mechanism.  Out of the box, the RCBS trigger pull gage tripped the trigger at 5.5 pounds.  I removed the grips and used a pipe cleaner to get some of the grease into the sear area thereby achieving a break of 4.5 pounds.  This is the standard single action release for SIG pistols of all designations and contributes much to their usable accuracy.

Shooting It

As a general rule, SIG service pistols are extremely accurate. Shortly after the 40- caliber model 229 came out, I did some fairly extensive shooting with a pair of them.  Across a wide sampling of factory and hand loaded ammunition a modal group of 2.1 inches at 25 yards from the bench emerged. Earlier groups tended to put four of five shots into just over an inch with one of the rounds going slightly wide.  As the pistol settled in, favored loads produced a number of five shot groups in the 1.4-inch range.  The groups were better than those from most service arms and a lot of target-sighted commercial 1911-type pistols. The usable accuracy extended to shooting from the hind legs and I found that the compact SIG turned in better one-handed clusters than my National Match Gold Cup. Similar results have been reported with SIG pistols going back to the early 1980s and the days of the old Browning BDA.  Personal limitations being what they are, I usually shoot a couple of groups from the 25-yard bench and go to print with the better of the two. If the first group is two inches or less, I often cut my losses and go with a single group as the benchmark of accuracy.  This is not particularly scientific, but when a number of excellent clusters emerge from the process, I know I'm dealing with an accurate pistol.  I noted above that Herr A. Koch, had shot the test target at 25 meters.  It measured 1.2 inches.  Shooting at 25 yards, I quickly produced a number of groups that ranged from .96-inch to less than 1.5 and a number of others that clustered around the two-inch range.  Loads included a number of factory and hand loads in the 115 to 124-grain bullet weight range. All were within the currently established SAAMI standard pressure range.  One bullet actually weighs 125 grains. It is a Speer Gold Dot made specifically for the .357 SIG cartridge.  It was one of the few component bullets available through Internet stores at the tail end of the gun and ammunition hoarding scrape of 2008-09. This is the main reason I gave it a try 'though I did later find some of the more 9x19-specific 124-grain Gold Dots later on.   The SIG bullet has a shallow cup hollow point being designed for magnum velocities.  It proved accurate in the 9mm loading and exploded gallon water jugs at 25 yards. Hollow point performance was very evident compared to standard ball. Those loads that I had previously clocked in sub-compact and standard service sized pistols usually gained 50 to 100 fps in the five -inch barrel of the X5 Competition.  My handloads came from the Speer manual and the velocities corresponded closely to what Speer got from their 4-inch test barrel. Given my limitations as a bench rest shooter, relative accuracy is a relative thing. I did however, get exceptional accuracy from the Speer 124 -grain soft- point bullet and the hand loaded 124-grain Gold Dot Hollow Point.

All of the loads tested hit to virtually the same point of aim at 25 yards. Most were well within the kill zone of a cottontail rabbit.

At over 47 ounces, the X5 is a full ten ounces heavier than the standard 1911 in .45 ACP and twice as heavy as the currently popular sub-compact concealment arms. Most shooters would consider it way too heavy for a mid-bore pistol but the weight adds much to steadiness when shooting from unsupported positions. Nine-millimeter recoil is rendered inconsequential and the hand-filling grips go far toward maintaining consistent shot delivery.  The sights present an ideal Patridge profile-front and rear grooved to kill reflection with the front undercut for normal registry under the full range of lighting conditions. The intrinsic accuracy demonstrated from the bench holds up well when translated to unsupported one and two handed shooting. 

Our brace of 229 SIGs never suffered a malfunction when we used the SIG factory magazines (different story with some after-market trash mags.)

So far , the X5 has digested all of the test ammunition with complete reliability.

General Purpose

As a rule, the more a pistol is engineered for target shooting-particularly toward specific courses of fire, the more divorced it is from general practicality and the less suited it is for general use-and the more limited its appeal.  The X5 Competition is suited to the broad range of tasks expected of a versatile handgun. While the weight would be a negative factor for many shooters, the gross measurements are only slightly larger than the standard 1911.  The non-adjustable trigger is optimally weighted. It is probably better suited to general use than the complicated set-up on the full-gorilla X5. The single target-shooter oriented deficit on the X series pistol is the outrageously extended magazine release button. Designed to let action shooters drop empty magazines at maximum speed, it greatly limits the carry options of the pistol and forces the shooter to adopt stratagem to avoid loosing his magazine at inopportune moments. Simply setting the pistol down on its left side virtually assures that the magazine will eject. Holsters that ride close to the body guarantee the same thing. The mag release button sticks out like a sore thumb and the risk of dumping a magazine at a critical moment is high.

Blade Tec

Most holsters specifically designed for the X5 series are the hemispheric  jobs designed for and  pretty much limited to IPSC competition.  One notable exception is the Blade Tec -a high-ride minimalist belt holster. The body of the holster rides far enough from the belt line that it positively guards the magazine release from any contact. The example I found uses the tech-lock mounting system that is adjustable for the full range of belt sizes and is supposed to allow mounting and replacement without removing the belt.  It has a wide range of adjustment and can be set up for various angles including cross draw. Gun retention is by screw-regulated tension. The rig conceals under a long-tailed loosely-fitting sports shirt and is suitable for field carry. It is a reasonably comfortable carry rig though the weight of the pistol is apparent. Another usable holster is the Uncle Mikes horizontal shoulder holster for large semi-auto pistols. This one also isolates the magazine release button from inadvertent release.


Master pistol smith Bruce Gray is the preeminent 226 X5 gunsmith. A primary resource since the introduction of the series, he offers tuning packages that maximize the X5's race gun potential. One popular option is lightening the pistol via barrel fluting and metal removal.


To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, ultra-accurate pistols are their own excuse for being. The X5 is the ultimate expression of the accurate 9mm handgun-a worthy successor and contemporary for the SIG Neuhausen. It is suited for formal competition, personal defense, general field use, limited concealed carry and the ultimate expressions of handgun ownership-informal pleasure shooting and small game hunting. Its appearance and flawless function engender pride of ownership, and it could well become the centerpiece of many a handgun enthusiast's collection. 


Load Velocity (fps) Energy (ft/lbs) Group Size (inches) Notes
Independence 115GR Ball 1212 375 2.6  
Black Hills 124 GR Ball (Remanufacture) 1137 356 3  
Winchester 115 GR (White Box) 1197 366 0.96  
Speer 124 GR Gold Dot (Personal Protection) 1198 395 1.7  
Remington  JHP 115 Grain 1171 350 1.5  
Handload: Lupua 124 GR FMJ / 5.5 Unique 1119 345 2.0 45spread (5 rounds)
Handload: Speer 124 GR Soft Point / 5.5 Unique  / R&P Brass 1163 373 1.2 39spread (10 rounds)
Handload: Speer 124 GR Gold Dot HP / 5.8 Unique 1081 322 1.1 22spread (5 rounds)
Handload: Speer 125 GR Gold Dot For 357 SIG / 5.5 Unique / Blazer Brass cases 1126 352 2.0 40 spread (10 rounds)
Handload: Meister Cast 122 Gr Truncated Cone / 4.0 Unique / WW Cases 1001 271 2.2 50spread  (10 rounds)
Handload: Meister Cast 122 Gr Truncated Cone / 4.5 Unique / WW Cases 1023 284 2.18 55spread (5 rounds)

Tabulated velocity is the average of ten rounds except where noted.  Recorded with a Competition  Electronics Pro Chrono placed three  yards from the muzzle. Groups are from the bench at 25 yards. Elevation is 400 feet and temperature at approximately 95 degrees.


Caliber 9mm or .40 S&W

Trigger Pull SAO 4.5 lbs

Safety- Ambidextrous thumb with passive firing pin block

Overall Length 8.8

Overall Height 5.9

Overall Width 1.7

Barrel Length 5.0

Sight Radius 7.1

Sights Low-Profile Adjustable

Weight w/ Mag 46.7 oz

Mag Capacity 9mm (19) .40 S&W (14)

Grips Black Polymer factory Grips

Price (approx.) $1750

Variations 226 X5, (Wood Grips (Nil) Adjustable Trigger,) X5 Tactical (Fixed Sights), X5 All Around (DA/SA). 226 X6 long slide with six-inch barrel.


For More Information:

Gray Guns
Bruce Gray
33479 Hwy. 19-207
Spray, OR 97874
(541) 468-3840

Customer Service Dept.
18 Industrial Drive
Exeter, NH 03833-4557

Mike Cumpston


NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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The 226 X5 series is made in Germany and distributed through SIG SAUER USA. While geared toward Limited Division IPSC competition, the ultimate goal is to duplicate the performance of the earlier SIG Neuhausen service pistol, accomplishing through modern production methods results that were possible only with meticulous hand fitting in the past. The base pistol has Walnut NIL Grips, a fully adjustable trigger that can be regulated for weight , overtravel and position of the trigger within the guard. The Competition model is the same pistol without the wood grips or trigger adjustments. The Tactical Model has fixed combat sights while the All-Around has the traditional SIG Double Action/ Single Action trigger 



The X5 is marginally larger than this Les Baer 1911 in all dimensions, and outweighs it by ten ounces.



Blade Tech has a holster specifically for the X5.  It positively prevents inadvertent activation of the magazine release and can be adjustable for various modes of carry.  The Tec Lock attachment adjusts to belt sizes from 1.25-2".



In time-honored European fashion, the X5 come with a sample target. This one was shot at 27 meters by Herr A. Koch.  This suggests to the buyer that not only is his pistol suitably accurate, but that the manufacturer actually cared enough about his product to make sure it would work.



Our best bench rest groups affirmed the results reported by the factory. This Gold Dot handload produced a 1.1" five shot 25- yard group and the Speer 124 grain soft point over 5.5 Unique came in at 95 caliber.



Winchester generic ball turned in very good 25-yard accuracy.  While this shooter is incapable of doing this on demand, the frequent occurrence of small groups within a finite amount of shooting indicates that the pistol is very accurate.



The combination of optimum trigger pull, substantial weight, and a very ergonomic grip make the X5 Competition very user friendly. This group was fired single handed from 25 yards.



This target was placed fifty yards down range as a general aiming point while chronographing three different loads. I shot ten each of the Speer soft point and the 125 grain Gold Dot designed for the .357 SIG cartridge all from two-handed isosceles. I shot the last eight rounds one-handed to check the reliability of the light cast bullet load. Accuracy was a secondary aim, but the target shows the user-friendly nature of the 226.



The beatific smile on this shooters face stands witness to the overall excellence of the SIG X5 Competition.



SIG pistols have just about the easiest field strip drill in the industry.  For basic takedown, unload the pistol. Pull back the slide to lock, rotate the takedown lever as shown, drop the magazine and ease the slide off the frame. The guide rod and spring come out easily and go back in the same and barrel removal/replacement is uncomplicated.  Action springs that might eventually need replacement are located under the grips but outside the frame. Further takedown is not recommended and should not be necessary.



Bullet profile is not an issue with any of the SIG pistols. Not surprisingly, the X5 competition handled these bullets with complete equanimity