MAY 5, 2011

Skill Set: SIG-Sauer P290

by Rich Grassi
I had an advantage in evaluation of the SIG P290 as I'd fired a couple of them quite a bit at Gunsite a few months ago. While my first impression of the P290 was as a clunky, top-heavy, short butt pistol that would handle poorly, I outshot some bigger guns present at that seminar with the SIG. It's got a polymer frame with aggressively finished stock panels, a barrel just under 3 inches long and a "DAO" action. To fire the piece, chamber a round from the magazine and pull the trigger. As you pull the trigger through, it cocks the hammer and fires. According to factory specifications, the trigger is supposed to average 9 pounds. The guns at Gunsite with the 1st Edition models and could have been underachievers. While some participants thought the triggers were a bit extreme, I found them manageable. The sample that arrived at headquarters on my return is an overachiever; my Timney scale ran out of weights at 10 pounds. Getting my old Brownells trigger pull gauge, I was able to get an average of around 12 ½ pounds(!) before bending the trigger hook! This is 12 ½ pounds to fire a gun that weighs just over a pound. You hold it still through a trigger stroke. I'll watch. Before anyone jumps on me, I do remember a day that I'd like a revolver with that feathery a trigger pull - but that gun weighed over 35 ounces empty. This gun is in real need of some trigger work. At just under an inch wide, it's not really clunky. It seems that way because the single stack frame is short. The whole gun is less than four-inches high. With the (hoped-for) 8-round accessory magazine, it should make handling a bit easier at the cost of little concealability.
DeSantis Nemesis Pocket holster is a good choice for the P290.
The sights are the excellent SIGLITE night sights. The current magazine is six rounds. It's a real treat to load. Suggestion: have a table to steady the magazine floorplate when you go to load round number 6. For your spare magazine, load it to five rounds in case you have to tac-load. There's a plug in the dustcover that's removable to take the proprietary laser - which was included in my package. Honestly, I haven't installed it. I was too anxious to shoot it and to get a holster to fit. Finding the holster was a struggle. DeSantis ( came through with the excellent Nemesis pocket holster. It fits the gun, not the gun with laser. That's okay. We have time. I took the pint-sized Panzerfaust to the range and fired assorted loads for velocities. I'd have fired for accuracy, but it was trouble enough to keep the gun still while trying to manage that trigger. I did take the P290 to an agency qualification. Aside from trying to keep two magazines loaded, I got my workout in trying to hold the gun still while rolling through the trigger. I shot over 90% -- the close range stages made a tight cluster, but the long distance stage kept me from the top score. The SIG P290 consumed rounds with bullet weights spanning the 115 to 147 grain range, all without a problem. I'll install the laser in the by-and-bye. I may check with SIG about getting the trigger cleaned up some. It's an impressive effort. Between this one and the samples we shot at Gunsite, I find the P290 extremely appealing. I've endured no stoppages with this gun and I'm not aware of any stoppages in the samples we had at Gunsite. It's a robust design with superb sights, aggressive surface finish on the frame gives good "grip," and it's as reliable as it can be. The P290 works for deep cover as well as for 2nd gun or even 3rd gun carry. Like any small gun, it has characteristics to be overcome in terms of gunhandling. That's a software issue. For more information, see Table: Velocities are averages of 10 rounds, measured in feet-per-second from Shooting Chrony placed 10 feet from firing point.
Load Average Velocity
Hornady 115 grain XTP 977
Hornady 124 grain TAP 967
Hornady 147 grain TAP 641
Federal Premium 147 gr. Hydrashok 950
CorBon 147 gr. Performance Match 600