Sunday, March 8, 2009

Acquiring a Used Sig...

by Ben Small

Your protag or perp may need a Chances are that gun will be used. For those of you who know something about pistols, the name Sig Sauer will hold a special place in your heart and mind. Sig Sauers are legendary: The Sig P210, no longer in production, is widely regarded as the most accurate production pistol ever produced; the Sig P220 is regarded as one of the finest .45 acp pistols all time; same with the P226 in .40 or 9mm, essentially a similar design, and the Sig P228 and P229 are carried by the Secret Service, the FBI and the National Park Service. The Sig X-5 and Sig X-6, match versions of the P226 and the P220 Match series are regarded as the new standards in match pistols, on a par with the legendary P210.

But Sigs aren't cheap. Glock carries a much larger market share because they're cheaper, much cheaper; they're polymer based. But even with plastic pistols, the Sig Pro line and the brand new and revolutionary P250 are not only competitive in price with the Glocks, but also in reliability and in the all important "feel." The P250 is special; one pistol convertible to different calibers, size and grip. Amazing. Nobody else's pistols can brag of that. Sig has opened a new door in pistol design, one to which nobody else is even close.

I've got eight Sigs, and here's why: feel, reliability and accuracy; what shooting is all about.

So your protag or perp needs a pistol, and he needs one quickly. What does he look for? How can he tell if his pistol will fire or if it's only good as a hammer?

Flork (real name Scott Folk), whose article on buying a used pistol I'm quoting below, is a gunsmith with Gray Guns, perhaps the most respected master Sig gunsmithing operation in the world. Flork is a member of SigForum, as is Bruce Gray, owner of Gray Guns. (You may have seen Bruce on various shooting television programs.) You should check out SigForum; it's perhaps the finest gun forum (not limited to Sigs) on the web. SigForum is ruled by folks who don't tolerate jerks, and many law enforcement, military and gunsmiths are active members. You have a legitimate question? Ask SigForum. There are over forty-five thousand members. You'll get an answer quickly. But don't be snide, and be careful about sarcasm. Sarcasm is tolerated where deserved, but newbies best be careful. I lurked before I posted, and that was wise, lest my involvement and comments be viewed as trolling or unwelcome. Legitimacy is what SigForum is all about, and it's okay to ask stupid questions. Trust me: I do it all the time.

Anyway, I was all set to post about a recent range experience I had and what I learned from it that might be of use to writers, but then tonight I saw Flork's post about what to look for in a used Sig, and I thought Flork's comments the more useful to you.

So with all credit due to Flork and Gray Guns, here is what Flork says you should look for in buying a used Sig. ( I thought Scott Folk's (Flork's) comments were spot on.

The first thing to look at is the Frame rails. These will tell you everything that you need to know about how well the gun has been taken care of. The Following is how the colors of the under side of the frame rails will change as your gun wears.

1) Dull Black - No Wear, perfect finish.

2) Shiny Black - Slight wearing in of the pigment in the Anodizing, this is normal after around 200 rounds.

3) Dark Gold/Orange - The Pigment in the Anodizing is starting to wear, this is perfectly normal and not a problem, the metal is still protected and your frame is still perfectly viable. Most guns reach this phase between 2000 and 4000 rounds.

4) Bright Gold - The pigment in the anodizing is wearing in. Your frame is still protected and your gun is still perfectly viable. Most guns reach this phase and remain static from here on out as long as proper lubrication is used.

5)Light Gold - The pigment in your anodizing is wearing through, your frame is still protected, but you should keep an eye on it.

6) Shiny Silver - This is where you need to start to worry. The pigment in the Anodizing is worn through, your frame is still protected, but you need to monitor your frame rails very closely and make sure they remain greased thoroughly for the rest of your gun's life.

7) Dull Silver - You're screwed. Your Anodizing has worn completely through in the areas you see dull anodizing. From here on your frame is unprotected and it's time to buy a new gun. It may still shoot and function perfectly, but your frame rails will continue to wear at a much accelerated rate.

The next thing to look at is the disconnector tab on your trigger bar. That's the part of the trigger bar that sits up highest in the frame. A factory new trigger bar will have a nice radius across the top, a heavily used one will have a flat worn into it. The best way to check and make sure it's still functioning correctly is to pull the slide back by 1/4 of an inch and pull the trigger, if the hammer doesn't try to fall you're ok.

The Next place to look at is the barrel. You will notice the "smileys" on the barrel on the muzzle end. If you run your finger down the barrel and feel a dip, you may want to have the gun looked at by a professional, the slide should not be abrading the barrel enough to remove any metal at all. The presence of a dip in the metal would indicate that your slide has a burr in it.

If you look at the front of the chamber section at the top of the barrel you will see a ledge that steps down just before the tube part of the barrel starts. The ledge there should be at a clear 90 degree angle, any rolling of that sharp corner would indicate a soft barrel or one which hasn't been lubricated properly.

The slide should also be inspected. The slide lock lever detent on the slide should be looked at for burrs or any rounding on the rear or the notch. A burr sticking out can abrade your thumbs if you shoot a thumbs forward grip. A burr on the slide could indicate a slightly soft slide or that the previous shooter kept their thumb on the slide lock lever. A rounded off notch at the back would indicate an improper heat treat of the slide.

And so says Flork, someone whose opinion I can always count on...


Lee Lofland said...

I'm a huge Sig fan. In fact, I carried a Sig P226 on and off duty for years. I've owned, and carried, Beretta, Walther, Smith and Wesson, and Ruger. I've also shot several Glocks (I was a firearms instructor at the police academy). Neither compare to the Sig. The Beretta is very close, but not quite.

Ben Small said...

Lee, I agree. The Beretta feels very good in my hand, but I just don't shoot it as well as I do the Sigs, and of course, the Sigs just "feel" right. I've got eight of them, and always take at least one with me to the range. But I use the Glock 26 or my new Springfield XDm as my carry or car gun. I didn't think the Glock 26 would be accurate, what with the short barrel, but shooting my brother in law's - he's a federal judge - convinced me that the G 26 is much more accurate than I'd previously thought. But I only use "hot" ammo in it, as short barreled pistols with lower powered hollow points have been shown not to open up due to lack of velocity caused by the short barrel. But with +p ammo, this is not a problem.

Thanks for sharing.

Beth Terrell said...

Fascinating, Ben. I know I'm going to use these links a LOT.

Gerard Saylor said...

I don't read SigForum as much as I used to. The Sig brand attracts gun owners with more disposal income than myself and I end up getting jealous of their collections.

The Gallery subforum has been a favorite of mine.

Ben Small said...


I don't buy Sigs any more either, both for the reason you state, and also because I don't like the directions Sig is moving, except perhaps for their revolutionary new P250, which I won't buy either, because I don't need one. But many of their new guns have had quality issues, and are just prettier and more costly versions of the standards, which are just fine as they are. I don't buy a gun because it makes for good bling, and I don't like the marketing direction they've taken since they replaced their previous marketing director.

But as you know SigForum is not just limited to Sig discussions. Discussions of all makes of firearms are encouraged. I usually hang out in the Lounge, where non-gun stuff is discussed, although I browse the other categories as well. Lots of good info there.

daniel said...

I just purchased a used Sig Pro 2340 Blueline in 40 cal ($275) and the slide seems a bit loose to me but does not have any wear marks. The frame rails show wear but how do I determine if the slide needs to be brought back to spec or the frame rails need to be replaced?? The amount of play side to side is maybe 1/16" with no discernable vertical play. The barrel is smooth with the typical smileys and the front of the chamber looks nice and sharp with no rolling. I tested the disconnector as Mr. Flock suggested and I think that's good also as the hammer did not drop when I pulled the trigger. Does anyone have the specs for the frame rail width for the 2340?? Is this amount of "play" common for this model Sig?? I have not fired the pistol so I'm not sure if the slide play will affect the accuracy or not. Any helpful comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. One comment I have about the Sig Forum is that I tried to join and log in and keep getting denied access because of my email address - what's up with that??? thanks in advance for your help!!!

Ben Small said...

Can't answer your question or Sig tolerances, Daniel, but my SP 2340 does the same thing, but it doesn't hurt the pistol or its accuracy.

Re Sig Forum, they want pay email addresses only for accountability reasons. I am not one of the owners, so I can't tell you what discussions led to that policy. But Sig Forum is the place to ask the questions you have about Sigs, as there are lots of very knowledgeable people there. Me, I'm just a fun shooter and a writer who enjoys writing about weapons.

daniel said...

Ben, thanks for the reply, that makes me feel a bit better about my first sig purchase! I exaggerated the amount of play in the slide, it's probably somewhere between 1/64" & 1/32". Guess I'll just grease-up the slide rails and see how this puppy shoots. I also purchased a new CCW, a Taurus PT709 Slim 9mm that I havn't tried out either, kind of curious to see how this little guy shoots too. Thanks for the Sig Forum info, I have asked them twice for an explanation and have not received a reply. Best regards

Ben Small said...

daniel, the folks at Sig Forum are good people, by and large. Just don't argue with the monitors or owners on forum management matters. They're sensitive about that.

In many ways, my SP 2340 is my favorite Sig. It shoots lights out, is comfortable to carry, and it's reliable. It was my first Sig, the reason I bought so many more. Many folks feel Sig quality has slipped -- I had problems with my GSR, fixed then traded it -- but rarely do I see a complaint about the Sig Pros.

daniel said...

Ben, thanks again, I appreciate your insight. I did quite a lot of research before I purchased this 2340 and it seemed to me that it had the most positive comments of any comparible pistol out there. The Sig website still offers 2340 LE trade-ins as one of their certified pre-ownned products so maybe they would supply the specs, can't hurt to ask. I replaced the worn grip on my 2340 which was the only obvious external sign of wear on this pistol and she looks good as new now, the original finish must be pretty tough or the original owner never carried it. This is my first 40 cal so I'm anxious to see how it performs at the range. Thanks again!

Ben Small said...

daniel, my SP 2340 is in .40 also. At one time it was offered in either .40 or 9mm, but Sig then decided to name the 9mm version first the 2009 and then the 2022. The French police have a large contract for the 2022. It's essentially the same pistol we have but in 9mm.

I didn't worry about the grips, because I have very large hands, and to make the grips a bit thicker, I slipped on a Hogue slip on grip, which goes over the plastic grips. Gives not only a better grip, but it's slightly thicker than the grip without it. Some people, however, just use tape.

daniel said...

Ben, do you have any idea as to how many 2340's and 2009s were sold before being replaced by the 2022?

John Jaramillo said...

I have been a Sig Fan ever since I got to use one as a Carry weapon while on Active Duty. Recently I purchased a few more. I unfortunately live in California at the moment whos laws are rather unclear. I recently purchased a P220R SAO and it is by far my favorite of the bunch. I would like to get several of the SAO models but the ridiculous "Safe Gun Roster " does not allow it.

As far as the Sig forum goes, it has a lot of good information and a lot of good people. It was a real hassle to join. I got into a little arguement, then a mod stuck his nose in and started posting incorrec information. I told him he was incorrect and that I would not be doing business with those who do not understand the laws, because lets face it paranoia is fairly high nowadays. I was immediately banned with no explanation and then they had the nerve to put my status as "Banned, even in California." That was extremely unprofessional and as a disabled war vet, that really ticks me off. Needless to say, I love the guns, but the moderation of the Sig Forum leaves something to be desired.