Sig556 and Sig522: a comparison

Sig_side-by-side_1I recently had the chance to check out a Sig522 rifle, owned by my friend Dashiell. While I was evaluating the rifle it was pointed out that our friend Bill had the Sig556, on which the 522 was modeled. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at them together? Shazam! It was done.

I had both rifles for a week, during which time I shot them both several times, separately and together. What follows are my thoughts on the subject.

But first, some current events…

There is quite a trend lately by firearms manufacturers to build copies of their battle rifles chambered in .22lr. It seems to me that two things are driving this. First, a .22lr version is cheaper to buy and much cheaper to shoot than a 5.56/.223 version and second, the brand name and the form factor attract many folks who might not be nearly as excited by say a Ruger 10/22, which is arguably the best all-around .22lr rifle currently in mass production. Speaking of Ruger, even they have succumbed to the allure by producing the SR-22, which at its core is in fact a 10/22. Here’s how they summarize the rifle:

“The final product is an affordable, feature-loaded rifle that faithfully replicates the AR-platform dimensions between the sighting plane, buttstock height, and grip. Although it looks really cool out of the box, there is an extensive array of accessories available allowing a custom configuration, limited only by the shooter’s preferences.”

The SR-22’s internals are pure 10/22 but wrapping it in an AR-15 “skin” is apparently a marketing requirement. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that companies have jumped in like Lemmings to the sea, but perhaps there’s more to the story. After all, buyers aren’t foolish enough to buy a $400 rimfire rifle just because it “…looks really cool out of the box…” would they? OK, some undoubtedly will, but there’s more to the story I think.

Stay with me for a minute.

Left_rearThe Sig556 is an export version of the Swiss SG-550 military issue rifle. Actually, Sig has based enough of its business here in the US to establish themselves as a US arms manufacturer, so technically the rifle is not an import for us. The parts however are mostly from Switzerland and Germany.

I found the rifle to be a great handling weapon. It is a bit heavier than a standard M4-style AR-15 but lighter than my Ruger SR-556. It feels really solid. The rifle uses standard AR-15 magazines. (I used stanag and PMags without issue) The trigger was adequate but had a long take-up and reset. I suspect one could get perfectly accustomed to shooting this rifle and the ergonomics were great except for the safety. It is simply too far forward to reach with my thumb unless I un-shoulder the rifle and twist my hand 90 degrees around the pistol grip.  I found it much simpler to use my index finger to operate the safety on the right side (strong side) of the receiver. This is not easy to do after being so accustomed to the AR platform. In fairness, it is much easier to operate than say an AK-47.

Right_rearThe setup of Bill’s Sig556 included an optional fore stock with small rail sections. This allows quick-disconnect sling mounts, etc. The rifle also sports a nice CompM3 battle sight, which is awesome. All this works just fine for me except for that darned safety. Shooters with larger hands will have no problem however.

With this rifle’s long-stroke piston, solid design and manufacturing, and the Sig reputation for quality, I am certain this gun would be a reliable weapon. For shooters with smaller hands it might be problematic however.

One functional issue I must mention is that the rifle is tough on brass. At first I couldn’t find my spent casings. After several minutes of looking further and further afield, I found them about 30 feet away at about the 1 o’clock position.  The gun does have a gas adjustment so perhaps this could be dialed down a bit to keep the brass closer and more at the 3 o’clock position. casesI didn’t want to mess with Bill’s setup so I left it alone but I will say that every single case (a couple different factory loads and several different handloads) was dented significantly in more than one location on each. As a reloader this is a major concern. I would not reload these cases. Some would, noting that a full-length sizing die would do much to restore the case to its original dimensions. Nevertheless I suspect these dents would not be fully removed. Some were worse than those in the included photo. Given the tremendous stresses these cases endure, I would not feel comfortable reloading the brass coming from the Sig556. Of course if you don’t reload then this is irrelevant.

Ruger SR-556, Sig556 and Sig522

OK, so the Sig556 is a nice gun. But what about this .22lr version?  Glad you asked. The Sig522 is a very interesting firearm to me. Leaving aside it’s pedigree, it is just a fun gun to shoot. The included mag holds 22 rounds of .22lr and with the weapon’s heft (slightly less than the Sig556) there is essentially zero felt recoil. I had intended to shoot only about 100 rounds and before I knew it I had burned a whole brick! This is of course the beauty of .22lr. All this for about $16. With the rifle’s top rail the installation of optics is easy and then you’ve got a pretty close replica of the Sig556. So, why have this thing?

Three_UpI think that aside from pure cool factor, there’s a very good reason to have the Sig522: for training purposes if you happen to already shoot the Sig556. Perhaps it is obvious to others but this was a novel idea for me. Training with .223 rounds can quickly become a very expensive proposition, but if a shooter with a Sig556 wanted to get in some trigger time on the cheap, the Sig522 would work nicely as a substitute. This is particularly true when the actual shooting isn’t the most critical component of the tactical training. For movement drills, room clearing, stacked approaches, etc., this rifle would allow the same muscle memory development as the 556 and would even allow the trigger pulls, but without the cost associated with the 5.56/.223 rounds. Is this ideal? Probably not, but it beats dry fire drills or simply not training.

So, in summary I like both these guns and I think the 522 is a good replica for the 556. I can’t say that I would go buy either of these guns myself, especially with the safety location on both, but I can appreciate what others like about them. I will say that if push came to shove I would not hesitate to depend on the Sig556.

Pistol review: Sig Sauer 226

My friends Kevin and Bill are long-time Sig fans and after some teasing about me being Ruger-centric I decided to try one out and see what all the fuss was about. Bill loaned me one of his 226s and I checked it out over the last week.

To be fair, I had shot Kevin’s 229 and this 226 previously but only a few times. The plan now was to really put some rounds through it and get a good sense of the pistol. My experience was a mixture of confirmed assumptions and surprises.

The 226 has been around a long time and it is no accident that it remains a popular pistol. With its metal frame and slide it is a durable, solid pistol that feels massive and does a good job mitigating recoil. It looks good too. I shot factory 115 gr Georgia Arms ball ammo and my own handloads (124gr JHP from Montana Gold, 4.1gr Titegroup, CCI small pistol primers using mixed brass) and found that from a recoil perspective it was very pleasant to shoot. Two other things struck me immediately: first, the grip is fat and second the pistol is really accurate. Ergonomics being all the rage recently this pistol is not a great fit for my small hands. I found it uncomfortably large compared to my SR-9 and my 1911. Nevertheless I found that I was very accurate shooting at 10 yds.

The first day shooting the 226 was shared with my friend Neil who was at the range fighting with his new PPK. Just for fun he tried the 226 and was astonished at how much he liked it. In fact he shot most of the ammo I brought and was contemplating a trip to the gun store to pick one up on the way home.

The 226 has an exposed hammer, a de-cocker and no manual safety. This means that to fire a round left in the chamber requires the first shot be taken as double-action. This is not a simple task for those of us accustomed to DAO guns or the locked-and-cocked 1911. I’m told that you get used to it but there’s no question that the first shot is going to be either slower or less accurate or both. I just don’t see how you can get around that.

So I figured I would try the gun again after our next practice just to see how it felt on a second day and then I would write the review. Yesterday when I got to practice I was very unhappy to discover that when I reassembled my SR-9 after cleaning that I had left out the take-down pin. I then remembered that I had brought along the Sig so I used it instead. The results were impressive.

Bill, Mike and I shot “Can you count?” and “Mini-mart” from the USPSA classifier book and even with the double-action first shot I was able to really move through the first stage very fast. The trigger’s short reset and short, crisp single-action pull make up for the first shot. The big surprise for me was my accuracy. Sure, these are not long-shot stages but as anyone who has shot with me knows, I tend to get wide when I’m blowing through stages. Interestingly enough, on this day I had quite a few runs that were all Alpha hits and I had no Mikes and no No-Shoots. I broke into the six and seven hit factors, respectively. You can’t argue with success.

After about 200 rounds we concluded the practice and I gave the pistol back to Bill. It is worth noting that I was using a nylon holster that was loose on my normal leather belt. Once the front fiber optic sight caught on the holster during a draw and cost me at least .5 seconds. I suspect with a Bladtech DOH I would have done even better.

So, am I (like Neil) headed to the gun store? I don’t think so. I certainly was surprised at how this gun performed under stress. My groups looked really good. But I couldn’t shake the ergonomic issue. Not only that but the double-action first shot costs, regardless of how nice the remaining shots are.

I always think of Jack Bauer when I see that pistol and for many people it is the perfect competition and/or carry gun. For me it is a fun gun but not for serious business.

Your Mileage May Vary