[Note: This was drafted in 2016. A lot has changed. The lessons haven’t.]
TheGunBlog.ca — For the past few years, I’ve been a Glockophile with acute SIG Sauer P226 envy.
Glocks and the SIG are both legendary for their reliability, durability and dependability. They are both used by top competitors and elite military units. The U.S. Navy SEALs and Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 run the SIG.
But my P226 lust came with a serious complication: P226 phobia.
- The SIG has two mechanisms absent from Glocks that scared me: a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger, and a decocking lever.
- Reviewers on YouTube got me worried about a third concern: the high “bore axis.”
In late 2016, after four years of suffering from this conflicting P226 fantasy and fear, I chose to get therapy: two days of handgun training at SIG Sauer Academy in New Hampshire.
Tuition included the use of a pistol. I requested a P226 Legion, a refined P226 available since 2015. In Canada, where I live, the Legion costs about $2,000 after tax. A Glock 17 is less than half that.
- I personally paid for all my costs related to the course, including tuition, ammo, travel, lodging and food.
- I didn’t benefit from any favours or freebies from SIG Sauer or its affiliates.
- I’m a tall male in my mid-40s with XL hands.
- I got into guns five years ago, so a relative newbie. I’ve probably fired fewer than 10,000 rounds through handguns. (I shot as a kid, then took a 30-year break.)
- I love shotguns, rifles and handguns.
- My main interest is personal protection. Most of my shooting is for defensive training.
- I identify as LGBTQ (Loves Guns, But Trains Quietly).
Glock Fan, Not Fanatic
- My mental and physical references and reflexes are Glock.
- Among handguns, I’ve mostly used Glock 19s, followed by the Glock 17.
- I had desired a Glock 17 since the mid-1980s, when I read Solider of Fortune magazine’s review that introduced the gun to North America.
- I finally bought one in 2014 as my first firearm purchase. (Canadian politicians made it illegal to have standard-capacity ammunition magazines, so it comes only with downgraded mags.)
- I’ll admit I have Glockophilia. I admire the man, the company, the guns, the marketing, the success.
- But I’m not a Glock fanatic and I don’t worship at the altar of Glock “perfection.”
New to P226
I had shot a P226 on only two occasions before going to SIG Sauer Academy:
- a few mags through a standard P226, and
- a few more through a P226 Mk 25, the U.S. Navy SEALs edition.
Those two times were for fun, to get a feel for the products.
This time I wanted to learn to manage the two trigger modes — DA and SA — and the decocker, and to make fast, accurate hits under the intensity and pressure of a (simulated!) violent life-or-death confrontation.
I knew that the courses I was taking were designed to build general handling and shooting skill. SIG Sauer Academy offered a separate series of courses for defensive training. But I could still pretend.
Day One: First Shots
Our first shots at the outdoor range were an accuracy drill at 3 yards, taking as long as we wanted.
I devoted a lot of focus and time to the long, heavy double-action trigger pull, aligning the sights, pressing the trigger a few millimetres, re-aligning the sights, squeezing the trigger a bit more, repeating this sequence until I thought I was close to firing, and then flinching in anticipation of the bang. In a video series called Fear Not the Double-Action Shot, Ernest Langdon calls this “Now Syndrome.”
Look Ma, One Hole
Even though I knew I was doing it wrong and I finished each string last among the 10 students on the firing line, I was one of the only shooters sending almost every round through the same expanding hole in the centre of the target.
At some point as the drills progressed, I guess within the first 100 rounds, I stopped trying to consciously and deliberately manage the double-action pull. I just forgot about it. It vanished from my awareness so completely that I even forgot that it had ever been a concern. Poof!
It was only three weeks later when talking about the P226 to a friend that I remembered that it had been an issue.
With the DA/SA fear gone, half my phobia had been quickly and effortlessly cured.
Now for the other half, the decocking lever.
(Oh, and the “high” bore axis? Non-issue from the beginning.)
Mental and Manual Overwhelm
Several times during Day One I got overwhelmed by a simple “stoppage” experienced by every pistol shooter: the slide locks open after the last round is fired.
Here’s how I experienced five seconds that felt like forever:
- Eyes stare at left side of gun.
- Brain seizes and freezes.
- Eyes notice open slide, empty chamber, and empty mag.
- Stress chemicals flood my body. (Remember, the goal is to stop deadly threats, and I was just standing there offering them a very attractive target.)
- Breathe deep. Slow down.
- Brain starts to thaw.
- “Oh, I remember: release empty mag, insert full mag.”
- Eyes still stare at left side of pistol.
- “Golly, look at all those levers and buttons and switches! Mag release. Slide-lock/slide-release. Decocking lever. What do I do?”
- Brain reboots and comes back online.
- “Oh, yeah: I need to load a new mag and release the slide.” (Overhand or slingshot.)
- Reload and resume fire!
Freeze + Fumble = Frustrated
I replayed this clumsy act all day. Even though reloading Glocks and P226s is the same as any mag-fed pistol — drop empty mag, insert fresh mag, release slide — I was being a klutz. I blamed the decocker.
I was worse when we introduced (simulated) malfunctions and movement. I froze and fumbled over the decocking lever. More precisely, it had nothing to do with the decocker. It had everything to do with my fear of working the decocker.
As much as running a Glock felt natural and fun, running the P226 felt awkward and painful.
In my hotel room that night, the P226 phobia obliterated the fantasy. I invented a “Boo-Hoo, Poor Me!” story where everyone and everything was wrong: the gun, the school, the instructors, and me.
I considered quitting the course.
I called my No. 1 gun buddy to share my sob story. (He had switched to wearing a SIG for personal protection after years of carrying a Glock 19.) He helped me to
unfuck myself change my attitude and re-commit to my learning. (Thank you, Oliver.)
Double Action Vs. Single Action
Refers to the trigger mechanism and what the trigger does when you press it.
- Trigger (1) cocks the hammer, and (2) releases it.
- Long and heavy trigger pull.
- Trigger (1) releases the cocked hammer.
- Short and light trigger pull.
The drills got more complex on the second day. Longer distances, smaller targets, shorter times, added movement, unfamiliar positions, unusual firing sequences. We also had to deal with cold and rain.
It didn’t matter.
Drill: Torso-sized steel targets from 10 metres, while walking across the range left-to-right, then right-to-left.
Drill: Same drill on 6-inch plate.
Drill: Run 20 metres to barrier, then kneel, take a hostage-rescue shot on a 6-inch plate.
Drill: Torso-sized steel, 20 metres, single handed.
Drill: Switch hands and do it again.
Good, Fast Hits
I ran the trigger and decocker reflexively and quickly. After every “stoppage,” I got the gun back up in a flash. I was making good, fast hits on any target from any position under any constraints.
Decocking became second nature.
My decocker phobia and fumbling had healed in my sleep. I was unstoppable. The gun was part of me.
I felt I couldn’t miss.
(In reality, of course I missed and messed up. But I had stopped running the “Poor Me!” story. I was now operating from “I can do this!” Change your focus, change your reality.)
The therapy worked. The patient was healed. The Glockophile had fallen in love with the P226 Legion.
A few months later, I owned one. (With downgraded mags, because Canada.)
Using the Decocker
- Lower the decocking lever to release the cocked hammer without firing, and return the trigger to double action from single action.
- Reduces the risk of firing unintentionally in single action.
- Decock the hammer anytime you aren’t shooting, such as to pause, move, or holster.
- The instructors proposed running the decocker with the thumb of your dominant hand, or (especially if you have smaller hands) with the thumb of your support hand.
- It takes 100-1,000 rounds of drills for a newbie to get comfortable with a new gun. (For the sake of a convenient round number.)
- I guess there’s a huge bias towards your first gun, since that’s probably the one you’ve shot the most and are most familiar with.
- It’s the user (and their training), not the tool.
- The DA/SA trigger is a non-issue.
- The decocker is a non-issue.
- The high bore axis is a non-issue.
- Learning the long, heavy double-action trigger improved my skill with every trigger, including Glocks.
- Feeling overwhelmed, confused and frustrated is part of learning and stretching beyond our comfort zone. The breakthroughs can happen while we sleep, but they show up only if we show up.
- The P226 Legion is magnificent to look at, to hold, and to shoot. It feels indestructible.
- I always knew it was a good gun. Now I know it’s good for me.
- I feel special being a member of a tiny club that appreciates metal in a world that prefers plastic.
- I’m sticking to my Glock 17 as my primary handgun.
- I’m more familiar and comfortable with it.
- I believe my preference is about my own competence and confidence rather than about the firearm’s design, mechanics and operation. It’s the user, not the tool.
- Glocks are much more popular than the P226, an advantage if anyone ever needs a spare.
- It’s fun to talk and test new gear, but mindset, tactics, and skill matter a lot more. (Thank you, James Yeager.)
Looking Back From 2022
- It’s good that so many companies are developing so many excellent new pistols.
- It’s remarkable that handguns have hardly changed in the past century.
- It’s terrible that the Liberal Party of Canada is working to suppress firearm users and eliminate handgun ownership.
Course Details and Observations (Late 2016)
- Location: SIG Sauer Academy, New Hampshire
- Courses: Handgun 103 (one day), Handgun 104 (one day)
- Number of Students: 10 per day. Three of us did both days.
- Age: 20s to 70s, mainly 30s and 40s.
- Sex: 9 men, 1 woman.
- Student Profile: Mainly recreational shooters, some newer shooters, several former military older guys. One young man was training to be a policeman. I’m pretty sure everyone practiced discrete carry, except Poor Me who lives in a country where politicians made it a crime.
- Geography: Nine out of 10 students were from the U.S.A. About half were within a 3-hour drive. I was the only Canadian. I drove 10 hours from Toronto.
- Firearms: 8 out of 10 students used their own guns.
- All were semi-automatic pistols. Most common were Glocks, followed by SIG P320s.
- I believe I was the only student using a P226, and I think only two of us ran DA/SA pistols at all.
- Of the four instructors we had over two days, three ran P320s. One, a former police trainer, ran a P226.
- Ammo: Most people brought their own, a few of us bought ammo from the school. They had Blazer and some other good brand that I can’t remember. Price was very reasonable. Website lists ammo count for each course. I used about 700 rounds over two days.
- Holsters: Not sure, but I think SIG Sauer Academy loaned me a Blade-Tech.
- We all used outside-the-waistband models and drew from open carry. That surprised me. I had expected that we’d be drawing from concealment, and had planned to use an inside-the-waistband holster. I learned they offer separate courses for concealed carry.
- The police student used his duty rig, and one guy had a thigh rig.
- Clothes: Half of the students wore tacticool, the other half wore jeans.
- Would I Go Back? Hell Yeah!