August 21st, 2011

First Look: Sig Sauer P290 9mm Carry Pistol

Small, light-weight carry pistols and revolvers are the hottest selling handguns on the market right now. Ruger’s .380 ACP and 9mm carry guns have been hugely successful, generating revenues that have helped push Ruger’s stock price up 500% since 2009. Now Sig-Sauer is getting on the bandwagon. We had a chance to look at Sig’s new-for-2011, P290 compact 9mm carry pistol. Overall, our reaction was generally favorable. The P290’s fit and finish are excellent — as you’d expect from Sig. Keltec’s PF-9 compact 9mm seems downright junky by comparison to the Sig P290. And the machining and fit of the slide and barrel on the Sig seem superior to the hot-selling Ruger LC9. In a nutshell, here’s how the new Sig P290 stacks up to the competition — it is better crafted and more reliable than the Keltec PF-9, it is more reliable than the Ruger LC9 (which has had recall issues), and, with its optional integrated laser, it is a more complete package than the Kahr CM9 and PM9.

Sig Sauer p290

However, the P290 is not without its flaws. We wish the grip was a little longer — and other reviewers agree. Also the trigger pull, listed at “9.0 lbs. average”, is just too heavy in our opinion. We know that Double-Action-Only (DAO) carry pistols like this need high pull weights to satisfy the lawyers, but the P290 pull weight is extreme. Most people will have trouble getting best accuracy out of the gun because of the heavy trigger, which one tester measured at 12.5 pounds.

Sig Sauer p290

Sig Sauer p290SIG P290 Online Reviews
Shooting Illustrated Review
Tactical Wire Review Review

Rich Grassi, Tactical Wire: “According to factory specifications, the trigger is supposed to average 9 pounds. The guns [we tested were] 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.”

Paul Scarlata, PoliceMag: “The trigger pull was rather heavy with a definite staging about halfway through the stroke, although I assumed this would smooth out with use. My other concern was that the attenuated grip left the little finger of my shooting hand dangling in the air. Because of its short grip, frame recoil control was not what one would have hoped for and I actually found the pistol more comfortable to fire with an unsupported grip. [Sig informed me] that future plans call for the P290 to come with a spare eight-round magazine with a sleeve that approximates the external contour of the grip. Such magazines will provide a full, three-finger grip without compromising concealability[.]”

CONCLUSION: The Sig P290 is a well-designed, nicely-made pistol in the super-small 9mm carry pistol category. However, for this writer, I wouldn’t want to carry the gun unless the trigger pull could be reduced to a reasonable weight for a DAO application (the trigger pull on the Kahr PM9 is much better). I would also wait until the optional magazine with grip extension is available. In the meantime, when the situation calls for a very small, light carry gun, I’ll stick with my older S&W model 638 revolver. We do suspect that, despite its shortcomings, the P290 will attract many buyers based on Sig Sauer’s reputation for quality. But the P290 costs more than most other small, polymer-framed 9mms, and price may be the deciding factor for many buyers.