The Swiss Industrial Company (SIG) has produced some of the best pistols in the world, but the Swiss neutrality laws make the export of weapons very difficult; as one Swiss said, “We are only allowed to sell guns to people who don’t want them.” As a result, SIG set up a combined operation with the German company of J.P. Sauer & Son, an old-established and well-respected company, so that Sauer can make SIG pistols and sell them into countries where the Swiss cannot.
The P229 developed from earlier designs; this series began with the P220 which more or less set the general pattern: a recoil-operated pistol using a shaped cam beneath the breech to pull down the rear of the barrel; thus disengaging a squared-off section around the chamber from its lock in the ejection port of the slide, SIG were the pioneers of this system, which is gradually replacing the original Browning system of machined lugs on the barrel marting with slots in the slide. The P220 was a full-sized pistol adopted by the Swiss Army as their Model 75.
Next came the P225, which was slightly smaller and lighter than the P220 and which had improved safety features including ana automatic firing pin safety, decocking, lever, drop safety device, but no applied safety catch, so that it can be brought into action very quickly indeed. In late 1980, when the U.S. Army advertised for a new pistol, SIG modified the P225 to meet the American requirements, resulting in the P226; the principal change was the addition of an ambidextrous magazine catch and a 15-round magazine capacity. Although not adopted by the U.S. Armed forces, the P226 was widely purchased by police and security agencies.
The P228 came next, a compact pistol, smaller than the other members of the family but with a 13-round magazine capacity. And finally came the P229, which is virtually the same as the P228 nut chambered for the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge. Developed primarily for police use, it has high contrast sights and the usual automatic firing pin, drop safety and de-cocking lever.
The basic P229 has a steel slide and aluminum alloy frame; the P229SL is similar but with the slide in stainless steel; and this version is also available in 9mm Parabellum caliber. (In effect, this latter mode is a P228 with a stainless steel slide.)