by Bob Boyd - Thursday, October 28, 2010
It's been said every man has his vice. For some it's women, while others turn to gambling or booze. My particular hang-up is one with no support group. I'm a custom-gun junkie.
Most shooters derive pleasure from simply purchasing a new firearm, whereas I view it as phase one—a potential Fitz Special, or a blank canvas upon which to create a functional "Man From U.N.C.L.E." carbine. Much like journalist Hunter S. Thompson could conjure thick flights of bats during an ink-blot test, a new gun is just the beginning of endless possibilities to me.
The act of personalizing a gun and making it my own has always been a satisfying fix, akin to a high-roller letting it ride on a roll of the dice. The moment I was bitten by the custom-gun bug, I could relate to the other addictions. I became infected by an article that dealt with a convertible 1911 in 9 mm and .38 Super. I decided then and there to have one of my own, with one improvement—I wanted mine to be a tri-vertible in 9 mm, .38 Super and .45 ACP. Move over Dr. Jekyll, there's a new mad scientist in town. Perhaps my lust was a byproduct of inhaling too much gun smoke over the years, but my great plan came with hitches. In particular, there was a small matter of having to swap ejectors when converting from 9 mm to .45 ACP. After researching the matter for many months, a solution finally presented itself in the form of an article from American Rifleman. Armed with the answer, I sent my pistol, conversion components and a copy of the article to a custom gunsmith. A year passed, but the result was worth it. I had a unique pistol worth more than $2,000, a sum tidy enough for an impressive single-malt inventory.
Luckily the features found on today's handguns make customization much more affordable and easy. The current buzzword used to reference this phenomenon is modular—defined as "a self-contained unit or item that can be combined or interchanged with others like it to create different shapes or designs." Semi-autos with multiple backstraps are good examples. While the concept of custom firearms is by no means new, adding the modular aspect to the mix takes the notion to a whole new level.
There is a new pistol on the market by Sig Sauer that makes such a feat markedly easier, while serving to re-define what a custom firearm truly is—gunsmiths beware!Historically the term referred to a commercially manufactured pistol or long gun reworked by a gunsmith to an individual's specifications—no longer. Sig Sauer's P250 empowers shooters with many skills of a gunsmith. The result is a 100-percent custom pistol with a revolutionary modular design that addresses the needs of civilian, law enforcement and military shooters. It differs from traditional custom semi-autos, such as my tri-vertible, as a result of unlimited changability—meaning you can undo your changes. Originally marketed in 9 mm, the P250 is currently also available in .40 S&W, with plans to add .357 Sig and .45 ACP within the coming months.
A Frame Like No Other
At the heart of the P250's modular capabilities is its fire-control assembly, or frame. The versatility is made possible by the fact that, unlike most polymer semi-autos, the 250's hammer, sear and trigger, are contained in a single unit. That means the grip, trigger guard and dust cover are completely separate parts of the pistol and are treated as such.
The frame fits inside the grip and is held in place by the pistol's takedown lever. To remove it from the grip, simply eject the magazine and lock the slide. Rotate the takedown lever and manually lower the slide. The lever can now be pulled from the grip, enabling the frame to be lifted free. The gun's serial number is found on the frame and is visible through a window on the right side of the grip.
The hammer is bobbed for snag-free operation, and the trigger of the P250's fire-control assembly is double-action only (DAO), meaning the hammer is cocked every time the trigger is pulled, not by slide reciprocation. For that reason, the pistol lacks a decocking lever.
Prior to evaluating the P250, I didn't have a high opinion of DAO-style pistols. My reasoning was, although the design was originally conceived as an added safety feature, DAO pistols often contained triggers with extra travel and an extremely heavy pull stroke, creating a detrimental tradeoff that forced shooters to sacrifice accuracy in the name of safety. I'm happy to report the Sig P250 is a different sort of DAO, thereby preparing myself for the possibility of having to reevaluate my options after testing this pistol. The P250's trigger has significantly less travel and an extremely lighter pull, measuring just over 7 pounds—much smoother than many other DAO semi-autos. Because of the pistol's modular design, its trigger can also be swapped for a different size, if needed. The gun was shipped with a standard trigger installed; however, short models are available to accommodate small-handed shooters.
Get a Grip…or Three
The P250's internal fire-control assembly allows its grip to function more like a car chassis and proves just as capable of customization without the need of a gunsmith. This pistol offers a choice of three different grip sizes—sub-compact, compact and full size—each with a different circumference to accommodate various hand sizes. Grips are virtually interchangeable between calibers, with the exception being the soon-to-be-released .45 ACP grip, due to its larger case dimensions. The .45 ACP grip will be available only in compact and full size. And even though the pistol is sold with a single compact-sized grip, in an effort to illustrate its versatility, the folks at Sig sent a variety of different sized grips. I found it strange, however, that a size indicator was nowhere to be found on any of them. Regardless, I still couldn't help feeling like a kid at Christmas with a new set of interlocking building blocks.
A deep recess traverses the backstrap and continues along the upper portion of the grip, ceasing just behind the trigger. These lines add to the P250's aesthetic appeal, but more importantly, they allow the pistol to sit low in the shooter's hand and enhance grip with the presence of thumb rests on each side. A slight beavertail alleviates any notion of hammer bite. The rest of the grip is highly textured for added purchase. Both frontstrap and backstrap contain gradually raised horizontal checkering. A portion of the squared trigger guard's face is serrated for those shooters who prefer to wrap the index finger of their non-firing hand around it for added recoil control. In addition, the dust cover contains a three-slot accessory rail for mounting a laser or light.
Interestingly, the P250 proves to be well balanced considering its light plastic grip—although in the back of my mind I found myself suspecting the weight of the loaded magazine would help negate recoil during shooting. To further address versatility, the pistol has an ambidextrous slide release and a magazine release that can be changed for either left- or right-handed shooters. I'm primarily a southpaw shooter, and for that reason, the ambidextrous features are well received—I find using a slide release an easier and faster alternative to manually lowering a slide. It also allows me to keep my sights on target in the process. The Boyd bunker contains a small collection of older Sigs, but I rarely carry them because the location of their slide releases is poorly placed for lefties. Perhaps that's the reason the first thing I noticed on the P250 was the ambi release.
Choose a Slide
The lower half of this pistol isn't the only part of the P250 that's versatile. With the absence of both a decocking lever and external safety, the slide has a sleek, albeit Spartan, appearance. Sig offers three different slide lengths for the pistol—full-size, compact and sub-compact—further expanding its myriad of configurations. The tailorability allows the shooter enhanced flexibility regarding factors such as concealability, sight radius even recoil. Slides are available in a choice of Nitron or two-tone finishes, and are topped with combat Siglite night sights. Deep rear serrations run from the back of the extractor notch to the end of the slide, allowing for greater purchase while clearing malfunctions.
"Gimmie a Sub-Compact 9 mm, with a Compact Slide…Hold the Lettuce"
Without a doubt, the best thing the P250 has going for it is a truly modular system that can be customized to meet your needs. You may have to play with the configuration for a while, but don't feel guilty; you can stop whenever you want to, right? One pistol, capable of shooting four calibers; just the thought is enough to give most gunsmiths a migraine of big-bore proportions. And the best part is the conversion process—it's simple and fast—without the need for any proprietary tools or gadgets. I had no problem swapping the fire-control assembly and slide between various grips, even with my limited coordination. There's an ease to the process, guaranteed to make redheads flock and range buddies genuflect at your prowess. You just won't be able to put it down. Practice makes it possible to completely change the P250's grip, slide and caliber in the amount of time it takes to navigate the drive-through of your favorite fast-food joint—building a complete convertible custom handgun in minutes.
Almost Infinite Possibilities
Contrary to what some may think, we don't live in a one size-fits-all world. The P250 celebrates that fact. For civilian application, use of the P250 allows someone to reconfigure their pistol for a change in carry options or caliber to consider seasonal changes without having to switch to a different pistol (You do change to a larger carry caliber to correspond with changes to your wardrobe during the cold weather months, don't you?). It also gives a shooter the luxury of adding a new caliber to their CCW battery, without having the expense of purchasing and then familiarizing himself with the idiosyncrasies of a new handgun.
Many law enforcement and military divisions force their personnel to use one type of sidearm without taking the shooter's individual attributes into consideration. Use of the P250 finally enables an armorer to take advantage of its versatility and modular features in order to personalize the sidearm to fit the shooter better than alternative sidearms, resulting in increased accuracy, comfort and overall use. Similarly, it helps the armorer meet certain ballistic parameters for a given mission without the need of adding additional pistols to their inventory.
So How'd It Shoot?
Shooting the P250 proved an absolute delight. The recessed contours and thumb rests provide for an extremely comfortable feel, and the beavertail enabled me to grip the pistol high for better recoil control. However, its grip ergonomics and low bore axis kept muzzle flip to a minimum. Being 9 mm, felt recoil proved extremely comfortable, even with +P ammunition. No malfunctions occurred during testing. Out of the three types of ammo tested, the most accurate was Remington's 124-grain Golden Saber with an average group size of 1½ inches, suggesting this gun prefers heavier bullets. It would be interesting to see what type of changes switching to a longer slide and barrel would cause. Sadly, I was only supplied with one 9 mm barrel for testing—then I remembered about another P250 we received in .40 S&W.
With that in mind, I promptly swapped calibers, if nothing else than for modularity's sake. History repeated itself with no malfunctions. And although the .40 S&W recoil was noticeably heavier, it proved surprisingly manageable despite the Sig's polymer grip. With the P250's nearly unlimited configurations at my fingertips and enough ammo to satisfy a gun writer's unexplainable cravings, I enjoyed my trip into ballistic "bat country."
The Sig Sauer P250 takes customization to a whole new level. Its versatility and modular design enable a shooter to build a pistol to their own specifications within a matter of minutes. No, it's not quite the same as having a magic gun genie you can summon whenever the need arises and money permits. Will it really put gunsmiths out of business? Probably not (though you might finally take yours off speed dial); however, it is simple enough, versatile enough, functional enough and just plain fun enough that once you handle one, you may wind up addicted to all the possibilities.
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