By Jeff John, GUNS Magazine
The SIG SAUER M11 has seen a little more than a decade of service with the US Armed forces serving as a lighter, handier arm for US Navy aviators and among the various investigative teams such as Army CID and Air Force OSI, where carrying concealed is a concern, and a smaller more compact handgun than the standard M9 is desired.
Based on the P228, The M11 weighs about 8 ounces less and is about 1-1/2 inches shorter than the Beretta M9, the current standard service pistol. The new SIG SAUER M11-A1 is basically the exact same pistol as the M11 with a few desirable upgrades for a more durable, practical pistol. This civilian variant features a 1-piece stainless steel slide finished in SIG’s Nitron black finish in place of the M11’s stamped and welded slide. Also present are the Short Reset trigger, three flush-fit 15-round magazines (instead of the issue 12-round mags) and night sights. The frame is aluminum, hard anodized in black. The internal action parts have been phosphate coated for corrosion resistance, as are the military-issued M11s.
Dimensionally, the 15-shot M11-A1 is the same as the 12-shot M11 at 5.4 inches high, 7.1 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. Both are listed as weighing 32 ounces unloaded (although my scale listed this one at 30 ounces with an empty mag) and have 3.9-inch barrels. The barrel has a chrome-plated bore and chamber.
No accessory rail is provided under the frame, leaving the M11-A1 a sleek, more compact appearance. The frame also sports the MIL-STD UID label on the left side, just as issue M11s have, making this an excellent companion piece to those building a modern collection of currently issued United States arms. (Which, by the way, is a daunting task given the wide latitude the Special Forces have to explore new calibers, weapon platforms and accessories much more specific to certain missions.)
The SIG M11-A1 operates in the usual SIG fashion. First, never point the muzzle toward anything you don’t want to see destroyed. Insert a loaded magazine, pull the slide all the way to the rear, which also cocks the hammer, and release the slide to chamber a round. The pistol will fire in its single-action mode with a cataloged pull of 4.4 pounds (our test sample measured 5 pounds even). If you don’t wish to fire, depress the safety lever on the left side of the pistol down to de-cock the hammer. When you shoot, the pull of the trigger is a long, even pull which cocks the hammer (cataloged as weighing 10 pounds for the first shot and 13 on the test pistol), then the slide will cock the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. The slide locks back on the last shot.There is no magazine disconnect and should a round still be in the chamber, the pistol may be fired either double or single action after the magazine is withdrawn. Always clear the chamber after withdrawing the magazine.
The preservative used at the factory to coat the metal is quite sticky and the gun and all three mags were fieldstripped and cleaned with Hoppe’s No. 9. I lubed the slide with FP-10, although the factory recommends TW 25B and includes a small 1-use tube in the box.
The magazines were quite easy to disassemble and reassemble. I wiped the internals of the mags with a clean patch and left them dry.
I chose a variety of ammunition for the test from Federal, Hornady, Speer and Winchester spanning the useful range of bullet weights available in 9x19mm Luger from 115 to 147 grains. SIG does not recommend the use of any +P+ ammo, so no such loads were chosen. The use of 9mm +P and NATO ammo is fine on a limited basis, according to SIG, and heavy use of such hotter loads will require more frequent service of the pistol.
The magazines have numbered holes in the back from three to 15 giving you an exact accounting of ammo left, if it becomes a concern. The first 13 rounds go in pretty easily and for an extended shooting session, a mag loader would be a great asset in stuffing in rounds 14 and 15. Adding 15 rounds of 124-grain brings the weight of the whole gun up to 36.5 ounces.
Initial shooting at the Washoe County Public range was from the bench at 25 yards, using leather sandbags as a casual rest. Reliability was flawless from the start. The shooter was more flawed than the gun, your humble correspondent not shooting as many pistols as I should since my move to keep my eye and hold sharp. The M11-A1 still shot several very decent groups in 2-1/2-inch range or less on the Mountain Plaines Victory targets. The groups were mostly centered and just above point-of-aim with the 124-grain bullets. The Winchester 147-grain bullets impacted just over the front sight and just a little left, delivering the day’s best group of 2-1/8 inches with three shots in 5/8 inch. The SIGLITE night sights were easy to see and gave a sharp sight picture.
I went out into the Nevada desert for the chronograph session and informal rapid fire shooting. After chronographing the test loads, a Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird splatter fun target with buzzards and cowboys was put out and shot for fun and speed from a low ready. I’ll doubt I’ll ever be master of a first shot DA without a lot more practice, yet I was able to keep the first DA and SA shots on the target at 10 yards or so regularly. No malfunctions during this portion were experienced using mags topped with 15 rounds. As a final exercise, a new target was put up; the magazine randomly loaded with samples from each box in no particular order, with 115-, 147- and 124-grain bullets all mixed together. The M11-A1 fed and extracted all flawlessly.
Photos By Joseph R Novelozo