Sig Sauer P290: A Small Gun That Delivers Big

The optional laser sight mounts securely to the front dust cover and integrates well with the pistol.
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The optional laser sight mounts securely to the front dust cover and integrates well with the pistol.

 

Small guns for concealed carry are currently all the rage.

 

sig-sauer-p290

At less than six inches long and four inches high, the P290 is considerably smaller than Sig’s next largest subcompact 9mm, the P239.

A few years ago, all the major manufacturers were introducing tiny pocket pistols chambered in .380 ACP. The natural evolution of the market was to upsize these somewhat underpowered guns to 9mm—a better caliber for serious self-defense.

When Sig Sauer first announced the P290 as their entry into the micro-sized 9mm market, some critics said the gun was too big and heavy. Certainly the newest Sig is not the smallest or lightest 9mm available, but that doesn’t mean the P290 doesn’t have a lot to offer. This pistol is bigger than most in its class, and that is actually what I have come to like about it.

A Big Feel

sig-sauer-p290

Left side of the Sig P290.

Honestly, my first impression of the P290 was not favorable. The gun looks very top heavy and has an extremely short grip. I worried the gun wouldn’t fit my hand well and would be difficult to control. All my worries turned out to be unfounded—but more on that later. The P290 is considerably smaller than Sig’s next largest subcompact 9mm, the P239. The P290 is less than six inches long and less than four inches high. These dimensions are impressive, especially considering the P290 has a capacity of six rounds of 9mm in the magazine, plus one in the chamber, and is rated for +P ammunition.

The top-heavy look and feel of the gun results from the robust stainless steel slide assembly. Despite the lightweight polymer frame, the gun weighs in at more than 20 ounces unloaded. While somewhat heavy compared to other micro-sized 9mm pistols, the weight is not unworkable for a deep concealment gun. Consider that one of the traditional concealed carry favorites, a 5-shot stainless steel snubnose revolver, weighs several ounces more and packs less firepower. In a strange way, the relative bulk of the P290 actually inspires some confidence in the gun and makes for a very comfortable feel in the hand.

Sig Sauer P290 Specs

Sig Sauer P290 Specs

 

Big Features

The P290 is a Browning type tilting barrel, locked breech design with an external hammer. The trigger system is classified as Double Action Only (DAO), although the firing mechanism is partially tensioned by operation of the slide. No manual safety is offered or required on this DAO pistol. The only external controls are the beefy slide release lever and the full-size magazine release button.

Sig pistols always come well equipped, and the P290 is no exception. The pistol features a polymer frame and stainless steel slide for maximum corrosion resistance—which is important for a gun carried close to the body. The P290 also comes standard with Sig’s tritium SIGLITE night nights. Front and rear sights fit in a dovetail, so replacing the sights is not a problem if you have an aftermarket sight configuration you prefer.

One interesting feature of the P290 is the removable plates built into the polymer grips. Unlike other polymer frame pistols, this Sig’s grip side plates are interchangeable. The standard plates are a textured black polymer, and are well-designed for a secure grip. However, Sig will offer other options, including colored polymer, aluminum, and wood.

Owners will be able to customize their pistols with different looks and feels without making any permanent changes. Sig also offers a laser sight designed specifically for the P290. Although the gun does not have an accessory rail, there is a small slot on the bottom of the dust cover designed to mount the Sig factory laser unit.

Once installed, the Sig laser is very secure and looks like an integral part of the pistol. The laser is activated with ambidextrous push button switches on either side of the unit. Although I would prefer a momentary switch, the laser functions well and produces a bright red dot. The laser can be activated with either the trigger finger or the thumb of the support hand.

Big Performance

pocket carry holster

Given the weight of the P290, effective pocket carry will require a pocket holster designed to keep the gun oriented properly.

A small pistol is great for carry, but often difficult to shoot. With the P290, the extra bit of heft and bulk make the pistol much more comfortable to shoot than other tiny 9mm guns. The relatively large slide and controls make the gun easy to manipulate for loading, unloading, press-checks, and malfunction clearances. Even though I can only fit a single finger on the grip, all the necessary manipulations of the pistol are easily accomplished.

The additional weight of the gun helps recoil management. A couple of extra ounces in the slide really help tame the recoil of the 9mm loads. Even a recoil-sensitive shooter should have no problems controlling the P290. Although I worried that the small grip would make the gun difficult to control, the felt recoil is so mild that the grip length is not an issue. Even hot +P loads are quite manageable in this tiny Sig.

At realistic self-defense distances, the P290 can deliver one-inch groups all day long. After getting bored with clover-leaf groups, I backed up for longer shots. At thirty feet, the group size opened up to a bit more than three inches. Even after retreating to the 25 yard line, the P290 could quickly dump a full magazine into the “A-zone” of a standard IPSC silhouette target.

sig-sauer-p290-flush-fit

Flush-fit six-round magazines are standard, but an optional eight-round magazine with an integrated grip extension is forthcoming.

The SIGLITE night sights are excellent, and certainly help the gun’s accuracy. Unlike some micro-9mm pistols with small nubs where the sights should be, the Sig’s sights are normal-sized, and look just like the sights on a full-size pistol.

The DAO trigger is quite heavy, and stacks quite a bit at the end, making a smooth trigger pull somewhat challenging. There is significant room for improvement with the trigger, and I hope Sig will address that issue. Of course, a heavy double-action trigger can be overcome with practice, and adds a level of safety to this deep concealment gun.

The P290 performed flawlessly throughout my testing, digesting a variety of self-defense loads of various bullet weights without a problem. All in all, I fired more than 200 rounds without a stoppage of any sort. This is the level of reliability I expect from a Sig, and the P290 did not disappoint.

Quality Carry

sig-sauer-p290-flared-barrel

The flared barrel locks into a recess on the front of the slide when fully forward.

During my testing, I carried the P290 in a pocket holster most of the time. Pocket carry works well, so long as you have a good belt and relatively sturdy pants. Dressier pants with light fabrics won’t conceal as well because of the weight and size of the gun. The pistol also carries well inside or outside the waistband. The short overall length makes the gun ideally suited for appendix carry as well, where shorter pistols are more comfortable. Unfortunately the custom holster I ordered did not arrive in time for testing, but I found a Sig P239 holster would work, although it’s a bit longer than necessary for the P290.

The Sig P290 is small enough to carry in a pocket, but large enough to handle well and shoot well—having the feel of a much larger pistol. Sig Sauer has managed to deliver an impressive blend of size and performance. Although not the smallest 9mm pistol on the market, the P290 may be the most shootable 9mm in its class.

sig-sauer-p290-disassembly

Disassembly is not quite as easy as some pistol designs, but still very straight-forward. Start by pushing the slide stop out from the right side of the frame, while retracting the slide to the indexed position. The slide assembly can then be removed.

This pistol exhibits the fine fit and finish that has become a trademark of Sig Sauer, and Sig stands behind its products with excellent customer service and a lifetime warranty. The P290 has an MSRP of $758 without the laser, and $828 with the laser. Actual street prices will be somewhat less once the initial demand is satisfied. Given the $70 price difference, the model with the laser would seem to be the way to go.

If you are looking for a 9mm deep concealment gun, you should consider the Sig P290. But, don’t just hold the gun in your hand at a local shop—you really have to shoot the gun to appreciate the brilliance of the design. This Sig may be one of the biggest of the micro-sized 9mm pistols, but the size is actually the best feature of the gun. The P290 is big in all the right places. When it comes to small guns, the Sig Sauer P290 delivers big!

Prices as of July 2011

This pistol exhibits the fine fit and finish that has become a trademark of Sig Sauer, and Sig stands behind its products with excellent customer service and a lifetime warranty.

This pistol exhibits the fine fit and finish that has become a trademark of Sig Sauer, and Sig stands behind its products with excellent customer service and a lifetime warranty.

 

[ Duane A. Daiker is a contributing editor for CCM, but is otherwise a regular guy—not much different from you. Duane has been a lifelong shooter and goes about his life as an armed, responsible, and somewhat opinionated citizen. Duane can be contacted at Daiker@RealWorldCarryGear.com, or through his fan page on Facebook, and welcomes your comments and suggestions. ]


CONTACTS:

Federal Premium
www.federalpremium.com
(800)-831-0850
Hornady
www.hornady.com
(800) 338-3220
Sig Sauer
www.sigsauer.com
(603) 772-2302
Tuff Products
www.tuffproducts.com
(877) 883-3776
Winchester Ammunition
www.winchester.com
(800) 333-3288
 

 

**The Sig P290 was provided on loan by Sig Sauer with an option to purchase at a discounted price. Ammunition was provided at no charge from the respective companies. The holsters used were from the author’s own collection.

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27 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. I am a huge fan of Sigs , the sig 290 carrys well in back pocket holster or belly band holster,shoots very well and feels good in my hand..

  2. Thank you for posting this review. I’ve been looking for a small Sig and did not know if there were any smaller than the P239. You told me what I needed and wanted to know. Your review was good to read, also.

  3. I held this gun at a gun show this weekend in Dallas and it feels great. I currently have a Glock 26 which I love. But the single stacked thinness of the P290 should make it more comfortable to conceal. If it is a accurate as my Glock I would give up 4 rounds. Prices were about $550.

  4. Picked up the P290 last weekend. I love it! Size is ideal for carry and it fits well in my hand. It’s a ton of fun at the range too!

  5. Nice review. I just bought one and I’m excited about taking it to he range.

  6. Just picked up a 290 at a gun show last week, with laser, 8 shot 2nd clip, and sig holster as a package for $499.00 haven’t shot it yet, can’t wait. very nice gun, I have a Kel-tec PF9 and Kahr P-9, thinking the Keltec just got replaced with the sig

    1. Not a “clip” brice. You need to learn your lies before coming on here.

      Clip comes from your movie watching of WWII and the MI Garand.

  7. Made the mistake of saving $200.00 dollars upfront when Diamond Back came out with their 9mm. The size can’t be beat for a 9mm but, this piece has been plagued with FTE, FTF issues – at least that’s been my experience.

    Went through three serial numbers with the DB9, due to repair and return for replacement – directly to the manufacturer. Their customer service is good-they just need to focus on making the pistol work. Recieved my third serial number and still, no resolve on the issues that I’ve experienced. Pretty frustrating; my last email to Diamond Back was to a request for refund.

    Have been looking at the Sig P290 for some time. Like the size, package content, reliability, consistency (no I don’t work for Sig). And, I haven’t seen may forums with negative comment relative to the ‘last generation’ in production.

    Pretty excited about it; hope I’m making the right choice…

  8. My wife looked into all types of small ccw handguns. She settled on the Ruger LC9. She fired many brands and types(rentals are the way to go here). The Ruger is a great weapon, but it was traded in for the main reason of a long trigger pull. The small weapons have many issues. Her new gun is a compact Glock 19 Gen 4. She is a small woman and handles this Glock like a pro. Conceals well too.

  9. FYI if there are any lefties looking for a nice holster the gould and goodrich behind the back for a glock 26 works nicely.

  10. yourmailforal

    I am just getting started. I’m not sure what will be best for me. I will have to do my research. I’m sure i will eventually find a suitable weapon that will be a good fit for me.

  11. Weight not a big issue I agree with author if its under 28oz. I prefer holster carry over pocket carry any day, any time any where, so the weight again not an issue to me. I like the 938 better for the colt mustang style, but I understand totally the reasurance of DAO and the DAK style trigger is a great DAO.
    I’ve handled and shot an old 239 DAK before. The 938 is going to be a huge seller for sig and take no offense at this, the 290 will increasingly become less popular. But its a great gun and so the good news is costs will go down on the 290 as the 938 prices will stay high with the demand!

  12. I’ve had this gun for several months now. Like the quality build and size. Dislike the trigger as it seems hard to find the right spot for my finger to make a smooth pull without moving off of the target. The take down also needs help – takes three hands to do this. My wife has a P238, so I know Sig can do better. Hope they fix these two problems.

  13. I ‘m excited about my new purchase the SIG P290 for all the reasons stated on this blog. I can hardly wait to get to the range and start firing it. It will be a “BLAST” I’m sure!

    My other favorite gun is the SIG is a P220 .45 Caliber Elite Equinox. It’s elegant both in looks and design. Fit and finish is superior quality, smooth operation all around, specifically for the trigger pulls (DA/SA) and mag insert.

  14. Confused. Does this model have a flip up barrel like the Beretta automatics? I would prefer too that it have a safety. Sounds like another Sig I am familiar with that had no safety. It seems to fulfill one of my wishes in a 9mm. Its much smaller than a Howitzer.

    1. Not a flip up. The long, and some say heavy trigger pull help prevent unplanned firing.

  15. Too popular! Wanted to feel-fit one at a show this weekend, but only one dealer had one, but sold it quickly.
    Any update on what Sig changed to make this a P290RS?
    Really want to grab one to move back up to 9mm, relinquishing the LCP 380 to my better half!
    Just received a comfortable holster for my Sig P232 & XD 9 from Nate Squared Tactical.
    Just “dressing” for whatever circumstances/occasion!

  16. Great little gun! I’m a bigger dude, bigger hands, but find this weapon very trusty. Lefty folks, be advised, the mag release manufactured for the P290 specifically, ONLY functions for right handed release. I found it interesting SIG manufactured a RS- Re-strike version/other ergo changes. Essentially the user doesn’t need to action the slide/re-setting the trigger if the weapon didn’t fire the round-just pull the trigger again. I have several issues w/ this. Did I put a round in battery, did the weapon fail to eject, was the primer bad, did I fail to seat the mag…ect. Tap, Rack, Asses-Get the weapon back up PERIOD! I think there is some back story on this, however don’t train to the standard this manufacture has presented. Other than that, great weapon.

  17. Bought mine 2 months ago, put 500 rounds through it, no problems. Sent it to SIG for upgrade to “restrke” trigger– all done no charge in one week. kudos to SIG.

  18. great gun have it few months now. love it.

  19. Got this gun a little over a week ago and love it. I had a Diamondback DB9 but sold it due to the FTF and FTE issues. I shot one box of practice ammo through it and a clip of Critical Defense with absolutely no issues. I even shot one handed several times which is something I wouldn’t even attempt with the DB9.

    I did order a set of Tractiongrips to fit it since I carry in my front pocket and didn’t want the sandpaper grip damaging my good pants. These grips fit perfectly and have solved the problem with the sandpaper grips. I got mine (a P290RS) with the laser for $499 which seemed like a very good price.

    This is a quality gun that easily beats the other small 9′s and 380′s I have owned or shot in both feel and performance. I would like to see Sig come out with some polymer grip plates to replace the stock sandpaper grips but the tractiongrips seem to be working fine for now.

  20. This little Sig is an awesome CCW and should not be over looked. Sig just bleeds quality and accuracy and this little 9mm follows suit. I would recommend this as your next carry weapon.

  21. I purchased this gun about a month ago. I ran 500 rounds through with no malfunctions. Gun was very accurate and easy to carry and conceal. I have always liked Sigs and the p290 lives up to the reputation of some of the bigger models.

  22. Waiting for my P290RS to come from KyGunCo.com

    Paid $439.00 delivered +$25 for local transfer = $464.00

    Have a PM9 but wanted a more substantial gun for carry. I will sell off the Kahr later. This will be my third SIG, so I know the quality of the company. Not really worried about the long trigger as my other CCW is the Ruger .357 LCR.

  23. I bought this weapon and it had fantastic grouping right out of the box. I love this thing.

  24. Mine shoots great, but it’s a little heavier than I prefer. The kimber Solo is a bit more to my liking in that regard. I also prefer the Kahr PM9.

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