Handguns > Semi-Auto

SIG Sauer P290 Limited Edition

As one of the few super compact 9 mms rated for +P ammunition, SIG's new P290 pushes the boundaries of what can be called a pocket pistol.

7/6/2011

This is a banner year for sub-compact 9 mm pistols, often grouped together as “The Pocket 9s.” Even within this narrowly defined subcategory of defensive pistols, gun companies still have to play out a challenging balancing act. Should they shed frame strength and features to achieve the desired mouse-cannon status? Or, should they sacrifice some of the pocketable compactness of the handgun in order to keep the popular features of their beloved full-size pistols in place?

SIG Sauer is well-known for the quality and reliability of its rifles and pistols. It has also done quite well in the pocket .380 market with its many variations of the P238. But like many other gun companies this year, SIG didn't want to miss out on the pocket 9 mm trend. In developing the new P290, it chose to beef up the pistol a bit and keep some important features. This doesn't mean the pistol is overly large or heavy per se, but it does push the limits of what can be called a pocket pistol. Considering that this is one of the few super-compact 9 mms rated for +P ammunition, a little more gun to work with is a good thing.

The P290 First Edition is a sleek, simple-to-operate pistol free of extraneous buttons and levers to complicate its operation. It's a tilting barrel, locked-breech 9 mm. The barrel bells out at the muzzle to facilitate a tight lock up when the slide is forward and to allow the barrel to tip as the slide moves back. The milled stainless-steel slide shows SIG Sauer’s signature styling. This model arrives from the factory with a set of the excellent SIGLITE Night Sights installed, but standard sights are also available. The overall fit and finish show the high-level of quality folks have come to expect from SIG Sauer.

The P290 has a double-action-only trigger mechanism, which acts as the only exterior safety. The published trigger pull claims an average of 9 pounds. The Lyman digital trigger gauge agrees with this average, as this particular gun tested out with a trigger pull of 9.35 pounds. The trigger is a non-re-strike design. Like a single-action pistol, if a round does not fire, the slide must be racked manually to reset the trigger. This is not a point of concern if you already practice tap-and-rack drills.

The magazine release is a wide, textured triangle, making it easy to work with. The magazines don’t just drop out of the grip frame, they vigorously jump out to facilitate fast reloads. The grip is aggressively textured along the front and back strap. This P290 model comes with two sets of removable grip panels. One set is aluminum, marked “First Edition,” the other set is constructed of black polymer to match the frame. Just in case you have a hankering to personalize your pistol, SIG Sauer provides a wide selection of grip panels in various colors and materials to make your pistol stand out from the crowd. Just remove the pin at the heel of the grip, exchange the grip panels and reinstall the pin.

The optional laser module is well-designed. The ambidextrous push-button activator is right where it should be for fumble-free operation. The module melts into the pistol frame perfectly, creating the impression of a one-piece frame. Although it is easy to remove and to install, the laser locks firmly in place without any rough edges or protrusions to snag while drawing or reholstering the pistol. Once the laser was properly adjusted, it did just what it was supposed to do: place a bright red dot where the bullet is going to strike.

With an empty weight of just 20.5 ounces, an overall length of 5.5-inches and a 1-inch wide slide, the P290 definitely qualifies as compact. But, if you are used to the exceptionally pocket-able guns in .380 and .32 ACP, like the Ruger LCP, North American Arms Guardian or DiamondBack DB380, the P290 is going to seem bulky for a quick drop into a front jeans pocket. However, it was terrific to work with in the waistband, on the hip, in an ankle holster and in the various backpack and purse pockets it was tested in. The P290 fits right into the same defensive slot as a J-frame .38 Spl. revolver. In other words, enough gun to get the job done, but just the right size for everyday carry. 

At the Range
With the P290's light weight, heavy trigger, short grip and short barrel, it took some concentration to produce good 5-shot groups from the bench at 25 yards. The top-notch sights were helpful in this regard, but my little finger was looking for something to hold on to. I took advantage of the pistol's +P rating to test CorBon 125-grain +P jacketed hollow points, DoubleTap 115-grain +P Barnes TAC-XP hollow points and Winchester standard pressure 147 grain PDX1 hollow points. Group sizes were quite consistent, with the CorBon averaging 2.95-inch groups, the Winchester 3-inch groups and the DoubleTap 3.1-inch groups.

It's nice to know the pistol is accurate out at these distances, but it's not intended for silhouette target competitions. This little SIG really came into its own in off-hand shooting in the 7- to 15- yard range. Through a series of drills with a variety of ball and hollow-point ammunition, the P290 provided solid defensive accuracy, and it functioned flawlessly with every ammunition type it was fed. Standard pressure loads produced a manageable level of felt recoil. With +P loads, however, the recoil level increased measurably. It made the P290 feel like an Airweight .38 loaded with +P ammo. Certainly not unbearable, but definitely not for a beginner.

Final Notes
To be honest, I didn't know if I was going to like the P290. As a fan of pocket pistols and deep-concealment firearms, I thought this pistol would be just a little too large to fit the bill. However, as I’ve cleaned it, carried it and shot it, this new SIG Sauer has grown on me. By moving it half a step over from the pocket pistol category to the sub-compact box, it’s clearly a pistol with an exceptional feature set—handling, power level and reliability—for a handgun of its size. I can see the P290 easily taking the place of some of the larger defensive handguns that I like, and possibly some of the smaller ones as well.

As of this writing, First Edition models are still available, though you might have to look for them. Standard and two-tone models are in stock and ready to ship. A new eight-round magazine will be available soon to boost ammunition capacity and to keep your little finger from getting lonely.

Specs:
Manufacturer: SIG Sauer, sigsauer.com/Default.aspx
Model: P290 First Edition
Action: Double-Action Only (DAO)
DAO Trigger Pull: 9.0 lb. Average
Caliber: 9mm
Finish: Natural Stainless Slide, Polymer Frame
Sights: SIGLITE Night Sights
Grip Panels: First Edition Aluminum, multi-color polymer inserts available
Barrel Length: 2.9”
Overall Length:
5.5”
Height: 3.9”
Weight: 20.5 ozs. (No Magazine)
Width: 0.9”  
Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:10” RH
Rifle Grooves:
6
Suggested Retail: Two-Tone Pistol $758, With Laser $856

See the SIG Sauer P290 Photo Gallery.

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13 Responses to SIG Sauer P290 Limited Edition

Luke G wrote:
October 30, 2014

This little 290 is perfect for year round pocket, IWB, or however you choose to carry. Trigger is a little long but with a little practice it's actually accurate as hell. I've ran 1000 rounds through this with every 9mm possible and I'll put my life on the line with it bailing me out! Great little pocket rocket!

n8ibz1 wrote:
February 16, 2013

Pick up a 290rs and it works great. Trigger is better then some, but to be honest, it is its only safty. Very nice, pinky didn't fit on my glock 27 either but that is to be expected on a small carry gun. No FTF or any other issues with 200 rounds.

Smithkowitz wrote:
January 14, 2013

Picked up the P290 around Christmas on a super discount with the laser, two mags and no hard case. Wow, another Sig and another Sour taste. It failed to fire about 10% of the first 90 rounds on the first strike. The 6 round magazine will not accept 6 rounds without causing lasting thumb pain and then it will not allow you to rack the slide once you've achieved that task. 250 rounds later, it still fails to fire 100% of the time. I've only been able to get the 6 round magazine to take 6 rounds a few times where it allowed it me rack the slide. I also have a P238 that has had misfire issues since day one (Brand New). Have had no such issues with any CZ, S&W, Ruger, Springfield, Kahr or Kimber products. Anyone else experience any of these issues with the P290? As for shooting, it works well, quite accurate and no misfeeds even when mixing HP & FMJ ammo. I prefer the 8 round mag over the 6 as the extension makes it much easier to hold and drop the mag out. The 6 round snags my palm and does not pop out as the article says. Personally, I like my Kahr K9 better; less recoil, no issues and it's more accurate too.

DaleC wrote:
December 19, 2012

My improved P290RS is DAO and pulling the trigger will fire a round in the chamber, without any slide manipulation. I still prefer my Glock 27, either in the native .40 S&W or with my Lone Wolf 9mm conversion, and Clipdraw belt clip. The size, power and convenience of the clip draw means I carry in a LOT of situations that I normally would not, especially in the hot, humid weather herre in the South. Other holsters are used in other situations.

E.S. wrote:
November 06, 2011

I have had my p290 for around 4 months now. I am a pharmacist and I carry it inside my front pant pocket. It's not too heavy for pocket carry. The Ruger LC9 is longer and taller than the p290. The Ruger may be lighter but pales in comparison to the accuracu of the p290.

Greg wrote:
August 30, 2011

I have a p238 copperhead,this Sig is a good carry and fun to shoot at the range. But at 9mm ? could be too much for that size frame. I will stick with my Beretta PX4 Storm at 9mm.

the greek wrote:
August 28, 2011

I own other Sig models and was excited when I bought the P290 this summer. Good quality - expensive - accurate for a small handgun. However - too heavy for pocket carry (>20 oz empty) - and most disappointing - very difficult, without a third hand, to disassemble for cleaning. My current preference is a Ruger LCP, LC9, or SW.380 Bodyguard for pocket carry.

Nomad wrote:
August 08, 2011

Guys, don't sell this gun, it is easy to carry and conceal (even in Florida with shorts and T's), it handles and shoots well, and my only criticism is when I first purchased it, it was difficult to strip. Now this has become my favorite carry pistol, and I always run 50 rounds through it at my weekly trip to the range. PS easier to shot with the 8 round magazine.

Joe wrote:
August 08, 2011

No thanks! I will stick with my Ruger LC9 for summer carry!

SW Washington wrote:
July 11, 2011

In football, we had guys called "Tweeners" which was short for "In-Betweeners." They were too big to be linebackers but too small to play on the line. This gun appears to have all of the disadvantages of a small pistol and none of the advantages of a larger gun. It's a tweener that will fascinate some, but in the real world, it has no real niche.

Buffalo wrote:
July 08, 2011

I hope that SIG doesn't drop the 239 in favor of the 290. The 239 is a bit bigger and heavier, but not so much that it has to fit into a different size "envelope". Both are too big for a pocket, and both fit fine inside-the-waistband. In my opinion, there is no comparison in how they feel and shoot -- the 239 wins hands down. Having said this, there is certainly a place for the 290 with its slightly smaller size. I just hope that SIG doesn't ditch the 239, which is a great carry gun -- easy to shoot (even in .40 or .357 SIG as well as 9mm), excellent trigger pull, great build quality, great gun. I'd rather pay the extra money and get the better materials even at the cost of a few extra ounces -- but we all "pay our money and take our choice", Happy Shooting!

Pete wrote:
July 08, 2011

Too big for a pocket, and when you use an IWB holster you can just as easily can carry larger...so what good is it?

jimonthebeach wrote:
July 07, 2011

I generally love Sigs and my P238 is a favorite carry piecce, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on a P290. Boy, was I disappointed! The pistol has a lot to recommend it, but the trigger is just flat out awful and not in any respects up to Sig satndards. Fix the trigger and I'll have to have one. Until then, not in this lifetime!