Sig Sauer has been a prime supplier of combat pistols to U.S. military units for decades and is now offering a commercial version of the 9mm M11. Designated the M11-A1, this pistol differs from the military model, sold exclusively to the government. The M11 is used by every U.S. service branch, including combat forces such as Navy aviators and military criminal investigation agencies, such as the NCIS and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. Built at Sig Sauer’s Exeter, New Hampshire, factory, the M11-A1 improves upon the German-made M11, which itself shares features with Sig’s P-series semi-autos. The original M11 features a slide made of welded carbon-steel pieces, an external extractor, a 13-round magazine and a standard trigger. The enhanced M11-A1 pistol has a one-piece stainless steel slide, a second-generation external extractor, phosphate-coated internal parts, a 15-round magazine and Sig’s Short Reset Trigger (SRT) among other features.
The M11-A1 is a mid-sized pistol with a full-sized grip that utilizes the familiar modified Browning, tilting-block, locked-breech design, which is present in all Sig Sauer P-series pistols that use a locked breech. But the M11-A1’s locking mechanism is much stronger than many. Its dimensions are the same as those used on the P229 and are larger than those used on the 9mm P226 or .45 ACP P220. The added strength lies in a significantly wider locking surface between the slide and the front of the chamber, and between the rear of the chamber and the breech. These wider locking surfaces were engineered into the P229 to accommodate the significantly increased chamber pressure of the .357 SIG cartridge. Consequently, the 9mm M11-A1 is overbuilt from a strength standpoint and can handle hotter 9mm loads.
The M11-A1 is a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) pistol with a “live hammer” decocker and no safety lever. “Live hammer” means that once decocked, the pistol can be fired in DA mode. “Dead hammer” decockers used on the Beretta 92FS and S&W 5906 decock the hammer and disconnect the hammer from the trigger. Dead-hammer decockers also act as manual safeties when applied. The M11-A1’s Nitron-finished slide is milled from a single stainless steel billet, and the hardcoat-anodized frame is made from an aluminum forging. Both the Nitron and hardcoat anodizing are durable, with the Nitron also being fairly slick. The only plastic parts you will find on the M11-A1 are the mainspring stop and the grips. The barrel features traditional rifling, which allows you to shoot inexpensive lead bullets—polygonal rifling does not.
This pistol also dispenses with the Picatinny accessory rail found on some P-series variants, as military units using the M11 (e.g., pilots) do not necessarily need weapon-mounted lights for their missions. The M11-A1 shares the same enhanced corrosion resistance of the Sig Sauer MK25, the standard-issue pistol of the U.S. Navy SEALS. The barrel, magazines and all-carbon-steel internal parts (decocker, mag release, locking insert, ejector, recoil-spring guide and slide lock, but not the springs) have a phosphate finish, which resists rust and helps keep hard-to-clean parts in good, functional condition.
Sig Sauer engineers continually evaluate and work improvements into their weapons—the status quo is never enough. Understanding how an extractor is essential to an autoloader’s proper functioning, they have upgraded the extractors in the company’s handguns and AR-15-style rifles. The M11-A1 itself has a newly designed external extractor, a very recent upgrade that will be used in many other pistols in the Sig Sauer line. The new extractor is longer and wider than before and is a feature of what the company’s design engineers refer to as the “-1” (“dash one”) slide. Dash-one slides are made from a single stainless steel bar and have the new long, wide pivoting extractor. The longer arm keeps the extractor working over a wider range of extractor spring tensions. This means that failures are reduced as the spring loses tension over time. Like all P-series pistols, the M11-A1 has a very good grip design thanks to its curved backstrap and undercut triggerguard. The backstrap fills your hand completely, and its curvature just below the hammer automatically guides your hand to a high grip when drawing the pistol.
The undercut triggerguard also places your fingers in a natural position. The grip panels are made of pebble-finished, two-piece plastic and form a lanyard hole at their base (for those military police units that tether their sidearms). The frontstrap and front of the triggerguard have very lightly milled horizontal grooves. The grip on the M11-A1 is the same as the P229 and slightly shorter than the P226. However, most shooters should be able to get a full-hand grip on the pistol. The pistol has a 15+1 capacity—two rounds more than the original P229—thanks to a redesigned follower. Like other P-series models, the M11-A1 uses a firing-pin block that allows the user to carry it safely with a loaded chamber. This device keeps the firing pin away from the primer and the hammer from going forward to contact the firing pin until the trigger is depressed. This gun is also extremely easy to field-strip: Engaging a single lever allows the slide assembly to come forward off the frame. The steel recoil guide rod features a non-captive, dual-wire coiled spring.
The M11-A1 has durable, low-profile SIGLITE night sights with three tritium vials surrounded by white circles. These sights are steel, not plastic. The profile of the rear sight has a step on the forward edge that can be caught against a holster or belt buckle and allows the slide to be racked during an emergency if one hand is incapacitated.
Accuracy testing was conducted using a Caldwell rest. The M11-A1 shot very well and was 100 percent reliable with all five loads tested. The average of all groups was smaller than 3 inches, with the best group of 2 inches coming from the Black Hills 115-grain JHP ammo. The M11-A1 has a smooth trigger stroke when firing in double action and a crisp trigger break when firing in single action. Dry-firing the pistol in DA mode is one way I can tell if a pistol fits my particular grip and firing technique. I watch the front sight for movement as the hammer falls, which reveals how you will take your first—and most important—shot out of the holster. With the proper grip, firing a rapid, accurate shot in DA mode is not difficult. My test pistol had a DA/SA trigger pull of 11.5 and 5.2 pounds respectively, as measured by a Lyman electronic trigger-pull gauge. The M11-A1’s trigger, the SRT, reduces the distance the trigger must move forward to reset the sear to about 0.12 inches, a 60-percent reduction according to the company. The less distance your finger needs to move to reset the trigger, the more rapidly and accurately you can fire accelerated pairs, and I had no problem grouping rapid-fire pairs closely together at 7 yards shooting in SA mode.
The pistol was controllable even when firing one-handed. One aspect that underscores Sig Sauer’s attention to detail is the M11-A1’s magazine floorplate, which extends beyond the grip and curves forward. This feature helps keep the pinky of larger or gloved hands in contact with the pistol grip and makes inserting the magazine much more certain than with a flush-fitting magazine, which may not seat positively. The SIGLITE night sights work very well at night, but for daytime firing, I found the notch too shallow and would prefer sights with a single dot out front. The M11-A1 delivers the performance and design features that armed professionals demand. It is a high-quality, accurate, durable and reliable handgun with an overbuilt locking mechanism that will appeal to those who use +P loads regularly and want a pistol that will last. The Short Reset Trigger works exactly as intended, and the pistol is very easy to control with just one hand.
For more information on the Sig Sauer M11-A1 9mm Pistol, visit sigsauer.com or call 866-619-1128.