When I came home from Iraq in early 2010, I decided to get myself a welcome-home present. I’d been thinking of getting a SIG Sauer P226, partially on the recommendation of several former members of the British military. Their experience with the SIG P226 impressed them greatly, and they seemed to have much more confidence in that sidearm than our own forces had with the Beretta M9.

Being on a rather limited budget, I chose a used P226, specifically a police trade-in. The barrel looked brand new and the only wear I could see on the pistol seemed to be from inserting and withdrawing it from a holster repeatedly. As a side note, police trade-ins can be of excellent value. It is a sad fact that many officers practice with their weapons only sporadically, some only using their sidearm when they must pass qualification or re-qualify.

After purchasing the SIG, I immediately began searching for extra magazines. There are many reasons to have a stockpile of magazines:

1. Preparation – in the event of a disaster such as Katrina, you may need more than the two magazines included with your pistol. This is actually the least compelling argument, in my opinion. Not only are such situations extremely rare, but if confronted with hostile looters, your best defensive option is a shotgun or semi-automatic carbine.

2. Rotation – I rotate my magazines every week in order to reduce the stress placed upon any one spring. For this reason, all my magazines are numbered. Being consistent in the maintenance of your magazines will ensure a longer lifespan.

3. Expiration – While magazines don’t have a shelf-life, they do break down. Usually, it is the spring which wears out first. In any case, magazines are items which you should count on replacing.

So it is important to have a stash of magazines for your P226. But what do you do if you don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of money on new SIG factory mags? I’ve heard some advocate buying used magazines. I would discourage this. As previously stated, magazines wear out and can be damaged if left full for an extended amount of time. I wouldn’t want to get a sub-standard component for my pistol, especially one as reliable as the P226.

Enter the MEC-GAR alternative. MEC-GAR is an Italian-based company that specializes on making aftermarket magazines for a variety of different pistols. They pride themselves on their quality and selection. Best of all, their magazines are significantly cheaper than the factory SIG mags.

I purchased several of their 18-round magazines from Botach Tactical. Over the course of the last two years, I have continued to be impressed by the quality and reliability of the MEC-GAR products. In those two years, I have fired thousands of rounds and have experienced only three failures to feed. All three of these malfunctions happened when I was using the factory SIG mags.

This isn’t at all a mark against SIG, as these magazines came well used with the gun. My guess is that these magazines were kept loaded by their previous owner, thus increasing the wear on their springs.

I was so impressed with MEC-GAR that I recommended the product to a friend of mine, a member of Air Force Special Operation Command. When he finally broke down and purchased a P226 (though his was a newer, railed version) he too fell in love with the Italian-made aftermarket magazines. As he is much more demanding of his equipment than I, you should take this as a ringing endorsement for MEC-GAR.

By Allen Cosby

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53GR is an avid shooter, hiker and tinkerer. Introduced to guns at an early age, the hobby became a passion in his early twenties. After two years in Iraq as a contractor for a defense company, he developed an unhealthy addiction to military surplus gear. Though he's currently in treatment, the prognosis is that the condition is chronic.

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