SIG P226 (Heavyweight) - Tanaka Works
"Oi Snowman, what's the best GBB ever made?" people not infrequently ask me and I find it an impossible question to answer.
Western Arms take a lot of beating for looks, power and close range accuracy, TM have the best hop-up and range, Marushin make some very interesting guns, Maruzen's P99 is a gem (when it works), KSC offer good power, accuracy and quality at good prices and that's before you start thinking about guns from makes such as HFC, KJW and WE which offer full metal build out of the box.
However, if you are asking about the best GBB as it comes from the factory, with no upgrades, I reckon we have a strong candidate in the form of the Tanaka Works SIG P226 Heavyweight.
I had handled, but not fired, one of these in the past and been very impressed by the look and feel.
When a lightly used one came up for sale, just down the road from my home, a day or so after I fired a real SIG P226 in the US, it seemed that I was fated to buy it and it was soon in my hands, a birthday present to myself.
So, have I lost leave of my senses or can a Tanaka Works GBB really be THAT good? Read on...
In the Box
The box lid is a smart photographic one with a photo of the P226 with a threaded barrel. A sticker proclaims this is the Heavy Weight model (apparently that's very important as the ABS ones are said to be very toy like in appearance)
Inside is the P226, a second, threaded outer barrel and the usual collection of BBs and paperwork.
If you've seen a TM or KJW P226, you can't fail to be impressed by the look of the Tanaka P226.
Before you pick it up, you will struggle to believe it is not metal - It is without doubt the most realistic looking GBB I have yet seen (well over 100 different ones at this point).
Pick it up and you still might have your doubts. The metal content of the Heavyweight ABS material must be very high as the whole gun, except the grips, feels cold to the touch.
The shape of the P226 is accurately reproduced, as you'd expect and the gun feels and looks just right. The balance and heft are highly realistic (not quite 100% to the real thing, but excellent for a plastic gun and better than many all metal guns, bespoke or factory built). The markings, too, are good, even though there are a few Tanaka specific ones and they appear a little shallow.
External metal parts include the decocker, trigger, hammer, takedown lever and front and rear sights.
My Tanaka Works SIG P226 Heavyweight features a finish which is matt and faintly dusty. It, as mentioned earlier, is cold to the touch and (especially with the magazine fitted) feels heavy and solid (comparing the Tanaka and a TM SIG P226 side by side, the TM feels like a child's toy).
As you would expect from Tanaka, the replication is good. The magazine release, decocker and slide lock are all present and correct and work with a reassuring precision.
The controls are all painted gloss black, although they are not as incongruous as they appear in some of the photographs.
The markings are good. Although they are much shallower than those on the TM P226, the finish is closer to the real SIG. That said, I suspect Tanaka have erred too far in the opposite direction to TM and made the markings a little too faint.
The left of the slide is marked "SIG/SAUER P226" in an outline font and "STAINLESS" (in a smaller font), with "SIGARMS INC."/"EXETER N.H. USA" lower down. The left side of the frame is unmarked.
The right side of the slide (looking forward down the gun) is unmarked, whilst the right side of the frame is marked "SIG ARMS INC EXETER NH"/"FRAME MADE IN GERMANY" on the dustcover above the rail and "ASGK V144209"/"MFG TANAKA WORKS" above the trigger. The chamber is marked "9mm Para" on the side.
The markings on the frame are a little rough looking (indeed, the serial number almost looks hand engraved).
There is a rail (Tanaka DID make a non-railed P226 once, although it is long out of production) for mounting torches, etc and it's reassuring to note that there are none of the ugly seams on the frame that you will find on the TM version.
The sights are metal, front and rear and mine feature white dots which look suspiciously painted in by the previous owner. The foresight is high enough to clear a silencer, which is useful given that a second, threaded, outer barrel is provided with the gun. However, whilst the standard barrel's finish matches the rest of the gun, the threaded barrel is grey-ish in colour and feels less robust. The fact that the 14mm clockwise thread is all plastic is a worry, too, if you like to swap silencers on and off regularly.
The double action trigger is smooth faced, but the long curved shape ensures a secure grip for your finger.
The grips are much better finished than those on the black TM SIG P226 I tried, but lack the rubberized feel of those on the Chrome Stainless TM P226. One thing to note is that the frame design of the Tanaka is more realistic than the TM gun, so real-steel SIG grips should fit without modification.
There is a lanyard securing point at the rear of the grip, so you should never lose your SIG P226 and the front of the grip is finely chequered (as is the front of the trigger guard)
As with all P226s, the placement of the controls (notably the slide lock and disassembly lever) is unusual and, as a left hander, I found the slide lock impossible to reach with my shooting hand. This isn't a fault of the Tanaka gun, but worth considering if you are thinking of any P226 replica as a skirmish sidearm. I have fired a real P226 (probably the most comfortable real pistol I have fired) and since owning this gun (a little over a year now), I have become more comfortable with the controls, so regular usage, even for a leftie is likely to overcome the initial complication.
The magazine is nicely marked with SIG SAUER markings and fake 'witness holes'. The magazine is easy to load and double stacks, allowing 21 BBs to be loaded.
Tanaka magazines have had a bad reputation for leaks in the past, but the pair of magazines I have seem to hold gas reliably.
The hammer is spurred and ridged to allow easy single action cocking, although the double action is amongst the lightest I have encountered on a GBB and unlikely to hamper a first shot. That said, the pull is quite long and numb until the action starts to cut in.
I find the P226 a very comfortable gun to handle and the look, feel and balance of the Tanaka Works gun is vastly superior to an out of the box Tokyo Marui P226.
Perhaps no-one will be that surprised that a Tanaka GBB is a good looker, given the reputation of their revolvers, but surely it wouldn't shoot very well, would it?
Click on image for bigger version in separate window.
Carrying out my standard 5m/6 round, off hand test, the P226's accuracy was good in terms of grouping, although all the shots were high and to the right of the aim point, but nothing a little adjustment of the sights and hop-up wouldn't address.
Of the two groups shown, the best was the squares with a best 5 of 6 diameter of 40mm. Pretty good, but not remarkable. That said, you can see how the both groups have a cluster of 4 well below that diameter.
Shooting down the length of my 70ft or so garden, the gun was easily able to hit the top half of my daughter's now little-used Wendy house door (about the size of a man's chest), but consistently hitting an A4 sheet proved too much for the P226. So, usable at that range and a lot better than Tanaka's pre S&W 500 revolvers, but not TM quality accuracy.
Tanaka license WA's highly regarded Magna gas system for their GBBs and that usually means good power and kick.
Over 10 shots, the Tanaka SIG P226 averaged 290 fps (using Propane) indoors (at 17C). Experience suggest this would equate to around 305fps at 20C with Propane/Green gas or 250 fps with 134a.
Trigger pull was 895g (32 Oz), which is a medium weight pull for a GBB.
With the magazine out, as with the real thing (but not the TM SIG P226), you will need to align the semi-circular indentation on the slide with the disassembly lever (on the left side of the frame, over the trigger) before the lever can be pushed down to release the slide/barrel from the frame.
This done, the slide and barrel assembly can then be pushed forward off the frame.
The recoil rod and spring can be removed by pushing the rod forward and then down and back from the barrel block
The barrel assembly can than be removed down and back from the slide.
Overall, the Tanaka SIG P226 is a flawed gem.
It's a true challenger for best looking and (especially) feeling airsoft GBB out of the box and delivers good power and kick, but the accuracy is only acceptable.
If you could somehow shoe-horn the TM SIG's hop-up and barrel assembly into the Tanaka shell, you'd have as near as dammit the perfect GBB, in my opinion.
Weight : 845g (280g magazine)
Realism : *****
Quality : *****
Power : ****
Accuracy : ***
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