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SIG Hammerli Trailside 22 Semi-Auto Pistol Review
A Hammerli .22 For Under 400 Dollars - By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.

SIG may be calling the new SIG Hammerli Trailside 22 LR auto pistol a "plinker," and it may be priced like a "plinker," but it shoots like a precision match-grade competition gun.

here are few handgun shooters around the globe who would not agree that the name Hammerli of Switzerland has long been a world standard for excellence and accuracy in precision .22 target pistol design and manufacture. If you wanted one before the introduction of this model, it would have cost you at least $1700 or more even for the least expensive Hammerli pistols; top-of-the-line world-class competition versions like the carbon-fiber-frame Model 280 go for well over $2000. But now comes the new SIG/Hammerli Trailside, a full-featured .22 Long Rifle sport autoloader imported by SIGARMS (Hammerli is part of the SIG group) that will shoot .75-inch groups at 25 yards all day long with just about any kind of .22 ammo you care to feed it with a manufacturer’s recommended retail price of less than $400 for its standard version! That puts it right in the same price park as popular versions of the Ruger Mark II .22 autos and the S&W Model 22 series.

SPECS
SIG/Hammerli Trailside
.22 LR SA Semiauto Pistol

Distributor .........................SIGARMS Inc.
Corporate Park
Exeter, NH 03862
Model ...........................................Trailside
Operation .....................Straight-blowback
single-action semiauto
Caliber .................................22 Long Rifle
Barrel length .........................6.00 inches
(4.5-inch barrel also available)
Overall length .......................9.25 inches
Weight, empty ..30 ounces (w/magazine)
Safety .................................Slide-mounted
manual hammerblock
Sights .............................Screw-adjustable
target-type rear,
integral semi-Patridge blade front
(Target Package); drift-adjustable
rear (Standard Package)
Sight radius ..........................8.06 inches
Rifling ..................6 grooves, 1:16 RH twist
Stocks ............................Laminated wood
(Target Package);
black polymer grips
(Standard Package)
Magazine capacity ................10 rounds
Finish ...........................Black frame/barrel;
natural matte slide
Price ....................$489 (Target Package);
$389 (Standard Package)

Actually, I’m doing the Trailside an injustice by calling it a .75-inch gun. In the Trailside pistol’s box is a laminated medallion containing that individual gun’s actual five-round, 25-meter factory test target fired with standard-grade ammunition from a machine rest; in the dozen that I have checked, not one wasn’t a single ragged hole. The factory no-go specification is automatic rejection for any Trailside that groups larger than one inch at 25 meters coming off the line. Shooting handheld from a sandbag benchrest with a 10X scope with both pistols used in this review, I fired several center-to-center groups of .25 inch with each of the gun’s preferred loads, and the best average posted was only 0.1 inch greater than the bullet diameter. The new Trailside is a very impressive piece of work.

Loaded With Features
Equally impressive as the Trailside’s raw accuracy potential is the array of features that are included in the new gun’s Standard and Target Packages.

Both are available in either 4.5- or six-inch barrel length. The Standard Package features molded black sandpaper-finish polymer grips with ambidextrous thumbrest/trigger finger grooves and a drift-adjustable rear sight notch; the suggested retail price is $398 for either barrel length. The Target Package offers smooth, laminated wood grips in the same basic shape and a click-adjustable precision target-grade rear sight; the suggested retail is $489 for either barrel length. Other than those small differences, the Target and Standard versions are exactly the same, with matte black barrel/frame assembly and operating parts and a satiny natural-metal finish slide carrying laser-engraved manufacturer and model markings.

Common features on all Trailsides include a left-side slide lock that retains the slide open after the last round in the magazine is fired and a drop-free magazine release button positioned Model 1911-fashion behind the trigger guard. There is no magazine disconnect safety, so the gun can be fired with the magazine removed as long as there is a cartridge in the chamber. The one-piece, black, molded polymer magazine (one per gun) is designed to fit flush within the base of the grip, and it has a forward recurve on its base that forms part of the frontstrap when in place. The manual safety is a hammerblock with lever positioned on the left rear side of the slide where it can easily be actioned by a right-hand shooter’s thumb without breaking grasp. Up is "Safe," down is "Fire."

A screw-attach interchangeable under-barrel frame extension is available in either short or long versions, either polymer or steel, which provides for a variety of weight and balance combinations for all versions and barrel lengths. All Trailsides come from the factory with the polymer version, either short or long depending on barrel length for a flush-with-the-muzzle appearance. The muzzle itself is square cut, with the bore face recessed for protection and crowned at 11 degrees.

Mechanically the action is a simple, straight blowback with single-action, hammer-fired (not striker) operation. The extractor is external, and the ejector is internal. Trigger pull is two stage, coming back in the initial phase to bear against a spring-loaded plunger within an adjustable screw stop, which provides positive tension in the final stage of the pull. Trigger overtravel is adjustable, but the pull weight is fixed and set at the factory not to exceed 1400 grams (3.09 pounds). Actual pull weights on the two review samples Shooting Times received were 2.68 and 2.89 pounds and were as crisp as any fixed-weight trigger pulls I have ever felt on any pistols. One point about which SIG is adamant is not to dry-fire the Trailside. According to the Trailside manual, emphasized in at least three separate places, "Dry firing can DAMAGE your pistol," and SIG urges that the small red polymer "Dry Fire Plug" (provided with each gun) always be installed in the Trailside’s chamber whenever the gun is unloaded or stored.

The physical construction of the Trailside is quite different from other conventional .22 rimfire auto designs. Most notably, the barrel and frame are combined into a single integral piece of investment-cast steel, subsequently machined and milled, drilled, and button-rifled to Hammerli’s exacting chamber and bore specifications. When SIGARMS describes the Trailside as a "fixed barrel" design, it means fixed barrel. This unified construction concept contributes much to the Trailside’s reasonable pricing and allows significantly fewer parts than other designs. The Trailside is made up of only 42 separate parts altogether; by comparison, Hammerli’s similar-appearing previous Model 208 .22 auto requires 135 parts (it’s also much more expensive at approximately $2500).

Simplicity of construction also means simplicity of disassembly/reassembly for routine maintenance. To disassemble the Trailside you first (after removing the magazine and making sure the chamber is empty) unscrew and remove the frame extension/barrel weight. Then pull down and hold the front of the trigger guard, draw the slide back to the full extent of its travel, lift up its rear, and let it glide forward to leave the barrel freely (don’t boink it against the barrel breechface going by). That’s all there is to it; now clean the exposed mechanisms and reverse the procedure to reassemble.

On the accessory side SIG offers six different height aftermarket rear sights for the drift-adjustable Standard Package version of the Trailside. They come in 0.01-inch increments from 0.22 to 0.27 inch, and they allow precise targeting with virtually any type of .22 LR ammunition available. These sights are compatible with the drift-adjustable rear sight available on other SIG pistols as well. Each rear sight change will move the impact of a bullet approximately two inches at 25 yards for each 0.01-inch change in sight height (a higher rear sight blade will raise the impact of the bullet).

SIG also offers an accessory combination sight pusher tool that makes adjusting and/or changing dovetail drift sights easier and more precise. According to SIG, moving a rear sight 0.020 inch laterally changes the point of impact approximately two inches at 25 yards; move the sight in the direction you want the group to move. The same adjustment distances, incidentally, apply to the click-adjustable Target Package rear sight as well. And in case you’re wondering why a 0.01-inch vertical change moves impact the same amount up or down as a 0.02-inch lateral change moves it left or right, remember that windage is not affected by gravity.

To my mind most of Hammerli’s obvious care in setting up the manual sight index points and adjustments is made essentially moot by one of the Trailside’s neatest features: full-length, 3/8-inch standard rimfire-dimension dovetail mounting grooves atop the barrel for optical sights. This makes it as easy to put a scope or electronic dot sight on the Trailside as on any ordinary .22 rifle and really lets you take full advantage of the gun’s superb mechanical accuracy.

During a recent SIG product seminar at the company’s Exeter, New Hampshire, facility, I had the opportunity to fire some early Trailsides set up with electronic dot sights. Shooting offhand at a training silhouette target set at 25 feet, a magazine full of shots would obliterate the dime-size SIG logo in the target’s corner, leaving a single ragged opening. Okay, that’s close in, but still one hole offhand. I was understandably anxious to have the opportunity to do some serious benchrest work at a more demanding distance. And that’s what I was able to do just a few months later when Shooting Times received two review sample pistols: a six-inch Standard Package and a 4.5-inch Target Package. I selected 12 varieties of .22 LR ammunition from six different manufacturers and set up both Trailsides to mount a Burris 10X adjustable-objective handgun scope for maximum available magnification and elimination of parallax. I chronographed each load through each gun and fired five five-shot groups of each load with each gun at 25 yards—for 60 individual groups through each pistol, 120 groups total. The results are listed in the accompanying chart.

"Impressive" is an understatement. I’ve never seen performance that good with any other handgun in the Trailside’s price category, and there are a lot of so-called premium target pistols on the market at twice the Trailside’s price that can’t touch it.

SIG’s mission with the Trailside, as stated by Marketing Manager Wes Lang, was to "put a Hammerli into a sport pistol." By all conceivable standards the mission is accomplished. Made entirely in Switzerland at the Hammerli factory, the Trailside is a delightful little gun, slim and sleek in appearance, well balanced in the hand with a pleasing "all-metal" heft. SIG spokesmen acknowledge that the Trailside’s level of performance is going to invite comparison with Hammerli’s true competition pistols but nonetheless are firm; they say "it’s a plinker."

I say it’s a real Hammerli, and I say I want one.

SIG/Hammerli Trailside .22 LR Performance

Factory load

Velocity (fps)

Standard Deviation (fps)
25-Yard Accuracy (Inches)
Trailside Target Package, 4.5-Inch Barrel, Burris 10X IER-PA
Federal 31-gr.
Hyper Velocity HP
1225
22
0.88
CCI 36-gr.
Mini-Mag HP
1048
11
0.83
PMC 38-gr.
Zapper HP
1113
22
0.75
Remington 38-gr.
High Velocity HP
1050
28
1.00
Winchester 38-gr.
Super-X Solid
1021
16
0.75
CCI 40-gr.
Pistol Match
980
7
0.41
Eley 40-gr.
Pistol Match
879
25
0.63
Eley 40-gr.
Tenex Solid
982
5
0.38
Federal 40-gr.
Gold Medal Match
923
9
0.69
PMC 40-gr.
ScoreMaster
949
20
0.63
Remington 40-gr.
22 Target
991
17
0.88
Winchester 40-gr.
T22
985
23
0.98
Overall average
accuracy
0.73
Trailside Standard Package, 6.0-Inch Barrel, Burris 10X IER-PA
Federal 31-gr.
Hyper Velocity HP
1321
16
0.81
CCI 36-gr.
Mini-Mag HP
1059
25
0.75
PMC 38-gr.
Zapper HP
1163
15
0.63
Remington 38-gr.
High Velocity HP
1084
26
0.91
Winchester 38-gr.
Super-X Solid
1075
14
0.88
CCI 40-gr.
Pistol Match
1019
6
0.33
Eley 40-gr.
Pistol Match
929
14
0.50
Eley 40-gr.
Tenex Solid
1034
11
0.44
Federal 40-gr.
Gold Medal Match
972
8
0.72
PMC 40-gr.
ScoreMaster
1001
20
0.75
Remington 40-gr.
22 Target
1046
9
0.88
Winchester 40-gr.
T22
1046
25
1.13
Overall average
accuracy
0.73
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five five-shot groups fired from a
sandbag benchrest at 25 yards; groups were measured center to center.
Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 10 feet from the
guns’ muzzles.

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in June, 2000.

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