Review: SIG P220

The SIG P220 is an interesting gun from a very interesting time. This Cold War beauty is a big gun, a product of its time, and an overall fantastic design. The P220 wasn’t SIG Sauer’s first pistol, but it was the catalyst to something more significant. The P220 developed the P series of handguns, which are SIG’s flagship guns. The P220 was developed to be the replacement for the SIG P210 with the Swedish Army. The P220 was considerably different than the P210 and design wise they are very different guns.

The SIG P220 was eventually adopted as the Swedish Pistol 75 in 9mm Parabellum. Interestingly enough in the United States, the P220 is mostly known for being a .45 ACP handgun. The model we are reviewing today is a .45 ACP model. However, the P220 has been chambered in 9mm (9mm vs 10mm), .45 ACP (10mm vs .45 ACP), .38 Super, 10mm, 9mm Steyr, 7.65×21 Parabellum, and there is even a .22 LR model.

Pistol Caliber Comparison

This image is from our Handgun Caliber Guide. We highly recommend reading it, if you want to learn more about pistol and revolver cartridges.

Denmark and Japan also adopted the pistol in different law enforcement and military roles. The SIG P220 was imported into the United States under the Browning BDA originally. As time passed and SIG grew the weapon was imported under SIG’s brand. Since then SIG Sauer has become a dominant force in the civilian handgun market, and the P220 is of course known as the SIG Sauer P220.

Sig Sauer P220 Slide

It remains one of the flagship guns of the SIG Sauer handgun lines with many different models being produced. This particular P220 is an interesting model due to the fact it was made when Germany was split into West and East Germany. This model is marked made in W. Germany, so it places it in a specific timeline that I find fascinating.

Specs

This is a base model when compared to other SIG P220s. The P220 is a single stack gun that’s most famously chambered in .45 ACP. It holds eight rounds of .45 ACP in a single stack magazine. The use of a single stack does make it a bit dated compared to modern handguns. SIG has introduced a double stack .45 ACP called the P227 if you want a few more rounds.

The P220 has a 4.4-inch barrel and is an all metal gun. It’s a heavy beast best described as a boat anchor. The gun weighs 1.9 pounds unloaded. It’s a locked breech, short recoil operated pistol that utilized SIG’s own system.

The gun lacks a manual safety, and with a DA/SA trigger, one isn’t needed. The first trigger pull is double action, which means the trigger pull is long and heavy. Subsequent shots are single action, giving you a light and short trigger pull until the gun is decocked. The P220 set the standard for decockers and positions it for easy thumb reach.

Sig Sauer P220 Trigger and Magazine and Decocker

The P220 has an overall length of 7.8 inches, is 1.5 inches wide, and 5.5 inches high. It’s a big gun, a gun designed for duty not concealed carry (Best CCW Guns). The P220 is a bit dated by today’s standards but people still love the gun, and it has a worthy place in the history of modern combat handguns.

Standout Features

The SIG Sauer P220 introduced the SIG Sauer system with the P220. The SIG Sauer System is more straightforward than the P210 and does away with the grooves in the slide and barrel as well as the locking lugs. The P220 uses an enlargement of the chamber locks onto the ejection port of the slide.

This system would turn out to be the basis for the SIG Sauer P226, one of the most famous pistol designs in the world. This would later inspire the P228, P229, P227, P224, and I could just keep listing pistols if you’d like. I could talk about how reliable this system is, but I don’t need to.

Said system and the P220’s descendants are widely used throughout the world’s militaries, including Federal Law Enforcement and elite units like the US Navy SEALs.

Sig Sauer P220 back

The P220 is a popular gun, and it’s hard to point out standout features for just this model when so many different models exist. My model is very plain, and very much a 1970 combat pistol. However, SIG has kept the design modern and introduced many different models.

The more modern base models sport a rail for a light or laser, as well as night sights. Other models have an SAO trigger for a crisper, cleaner trigger pull. There are even Rx models which aren’t prescribed by your doctor but feature SIG Sauer’s own Romeo optic.

Regardless of your desires SIG Sauer likely has a model to fit your needs. My model is a bit of an antique in many ways, but still a serviceable handgun.

Purpose

The SIG P220 as I mentioned above is best used as a duty handgun, especially the base model I have. It’s a big gun, difficult to conceal carry, so it’s best left to roles where concealment isn’t an issue. This could be open carry or even home defense. If you live in a state that has magazine restrictions the SIG P220s low capacity may be a perfect choice for a home defense gun.

In free states, the eight rounds of .45 ACP severely lacks when compared to the 21 rounds I can get in a CZ P09, or even the 13 rounds I can get in a Glock 21. 10mm models of the SIG P220 are great as hunting pistols, especially with an optic involved. These guns are big soft shooting, accurate, and reliable babies.

My West German model is best used as a plinker or budget home defense gun. If you have a tight budget but want a high-quality pistol these guns can be found for around 400 bucks. A 400 dollar SIG is hard to beat. Other than that this model is an exciting step back into the late 70s and early 80s. At the time this was a combat handgun that was hard to beat and shooting is taking a step back to the Cold War.

Disassembly

Taking the gun apart is very easy, and SIG makes it simple. Step one is to unload the weapon. Next, eject the magazine. Pull the slide rearward until the half moon cut out of the slide is above the takedown lever.

Sig Sauer P220 pulled Slide rearward

Spin the takedown lever downward, and the slide is then unlocked and removable from the frame.

Sig Sauer P220 removed slide

Remove the slide, and you can then remove the barrel and recoil spring.

Sig Sauer P220 disassembeled

That is all there is to it. This gun is remarkably simple

Ergonomics

The SIG Sauer P series has always been known for its ergonomics, and the P220 is no different. It’s a massive gun with a big, wide grip that’s a bit bigger than it needs to be. In my man-sized paws, it’s comfortable, but I imagine those with smaller hands will feel a bit overwhelmed. The grip design overall is one of my favorites. It’s straight, groove-free, with a very comfortable palm swell at the bottom of the grip.

Sig Sauer P220 in hand

As a hammer fired gun the presence of a nice beavertail means you don’t have to worry about hammer or slide bite with these guns. SIG did it right here, and the beavertail is rounded and quite comfortable even when you have a high, firm grip. Additionally it’s easier to get an excellent high grip with a beavertail. I prefer this design compared to something like Glock, which digs into my hand like crazy.

The placement of the controls, especially the decocker is excellent. It’s easy to reach, and the thumb can drive it downwards very quickly. My biggest complaint is related to my preference for a nice high grip. The slide lock is positioned towards the rear of the gun, which creates an issue for many who like a nice high thumbs forward grip.

The thumbs will rest on the slide lock, which means when the last round is fired the slide will not lock to the rear. This is a constant problem for me. It takes a real effort to avoid placing my thumb on the slide lock, and often once the shooting starts and pressure builds my thumb goes tight to the grip and rests on the slide lock.

Sig Sauer P220 Ejection Port

The magazine release only requires a very slight movement of your hand to accentuate. My finger simply needs to leave the trigger and rotate slightly to hit the magazine release and drop the mag. The magazine release button is large and textured which makes it easy to find and reach with the thumb.

Trigger reach for me is perfect, but again I wear 2XL gloves. My fingertip falls perfectly on the trigger, but for many others, I imagine trigger reach is a bit far. With handguns from Glock or even SIG’s own P320, I have to back my finger out just a bit to rest the tip of my finger on the trigger.

On the Range

I love this gun when it comes to range time. Have you ever handled a classic car? That is the best way to compare it to feeling the P220. It lacks lots of modern features like power steering and power brakes, but it is still insanely fun to drive. This West German SIG P220 is a 1969 Mustang. It won’t win a drag race or really any race versus a modern car, but it’s not a boring Honda Civic.

The P220 is one of the most comfortable .45 ACPs I’ve ever fired. The gun’s recoil is minimal and best described with an “Awe.” The weight helps cut recoil, and the fat bottom grip helps displace it in the hand. There are no points of pain when firing round after round. A base model 1911 often rubs me the wrong way, but the P220 is a soft shooting, easy recoiling gun.

Sig Sauer P220 on rock

The trigger is brilliant in both double action and single action modes. The double action trigger is heavier and longer, but still very smooth and very compliant to trigger pull. The trigger pull is also easy to stage, meaning I can apply pressure to a point and hold it with ease. Then I can finish the trigger pull to ensure a very well placed shot.

The single action trigger has a slight bit of take up, but you meet the wall quickly. With a hair more pressure you get the trigger break. It’s a very satisfying trigger that’s smooth and one of the best examples of a DA/SA trigger.

Sig Sauer P220

Trigger reset is more than a 1911, but less than a Glock. This means it’s short, and very well designed. It’s both tactile and audible and very nice overall. I love shooting this gun and it’s one of two .45 ACP guns I will never not have.

Reliability

This is a plinker that’s a ton of fun to shoot. That being said I’ve put a lot of rounds downrange with it. Standard 23 grain hardball in both brass case and steel case has given me 100% reliability. 180 grain jacketed hollow points have also been quite reliable, and the gun has yet to jam, stutter, or even cause me to use foul language.

Sig Sauer P220 front

Cons

The only con I have is just how big it is. It’s a massive gun that’s heavy and wide and sports a very wide grip for a single stack gun. It’s certainly a weapon made for its time, and that time has long passed. The P220 is a massive gun, and that will make some users uncomfortable with it. As a modern combat handgun it’s lacking, but as a fun gun it’s a blast.

Conclusion

The SIG Sauer P220 is one of the few single stack, all steel guns still holding on in the modern age. While the world has moved to 9mm pistols and polymer frame guns, the SIG P220 is a defiant old man telling kids to get off his lawn. The P220 is a fantastic gun for the range and to experience a Swiss 1911 in many ways. It’s a big gun, a heavy weapon, with a low capacity, but there is something timeless about it.

Travis Author Picture

Travis is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.

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