Sig Sauer P220 and Magazine

SIG Sauer P220 Hands-On Review: Best .45 ACP Pistol?

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The SIG P220 is a fascinating firearm from an intriguing era. With its massive caliber and period-correct design, this Cold War stunner is more than just a large gun. The P220 wasn’t SIG Sauer’s first handgun, but it sparked a more important development.

For instance, SIG’s flagship handguns, the P series, were born from the P220. The Swiss Army needed a new pistol to take the position of the SIG P210. Therefore, the P220 was created. Compared to the P210, the P220 is a far superior firearm in terms of performance and aesthetics.

The SIG P220 was eventually adopted as the Swiss 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.

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The pistol was also used in police enforcement and military duties in Denmark and Japan. For a while, it came to the United States as a Browning BDA model. After some time, the weapon was imported under SIG’s trademark because of SIG’s success and growth.

With the success of the P220, SIG Sauer has cemented its position as a leading pistol manufacturer in the civilian market.

Sig Sauer P220 Slide

The SIG P220 is one of the flagship guns of the SIG Sauer handgun lines. They produce different models of it. This particular model is interesting model due to the fact it was made when Germany was split into West and East Germany. This model is markedly made in W. Germany, placing it in a specific timeline that I find fascinating.

SIG Sauer P220 Pros & Cons

  • Available in different calibers
  • Incredibly accurate and reliable pistol
  • Excellent and crisp trigger
  • Components are durable and built to last
  • Features a low profile and higher grip for better control
  • Some reviews say that the frame and slides may get sloppy after lots of heavy use, but it can be remedied by adding lube
  • Most models only have an eight-round capacity

SIG Sauer P220 Specs

This is a base model when compared to other SIG P220s. The P220 is a single stack gun 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, but 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 manual safety. But it doesn’t need one as it has a DA/SA trigger 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 is 5.5 inches high. It’s a big 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.

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SIG Sauer P220 Standout Features

The SIG Sauer P220 introduced the SIG Sauer system, which 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. It would later inspire the P228, P229, P227, and 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.

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. 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.

SIG Sauer P220 Purpose

If you live in a state that has magazine restrictions the SIG P220’s 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.

I use my West German model as a budget home defense gun. If you have a tight budget but want a high-quality pistol, you can get these guns 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.

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SIG Sauer P220 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

SIG Sauer P220 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 a bit bigger than it needs to be. For me, 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, a nice beavertail means you don’t have to worry about hammer or slide bite with these guns. SIG did it right here. It has a rounded beavertail and is comfortable even with a high, firm grip. Additionally, it’s easier to get an excellent high grip with a beavertail. I prefer this design 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 quickly drive it downwards. My biggest complaint is related to my preference for a nice high grip. The slide lock position is 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 after you fire the last round, 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.

SIG Sauer P220: 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.

SIG Sauer P220 Reliability

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

SIG Sauer P220 Drawbacks

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: Is the SIG Sauer P220 a Good Gun?

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. It is a fantastic gun for the range and to experience a Swiss 1911 in many ways.

You might also like to read:

  1. “Swiss”, not Swedish Army ! The P49 (“Pistole 49” = SIG P210) was introduced as standard side-arm in the Swiss Army in 1949, the P75 (“Pistole 75” = P220) as standard side-arm in 1975. Please do us a favor and do not mix up Switzerland with Sweden. As a retired officer of the Swiss Air Force it annoys me.
    We don’t call “Canada” “California”, just because they both start with “Ca”.

  2. I’ve another example of the W. German mfg’d P220 built with the classic “European” magazine release at the bottom of the grip. What a wonderful gun to run. Taught me a lot about SIG at 45 caliber, and did nothing to take away from the appreciation I learned, FOR SIG, from a 9mm P239. When I had the opportunity to see a P220 SAS Carry with duotone slide and frame I knew I’d found my EDC. I just wish I’d thought to get a matched pair when they were in production. In DAO, the points made about staging the pull reliably and at the same release point in the article referring to SIG’s ‘common’ DA/SA trigger, is spot on and reminds me of the same sense of control I notice in my S&W 340PD revolver.

  3. Capacity and a large size mean squat, reliability and accuracy are king once you’ve found a pistol that fits your hand. The P220 and the 1911 are comparable in size, both are fine carry pistols and I personally would never carry one of those pocket sized toys they sell. If you don’t wanna carry the real thing that actually works as it’s supposed tom don’t carry a gun. As far as capacity, nine rounds of .45acp are all that is needed out of a defensive pistol. I own a Glock 21, and while I like it, the grip is that of a brick, it feels terrible in my hand, it has had several failures to eject over the years, the trigger is spongy, and it’s not as accurate as my P220. It comes down to what’s more important for you, reliability/accuracy/ergonomics, or capacity/size? It’s subjective to a point, but there is an objective answer in there when one considers truly having to fight for their life. Not a bad article, but anytime flat statements are made, reasonable people must speak up, I’d put a P220 up against any new .45 on the market with complete confidence. And while I’d consider an FN (Fancy!), HK (Nice!)) or quality 1911 (Awesome/Expensive!) if I were in the market again, the P220 is by NO means lacking in the .45 arena and capacity is a non-existent problem, as the ONLY ones who require more rounds are carrying an AR15 or a 12 gauge.

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