AGREEING WITH THE US ARMY (sort of) – TESTING THE SIG SAUER P220 IN .45 ACP

This pistol commemorated the 40th anniversary of Sig Sauers P220 pistol - my "new" favorite full sized semi-auto!

This pistol commemorated the 40th anniversary of Sig Sauers P220 pistol – my “new” favorite full sized semi-auto!

For those who may not know, the US Army just awarded the contract for their “new” service pistol, choosing the Sig Sauer over the Glock submission to replace the Berreta 92 9mm that has been in use for several years. I had no personal experience with Sig handguns when I began seriously looking for a threaded barrel .45 ACP to use in suppressor testing while waiting on Irv Stone at Barstow to fit a threaded barrel to my Para Expert Cary 1911. Poring through the TexasGunTrader website, I “just missed” a couple of Springfield XDM’s, and a .45 Glock. Most of the threaded .45’s I saw, however, were Sigs or FN, and a bit pricey for a “test gun”. I finally found a Sig P220 TB (threaded barrel) in .45 ACP nearby (Houston area) at a fair price, and made a deal on it. I have admired the “looks” of Sig’s 1911 models for some time, but had never really considered a P220.

MAJOR MISTAKE!

First a little background. I began to notice Sig more after realizing the connection with my old Herter’s revolvers. Herter’s guns were made in West Germany, by J.P. Sauer & Sohn, who later merged with Sig of Switzerland to form Sig Sauer, and focused on semi-auto pistols and full auto machine guns. The P220 model was developed for the Swiss army in 1975. It has either an alloy or stainless steel frame – depending on the model, mine is steel, and steel slide to give it more strength than a polymer frame pistol. Weight is 30 oz for the alloy frame, 39 for the steel frame version – meaning this is a 2 pound + gun with the steel frame. Originally known as the Browning Double Action pistol, it differs from the more common Browning designs like the 1911 in having a link-less barrel and no barrel bushing, instead licking the barrel to the slide with a machined in breech block. similar to the Glock system. Finish of this anniversary model is black nitride, with a 5″ threaded barrel. This is a DA/SA pistol, with no manual safety – BUT, it features a de-cocker that allows the hammer to be safely “let down” (it doesn’t go so far as to actually rest on the firing pin) on a loaded chamber and carried in this condition with little danger of an accidental discharge. To fire, the hammer may be cocked manually, as with a revolver, or simply pulling the trigger will raise and drop the hammer and fire the gun. The initial trigger pull with the hammer down is “double action” and heavier than the “single action” trigger pull when the hammer is cocked. Sig says the double action pull is 12 – 14 pounds, while the single action pull is offcially 6 pounds – exactly what my trigger gauge says it is. The trigger surface is smooth, but wide – making it easy to control and comfortable. The slide has rear cocking serrations, the grip front strap is “checkered”, and the back-strap is textured the same as the standard grips. Another plus for this pistol is that aftermarket grips are available – including some nice ones of wood from Hogue (that I have on order!). The grip also has a beavertail that helps maintain a higher “hold” on the gun and reduces the chance of a slide cut. The front frame also has a machined in rail for attaching lights or lasers.

The "fire controls" are on the left side, and include disassembly lever, de-cocker lever, slide stop, and magazine release.

The “fire controls” are on the left side, and include disassembly lever, de-cocker lever, slide stop, and magazine release.

Controls are on the left side for disassembly, de-cocking, slide stop, and magazine release.

The Sig P220 comes with an eight round and an extended 10 round magazine.

The Sig P220 comes with an eight round and an extended 10 round magazine.

Sig magazines are stainless steel, and have numbered holes for (double) checking loads.

The standard magazine for the Sig P220 holds 8 rounds, the extended mag holds 10, and both are stainless steel with numbered holes to visually check loads.

The standard magazine for the Sig P220 holds 8 rounds, the extended mag holds 10, and both are stainless steel with numbered holes to visually check loads.

This Sig came with their excellent night sights, and they are in dovetail slots machined into the frame, so if taller, “suppressor sights” are desired, or a mount for a red dot optic, they can be easily and securely mounted.

Sig night sights are standard, and very good.

Sig night sights are standard, and very good.

The Sig sights are securely mounted in dovetails, which also makes them easy to change, and somewhat adjustable.

The Sig sights are securely mounted in dovetails, which also makes them easy to change, and somewhat adjustable.

This is a large pistol, very similar in shape and size to a full size 1911. Recoil should be minimal in .45 ACP, with the weight making it easy to control. It is NOT a concealed carry weapon, except maybe in a hard winter in a shoulder holster under a heavy coat. It will be a very good “bedside” gun, truck gun, or woods-walking gun. The .45 ACP in a pistol of this size might not be the best choice as a dedicated hunting weapon, but it will certainly put down a hog or deer with a carefully placed shot. The P220 is also available in a “Hunter” model chambered for 10mm, for a more “serious” hunting handgun. For close-range varmint or pest control, it should be VERY good. Personally, I like it very much! I like the hammer and de-cocker, I like the size and weight, the light rail, and the steel construction. I like nice wooden grips, and look forward to getting a set installed.

The Sig P220 compared to a .480 Ruger Super Redhawk and a .45 Colt Blackhawk is still a BIG gun!

The Sig P220 compared to a .480 Ruger Super Redhawk and a .45 Colt Blackhawk is still a BIG gun!

The US Army recently chose a version of the Sig 320 to be their new service handgun. This one is a striker fired weapon, so no hammer. It is standard in 9mm, but can be had in .40 or .45. The Glock they did NOT choose was better than most of the Austrian plastic pistols, in being “earth tone” color, instead of black, and also had a manual safety – but I doubt it compared well with the precision of the Sig. In my own case, the competition for a .45 other than a 1911, or simply a full sized defensive semi-auto, was won very handily by the Sig P220. I think I’ll have this one a long time!

UPDATE! Shot the Sig P220 yesterday, running through some American Eagle FMJ 230 gr ammo and a few hand loads with lead bullets. Everything fired with no hint of a malfunction. The de-cocker worked as it should, and recoil WAS very minimal. Did not spend a lot of time “learning” the sights, as I plan to mount a red dot on this pistol. Was delayed on the suppressor testing, as I was assuming I would need the same thread size and pitch as for an HK – metric 16 x 1 LH. Strangely, Sig seems to have followed “tradition” for .45 ACP, and threaded barrels in this caliber in P220 and 1911 are RH thread, with a more standard pitch of .578 x 28! The Silencer Shop had helpfully sent me a booster piston for the Ti-Rant .45 can threaded 16 x 1 LH, but when it did not “work”, I replaced it with the piston threaded .578 x 28 RH that was originally in the suppressor – and that one screwed on just fine! Should be doing some live fire testing with the can today, posting results and photos later.

I am hoping to mount a Sig Romeo reflex red dot sight, but evidently neither these sights or the mount kits will be shipping for another 2 – 3 months, even though Sig and several major retailers are already “pushing” them. They list some major pluses in their spec, including a motion sensor that turn the sight on when the gun is moved (as in drawing from a holster, or even picking it up off an end table. It will also turn off after two hours of no movement – to save battery life.) Since these sights are not yet available, I will likelty mount a Burris Fast Fire instead, at least for now.

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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