Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sig/Sauer P220 Review

Sig/Sauer P220


Designed in World War II, the SIG Arms P210 has been considered the most reliable and most accurate 9mm handgun ever produced. Discontinued shortly after the war, it demands high dollars on the collectors market and the re-introduced models run $2000+. Shortly after the war, SIG Arms teamed up with subsidiary J.P. Sauer and created a pistol for the Swiss military that has become the flagship firearm from Sig/Sauer. With a storied history that rivals most popular firearms, the P220 is a favorite among civilian and soldier alike. 
(c) Copyright Point-of-Aim Productions, 2013

...A History

During World War II, while the SIG Arms P210 didn’t see widespread use, it was incredibly popular with those who did use it. After the war, SIG decided it wanted to replace the pistol with something more modern and decided to collaborate with J.P. Sauer of Germany. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that the pistol would finally take shape. Taking Browning’s tried and true lock-breech design, they made a pistol with a number of unique features that really separated it from others on the market. In 1975, Switzerland was the first official country to adopt the “Pistole 75” in 9mm as their sidearm. Japan and Denmark adopted the pistol shortly after, but mainly for their special forces group. As said above, there were a number of design changes that made it very unique over other pistols using Browning’s design. One of the main differences was the fact the P220 doesn’t use locking lugs on the top of the barrel but instead lock the barrel and slide together with an enlarged breach area on the barrel, locking into the ejection port. What was great about this, was it simplified manufacturing. It used a single piece of sheet metal for the slide and an aluminum alloy frame to keep the weight down. Newer P200 series pistols use a machined slide made of steel and, in some cases, a steel frame. 
The other feature that stood it apart was the use of no external safety. Instead, the pistol used a Double Action/Single Action system that used a de-cocking lever to drop the hammer. The heavy double action trigger pull helped eliminate accidental discharges if the gun was being carried. 
The original P220’s had a hell mounted safety like many German made guns but was quickly moved to the left side of the grip. The original P220’s were imported into the U.S. under a contract with Browning under the monicker “BDA” or Browning Double Action. They were offered in three difference calibers: 9mm, .38 Super, and .45 ACP. The .38 Super saw very minimal production and are extremely rare today. 
Later, Sig/Sauer would be able to import the guns into the state on their own under the P220 monicker and after a brief period would manufacture them solely in .45 ACP. And interesting note is that back in Switzerland, the military wanted a smaller version of the P220, so Sig chopped the barrel to 3.9” and shortened the grip. The subsequent pistol was subbed the P225 and saw extensive use overseas and minor use here in the states. The P225 was discontinued in the early 1990’s and are pretty easy to find on the collectors market. To fill the market in the U.S. for a similar pistol chambered in 9mm, Sig introduced the P226 in 1984 for military trials and included the same design features as the P220, but included a double stack magazine that held 15 rounds. That pistol would later be chambered in .40 S&W and .357Sig. 


The pistol tested was my brothers P220ST, which features a Stainless Steel slide and frame. It is significantly heavier than the standard P220 that uses the aluminum frame but counter acts the recoil well. The grip is very comfortable, being a single stock design similar to a M1911, and the extra Houge grips certainly adds to the comfort. The sights are not the normal 2-dot system, instead the P220 incorporates something similar to a Beretta M9, a white dot front, with a middle hash rear. I actually really like this and have rethought my position on three dot systems. The sights came up quick and target acquisition was smooth. 
The double action trigger pull came in around 10 pounds while the single action came in around 4.5 - 5 pounds. There was a good amount of take-up but the break wasn’t like glass, but not mushy either. All the levers were very positive, the de-cocker let the hammer down softly and the slide release was normal. The front strap of the grip has vertical serrations that help a tiny bit, nothing like sharp checkering, but its a subtle help. 
We used a few varieties of ammunition, as we always do, but pricing of .45ACP and scarcity has made it difficult to get large quantities. We tested a number of hand loads made by my brother with different bullets and powders. We did use a good amount of Winchester White Box and Remington UMC (both 230gr FMJ) which both performed well respectively. We were able to acquire some Hornady Critical Defense, Zombie Max, XTP, and Steel Match. We wanted to get some DoubleTap and Gold Dot but, alas, we couldn't find any at time of review. Bullet weights varied from 185gr to 230gr and MOST performed well. Interestingly enough, the Zombie Max ammo wasn't as accurate as the Critical Defense even though they are, for all intents and purposes, the same bullet. The XTP defense rounds faired well, but at almost $30 for a box of 20, they were to expensive to re-test. What I found to be fun, was that the steel cased “Match” ammo from Hornady was flawless. Next to the XTPs, they shot the best and the recoil was much milder (plus they were hollow points!) 
We used a number of different hand loads, mostly using Hornady projectiles and also Rainier to keep costs even lower. Powders used (among others) were Blue Dot, Bullseye, Power Pistol, and Unique. WE had velocities on the low end with Bullseye going a bit over 700FPS and loads with Power Pistol reaching +P velocities at over 1000FPS with a 230gr bullet!! (thats over 510ft/lbs of energy... getting close to standard 10mm Auto loadings). Needless to say, we didn’t shoot very many of those. We found loads that shot INCREDIBLY well out of the P220 and were able, at one point, to blow the bullseye out of a 6”x6” target at 25 yards... free hand (my brother did anyway, not me). It was impressive with the P220 to say the least.
(c) Copyright Point-of-Aim production, 2013

Final Thoughts

The Sig/Sauer P220 is a fine firearm. The stainless version tested was a second hand purchase and, at the time, they didn't make it anymore. Sig has since re-introduced a stainless version under the ‘Elite’ moniker that has a few upgrades over our version. Wan’t one? It’ll run you a cool $1300 MSRP. The standard P220’s usually run just south of $1000 MSRP but you can usually find them for mid $800’s dealer price.  They aren't cheap compared to some of the other pistols on the market, but are on par with higher end pistols like H&K. Overall, I am a big fan of the P220 and will own my own one of these days. If you don't mind the extra weight of an all stainless gun, go for it... otherwise the standard P220 in .45ACP is a winner. 

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