Sig Sauer P220 Review: A Reliable Semi-Automatic Pistol

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SIG Sauer is a legendary handgun producer that got their start when the Swedish conglomerate SIG teamed up with the German Sauer to produce a new series of handguns. Since then their relationship has bloomed, and they have dominated the market. The famous P series of pistols now serve around the world with Law Enforcement, Military, and special operations units. It all started with the P220. The P220 was SIG Sauer’s first joint pistol and was designed for military trials with the Swiss Army. Since then, it and the rest of the P series, have become legendary pistols.

There are tons of different variations of the SIG P220. Different calibers, barrel lengths, and features, but today we are looking at what is likely one of the earliest and simplest models of the P220. This model was produced in a country that doesn’t exist anymore, and that country is West Germany.

My West German P220 is an early model and a great example of the staying power of SIG’s pistols. This p220 serves as both an excellent example of SIG Sauer craftsmanship and as a living piece of the history of the cold war.

Overview

The P220 was designed for the Swiss military trials and was built to be a duty gun circa 1975. This full sized pistol is chambered in the popular but aged 45 ACP. It’s a single stack design with a very limited capacity. These days its purpose as a duty gun has been outshined by other firearms, namely double stack 9mms like the Glock 17. However, if you just had to have a 45 ACP gun the P227, the Glock 21 and HK45 all offer a higher capacity and more modern features.

The current purpose of the P220 is a bit lost. It’s a fun gun in my collection, and its age and markings are historic to me anyway. It’s too big for concealed carry, the gun lacks the modern features for a good home defense gun, and again it’s outshined in the duty realm. It’s a gun without a clear purpose, outside of being fun and easy to shoot, especially for people just starting out.

Specifications

The SIG p220 is a big and heavy gun, but just how big and how heavy?

Barrel Length – 4.4 inches
Overall Length – 7.8 inches
Width – 1.5 inches
Height – 5.5 inches
Weight – 1.9 pounds
Capacity – 8 rounds

The specs of different models may change. The compact model, for example, is smaller and has a lower capacity. Other models have longer barrels, or can be made from different materials like stainless steel. These specs represent the most common P220 specs of the base model.

Features

The P220 is a Da/SA gun meaning the first shots is in double action, and subsequent shots are in single action unless the shooter decocks the weapon. The SIG P series features an excellent decocker placed on the frame where the thumb naturally falls. The P220 of this time period had either a European heel magazine release or a push button. Mine is the more ergonomic push button design.

The gun comes with rubberized Hogue grips which are okay, but thinner, better grips exist these days. The sights were at one point night sights, but unfortunately, over the decades they’ve dimmed into uselessness for low light shooting. During the day they are still very useable and quite large and accessible to acquire. The P220 was the first gun to feature the SIG Sauer system which lacks the locking lugs milled into the barrel that is commonly found on Browning based designs. The Sig Sauer system locks the barrel and slide together via an enlarged breech section on the barrel that locks into the ejection port.

The P220 lacks any form of a manual safety and instead release on a number of built-in passive safeties. This includes a safety notch to prevent the hammer from striking the firing pin accidentally, a firing pin safety to prevent drop fires, and a trigger bar disconnector. Modern P220’s often sport a rail, there are optics cut models, and models with threaded barrels, as well as single action only models.

Fit and Finish

Hmm, hard to judge such an old gun, especially when I don’t know it’s past. My gun was built before the wall came down so makes it almost 30 years old. The finish on the slide is worn and beaten but has held up well enough to keep rust away. The frame finish looks rough in the application but is still holding on and quite strong overall.

If you’ve seen those battle worn finishes that seem to be popular these days you know what my gun looks like. However, this battle-worn finish is authentically earned. The roll marks are all nice and tight. Very small SIG Sauer, and then my favorite is the Made in W. Germany marking. It brings a historical level of coolness to the gun.

Even after 30 years every part locks and clicks into place like a work of mechanical art, and holds up with some of the newest designs in the same caliber. The decocker is light is easy, the hammer locks back positively, and the slide locks up tight. As a well-worn gun, the slide is particularly impressive in how it glides back on the gun. The magazine release works and the magazines still drop free without issue. The finish may be worn, but the fit is still top notch.

Ergonomics

SIG handguns are masters of ergonomics. They are brilliantly designed and well thought out overall. The decocker is something that’s legendary in its perfect placement and ease of use. It’s positioned only for righties, but it’s easy to reach and use. The big flaw with SIG design is the location of there blasted slide locks. It’s positioned behind the decocker, and if you use a modern thumb forward grip, it sits right on top of it. This leads the gun failing to lock back after the last round is fired. The gun seems to hate the idea of that style of grip.

The Hogue Wrap around rubber grips may not be the original models, but they look old to be. They add a bit of width to an already solid gun and are luckily easy to replace if I ever choose to. Yes, the gun is a 45 ACP single stack, but it doesn’t retain the thinner nature of the 1911 grip. It’s comfortable with an excellent palm swell, and thicker design isn’t uncomfortable or hard to hold onto.

The hammer has a slight spur for manually cocking into single action you choose to. The gun’s rear serrations are deep, and they have a good purchase on the hands. With how large and deep they are I imagine the issue of wearing gloves was one that lent itself to this design. Switzerland is known to be chilly, and gloves would be a military necessity in such a climate.

The magazine release is also textured and easy to reach without much hand adjustment. With thinner grips, I think I could reach it without any adjustment. The gun sports a very small beavertail that acts as more of a guard against slide bite than a true beavertail. The hammer doesn’t bite the hand either. Some of the more modern P220s feature a much longer beavertail, especially models like the Elite and Scorpion which would give you more control over the gun.

On the Range

Hitting the range with this old W. German P220 is a relaxing and fun day. I love shooting, but shooting this gun is like driving an old muscle car. It’s big and heavy, loud and modern guns are typically better in many ways. However, the cool factor alone makes it worth the drive. The p220 splits that big and heavy 45 ACP rounds like nobodies business. At the same time, you aren’t getting beat up by recoil. The heavy gun does its best to absorb the recoil and keeps things pleasant.

The trigger is brilliant. Even in double action, it feels amazing. It’s almost match grade DA, light, but long, and very consistent. There is some take up for sure, but the light DA is well worth it. The single action rivals a good 1911 trigger. I can’t be sure of all the homes this gun has lived in so it may have a custom trigger. I’m more prone to believe a long life has honed and well worn the trigger into near perfection.

The trigger and easy to control nature of the gun makes me see why it was adopted by the Swiss army. It’s very pleasant to shoot, and as a combat handgun it’s quick and easy to do double taps, failure to stop drills and other defensive orientated shooting. The light SA trigger makes follow-ups a breeze. Accuracy wise the gun is outstanding. The gentle shove of 45 ACP combined with the excellent trigger and good sights make it easy to not only hit a target but hit it repeatedly at a fast rate of fire.

I’ve only owned this gun for a short period of time, but in that time I’ve fired close to 350 rounds through it. Of all those rounds I’ve yet to have a malfunction. My gun came with three Mec-Gar magazines that have been polished to a near shine from use, and they still function like they are brand new. The P220 is just an enjoyable, frustration-free gun to shoot. It’s likely one of my favorites to go out and have fun handguns.

Rating Each Category

Looks 5 out of 5

Is nostalgia guiding my score? Looks are subjective and the least most important rating so I tend to be fast and loose with how I judge them. The Made in W. Germany stamps does it for me. Outside of that the shape and design of the P220 are plenty eye pleasing.

Ergonomics 4 out of 5

Nothing fancy, and for a 30-year-old design it shows how much SIG invented when it came to DA/SA guns and ergos. The only issue I have is the placement of the slide lock. My thumbs make it basically useless.

Accuracy 4 out of 5

For such an old gun it still shoots true. The world had 30 years to get better, and this Cold Warrior seems to be still kicking ass. The trigger, well worn and honed, aids greatly to this category, as does the impressive and comfortable ergonomics.

Reliability 5 out of 5

Why not give it a 5 out of 5? This gun has apparently not been a safe queen for 30 years and has likely seen a high round count and a rough life. The weapon still goes bang every time I pull the trigger. It still sends brass flying outward every single time. You can’t beat that.

Customization 4 out of 5

You can upgrade various components of this gun, the grips, sights, triggers, springs, and barrel are also swappable. I would never do that to this gun, but the p220 series, in general, is very customizable and very upgrade friendly.

Price 3 out of 5 (5 out of 5 W German Models)

The standard SIG P220 is an expensive gun, and most sigs run 700 to several thousand dollars with specials here and there that come in below that. To me, that is a lot of money for a hefty, single stack 45 ACP. I don’t see a purpose this gun can serve that others won’t do better. The West German market for these guns is excellent. Depending on the conditions of the gun the prices are usually under 500 bucks. Mine was an even 300 after taxes, and it’s a rough condition model.

Parting Shots

The SIG P220 is an outstanding gun. It’s well made, well designed and built to last. The P220 is certainly an heirloom worth gun that can withstand the rigors of abuse. The gun is still sold in various calibers and configurations by SIG so there likely one out there for you. If you choose the SIG P220, just know you will get a gun that will outlast you, and likely outshoot you for all your days to come.

By

Chris is a firearms enthusiast and gun collector. He has a number of guns, like his AR-10 or M&P 9mm that he shoots regularly. He is a firearms hobbyist and has been adding to his firearms collection for over 20 years. He is also the lead editor at GunBacker.

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