The Sixgun Journal

A Collection of Firearms Articles & Campfire Tales

The Sig P220 .45 Auto

 

This gun has made me something of a heretic in certain circles, and completely changed my perspective on what constitutes acceptable accuracy and reliability in a service sidearm. It also inspires me to make one of those broad, sweeping statements that sometimes get me in trouble. So here it goes- Bear defense notwithstanding, if you have a Sig P220 you probably don’t need another handgun.

This splendid design was the brainchild of the German firm Sauer & Sohn, stemming from that company’s efforts to design a new 9mm service pistol for the Swiss army. It was adopted into Swiss service as the A75, in 1975. The gun was loaded with modern features, like a passive firing-pin block safety, a tilting-block lock-up, a de-cocking lever, and a steel modular block that took the beating for the lightweight alloy frame. Sauer soon realized that design was entirely capable of handling the .38 Super and .45 ACP, in addition to the original 9mm chambering. Inroads were being paved to the US market.

As near as I can tell, the “A75” was first imported for US consumption by Hawes Firearms, in 1976. Hawes had already enjoyed a long and successful relationship with J.P Sauer & Sohn, importing a very decent single action revolver (the “Marshal” series) in various popular US calibers. The following year, the big Sauer auto became the “Browning BDA”. These nicely-finished pistols proved a reliable and accurate platform for the full-power auto cartridges. Importation of the pistol under the Browning banner ceased about 1981. American shooters may not have cared for the European “heel latch” magazine release, and after all, it wasn’t a 1911! I was one of those 1911 shooters who nearly missed these fine pistols, because of precisely those prejudices. I had spent my early teen years reading Jeff Cooper, and saw no need for such a contraption.

Luckily, the Swiss firm of SIG was not so blind. It didn’t take long for US importation to begin once again, and very soon the “P220 .45 American” was born. It had the magazine release button right behind the trigger guard, right where we were used to seeing it.

The gun soon received favorable reviews, with Shooting Times’ “10,000-round Torture Test” being among the more notable. More folks tried it, and a few forward-thinking police departments even adopted it. Americans love power, and “+P” .45 loads soon found their way into the new P220. It was found that they were a little much for the envelope, and a few 220’s developed minor frame cracks. In 1994 and at serial number 219,166 Sig-Sauer addressed these problem by strengthening the frame, adding a heavier recoil spring, and adding a rebound feature to the hammer and mainspring that allows it to stand away from the firing pin in the “at rest” position. The current version is fully up to a full diet of ammunition at “full GI hardball” power levels- and in my experience it works best with full-power loads.

The Sig P220 featured in this article is one of the later guns, in the 224,000 serial number range. I picked it up from KY Imports for considerably less than new retail, and gave up nothing in the bargain. Early range outings showed that it was dead-zeroed at 50 yards with any respectable 230 grain .45 load, and that it was not finicky about what it would shoot well. Its excellent single-action trigger made hitting at this distance almost easy. Five shot groups at 25 yards hovered around two inches, and it fed any and all jacketed ammunition offered to it. I finally induced a couple of failure-to-feeds with semi-wadcutter reloads that had been put up in mangled old range brass, which wouldn’t “iron out” in the resizing die. So long as decent cases were used, it would feed those just as well as the jacketed rounds. The Sig remained my daily carry gun for a long time, and I never felt under-gunned as long as it was within reach.

A couple of years ago I learned of an ammunition company called “Triton”, and their recent efforts to pump up the old .45 ACP cartridge. Their answer was the .450 Triton, which was loaded into seriously-strengthened .45 brass which used a small rifle primer. The resulting package launched a 230 grain .45 XTP bullet at 1150 feet per second. Triton indicated that the Sig P220 would handle their new cartridge, so long as a 22-24 pound recoil spring was installed in the gun.

It was the accuracy of the Sig P220 was what inspired me to try the .450 Triton in it. The notion of having a lightweight, top-shelf defensive auto that would do double-duty as a hunting handgun was compelling, so I ordered the heavy-duty springs and some ammo. I really doubted that it would be a great-shooting combination, and I do not advocate a steady diet of such loads in any alloy-framed pistol, regardless of the recoil springs used.

This gun had already produced several sub-4” 50-yard groups with good ball ammo, and it didn’t disappoint me with the .450 Triton load, either. 15 rounds of this stuff didn’t appear to have caused any undue strain on the gun, but as stated above I would reserve it for hunting use only. The target would seem to indicate that it is well-enough zeroed for that application, and 3 ¾” groups indicate adequate hunting accuracy.

 

Not too shabby, for a powerful service pistol that feeds and shoots well with any good ammo.

I stand by my earlier statement- the Sig P220 is about all the pistol that you need.

A special Thank You goes to “P-220”, one of the fine folks at http://www.sigforum.com/  who provided a comprehensive collection of articles published on the Sig-Sauer P-220 over the years. 

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10 Comments

  1. Dear writer,

    Your article is very good indeed.Provide a good source of
    information for anyone who interested in sig. I myself owned
    a sig p200 .45 cal , an old model about 30 years old. I try to shoot them
    but with out success.Because its recoil is far too much for me to shot them
    accurately.Someone told me to change a recoil spring it will make it better
    in term of recoil.Is that true in my case. Pls comments.

    cheers,
    lek

  2. Hi LEK,

    The gun featured in this article would feed standard 230 grain FMJ loads with the 24 pound spring in place. It reduced the ‘sharpness’ of the recoil a bit but with lighter loads, you would almost certainly have malfunctions with the 24 pound spring.

    A better approach would be to use lighter bullets with your standard spring. I am about immune to recoil from service pistol rounds but if it bothered me, I’d simply get a 9mm. The Sig P226 is available in that caliber and excepting bore size, is equal to the 220 in every regard.

    Thank you for your kind comments.

  3. Sig p220st.!!! Best gun ever, its big mean shiny, and best of all… 45 acp. P226 and 226st r good too, but stick wit tha legend p220 and its even better in stainless.

  4. I have carried (2) SIGs in my nearly 45 years of life (the last 23 with a SIG 220 .45) as my primary and carry a Ruger SP101 357 Mag as a back up. You will NEVER find a better working arm than the SIG whether it is +whatever or -20′ fsw and will feed the entire magazine. The only reason for the Ruger is I have run out of mags for the SIG and I carry six of those.

  5. Several yrs. ago I bought a “retired” Sig P220 and call it my “thumbtack driver” despite it’s “snowman” sights. Now, it’s going to Sig for their maintenance package. It’s the best .45ACP EVER!

  6. I have carried many different guns, both in my career and as a pdw. Everyone makes a choice and tho 1911 style guns will always have a roost in the .45 acp world (certainty understandable) the sig p220 is in my opinion the “contender” for that title. I carry mine and have no reservations about its dependability or accuracy as a combat weapon or otherwise, quite simply it will always do its job so long as the shooter holds up their end.

    • I’m glad to see so many of you still appreciate the superb Sig 22X series of pistols. And while the 45 ACP will always have a place in my heart, some time back I embraced the excellent 40 S&W as an intelligent compromise that covers about 90% of what I’m going to do with a pistol. These days I carry a P229 which has proven every bit as reliable and accurate as the fine old 220 that was the subject of this article.

      The 229 followed by a five shot, One Hundred yard group using Perfecta 170 grain FMJ.


  7. Thanks for the very well written review of the P220! I recently decided to switch my EDC from my beloved 1911 platform in favor of the P220 for several reasons. The first reason is I want utter reliability in my defensive firearm. With the notable exception of very high-end 1911s, most 1911s have a tendency to be very fickle and finicky (ammo, maintenance, this spring or that spring, feeding from this magazine versus that magazine, etc.); not to mention the sheer weight of a Commander or Government model. In contrast, the P220 eats EVERYTHING without exception up to and including wad cutters! The only other pistol I’ve seen that accepts all ammo is the Bersa Thunder Pro 45 (which bears a striking similarity to the old Sig P245). The Bersa fits all holsters designed for the P220, but it prints (single stack with a double stack profile). As noted, Wolf and TulAmmo are difficult to load into the magazines as those rounds tend to push the boundaries of OAL. Pricey? Perhaps, but my safety doesn’t come with a price tag. Easy to carry? Absolutely. I carry my full-size P220 in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 IWB and have no issues with printing, sagging or fatigue. Kudos to Sig for maintaining this excellent platform!

  8. Thanks for an excellent article on the P220, one of my all-time favorite handguns, along with the P225 which I also loved. I still have a P220R, which is the most accurate .45 I own, although the P225 9mm is long gone. Both just fit my hand slightly better than the P226, even though that is a fine gun as well. I’ve carried the P220 on duty as a police officer in the past and have a lot of faith in it. I’ve shot it very well out to 50 yards and my confidence is high that the gun is reliable. I’ve never had a malfunction with a P220 running factory ammo.

    Recently though, I took a chance and ordered a Certified Pre-Owned SIG P229 for an impossibly low price that made it hard to say no to. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. I got a completely re-conditioned 2014 pistol, with fresh SigLite night sights, a rail, and two brand new magazines and a warranty for $504 including shipping. It has the new style grips and feels thinner in the hand than my previous P226. I’ve added a .357 SIG barrel as well, and it has quickly become one of my favorite handguns. I’m considering getting a 9mm conversion kit for it as well.

    But even though I may like the P229R, when I pick up my P220, it is like shaking hands with an old friend. Mine is not going anywhere.

  9. In the late ’80s, I bought new and carried a Sig Sauer P220 with the magazine release on the butt. I qualified expert with the handgun right out of the box. I carried that pistol for several years and like a foolish person traded it for another handgun.

    For years I said I would purchase another P220. I watched the prices of the older generation P220s keep rising, however, last June I found one for sale for under $600 dollars and there was no way I would let it go. I now carry the bi-tone 1992 quite frequently. It’s not going anywhere.

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