The first pistol produced by SIG Sauer was the P-220, which was made available (over time and in different markets) in four different calibers: 9mm, .30 Luger, .38 Super and .45 ACP. We will focus on the most produced model of the P-220 — the .45 ACP.

The rundown:

  • Caliber: .45 ACP
  • Magazine Capacity: 7 rounds + 1 in chamber
  • Rifling twist rate: 1 in 16" (or, one complete twist for every 16 inches of barrel.)
  • Weight (without magazine): 25.7 oz.
  • Trigger Pull Wieght: Double Action 12 lbs, Single Action 4 lbs.
  • Overall Length: 7.8 inches
  • Action type: Recoil operated, semi-automatic.

The SIG Sauer P-220 was the first pistol manufactured by the cooperation of the two firms SIG and J.P. Sauer & Sohn. The pistol is a double-action (this means the pistol can fire by either pulling the trigger, or by pulling the hammer back and then pulling the trigger), recoil operated (as opposed to gas operated — the gases produced from the combustion process are used to articulate the action in some manner) semi-automatic. The P-220 was one of the first semi-automatic pistols to incorporate an automatic firing pin block — this means that the pistol, unless cocked and fired by the trigger, and trigger only, would not go off accidentally, such as by dropping. To accommodate this new feature, a hammer release (also known as a "decock lever") slide was incorporated into the design and this allowed for the safe release of the hammer from the full cocked, "in battery", position. This feature makes the gun less likely to accidentally discharge.

In designing the pistol in this manner, a consequence was no external safety switch. Like the Colt 1911, the P-220 was designed to carry a round in the barrel at all times; in effect, ready to fire; this ability (and to do so safely) was made possible by the automatic firing pin block and the same idea was accomplished on the 1911 by using the slide safety (which, even though was an external safety, was thought to be one of the more practical safeties ever designed). Many consider the lack of an external safety switch to be the marking of the new line of tactical pistols that were coming about in the 1970's and 1980's, e.g. Glock. No external safety means one less thing to do before operating the pistol and executing a shot or series of shots. One should become familiar with any pistol and its workings before operating it in any manner whatsoever.

Around the mid 1970's, the P-220 (in physical design and not markings) was first imported into the United States by the well known firearms firm Browning Arms Company, Utah. At that time, the pistol was marketed as the Browning BDA. Afterwards, the brand was handled by the firm of Interarms, who eventually lost the contract. SIG Sauer decided to bring the pistol in under their own agent, SIGARMS, which is still the case today. The first pistols imported by this firm began in 1985.

The P-220 has seen service in many armies, including Switzerland, Denmark and Japan. The P-220 design was rejected by the United States Army, supposedly due to cost, while the cheaper Beretta 92F was adopted. There remains some controversy about this choice on the Army's part. Some believe that the contract was awarded to Italy's famous firearms, and worlds oldest, manufacturer Beretta in order to stabilize the Italians against any influence from Russia. Regardless, the P-220 has found its way into the armories of specialized units in the Army and Navy, though by no means is this predominant or widespread across the body of forces.

The pistol has been available in several different finishes- chrome, blued and a special coating that will not rust and is proprietary to SIG Sauer. Apparently, this special coating is some sort of anodizing, but otherwise not much is known other than it does live up to its claim that it does not rust.

These pistols are known for their reliability and "out of the box" accuracy. Manufactured to the highest standards of the Swiss/German firm, these pistols are coveted by collectors and shooters alike. The craftsmanship reveals itself in the perfect fit and finish of each model that leaves the factory. As of this writing, the pistol is still in production.

This pistol can be used for self defense or practical target shooting events, like those held by IPSC and IDPA. The design of the grip makes it natural to hold in the hands and minimizes felt recoil. The P-220 would make an excellent pistol for the target shooter interested in the larger caliber of .45 ACP.


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