Get the pitchforks and torches folks, I’m going to commit firearms heresy. For my money the SIG P220 is the best .45 fighting pistol on the market. Yes…better than the 1911.
How can I suggest that something other than the 1911 is the best fighting handgun? After all, the 1911 is called the 1911 because that is the year the United States adopted it as the Army’s official sidearm. In addition to the great ergonomics and high manufacturing quality, the P220 is reliable. Absolutely reliable. And for a fighting handgun, reliability must be absolute.
The SIG Sauer P220 is a full size handgun chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. The gun has been around since the 1970’s and appears to be more popular today than it has ever been. Currently, there are a multitude of different models and variations of the gun, each of which attracts different shooters to the pistol.
Even though the gun is known as a .45, the P220 didn’t start life as one. When introduced, the gun was initially available in the more “proper” European handgun cartridges: 9mm and .30 Luger. To make the gun more appealing to the US market, the company began chambering the pistol in .45 ACP. It is with this cartridge that the guns has become so popular.
The P220 set the stage for what would arguably become SIG Sauer’s greatest handgun: the P226. Though different, the styling and features of the P226 are heavily drawn from the P220 design. While the P226 has proved its worth with the Navy SEALs and a multitude of military and law enforcement units, it still isn’t chambered in .45.
The P220 has a single stack magazine that holds eight rounds of .45. Add one in the chamber, and a gentleman or gentlewoman has nine rounds of their favorite hollowpoint with which to dispatch any violent criminal that breeches their castle.
Unlike some pistols, the P220 has no problems running hollowpoint ammunition. I have run nearly every kind of ammo through a P220 without any problems at all. Remember, reliability is key for a defensive handgun.
For those old enough to remember the old Speer “Flying Ashtray,” the P220 ran those without a single hiccup. If you are too young to have seen them, the Flying Ashtray was a 200-grain hollowpoint that was very wide with a cavernous cavity. Quite a few people experienced problems running them through other pistols.
Modern P220 pistols have a push-button style magazine release on the frame of the gun. Early models of the pistol have the European-style release on the heel of the gun, behind the magazine well. For my pistol, give me the push-button for faster reloads.
The standard P220 has a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger pull. The first stroke of the trigger is long and comparatively heavy, while follow up shots have a short, light trigger pull. The gun has a frame mounted decocker to return the gun to DA mode.
As an option, the P220 can be outfitted with a double-action-only (DAO) or a double-action, Kellerman (DAK) trigger. The DAO is a long, heavy pull for each shot fired. The DAK is a shorter, lighter pull than a DAO, but still double-action. I’ve owned SIG pistols with the DAK trigger, and I have grown to like them very much.
SIG also makes the P220 as a single-action pistol. A single-action .45 pistol has long meant 1911, but several years ago SIG Sauer went after this niche of the market with the SA P220. These SA guns replace the decocker with an ambidextrous safety. The trigger pulls are a light five pounds.
Not unlike the 1911 platform, SIG also makes a “commander” size version of the P220. This gun uses the full size frame and a shortened barrel and slide. Instead of the normal “ barrel, this model has a 3.9” barrel. SIG markets these as the P220 Carry, and they can be had in single-action or with the traditional DA/SA triggers.
One step farther along the size reduction road is the P220 Compact. These guns chop the frame so there is less grip protruding from under a cover garment when carried concealed. They also use the commander length slide and barrel.
But these are only a few of the variations available. Currently, SIG lists more than 25 different variations of the P220 in the company catalog. My current favorite is the Scorpion, which features a tan frame and slide, black accent, front slide serrations and Hogue G-10 grips. It can be had with, or without, a threaded barrel.
Shooting the P220 is a real pleasure. The gun is exceptionally accurate with many different ammo loads. Shooting a cloverleaf at 15 yards is not an impossible task with a steady hand and quality ammo.
Recoil is mild. Contrary to popular belief, the .45 is not some monster. However, it does have recoil greater than some other cartridges. With the large size of the P220, combined with the weight of a metal-framed pistol, felt recoil is more of a solid push than something sharp or painful.
The 1911 is a fine gun. There are some great polymer pistols on the market. But for the combination of reliability, accuracy and shootability, nothing beats the SIG P220 as a .45 ACP combat pistol.