In the gun world, you hear things. You hear things at ranges, in gun stores, and even at trade shows. These bits of gun gossip cover a wide variety of subjects from politics to which gun is better than that other gun.
One of these near-countless pieces of gun store gospel is that West German SIG SAUER (or just German) P series pistols are better. I’ve owned several SIG P Series pistols through the years, and after owning this West German P220 semi-automatic for nearly a year, I’m not sure if that’s exactly true.
While that ‘Made in W. Germany’ stamp is a cool, my West German P220 .45 doesn’t seem to handle noticeably different than any other all-metal P frame pistol. In fact, it might have a disadvantage with the folded steel and apparent need to replace the breech block pins every 5000 rounds.
That said, the West German P220 has enough historical significance that they seem to fetch a bit more than a standard used P series pistol.
I was able to get this West German P220 for nearly nothing as the man selling it didn’t care about its historical significance and just wanted something smaller and easier to carry. I happily snatched it up and gave it a good home.
In Case you Didn’t Know
The P220 was developed in 1975 and introduced the SIG SAUER locking system. The P220 has been available in a variety of calibers, and this includes 9mm, 22 LR, 10mm, and even .38 Super and 9mm Steyr.
However, here in the land of freedom, the P220 is mostly known for its .45 ACP variant. Mine is, of course, a .45.
The P220 is a DA/SA gun with a thumb-activated de-cocker and no manual safety. The P220 started the famed DA/SA P series pistol line, and the ergonomics of the P series pistols were derived from right here. The pistol is a big, all-metal design that’s very much in line with .45 ACPs from the 1970s.
This gun weighs 30 ounces unloaded, and the folded steel slide makes the gun feel less top-heavy than modern stainless steel SIGs.
The P220 is an awfully big gun for one that holds only eight rounds. The grip is 1.21 inches wide, which is wide for a single stack. The 1911, for example, has a comparable capacity and a much thinner grip. Maybe the new SIG grip panels would help, but the included rubber wrap-around grip is quite thick.
The P220’s ergonomics are very good. The grip is thick, but my hands are big. The de-cocker on the P series is the best I’ve ever used and one of the easiest to reach. The biggest downside is SIG’s slide locks. That tiny thing is positioned so far aft that it ensures that my thumb rests on it, and it won’t ever lock the slide to the rear after firing the last round.
One big downside to the West German models is the finish is not very robust. As you can see, mine is well-worn…or well-loved as I like to say. It doesn’t rust, though, and that’s a plus here in the humidity of Florida.
Pushing the Go Pedal
This gun is very well broken in and that’s done absolute wonders for the trigger. It’s super smooth in double action. It is, of course, heavy, but it really glides rearward and is very impressive.
The single action trigger pull is the main star of the show here. It’s remarkably short and light. Better than even my favorite CZs. In single-action, you apply the slightest pressure and you get where you want to go.
I rarely shoot it, and this was my first 25-yard group of the day:
This was my group at 10 yards:
Both groups were shot in a single action with dead tritium night sights. The gun is easy-shooting with that push-like recoil I often feel with 45s. That extra grip width helps displace the recoil and makes it very easy to handle.
The SIG SAUER P220 is a very enjoyable weapon to shoot. The accuracy I can achieve with the pistol never fails to bring a smile to my face, so my impression may be biased by my association of this gun with accuracy.
The wraparound grips present a small problem I can fix with newer grips. The grips hang below where the magwell ends. These ledges often catch the magazine and cause me to fuss up my reload. It’d be more of an issue if this gun was something I used beyond plinking.
Reliability-wise the SIG SAUER P220 eats both steel and brass cased ammo without any issues. The same goes for the weird assortment of .45 ACP hollow points that have somehow found their way into my collection.
For most shooting, I stick to either Federal or Winchester White box brass cased ammo.
I think the best way to describe the way this gun feels, handles, and fires is…smooth. Everything is just so smooth and moves so well together.
The West German SIG P220 is one of my favorite handguns and by far my favorite .45 ACP of all time. While this old fella is retired from serious use, if push ever came to shove, I would grab it without a second thought.
Specifications: West German SIG SAUER P220
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 4.4 inches
Overall Length: 7.7 inches
Weight: 30 ounces
Width: 1.5 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
MSRP: ? Available used between $450 and $850 depending on the condition
Ratings (out of Five Stars):
Ergonomics * * * *
The West German P220 and the P series, by extension, are excellent examples of well-designed DA/SA handguns. The de-cocker, grip angle, magazine release and beavertail combine to make the gun easy to handle. The thick grips, slide lock position, and weight may not be for everyone, though.
Accuracy * * * * *
This is the most accurate handgun I own. I’m an okay shooter, and I’d be curious what my West German P220 could do in more competent hands.
Reliability * * * * *
It’s an old gun, a workhorse, well used and it’s likely been in the hands of a dozen different shooters. However, it still runs like a top. It eats everything and shoots straight.
Concealed Carry * *
It’s a gun designed for duty. It’s been used by law enforcement in Germany, Switzerland, by the Swiss Army and in many other countries. The West German P220 is big and heavy. Invest in a good holster and a quality belt if you’re going to use it as a sidearm.
Customization * * * *
The P220 is a very popular weapon that’s been in production for decades. You can do quite a bit of things to these guns if you so choose. It’s not as customizable as say a GLOCK, but it’s up there. Barrels, holsters, grips, triggers, and more are available and popular.
Overall * * * * 1/2
I can’t say if a West German P220 is really better than a modern stainless steel slide P220, but I can say the West German P220 is an outstanding weapon. It’s well made, easy to handle, easy to shoot, and amazingly accurate. The gun ticks and tocks like a clock. A deadly accurate German/Swiss clock.