Gun Review: West German SIG SAUER P220 .45 ACP Pistol

Note the breech block pin in the P220’s folded steel slide. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

The Made in West Germany stamp that many shooters look for. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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

In a lot of ways, this is the gun that made SIG SAUER the company they are today. The P210 was a masterpiece and still is. However, the P220 became a much more popular weapon the world over.

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

As far as accuracy goes, I’m more accurate with this handgun than any other. I can’t repeat the accuracy I can achieve with this West German P220 with any other handgun I own.

I rarely shoot it, and this was my first 25-yard group of the day:

God, I love this gun. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

This was my group at 10 yards:

Three freakin’ rounds from this SIG pistol. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

The SIG SAUER P220 was also the basis for the Browning BDA of the late 1970s. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

The semi auto P220’s wrap-around grips are thick. Small-handed shooters may have a problem. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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
Capacity: 8+1
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.

comments

  1. avatar NORDNEG says:

    I’m a big fan of Sig’s,, got 2 , a 40mm &a 9mm,, good stuff.

    1. avatar Dan W says:

      40mm Sig, hot damn.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Is that 40mm crew served?

  2. avatar MtnDewey says:

    been carrying a P229 since 2002, had a P226 for three years before that.

  3. avatar The Rookie says:

    Very nice weapon!

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I have never been a fan of DA/SA pistols. (I have owned a Beretta 92 for 30 years just to have a representative of the species.) However, if I had been forced to carry one it would have been a SIG P-220 .45 ACP. I made this observation about a year ago to a cousin who is a big SIG fan. A week or two later I received pics of a very nice P-220 with multiple extra mags a a decent piece of factory leather. He wanted to know where I wanted it delivered. A gift. I like this pistol! Never done any slow fire. All from the leather on steel. First shot DA. Second SA. Snake eyes. It lays on the table within arm’s reach when I lay on the couch to take a nap. That said, the 1911 is king.

  5. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    My first experience with the SIG was the Browning BDA. European magazine catch. That I did not care for.

  6. avatar James Campbell says:

    I own several German P6 Sig Sauers, all are West German Police “turn ins”.
    The DA pull is around 10 pounds, but the SA is really nice.
    These are really good “bang for the buck” guns.
    My first P6 was to round out the P5/P6/P7 German handgun trials collection (post ’72 Munich Olympics Terrorist Attack), added a few more after that first one.

  7. avatar jwtaylor says:

    The great value of the early 220s isn’t that they are great pistols. They are great pistols. The Great Value is that they are all great pistols.
    If you said you had a great new Remington 1911, I would believe you. If you said you had a horrible new Remington 1911, I would believe you. If you said you had a great German 220, I would believe you. If you said you had a horrible German 220, you would have to convince me.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      You got a little convoluted there, but I take your point.

      Am I to assume, you do not refer to ALL Sig pistols?

      Cause I have seen some crap-tastic stuff from Sig, but all have been polymer-framed.

      Never had a bad metal-frame Sig.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I refer only to the early 220s I referred to.

  8. avatar Todd says:

    I have a nice P245 with multiple mags for sale if anyone is interested.

  9. avatar Hody Snitch says:

    Those Hogue wood grip panels make an old pistol look real nice. They also make the grip feel “fatter” but less “rubbery” like the wrap-a-round grips do.

    1. avatar James Campbell says:

      They are nice. The Nill walnut grips are nice too, I have two P6s with Nills, regular and target style. Old school all metal German handguns look best with wood IMHO.

      1. avatar John Hoglin says:

        I agree first thing to go is plastic grips on my guns. My P220 is the only semi auto I carry. The finish on mine was worn I redid it myself with Brownels Alumihide spray, two tone looks great.

  10. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    My first semi-auto carry gun was that same model. I even made “C” class in IPSC using it and my duty belt.
    Great gun!

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Tom, accolades for using your duty gear. When I shot competition I used street leather with street handguns, but never used my duty gear. Damn good idea. I just never thought of it. Sure as shit never used race gear.

      1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

        A local LE I know chose the 220 for his duty carry, when he had motorcycle patrol duty. He’s been years retired by now, and still EDCs the 220 under his leather jacket.

        Funny story about his jacket he told me – He was off-duty gassing up one late night when on the way back to his street bike, a punk-looking guy appeared from the far side of the gas pump he was at and made a menacing comment to him about it being awfully cold that night for such a thin jacket. He opened the flap of his jacket showing the 220 and said “It’s alright, this keeps me warm.” The greaseball decided not to push the issue…

  11. avatar Rjkramer says:

    I am a Sig guy…. 226 in 9mm, 226 in .357 Sig. P250 x 3 with every conversion and size available. P 320 in 9mm and a few conversion kits mostly sub compact. All great shooters.

  12. avatar Jim Bob Joe says:

    Change the sights, The Springs and get better grips also the Breech pins too. I’d refinish it. The stainless slides make the P-series off balance.

    1. avatar Gordy says:

      Pretty sure that is a folded carbon steel slide. Not Stainless

  13. avatar Northern_Michigan says:

    I like that you have described the grip as thick. My German P220 has grips that are slimmer than my P227 (by far), my P226 and my P229. My P239 is the only pistol I own with slimmer grips.

  14. avatar Docduracoat says:

    Doesn’t Sig call all their pistols “P”
    P938,238,220, etc.
    The only one I am Familiar with that is not a P, is the 365

    1. avatar Docduracoat says:

      On further exam, I see that the 365 is indeed the P365.
      So why do we humor Sig and use the “p”?
      Why not just sat the number and ignore the p, since ALL Sig pistols seem to be P ——-

      1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

        Because by simply saying “P220,” )or P-whatever), you have already most likely identified it by manufacturer…

    2. avatar Northern_Michigan says:

      It’s the P365 (as well). Generally when people say Sig P series, they mean the metal framed DA/SA pistols that Sig has made. The convention doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    3. avatar Jim Bob Joe says:

      The “P” Means Pistole, German for Pistol.

  15. avatar TommyJay says:

    I got a little Walther P22 years ago, and got it tuned up and working very well, and shot it quite a bit. Then I put it away for a year before pulling it out again.

    I started to shoot and noticed I was tucking my grip thumb under the base of the support thumb. Why the heck did I do that? So I fixed my grip and started shooting, but the slide never locked back. I never had that problem before. Ohh. If I tuck my grip thumb under, it stays off of the slide release. Maybe it’s a bad habit to form, but it works.

  16. avatar Brasstard says:

    Ive got a friends West German P220 and it is crazy accurate and easy to shoot. By far the most accurate pistol Ive ever used. Its like its a target pistol. My friend got it for 475$ in great shape.

  17. avatar thomaspaine says:

    The German made .45 acp guns have one major defect and it concerns reliability. The German guns were reverse engineered 9mm guns and therein lies a tale.

    Because this gun was reversed engineered there is not enough room between the top round in the magazine and the underside of the slide. What problem does this create? One of the most accurate lead cast bullets ever designed was the semi-wad cutter H&G bullet with a sharp shoulder and its copy cat competition. When you fire a round the slide starts to recoil and the empty case starts to move rearward out of the chamber. The rim of the empty case is pressing down on the top loaded round in the magazine and as it travels rearward it hits the very sharp shoulder of any semi-wad cutter bullets you use and plows a groove in the bullet as it travels rearward. When the rim of the empty case then hits the mouth of the loaded round it peals it back like a banana. As the slide then moves forward it attempts to feed this mangled round into the chamber and produces a nightmare jam. Sig was well aware of this reverse engineered problem because even some jacketed expanding bullets would end up jamming as well. I am told the newer designed guns have an interrupter that holds down the top round in the magazine. I do not have one of these newer guns so I cannot comment on how well this newer system even works.

    Sigs original stamped sheet metal slides were not the most robust and were known to often crack.

    The next question is does this gun shoot accurately. Yes it does.

    Do I like it. No I do not. Its top heavy and feels like trying to point a brick made of lead at the target and the muzzle flip between shots is severe as well.

    The trigger pull is good in single action which helps contribute to its accuracy.

    Its controls are so close together that since I am more used to a 1911 I always end up hitting the decocker instead of the slide release lever which could get you killed in a gun fight.

    Since the gun has no manual safety you cannot carry it locked and cocked either which is another great drawback of trying to carry this gun. Few people can hit much beyond arms length when they are forced to shoot double action on the first shot. This is why I never carry the gun or my Walther P99 either.

    The Sig’s large size make it about impossible to carry concealed in the summer, I can carry my Detonics .45 and no one knows I am even armed because it is so much smaller and it only gives up 1 round of capacity.

    The aluminum frame on the Sig 220 has also been known to crack after a large round count and of course do not ever drop an aluminum framed gun as they immediately go snap, crackle and pop.

    If you ever need to take the breech block out, good luck as it takes a press to get the pins out and they are then junk and must be replaced. This is the result of having to make a forged breach block for the flimsy stamped sheet metal slide that could never last with a stamped breech block.

    I have never had any problems with the 9mm Model 220 as this is the caliber it was designed to use and it is very reliable but do to the other above problems I like it about as much as I like getting the flue.

    1. avatar Rubiconcrossed says:

      On my Sig .45 the shitty stamped sheet metal roll pins in the breech block broke even though there is a small one placed inside a larger one. Christ almighty how much more money would it have costed the cheap bastards to use a sold pin instead of the junk roll pins. As mentioned by Thomas most people have to take the gun to a gunsmith to have the pins replaced when they break. I eventually did what most people do , I took it to a gun show and never looked back. That was my first and last German made P220 in .45 acp. I hope I never see another one.

  18. avatar BillB says:

    Sigs, Berettas and 1911s are my three favorite. In the SIG camp a 226 Mk25, 226 Extreme, Full size 320 and a German 220 which is in it’s original box with manual in about 95% condition. I actually had it for sale a while back but took it out to shoot and changed my mind. All of these pistols are excellent.

  19. avatar Specialist38 says:

    You have to have one with heel release magazine for it to be “better”….. true story.

    😉

  20. avatar MMurcek says:

    First SIG I got was a P238 and everyone who tries it says something along the lines of “That gun aims itself.” I sold my FNP and HK USP and got a P227 and P365, and they behave likewise. Now I love to find one of those P220s in. 38 Super…

  21. avatar Charlie says:

    My first Sig in 1985 was a P226 (W Germany), and I have since bought a P229, P230, P238 and an MPX. A couple of the later additions were made by Sig US, and I don’t notice the slightest bit of difference between the German and American versions.

    Charlie

  22. avatar Charles says:

    My first Sig was the then new P229 in 357 Sig with a spare 40 caliber barrel.
    Since then I have owned everything except the P210 and they have all been incredibly accurate and reliable.

    The BDAs, early model P220s, and P226s used a stamped metal slide with a captive pinned breech block.

    Later, when they brought out the 357 SIG and the P229, they redid the P220 and P226 using full length machined steel slides to hold up to regular shooting of max loads for 357 Sig, 40SW, 45 ACP, and later, 10mm.

    Some folks preferred (and still do) the older models for their lighter weight and different balance.

    Over the past 50 plus years I have carried virtually everything.
    Eventually, I overcame my youthful torrid affair with THE 1911.

    The quality and variety of affordable sidearms available today is remarkable.
    Nothing is best for everyone, and there is a place for most everything.
    There simply isn’t enough space here for me to explain my personal preferences today.

  23. avatar possum says:

    $450 Id buy it, then find someone who wants to give me $455

  24. avatar jimmy james says:

    I love my Sig P250’s in 45acp. Simple, DAO with restrike capability, no safety. What the US military should have bought instead of that striker fired BS.

    1. avatar Matthew Groom says:

      True story. The P250 is vastly superior to the P320.

  25. avatar BusyBeef says:

    Owned two (Combat and Stainless Elite Carry).
    Didn’t do anything my 1911s didn’t do better. Sold them.

  26. avatar Matthew Groom says:

    Fun fact: the first modern, DA/SA .45 ACP semi-auto pistol was….the HK P9S, 1969. The second modern, DA/SA .45 ACP semi-auto pistol, and the first DA/SA semi-auto .45 to have an alloy frame was…the SIG-Sauer P220, 1977. S&W was the first American company to come out with a DA/SA .45 auto, and they didn’t even bother to until 1986 with their second gen semi-auto, the 645. The only people interested in improving the .45 ACP before that were apparently the Germans.

  27. avatar larrynightser says:

    45 ACP because shooting twice is just silly!

  28. avatar hillhunter says:

    to the author: this should be your carry gun. yes it’s a big gun but if you hit this well especially on your first outing, there would be no question as to what you should use to save your bacon. you’ve also experienced 100% reliability. i wouldn’t relegate this piece to collector/range toy, it seems that you accidentally found the best gun for you. just be careful with the thumbs forward grip on p220 family sigs (i’ve seen shooters accidentally lock the slide back) and these models will rust (especially barrel and grip screws). thanks for the article and nice shooting!

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