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SIG Sauer P220 .45 ACP: What One Expert with 30 Years of Firearms Experience Thinks

SIG Sauer P220
SIG Sauer P220. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

SIG Sauer P220 .45 ACP Profile: As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan in the world of SIG Sauer pistols; I shoot them well enough, but for whatever reason, they just don’t give me the “Yeah, buddy!” fun factor and sense of accomplishment that I get from capping rounds downrange with my Beretta 92FS/M9, WWI Colt M1911, CZ-75, or my multiple Glocks.

That said, they are a superbly well-made brand with a very loyal following, and what’s more, I’ve always thought them to be very handsome-looking pistols from an aesthetic standpoint.

The manufacturer, SIG (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) traces its roots back to 1853, so they know what they’re doing.

One of their most popular and well-regarded products is the SIG P220 .45 ACP. We decided to give this pistol a deep look to see why it is so popular and also explore my own personal shooting experiences with the SIG Sauer P220 overall.

SIG Sauer P220 History and Specifications

Debuting in 1975, the 9mm version of the P220 is what initially replaced the P210 as Swiss Army standard issue, but it was the .45 ACP chambering of this pistol, coming out two years later, that gained big-time popularity in the United States, as it combined big-bore stopping power with double-action lockwork.

As a review on the Christian Gun Owner website puts it, “The Sig P220 is a company flagship that SIG states: ‘THE ONE THAT STARTED IT ALL.’ You better believe it.”

Before the SIG P220 came along, if you wanted a double-action semiauto pistol with a double-action trigger, you were S.O.L; your choices in the caliber were either the M1911 single-action autopistol or a double-action revolver such as the First World War-vintage Model 1917 revolvers from Colt and Smith & Wesson.

Not only did the P220 rapidly gain popularity with American private citizens and law enforcement officers alike, it even persuaded a lot of old-school dyed-in-the-wool M1911 single-action buffs like John Farnam of Defense Training International, LLC to switch guns.

Among the first Stateside law enforcement entities to adopt the pistol was the Huntington Beach Police Department in Southern California’s Orange County. For whatever reason, the gun was initially marketed in the U.S. under the moniker “Browning BDA” but eventually was rebranded under its proper name, the P220; concurrently, the P220 went from a butt-heel magazine release to the push-button magazine release far preferred by American shooters,  As noted by Travis Pike on the Gun University website:

“As double-stack 9mms took over, the P220 became increasingly known as a 45 ACP firearm. SIG’s own P226 offered a double-stack 9mm option, and the P220 kept up with the most popular 45 ACP pistols in its single-stack configuration. Plus, America still really loved the 45 ACP round, and the SIG offered an M1911 alternative. Thus, the P220 became the 45 ACP pistol we all know and love.”

Overall length of the gun is 7.7 inches, with a barrel length of 4.4 inches, a width of 1.5 inches, and a height of 5.5 inches. The pistol weighs 30.4 ounces empty and 39.1 ounces with a full-charged 8-round magazine. Trigger pull is 10.01 pounds in double-action mode and 4.4 pounds in single-action.

SIG Sauer P220: Personal Shooting Impressions

 From a personal experience, the very first .45 caliber handgun I ever fired was a P220, at the then-newly-opened Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A, way back on my 15th birthday in August 1990. I clearly recall the ponytailed manager of the range absolutely raving about it: “It’s the best .45. So much better than the Colt.”

Alas, that particular day was one of my more inauspicious days in terms of marksmanship performance; even though I knew objectively it was a quality weapon, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it, with less than 50% of my shots striking anywhere on the silhouette target!  In fairness, I had an even worse hit rate with the Heckler & Koch (HK) P7 9mm I rented for that same range session, and as readers of my previous article on that particular gun will recall, that’s actually one of the sweetest-shooting pistols in my so-called “Orr-senal of Democracy” (see what I did there?). Oh well, we all have our bad days, right?

Fast-forward two months, and I turned in a much better performance with the LAGC rental P220, though, much to the surprise of both myself and that aforementioned manager, I shot better and got more enjoyment from the Colt Government Model.

Other Friends’ Shooting Impressions

I haven’t fired a P220 in many years, so to get a better assessment of the gun for our readers’ benefit, I picked the brain of one of my old high school buddies (who requested that his name not be included in this article) who happens to own a P220.

Here’s what he has to say:

Heavy, even for a .45 (which I prefer). Very reliable. Very accurate out of the box. Slightly elongated but very smooth trigger pull and reset (compared to the P226). Low recoil (due to the weight). Expensive for a ,45. Good for guys like me with big hands.” Just to be a wiseass, he adds, “Oh, and it isn’t Glock,” followed by a turd-eating grin emoji. (Meh. “Haters Gonna Hate,” I suppose.)

Bottom Line: Yea or Nay?

My subjective lack of enthusiasm for SIGs notwithstanding, I can still objectively recommend the SIG Sauer P220 as an excellent piece for home defense, carry, and competition. According to the True Gun Value website, “A SIG SAUER P220 pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,053.36 new and $761.67 used. The 12 month average price is $1,081.23 new and $800.41 used.”

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).



  1. phil stacy

    November 20, 2022 at 10:43 am

    .45 auto cult is not objective

  2. Fred Adams

    November 21, 2022 at 10:08 am

    I grew up shooting a DCM surplus 1911 with a .22 LR conversion unit on it, at my Dad’s encouragement. I loved that pistol, could hit reliably with it even though the front sight was loose. I fired thousands of rounds with it. The experience translated directly to the .45 cal 1911. Handling was near identical and accuracy maintained in the transition despite the slightly heavier recoil of the .45. The long smooth push of the .45 was never difficult.

    Aside from mag capacity issues, my one complaint about the 1911 was the need to take it off of safe to remove the chambered cartridge. The SIG P220 single action only (SAO) fixed that problem. It is a near perfect handgun. It suffers in comparison with the 1911 in being larger than the Colt. Same grip angle and similar operating procedures allowed my 1911 experience to come over pretty easily. The feel of the 1911 is better, though, pretty much unequaled among auto pistols.

    I could never see the virtue of a double action semi auto, as the 1911 or P220 SAO can be carried as safely cocked & locked, yielding a uniform and light SA trigger pull. So the standard P220 never appealed to me.

    The 45 is a grand old cartridge. No one can argue it’s effectiveness. One can argue that it’s too heavy and bulky per round, and that it limits mag capacity in most available pistols. There are well made double stack 1911s that address the capacity issue, at the expense of sacrificing the wonderful feel of the 1911.

    Though there is nothing wrong with the .45, I carry a Glock 20 in 10mm (31 rounds available with a mag change) or a brace of 9 mm P365s (26 rounds on tap, with the added benefit of a spare pistol). But, I’ll never feel under-armed with a 1911 or a P220 SAO.

    For me, the 1911 has one advantage: I could stand in the old sandpit where I used to shoot, draw and fire from the waist and hit a 6″ circle on the sand wall at 25 feet. Those thousands of training rounds paid off. Thanks, Dad.

  3. J Boatfield

    November 25, 2022 at 8:16 pm

    My first handgun was a SIG P220 chambered in 9mm. I wish I had kept it as there were not many of them around.

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