What Expert Had to Say: Back when I wrote my slightly controversial and proverbial pot-stirring article rating the Top 5 9mm Pistols, I gave Honorable Mention to three particular pistols, among them the legendary SIG Sauer P210. Although many consider the SIG Sauer 210 the most accurate 9mm pistol ever, I rationalized my mere Honorable Mention ranking because I hadn’t yet been able to fire and adequately evaluate the 210. For a long time, it was so goshdarn expensive that none of the gun ranges I frequented throughout the US of A over the past three decades made one available for rental. The pistol took on an aura of Unobtainium, and the Holy Grail all rolled into one.
A Brief History of the SIG Sauer P210
The SIG Sauer P210 has been likened to a Swiss watch of handguns, and that’s not just because Switzerland is the country of origin, though that certainly helps.
As noted by Sean Murphy of Outdoor Life, “While the Swiss aren’t known for a large military force, their arms are known to be high-quality for soldiers that know how to use them. Originally adopted in 1949, the SIG P49 (later renamed P210), featured a steel frame and slide that have full length contact, with a high-quality barrel and superb trigger. With match-grade ammunition, the specification for the original SIG P210 was a five-shot group measuring two-inches or less at 50 meters. Most pistols would struggle to offer this level of precision at half the distance.” (emphasis added)
Eventually, the SIG Sauer P220 replaced the P210 as the Swiss Army pistol. Remarkably, the pistol remains standard issue for Danish Defence (the unified armed forces for the Kingdom of Denmark), despite the overwhelming prevalence of higher-capacity double-action and striker-fired 9mm auto pistols; the P210 is a single-action autoloader with a modest 8-round magazine and an old-school European-style butt-heel magazine release that has long since fallen out of favor for the far faster push-button mag releases located behind the trigger guard.
The standard P210 weighs 970 g (34 oz), has an overall length of 215 mm (8.5 in), and a barrel length of 120 mm (4.7 in).
SIG Sauer P210: My Personal Shooting Impressions at the Range
So, as luck would have it, as I was taking some hard-earned Labor Day weekend vacay in my old childhood hometown of Los Angeles, I decided to visit one of my favorite old SoCal haunts, the good ol’ Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A…and I discovered to my delightful surprise that the LAGC folks actually had a SIG P210 available for rental! It would be a major understatement to say this was way too good and rare an opportunity to pass up!
After 33 years of aura of mystery surrounding this previously unobtainable pistol, the act of dispelling that aura was…good but not spectacular. (“And the crowd goes…mild.”) Definitely not a bad experience, but not one that blew me away either (bad pun intended).
Slide manipulation was delightfully smooth, probably at least partially because the slide rides inside the frame rails rather than atop them the way most semiautomatic pistol slides do, which also at least theoretically contributes to the gun’s intrinsic accuracy; relatively few other auto pistols emulate this feature, the CZ-75 being amongst those few.
The trigger was also remarkably smooth and worthy of the “Swiss watch” label. The frame-mounted safety flicked downward from the “Safe” to “Fire” position slickly and smartly…but going the opposite direction – such as for cocked-and-locked carry mode – was rough and gritty.
And then there was the aforementioned butt-heel magazine release. On this particular P210 (not sure if it’s a universal design flaw or just unique to this individual specimen), it was extremely stiff and awkward. My shooting buddy and I both struggled with it, and mind you, we both weigh over 200 pounds and work out regularly. Definitely not a desirable feature in a real-world gunfight or even a high-stakes competitive match wherein speed reloads AKA emergency reloads are called for.
(As a sidebar note, SIG did recently release their so-called P210 Carry version, which has the more desirable push-button mag release.)
As to accuracy, the basis of the SIG Sauer P210’s legend, I have to throw out a couple of caveats here. First of all, LAGC is only a 50-foot range, so in fairness, that limited my ability to do a true hard-core test of the gun’s long-distance dialing (so to speak) ability. Second of all, this was a range rental gun, so it’s got some wear & tear on it. That said…at 21 feet, all 25 rounds fired struck the ICE-QT target in the head, but the rounds strayed considerably to the right, clustering around the left eye of the target as opposed to the bridge of the nose that was my aim point. At the 50-foot mark, all 25 rounds were in the 5-zone of the torso, but only 8 rounds landed in the tiebreaking 5x zone, with the rounds once again straying noticeably to the right. The groups were pleasantly tight but nowhere near as tight as the kind I routinely score with my beloved Beretta 92FS/M9, Glock 17, Glock 21SF, Glock 26, or my WWI-vintage Colt M1911 that I fired at this very same range session.
The ammo used was the Remington Range 115-grain full metal jacket (FMJ).
SIG Sauer P210: Bottom Line
So then, I’m not planning to save up money to buy a SIG P210, as many other firearms remain higher-ranked on my Wish List. That said, it is still definitely a high-quality firearm and one of these days, I’d relish the chance to test the gun’s capabilities at 25 and 50 yards (as opposed to 21 and 50 feet). And the good news is, though the pistol is pricey, the price tag actually appears to have gone down compared to the $2,500.00 – $3,000.00 USD that was the norm back in the 1990s.
If you have the desire to own one of these legendary pistols, I definitely recommend it.
Bonus: Sig Sauer Photo Essay
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.