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A ‘Sweet Shooter’: Meet the SIG Sauer P220 Elite (.45 ACP Pistol Review)

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

The SIG Sauer P220 was the first commercially successful traditional double action (TDA) semiautomatic pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, thus finally offering a TDA alternative to the M1911 single-action (SA) autopistol and “Model of 1917” double-action (DA) revolvers. 

In addition, from a personal sentimental standpoint, the P220 was also the first .45 ACP handgun I ever fired and the first SIG I ever fired.

Ironically, though I’ve fired a myriad of SIG Sauer pistols and a myriad of .45 caliber handguns since then, I hadn’t specifically fired a P220 since that time … and this in spite of the fact that several of my shooting buddies own a P220.

So, I decided this past weekend was as good a one as any to make up for lost time. The specific iteration turned out to be the P220 Elite.

SIG Sauer P220 Elite History and Specifications

The manufacturer’s official info page is somewhat vague on what distinguishes the P220 Elite from other editions of this perennially popular pistol: 

“The pistol that ushered in the modern era at SIG, in its tried and true form … The modern SIG SAUER pistol story began with the P220. In 1976 the .45 ACP P220 was introduced and quickly became recognized as one of ‘the most accurate 45s right out of the box.’ Since that time the P220 has earned an enviable record in hot spots around the world. The P220 features a stainless steel slide machined from barstock and coated with a durable, wear-resistant Nitron finish, light-weight alloy frame with integral accessory rail, and the SIG SAUER four-point safety system of decocking lever, patented automatic firing pin safety block, safety intercept notch, and trigger bar disconnector.”

So, to do some further digging, I took advantage of the Live Chat function on the SIG website. The chat agent elaborated that “The Elite is offered with the E2 [one-piece wraparound] grips and will have the SRT (Short Reset Trigger) installed from the factory.” 

I would later find out during my live-fire range session (more on this in a bit) that the Elite also has a beavertail grip (something normally associated with custom M1911 pistols), front strap grip checkering, and front slide cocking serrations – these are becoming more and more prevalent nowadays, but personally, I have no use for them.

Digging still further, as far as I can ascertain, the 220 Elite debuted circa 2010. As Patrick Carrube wrote for The Truth About Guns back in August of that year: “Imagine Sinatra in a satin charcoal Armani suit, sitting in a leather-lined smoking chair, puffing on a fat Cuban and sipping top-shelf whiskey. There’s your SIG P220 Elite.”

Specifications include a barrel length of 4.4 inches, an overall length of 7.7 inches, a width of 1.3’, and a height of 5.5’. The empty weight is 30.4 ounces. The standard magazine capacity is 8+1 rounds.

Range Report/Personal Shooting Impressions

Thusly, I was off once more unto dear ol’ Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor shooting facility in Ashburn, Virginia to rent the P220 Elite – it was actually a tossup between that and the SIG P227 after I learned that SEG didn’t have a Glock 41 available – purchasing 50 rounds of PMC Bronze 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) “hardball” ammo and an ICE-QT paper target

My accuracy tests, with 25 rounds of head shots at seven yards, 15 rounds of groin shots at 25 yards, and 10 rounds of center torso shots at 50 yards, fired from Classic Weaver Stance. Why did I flip the script and do the torso shots at 50 yards instead of 25?

Well, I wanted to see just what sort of “elite” accuracy I could coax out of this pistol. After all, Chuck Karwan – who had been a Green Beret in Vietnam – laid out a similar standard in his guest chapter for the 1986 “Gun Digest Book of 9mm Handguns”: “(F)our-inch capability … translates to eight-inches at fifty yards. That in turn means the bullet will strike within four inches of point of aim. That makes a chest hot on a man at fifty yards easy, even on a skinny man. Accuracy better than that is pure gravy, especially when combined with such excellent reliability.”

The trigger, in DA and SA mode alike, was niiiiice! Smooth in DA, crisp in SA. The SRT is good as advertised.

Accuracy-wise, I definitely shot waaaaayyyyy better with this gun than I did with the old-school P220 back in August 1990 (though granted, my shooting skills were waaaaayyyy less honed back then)! At seven yards, perhaps a half-inch differential prevented me from getting that elusive one-hole group, but the paper bad guy’s right eye and bridge of the nose were positively obliterated.

At 25 yards, the gun was so well-zeroed that my typical 6 o’clock hold actually sent my first 5 rounds at that distance too low, so I made a Kentucky windage adjustment for the center of the pelvis.

At 50 yards, I suddenly experienced a severe bullet drop, with my first five shots all joining my 25-yarders in “the family jewels.”

So, I had to take even more extreme Kentucky windage this time, holding practically at the neckline in order to keep three out of five rounds in the torso (with the remaining two still landing in or near “da’ sack”).

Reliability was flawless, as one would expect from SIG. 

A sweet shooter all-around.

Want Your Own?

True Gun Value states that “A SIG SAUER P220 ELITE pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,098.71 new and $963.38 used. The 12-month average price is $1,098.71 new and $975.37 used.” MidwayUSA currently has theirs listed at $999.99 – hey, that’s technically still under the $1K mark, right? Guns.Com has the same asking price. 

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 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. 

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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).