SIG Sauer P220
The SIG Sauer P220 is a semi-automatic pistol. Designed in 1975 by the SIG Arms AG division of Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (now SIG Holding AG), and produced by J. P. Sauer & Sohn, in Eckernförde; it is currently manufactured by both SIG Sauer companies: SIG Sauer GMBH, of Eckernförde, Germany; and SIG Sauer, Inc., of New Hampshire, United States.
Not to be confused with SIG P210 series, which licensed the Petter-Browning system from SACM of France in 1938, the SIG Sauer P220 was developed for release in 1975 for the Swiss Army as a replacement for the SIG P210, which had been developed during World War II; in service it is known as “Pistole 75” (P75). For the commercial production and distribution of the P220, SIG partnered with J.P. Sauer & Sohn of Germany, thus, the P220 and all subsequent pistols from SIG and J.P. Sauer & Sohn are properly known as SIG Sauer pistols.
In 1975, Switzerland became the first nation to officially adopt the P220 as the “Pistole 75” (P75) chambered in 9 mm Parabellum. Other nations to adopt it for military use include Japan (general issue) and Denmark (which has the earlier P210 in general issue) only to special forces. It was followed by the SIG Sauer P226, incorporating a double stack magazine.
Upon completion of their military service, all soldiers can obtain ownership of their ordinance weapon for a nominal fee; in particular commissioned officers and soldiers of the medical forces of the Swiss armed forces can obtain ownership of their P220 service pistols by paying an administrative fee of thirty Swiss francs.
In the United States this handgun was originally sold in a modified form as the Browning BDA from 1977 to 1980.
The original 1975 SIG Sauer P220 had a ‘heel-mounted’ magazine release lever located at the rear of the magazine well and a lanyard loop which was typical of handguns made for police and military purposes. Newer SIG P220s utilize a push button magazine release to the left side of the grip, behind the trigger and do not have lanyard loops. The P220 was then later modified with a redesigned slide, grips, and other minor changes to the frame.
In 2007, a Picatinny rail was added to the frame under the barrel as standard on all models whose number ends in R. The major difference in slide design, between the older model SIG pistols and the current production, is that the older model slides were stamped whereas the current production models are milled on a CNC machine. The stamped models have an end piece at the muzzle end which is welded in place, to complete the slide. Additionally, the older stamped slides feature a removable breech block. This breech block is pinned to the slide with two hollow roll pins, one pressed inside the other, with their split ends opposed. The newer milled slides are a one-piece unit and do not have a removable breech block.
The SIG P220 also comes in P220R and P220ST versions. The base and R models have an aluminum alloy frame with a stainless steel slide (if made by SIG Sauer in the US; German made versions still use a blued, stamped steel slide); the ST model has a stainless steel frame and slide. The R and ST models also have a Picatinny rail, beneath the slide and barrel, allowing for fitting of accessories such as lights or laser sights.
Originally, all SIG P220s were DA/SA and featured a decocking lever (and no external safety) just forward of the slide catch. This changed with the introduction of double-action only (DAO), Double Action Kellerman (DAK), and single action (SA) models. The DAO and DAK models do not have a de-cocking lever or safety, and the SA models only feature an M1911 style external safety. SIG has also introduced the SAS (SIG Anti-Snag) model—which is dehorned, has no accessory rail, and is designed for concealed carry—and the Elite model, which includes the new short-reset trigger, a beavertail grip, front strap grip checkering, and front slide cocking serrations.
All modern P220 variants are available in .45 ACP and, as of January 2015, 10mm Auto.
The P220 was developed in 1975 by SIG and produced and distributed by J.P. Sauer & Sohn. A new locking system which is known as the SIG Sauer system was introduced as well as a number of other innovations. This nomenclature is found on the Browning BDA version of the P220 sold from 1975.
The SIG P210 (now manufactured as the SIG Sauer P210 in the United States) is a licensed copy of the French Model 1935 which is the Petter Browning design. Petter had removed the loose fitting barrel bushing and the tilting link of the John Browning M1907 design, but retained the grooves on the top of the barrel which engaged similar grooves in the interior of the slide. SIG licensed this design in 1947.
The SIG Sauer design went further by having no grooves in the slide or barrel. Instead an enlargement of the chamber locks directly on the ejection port of the slide. The double action / single action (DA/SA) trigger design of the P220 is also a SIG Sauer innovation similar to the J.P. Sauer & Sohn 38H pistol. Further design refinements include a hammer decocking lever and positive firing pin block safety.
Instead of the locking lugs and recesses milled into the barrel and slide of Browning-derived weapons such as the Colt M1911A1, Browning Hi-Power and CZ 75, the P220 variants (and many other modern pistols) lock the barrel and slide together using an enlarged breech section on the barrel locking into the ejection port. The SIG Sauer System (embossed on the side of the Browning BDA) is a refinement of the Petter-Browning system.
The slide of the P220 series is a heavy-gauge sheet metal stamping with a welded-on nose section incorporating an internal barrel bushing. The breech block portion is a machined insert attached to the slide by means of a roll pin visible from either side. The frame is of forged alloy with a hard-anodized coating. The SIG P220 series incorporates a hammer-drop lever to the rear of the trigger on the left side, which first appeared on the Sauer 38H before World War II. After chambering a round, the hammer will be cocked, so for safe carriage the hammer drop is actuated with the thumb, dropping the hammer in a safe manner.
The P220 also features an automatic firing pin block safety which is activated by the trigger mechanism, similar to the one used in the Czech CZ-038 from the period after the Second World War. The pistol may now be holstered, and can be fired without actuating any other controls. The first shot will be fired in double-action mode, unless the user chooses to manually cock the hammer. Double-action trigger pressure is measured at approximately 12–14 pounds, with subsequent shots being fired in single-action mode with a lighter trigger pressure of approximately 6 pounds. There is no separate safety lever to manipulate; the hammer drop is the only manual safety device. As with other double-action pistols such as the Walther P38 and Beretta 92F, some training is required to minimize the difference caused by the different trigger pressure between the first double-action shot and subsequent single-action shots when the hammer is cocked by the rearward movement of the slide.
SIG Sauer refers to their safety systems as a Four Point System. The four types of safety are:
- the de-cocker, which allows the shooter to lower the hammer safely, while there is a round in the chamber. When the de-cocking occurs, the hammer is lowered but it still stays away from the firing pin.
- the safety notch, prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin accidentally.
- the firing pin has its own safety, which makes sure that the pin will not move forward. That is, until the trigger is pulled, at which time the safety is removed and the pin is pushed forward to meet the cartridge’s primer. This third safety is also the gun’s drop safety. Even when dropped from a reasonable height, with a round in the chamber, the gun will not fire.
- the slide has a notch, which separates the firing pin from the cartridge. Unlike the aforementioned firing pin safety, this one is there to make sure that the gun does not accidentally discharge a round while it is cycling. This is called the “trigger bar disconnector”.