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Thread: SIG and the innovative P220

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    SIG and the innovative P220

    I posted this in another thread but thought it needed its own place.

    The SIG P220 was a revolutionary pistol that very few people realize was revolutionary

    Prior to the SIG P220 [AKA Swiss Model 1975], most pistols that used the Browning short recoil system utilized a pair of lugs on the barrel and corresponding cuts inside the slide to handle the barrel to slide locking. The SIG 220 used a new style squared off ejection port and a square barrel profile near the breach to handle the barrel to slide locking function.
    That SIG style locking system has since been copied by countless other pistol makers. Glock, H&K, Ruger and many other designs now use that simplified locking system pioneered by SIG. It's easier to produce and fit the SIG style system, it's far less expensive to produce and it's very reliable.

    When the Swiss were seeking to replace the P210 [AKA Model 49], SIG developed what became the P220 [model 1975] and that pistol incorporated several innovations. The square off ejection port barrel locking, the formed steel shell slide with a separate breach block, a new de-cocking system and separate removable steel locking block in the alloy frame. The P220 was originally designed as a 9mm pistol and the 45 ACP chambering was added later. The P220 has an excellent double action pull and still has one of the better DA to SA transitions.

    When West Germany was seeking new police pistols the P220 became the basis for the shorter P6 (similar to a P225) pistol that was widely accepted by several West German states.

    So the P220 is more than just a great DA/SA pistol chambered in 45 ACP, it was a significant milestone in handgun development.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Johnch's Avatar
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    I agree

    I had a Browning BDA
    AKA a Sig P220
    I also had Mags with the Browning name and logo

    But YEARS back I just had to get another 1911 ..... for some reason
    And in a altered state of gun lust , I sold it

    Maybe the worst idea I had
    As it was a great shooter and would feed anything ... even empty cases from the mag

    I have a 226 in 9 mm and a 229 in 40 S&W
    But I sure wish I still had the BDA/P220
    As Sig knows how to build a great pistol

    John
    Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
    And I carry a SIG

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    I had a very similar experience. I acquired a BDA .45 ACP when they first came out, along with a couple of extra mags. My observations about the pistol were exactly the same as yours. Flawless reliability, highly accurate, lighter weight than the 1911. There was nothing about it to dislike, but it seemed bulky. I sold it and got another 1911.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master
    9.3X62AL's Avatar
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    I have both a P-220 in 45 ACP and a P-226 in 9mm. Great pistols, and they weaned me away from the S&W 2nd and 3rd Generation bass boat anchors.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    I was just playing around with both P220 and new P227 as i was considering buying one. Sig makes some fine firearms and it was a close call for me but at the end I ended up getting CZ 97 BD. Just felt better in my hand and I think fit and finish was better on the CZ overall which says a lot because like I said I think Sigs are very high quality guns too.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    When one thinks about innovative pistol designs some immediately come to mind:
    The Glock G17 wasn't the first pistol to use a polymer frame (that was the H&K VP70) but the Glock made polymer mainstream.
    The Browning model 1900 with the short recoil system, later adopted to a huge number of Browning short recoil designs.
    The Walther style tilting locking block used on the P-38 and Beretta pistols.
    The hesitation lock used on the original Remington Model 51 (OK that one didn't really catch on)
    The double column magazine used in the Browning Hi-Power (maybe the first but clearly a trend setter)

    The SIG P220 really was one of those pistol that broke new ground. The evolution of the Browning short recoil system with the use of the squared off ejection port was revolutionary. The folded metal slide wasn't completely new but it was very unusual. That pistol was a huge departure from the military pistols that it replaced.

  7. #7
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    I've got lots of other pistols but if I had to sell them all and keep just one it would be the sig p220. Mine has been the most reliable pistol I've ever owned.
    I was a dog on a short chain
    and now there’s no chain.
    Jim Harrison 1937 -2016

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by historicfirearms View Post
    I've got lots of other pistols but if I had to sell them all and keep just one it would be the sig p220. Mine has been the most reliable pistol I've ever owned.
    I totally agree. I could get by with just the normal P220 as my only handgun. I had the DAK model but hated it. Another P220 will come along I hope soon.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Meh. . .

    Aluminum frame
    Tall, muzzle-flippy bore axis
    Two different trigger pulls pretty much mandated out of the holster - a HORRIBLE concept NOT standing the test of time.
    Slide held together with one-time-use pins
    The barrel lockup is indeed clever. I can't fault them on the quality of the construction, but the concepts enclosed in it make my brain hurt.
    WWJMBD?

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  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Bigslug, You don't have to like the SIG P220 (and clearly you do not) but can you at least acknowledge that it was a departure from the norm in 1975?

    And I wouldn't characterize the slide as "being held together" with one-time-use pins. The body of the slide is a single piece of folded steel with a separate muzzle piece and a separate breach block. The muzzle piece is permanently welded to the slide and the breach block is held in place with a roll pin. However, the breach block is fitted to the slide in such a manner that the roll pin doesn't handle the stress on the breach block, it merely locates the breach block. The slide design was innovative on a couple of levels. The construction and the locking system.

    As for the aluminum frame, yep it has one but that was hardly a new thing at the time. The Walther P-1, Colt Lightweight Commander and many other pistols had already made use of aluminum frames by the time the P220 came along.

    The DA/SA trigger wasn't new either.

    Your dislike of the design is noted.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by 9.3X62AL View Post
    I have both a P-220 in 45 ACP and a P-226 in 9mm.
    as do i, Great pistols, but i am getting ready to bunbroker the 220, as it is not often shot, and i like an all steel pistol in a 45. i shoot beretta 92, sig 226, a 1911, smith 15, 67, and 25. and, more often than not, my carry guns, a pair of yugo tokarevs. nasty beasts, but i have cases of chinese and romanian ammo, and they just feel right in my hand.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    I was in a match in Gilmer, Texas way back then and to finish the course you had to double tap a target at 50 yds. My two shots made a lazy 8. BDA .45 had shootability that the P220 kept.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master
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    The P-series SIG pistols do have relatively high bore axes, but the pistols' ergonomics more than compensate for this physics issue. The SIGs point very naturally for me, and I hit well with them past 15 yards without taking clean sight pictures. I cannot hit as well with the Glocks when firing in this manner--hits go higher.
    I don't paint bullets. I like Black Rifle Coffee. Sacred cows are always fair game. California is to the United States what Syria is to Russia and North Korea is to China/South Korea/Japan--a Hermit Kingdom detached from the real world and led by delusional maniacs, an economic and social basket case sustained by "foreign" aid so as to not lose military bases.

  14. #14
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    I was stunned by the accuracy of mine when I got it back in the early 90's. It was by far the most accurate off-the-shelf, center fire, service semi-auto I had ever fired. Glocks, Berettas, S&W's; all shot rings around the groups I got from the 220. It is still one of my favorites.
    _________________________________________________It's not that I can't spell: it is that I can't type.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Petrol & Powder View Post
    Bigslug, You don't have to like the SIG P220 (and clearly you do not) but can you at least acknowledge that it was a departure from the norm in 1975?
    MMMMMMMMMMMMMaybe. . .

    The Smith 39 derivatives were already going there, and the CZ-75 was going there without forcing the DA/SA transition. ALL of that DA/SA grew out of the Walther PP, so aside from the chamber locking to the leading edge to the ejection port, I don't see a heap of jumping out of the herd.

    As to the roll pins - my peeve is that every manufacturer that uses them to hold parts in place recommends replacement with new once they are removed. Soooo. . .in 1911, John Browning gave the world a pistol that can be DETAIL stripped for an extremely thorough cleaning using only parts of the pistol as tools, and reassembled with the same on-hand parts. In 1975, Sig gave the world a pistol for which you need to order parts when all you want to do is clean goo out from under the extractor. HK does the same, the XD does the same. Glock got it right in that he made the hundred year old concept simpler, not more complex.

    Dear "Progress", note my jaundiced eye.
    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigslug View Post
    MMMMMMMMMMMMMaybe. . .

    The Smith 39 derivatives were already going there, and the CZ-75 was going there without forcing the DA/SA transition. ALL of that DA/SA grew out of the Walther PP, so aside from the chamber locking to the leading edge to the ejection port, I don't see a heap of jumping out of the herd.

    As to the roll pins - my peeve is that every manufacturer that uses them to hold parts in place recommends replacement with new once they are removed. Soooo. . .in 1911, John Browning gave the world a pistol that can be DETAIL stripped for an extremely thorough cleaning using only parts of the pistol as tools, and reassembled with the same on-hand parts. In 1975, Sig gave the world a pistol for which you need to order parts when all you want to do is clean goo out from under the extractor. HK does the same, the XD does the same. Glock got it right in that he made the hundred year old concept simpler, not more complex.

    Dear "Progress", note my jaundiced eye.
    OK, fair enough. I didn't start this thread in order to start another, "I like gun X or I do not like gun X" - discussion.
    I wanted to point out that the world of pistols changed significantly in 1975 but a lot of folks didn't really notice that change.

    The P220 wasn't the landslide design of the swing out revolver cylinder or Browning short recoil system. It wasn't even the stainless steel revolver or double column magazine BUT it was a turning point.

    I do think the squared ejection port locking was a big deal. I also think the folded sheet steel slide was kind of a big deal but I'm not certain that was a first. AND, I think few people realize the P220 was the genesis of those design features.

    As for the roll pin holding the breach block in place, I hear you and can't totally disagree. However, in terms of making a high quality military pistol that wasn't super expensive, I think I can forgive SIG for the roll pin thing. It's not as if you need to remove that breach block often.

    Roll pins can be re-used although most manufactures want you to replace them. I don't think a roll pin can be re-used indefinitely but they are not strictly one time use devices. And, a roll pin is fairly cheap. If the goal of the designer is to reduce initial cost, I can see using a roll pin for something that seldom needs to come out.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 11-09-2018 at 08:52 AM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

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    The ejection port breech lock was an innovation in making things cheaper, and nice in that it didn't make for less of a gun in the process. The mill cuts in the top of the slide of a 1911 certainly can't be simple to do. . .

    Sheet steel slide - for a fun time, look up some of the pistol prototypes that are in the Springfield, MA museum. There was quite a lot of tinkering done in the attempt to crank out low-cost 1911 equivalents. Brass/bronze alloys for sure were one attempt, and I seem to recall some incredibly bulbous-looking sheet metal variant. It was certainly the fad of WWII and immediately after, with sling bands and trigger guards on Garands and 1903's switching away from milled; M3 Grease Guns, STENs, and the various Russian SMG's; the move from the MG34 to the 42 ultimately to the G3 and MP-5. I wonder - somewhat seriously - if the Markham BB guns were the REAL technical innovators with sheet metal arms, as they were using pressings as far back as the 1890's. . .

    One of the more interesting spins of that era (to me) was the Ruger P85. It used Sig's ejection port lock, but retained the 1911's swinging barrel link instead of the cam slot that goes back at least as far as the Hi Power (1935). Bill Ruger doubtless had a reason, but as he was all about value and reasonable cost (especially since he was after a military contract with that one), I can't readily fathom what that reason would have been. I wonder if that was actually the last new design to use that feature. . .
    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    I think there's a distinction between a stamped "sheet metal" slide verses a heavier pressed or folded metal slide. There was certainly a lot of experimentation with stamped slides with varying results. I think the SIG approach is sort of a blended technology. The slide body really isn't "sheet metal"; it is a pretty substantial piece of steel but it is folded as opposed to forged and milled. SIG wisely didn't even attempt to make the muzzle cap and breach block during that folding process. Those components were added to the main body of the slide.
    SIG's goal was to make a slide that was fast and inexpensive to produce. They developed a new approach with the folded steel slide and we got the new locking system as a bonus.

    Interestingly, SIG later abandoned that process and returned to forging and milling slides for some of their pistols (I think the P229 was the first to return to a forged slide). I suspect the savings weren't as great as anticipated and it was just as easy to use forged slides. However the locking system with the squared ejection port was a cost savings improvement and that feature remained.

    As for stamped steel in other firearm applications, there are clearly benefits to that, in the right application. Stamped steel doesn't have to equate to decreased quality. A Thompson submachine gun or MP38 is far more expensive to produce than a M3 grease gun or MP40.
    The H&K G3 and H&K MP5 make extensive use of stampings and they are both excellent weapons.
    You lose nothing by making some parts like barrel bands and trigger guards from stamped steel.

    Interesting that you bring up the Ruger P-85.
    That was a great inexpensive but very solid pistol. And Bill Ruger did use a swinging link instead of a cam to lock & unlock the barrel. But he also incorporated the SIG style ejection port. Perhaps he wanted to avoid the need to insert a hardened steel pin or block in the aluminum P-85 frame? By using a swinging link the P-85 only needs a hole in the aluminum frame for the slide stop pin. I don't know, I'm just speculating.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    And this ties in nicely. I just posted this on another forum:

    A Little P-85 Nostalgia

    For those of you that were around in the mid to late 1980's and paying attention to firearms, here's a little P-85 nostalgia. For the rest of you, just think of it as history.

    By the mid-1980's the "wonder-nine" rage was in full force. Everybody and their brother was making a high capacity 9mm pistol with a DA/SA action. The U.S. military adopted the Beretta 92 (they labeled it the M9). Police departments were transitioning to pistols and the wonder nines were the top pick for that. There was a demand for the high capacity DA 9mm pistol.
    However, there was a drawback; the "wonder nines" were expensive.
    The market included pistols such as the Beretta 92, the SIG P226 and the S&W 9mm pistol du jour. Good pistols but difficult for the working man to acquire.

    Then Bill Ruger announced the development of the P-85. It was to be a reliable, durable and most important - affordable wonder nine. Its suggested retail price was significantly lower than its nearest competitor.
    The P-85 would fill that void for an affordable, solid, working man's pistol.

    Everyone was talking about it but there was one problem - you couldn't buy one ! The P-85 didn't hit the market until circa 1987.

    By the time the P-85 hit the market the wonder nine market had changed. The Glocks were making inroads into the U.S. market. S&W was producing third generation pistols and flooding the market with the gun of the week. Beretta and SIG had captured big sections of the law enforcement market. The P-85 was everything it promised to be: reliable, durable and inexpensive. It was just late to the party.

    The P-85 missed the early military trials and it missed most of the early law enforcement contracts. We may never know why the P-85 arrived late, perhaps it was just Bill Ruger's plan all along or maybe it was one of those quirks of history. In the end, the Ruger customers got exact what they expect from Ruger - A solid, strong gun at an affordable price.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Petrol & Powder View Post
    Interestingly, SIG later abandoned that process and returned to forging and milling slides for some of their pistols (I think the P229 was the first to return to a forged slide). I suspect the savings weren't as great as anticipated and it was just as easy to use forged slides. .
    That was most likely born out of the two-piece slide not being compatible with the high pressures brought on by the .40 S&W and .357 Sig fad. At the point you're rolling one type of process to adapt to the most popular cartridge of the day, and training assemblers to its process, it doesn't make sense to retain the process for the two rounds (9mm and .45) that everybody thought were going away.

    As long as we're on Wondernine nostalgia, who here remembers Sig's K-Kote? The early, black, corrosion-resistant finish they supposedly made for the SeALs. . .that seemed to start coming off after five minutes in a hard rain or ten in a stiff breeze? Yes folks, our painting technology has improved since then.
    WWJMBD?

    "I'M MELLLLLLLLLLTING!" - Elphaba

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