While looking through Sig Sauer’s catalog, there was no doubt in my mind that it’s in the handgun business to stay: There was a multitude of good, reliable rimfire and centerfire guns with dozens of models and variations in shapes and sizes to fit just about anyone.

It wasn’t very long ago when the German police were looking for a new handgun in the standard European caliber, 9mm Parabellum, to outfit the troops. If memory serves, the trials included the Heckler & Koch P7, the Walther P5 and the Sig Sauer P225, a compact version of the P220 that went on to be the German police’s “Pistole 6,” which came complete with a magazine release at the bottom of the grip. Newbies to the shooting sports will not remember the HK P7 and Walther P5 or give them much thought, but the Pistole 6 went on to be the present day P220, a gun that is (and has been for roughly 35 years) readily available to shooters, with little change to its overall design or handling characteristics. “Stable” perfectly describes the P220 series of semi-automatics.

When the first P220s were introduced, they were available in 9mm Parabellum and the 7.65mm, with a few .38 Super models drifting in. Hawes and Interarms imported the guns to the U.S., and even Browning got on the bandwagon, naming it the “BDA.” Since America seemed lukewarm about the three initial offerings, guns in .45 ACP soon hit the shores, experiencing an almost immediate success. With this pressing need for support and service, Sig Sauer set up offices in Herndon, Virginia before moving to its present location in Exeter, New Hampshire in the mid-1980s.

Gun Details

If the current crop of polymer guns or synthetic frames doesn’t appeal to you, the P220 will. While many are content with the utilitarian look of Glocks and Springfield, there are those (author included) who like a little pizzazz, be it polished stainless steel slides, fancy grips or custom addi- tions, and to me the P220 Elite fills the bill with aplomb. The Elite (as well as the Carry and Compact models) also comes in Nitron black, and the standard P220 comes in Nitron black, two- tone or reverse two-tone. All P220s are available with numerous trigger options, larger magazines and even a .22 rimfire adapter for those who like to shoot a lot but are on a limited budget. After years of upgrades and refinements, the P220 series is now available in the .45 ACP only.

For those who may like a slightly larger or heavier gun, the P220 is, again, for you. Checking in around 39 ounces empty, it is a big gun, and its .45 ACP chambering comes in handy, especially when shooting full-house loads. Unlike other guns that may have a synthetic frame or related parts, the P220 Elite is machined from 100 percent stainless steel, giving it the heft you need for close-combat shooting while keeping recoil at bay.

I evaluated the P220 Elite Stainless, an attractive gun. With a matte stainless finish on the slide and frame, the gun is nicely contrasted by blued parts (hammer, trigger, operating levers). The grip panels are laminated rosewood, making for a perfect color combination with the finishes. It always amazes me how perfectly these handguns are manufactured with new CNC-machining practices, and the P220 is no exception. All the flats are flat, the sharp corners keep their edges, and there are no cutting or polishing marks to detract from the gun’s appearance. According to the information on the slide, the frame is machined in Germany while the rest of the gun made right here in the U.S.

The slide is machined from a stainless billet and has cocking serrations both fore and aft. The top of the slide is finished like the rest of the gun, and checking in the bright sunlight offered little discomfort over a blue or black gun when it came to sights. For outdoor shooting, SIGLITE night sights offer a wide notch on the rear assembly, which allows you to center the front sight with ease, even in rapid- fire situations. The sights include twin tritium dots on the rear and one on the front, offering the customary three-across sighting picture. They are very well made, somewhat “melted” into the slide and offer no rough edges to snag on clothing or leather gear. According to many, this
The typical operator controls are all there—the takedown lever, decocking lever and slide release.

The slide has been stylized in that it has a section near the top front that has been dished inward to break up the bulk of this piece. Opening the slide and looking inside the ejection port reveals a massive extractor on one side, followed by a very sturdy ejector on the other side. Because they’re dealing with the power and recoil of the .45 ACP, neither is under built. Lockup between the slide and the frame is first-class: There is a little play, but then again, if it were really tight you would have trouble with functioning. The P220 Elite is right where it should be, with just enough of a tolerance between the slide and frame to ensure perfect functioning time after time and year after year.

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