SIG SAUER P220 Match Elite Reverse Two-Tone 10mm Auto
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The 10mm Auto is arguably the best of the reasonably common autoloading pistol cartridges. It shoots flat enough to allow a 100 yard zero with a 180 grain Hornady XTP-HP bullet at a MV of 1200 fps, which gives midrange rise of only 3.2 inches. The remaining energy of that load at 100 yards is 411 ft. lbs. For those who prefer to carry an autoloader in the field, the 10mm is the most viable alternative to a .357 Magnum revolver.
For home defense or carry as a service pistol, 10mm light loads are available that mimic the performance of the .40 S&W so beloved by the police. (Actually, the .40 S&W was specifically designed to duplicate the performance of the FBI 10mm light load.) This makes the 10mm Auto an unusually versatile auto pistol cartridge.
At the beginning of February 2015, we received an announcement from SIG Sauer (www.sigsauer.com) regarding the addition of four new "long slide" (5 inch barrel) pistols in 10mm Auto to their already extensive Model P220 line. The most attractive of these, to our eyes, was described as the "P220 Match Elite Stainless Reverse Two-Tone, DA/SA." (P220 Elite models have steel frames, rather than the aluminum alloy frames of lesser P220 models.) This pistol's item number is 220R5-10-RTAS-MSE.
Being fans of the 10mm cartridge, we immediately requested one for review. Apparently our request was a bit premature, as we were initially told it would be a few months before the new 10mm pistols were actually available.
In the event, we did not receive our test gun until October 2015 and it is still not listed in their 2015 Catalog or on the SIG Sauer website. The original press release credited the new gun with fully adjustable target type sights, which we prefer on a full size 10mm pistol, but when our sample finally arrived it had non-adjustable SIGLITE tritium night sights mounted on the slide in dovetails.
This all steel, exposed hammer, DA/SA autoloader has SIG's short reset trigger, stainless frame/Nitron slide two-tone finish, short front cocking serrations, beavertail grip frame and fine checkering on the front strap and the front of the squared trigger guard. There is an accessory rail on the underside of the frame forward of the trigger guard, a useless affectation on a field or match pistol, but seemingly de rigueur on service style pistols these days and useful for a projected laser sight on a home defense pistol.
The two-piece Hogue Piranha grips are formed of G-10 synthetic. The barrel, hammer, magazine and most internal parts appear to be blued steel. The pistol is shipped with two eight round, steel, single stack magazines and comes in a foam-padded SIG carrying case. Kudos to SIG Sauer for the extra magazine and functional case.
Our sample came with a factory test target shot at the rather short range of only 15 yards. There were four bullet holes in this target, forming a 1-7/8 inch group slightly left of center, along with a hand written post-it note stuck to the target stating, "1 round missing due to bad trigger squeeze and anticipation." Unusual, but give the test shooter credit for honesty.
The right side of the frame is stamped, "SIG SAUER INC. EXETER-NH-USA." We don't know whether this is an importer's stamp or a manufacturer's stamp, so we are not sure where this pistol was actually made.
The initial impression is of a big, bulky, rather square-edged service style pistol. The charcoal gray slide and controls contrast nicely with the matte stainless steel frame and the two-tone gray grips.
SIG claims a 10 pound DA trigger pull for all of their P220 pistols and a 4.4 pound SA trigger pull. We measured the SA trigger pull of our sample and it releases at five pounds, noticeably heavier than claimed. The DA pull is beyond the capability of our eight pound RCBS pull gauge, but it feels heavier than the claimed 10 pounds to us; maybe around 12 pounds? The SIG Sauer specifications follow, with our actual measurements in parenthesis where applicable.
The control layout is typical of SIG Sauer DA/SA autos. It is designed for use by right handed shooters, with all buttons and levers on the pistol's left side, as we prefer. (We do not like ambidextrous controls sticking out of both sides of a pistol. We think pistols should be dedicated for right or left hand shooters, as the case may be, not "one size fits all.")
The magazine release button is located conventionally behind the bottom of the trigger guard. The take down lever is on the frame above the trigger guard. The de-cocking lever is at the top front edge of the left grip panel; it is easy to use and works well. The slide catch lever is above the middle of the grip panel. All of these controls are of moderate size and do not unduly protrude from the side of the pistol. Likewise, the beavertail grip tang is rounded and no longer than it needs to be.
The action incorporates an automatic firing pin block safety that serves as a drop safety. The firing pin cannot move forward until the trigger is pulled. There is no manual safety, as none is needed; the double action trigger pull is so long and heavy it is inherently safe. This means the pistol should always be carried with hammer down. After shooting and before re-holstering a loaded pistol, use the decocking lever to safely lower the hammer to prevent an accidental discharge.
The G-10 grip panels fit well, especially around the back strap and under the beavertail tang. There are no annoying edges and the seam where the two grip panels meet is hard to see. At first glance, we thought it was a one-piece grip.
Unfortunately, there are little, sharp-edged circles covering both sides of the grip panels and the back strap. At first glance, this looks like a very crude fish scale pattern. These impressed circles are not very attractive (smooth grips would look better) and they are overly abrasive to the hand. The latter problem was solved by the judicious use of some 150 grit sand paper. We think, if the folks at SIG insist on using textured grips, 24 lpi checkering would both look and feel a lot better.
Functionally, the grips are large, which dissipates recoil, and there is a lot of curve to the back strap, which improves pointing. The whole gun is probably too big for people with small hands, but for our medium size hands the grip worked fine and someone with large hands would probably be quite pleased.
The Patridge style sight picture provided by the SIGLITE sights is fast to acquire and allows good precision. However, a match or field pistol is not used in the dark; instead, it needs a rear sight precisely adjustable for both windage and elevation that can be easily zeroed for the shooter's chosen load and distance.
Take down for cleaning is very easy. Just remove the magazine, cock the hammer and rack the slide back, engaging the manual slide catch. Then, rotate the take down lever on the left side of the frame 90 degrees downward. The slide, with the barrel and captive guide rod/recoil spring assembly, can now be slid forward off the frame. No fuss, no tools required and no small parts to lose.
Off to the Range
As usual, we did our test shooting for this review at the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. The facilities covered bench rests were appreciated, as the autumn weather was chilly (about 45 degrees F) and damp. Wind was not a factor. Guns and Shooting Online regulars Chuck Hawks, Jim Fleck and David Tong did the shooting for record over a two day period.
We shot five shot groups, single action, at 25 yards, using 25 yard slow fire pistol targets. This is our normal procedure for handgun reviews. A Caldwell sand bag was used to steady our two-hand hold from the bench rest.
We were able to accumulate five 10mm factory loads for this review. These included Hornady Custom 180 grain XTP-HP (MV 1180 fps), American Eagle 180 grain FMJ (MV 1030 fps) and Remington/UMC 180 grain MC (MV 1150 fps). In addition, the kind folks a SIG Sauer ammo sent us some of their new 180 grain FMJ (MV 1250 fps) and 180 grain V-Crown JHP (MV 1250 fps) loads.
25 Yard Shooting Results
This time out, Chuck garnered smallest group honors. Overall, the bench rest accuracy of this P220 seems generally comparable to the other 10mm pistols we have reviewed. The 10mm Auto cartridge seems inherently more accurate than most auto pistol cartridges, or perhaps premium 10mm ammo, such as the SIG Sauer ammunition, is simply loaded with greater care by the ammo manufacturers.
None of our test loads were unpleasant to shoot in the heavy SIG pistol and the subjective recoil of the "10mm light" American Eagle load seemed downright mild. The full power SIG 10mm loads deliver magnum power recoil, but the big SIG pistol handles such loads very well.
The magazine drops free of the grip when the mag release button is depressed. When inserting a new magazine, the mag tends to catch on the internal part of the release catch. You can force the magazine past the catch, but we feel it is easier on the gun to depress the magazine catch when inserting the magazine.
The SA trigger pull has a lot of light take-up and moderate over-travel. Compared to a serious match or hunting pistol, it leaves something to be desired. However, compared to most of today's service pistols it is a pretty good, out of the box, trigger pull.
The hammer is rather small, but has a good shape and a conventional spur (not a "burr"). It is easy to thumb cock and also easy to manually un-cock.
The sights were about correct in elevation, especially with the Hornady and Remington loads, but our groups averaged about 1.5 inches left of the point of aim at 25 yards. The remedy for this is to attempt to drift the rear sight laterally in its dovetail, an inexact operation at best. In this case, the rear sight was so tight in its dovetail we could not move it.
Manually racking the slide against the pressure of the heavy duty 10mm recoil spring and the hammer spring requires a lot of effort. Manually thumb cocking the hammer before racking the slide makes the process a little easier.
There is no magazine disconnect. The pistol will fire with the magazine removed, so don't forget to clear the chamber. When the last shot is fired, the slide stays open.
Functioning was 100% reliable. The P220 worked as advertised, without a bobble.
The SIG Sauer P220R5 10mm Match Elite Stainless Reverse Two-Tone is a big, good looking, all steel, premium priced pistol. It is chambered for the versatile 10mm Auto cartridge, which is effectively the modern "magnum" autoloader cartridge. Such a gun is clearly not for everyone, but it appealed to the majority of the Guns and Shooting Online staff.
SIG calls this five inch barreled pistol their "long slide" P220, since most P220 models have 4.4 inch barrels and correspondingly shorter slides. SIG offers a SA only, Hunt Ready camo version of the 10mm P220 that comes complete with a red dot sight. Given the ballistic potential of the 10mm Auto cartridge, we would like to see a true long slide P220 "Stainless Hunter" model with a six inch barrel, adjustable sights and provision for mounting an optical sight. We think such a pistol would appeal to outdoorsmen.
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