Competitive Shooting

Review: SIG Sauer P220 SAO


In the 1970s, Germany did something unprecedented.

They conducted an extensive test of handguns in order to choose a new police, service and anti-terror handgun.

The primary requirement was reliability. Accuracy had to be sufficient for hostage rescue and engaging threats at long handgun ranges.

The pistol had to be simple to use. The pistol was to have safety features, but no manual safety.

The pistol had to be capable of going into action without racking a slide, cocking a hammer or disengaging a safety.

The SIG P220 9mm featured a double-action first-shot trigger. The SIG P220 was among the first pistols to feature a positive firing-pin block.

This feature keeps the firing-pin block securely locked in place until the trigger is pressed to the rear.

The firing-pin block has become a standard feature of service-grade pistols.

The P220 9mm evolved into the .45 ACP P220, the high-capacity P226 9mm, the compact P228, P229 and others.

Features and Specs

SIG P220 Manual Thumb Safety
The SIG SAO design is well done and properly executed.

The SAO, or Single Action Only, pistol is a model designed for those that prefer a single-action trigger.

The long double-action trigger is eliminated and a thumb safety added.

The new pistol featured the same lockup by butting the ejection port into the slide.

This is a simple, but precise, lockup that results in excellent accuracy potential. The SIG SAO takes standard P220 magazines.

The grip is the same and there is no decocker. The SIG’s legendary reliability is retained.

The pistol features excellent fit and finish, and a good set of sights.

The SAO SIG will appeal to those that may prefer the 1911 pistol’s cocked-and-locked carry, but who respect the SIG’s reliability and accuracy.

You must spend a lot of money for a custom 1911 to equal the SIG P220’s accuracy. However, it isn’t a cocked-and-locked pistol.

When the safety is applied the slide isn’t locked in place. The pistol may be loaded with the safety on, which has some appeal.

The safety locks the hammer and trigger, however, and the pistol will not fire until the safety is released.

Specifications (Super Match Configuration)

Caliber:.45 ACP
Barrel Length:5″
Magazine Capacity:8 rounds
Weight:30 ounces
Overall Length:8.92 inches

Function and Feel

man reloading pistol
Rapid magazine changes and combat handling are ideal.

It is interesting that the SAO configuration makes for some improvement in handling.

Many shooters tend to ride their thumb on the SIG P-series slide lock during firing. As a result, the slide does not hold open on the last shot.

This will not happen with the P220 SA0, as the safety prevents the thumb from riding on the slide lock.

Let’s be clear, if you prefer a double-action first-shot pistol, the standard P220, which uses a double-action trigger for the first shot, followed by subsequent single-action fire, is among the finest made.

If you prefer a single-action and are comfortable with hammer-to-the-rear and safety-on carry, then the SIG SAO pistol is a viable choice.

Disassembly and Maintenance

SIG P220 Pistol
SIG offers legendary reliability and accuracy in the SAO pistol.

The trigger isn’t the same as the double-action first-shot P220 pistol in single-action mode. The break is much cleaner.

Trigger compression on the pistol illustrated breaks at 5.2 pounds, clean, with a sharp reset. Disassembly is simple enough, like all SIG pistols.

Remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear. Rotate the takedown lever, release the slide lock, and the slide will run off the slide rails.

The magazine guide and spring are lifted out and the barrel is angled out of the slide. This is simpler than the 1911 and most other handguns.

Assembly is the reverse.

The Super Match Model

SIG P220 SAO Supermatch
This is the Super Match version along with a TRUGLO combat light. This is a good kit for home defense.

I like this pistol a great deal. I have the P220 SAO in the original four-inch barrel configuration.

The SIG SAO is also offered in the Super Match model with a five-inch barrel and fully adjustable sights. I have both slides.

The four-inch barrel model is an ideal carry gun, hard-hitting, fast into action and reliable. The Super Match is an excellent match-grade setup.

It really isn’t difficult to carry, as the five-inch P220 is just about the same length overall as a Government Model 1911. 

Accuracy and Handling

Pistol in Holster
The SIG and Falco holster make a good combination.

The SIG P220 SAO is fast on target and easy to get hits with in rapid fire.

Most of my shooting has been with a handload using the Hornady 185-grain XTP and Titegroup powder at 870 fps.

This an accurate loading that is easy to control. For personal defense use, the Hornady Critical Defense is an accurate loading I deploy often.

A sure bet for superb accuracy is the Hornady 200-grain XTP. These loads will group five shots into two inches are a little less at a long 25 yards.

Conclusion: SIG Sauer P220 SAO

This is an accurate, reliable, fast-handling pistol well worth its price.

For concealed carry, I carry the SIG P220 SAO in a Falco fabric inside-the-waistband holster.

What do you think of the SIG P220 Super Match SAO? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. Ed

    The P220 SAO is a single action. Riding the thumb on the slide lock was the problem with the original P220, so the SAO version solves this problem. The problem was the slide would not lock back on the last shot.

  2. My first an favorite firearm is a P220 ACP 45 stamp 1989 West Germany. Beautiful historic functional firearm. A few years ago I acquired a .22 LR conversion kit that makes it a handsome plinker. On range day, firing 4 or 5 magazines of .22 LR and then converting it to it original configuration for a final always draws the attention of those in adjacent lanes on the range.

  3. The reason 1911 shooters “ride” the thumb safety is because if the thumb is beneath the safety lever with a two-handed grip the effect of recoil can result in the lever being flipped up while shooting. Result? No more bang until the safety is again disengaged.

    How does the Sig DAO prevent this phenomenon? By the looks of it, the safety lever is similarly placed and presumably would be subject to the same pressure with a two-handed grip where the thumb is placed beneath the safety.

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