Firearms

SIG P220 Legion — .45 ACP Powerhouse

SIG P220 bottom, with SIG P220 Legion laying on top

If a pistol is simply a projectile launcher, then one is about as good as the other. If the pistol is the primary concern, the cartridge is less so. When you combine a great cartridge with an exceptional firearm, you have the SIG P220 Legion.

The SIG P220, from its earliest versions to the Legion of today, is an exceptional firearm. The SIG P220 combined a double-action first-shot trigger and a big bore cartridge. It was adopted by progressive agencies nationwide and was once a favorite of federal agents. As a tough old cop once told me. you don’t need a 1911 to survive.

SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP pistol with attached SIG weapon light, left profile
The P220 SIG Legion is among the finest double-action pistols ever manufactured.

Load the SIG with Hydra-Shoks and relax. I carried the P220 on duty with confidence, and I carried it on my own time and dime for many years. If you are going to use a double-action first-shot pistol, by all means, use the best.

As for the .45 ACP cartridge, it is my favorite personal defense caliber.  The 9mm is a popular cartridge, but when someone states the 9mm Luger is just as good as the .45, I can only wince as I have heard this before. It has been disproven time and again. The combination of superior wound ballistics, low muzzle signature, and modest pressure make the .45 ACP a desirable defense cartridge.

SIG P220 Legion Features

The SIG P220 is first-class .45 ACP pistol with a great deal of history behind it. This is a proven pistol that offers superlative reliability and surprising accuracy. The original P220 was a 9mm and featured a heel clip magazine release. The pistol was later Americanized with a Browning-type magazine release.

The P220 was later chambered in .38 ACP Super and .45 ACP. Over time, the pistol was given improved sights. Night sights were available, and eventually compact and SIG Anti Snag (SAS) versions were introduced. The nicest, and perhaps most formidable of them all, is the SIG P220 Legion in my opinion.

The Legion features Legion Gray PVD finish — a durable and attractive coating. A considerable improvement is an extended grip tang. This is a continuation of what SIG calls the Elite Beavertail. SIG P220 grips have been useful but little else. SIG also improved the grips with a set of well-designed G10 grips. These grips feature a good balance of expansion and adhesion.

20 LPI checkering on the front strap and under side of the trigger guard
Note the excellent checkering on the frontstrap and under the trigger guard.

The pistol is relieved under the trigger guard to lower the bore axis. SIG’s X-Ray sights are part of the Legion’s upgrades. Another addition to the Legion pistol is 25 line-per-inch frontstrap checkering. While I have done decent shooting with the original SIG trigger, the pistol features a SIG short reset trigger (SRT).

My Legion pistol breaks 11 pounds in double-action, and single-action compression is a sharp 4.25 pounds. Reset is sharp. Unlike the original P220, new models accommodate a combat light.

If there is any drawback with the P220 it is the slide stop design. It is common for shooters to ride the thumb on the slide lock stop during firing. The result is the pistol failing to lock open on the last shot. While all shooters do not do this flub, and it may be addressed by training, SIG has also addressed the issue.

SIG X-Ray sights on the SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP semiautomatic handgun
SIG X-Ray sights are excellent all-around iron sights for defensive duty.

The SIG Legion, and I hope all modern P220 pistols, feature a re-designed slide lock. The hammer decock lever is the same ergonomic design used on other modern SIG pistols. The combination of an upgraded trigger, beavertail, trigger guard undercut, and improved grips add up to a firearm that handles and shoots more accurately than the standard P220. The pistol features a steel slide and aluminum alloy frame, so the pistol isn’t overly heavy, but there is enough weight to dampen recoil.

The manual of arms is simple enough. Lock the slide to the rear, insert a loaded magazine, drop the slide, and decock the hammer. To fire, press the trigger fully to the rear. The pistol fires and the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for single-action fire. A short press of the trigger fires the pistol in single-action.

In general, the double-action trigger is for short-range use, although some shooters excel at long-range fire in the double-action mode. The double-action trigger is for carry and home ready. Single-action fire is for long-range accuracy.

Field stripped SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP semi automatic handgun
The SIG P220, like all P series pistols, offers easy field stripping and maintenance.

Accuracy and Handling

The double-action first-shot pistol will never be as quick to a first-shot hit as a single-action or safe-action pistol. The handling, however, is preferred by many in day-to-day carry. The pistol may be worn daily, left at home ready, and is ready to action simply by grasping the pistol and firing. I can see the advantages in both duty use and personal defense.

Once I obtained the SIG P220 Legion .45, I was interested in evaluating the handgun. A test gun is evaluated to one standard and the data is valid. A handgun that is on the frontline in my home, or carried on my person, is not only proofed for reliability but also for accuracy. I have a couple of drills that fit my personal situation and concerns.

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A drill I call the Hansen Drill is more useful than firing from a benchrest or firing offhand in single shots. (Denny Hansen is a former peace officer, double Kevlar survivor, and once editor of SWAT magazine.) Denny fired 10 shots at 10 yards in rapid-fire to measure a pistol’s combat efficiency. Time is taken to re-affirm the sight picture and control recoil. The SIG P220 .45 put 10 shots in four inches. I was not going slow, but I was not machinegunning the target either.

A caution… Occasionally, a SIG magazine will not accept a long-loaded handload or long-lead SWC. This will show up in test fire. I have fired the pistol for accuracy from a solid bench rest as well. I fired the single smallest five-shot group of my entire shooting life with a SIG P220 .45 ACP and factory Black Hills Ammunition 230-grain JHP some 30 years ago. It was a 15/16-inch group.

I have not managed that with any other .45 including those from Les Baer or Wilson Combat. Then again, I have never duplicated the feat with the SIG either. The pistol has been fired with 230-grain FMJ primarily Federal American Eagle, 230-grain JHP loads, including the Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST, and the Speer 200-grain Gold Dot +P.

Legion Series left, versus original P220 right
The Legion series, left, offers considerable improvement over the original P220 grip style, right. (That is an SAO older version.)

FMJ loads averaged 2.0 inches at 25 yards for a five-shot group. The JHP loads will average 1.7 to 2.2 inches. This pistol was originally intended as an anti-terror pistol. One of the roles was hostage rescue. Accuracy potential was stressed. The P220 is among the most accurate service pistols in the world.

I evaluated the new FoxTrot combat light from SIG. This is a compact design, not as bulky as some, but ideal for home defense use. The switch is easily activated, and the light seems rugged. This is an excellent setup that should be kept handy for home defense.

SIG P220 pistol in a black Wright Leather holster
Wright Leather Works offers a first-class inside-the-waistband holster. Note the double belt loops and reinforced spine.

I added a Wright Leather Works inside-the-waistband holster to the P220 kit. The P220 isn’t a small pistol but with proper leather may be carried concealed. The IWB holster allows the pistol to be concealed by the wearer’s trousers and a covering garment. I cinched the deal up with a modern Wright Leather belt. The holster must be kept tight and rigid and only a good gun belt will serve. The Wright Leather Works IWB features a reinforced holstering welt and dual belt loops.

SIG P220 Legion Specs

Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
Type: Double-action first-shot locked-breech self-loader
Caliber: .45 ACP
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds
Overall length: 7.7 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Width: 1.3 inches
Weight: 31 ounces

Parting Shot

Many shooters prefer the safety features and handling of a double-action first-shot pistol over either the single-action 1911 or the striker-fired Glock. The SIG P220 is arguably the smoothest of double-action pistols and among a very few .45 caliber double-action first-shot pistols available.

I have no reservations concerning the SIG P220 Legion. The P220 has always seemed the best SIG pistol, and the P220 Legion the finest P220 yet manufactured.

SIG’s to hell and back reliability is more than just a motto to many, but the Legion Series is looking to take this to a new level. Does it make the mark in your book? Share your experience or impression of the SIG P220 Legion in the comment section.

  • Legion Series left, versus original P220 right
  • top down view of the rear sight and slide on the SIG P220 Legion pistol
  • SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP pistol with attached SIG weapon light, left profile
  • SIG X-Ray sights on the SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP semiautomatic handgun
  • SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP pistol, left profile
  • SIG P220 bottom, with SIG P220 Legion laying on top
  • SIG P220 pistol in a black Wright Leather holster
  • Field stripped SIG P220 Legion .45 ACP semi automatic handgun
  • 20 LPI checkering on the front strap and under side of the trigger guard

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 (11)

  1. I shoot both left and right, I am rh dominant but learned both in the navy, I haven’t thought to much on the subject but I don’t notice that much of a difference, in sig I have 3x 1911s, a 220 legion, 226 , 225, 365 and a 939. I use the Decocker both LH and RH no problem, my legion is SAO, so no deco Lee and running the slide SUCKs on the legion, I slingshot that

  2. Thanks Bob and David. You have added many more years of enjoyment and protection to my old friend that I bought over 40 years ago.
    John W.

  3. John W

    Your heel clip magazine release pistol will take modern P220 magazines, but not the other way around.

  4. Bought a lightly-used .45acp P220 SAO a few years ago — love the un-spongy trigger and cocked-and-locked capability. Very accurate, handles well; need to shoot it again soon! Big improvement over my West German police trade-in old-style P225 that I soon sold to a relative. A friend has a P226 Legion that I have handled but have not yet shot

  5. Yes magazines for side button release should work but you need to use 7 round magazines because they flush fit. New 8 round magazines stick out about 1/4 inch and would not work with the heel release. Try contacting SIG or Megar magazines. The make the mags for SIG

  6. I obtained a .45 ACP 220 back when Browning was importing them under their name. It has a heel clip magazine release and I have had difficulty finding magazines. Will this 220 accept modern magazines? If not, does anyone know where I can find suitable magazines? Thanks.

  7. I own three Sig P238, P938,P220 Legion SAO . I was a army tanker train with old beat up 1911. So my first pistol when I got a pistol permit was a Kimber 1911. It is a great pistol nothing wrong with it . Still have and still fire it, it is very accurate. I started to change to SIG because I like the fact that you can chamber a round with the safety on. All three of my SIG will do this . The legion P220SAO is built like a tank, takes 8 rounds of 45acp where my Kimber only takes 7 . I feel if I have to defend my home this P220 is the perfect weapon for the job.

  8. As a police officer I started carrying the P220 it had small sights and a heel magazine release. The quality was such it replaced my beloved Lightweight Commander. I never looked back. In my career I went through 3 more 220’s. As a firearms instructor I believe the DA/SA system is better for LE than the striker fire of A Glock. Almost all striker fired guns have trigger take up then you hit the wall where the trigger breaks. Many shooters will jerk the trigger causing shots to go low or “milk” the pistol causing hit hits. The DA/SA of the SIG you have a smooth 10 lb trigger press just like the S&W revolver me and others started with. If you learn to shoot double action you have no problem with the P220. Some instructors teach “peeping the trigger”. This is where you press through the trigger take up and stop at the wall. This means your pointing a gun at a suspect with you finger on the trigger ready to fire. Cops point a lot more than they do shooting. Seems to me this is an accident waiting to happen. The 220 allows for straight finger on the frame and a smooth double action first shot
    When it comes to accuracy you will never find a more accurate production pistol

  9. FWIW,if I ever get my NICS returned[>9 years and still paying lawyers!],I’ll consider getting an auto converted to 460 Rowland.I’d be able to use 45ACP+P and standard magazines in that.For anti-human defense I stick with factory only ammo.
    What about the Glock 30[full size-I also have a large[left]hand?My G30 has adjustable sights ans conventional rifled barrel
    Thanks again

  10. Lefty,

    Use the left index finger to operate the decocker.
    The pistol feed anything. Maybe even empty cases.
    I could not use +P in this gun or any aluminum frame gun or the Glock 21.
    Accuracy is excellent.
    Easier to conceal than Glock 21. In single action trigger much better than the Glock.
    The DA trigger is for close range use.
    Thanks for reading.

  11. OK ,so here are my questions:how ambidextrous is this SIG vs [full size]Glock 21 and Glock 30?I am mandatorily a southpaw.
    Overall size versus the mentioned Glocks?
    Are adjustable sights available?Bad eyesight,limited use of red color[glaucoma,cataracts]
    SIG’s 11 lb double action vs 5.5 lb in[factory]Glocks??Yes I do know about double action vs single action in revolvers,as well as in autos
    Must one use jacketed ammo in the SIG,or will cast projectile cycle-including at 45ACP +P levels?
    Thanks

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