In the late 1970’s, SIG SAUER contracted with Browning to produce their P220 pistol as the Browning BDA, and it caught the imagination of American shooters. The Huntington Beach, Calif., Police Department adopted it for their officers, and the die was cast: there was at last a .45 auto (that so many street cops wanted) that was double action and would be acceptable to police chiefs (many of whom were scared to death of issuing a cocked and locked 1911).
SIG listened to Yank cops (and civilians) who didn’t care for the butt/heel magazine release of the original P220/Browning BDA, and the result was what was called then the P220 American, which had a 1911-type push button mag release.
Ever since, the P220 .45 has been popular in America among cops and armed citizens alike. From the beginning, it proved remarkably accurate and, thanks to its relatively straight-line feed, remarkably reliable. As SIG found ways to build even better pistols, the P220 gained a forged slide instead of the “folded” style of the original German-made gun, and production was transferred to the American factory in Exeter, N.H.
The one complaint the company got was in reference to the single-stack magazine. The P220 mag originally held seven rounds; the company redesigned for eight, making it a 9-shot pistol, counting the round in the chamber. The trend was still toward higher firepower though.
SIG listened, and 2013 saw the introduction of the latest evolution of the P220 series .45’s: the P227. Its tapered magazine holds 10 .45 ACP cartridges in standard configuration, and the company offers a 14-round extended magazine. Counting the round in the chamber, this brings the firepower “up to speed” in the double-stack .45 ACP market, where the 13+1-round Glock 21 seems to be the current sales leader.
The P227 has a traditional double-action first shot with subsequent shots fired single-action.
The P227 has a generous accessory rail on the frame for lights and lasers.
The easiest way for me to say it is, “If you’ve held the P226 with E2 (“Ergonomics squared”) grip configuration, you’ve essentially held the P227. If you’ve shot the P220 .45, you’ve pretty much shot the P227.” I honestly can’t distinguish the P226 E2 from the P227 with my eyes closed by feel, and the always-controllable recoil of the P220 remains the same in the larger capacity P227 .45.
But about that double-stack magazine—if you noticed it’s remarkably similar to the .45 ACP P250 double-action-only SIG SAUER with polymer frame, well, that’s not exactly a coincidence. It seems SIG engineers saw no need to reinvent the wheel. My friend Chuck McDonald slightly modified some P250 .45 mags he had, and voilà—they worked fine in his new P227, with which he is extremely happy.
Next, testing and specs
A pleasant side effect of the tapered mag is it facilitates reloading. The smaller top of the magazine is easier to insert in the relatively larger magazine well of the double-stack gun. For those of a competitive bent, the magazine release button is convertible and can be moved from the left side of the pistol to the right. I don’t think it’s a great idea for carry because if your side bumps into a hard object and hits the button, it can dislodge the magazine, but for competitors it does speed up the reload. As southpaws long ago discovered with 1911’s and left-side mag release buttons, it’s quicker to just bring your trigger finger back out of the triggerguard and punch a button on the same side than to turn your hand as many must to hit a left-side button with their right thumb.
Our test sample P227, serial number 51A000493, had a double-action pull that measured 10.78 pounds on a Lyman digital trigger gauge. Single-action pull ran 6.71 pounds. This was a bit over the factory spec, which is 10 pounds even for double-action mode and 4.4 pounds in single action, but is also in keeping with my experience with SIG SAUER pistols over the years.
Double-action pull is smooth. This was expected. For many years, SIG set the standard by which other double-action autos’ trigger strokes were judged. It was consistent all the way through the pull, with no staging, “stacking” or increase in pressure near the end. In single action there’s a fairly long reset, perhaps to prevent nervous, twitchy hands from triggering unintentional extra shots. You can feel a very short roll before the single-action shot breaks.
Bench testing was done off a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench in Live Oak, Fla., from 25 yards. Conventional jacketed hollowpoints were used in standard-pressure 185-grain and 230-grain loadings, along with a 185-grain all-copper hollowpoint at +P velocity.
The 185-grain Nosler Match Grade JHP, rated for 980 fps velocity (presumably from a 5-inch barrel), shot center for windage and just below the aiming dot with a post-in-notch sight picture. It turned out to shoot spot-on for elevation if the Trijicon dots were used for aiming instead of the conventional sight picture, since the dots sit below the top edges of front and rear sights. The 5-shot group measured 1.90 inches. The best three hits among those was also measured, since experience has taught me that this will factor out unnoticed human error and give a good approximation of what the same gun and load would have done from a Ransom machine rest. That measurement was considerably under an inch, 0.85-inch to be exact.
The other 185-grain load in the test was the +P Barnes TAC-XPD, a fast-stepping all-copper hollowpoint. I’ve been impressed with how Barnes all-copper bullets “test” for terminal ballistics since they first came out as loaded .45 ACP in Taurus-branded boxes. It was “on” for elevation with post in notch sight picture at 25 yards, if a whisker right. The five shots clustered in 2.05 inches (I measure to the nearest 0.05 inch), and the best three of those were in 1.10 inches.
Then came the star of the show, the Nosler Match Grade 230-grain JHP, rated for 830 fps (again, presumably, out of a 5-inch gun—the P227 tested here had a 4.4-inch barrel). The group formed a single, small, angled slash in the target: two very tight doubles connected by a single, smaller-looking .45 hole between them. The group measurement was a personal best in many decades of shooting SIG pistols: right at 0.70-inch for all five, measuring the bullet holes center-to-center. The best three of those, center-to-center, measured 0.40 inch, less than the diameter of a single .45 hole.
Allow me to ponder that with you. First, I feel an overwhelming urge to order a case of Nosler 230-grain Match jacketed hollowpoints. But second, consider this. I’ve always found the P220 .45 to be the most accurate of SIG pistols. I’ve twice gotten groups an inch or less with them for all five shots at 75 feet, once with a 5-inch single-action-only model and inexpensive MagTech 230 hardball, and once with my old P220E (the “E” is for “European”) with folded slide, butt-heel magazine release and Federal 185-grain Match JHP.
With the P226 in .357 SIG, I was once able to put five shots in exactly an inch with Speer Gold Dot 125-grain bonded jacketed hollowpoints at Jim McLoud’s Manchester Indoor Firing Line in Manchester, N.H. Of the many P226’s I’ve shot in 9mm, I’ve come achingly close to an inch, but was never quite able to make it.
Seven-tenths of an inch for five shots with a service pistol at 25 yards? I would dance in the streets if I wasn’t too old to dance. Instead, I’ll just brag about it here. I’m gonna frame that group.
We also had with us Multiple Impact Bullet ammo. Ten rounds each of “.45 ACP semi-lethal Mi3 Pulse aka: Stunner” rounds, marked on the box “Optimal-14 instant spread pattern.” I fired one round of this from the P227 SIG at 7 yards. Three holes appeared 7.2 inches apart in a catty-cornered Y-shaped incision resembling the cut the medical examiner makes when he does your autopsy. The strings attaching the three projectiles were left hanging in the target, one on the front and two out the back. The lower hole was the shape of a keyholed bullet, and the other two looked like stab wounds.
The other load was marked “45 ACP LETHAL: Mi3 Pulse aka: Stopper Optimal-14 instant spread pattern.” The three projectiles created a couple of small “stab wounds” in the cardboard target and one tiny bullet hole, grouping 8.8 inches apart center to center. Two of the threaded “tethers” managed to punch through the cardboard, while the third only indented the outer surface.
The ammo was provided to us courtesy of Ballistic Concepts, LLC in Colorado. While I still blanch at the idea of trying to fire something “semi-lethal” out of an inherently lethal weapon, innovation is always worth a look.
Perhaps the best 5-shot group Mas has ever shot was this one (above) with Nosler Match Grade 230-grain JHP. The group resulted in two tight doubles connected by one more shot, measuring overall 0.70-inch center-to-center from the P227 at 25 yards. Photo: Gail Pepin. The new Barnes 185-grain +P all-copper hollowpoints (below) gave this 25-yard group. Reliability of the new P227 was perfect over the range of the test. Photo: Gail Pepin
I’ve put a few hundred rounds now through a couple of P227’s, one I tested at the SIG Academy in Exeter in the summer of 2013 and one in a Leather Arsenal inside-the-waistband holster on my hip as I write this while looking out the window and watching wind-driven snow falling in Iowa in November 2013. There has not been a single malfunction with any round I’ve run through this .45, including some, uh, unusual stuff.
The aforementioned Chuck McDonald ran more than 650 rounds through his P227 when he got it. His experience was like mine: zero malfunctions.
In June of 2013, I visited the Indiana State Police headquarters in Indianapolis, and debriefed personnel from Superintendent Doug Carter on down as to why they had become the first major police department in the nation to adopt the SIG P227 .45. From the top cop to the firearms instructors to the ERT (Emergency Response Team, aka SWAT) to the field troopers, all had appreciated the power and the reliability. Indeed, it appears reliability was the single biggest point that caused this agency to adopt the P227 as the first SIG in their history.
The only real complaint I have with this pistol is the finish seems thin. It is starting to wear off on the left rear of the slide. There is no indication of corrosion yet, but this does not please.
SIGs have never been cheap. Retail is $993 for this P227 Nitron. Add night sights such as those on our test pistol, and that goes up to $1,085.
I’ll tell you right now, I think it’s worth it. I like the ergonomics, the reliability and the shootability. When you get a personal best for accuracy with a brand, it leaves an impression. After several days of constant concealed carry, I noticed there were no sharp edges to chafe either body or clothing.
I like this pistol very much, and am thinking of buying it rather than letting it go back to SIG. If I don’t, I’ll still frame my fabulous 0.70-inch group this pistol gave me with the Nosler Match ammo.
By Massad Ayoob
P227 Maker: SIG SAUER
72 Pease Boulevard
Newington, NH 03801
Action Type: Locked breech, semi-auto
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 4.4 inches
Overall Length: 7.7 inches
Weight: 32 ounces
Finish: Nitron slide, hard anodized frame
Sights: Night sights
Grips: 1-piece polymer
Price: $993, $1,085 (as tested, night sights)
Source: GUNS Magazine
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