By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine
Photos By Joseph R. Novelozo
As we grow older we not only naturally become opinionated, we are expected to. After nearly 70 years of shooting and 50 years as a gunwriter, I have become quite set in my ways in many areas. Several decades ago I came up with the definition of a Perfect Packin’ Pistol, setting the parameters as to barrel length (not less than 4 nor more than 5-1/2 inches), portability (high) and power (able to handle any situation I might encounter while roaming desert, sagebrush, foothills, forests and mountains).
When it comes to sixguns, the playing field is quite wide as there are so many to pick from. In the category of semi-automatics, however, I basically narrowed it down to 1911’s and Browning Hi-Powers. I felt very comfortable in my choices. It is said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but thanks to SIG SAUER’s Model P220 10mm Hunter, I have learned a valuable new “trick “ with no pain and much gain.
In 1971 Whit Collins and John French (who is now a good friend and lives locally) put their heads together. The result was a 180-grain .38-40 bullet loaded in cut-down .30 Remington rifle brass at a velocity of 1,100 fps, using a custom Browning Hi-Power. By 1977 it was known as the .40 G&A with a muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps. Meanwhile, Jeff Cooper was working on his own wildcat, using cut-down .223 brass and a 125-grain 9mm bullet at 1,750 fps. Envisioning the ultimate combat pistol, Cooper decided to combine the best of the .45 and 9mm by using the heavier .40 caliber.
Cooper felt the 10mm could actually replace the .45 ACP. This resulted in him putting his stamp of approval on a new semi-automatic pistol from Dornhaus & Dixon, in 1984. The new 10mm was basically a CZ-75 9mm with a larger hole in the barrel. The amazing thing, of course, was Cooper actually threw his support behind a pistol that was not only not a .45, but was actually double action. Norma made the ammunition, very warm ammunition I might add, with 200-grain bullets at 1,200 fps.
Cooper named the new handgun the Bren Ten. Bren Ten made a very catchy name for the new 10, but, unfortunately, Dornhaus & Dixon went bankrupt for a variety of reasons by 1987. The gun died. The cartridge did not.
The 10mm came very close to becoming extinct. Colt chambered it in their basic 1911 and other companies have followed suit—with several other 1911’s becoming available as well as the GLOCK. However, SIG has taken a different path, chambering it in a heavier, easier to handle pistol, resulting in a most powerful semi-auto. The P220 Hunter weighs about 44 ounces and the extra weight and size compared to other 10mm’s does not make the pistol cumbersome. It can be carried comfortably in a proper holster all day. And if you decide to fire a long string, the felt recoil feels less than shooting the same number of .45 ACP +Ps. I’ve been accused of not knowing what I was talking about since I had once said, “The 10mm recoils more than the .500 Linebaugh.”
I wondered where in the world this came from, so I looked through my articles and what I found I had said was: “The torque of the 10mm in a 1911 bothered me more than the recoil of the .500 Linebaugh.” The P220 Hunter has just enough extra weight—and a different enough grip configuration—to prevent this bothersome torque in my hands.
This P220 10mm Hunter is absolutely striking in its appearance. The pistol itself is finished in what SIG calls Kryptek Camo, which is unlike any pattern I’ve seen. I really do not know how to describe it, however, Joe Novelozo’s accompanying pictures allow it to speak for itself. The camo covers everything except the hammer, trigger, sights and barrel. A “beavertail” is built into the frame preventing any hammer bite. The grips are wraparound synthetic, finished in a much more subdued camo with a black background. The recoil of the 10mm cartridge is normally well above a .45 ACP and these grips—which are textured on both sides and on the back—prevent twisting and torqueing in your hand when the heavier loads are fired.
The butt is a semi-bobtail. The frontstrap is also checkered, adding to the security of the grips. The front of the triggerguard—which is large enough to allow the use of gloves in a hunting situation—is squared off and also checkered. In front of the triggerguard is a rail should you wish to install a light or laser.
The sights are excellent. The rear is set very low in a dovetail and is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation. Its square notch matches up perfectly with the front sight—also set in a dovetail—which is inlaid with a green fiber-optic. For those of you used to other P220’s chambered in .45 ACP, one of the first things you’ll notice is the absence of a de-cocker lever. This is a single-action-only pistol, which is highly appropriate for a hunting handgun, allowing a lighter, shorter trigger pull.
The thumb safety is ambidextrous and is stiff enough there’s no way it will be bumped off or released except by heavy thumb pressure. Although it is stiff, it’s easy to operate. It takes a good deal of hand strength to operate the slide (the 10mm cartridge requires a heavy recoil spring). The slide-lock lever is directly in front of the thumb safety on the left side. The trigger pull on my test pistol, incidentally, was right at 6 pounds.
The thumb safety positively blocks the trigger and hammer and allows the P220 to be safely carried cocked and locked. The safety may also be engaged with the hammer cocked or uncocked and does not block the slide when engaged, allowing the pistol to be loaded and unloaded with the safety on. The P220 Hunter incorporates a firing pin safety, hammer safety intercept notch and disconnector. The thumb safety operates the same as on a 1911. Push up to lock and down to fire. SIG recommends the safety be engaged whenever the pistol is being loaded or unloaded. Magazine capacity is 8 rounds and two magazines are provided, both of which have a synthetic base pad.
The wraparound synthetic grips are textured on both sides and on the back. John found they do an excellent job of preventing the twisting and torqueing in your hand with potent 10mm loads.
The oversize, squared triggerguard will accommodate a gloved shooting-hand. The slide-stop and magazine release will be familiar to 1911 users. The trigger pull on John’s test specimen broke at 6 pounds even.
The thumb safety is very positive and will be familiar to 1911 fans—up to lock, down to fire. SIG recommends the safety be engaged whenever the pistol is being loaded or unloaded.
Stripping the SIG P220 10mm Hunter is a quick and easy process.
The Firing Line
In the past 25 years or so, I’ve fired just about every 10mm pistol available. Many of the earlier ones have long disappeared from production. Most of those remaining are on the 1911 pattern, and this SAO P220 operates basically the same as a 1911.
In addition to introducing the P220 Hunter, SIG is also now producing an extensive array of pistol ammunition, including the 10mm. Two loads are available, the 180-grain V-Crown JHP and the 180 grain Elite FMJ. Both are rated at 1,250 fps. When I tested them in 35-degree weather, they were right on the money, clocking out at 1,246 and 1,251 fps respectively. I got 5-shot groups of 1-3/8 and 1-1/4 inches with both loads and expect I could’ve done better if the temperature had been about 30 degrees warmer.
Even with the chill, factory loads from other manufacturers also shot very well. Examples included American Eagle 180-grain JHP (1,050 fps/1 inch), Hornady 180-grain XTP Custom (1,165 fps/1 inch), Hornady 200-grain JHP (1,065 fps/1-1/4 inch), Winchester 175-grain Silvertips (1,170 fps/1 inch). Notice how the 200-grain load has been cut back considerably from its original 1,200 fps loading by Norma back in the late 1980’s?
In addition to factory loads, I also employed seven of my handloads. The best results were with the Speer’s 180-grain JHP in front of 5.5 grains of W231. This load clocks out at 950 fps and can be shot comfortably all day, not only in the SIG but any other 10mm. There are times we need full power; other times we are just looking for enjoyable shooting. But even at this reduced velocity, this is still a potent combination for most situations.
My best cast-bullet load consisted of the Lee 175-grain SWC-HP over 13 grains of AA9. This load shoots into 1-1/4 inches, and even though it clocks out at 1,250 fps, it is noticeably more comfortable to shoot than its jacketed counterparts. With all loads tried—both factory and handload—the P220 performed flawlessly with no failures to feed, fire or eject.
Originally, the 10mm was advanced as a self-defense proposition. However, the recoil proved to be more than most could handle. To make it viable, it was loaded down. It didn’t take long to realize if it was going to be loaded down it would make more sense to go to a shorter case, which would work in a smaller grip frame—hence the .40 S&W.
But the 10mm, which has gained a respectable following in the past few years, really shines as a hunting cartridge in a dedicated hunting pistol. Or as an everyday working pistol for those who travel far off the beaten path. There is certainly nothing in the Lower 48 which could not be handled with a proper 10mm load in the P220 Hunter. The 10mm has also been used to take out larger game, however, I would be hesitant to try it on anything larger than could be found here in Idaho. For a hunting pistol for everyday outdoors carry, I don’t think I would need to look any further than the SIG P220 Hunter.
10mm Factory Ammo Performance
|(Brand, Bullet Weight, Type)||(fps)||(inches)|
|SIG 180 JHP||1,246||1-3/8|
|SIG 180 FMJ||1,251||1-1/4|
|Am. Eagle 180 JHP||1,057||1|
|Federal 180 TB||1,265||1-1/2|
|Hornady 155 JHP||1,307||1-1/2|
|Hornady 180 JHP||1,164||1-1/4|
|Hornady 180 XTP||1,251||1|
|Hornady 200 FMJ||1,007||1-3/8|
|Hornady 200 JHP||1,066||1-1/4|
|Win. 175 Silvertip||1,171||1|
Notes: Groups the product of best 5 of 6 shots at 20 yards. Chronograph screens set at 10 feet from muzzle.
10mm Handloaded Ammo Performance
|(Brand, Weight, Type)||(Type)||(Weight Grains)||(fps)||(inches)|
|Sierra 180 JHP||AA7||10.4||1,001||1-1/2|
|Speer 180 JHP||W231||5.5||959||1-1/8|
|Speer 190 JFP||W231||5.5||905||1-1/2|
|Lee 175 SWC-HP||Power Pistol||8.0||1,201||1-1/2|
|Lee 175 SWC-HP||AA9||13.0||1,249||1-1/4|
|Lyman 401043 FN||AA9||13.0||1,282||1-1/2|
|Oregon Trail 175 SWC||AA7||10.0||1,063||1-3/4|
Notes: Groups the product of best 5 of 6 shots at 20 yards. Chronograph screens set at 10 feet. CCI 300 Primers used in mixed brass.
Thanks to GUNS Magazine for this post. Click here to go to GunsMagazine.com.