SIG Sauer’s Flagship Legion Pistol Goes Big-Bore! The P220 Legion in .45 ACP — Full Review

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It doesn’t matter what statistics you have, or who produced them. No ballistics tests or anecdotal testimony is going to convince some folks that there is any caliber worth having a handgun chambered in, other than .45 ACP. I sometimes engage in these debates, light-heartedly (I like to think) and occasionally play the Devil’s advocate in favor of some lesser ballistic incarnation than the one that the good Lord and John Moses Browning agreed upon. But even when I do manage to keep a straight face while saying “recent tests demonstrate that 9mm can be just as effective,” I too am an old-fashioned fan of “The American Caliber” of .45 ACP. For a while, it was an open-ended question as to whether SIG was going to add more models to the Legion family, and even after the P220 was mentioned by name, it seemed we would wait forever to see them materialize. Introduced at SHOT 2016 for the first time, the Legion faithful have spent about 18 months pacing the floor and clicking the SIG website for the announcement that the pistol will finally be available. Well, the devotees need wear no more holes in their socks – the P220 Legion has arrived.

The silhouette of the SIG P-series is one of the most recognizable in firearms. The Legion medallion in the grip says “this one is special.”

The P220 Legion adds more than just another P-Series label to the Legion lineup, it brings with it the incredibly popular and million-times-proven .45 caliber built for the Colt Automatic Pistol. For those questioning why the P220 was chosen to be the Legion’s foray into .45, and not a more modern and higher capacity model like the P227, my guess would be that it is about legacy. The P220 was largely responsible for the company’s early success and remains a relevant and reliable pistol to this day. And before you complain about the eight-round magazine capacity as being insufficient by modern standards, be sure you don’t have an 1911 (or three) in your safe. I like that SIG chose the legendary workhorse P220 as the next Legion platform.

SIG provides an “almost 1913” mounting rail.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

For those not already familiar with the SIG Sauer Legion series of handguns, here is a quick primer on the topic. SIG Sauer makes many of their most popular pistols in a wide variety of variations, with many optional components or special versions. Even so, the ‘power users’ of the guns were making modifications to them, and many of these modifications were quite popular. Trigger work, for example, is something that most aficionados of a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) pistol will require, so they can have a smoother (if not lighter) trigger pull in both DA and SA modes. Changing pistol grips is another frequent modification — and then there are new sights to install, and custom checkering to the frame … you get the idea. The idea for the Legion pistol was to build a pre-modified gun for the top-tier SIG user that would include the most common and popular modifications, but to SIG specifications and with SIG quality control. It also includes a sort of pseudo brotherhood/sisterhood aspect by issuing a special carrying case and challenge coin for each owner of a Legion, as well as Legion-only gear and accessories. It’s marketing genius if you can pull it off, and SIG pulled it off in spades. But all of that means very little if the product does not live up to the hype. Legion lives up to the hype.

The special Legion Gray PVD finish combined with the special Legion roll mark make the pistol unmistakable.

Beneath the Legion Gray finish, the X-Ray sights and G10 grip panels, lies the heart and soul of the SIG Sauer P220 and decades of proven reliability. The trigger work alone is worth the upgrade price to a Legion, but there are also other extras under the hood, like a solid steel guide rod that increases rigidity and adds some weight out front for recoil balance. The solid guide rod weighs about 2½ times more than the standard hollow guide rod of the P-series. So, while at first glance the Legion Series may seem like a cosmetic variant at a premium price, it is in fact primarily built to be a shooter’s gun. The trigger is the famous SIG SRT trigger – but on steroids. The Master Shop quality trigger is smooth. Even in double action, there is no stacking or false walls. It breaks cleanly at 10½ pounds with no overtravel. In single action, it takes on near superhero qualities. There is some distance to be traveled with the takeup if you let the trigger back out to its rested position, as there always is with a DA/SA mechanism in single-action mode. After that ¼ inch or so of takeup, the trigger is sitting firmly at the wall with no creep. The single-action break is 4 ½ pounds on my Lyman digital scale. But now comes the part where I could sell a Legion to anyone at the range – the reset. In reality, the trigger reset sweeps the toe of the trigger probably 1/8-inch, but you’ll swear it’s not half that when you feel it. I have told range buddies that just your pulse will reset the trigger, and when you get into the groove of rapid fire with this pistol – you’d swear I’m right.

The author wasn’t concerned with muzzle lift and the .45’s recoil, so long as the front sight comes back where it belongs.

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Other shooter-focused extras include the generous checkering of the frontstrap and underside of the trigger guard (for the index finger of the support hand to lock into) of 25 lines-per-inch (lpi) nicely cut points. The G10 grips are subtle and classic in appearance, with a traditional diamond pattern checkering rather than some weird dinosaur scale, tacti-cool pattern that does more to remove skin than to help your grip. I find the bite of the grips to be near perfection, without the attention-stealing pain of more aggressive designs. The controls decocking the pistol and releasing the slide stop are nicely checkered and are smaller for a more snag-free gun. The trigger guard has additional undercutting for a higher grip and the elite-style beavertail lets you push your hand up firm and high. The sights on the Legion pistols are called X-Ray by SIG Sauer, and consist of a serrated rear with muted small Tritium combat dots and a brightly glowing green ring surrounding a Tritium dot out front. The X-Ray sights remain one of the best iron sight systems I’ve used on a handgun, and of course they are steel and the rear sight makes a strong contact point for one-handed action work if necessary. Finish all of this off with three magazines included and you’re out the door with an incredible piece of shooting hardware at a value price. If you tried buying a base model P220 and modifying to just half of the features listed above you’d be spending more money.

While it looks like any other P220, the solid steel guide rod and enhanced trigger help make it a Legion.

Best five-shot group of the day belonged to Federal HST, at just over 2.25 inches.

SHOOTING THE P220 LEGION

Talking about finishes and grips and options is nice, but where the rubber meets the road… or perhaps more appropriately, where the bullet meets the berm – is at the range. A couple of trips to the range and about 400 rounds of ammo made for a nice evaluation of this new Legion. I’ve shot many P220s and have a couple in the safe, but this pistol immediately felt unlike any of them. For starters, this gun is just more comfortable in the hand. I think the straighter backstrap and rounded back edges play a big part in that. The grips are thin but fill your hand with curved surfaces rather than corners. I get a better grip with the elite beavertail than I do with SIG’s standard half-tail, because I tend to push the web of my hand higher and hold the pistol tighter. This works in concert with the extra under-cut rear of the trigger guard for a high grip. Nay-sayers will bemoan the “high bore axis” of the SIG P-series in a dismissive fashion, with the proper grip it is a non-issue. I like a .45 to feel like a .45 and I don’t mind the muzzle rise or the recoil, just so long as that front sight falls right back on target. And with the grip I get on the Legion P220, that bright green ball leaps into the air and falls right back where I had it – every time.

SIG’s choice of conventional checkering on the G10 grips was genius. They are the perfect marriage of grip and comfort.

The eight-round mags for the Legion are identical to other .45 ACP P220 magazines, so if you have a stash already – you’re just adding three more. I’ve never had a P220 magazine cause me any problems, and that record was not jeopardized with this gun. There were zero malfunctions of any kind, including shooting SIG’s own V-Crown JHP ammo, some of the most cavernous hollow points on the market. All the controls function perfectly, except for one – and this is a personal preference issue really, but I don’t prefer the abbreviated slide stop release over the full sized. I find it too small to operate with a swipe of the thumb, in either direction. I get the idea of it being snag-free, but I’d rather have the one I can use. So, all my charging was done slingshot or overhand, and a couple of times via the front serrations of the slide. The texture and angle of the serrations make a very positive grip surface and pushing (or pulling) against the recoil spring, even with the hammer down, is easily done.

The X-Ray sights give a great sight picture, very typical of SIG sights, save for the glowing ball of protoplasm that sits out front. No kidding, this front sight jumps in daylight like it’s running on batteries. This makes target acquisition very fast, and dropping the dot into the rear notch is a reflex action. Great for those times when fractions of a second count. Recoil is managed well by this Legion. I think it has more to do with the angle and geometry of this grip than anything else. To my knowledge, the recoil spring is the same as any P220 and the felt recoil is similar. Shooting this pistol off-hand, it was easy to eat fist-sized holes in paper at 10 yards all day long. Resting on a bag at 25 yards produced respectable groups with a variety of ammo types, weights and brands.

The author finds the straighter backstrap of the Legion preferable to other P220s, such as this one with the E2 grip.

JUST MY OPINION

I have openly referred to the Legion series as the SIG Fanboy Club – and I have also admitted to being a charter member. I do like the Legion series a great deal, and I am especially pleased that the finish has been improved. My little qualm with the slide stop release notwithstanding, I don’t see much room for improvement with the P220 version of the SIG marketing flagship. If you don’t like the P220, and some don’t – then you’re likely to look past this model. But if you like the P220 even a little bit, you need to pick this one up and hold it. But I’m warning you: Have $1,400 of available cash on hand!

I’ve already been asked many times (as if I’d know), “why the P220, why not the P227?” I think the answer is simple — tradition, brand and model recognition, and decades proven reliability. Sure, I’d love to see SIG continue to expand the Legion line to include most every model. I think the slow, timed release of models is smart, and I like to think it is also allowing time to test and prove each one. If this copy of the P220 Legion is an example, the improvements are subtle but apparent. And let me close with this little bit of information: The P220 will be coming very soon in SAO (single-action-only), and before long we’re going to see both the DA/SA and SAO P220 Legion available in 10mm. You could try to choose a favorite, but don’t put yourself through that stress. By my calculations, you have just enough time to buy the .45 now and save enough to buy the 10mm when the leaves start to turn.

For more information about the SIG Sauer Legion series, click https://www.sigsauer.com/products/firearms/pistols/legion/.

To purchase a SIG Sauer P220 Legion on GunsAmerica, click https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?Keyword=P220%20Legion.

 

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • The Wiz August 8, 2017, 4:37 pm

    I don’t get the part about that your statement; “One of those people that shoots wrong, by placing your index finger on the front of the trigger guard” I find that a nice place to rest my index finger for better control and a steady platform while firing any semi auto. Why do you think they checkered it. What you call wrong I call my preferred way of shooting, NOT WRONG, just different. To this statement I say to you, BLOW ME. You shoot your way I’ll shoot my way. No harm no foul.

  • Paul O. August 7, 2017, 12:41 pm

    Thanks for the review!

    Before the Legion treatment, Sig offered the Elite version which got upgraded grip panels, a nice beaver tail and a really sweet trigger. I picked a P220 Elite and shot competition with it. Very nice. Trigger comes in at 3.2 lbs SA and 6.5 lbs DA. Lots of fun options including 10 round mags, .45 threaded barrels and 22 conversion kit with threaded barrel. Yeah, I’m a fanboy of this gun!

  • Thomas W. Burnham August 7, 2017, 11:53 am

    A.45 is always an advantage. The troops found out this the hard way in the Philippines
    When the cost conscience pencil pushers switched from that hard hitting .45 long Colt
    to that Mickey Mouse.38 spec. The same problem developed in Nam when they switched to a .22 call “rabbit ” rifle
    and a .38 spec.(9mm) pistol.
    Nuts.
    Tom Burnham
    The name of the game in combat has always been to stop the enemy ;knock him down; take him out of the fight.
    If he dies , all the better. The point is to STOP immediately the threat he poses.
    The .45 does a much better job than the .38 or 9 mm ( the same thing) when the chips are down.
    One of the favorite firarms in Nam was a surplus Thompson or grease gun . Both had plenty of neded knock down
    abilityand did not deflect on elephanate grass or twigs.Just compare th muzzle engrybetween the .38, 9mm., and the .45.
    No argument here ; I ‘ll take my ..45 any day when push comes to shuve.

    • David August 9, 2017, 2:00 pm

      It’s all about the ammunition. 9mm with the right ammunition is just as effective as 45ACP. And I say this is a long-time 45ACP fan, who owns more 45ACP pistols than all other calibers combined, and who is an Army veteran. The adoption of the Beretta 92FS over the 1911 was a mistake IMO, but less because of the gun or caliber chosen and more because of the ammo selection.

      You reference a lot of military comparisons, but up until now the military only issues ball ammo to regular troops. 45ACP ball is more effective against 2-legged threats than 9mm ball, no question. However with modern JHP’s, the distinction disappears. This is backed by decades of not just lab ballistics tests, but street results. KNOCKDOWN POWER IN HANDGUN CALIBERS IS A MYTH! NOBODY just falls down when hit by a 45ACP. There’s simply not enough energy to be transferred at handgun velocities to make any handgun able to stop someone quickly without very specific (and small) spots on the body being hit — in which case almost any caliber would have done the job provided it had the penetration necessary to reach that spot. Shot placement is what determines how quickly an assailant is incapacitated, and with the same shot placement, modern 9mm JHP are just as reliable as 45ACP.

      Thankfully, the Army has decided to adopt modern JHP rounds for issue with their new MHS SIG P320. This should address the many shortcomings with 9mm ball effectiveness.

  • James Summers August 7, 2017, 10:59 am

    Wow, imagine, reviewing another $ 1000.00 plus handgun.
    As one article said before, its not expensive, just that common folks cannot afford.

    • FirstStateMark August 7, 2017, 7:30 pm

      Agreed!

    • Lee August 8, 2017, 12:41 pm

      I am defently common person but when it comes to a good firearm I try to go with the best I saved and saved to get my legion

  • Randy Sneed August 7, 2017, 10:20 am

    As a former employee of 15 years ago, I can attest to the decline of the Sig product line as a whole. When the focus was on the Classic P series and the plant was in Exeter NH the pistols off the line were first class. Sig’s first attempt at the Granite series 1911 was fantastic(AT FIRST) when Matt McLearn was the designer and product manager and all the pistols had to meet his quality control. Now Sig had a new CEO with grandiose ideas of expanding the product line, after all the new CEO was the former CEO of Kimber so you could invision pistols of every size, color, etc; you know, ‘Designer pistols’ Now the plant was sourcing parts from questionable providers and substituting them for the high quality parts that Matt had spec’d for the pistol and production was moved to the line where assemblers with minimal skill sets would put them together…..Result= abysmal failure. It took Sig a few years to get the 1911 up to par….too bad.
    As far as the Legion product line is concerned, the pistols have very good service records other than some issues with the finish in the first offerings. The P220 Legion is a fine pistol, I actually own one along with a classic P226 with over 400K rounds down range with only spring changes and one locking block. My wish is that Sig will produce a Legion P226 SAO! easily done as they already have a P220 that is SAO. The Legion P220 SAO should have an adjustable trigger like the one on my Masterworks P226X6L1; now THAT would be a keeper and worth the $1,400 MSRP.

  • Cyrus August 7, 2017, 9:35 am

    $1400 – I’ll pass . . . nice article though

  • Ron Stidham August 7, 2017, 9:06 am

    Good article, Sig makes (some) of the best firearms out on the market today. Personally I don’t own a Sig weapon, not that I don’t like them-I carry a S&W PC 1911 45 that is very accurate. Having said that, I will say it took awhile to find a load that it liked as a CCW round with the accuracy that made me happy. The P220 has a lot of features that my Smith does not, DA being the biggest. I changed the front sight from a black target sight, to a fiber optic which wasn’t a easy thing to do-but none the less Dawson Precision was the only option. The rear sight has a snag feature I am not happy with, but the team at Tool tech can help with that also. My 1911 has all the attributes of a very fine firearm, and I have had it cerakoted black to negate the stainless shine. Do I want any one not to buy the Sig-NO, Just saying that their are other fine weapons out there that are worth taking a look at. To each their own, if it makes you happy- Go forth and prosper. The Sig P 220 is a fine 1911ish pistol for a 8 + 1 weapon.

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