I am affected by a curse that is fairly common amongst actual gunfighters in that I see firearms as weapons, not novelties. There are exceptions to this rule. We do have the occasional collector or hobbyist in our ranks. But by and large, people that have been on the pointy end of stick don’t care about guns that are fun and or neat. When you have used them for real, it is hard to evaluate guns on any merit besides combat effectiveness. As in, how well will this gun put another biped in the ground, and what are the trade-offs over another gun? But for the new SIG P210, I am prepared to make an allowance.
To be fair, I was not at all excited to hear about the P210 during range day at SHOT Show 2017. Single stack, 9mm, vintage European heritage? No thanks. To quote the real Han Solo, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.” But I was forced to shoot it anyway, mostly because it was the station between the MCX and the P320X5, two things I wasn’t going to miss.
Picking the little bastard up was a mistake. It grabs on to you like it is making you the Prisoner of the Horned Helmet. James Silke, 1989. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Out of the box, the P210 feels like it was made for your hand. Taking a couple dry fire pulls, I was amazed by the trigger. And sweet mother of pearl was it accurate. Now to be fair, SHOT Show range day is not set up for any flavor of real testing. That is partly because the “gun media” as a whole couldn’t hit the floor with a pistol if they dropped it, and partly because everyone is moving at a fast pace. With my 5 rounds, I stacked them all on the bolt of an MGM target, which was just enough to leave me wanting more.
Like many others, I was now salivating to get my hands on one in the wild. I had never even heard of the 210 before this, nor did I know it’s history. SIG could have told me it was a totally new gun, and I would have believed it. But that was not to be. Between winning the US Army handgun contract and jump-starting the suppressor division, the new P210 got pushed to the side. So I went looking for an old one, and boy was that demoralizing.
The P210 started life as a Swiss military and police pistol back in 1949. It stayed in service there until 1975, and was also used by West German Border Guards. During this time, the P210 also gained quite a following in shooting sports across Europe. The P210 has seen life in various versions with Sig as a Swiss company, Sig as a Swiss/German company, and with Sig as a German Company. For a brief time, German Sig imported P210 models to Sig New Hampshire and stopped when Sig New Hampshire started making them in New Hampshire. Confused? Good. Me too. Trying to sort out the history of Sig is like untying the Gordian Knot, only Alexander has a plastic spoon this time.
To start with, old P210’s are hard to find. A quick glance at GunsAmerica just now yielded one. When you do find them, prices are all over the map depending on what country it was built in, and specific details that escape us non-collectors. Swiss ones seem to go for around $8,000, though I have seen them as high as $25,000. More recent German models like the P210 Super Target tend to go for around $4,000—all of which are much too rich for my blood, and certainly on something I can’t test drive.
So I was very excited when SIG finally announced that the new models where shipping. The price tag of $1,699 MSRP is still steep, but not outside of what we expect to pay for a well-built, all steel gun. The price was now right, but do the new models retain the allure of the old ones?
For my money, yes. I haven’t been able to stop fondling this gun since my test model showed up. The design is so unique and feels so natural to shoot, that I can’t resist its siren charm. Even when I am doing something totally unrelated, it goes to the range with me for a couple of mistress magazines. She demands attention, and I am powerless not to feed her 9mm.
The first thing you notice is the wooden grips with perfectly designed palm swells. I wondered if this would be unnatural for two-handed shooting and was happy to find it is not. Whether a one-handed traditional bullseye grip or modern combat two-handed, the grips fit like nothing else.
The second thing unique about the P210 is that the slide rides inside of frame rails. It is easy to see the influence this had on the CZ-75. This is pretty uncommon in pistols, but many swear it is the reason for the P210’s accuracy. If so, it seems to be working.
The P210 is a single action only, with an external hammer, much like a 1911. It has a capacity of 8+1, with steel magazines. One of the only dislikes I have on this gun is the safety. The safety is HUGE, but at the same time easy to miss. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. Dimensionally, it is long but shallow, if that makes any sense. The result is a bottom ledge that is actually a little sharp. This, combined with a very stiff movement, actually makes putting the gun back on safe a little uncomfortable. But it does look good, so maybe it is worth it.
The trigger is what first attracts most people to the P210, and the new version delivers in spades. Mine broke consistently at 3 pounds, which is outstanding for a pistol. It is a little different than a 1911, but I have grown to like it. The best way I can think of to describe it would be as the only two stage pistol trigger I have ever shot. When we think of a 1911, we think of a tiny bit of take-up, then a clean break. The P210 has a noticeable 2.5 pound take up, then a wall, then a smooth break at 3 pounds. Which makes me wonder if that is just a European flavor. At any rate, it worked out, and I have grown to like it.
Not everything on the P210 is a throwback, SIG did take some liberties on the new model. The rear sight is adjustable, kind of a no-brainer on a target pistol. The front sight is fiber optic, which may offend the purist, but I dug it. New Hampshire also put an American style magazine release button next to the trigger guard, where John Wayne and Ronald Reagan intended it. Also new is an extended beavertail, to keep the hammer bite at bay. Anyone that has shot an early model 1911 knows what I’m talking about.
Performance wise, this gun is amazing. It has the lowest bore axis of any gun I’ve picked up, which keeps it on target well. It shoots like a dream and the accuracy lives up to the hype. I rarely publish measured pistol groups, which I have explained elsewhere at length. I’m not a bullseye guy, and most of the guys that do publish groups are full of shit. But for a target pistol review, I didn’t feel like I had much choice. With Freedom Munitions Pro Match, the P210 gave me a 2.3 inch 25 yard 5 round group, shot freestyle unsupported. For me, that is pretty impressive. In the hands of someone that can consistently shoot 99 or 100 25-yard bulls, there is absolutely no telling what this pistol is capable of.
Would this be my first choice for a combat handgun? No, it would not. Would it get the job done in a pinch? Absolutely. And it was a lot of fun to shoot. And there is a value all its own in having a super accurate handgun to train with. When I shoot for accuracy with the P210, I know what the weak link in the chain likely is. And that offers a lot of room for improvement.