August 03, 2020
10mms these days are being marketed more as hunting guns than self-defense tools, so it may surprise younger people, or those of you with short memories, that the 10mm cartridge was specifically designed to be the ultimate semi-auto handgun cartridge for self-defense, vanquishing the puny 9mm and even the vaunted .45 ACP.
The only problem with that? The guns of the day chambered in 10mm (Bren Ten, Colt Delta Elite, some of the S&W 10mm series models) just couldn’t handle the power of the 10mm and broke in relatively short order. The first Norma loads featured a 200-grain bullet at 1,200 fps and a 180-grainer at 1,300 fps, which is still more robust than most 10mm loads today.
Most shooters couldn’t handle the recoil either, especially (apparently) rookie FBI agents, which is why we got the .40 S&W cartridge. To put it simply, the .40 S&W is decaf coffee, and the 10mm is a dark-roast, extra-caffeinated XL cup of ‘Merica! And, finally, we have guns capable of handling the power of the 10mm, such as the brand-new SIG P220 10mm Legion.
SIG’s first 10mm P220 was its Hunter model, covered in Kryptek camo, and yes, aimed specifically at the hunting crowd. The P220 10mm Legion is the same basic gun, but with specific improvements designed to maximize its utility as a fighting pistol.
First, before we cover exactly what features make this a “Legion” pistol, let’s look at the specs of this particular P220.
The SIG Sauer P220 has been around for decades. Originally designed in 1975, it has been issued in various calibers by militaries and law-enforcement agencies all over the world. It has a DA/SA operating system and is fed by a single-column magazine. It is the first SIG pistol that was offered for sale in the United States.
The standard P220 has an aluminum frame and a 4.4-inch barrel and weighs 30.4 ounces. While it has been offered in various other calibers, most Americans know the P220 in its .45 ACP iteration. Standard magazine capacity in .45 ACP was seven rounds, but in recent years, that has been improved to eight.
This particular P220 sports a longer, five-inch barrel, stainless-steel slide and a steel frame. The original P220 Hunter wasn’t SIG’s first all-steel P220, but in 10mm, you’ll definitely want that added weight. This all-steel version of the P220 tips the scales at 44.5 ounces and is fed by an eight-round magazine. Three eight-round magazines are provided with each Legion pistol, although my test gun only came with two.
44.5 ounces is a lot of metal in your hand, but honestly, it’s only a few ounces heavier than most 1911s with frame rails. The P220 10mm is a bit muzzle-heavy when unloaded, but fully charged it sits nicely in the hand.
I owned a SIG P220 in .45 ACP for several years and carried it some of the time when I worked as an armored car driver in and around Detroit. I shot that pistol a lot, and I don’t remember it ever malfunctioning on me. That is what SIG P-series guns are known for: impressive reliability and good accuracy.
While commercially successful, SIG’s P-series pistols (P220, 226, etc.) are perhaps best known for being “duty” weapons. Duty weapons must be tough and reliable, but they are rarely perfect or nuanced. SIG has received feedback from the serious users of its firearms as to how they could be improved, and because of that feedback, SIG introduced the Legion Series of pistols in 2015. I can’t really go into additional details of this pistol without mentioning the Legion upgrades, so let’s dive in.
SIG advertised the Legion Series of pistols as “Serious Tools for Serious Users,” and the first models to get the Legion Series upgrade were SIG’s most popular: the P229, P226, and P226 SAO. SIG expanded the line to include the P220, first in .45 ACP, now in 10mm. And now, SIG pistols are being made in America.
Not only are the pistols upgraded, but the purchase of a Legion pistol will give the buyer access to exclusive gear and accessories from SIG not available to the general public, including Legion-branded holsters, cases, and limited-edition knives. SIG also plans quarterly newsletters to Legion owners, and exclusive members-only opportunities.
All of the Legion pistols are the current “R” series of pistols, which means they have tactical rails on the frames, but SIG seems to have dropped the “R” suffix on all its nomenclature. How are the Legion pistols different? Many manufacturers put out “special editions” of pistols with unique features, but many of those features are simply cosmetic. The Legion features are designed to be functional, and in that I believe SIG has succeeded.
SIG itself states that these pistols are not designed for the new or casual consumer, and I would have to agree. While everyone can appreciate a fine pistol, most of the improvements to the Legion guns will be wasted on people who don’t have a lot of time behind the SIG P-series pistols.
The P220 10mm Legion has a gray finish that resembles Parkerizing. It is in fact a corrosion-resistant PVD coating in “Legion Gray.” The top of the slide, just forward of the rear sight, has been etched with the Legion logo—a Greek Lambda—and the word “LEGION.” Putting the logo there means it will be visible even when the pistol is in a holster.
Also specific to these pistols are the Legion logo grips. They have a nice brass-colored Legion medallion, but what makes these grips great is that they are aggressively checkered G10 laminate. They also feel a little thinner than standard P220 grips to me, but I didn’t have a standard P220 on hand to compare. Between the finish and black grips, the pistol has an attractive, but business-like look to it.
Both the decocker and the slide stop have been reduced in size. Many people (including me) shoot with a thumb-high hold, but if you try that with a SIG, you’ll find your thumb holding down the slide release, and the slide never locks back on an empty magazine. The reduction might be enough for some people, but my skinny hands were able to wrap far enough around the grip that my thumb still sat on the reduced slide release, keeping it from locking the slide back.
In fact, the recoil spring is so strong on this 10mm gun that you’ll find it’s a bit difficult to drop the slide on a loaded magazine using just the small slide release. I found I was better served by just working the slide.
There is checkering on the front strap of the frame. It is not as aggressive as the checkering on the G10 grips, but it won’t get worn down as easily as the grips will under heavy use. There is an XFIVE-style undercut underneath the trigger guard to get the shooter’s hand as high as possible on the grip. The pistol also sports an Elite-style beavertail, although it is slightly reduced in size and contoured. Also borrowed from the Elite series of pistols are the forward cocking serrations.
The front of the trigger guard is checkered, which I like, as I put my support-hand index finger there in contravention of what is taught by just about everyone these days. There is also checkering on the underside of the trigger guard, near the front.
I first saw this on competition pistols over 10 years ago, and it never made sense to me, as your hand would pull off that checkering under recoil. The SIG people explained to me that users who often wear gloves while shooting two-handedly like the checkering underneath the trigger guard, as it helps lock the gun into place and keep the muzzle from wiggling side-to-side as they’re pulling the trigger, especially in double-action.
The magazine well opening in the frame is beveled, but only slightly. I wish there was more of a bevel there, as there is enough metal to allow it. If this was my pistol, I’d take a Dremel and hand file to the opening to widen it up a bit; there’s definitely extra steel down there that can come off.
Reloading a single-column pistol like the 1911 or P220 is always more difficult at speed than a double-column pistol, because the top of the magazine is not much narrower than the magazine-well opening. The magazines feature slightly thicker polymer basepads, which some shooters may think are there to protect the magazine when dropped on a hard surface. No, they’re there to ensure the magazine gets fully seated during a quick reload.
In full disclosure, I like the P-series of pistols. I’ve carried them and shot them in competition, and found them to be very reliable and accurate. I own three SIG P226s, and in function, they are identical to the P220, only with a single-column magazine. However, the double-action trigger pull on SIGs is historically and notoriously heavy and often gritty. SIG tends to equip its pistols with springs strong enough to last for the life of the handgun. SIG’s standard recoil spring, even on its 9mms, is braided wire, which is the very definition of overkill.
On my personal guns, I’ve found the heavy trigger pulls to be an easy fix by swapping out the 7,213-pound hammer spring for a reduced-power version from Wolff (which has never given me a light primer strike, I should point out). However, many people do not want to have to “fix” their guns by installing a reduced-power spring, which incidentally may void and violate the factory warranty.
All Legion pistols, including this 10mm P220, feature improved trigger pulls, and the guy to thank for that is Bruce Gray. Bruce Gray is a gunsmith famous for his work on SIGs, and his custom GrayGuns (www.grayguns.com) SIG parts. I have a few of his improved parts on my personal pistols. The P220 10mm Legion features a GrayGuns P-SAIT (P-Series Intermediate Adjustable Trigger, adjustable for overtravel) and an enhanced, polished action. The result was a smooth double-action trigger pull that weighed in at 9.25 pounds, and a single-action pull that broke at five pounds with a little bit of creep but no grit.
SIG’s specs for this trigger calls for a 10-pound DA pull and a 4.4-pound SA pull, so I was light on one and a bit heavy on the other. FYI, the GrayGuns “intermediate” trigger shape is designed to optimize both DA and SA trigger pulls. Its face is rounded and smooth and very comfortable.
The double-action trigger pulls on SIGs tend to be shorter than on other DA/SA pistols, such as the Beretta 92 and CZ75, but not any lighter. With a Legion pistol, that is no longer the case.
Atop the Legion pistols are SIG’s new XRAY High Visibility Day/Night sights. Currently “the” go-to tactical/combat pistol sights are referred to as day/night sights, which feature both tritium inserts as well as a highly visible front sight. I think Trijicon started the modern trend with its HD sights. The differences here between standard night sights and day/night sights might sound minor, but they’re not.
Traditional tritium sights are usually “three-dot” sights, which feature colored (usually white) outlines around the tritium capsules in the front and rear sights. The problem with that? As I like to say, the rear sight is a window frame—you look through it, not at it, so any dots or bright colors tend to distract the shooter from the all-important front sight.
Modern day/night sights have tritium inserts in the rear sight, on either side of the notch, but it is a plain, black rear sight. That plain, black rear sight is paired with a highly visible front sight. In the case of the SIG XRAY, the tritium insert in the front sight is inside a very large, bright-green circle.
Fiber-optic front sights are all the rage, because they are very quick and easy to see in daylight. The bright dot on day/night sights like the XRAY performs the same function. Your eye is also able to track that bright dot on the front sight through the recoil cycle and get back on target more quickly. However, fiber-optic rods don’t work at all in darkness, which is why, if you want your sights to work 24/7, you need self-luminous tritium inserts.
There are other sighting systems on the market that feature highly visible front sights that are just huge, and not square, but round. I don’t like those, as they require two different sight pictures, depending on what distance you’re shooting. I much prefer a square front post, that way you can use the “equal height, equal light” technique when shooting precisely, and the large circle painted on the front of it allows for speed. Personally, I prefer an orange front sight, but the big green circle of the SIG XRAY works very well.
The P220 has a full-length tactical rail, which means full-size lights and lasers will fit on it. The recoil spring guide is a solid-steel guide rod. All of the Legion models—P229, P226, P220 in .45 ACP and P226 SAO—have the same upgraded features, although the SAO doesn’t have a decocker, and its standard curved trigger has been replaced with a Master Shop Super Match Flat Trigger.
There was a little wiggle between the slide and frame, but the barrel of the P220 locked up tight. Accuracy was excellent, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from this design. SIG P-series pistols just seem to be inherently accurate.
While this pistol is intended to be a defensive powerhouse, I didn’t do as much high-speed shooting as I normally do, just because, even in a package this size, the 10mm is a serious thumper. It knocks down steel with authority, and while the holes it puts in paper aren’t much larger than a 9mm, it’s packing about 50% more foot-pounds.
I don’t want to give the impression this pistol is a monster to shoot. It recoils the same or a little more than a Commander-sized 1911 in .45 ACP, which means it recoils a lot less than a snubnose .357 Magnum. But most people aren’t used to putting a lot of rounds downrange through pistols that bark and bite that much, so it may require an adjustment period.
SIG’s Legion line is specifically designed to maximize the platform toward defensive/anti-personnel use. And nine rounds of 10mm should be enough to take care of whatever problem you might encounter.
I grew up in the 10mm era—the most iconic 10mm pistol is and was the Bren Ten, made famous by Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) on Miami Vice. However, the company went under, so after two seasons, Crockett carried a S&W 645, then the S&W 4506.
The P220 10mm is a big, heavy gun. I’ve carried concealed guns this big and heavy—in fact in curves and size, it resembles the S&W 4506 I shot and carried back in the early ‘90s (which I bought specifically because of Miami Vice)—so handling and eyeballing it gives me quite a bit of déjà vu.
I would like to point out, however, that the S&W 4506 was lighter than this SIG. The Glock 34 I carry every day is just as big as this pistol, but again, lighter. Most people will be unable or unwilling to carry a gun this big, at least for CCW purposes. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. That long sight radius for aiming, heavy weight for recoil reduction, and powerful 10mm cartridge will work great if you ever get into a gunfight, but 99.9998% of concealed carry is just carrying, and for that, this is too much gun for most people.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you’re going to do it, you need a good holster, a sturdy belt on which to mount it, and even though it’s rather flat, you’ll have to dress around the gun to keep it from printing.
Personally, I think this SIG would make one hell of a bedside-table gun. The size and weight would not be an issue, and the rail allows you to clamp your weaponlight of choice to the front end. Plus, by owning a SIG Legion pistol, you become a member of an exclusive club, and who doesn’t like that? However, I have to wonder why the five-inch, 10mm version of the P220 Legion costs over $400 more than the 4.4-inch, .45 ACP version. It seems unnecessarily pricey.
I am hearing from more and more knowledgeable hunters that a semi-auto 10mm pistol is their preferred choice for backup in bear country. The original version of this pistol was the Kryptek Hunter model, but this Legion version has a much better trigger pull (although you pay for it). This SIG would perform very well in that role as well, as it wouldn’t need to be concealed and the finish would help protect it from the elements.
SIG P220 10mm Legion Specs
- Type: DA/SA auto
- Caliber: 10mm
- Capacity: 8+1
- Barrel Length: 5.0"
- Slide: Stainless steel
- Frame: Steel
- Grips: G10
- Finish: Legion gray PVD
- Overall Length: 8.3"
- Height: 5.5" (w/o mag)
- Width: 1.25"
- Weight: 44.5 oz.
- Sights: XRAY3 night sights
- Trigger: 9.25 lbs. DA, 5 lbs. SA (as tested)
- Accessories: Three, eight-round magazines, lockable case, access to exclusive Legion products/accessories
- MSRP: $1,943.00
- Manufacturer: Sig Sauer; www.sigsauer.com; 1-603-772-2302
SIG P220 10mm Legion Accuracy and Velocity Chart