We’re all sick of the seemingly never-ending “1911 vs. Glock” argument. The two guns are as different as night and day. It’s time to compare apples to badass apples with the REAL argument: which is better, the 1911 or the Sig Sauer P220? (TL;DR: The Sig P220 is way better).
I’ll admit I’m a Sig Sauer fanboy of the highest accord, and it all started when I got my first Sig Sauer P220 in .45 ACP years ago. At the time, I was carrying a Colt M1991A1 that I had spent hours working on, lovingly going through and modifying, upgrading to suit my needs so it would run reliably with both Federal Hydra-Shoks and my semi-wadcutter target handloads. I had used the Colt in a couple IDPA matches, and done very well, even winning a meet. The big old slabsided pistol and I were inseparable—until that fateful Sig Sauer fell in my lap.
‘Twas lust at first sight. The Sig P220 was the same basic concept as my Colt: a single-stack .45 ACP full sized combat pistol. (Though, oddly enough, 9mm, 10mm, .38 Super and .22LR are other available calibers for both pistols). However, the Sig Sauer P220 benefited from another 65 years of pistol evolution and got almost everything right from the start. The P220 felt superb, was stunningly accurate, and—get THIS—I didn’t have to do anything to it. It was perfect, straight out of the box. I immediately relegated the Colt to the safe, and haven’t looked back.
The P220 is a far superior carry gun to the 1911 platform. There, I said it. I will champion the following statement till the day I die: Anything the 1911 can do, the Sig Sauer P220 can do better.
Yell at me all you want, I know I’m right after years of using both platforms—and here’s my justification.
This first reason a Sig P220 is better than a 1911 is a no-brainer. If you were in a situation where you knew people would be shooting back at you, and you could only choose between a Sig P220 or a 1911, both loaded with modern hollowpoint defense ammo, which would you grab? I know that P220 would be in my hand faster than you could say, “tap-rack-bang.”
I can tell you from extensive experience with both platforms that the Sig Sauer P220, no matter its vintage, will run pretty much whatever ammo you can put through it like greased corn runs through a goose. The 1911 can be… well, we’ll go with “finicky.” I’ll go one step further: I have such complete confidence in the “To hell and back reliability” of the Sig Sauer P220 that if there were a pile of 50 unknown stock P220s in front of me and I had to choose just one to use as a carry gun to protect my life with, I could close my eyes, grab one, and be certain the gun would run 100%, as long as it had been properly maintained.
Would you say the same about a pile of 50 unknown stock 1911s? Especially with self-defense ammo? I rest my case.
2. Simplicity in operation
Some might argue that a 1911 is as simple as it gets, with one trigger pull to master. I see your one trigger pull, and I raise you the the two separate external safeties (grip and thumb) that must be correctly actuated for a 1911 to go off, plus the need to carry “cocked and locked” (hammer back on a loaded chamber, thumb safety engaged) for the pistol to be truly combat-ready (argue all you want on condition one/two/three, but this is a generally accepted statement.).
If you only use 1911s for all your pistol needs, I can see this being acceptable, maybe even preferable. However, for new gun owners or people who switch up their carry pistols, this can get confusing and possibly unsafe very quickly. I’m not saying that you need to be a rocket scientist to run a 1911, but it takes more far attention to the pistol, safety, and handling.
A Sig Sauer P220 only needs to be run one way: hammer down on a loaded chamber. Sig Sauer even provides a thumb-operated de-cocking lever to let the operator accomplish this safety. Sorry, but John Moses Browning in all his wisdom still made you lower your hammer manually, which is less safe by definition. Yes, I am fully aware that carrying a P220 in this aforementioned fashion means (God forbid) TWO trigger pulls to master: one heavy double-action first, single action thereafter. But you know what? You train through this process.… you know, just like 1911 drivers train to clear stoppages, disassemble full-length guide rods, or be just a little too smug.
3. Only one company builds Sig Sauer P220s
Here’s a fun exercise: go to your favorite online gun auction site: Gunbroker, GunsAmerica, whatever you like. Type “1911” into the search bar. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Who makes the first ten guns that pop up? My GunsAmerica search brought up the following: Smith & Wesson, two Colts, Kimber, CSC Arms, Springfield, Dan Wesson, Detonics, Taurus, and Ruger. Hmmm, interesting. You think all those guns, with sell prices ranging from $499 to over $2,000, all have the same level of quality standards? Do you think you could take those ten guns and disassemble them all and throw their parts in a pile, then make ten completely new, fully functional guns with those jumbled-up parts? Didn’t think so.
At one time, I had three Sig P220s of the same generation (P220s had slight generational changes to the slide and extractor setups over the years) and I conducted that very exercise. What do you know? They all worked just fine afterwards. Funny how that works when only one manufacturer makes a gun. When you buy a P220, you know you’re getting a quality gun. When you buy a 1911, well, I’d guess you’d have to say “that depends.” Yes, I know having a variety of manufacturers increases accessibility to the masses due to gentler price tags. However, in the wide world of guns, it’s universal that you do indeed get what you pay for.
Also worth noting: my experiences with Sig Sauer’s customer service team have been nothing short of exceptional. Is Colt’s customer service widely lauded as exceptional? How about Taurus? Remington? Something to think about before you pick up that 1911. Just in case it doesn’t, y’know, work all the time. I hear it happens.
4. You don’t need to $&!# with a Sig Sauer P220
If you get a Sig P220 with the Siglite night sights, you don’t need to do anything else to it. Done. Design perfection attained. The triggers are almost always quite-good-to-excellent for a DA/SA gun. Accuracy is always excellent. Reliability is top notch. What else would you need to fix? Quick answer: nothing.
Unless you spend the dough for an already upgraded 1911 with enhanced accessories, your run of the mill original design GI-style 1911A1 will have miserable sights, no beavertail on the grip safety, standard safety size, and probably a little short trigger that has a pull that ranges anywhere from mediocre to acceptable. It will probably need a “fluff ‘n’ buff” to make it feed defensive ammo, too. In fact, any 1911 that would be generally be considered to have the “correct” accepted upgrades to be a modern fighting pistol is so vastly removed from the original 1911A1 design that it could be considered a new design.
What did Sig have to do to the P220 to make it a modern fighting pistol? They put an accessory rail on it. Check and mate.
But… but… but…!
I know most of you 1911 guys and gals are sputtering, “yeah, but…!” and stating counterpoint after counterpoint based on different models and options and personal opinions. That’s cool; this article is my personal opinion. I know the 1911 is “God’s Gun” (though I bet when I get to the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter will be rocking a Sig) and the physical manifestation of “America!” in forged steel. I can’t argue the symbolism, patriotism, and outright “hell YEAH!” that holding a kickass 1911 brings forth. However, “hell YEAH” won’t keep you safe in a gunfight. It’ll probably keep you reasonably safe in a bullseye match… but I still would lay odds that a nice P220 Match Elite will probably kick the crap out of a 1911 Gold Cup at the target range too. (I know, the heresy! The horror of even SAYING that!).
So, when the chips are down and my life is on the line? Sorry, Mr. John Moses Browning; you are truly a truly great American and a sheer firearms genius… but you got one-upped by the guys at Sig Sauer and the stellar P220. I’ll leave the 1911 at home and take my P220, thanks.
All photos by author.