It’s no secret to anyone who’s read any of my articles on Survival Cache or SHTFblog that I’m a SIG Sauer fanboy. I’ve owned several – all of them in .45 ACP: a standard P220, a P245 compact, and my favorite, a P220ST stainless. Every single one has been just hideously accurate, and extremely reliable. The SIG Sauer “Classic” pistols (SIG’s term, not mine, that denotes their P220, P224, P225, P226, P227, P228, P229, and P239 line of pistol design) are not picky about what fodder gets fed from the magazine, what conditions you run them in, or the general overall condition. They just WORK, and that is the reason they have been chosen as the premier sidearm for the Navy SEALs, The Secret Service, Federal Air Marshals, Texas Rangers, and many other high-profile military and law enforcement departments. Over the years, I have many thousands of rounds downrange in SIG Sauer pistols, and I can’t remember a single failure that was the pistol’s fault.
SIG Sauer pistols also have an enviable reputation for stellar accuracy, and my experiences with them backs that honor up 100%. My P220ST will put an entire magazine full of 200-grain lead SWC handloads in one small ragged hole at 15 yards. When I took an introductory handgun course with a local training facility, the instructor asked me if I’d just shot a 12 gauge slug at the target and called it good! Even the compact P245 I had was capable of very good accuracy with off-the-shelf ball ammo. I’ve often told people that “A P220 will do everything a 1911 will do, but BETTER.”, and I still hold that to be true. I’ve customized and run 1911s, even winning an IDPA match with one, but ever since I picked up a P220, I’ve just been so…less than enthused… with John M. Browning’s seminal design. Most people boast that the 1911’s single action trigger can be better, and it can. However, the SIG’s Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) system is smooth and crisp, and I don’t find it to be a hindrance in the least in shooting groups that any 1911 guy would be proud of.
I’m not saying all this to toot my own horn; rather, to emphasize the general opinion that SIG Sauer pistols are good. Very, very good, in fact. They have all the bases covered, in my opinion – accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and, though it may be subjective, aesthetics. SIG Sauer pistols, to me, are just hands-down handsome hunks of metal. So, it could be said, that, yes, I am biased towards SIG Sauer pistols. But it’s certainly not unwarranted – I’ve run them through the ringer – dirt, water, lead and carbon buildup from many rounds of dirty cast lead bullet handloads without cleaning, twigs, debris, and pine needles in them from being a hunting sidearm – and they still come up swinging. In my book, you simply can’t do any better than a SIG Sauer pistol. There, I said it.
Enter The P227
But SIG Sauer did do better – they found a way to take the beloved P220 design, which utilizes single-stack 7 or 8 round magazine, and make it feed from double-stacked 10 or 14 round magazines…AND they did it all while managing to not make the pistol feel like a double-stack .45 ACP. The SIG Sauer P227 feels just like a P226 a 15-round 9mm, which has long been lauded for its svelte lines and good “feel”, and it does NOT give you the impression of a “grip like a 2×4” Glock 21 or HK USP .45. SIG Sauer did this by deciding to keep the capacity to 10 rounds in a standard magazine, not the stuffed-to-the-gills 12 or 13 of the other mentioned handguns. Handle a P227 then handle a Glock 21, and you’ll immediately be drawn to the more sculpted, more svelte P227 grip. Yes, I know the Glock 21 SF alleviates some of the clubby feel of a Glock, but it still feels like it was made out of Legos when compared to a P227. If you’re comfortable with a P226, you’ll feel right at home with a P227.
The P227 sports the same overall dimensions as the P226: 7.7 inches long, 5.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches wide. However, with an empty magazine, the P227 weighs a shade less than the P226, at 32 ounces compared to 34 oz, respectively. And handling the P226 and P227, one in each hand, you’ll note that the P226 feels slightly more muzzle heavy…but close your eyes, and you can’t distinguish one from the other. It’s a standard recoil-operated, Browning-style tilting barrel design, simple, proven, and effective.
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P227s utilize standard minimal SIG Sauer controls: there is a frame-mounted decocking lever mounted at the forward upper edge of the left side grip panel, allowing you to safely lower the hammer on a live round without actually touching the hammer. (there are no external safeties on the P227, but there are internal safeties that guarantee the pistol cannot be fired unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.) The slide catch is mounted just behind and above the decocking lever; both of these controls are easily accessed by the shooter’s right-hand thumb, as is the magazine release. The takedown lever is forward on the frame, also on the left side. Takedown dis-assembly is simple and straightforward: clear the the gun, make sure it is unloaded. Check it again. Lock the slide back using the slide stop or empty magazine. Rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees downward, and leave it there, pointing downward. Controlling the slide with your off-hand (there is a healthy amount of spring tension here from the recoil spring), disengage the slide catch, and the slide rides forward, off the full-length frame rails. The recoil spring and barrel are then easily removed for cleaning. Re-assemble in reverse order, making sure the takedown lever is all the way up, parallel to the slide.
All P227s come with the new E2 style grips, which are mounted by clamping on the gun without screws, and require a special tool to remove. (write to SIG Sauer if you don’t have one). The E2 grips are an effort to keep the grip thickness down, and they work. They have a slight texture to them that still work well when wet, and they look and feel good. P227s do NOT have the grip frame threaded for aftermarket grips; however, Hogue makes a set of replacement grips and they come with threaded bushings to make it work. I really don’t feel the need to replace the grips on mine, but there are replacement options for others out there.
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P227s utilize most accessories, such as holsters, that the P226 or P220 use. However, be sure you get holsters meant for the guns with rails (designated with an “R” after the model number) so that the pistol will fit. Magazine pouches will need to be pistol-specific, as the P227 magazines aren’t quite the same profile as the P226 magazines. I did find that P227 magazines fit wonderfully, if a little snugly, in S&W M&P mag pouches. If you mount a light like the Streamlight TLR-3 I have on the gun for now, you’ll need to get a light and gun combination specific holster.
My particular P227 is a standard full-sized double-action/single-action DA/SA “Nitron” model, with a black anodized aluminum grip frame, and the handsome matte SIG Nitron black coating on the slide and other steel parts. It came with the short reach trigger, and SIGLITE night sights. The standard gotta-have-it-these-days accessory rail adorns the dust cover, and the front grip strap is checkered – a nice touch. The hard plastic box contained the usual accompanying manuals and gear, as well as two 10-round magazines. SIG also offers extended 14-round mags for those lusting after even more big holes in their targets between reloads.
Shooting The P227
After I’d procured my newest addition to the arsenal, I was extremely excited to get it to the range. I grabbed a couple boxes of Winchester “white box” 230-grain FMJ ammo, as well as a few of my P220’s preferred handloads. I thumbed the fat .45 ACP rounds into the wide body magazines, and charged the gun. The 4.4 pound single action trigger broke cleanly, and a 230-grain FMJ projectile hurtled toward the target, striking a few inches low, dead center. The rest of the magazine’s rounds followed shortly, and I soon had a nice hand-sized cluster of holes in the target, 15 yards away.
Recoil certainly was not excessive; a push with a little muzzle rise. However, that front sight dropped right back down into the rear sight, making follow-up shots seem very fast for a .45 ACP. The well-rounded grip profile helps to disperse recoil impulses across the whole hand as well. But it is a large pistol with a lot of mass, so recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable. My 15-year old wiry-framed son was able to grip the pistol, access the controls, and handle recoil with no problem, so don’t let the fact that it’s a large-framed .45 ACP stop you from considering the P227 as a sidearm.
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Initially, the accuracy of the pistol wasn’t what I would call “stunning”. 4-5” groups at 15 yards seemed to be the norm, and all centered low. I conferred with my SIG Sauer armorer’s manual and confirmed the sights were the correct combination for the gun. However, while perusing the manual, I was reminded that SIG Sauer regulates their sights so that the front sight dot – in the middle of the front sight – was the point of impact at 25 yards. My P220ST is regulated for a 6 o’clock hold, meaning you put the target on TOP of the front sight: I’ve always preferred this setup so I can get a clear view of the target. But my P227 requires the front sight to cover the target; once I started doing this, the groups hit dead-center and ripped the 9 and 10 rings out of Bullseye targets. As I shot the pistol and got used to the trigger and the gun itself, groups tightened up to the 2”-3” range offhand at 15 yards – much better. You can see in the accompanying target picture that I started low, and when I adjusted my point of aim, it dropped the rounds dead center. I haven’t spent enough time with the pistol to find a handload it likes, but someday I’ll be able to…and I bet it’ll be every bit as good as the other SIG pistols I’ve encountered.
So we’ve been over the pistol’s good points – accuracy, good looks, quality, feel/ergonomics, and reliability (no malfunctions of any kind in over 500 rounds, even with cast lead bullet handloads). What are the low points of this pistol? The “con” list of this pistol is short, and really, subjective to individual perception. The first and immediate hit the gun takes is from the wallet. With a retail price hovering around the $1,100 mark, and real-world pricing around $850-900 for a new pistol, you’ll REALLY have to want one to get one. But that stack of dead presidents nets you unrelenting SIG Sauer quality – something SIG pistols have been known for since their inception. Knowing you can buy a couple used Glocks for what you’d shell out for a new P227 is a bit sobering, but if you want the “hell and back reliability” SIG advertises, as well as the SIG name, you’ll have zero problem paying up if you have the money and the need. I personally prefer the “buy once, cry once” method of buying firearms, and I had no problem opening my wallet to buy what I knew would be a stellar pistol. New magazines are about $45 each for 10 rounders from SIG.
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Another issue: If you utilize the modern thumbs-forward hold for shooting your pistols, you may find that your right-hand thumb (assuming you’re right handed) will ride exactly on top of the pistol’s slide lock lever. What happens here is that your thumb will keep the slide lock depressed, and not allow the slide to lock back on an empty magazine when firing. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a second or two of confusion when the gun goes “click” and you haven’t been counting rounds. I’ve trained myself to hold the gun slightly differently with might thumb tucked downward, and it works well. If you shoot many different pistol platforms, it could be a pain in the rear to have to train with different holds for different pistols. I’d suggest trying before you buy to see if this is an issue for you.
A couple people I’ve talked to about the pistol have said to me, “ONLY ten rounds? Pfft.”. I guess they were expecting a 15-round capacity, in this world of 17-round 9mms. Well, I applaud SIG’s decision to keep the grip of the P227 svelte and smaller – and 10 rounds of .45 is a hell of a lot better than 7 or 8. The aftermarket 14-round magazines are longer and extend out further than the magazine well of the pistol. I thought long and hard about the “just 10 round” malady, and it really doesn’t bother me, especially when I consider I carried a standard P220 for so long. A 25% upgrade in firepower at the expense of a moderately larger grip is a tradeoff I’m personally just fine with. Others may not be, and might desire a full sized 9mm or .40 in lieu of a full sized .45. Go with what you like…I like .45s.
The standard DA/SA action of the SIG line is a concern for some, and a valid one. You have to master a longer, 10-pound (or more) pull for the first round if you’re hammer down on a loaded chamber (as most people will carry this gun) and then you have to transfer to the lighter, shorter SA pull once the gun cycles. This means probably a trigger finger position change, and a very real conscious effort to work the trigger properly. Compare this with the stable of striker-fired guns that just have one trigger pull, all the time, or single-action only autos like the 1911 family, and you realize that this system does take longer to master. Luckily, the P227s trigger is smooth and non-stacking, and with practice, easy to keep on target. When I shoot these guns at matches or at paper, the first round is sometimes off, then the group tightens up with the lighter single-action pull. Again, it’s a try-it-out situation; it works fine for me; it may not for you.
9mm vs. .45 ACP
I realize that the pistol-toting world seems to be running as fast as they can away from big-bores like the .45 auto, and transitioning to the 9mm. The argument for the change is this: with bullet technology being what it is today, the terminal ballistics of the 9mm and .45ACP are virtually indistinguishable in ballistic gelatin and through standard barriers, and with the 9mm’s lighter recoil and higher capacity, it’s theoretically possible to put more equivalently-performing bullets on target in a shorter amount of time. Ok, I’ll give them that point; it makes sense – with modern defense ammunition. But there are a couple reasons why I like the .45 over the 9mm.
There may be a time, in the not too distant future, when modern defense ammunition may not be available for whatever reason. If all you and I are relegated to is FMJ “ball” ammunition, or cast bullet reloads, the “bigger is better” mantra becomes relevant quickly. The NATO 9mm 124-grain FMJ round out of a pistol has, from what I’ve read and been told, a rather poor reputation as a man-stopper. However, while the “legendary” .45 ACP 230-grain FMJ military load may be blown a bit out of proportion with time and exaggeration, it still has an enviable notoriety for stopping fanatical adversaries when used by the US Military in several wars. It makes sense in a basic way: .451” diameter for the .45 ACP versus .355” diameter for the 9mm. Almost twice the projectile weight for the .45ACP over the 9mm, with more energy impacting the target. Bigger, heavier bullet equals bigger wound channel.
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I’ve always been a big-bore fan just because I always liked big things. However, when I started hunting deer, I have definitely has been a major difference in big bore, slower bullets versus small bore, high velocity rounds. I’ve personally witnessed a deer shot in a rear leg with a .45-70 rifle that just laid down and died on the spot, yet a high center of mass hit from a .257 Roberts resulted in a lost deer. I’ve shot deer with .35 caliber rifles that ceased living instantaneously as soon as I pulled the trigger, when a friend of mine zapped a deer with a 7mm Remington Magnum and we chased it a whole afternoon. I realize this is mostly anecdotal, but I feel that with a solid hit from a large-bore gun carries more authority than an equivalent hit with a smaller one, an opinion based purely on how I’ve personally seen deer react. And I also know that deer hunting is subject to many, many different circumstances – but isn’t carrying a pistol for self defense subject to similar circumstance as well? Just my $0.02.
The other reason I prefer the .45 ACP is that it is, for me at least, a much more intrinsically accurate cartridge than the 9mm. Factory ammo rarely disappoints in the accuracy department, and if you handload, the .45 is nothing short of divine to work with. It’s just one of those magical cartridges where everything was just RIGHT from the get-go, when John Browning designed it in the very early 1900s. A moderate charge of Bullseye powder and any bullet from 185 to 230 grains, and you have a real tack-driver under most circumstances. Many bullseye shooters today still use the .45 ACP with stellar results. And with proper loadings and carefully selected expanding projectiles, it makes a pretty useful hunting round for anything up to and including deer, at close ranges. I nailed a small whitetail with my P220 and a 230-grain Winchester Black Talon bullet (remember those?), and the deer dropped. A very close, now-departed friend of mine killed a huge buck with a ball round from his service 1911 that he brought back from the Pacific Theater of WW2. The caliber is very effective on many levels and within its envelope; it makes a lot of sense to me.
Back to the pistol: The SIG Sauer P227 is just a wonderful gun. It’s big, yes. It’s going to take some practice to master, yes. It’s only got 10 rounds in the magazine, yes. But the down-and-dirty of it all is this: The P227 is a badass, reliable, beautifully made pistol with a big, menacing hole on the business end of it, and that just seems pretty right. I tried, really tried, to overlook my SIG fanboy issues and examine the gun objectively. When I did, I still couldn’t find much, if anything, wrong. It’s expensive, but with SIG, you always get what you pay for. The P227 has officially supplanted my much-beloved S&W M&P40 as my grab-n-go sidearm, and for very good reason: SIG pistols work when the chips are down. Try one out when you see it and you’ll find yourself reaching for your wallet, too.