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SIG P227 .45 ACP Review

It looks like the P226, but the SIG P227 chambered in .45 ACP has a much bigger bite.

SIG P227 .45 ACP Review

If you were to cruise the Internet for even a little while, you'll find that Navy SEALs not only swim in water but apparently walk on it. And the pistol they use, the Sig P226, is the only pistol some shooters will consider owning. Not that it is a bad choice - far from it. But for some of us who have been around the block a few times, it has one major shortcoming: It is chambered for the 9mm Luger.

Now, the 9mm has been getting a lot of attention of late, what with improved bullet designs and improved powders. The days of the 9mm being termed a "real caliber, set on stun" are long over. The 9mm has, in many ammo offerings, greatly closed the gap between it and the .40. But it has not closed the gap between it and the .45. Browning's caliber still rules.

But unfortunately, the .45 ACP won't fit in the P226. That isn't a problem for a lot of shooters. They are more than happy with a pistol chambered in .40, and there SIG can accommodate them. SIG makes the P226 and a number of other pistols in .40. If .40 is big enough for you, then go and be happy.

But for some of us "almost big enough" isn't going to cut it. However, having a .45 in a configuration such as this has often come at the price of having a pistol with a grip that's too big, a gun that has more in common with a 2x4 than the easy-shooting carry gun we all desire.

Well, mourn no more because SIG has solved the problem. While the company's designers didn't exactly find a way to shoehorn the .45 ACP into a P226 package, they came really close, and it sure does feel like they did it with the new P227.

At first glance, the P227 is deceptive. The size, shape, proportions and even the grip contours are so much like the P226 that unless you picked them up one right after the other, you'd be hard-pressed to tell which was which. If you had a P227 on the counter and let someone pick it up without a companion P226, it might be quite some time before they noticed the caliber designation on the barrel.

Like all SIGs these days, the slide is milled from a single piece of steel, and like many models the frame is machined from aluminum and incorporates an accessory rail. It's a standard Picatinny rail, so you will be able to lash any light, laser or combo unit to your P227.

The grips are the new, sexier P226 shape and contour. The controls - slide release, takedown lever and decocking lever - are all in the same place on the frame and perform the same functions as the P226. However, while the frontstrap on the P226 has a smooth face, the P227's frontstrap is checkered for a more secure purchase. Most shooters would consider that an improvement.

To top it off, the P227 will fit into holsters designed for the P220R and P226R. That's right; you're getting a .45, and you don't even have to change holsters.

So what's the catch? After all, we are all familiar with the acronym TANSTAAFL coined by the author Robert Heinlein: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. What is the cost of this wondrous firearm?

Capacity, for one. If SIG had wanted to, it could have made the P227 a mega-capacity .45 ACP, a pistol holding 14, 15 or more rounds. But that would have meant negating the comfortable grip of the P226, something SIG was understandably loathe to do.

So the P227 holds 10 rounds in a magazine. No big deal, really, because 10 rounds is plenty and is a step up from the capacity of the P220, which is eight rounds.


And if you really feel the need, SIG offers an extended-length magazine that offers a 14-round capacity. Here, rather than add the capacity up top, where you would have your work cut out for you holding it, SIG adds the capacity at the bottom, where you won't notice it.

If you are going to be using the P227 as a carry gun, I think the best approach would be to carry it holstered with a loaded 10-round magazine and a round in the chamber. Then for your spare (or spares) go with the 14-rounder. With two spares you have 39 rounds of emergency problem-solving tool.

Which ammo? Whatever works best, shoots accurately and you are comfortable shooting. And being a SIG, it will in all likelihood stand up to a diet of +P ammo better than you will.

One drawback is an unavoidable aspect of the design: bore height. SIGs tend to have the barrel a bit higher over your hand than other designs. This gives the pistol a bit more leverage in recoil. However, the higher axis will manifest itself in upward whip and muzzle rise - instead of transferring energy straight back into your hand, which can be painful.

Don't let the muzzle rise deceive you. The SIG isn't kicking any harder than other .45s; it is just riding up a bit more. I found this to be interesting when it came time to do the chronograph work and some drills. The P227 would rise up, the sights would do their little dance, and then the front sight would drop right back into the slot of the rear sight.

I am reminded of the observation by the great IPSC shooter Brian Enos: "I don't care if the front sight jumps up and signs my name in the air, as long as it drops right back down into the rear sight slot." The P227 does this for me, without the signature part.

The relatively wide backstrap area of the P227 kept felt recoil soft. The energy was spread over a wide enough area that I really didn't have the feeling of being hammered. For a comparison, as much as I love the 1911, it is so narrow in the grip that +P loads can really pound the web of your hand. Spending an afternoon shooting +P .45 ACPs with a 1911 makes you feel like you've been juggling dull axes, occasionally catching not the haft but the blade in the web of your hand.

Now, you might worry about the similarities between the P226 and the P227. Yes, it is entirely possible that you could pack for a range trip and find you've arrived at the gun club with a P226 and .45 ACP ammo or the P227 and 9mm ammo. You'll just have to be careful. Marking your magazines with a paint pen will help.

Editor's Note: Check out this segment of Guns & Ammo TV on the Sportsman Channel, where we shoot the SIG P227 at the range:

SIG helps avoid further trouble by making the P227 magazine too wide and too long front to back to fit into the magazine well of the P226 (a fact that means you'll need new magazine carriers). The P226 magazine will fit into the P227 magazine well, but it won't lock in place. So you can't lock the wrong magazine in place and try to feed incorrect ammunition.

You can still wrestle 9mm ammo into the .45 magazine, but it fits so badly you're bound to notice, and .45 ammo will obviously not fit into the P226 magazines.

SIG has a sterling reputation for making accurate barrels. This particular P227, in addition to being accurate, is also a fast barrel. I can't guarantee your P227 will be as quick as this one, but my test pistol delivered velocities that were on par with what the same ammo generated out of a 1911 with a five-inch barrel- despite the P227's barrel being a little more than half an inch shorter.

The accurate P227 barrel, combined with a clean single-action trigger, made it very pleasant to shoot groups. And that was particularly so with Hornady's Z-Max load, which is soft-shooting and has the same excellent bullet construction as that firm's Critical Defense load.

The latter is what I would carry as well. I would switch to something bonded only if I was carrying the P227 because I was a law enforcement officer, in which case I might have to engage targets hiding behind vehicles or other cover.

In the course of testing the P227, I spent a lot of time at the gun club. I showed it to some of the members, and the reaction was pretty much the same, "Cool, a P226 that is chambered in .45." But right on the heels of that they also said, "But it's too big to be a carry gun," which surprised me.

Maybe I'm just too much of a dinosaur and remember when the only gun worth packing was a big gun. Little guns were what you used as backups to the big gun. But if a P226 in 9mm is a suitable carry gun, and the P227 in .45 fits into the same holster, how can it be too big? Simple answer: It isn't.

At 32 ounces empty, it certainly isn't going to drag you down. It holds 10+1 rounds of .45 ACP, something we have all desired. And, as I mentioned, the spares can hold even more if you wish. As I also mentioned, if you have a holster that a P226 fits, the P227 will fit it. And if you have an all-seasons ensemble of carry holsters, then the P227 will work year-round.

The P227 I received came with the night sights installed, a $92 extra charge over the base gun. Considering how much you are getting for the standard cost, having to spring a small amount for night sights (if you want them, not all shooters do) is nothing.

Where I think the P227 will really shine is for those of us who live in colder climates. If you live in the desert or some swampy place that has been laughably called a "retirement" zone, you need the smallest possible carry gun because you'll be hiding it under a T-shirt or some hideously patterned Hawaiian shirt in the awful heat.

We dress sensibly here in the North, and for those of you who still think the P227 is too big, then the cold-weather clothing will make it easier to hide. These additional layers of clothing also mean there's more to penetrate on any potential attacker. Despite the advances in bullet design, a .45 hollowpoint is going to find extra clothing less of a problem to deal with than a 9mm would.

I think SIG really has a hit on its hands with the P227, and judging from the reactions of everyone who has seen it so far, SIG is going to have its hands full keeping up with orders.

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