The Legend Reborn: SIG Sauer P210A Target

By Todd Burgreen

SIG SAUER’s P210 from 1949 is Rejuvenated with the Refreshed 9mm P210A Target

In the mid-1980s, the word “GLOCK” became synonymous with what we expect from a semiautomatic service handgun. However, another handgun preceded the GLOCK phenomenon by 40 years and was heralded as an equally significant step forward in pistol design in its time. This firearm was the SIG SAUER P210, which entered Swiss service in 1949.

The recently introduced SIG SAUER P210A Target chambered in 9mm is the latest descendant of the P210 and is reviewed herein. It is considered a SIG SAUER production handgun, even though its performance is more like that of a custom offering. This has been a common theme throughout the entire lifespan of the P210.

There is a reason that classic firearms hold a special place in our psyche. This is because firearms labeled as classics have announced a transition in form and/or function. No matter how many years and other models have transpired since, classics are accepted as such because they set the standard that all others strive to match or improve upon. The SIG SAUER P210 is such a weapon. Many do not realize that the P210 was designed as a service weapon; such is its reputation for accuracy.

Firearm evolution is a slow and tedious matter at times, with breakthroughs and improvements coming in bits and pieces from a multitude of influences. Manufacturing techniques, metallurgy, cartridge improvements, politics, technology, market forces (for instance, capitalism) and countless other factors have determined the unique weaponry advances of different countries and cultures. Early 20th century semiautomatic handguns were typified by hammer-fired, steel-frame, single-action designs.

The P210 has a full-length guide rod that fits into the slide’s integral barrel bushing. The P210 operates on the short-recoil principle. SIG SAUER slightly modified the original P210’s design in the P210A Target by moving the locking lugs from the barrel; instead, they utilized a single locking lug milled above the barrel’s chamber. The slide’s large overhead ejection port serves as the interaction point between the barrel and slide. Per the Browning short-recoil method, the barrel and slide recoil together for a short distance until the barrel is drawn downward and stopped via the bar/slot arrangement under the chamber, while the slide continues rearward. The spent case is extracted/ejected. The cam slot and bar move the chamber upward, and the locking lug re-engages when the slide comes forward again. Lastly, the front contour of the barrel lug cam slot under the barrel chamber has been cut square to direct counter-recoiling forces up and forward into the barrel itself to reduce stress on the lug. This entire mechanism assists in lowering the manufacturing costs of the new P210A in our age of CNC machining. This is a good thing, as it brings the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the P210A Target down to $1699, whereas previous P210 models fetch $2000–4000.

The mystical allure of a well-constructed steel frame/slide weapon with wood grips is hard to deny in our current polymer age. The SIG SAUER P210A Target featured in this article is the latest version of the legendary P210 that came to life in the 1940s as the standard Swiss Army and police sidearm in 1949. It expanded quickly to West German Border Police and Danish defense forces. In 1975, the P210 was replaced by the SIG P220 in Switzerland; however, it continues to serve Denmark.

The P210’s accuracy and reliability evidenced the final refinement of the steel-frame, single-action handgun concept. Swiss specifications called for 10 rounds within a 2-inch-wide circle at 50 meters from the P210. This is hard to obtain from custom match handguns, let alone a service grade weapon. Test targets accompanying issued P210s demonstrate, without a doubt, the inherent accuracy of the handgun. It is not hard to fathom why even second-hand P210s are greatly valued by shooting sports competitors.

The P210 stemmed from the French Army’s Model 1935. This is understandable, considering SIG had a license to produce the French handgun from 1937. By 1947, SIG’s final refinement emerged in the form of the P210. Distinguishing features of the P210 include the slide riding inside the frame, as opposed to sliding over the frame, which is how such pistols as the 1911 and Hi Power operate. The P210 slide moves along internal rails machined inside the frame. Proponents point to the resultant smoother cycling and finer tolerances of the components for this design translating into better accuracy potential.

Up until the P210A Target, which is manufactured at SIG’s New Hampshire facility here in the U.S., the production of P210 variants took place in Switzerland and Germany. Manufacture of the U.S.-made SIG SAUER follows the lines of the original P210 with some tailoring to the U.S. customer. For example, the magazine release is on the frame, whereas the European-style heel release has it on the butt of the grip. The P210A Target features a 1911-like safety lever, and the beavertail is extended/accentuated. The trigger guard is squared off. Cocking serrations have been added to the front and rear of the slide as well. Some of these features were foreshadowed by the German P210 Legend introduced in 2010 and manufactured in SIG’s Mastershop facility in Eckernförde, Germany. The use of a stainless steel Nitron-coated frame and slide is another notable difference.

Conversations with SIG SAUER representatives during visits to SIG Academy detailed their painstaking commitment to duplicate the original P210 single-action trigger’s characteristics of reset and break. The P210A Target emerges from the box with a 3.5-pound pull weight. Target-style sights—with a fully adjustable rear and fiber-optic front—are some of the finest witnessed on an iron-sighted handgun. The P210A walnut grip fills the hand better than other, slimmer service grips; it is designed to facilitate the placement of the sights on target and to keep them there, no matter how fast the strings of fire.

No one can argue against the P210A Target handling instinctively. The quality trigger and grip size/angle cause it to be the most accurate handgun in most arsenals. It is ironic that one of this striker-fired polymer weapon’s greatest attributes is a trigger that feels more similar from shot to shot than that of a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) setup. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The SIG P210 tale of the tape is a barrel length of 5 inches with an overall length of 8.4 inches. Its width is 1 3/8 inches at the backstrap. The slim-profile slide is barely an inch wide. The handgun’s weight is 36 ounces. The new SIG P210A Target has an extended beavertail, allowing the shooter’s hand to rest high on the frame without having to worry about slide/hammer bite. The SIG target sights found on the P210A Target assist in maximizing accuracy; they provide a crisp, clear sight picture due to the fiber-optic front gathering the right amount of light without being obscenely bright. SIG has done an excellent job of providing a target-style sight that does not protrude grotesquely, thanks to the way it is milled into the top of the slide. The target sight setup is refreshing to use after years of looking through handgun sights that feature dots and other designs meant for rapid shot placement at close range. Of late, there seems to be an almost imperceptible shift among handgun sights back to wider rear notches and thin front posts that aid in more precise aiming when the sights are consulted. This stems from more and more data showing that sights are not utilized that much in close-range affairs, with shooters relying on hand-eye coordination for shot placement in defensive encounters. I found it possible to accurately engage man-sized steel targets at 50 yards, and similarly sized targets out to 100 yards had still better seek cover against the P210A Target.

The SIG SAUER P210A Target was evaluated using ammunition from SIG SAUER, Black Hills Ammunition, Hornady and Federal/American Eagle. The 9mm loads fired ranged from 115- to 147-grain with both hollow points and FMJ bullet types tested. The SIG P210 was surely designed to function with FMJ bullets. Approximately 550 rounds were fired while compiling this article. Magazines were loaded from an ammunition can full of an assortment of steel-, aluminum- and brass-case 9mm loads of different bullet profiles, which were consolidated from partially used boxes and purposely used as a form of reliability testing. The P210A Target’s excellent accuracy does not originate from the kind of overly tight, finicky construction that often characterizes custom match weapons. Remember, the P210 was designed as a service weapon; as such, a premium is placed on its reliability, yet excellent accuracy is still guaranteed thanks to quality manufacturing and attention to detail.

On the range with the SIG SAUER P210A Target, sight zero was first verified, and then several magazines were fired rapidly at various steel man targets. This quickly shows if any reliability issues exist. Further testing consisted of strings of fire against steel plate racks and popper targets at 7, 15 and 25 yards. The sights were zeroed out of the box for 50 yards and thus slightly high at 25 yards using the classic six o’clock hold. The SIG fiber-optic front sight and target rear sight proved advantageous not only when monotonously stacking bullet holes on top of each other, but also for rapid shot placement when working a plate rack. The benefits of the tuned single-action trigger were evident during range evaluation. Groups fired from standing or kneeling positions were impressive, with bullets unerringly hitting their mark. Rapid-fire magazine dumps still found rounds clustered in the “A” zone of an IPSC target. Bench testing could not be resisted after witnessing the unsupported accuracy results. One-inch groups at 25 yards were not unusual. Two-inch grouping at 50 yards was beyond my capabilities. The P210’s sights tracked smoothly during recoil when firing multiple rounds.

The natural pointability of the P210A Target was confirmed by the speed with which the sights aligned on the target. The safety was positive and easy to manipulate off. Re-engaging the safety was a little more problematic. This is a minor issue, in my opinion. The beavertail frame settles the weapon naturally into your hand and provides a point of reference when drawing the pistol from a holster. The P210A Target proved very capable of firing multiple shot strings with the utmost accuracy. The custom grip tapering up to the thin slide sits the P210A Target in your hand in such a way that the extended beavertail stays settled over the web of the hand. This, combined with the thin slide profile, eliminates the front-heavy sensation that some handguns elicit.

The SIG SAUER P210A Target performed at a level justifying its reputation. Based on the above, the SIG P210A Target is still a valid choice for use. It was a pleasant experience to revisit a classic handgun that finely represents the quality of its series.



Federal Cartridge Company

Black Hills Ammunition


This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N8 (October 2018)
and was posted online on August 24, 2018


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