Anyone who knows me is painfully aware that I am a fan of classic firearms, whether they be pre-war Smith & Wessons, Colts and select European designs. Such handguns can be expensive on the used market, often prohibitively so, which means it is always welcome news when a company produces a faithful reproduction that is within reach of the non-collector. Among this list of iconic handguns that are new again is the SIG Sauer P210, one of the classic handguns of the 20th century, offered with a few modern twists.
The original SIG P210 was a single-stack, single-action 9x19mm handgun released in 1947 and adopted by the Swiss military in 1949. These guns were built by Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (SIG) in Neuhausen, Switzerland. Renowned for its accuracy and excellent trigger, the P210 served Helvetia admirably until 1975 when it was replaced by the SIG P220. The great Jeff Cooper introduced the Swiss-made pistol to American readers in his 1958 book “Fighting Handguns” and though he wasn’t fond of its 9mm chambering, he spoke highly of the design.
P210s were coveted by their owners, and in the Swiss tradition, many passed into private hands when the gun’s military service came to a close. Swiss production ceased altogether in 2005 though some German-made P210 Legend models were produced a decade ago. Although the original guns are not necessarily scarce in number, they command a premium price on the U.S. used market with many new-in-box (NIB) P210s starting at $3,000 to $5,000. If you spot one for less, it is likely to be chambered in .30 Luger, as they are less desirable for obvious reasons. These are beautifully made guns from a bygone era and are usually wonderfully accurate, but the sticker price is simply too high for most.
Recognizing the demand for this classic, in 2016 SIG Sauer began production of the new P210, a modern handgun that captures many of the design features of the original with a few tweaks added. SIG Sauer offers the Exeter, New Hampshire-made P210 in two models: The adjustable-sighted Target and the more utilitarian Standard. I tested the Standard for this review. Though this handgun was originally designed for military use and could still serve admirably as a self-defense handgun, it really fits better into the target role these days, a niche in which it excels.
The concept of shootability is a subjective one, but there is no doubt that some guns are simply easier to hit with than others. This usually means a great trigger, good sights and a user-friendly grip design — the P210 has all three in spades.
With the possible exception of the Heckler & Koch P7 and the Smith & Wesson Model 52, I cannot recall a factory centerfire handgun that I’ve found to be as shootable as the P210. The gun naturally points where you want it to, the sights are clear and crisp, and the trigger is light and buttery smooth.
The P210 is a full-sized single-action handgun with a 5-inch barrel. Like the original, the frame and slide on the new P210 are constructed of steel, though the company chose Nitron blackened machined stainless steel over the traditional chromoly. Thanks to the steel construction, it is a relatively heavy pistol with an unloaded weight of 36.2 ounces, just lighter than a steel-framed 1911. The design is somewhat unique in that the full-length frame rails are internal, and the slide rails are external, the exact opposite of most handguns on the market. The result is a pleasingly slim and trim profile with a low bore axis and a tight lockup. Thanks to a generous beavertail and a high cut behind the triggerguard, the P210 sits low in the hand where it should.
One of the areas where SIG Sauer deviated from the original P210 were the controls, which are a functional upgrade when compared to the originals. The heel-type magazine release has been moved to a location just behind the triggerguard (where we know to look for it), and the lanyard loop has been deleted. Likewise, the safety lever, which traditionally sat at the front of the left grip panel, now sits at the top of the frame where it can be easily actuated with the thumb — a perfect rest for that digit. The slide stop hasn’t moved, but has been beefed-up for faster operation. Overall, the controls are simple and intuitive and will be familiar to any user of modern handguns.
None of the controls are ambidextrous, which means that this isn’t the most user-friendly handgun for the southpaws out there. The magazine is a simple blued-steel design that holds eight-rounds, and both the floorplate and follower are polymer.
At the top end, the P210’s ejection port has been opened up and the slide-mounted extractor has been moved slightly forward. The ramped barrel is made of carbon steel and is captured by the slide stop which passes through a slot milled into the lug. The barrel locks into the slide above the front and rear of the chamber in a system more akin to the later P-series SIG Sauer handguns than to the original P210 design. A captive, flat recoil spring rides below the barrel along a full-length guiderod. The P210 maintains the rear slide hump of the original, which adds additional surface area for the milled slide serrations and provides a solid mounting surface for the rear sight dovetail. The highly visible sights are steel with three white dots and are drift adjustable for windage.
The trigger on the P210 is the star of the show and much of what makes the handgun so easy to shoot. The curved steel trigger on our test gun broke consistently at 2¾ pounds after some take-up that provided a theoretical margin of safety. The trigger reset is longer than one might encounter on most modern handguns, essentially providing the same trigger pull from the first shot to the last in the magazine. I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to triggers and, though the feel is slightly different than that of a great 1911 or revolver, it is fantastic.
Disassembly for cleaning and maintenance is simple, straightforward and requires no tools. The slide is retracted slightly to the rear which allows the user to drift the slide stop to the left and out of the frame. The slide assembly can then be slid forward and off, allowing easy removal of the recoil spring assembly and barrel. Reversing the process assembles the pistol.
Shooting the P210 was pure joy. The comfortable checkered walnut grip, aforementioned trigger and excellent sights made hitting almost monotonous. The first magazine left a single ragged hole in the cardboard International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) target at 10 yards and I knew we had a winner.
Thanks to the weight of the steel frame and the checkered frontstrap, the P210 was very controllable. The P210 shot to the sights out to 25 yards, the furthest distance at which we tested it. Accuracy, particularly with the proven Hornady 115-grain XTP load, was excellent. The handgun functioned with 100 percent reliability during our testing, which wasn’t surprising given the attention to detail that was evident throughout.
I’ve seen many companies produce remakes of their classic designs in recent years, and many of them are cheapened significantly over the originals with steel and walnut replaced by powdered metal and polymer. This SIG Sauer is not such a handgun. The fit and finish are excellent, and the materials used are first-rate. The slide to frame fit is tight yet the slide moves smoothly and effortlessly as if it is riding on ball bearings. The barrel looks up tight without a wiggle or rattle, and the trigger is simply great. In a world filled with utilitarian firearms, the P210 stands out.
There is a lot that I love about firearms: The history, the engineering, the nostalgia and yes, the joy of hitting things with them. This SIG Sauer really embodies each of those qualities. It is a pistol that pays homage to its antecedent and does so without losing too much of the original Swiss magic. It is well-engineered, exceedingly well-built and simply fun to shoot. The term “modern classic” is a bit cliché, but in this case, the shoe fits.
SIG Sauer P210
- Type: Recoil operated semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 8+1 rds.
- Overall Length: 8.4 in.
- Height: 5.25 in.
- Weight: 2 lbs. 4.2 oz.
- Material: Stainless steel
- Grip: Checkered walnut
- Trigger: 2.75 lbs.
- Safety: Manual, frame mounted
- Finish: Nitron
- Sights: Fixed, steel, three dot
- MSRP: $1,300
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer, 603-610-3000, sigsauer.com