Let me get one thing out of the way first. I am a big fan of the 10MM Auto pistol cartridge! As far as I am concerned it is the pinnacle of autopistol cartridge design. One of my early attempts at a novel had entirely too many words in it talking about a gun I called the Pattern One Automatic. Or P1A for short. Which was, depending on how I felt at the time. Either a somewhat modernized Bren Ten. Or a Sig 220 chambered in 10MM.
Good, now that’s out of the way we can get down to the serious stuff.
My first 10MM gun was a Tanfoglio EAA Witness Elite Match. Lovely gun, though I never cared for the name. If you carry a gun, especially a gun like that you are probably not here to be a witness.
14 +1 Rounds of the most powerful ammo you can cram into a conventional locked breech semiautomatic pistol. Does that sound like fun to you? Well it was. Heavy, but accurate, and once I traded in the original 15 round mags for 14 round mags. A completely reliable gun. About the only thing I didn’t like about it was that it was single action only. I prefer double single action guns. Why am I not doing a review of that pistol? I had to sell it and a few other guns a couple of years ago because of a family disaster.
Once I got my finances built back to a reasonable degree I decided to acquire another 10MM pistol. For awhile I was thinking of getting a new version of the CZ-75 derived, Tanfoglio built, EAA imported, Elite Match Pistol. The latest versions had an accessory rail. However in the intervening years the price on these guns has gone up. Just being able to find one for sale was proving difficult. Even online vendors couldn’t keep them in stock for long. I suppose the secret of quality and cost effectiveness of these guns is out.
Still, I was just about to get one when I heard that Sig was about to start selling a 10MM version of their 220 pistol. Tanfoglio pistols are excellent guns. But to the best of my knowledge no military or even police department uses them. As a result many shooters don’t take them seriously. So I waited until the Sig was available. I knew that it was going to cost more than the EAA. But with the recent actions of that company. Thumbing their nose at the ATF as much as the law would permit. I have wanted to acquire a Sig product for years now.
What really sold me on the Sig however was an interview on Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk radio show with one Bruce Gray.
Most relevant info at 7:00 in. Though I would suggest listening to the full interview.
What Mr Gray is talking about is some seriously important information when it comes to pistol design. When you are designing an autopistol you have to know that only 50% of the energy is going downrange with the bullet, sound of the shot and whatnot. The other half is going into the gun in the form of recoil to operate the mechanism. In 9MM and 45 caliber pistols you can “get away” with substandard design and materials for awhile. Heck, most pistol owners fire less than 100 rounds a year, including police. In 40 S&W and 10MM guns, improperly timed lock-work tears guns up pretty quickly if full power ammo is used. This is one of the reasons why 10MM ammo is often sold with a relatively mild powder charge.
Nine times out of ten, especially in the past. 10MM Pistols are fitted with extremely heavy slides to get around the problem of cracked slides and frames. Nowadays it seems more pistol designers know better. If you want to purchase a 10MM pistol do this simple test first. Pull the slide back slowly, if it takes about a centimeter of travel for the barrel to unlock from the slide then the gun is properly timed. If these components unlock almost as soon as you pull the slide, then that gun is timed for a different cartridge. It will probably make a decent 9 or 45 though. I have done this test on most of the 10MM guns on the market.
Properly timed mechanisms include the Sig, EAA, and Dan Wesson 1911 pistols. Improperly timed current production guns include the Colt Delta Elite, Kimber, STI and Wilson Combat 1911s. The Wilson presents a particularly interesting example. The one I handled got around the timing issue by having the most murderously heavy recoil spring I have ever seen in any autopistol I have ever handled. Other than that it is a very well made gun. The Glock 10MM, if memory serves gets around the timing issue in yet another way, I forget how. (I think the polymer frame absorbs the energy, but don’t quote me on that!)
That said I have seen two G20’s catastrophically detonated. That is an issue that Glocks are known to have. Especially ones in 40 S&W. Personally I don’t care for them because of their awful ergonomics. But if you want a G Lock 20, 29 or the kinda cool looking, new long slide Glock 40, enjoy. Leave a comment below telling me how much you like or don’t like it.
It also seems that almost all out of production 10MM automatic pistols were improperly timed as well. Except the S&W 610 revolver. Since it is a wheel gun, premature unlocking is not a concern.
Besides the interview in the YouTube link above the other source I have for this information is the book Bren Ten, the heir apparent by Ronald A Carrillo. An excellent book that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in getting into the gun business. Especially the manufacturing side of things. Before I read this book, the Bren Ten was a gun I lusted after.
I mean just look at this thing. Doesn’t it make you want to put on a bright suit, jump in a cigar boat and chase drug dealers with a drum machine pounding in the background?
After reading the book however I lost interest in getting a Bren Ten of my own. Never mind that they were made with the 45 auto cartridge feed cycle. They often had quite a few flaws in the investment castings that they were made of. The Elite Match was close enough for me, and much cheaper than the potentially flawed Bren. Heck, I am convinced that the Elite Match is the partial result of an aborted project by Tanfoglio to create a copy of the Bren Ten.
Bears a slight resemblance dontcha think?
Anyway, after that somewhat roundabout technical discourse. We come to the meat of the matter. When Sig announced the 220 Elite in 10MM it was in four main variants and one sub-variant. An all black single action only version. A two tone double single action with Sig’s trademark decocker. A polished stainless SAO, a Kryptek camouflaged SAO and the Gun Talk GT20 limited edition sub-variant mentioned in the interview above.
The first version I handled was the two tone double single action version. I fell in lust, it just felt right in my hands. However the local shop was charging more than I could justify for it since it was so new on the market. So I went home and that night I had a dream. It was about the polished stainless SAO version. A gun I had not yet handled. Yet there it was in my dream. I had loaded and fired it at the shooting range I go to most often. I particularly remembered the polished wood grips. I decided that I had to have it. So I started shopping.
Being such a new product, not many shops had them. Most of those that did were charging premium prices, except one. Safe Home Consulting , after a little back and forth they sent me the very last one they had in stock. It was a perfect Christmas present to myself.
Then life got in the way, as it often does and it wasn’t until March that I finally got to shoot the thing. When I did I found that I was spraying bullets all over the place and the slide was not locking back on the last round. The slide lock failure was diagnosed as a problem with my grip. This being only the second Sig pistol I had ever fired, I was riding the slide lock. The accuracy problem was a bit more involved. The rear sight had come loose. After almost a half an hour on the phone with Sig I was instructed how to fix the problem.
Also , if you want to get a holster for one of these be sure to specify that it is the Elite model, and tell them the caliber. The Elite model is bigger than the usual 220 and the 10MM is beefier still. It seems that a holster for a Sig 220 with rail will work. But not very well, it’s kinda like putting 8 pounds in a five pound bag. I got my holster from an outfit local to me. L.A.G. Tactical they ironed out my aforementioned screwup by replacing my 220 holster that I ordered from them with a properly sized holster for the elite model. Muchas gracias.
Finally I got some spare time to take the 220 for a serious wringing out. That day there were some looming clouds. But I went out anyway. As I was finishing up with the rest of my guns and getting ready to use the Sig the sky opened up a frigging deluge. In a driving rainstorm I was able to hit targets with boring regularity. I rapid fired it, slow fired it. Held it in weird positions and even upside down. No malfunctions, even though I was using no small amount of gun show reloads in it.
My opinion so far? Well, it’s a balance.
It is accurate, quality is outstanding. Reliability has been excellent so far. I can’t even begin to describe how much I like it. Especially the grips. These rosewood grips are like a little piece of nirvana.
The rear sight is incredibly annoying. Never mind that it came loose. It is big as hell and all sharp edges. Not something you want in a defensive handgun.
The controls are not all that comfortable. They require way too much force to operate. The slide lock and safety are way too close together. Though I cannot deny that they function positively and I like how engaging the saftey still allows the slide to be racked. Ironically, my one complaint about the Tanfoglio Elite Match was that the safety was a little too easy to switch on or off.
It is expensive, it is, by a margin the most expensive handgun I have ever owned. It is also really heavy and I would still prefer double single action to SAO.
For that matter the single action trigger is not as nice as I would like. It feels weird as a result of being a converted design. In all honesty, I think the trigger on my striker fired Steyr M9 is a little better. Though the two feel suspiciously similar….
That which is neither good, nor bad, though worthy of note.
There are three basic techniques for designing a gun to handle the power of full strength 10MM loads. A long, heavy slide combined with massive construction of the frame. A much heavier mainspring than what you would find in a 45 caliber pistol. Or having a mechanism that keeps the barrel and slide locked together for as long as possible to soak up the energy. Sig basically did all three in this gun. Shot recovery is completely different from a 9MM or even a 45. It feels like it takes an absurdly long time for the gun to come down out of recoil and finish cycling. When I first shot it, strange as it may sound. It felt like the gun was disassembling and reassembling itself through every shot.
I mean look at this recoil spring? I wouldn’t be too suprised to find out this isn’t a gun spring at all, that it is actually a shock absorber for off-road vehicles!
This is not a gun for a novice shooter. If you are just starting out shooting handguns I would strongly recommend that you start with a Ruger Mark two. Or a Steyr M9. If you have to have a Sig, they make plenty of quality 9MMs. But if you are an experienced handgun shooter, and you feel that you can handle the increased weight, recoil and sheer awesomeness that is the 10MM cartridge. I can strongly recommend that you acquire a Sig 220. It offers a degree of power, precision and versatility not found in too many guns. This handgun seems like it would be just as effective as a bear gun in Alaska as it would be for punching holes in paper. Or putting down psychotic drug fiends hopped up on a combo of PCP and Krokodil.
For me, it is a dream long dreamt. Made true, in steel and rosewood.