By Tamara Keel –
Return with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when military service sidearms were beefy, single-stack, single-action hammer-fired pistols machined out of good, honest steel.
The first half of the Twentieth Century was the stomping ground for these beasties, and the type specimen was the American M1911 from Colt. This John Moses Browning design served as the jumping off point for a host of evolutionary adaptations, like the Tokarev in the USSR and Poland’s Radom.
To its fans, the highest evolution of this basic setup was the Swiss Pistole Modell 1949 service auto, best known by its newer commercial designation: the SIG P210. This was a serious all-steel military sidearm, with a 4.75-inch barrel, that tipped the scales at over two pounds, with a single-column magazine holding eight rounds of 9x19mm ammunition.
Meanwhile, in America
About this time, across the Atlantic, the folks at Colt were chasing a military contract for a more compact, lighter pistol than the current M1911A1. To achieve these goals, they shortened the 1911’s five-inch barrel by three quarters of an inch, to 4.25 inches. Additionally, they substituted a forged aluminum frame for the steel of the original; a change made possible by the fact that the original design was way overbuilt.
While the U.S. military didn’t buy it, Colt sold it commercially as the Commander, available in .45ACP, .38 Super, and 9mm. It became a popular choice for concealed carry, being lighter on the belt and shorter in the holster. But that was in America. Back to Switzerland…
Too Expensive to Live, Too Cool to Die
Switzerland’s market being less carry-driven than the gun-toting USA, the P210 continued on in military and commercial target-shooting versions until it was replaced for reasons of manufacturing cost by the cheaper-to-manufacture 9mm SIG-Sauer P220 (ironic since the M49 replaced its forebear in the Swiss army, the Luger, for the same reason.)
The P210 drifted in and out of commercial production as a bougie enthusiast’s sporting pistol through the fin de siècle and into the current Millennium before experiencing a reboot as the P210A at the hands of SIG Sauer’s new American HQ.
At SHOT Show in 2017, the P210A showed up, freshened with an American-style magazine release button instead of the archaic heel release on the original and a thumb safety relocated rearward along the frame to a position more familiar to American 1911 shooters.
This year, SIG Sauer has released the American-made P210 equivalent of the classic Colt Commander: Meet the SIG Sauer P210 Carry.
Less Weight, More Toteability
When you pop open the compact black plastic carry case, you’re greeted by a pistol, a pair of magazines, and the various mandated manuals, paperwork, and safety lock lying on a bed of egg crate foam.
Just looking at it, the most obvious difference on the 210 Carry is the shorter slide. This is because the Carry sports a 4.1-inch barrel, splitting the difference between the classic 4.25-inch Commander barrel and the 4-inch ones found on the compact Commander-esque offerings from Kimber and Springfield Armory.
Also in common with the Colt Commander is a switch from steel to aluminum for the frame material, whacking nearly half a pound of avoirdupois off the as-holstered weight. The grip length and 8+1 round magazine capacity remain unchanged.
Rounding out the prominently visible changes from the Target version are the distinctive black G10 grip panels (exclusive to the Carry model for now), with a subtle-but-grippy texture, and a set of forward cocking serrations. The latter are seemingly de rigueur on a tacticool carry pistol these days, but of questionable utility on a pistol with the low-profile slide of the 210. Big style points, though.
The frontstrap of the 210 Carry is finely checkered at thirty lines per inch, and there’s a matching patch of 30lpi checkering on the front of the trigger guard, if you really want to get your eighties LARP on.
The trigger face itself is smooth and curved. Unlike the 1911, the P210’s trigger pivots rather than sliding straight back in a channel in the frame. There’s a fairly short, light takeup leading to a rolling break that measured a consistent three and a half pounds on our test specimen.
Unlike its P210 Target stablemate, which has plain front blade combined with a micrometer click adjustable rear sight, the Carry has three-dot SigLite night sights with self-illuminated tritium vials. The only adjustment on the rear sight is for windage, and you’ll need a hammer and punch to adjust it.
Both the slide release and safety have subtly extended and contoured control surfaces to make them easier to manipulate. They worked well from an ergonomic standpoint, being easily reachable for normal human-size hands without extensive shifting of the pistol in the grip. The thumb safety was extremely positive and unlikely to be swiped off by accident. This also meant that it was next to impossible to reapply with an easy upward flick of the thumb after a string of fire. Even after 750 rounds, it was still something of an effort to get it back on safe.
Field stripping the P210 is a ride in a time machine.
With the rise to prominence of the Beretta 92 series as well as Sig Sauer’s own P220 and its offshoots, we’ve become accustomed to metal-framed hammer-fired Europistols that take down with the throw of a lever. Instead, the P210 Carry takes us back to the thrilling days of yesteryear.
First you drop the magazine and clear the pistol. Then you retract the slide ever so slightly, about half a centimeter, and push the slide stop out. To do this, press on the axle where it protrudes from the right side of the frame and then pull it out to the left. Then you slide the upper assembly off the front of the frame.
It’s here where you’ll encounter another difference between the P210 Carry and its Target sibling. While the P210 Target uses a captive recoil spring assembly, the Carry version does not. It’s not that big a deal when taking it apart, but a certain amount of holding your mouth right is involved in putting it back together; fumble it and you’ll be chasing that stubby recoil spring guide around the corners of the room. (Look in the one with the most cobwebs and dust bunnies.)
Another difference is that the whole action assembly doesn’t lift out on its chassis anymore, a clever trait that the original 210 shared with the Tokarev.
But How Does it Shoot?
Practically speaking, this is a pistol that SIG should have built at the same time Colt did, seventy years ago, but better late than never.
Unless one is doing testing with a Ransom Rest under controlled conditions, group sizes in a handgun review are more a measurement of how good the reviewer was feeling on range day (or their willingness to pencil-whip some data) but even doing casual shooting offhand, the 210 Carry had no real problem hanging with custom 1911s shot side by side for comparison. Like, 25-yard groups in the 2- to 3-inch range with commercial S&B or Blazer Brass ammo were par for the course. This gun would be lights-out in a mechanical rest.
It’s comfortable in the hand and points nicely and probably the only real ergonomic complaint arises when you try and park your thumb atop the safety as though you were running a modern 1911 derivative: the shape of the thumb safety has a tendency to beat up the base knuckle of your thumb when you do that.
The controls all fall neatly to hand and the trigger is easily manageable. The biggest threat to the P210 Carry’s market success comes from the people who paid large dollars for gray market 210s back in the day and therefore have a vested interest in tearing the new kid down.
Those people complain that it has some MIM parts or that it doesn’t have the same modular lockwork assembly as the original. Some people will just never be happy.
If, on the other hand, you’re interested in a slim, extremely accurate, single action carry pistol that’s not just another 1911 knockoff, Sig Sauer has the pistol for you.
|Weight (empty):||1.81 lb.|
|Overall Length:||7.75 in.|
|Barrel||4.1in, 1:10 in. twist|