SIG is a very old company. The Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft began as a wagon maker in 1853, expanded into railcar manufacturing and in 1860, along with the formal adoption of the SIG acronym, entered the arms manufacturing business with a handsome contract from the Swiss Federal Ministry of Defense to build 30,000 Prelaz-Burnand muzzleloading rifles. Thus SIG began a history of arms making that has lasted for over 150 years, but the Swiss manufacturer didn’t become famous for producing handguns for almost another century. That didn’t happen until the late 1930s, when SIG licensed a French design variation of the Browning titling barrel system modified by Swiss designer Charles Gabriel Petter and used for the French military Modèle 1935 pistol. The French semi-automatic had one drawback, it was chambered in 7.65mm and the Swiss wanted a 9x19mm Parabellum. Enter SIG.
Among several improvements in the P210 Legend is the use of a grip frame mounted mag release, a larger thumb safety, and an extended beavertail.
Petter had improved on Browning’s 1911 design by dispensing with the barrel bushing (as would be done on the Browning Hi-Power) and machining the slide in a single piece. Petter actually combined a number of 1930’s designs into the Modèle 1935 including a variation of the Soviet Tokarev, which contained a single assembly for the hammer and lock that could be easily removed for cleaning and repair. After licensing the Petter design SIG’s engineers modified it further by eliminating the 1911-style swivel link and utilizing a camming barrel lug (like the new Browning Hi-Power). SIG also adopted spring-loaded extractors based on the Tokarev. When it was completed the SIG was named the Model SP47/8 for its year of manufacture and cartridge capacity. It was adopted by the Swiss Military as the Pistole 49, becoming the forerunner of the commercial version we know today as the Sig Sauer P210.
The Sig Sauer is easy to fieldstrip and reveals its mixed heritage of Colt Model 1911 and Browning Hi-Power internal characteristics.
The Browning influence in the P210 is subtle at best. The SIG is a more robust looking pistol that doesn’t quite have the “classic” proportions of the Hi-Power. It has a more streamlined, military bearing, set off by a large thumb safety and slide release, a crescent moon-shaped trigger, heavily buttressed triggerguard, and large, hand-filling wooden grips. The original design, circa 1947, used a spring-tensioned magazine release at the heel of the grip, a very European design.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the gun throughout its 65-year history is the rear of the slide, which is domed. The design elevates the rear sights and also provides a surface area for the rear slide serrations. This is the only means of grasping the slide as it mostly rides inside the frame, rather than over it as on the Colt 1911. The Sig Sauer frame cradles the slide, which uses an inverted rail design channeled to run the entire length of the frame1. This very solid design has provided the P210 with unmatched accuracy in its class, but it also makes working the slide to chamber the first round or clear the action a bit more demanding.
SIG and Sig Sauer are two different sides of the same coin. The models P210 through P210-8, covering a period from 1947 to 2007, were all manufactured by SIG. The Swiss military production run of P49 pistols which started with serial number A100001 in September of 1949, concluded around 1975 at serial number A213110. The civilian line, however, has continued on over the last 30 years due to the P210’s exceptional accuracy and the manufacturing of target and competition models. The current P210 Legend is, however, the first to bear the Sig Sauer name on its slide and to be manufactured in Germany instead of Switzerland. That amalgam of companies, SIG and J.P. Sauer & Sohn, first came about in the 1970s when the two famous armsmakers (J.P. Sauer dating back to 1751), joined together to manufacture the Sig P220, which has since become one of the most revered law enforcement and military sidearms in the world.