February 2005

Single-Stack Double-Action .45 ACPs: Sigarms Vs. Ruger

Can the big bullet and double action happily coexist? You bet. In fact, Sigís factory-reconditioned P220 is a Best Buy, while a new P220 works well, too. We would pass on the KP345PR.

The Sigarms P220, purchased new or pre-owned and reconditioned by the manufacturer, is an excellent sidearm. Both of our P220 pistols produced excellent results in our rapid-fire test from double- to single-action fire. The Gould & Goodrich K-Force dual retention holster ($112) is a good choice for daily uniform wear. Contact G&G at 800-277-0732 or www.gouldusa.com.

Many gunowners who want the benefits of a big bullet like the .45 ACP donít necessarily want the cocked-and-locked single-action design of a 1911. For them, single-stack guns such as the Sigarms P220, $800, and the more economical Ruger KP345PR, $550, offer a double-action first shot that transitions to single action thereafter.

We recently fired these two guns for accuracy off the bench and in a live-fire drill that tested their ability to deliver accurate first and followup shots. Our selection of test ammunition consisted of Federal Hydra-Shok 165-grain jacketed hollowpoints, Winchester USA 185-grain jacketed rounds with a truncated cone, and 230-grain JHP rounds from Black Hills Ammunition.

Off the bench we fired both guns single action only from a sandbag rest. We placed the targets at 25 yards and used a 6 oíclock hold on a 3-inch black bullseye.

More important for these self-defense guns, we also tested for rapid-fire handling and transition from double action to single action. In this segment, we shot a paper target at 7 yards, using a Hoffners ABC16 training target with a humanoid silhouette. We shot the 185-grain Winchester USA FMJ rounds for this part of the test.

The object was to raise the gun from low ready, (boreline held at approximately a 45 degree angle), and fire the first shot double action into the torso of the target, followed immediately with a second, single-action shot to the torso. Then we shifted aim to the head and fired one more shot single action. After 10 three-shot strings, we looked for 20 torso shots center mass, or in the A zone, and we wanted to see 10 shots in the ďheadĒ area, or B zone.

Firing supported from a sandbag rest single action showed how accurate the guns can be, but our rapid-fire transition test told us more about the guns might shoot in the real world.

Hereís what we found:

Ruger KP345PR 45 ACP, $550


If you are familiar with the Ruger 22/45 rimfire pistol, whose handling closely mimics the 1911, then you may wonder why it took the manufacturer so long to produce this single-stack 45. The new .45 ACP-chambered P345 and KP345PR pistols are each fed from a single-column magazine. The KP345PR model in this test adds a Picatinny accessory rail underneath the dustcover. The frame material is a combination of polyurethane and long glass fiber. The slide was a product of Rugerís investment casting, and it integrated several interesting features.

The three-dot sight system included a low-profile rear unit that was drift adjustable for windage and appeared to be snag resistant. A loaded chamber indicator ran from a notch at the rear of the barrel hood to the long shallow dovetail of the rear sight, and it popped up when the weapon was charged. The slide employed rear cocking serrations. There was an externally mounted extractor on the right side of the slide. The decocker/safety levers were also mounted on each side of the slide. These levers fit nearly flush and helped give the KP345PR a flat profile. The levers offered a checkered surface that made it possible to work them with either thumb. Pulling the decocker downward left the pistol on Safe. Raising the levers meant the next shot would be double action.

The slide contained a key-operated lock. Also, a magazine disconnector meant that the gun will not fire without a magazine in place. The hammer showed an abbreviated tang, so single-action fire was just a thumbstroke away.

On the grip, a generous beavertail met the web of the hand, and we noticed a gentle palm swell in the back. To make the grip smaller, Ruger indented the panel areas of the molded grip. All four sides of the KP345PRís grip were checkered. The magazine release was a simple crossbolt design, which Ruger has needed for years. The old release ws much more difficult to operate, in our opinion.

To remove the top end on the KP345PR, we released the magazine and made sure the chamber was clear. We then aligned the small vertical notch located on the left side of the slide just ahead of the cocking serrations with a line molded into the frame about 1.5 inches above the Ruger insignia molded into the grip. With these points aligned, we pulled out the slide stop. With the slide pulled back and the ejection port fully exposed, we reached in and pushed the ejector forward and out of the way. If you allow the slide to close during the step, youíll get an unwanted manicure. Reassembly was as simple as putting the slide back onto the frame, aligning the breakdown points and inserting the slide stop.

With the top end removed, we saw that the guide rod was cast as a single part with a cam block. There were no metallic inserts into the frame rails, and most of the barrel action and support was centered on the cam block that locked into the frame with the slide stop.

Dry-firing the KP345PR was pleasant. There was slight stacking before the hammer fell in double action, but the grip was remarkably comfortable.

During

accuracy testing

at 25 yards, the overall average was about 3.2 inches. Group sizes ran from 2.7 to 3.6 inches, and we noted the gun preferred lighter bullets.

During the live-fire drill, the Ruger put 14/20 hits in the A-zone torso, with two off to the left and four hits low and left of the desired point of impact. Ten of these shots were first-shot double action, and the other 10 were follow-up single-action shots. We recorded 5/10 single-action shots to the head, with the five misses being high.

Frankly, this wasnít good enough. Although there was no discernable creep in the trigger, the length of travel and the increase in tension just before the break made us scoop the trigger, pulling the muzzle downward. The indentation in the sides of the grip may have been attractive while dry firing, but we think this feature tempts shooters to get far more finger across the trigger than necessary.

Another aspect of controlling the gun may have been a product of the cartridge, which produces more muzzle flip and torque than smaller calibers. In the case of both the Ruger and Sigarms pistols, our best groups were landed firing lighter bullets.

Sigarms P220 .45 ACP, $800 (new),
Sigarms P220 .45 ACP, $600 (factory reconditioned)


The P220 is available with options that can put the MSRP upwards of $958, but our P220 was the blued base model. Available options include night sights and a nickel-coated slide. The special K-Kote finish is no longer available.

The combination of the white dot on the front sight and the white vertical line inside the rear notch offers fast sight acquisition. If you feel more comfortable with tritium sights, a set of Siglite night sights will cost an extra $100 if sold as original equipment. Send your slide to Sigarms and the factory will install a set of Siglites for $195.

The P220 measured 7.8 inches high, the tallest of the Sigarms pistols. Its single-column magazine allowed for a narrow grip. The frame was a light aluminum alloy, but the plastic grip panels wrapped around the backstrap so cleanly you could almost mistake this gun for a polymer model. The exposed frontstrap lacked lines or checkering, and the base of the grip was flared slightly, with this contour flowing into the basepad of the 8-round magazine. All controls were mounted on the left side of the frame, including the crossbolt magazine release. The shooterís right hand thumb had easy access to the slide release mounted just above the grip and the nearby decocker. This gun does not have a true safety like the Ruger pistol. The decocker causes the trigger to operate in double action.

The P220ís slide was roll-formed from sheets of carbon steel, and Sig inserts the breechface as a separate piece, forming a carbon-steel breechblock insert. Cocking serrations appeared at the rear of the slide, and the extractor was mounted internally and held in place by the breechblock assembly. A roll pin, visible from either side of the 220ís slide, secured this unit.

Removing the top end was simple. With the gun empty and the magazine removed, first lock back the slide. Then rotate the breakdown lever 90 degrees. The lever sits on the left side of the slide above the trigger guard. Slide the top end forward and off the frame. Remove the guide rod by compressing the multifilament recoil spring and lift out the barrel. This is a linkless assembly supported by a locking insert inside the frame. Full-length frame rails keeps the reciprocating motion true. As the test progressed, we noticed the rear edge of the frame rails were being polished by the slideís motion.

We thought the double-action trigger on the Sigarms P220 was much better than the Ruger KP345PRís action. As the Sigís trigger reset after each shot, the triggerís forward travel was short and consistent.

The results of our rapid-fire transition test bore out the superiority of the P220. During dry fire, the grip seemed uncomfortably thick front to back. But the P220 put 19/20 185-grain FMJ rounds in the A zone, with one shot at the desired elevation but left of the point of aim. These were the rounds fired from low ready, with the first shot double action and the second shots fired after transition to single action. The 10 head shots on the Hoffners target were scored four in dead center, two hits high, and four shots left. This was one of the best performances we have seen from a TDA pistol in this drill.

From 25 yards, we fired our benchrest shots single action only. Our best single group came with the 185-grain FMJ rounds, but the difference was negligible. All three test rounds landed five-shot groups that measured an average of 2.4 inches.

Because new Sig P220ís can be too pricey for many shooters, we also tested a less expensive factory reconditioned P220. The pre-owned program by Sigarms gives public access to guns turned in by law-enforcement personnel, and those guns are serviced as necessary by the manufacturer to bring them to nearly new condition.

The resulting price break is substantial. The new P220 is $800 MSRP; street prices of used P220ís we found were around $600.

The only limitation is availability. Sigarms can only sell as many guns as they receive for reconditioning and resale. Available calibers and optional features such as night sights was simply luck-of-the-draw. The most popular models for resale are those guns that are the most popular with the police. This means that .380 ACP models will be scarce, as will smaller-framed P239s. But there is a healthy flow of full-sized P220s, P226s, and mid-sized P229s.

Our pre-owned P220 came with standard sights, just like our new test gun. The used P220 came in a black case marked Law Enforcement; otherwise, we saw few signs of wear or other dings that would mark the gun as a used product.

Therewith, we put the used P220 through the same battery of tests as the new P220. The used gunís double-action trigger pull was 1 pound lighter. Compared to the new gun, the pre-owned gunís trigger response was very close in terms of consistency, a judgment borne out during the rapid-fire transition test.

The used 220ís drill results were nearly identical to the new modelís tally. We counted 18/20 rounds in the A zone when the used gun was fired in transition from double to single action. One shot hit to the right, and one shot landed high. The single-action-only shots to paper targetís head showed 4/10 holes in the middle, with four shots low and two shots high.

Elsewhere, slide-to-frame fit appeared to be every bit as tight as on the new gun. But results at the 25-yard line varied from those fired by the new P220. The used gun shot slightly worse overall, mainly because of the 3-inch groups fired with the 185-grain FMJ rounds and the 230-grain JHP rounds. But the used gun shot the best groups in the test with the Federal Hydra-Shok 165-grain JHP ammunition.

Was this because the gun was originally built for the law-enforcement market, thus was predisposed towards the Federal Hydra-Shok ammunition? After all, this round was originally developed for law-enforcement use and is very popular with federal, state and local agencies. We wonít speculate, but the results clearly show the Sigarms pre-owned gun could shoot with the right ammo.

Gun Tests Recommends
ē Ruger KP345PR .45 ACP, $550. Conditional Buy. Though this slim, lightweight .45 ACP pistol is a rugged, dependable gun, we had trouble shooting it accurately enough for our tastes. Still, its safety design and snag-free concealment were exceptional, and it always went bang. However, when we compare the new KP345PR to the similarly price pre-owned Sig P220, we can see no reason to buy the Ruger on function or accuracy.

ē Sigarms P220 .45 ACP, $800. Buy It. We think a lot of shooters will prefer the simplicity of this design. The P220ís performance was among the most accurate and consistent weíve seen.

ē Sigarms P220 .45 ACP Pre-Owned, $600. Our Pick. This is a great opportunity to own a superior firearm at a substantial discount.