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SIG Sauer History

sig sauer history

SIG Sauer may be a well-known name in the firearms industry today, but it didn’t start as one. Instead, Friedrich Peyer im Hof, Heinrich Moser, and Conrad Neher founded the company in Switzerland in 1853 to produce wagons and railway cars. It’s a long road from wagons to handguns, but that’s part of the fun as we dive into SIG Sauer history.

Fate intervened for the Swiss-German company when a challenge from the Swiss Ministry of Defense prompted them to participate in a competition to develop a new rifle for the Swiss Army. The Swiss Wagon Factory won the competition and received an order for 30,000 muzzle-loading Prelaz-Burnand rifles in 1864.

As they say, the rest is SIG Sauer history, and here it is:

A Legendary Name Change

Shortly after the government contracted Schweizerische Waggonfabrik (Swiss Wagon Factory) to produce the rifles, the company changed its name to Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft (Swiss Industrial Company) or SIG. The name would become synonymous with exceptional accuracy and superior craftsmanship, quickly finding favor worldwide.

SIG Introduces The P210

a photo of the SIG P210 handgun

SIG P210: The one that started it all, chambered in 9mm. Still used today by military and law enforcement personnel.

Developed in 1947, the P210 set the stage for SIG to become one of the world’s premier pistol manufacturers. Based on the French Modèle 1935A, the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol had a superior trigger, adjusted safety, and feed ramp. In 1949, the Swiss military adopted the accurate and reliable P210 and named it the P49. 

The SIG P210 became a legendary semi-automatic pistol renowned for its precision, durability, and slick design. Today, military and law enforcement personnel predominantly use it, but it also has a commendable reputation among firearms enthusiasts worldwide for its exceptional accuracy and comfortable grip.

The Swiss Army Replaces the P210

Since Swiss law limits the ability of Swiss companies to export firearms, SIG purchased J. P. Sauer and Sohn of Germany, using them as a foreign partner for exporting. This purchase resulted in the formation of SIG Sauer in the 1970s. The company’s first pistol was the P220, launched in 1975.

SIG Sauer launched the P220 semi-automatic pistol in 1975 as the successor to the SIG P210. After the weapon passed several thorough trials, the Swiss Army adopted it and called it the P75. 

The initial design was a .45 caliber pistol, but others like 9mm, .38 Super, and .22 Long Rifle soon followed. Its distinctive features include a single-column magazine and a mechanism that allows for double and single action. 

The P220’s evolution has been nothing short of remarkable. Each version has incorporated ergonomic design and technology advancements. From the classic line to the Equinox, the P220 Elite, and the P220 Combat, they keep getting better. 

Compact & Reliable: SIG Sauer P230

a photo of the SIG Sauer P230

Short & Sweet: The compact and lightweight SIG Sauer P230 frame makes it an excellent choice for concealed carry

The SIG Sauer P230 is a compact, blowback-operated, semi-automatic pistol with a fixed barrel. When the West German Federal Police launched pistol trials in the early 1970s, SIG Sauer entered the P230 and competed against the Walther PP Super, both chambered in 9x18mm Ultra

Even though the P230 performed well, the Federal Police decided against the 9x18mm Ultra model in favor of a 9x19mm duty pistol. Despite not being adopted by the West German Police in large quantities, several Swiss police forces chose the P230 as their sidearm.

The P230 features an automatic firing pin safety and a manual safety that blocks the hammer. The pistol is available in .32 ACP and .380 ACP calibers, offering enough power for self-defense while maintaining a manageable recoil. Its compact frame and light weight make it an excellent choice for concealed carry.

SIG Sauer History: Coming To America

In 1985, SIG Sauer began operating in the United States in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. They named the subsidiary SIGARMS, Inc. and started importing their P220 and P230 models. Driven by the growing demand for high-quality, reliable firearms for defense, law enforcement, and sporting purposes, SIGARMS moved to a larger facility in Herndon, Virginia. It introduced models P225, P226, and P228 in 1987.

SIGARMS moved to Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1990 and began producing the P229 in 1992. It’s available in 9mm, .40S&W, and .357 SIG. It has become one of the most popular SIG Sauer pistols, carried by many law enforcement professionals nationwide. Its compact size is ideal for concealed carry, and this version has a newly designed slide profile and ergonomic grip.

The New Millennium

In 2000, SIG sold its subsidiaries in Germany and the U.S. and its subdivision in Switzerland to L&O Holding. The Swiss firearms subdivision became SAN Swiss Arms AG, selling products under the SIG Sauer name.

In 2004, the company experienced financial issues and added AR-15-style rifles to the company’s product catalog, a move that helped the company recover. In 2007, SIGARMS changed its name to SIG Sauer, Inc., and they designed all SIG Sauer offerings in the United States. By 2016, SIG Sauer was selling more than 43,000 firearms a year.

Upheaval Within The Company

In 2014, allegations surfaced that SIG made significant arms sales to Colombia, contributing to the country’s military armament. These sales totaled around 38,000 pistols and violated German weapons trafficking laws. Executives at SIG received stiff fines and suspended sentences. 

A year later, human rights groups in Germany brought a lawsuit against SIG for allegedly not helping to prevent the drug cartel groups’ use of their weapons in Mexico.

The P320 Contract Goes to SIG Sauer

A photo of the SIG Sauer P320 modular ma17 m18 handguns

SIG Sauer P320: The modular handgun platform of the future, featuring the M17, and M18 models.

The U.S. military wanted a new handgun to replace the current M9 model. In 2016, 12 companies submitted bids to compete for the contract, which was expected to result in purchases of 500,000 pistols. SIG Sauer won the contract for the P320.

The SIG Sauer P320 is a modular semi-automatic pistol using a striker-fired mechanism instead of a double-action-only hammer system. The P320 can be chambered in 9×19mm Parabellum, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm Auto, and can quickly convert from one caliber to another. The P320’s innovative design and robust reliability have earned it significant recognition, including being selected as the service handgun for the U.S. Army under the designation M17.

On the other hand, the P320 was criticized earlier this year (2023) for “unintentional discharge of a firearm.” SIG Sauer insists its pistol is safe, and the charges stem primarily from improper handling. According to the company, discharges can be avoided by “keeping the finger outside the trigger guard until the decision is made to shoot.” 

SIG Sauer History

SIG Sauer has reached the pinnacle in the global firearms industry with a legacy of innovation, quality, and performance. Their extensive product offerings – from handguns to rifles and accessories – cater to a diverse clientele, including military, law enforcement, and civilian gun enthusiasts. The company’s dedication to its craft and relentless pursuit of precision reaffirms its position at the vanguard of firearms manufacturing.

The SIG Sauer history is a story about the products they create and the promise of unwavering reliability they deliver. As the company continues to push the boundaries of design and technology, it remains steadfast in its commitment to producing high-quality firearms, ensuring that SIG Sauer’s name stays synonymous with excellence and trust within the industry.

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