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SIG Sauer History

SIG Sauer is one of the largest and most popular firearms manufacturer in the country. Today we are looking at the SIG Sauer history and how it came from Swiss and German roots to America.

Many companies started out making something unrelated to the product they would become famous for. Take Nintendo, for example. Nearly 100 years before revolutionizing the brain-rotting technology known as video games, they made simple playing cards. Likewise, the Swiss-German gun and ammo manufacturer known today as SIG Sauer got their start building railroad cars as Schweizerische Waggonfabrik in 1853.

SIG Sauer History: Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft

SIG railroad wagon marked "schweizerische industrie gesellschaft"
A SIG railroad wagon. Source: ZVG

Schweizerische was the 19th century version of a startup. They didn’t even have tracks leading to their factory at first, so they employed a team of horses to tow their cars to the nearest station. But thanks to sound Swiss business practices (which included never putting the railway car before the horse), Schweizerische quickly became successful. You can still find SIG’s logos on Swiss railroad cars to this day.

The Swiss people are legendary engineers, and cannot content themselves to work on machines that lack tiny, intricate parts. It’s only natural that the original Schweizerische team would try their hands at gunsmithing. In 1860 they submitted their novel Prelaz-Burnand rifle to Switzerland’s Federal Ministry of Defense. Four years later the Swiss government contracted Schweizerische to produce 30,000 units of the rifle they dubbed the M1863. It was at this point that the company changed their name to Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (“Swiss Industrial Company”) – or SIG.

Early SIG Firearms

the mondragon rifle was an early piece of sig sauer history
The SIG Mondragon rifle. Source: Rock Island Auction

SIG became a prominent innovator in the turn-of-the-century firearm industry. Their Mondragon was one of the first self-loading rifles equipped with a switch to alternate between rapid and automatic fire. (This would become a very useful feature during the dark days awaiting Europe.) The Swiss military adopted SIG’s P210 pistol as the “Pistole 49” in 1949. The crafty handgun is still lauded by enthusiasts for its tight tolerances and resultant great reliability and accuracy.

SIG Becomes SIG Sauer

Swiss law prohibits Swiss gunsmiths from exporting firearms unless they partner with a foreign company. SIG purchased J. P. Sauer and Sohn of Germany in the 1970s to bypass this rule, thus becoming SIG Sauer in full.

J. P. Sauer and Sohn had predominantly manufactured rifles and handguns prior to the Second World War, although they produced 38H handguns for the Nazi army throughout the conflict. They returned to handgun design under SIG’s ownership, and helped to introduce the innovative double-action trigger and hammer-lowering decocking lever features which SIG Sauer included in their P220 handgun.

SIG Sauer History: SIG Comes to America

sig sauer headquarters in new hampshire
SIG Sauer headquarters in New Hampshire. Source: SIG Sauer

SIG Sauer set up shop in Virginia in 1985 so they could sell their handguns in America. The newly founded SIGARMS moved to New Hampshire five years later. This is where they currently manufacture firearms for sale in our market.

By 2004 SIG Sauer existed as five separate entities scattered across Germany, Switzerland and America. They were also struggling with their mere 130 employees. They made a move that would save the whole operation from bankruptcy: producing AR-15 style rifles. Smart move!

By 2016 SIG Sauer’s American division employed over 1,000 people and sold over 40,000 firearms annually. The following year SIG Sauer won the United States Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. Their P320 handgun thus will gradually replace the Beretta 92FS as our Army’s standard sidearm, and will be known as the M17 (full-size model) and M18 (carry-size model).

SIG Sauer Ammo

a box and three rounds of sig sauer elite performance v-crown ammunition
The SIG Sauer .357 SIG V-Crown round.

SIG Sauer is also a major ammunition manufacturer. Their Elite Defense handgun ammunition is loaded with the V-Crown jacketed hollow point, and their Elite Series Tipped rifle cartridges feature ballistically efficient polymer-tipped bullets which deliver an effective blend of great accuracy and devastating terminal ballistics.

The 357 SIG Cartridge

three rounds of 357 sig ammunition
The .357 SIG cartridge.

SIG Sauer hasn’t exclusively developed firearms. They also developed their own pistol cartridge: the 357 SIG, which was produced in cooperation with Federal Premium of Minnesota and introduced to the market in 1994.

The 357 SIG was engineered to replicate the performance of a 357 Magnum 125 grain cartridge – but also designed for use in a semi-automatic handgun. As anyone who is familiar with the 357 Magnum ought to expect, the 357 SIG is a powerful cartridge with stout recoil, as well as a bright muzzle flash which many law enforcement officers claim can be enough to stop perps dead in their tracks on its own.

Several American law enforcement agencies currently use the 357 SIG including the Federal Air Marshals and the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately for SIG Sauer, their cartridge is not very popular in the civilian market due largely to the 40 S&W’s successful arrival four years earlier.

Whenever we sell 357 SIG ammo on our website, we always expect several of our customers to ask if they can fire the ammo in their 357 Magnum revolvers. Our answer to this question is no – and that we really wish SIG Sauer had chosen to name their round anything else to prevent such confusion.

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