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Review of the Sig Sauer P238

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With a surge of interest in concealed handgun carry and new applications for concealed carry permits nation wide on the rise, never has the level of interest in guns which can easily be concealed been higher.  .380 caliber “pocket pistols” are selling better than ever, and .380 ammo is getting harder to find in in stock.  My wife recently got her CCW permit, and I bought her a S&W M&P 9c to use in her CCW class.  But my wife’s just under 5 feet tall, which means the M&P 9 “compact” model is almost a full-size firearm to her, proportionally speaking.  She loves shooting the gun, but it would be a challenge for her to conceal it on her person – particularly in the Summer months.  So we started looking around for something smaller.

We tried both the S&W Bodyguard (we came close to getting this one) and the Ruger LCP (didn’t really care for the lack of sights).  Both are extremely popular right now, but neither of us like the long, double-action only triggers both of these pistols featured.  We understood why they were designed the way they were, but that didn’t make us like the triggers any more.  It was then recommended to me that I try the 1911 style trigger on the Sig 238.  Both my wife and I did and found the relatively light and short trigger an absolute delight.  So I purchased one new in the box for my wife:

The Sig P238  not only has a 1911 style trigger, it’s essentially a miniature 1911 throughout – all-metal construction.  The version I purchased came with  Sig Sauer’s Nitron finish, and Hogue® Rosewood grips (the P238 is available in several other versions as can be seen on Sig’s website).  the P238 comes with just one single-stack 6 round capacity magazine in the box, but makes up for the unforgivable lack of additional magazines by including a nice kydex belt holster.  I also discovered that Sig makes an extended magazine for the P238 with a nice “pinky extension.”  With the extended mag, the Sig P238 goes from a 6+1 capacity to a 7+1 capacity, and I can a much better grip on the gun, sacrificing almost nothing in concealability.  Unfortunately, like all things Sig, the magazines for the P238 are quite pricey – figure at least $40.00 per magazine.  I’ve seen them sell for as high as $50.00 each.  Here’s a photo of the P238 with the extended magazine inserted:

Having carried the gun in the Kydex holster, I found it to be adequate for conceal carry, if you’re wearing an undershirt, or some other clothing between you and the gun in the holster.  When placed in the holster, much of the frame of the P238 is exposed and will rub against your skin.  The belt clip isn’t removable on the kydex holster either, adding width and making it impractical to use the included kydex holster as a “pocket holster.”

One of the things I appreciate most about the P238 are the sights – so many pocketable .380 autos have minimally useful sights.  In a way, this is understandable – this is a gun which most likely will be used a “point and shoot” distances of 10 ft. or less.  However, useable sights bring far more capability to the table, and in this case, don’t detract from the ability to conceal and draw the weapon – nice job Sig!

Did I mention the sights were actually factory installed night sights?  That’s right – straight from the factory, the P238 comes with tritium filled SIGLITE® sites which glow in low light.  This is another stand out feature which really impressed me about the Sig P238:

One might expect (as I did initially) that a small, defensive weapon like the P238 would be a challenge to shoot accurately.  We took my wife’s P238 to run a couple of hundred rounds through it to break it in and get her used to the gun.  I put a few magazines in it myself and was shocked at how well I shot with it at 25 ft.:

So far, we’ve found the P238 very reliable.  We had a couple of failures in the first hundred or so rounds (which I can’t swear wasn’t ammo related) but none since.

The retail price of the Sig P238 is $723.00 – that makes it about twice the price of most other pocket .380′s on the market.  Of course, if you look around, you’ll find the street price to be lower by about $100.00.  Is it worth it?  That’s an individual judgement call, but I can tell you that I did purchase a second P238 for my personal use.  I absolutely love this little gun.

Here’s a video supplement I recorded in HD which shows both of the Sig P238′s that we own:

Is .380 Enough?

I believe it is, yes.  As with any handgun ammunition, shot placement is crucial.  Clearly there are ballistic differences,  but at the range I would use the P238 to defend myself, I don’t expect any practical differences in the end result than if I were using a 9mm chambered handgun.

Here’s an interesting and recent article which discusses some of the pros and cons of pocket carry guns.

What About The Recently Announced Sig P938?

In case you haven’t heard, Sig is set to release the P938 (in just a couple of months from this writing) – a 9mm version of the 238.  Does it sound cool?  Yes.  But the logical side of me makes myself re-read what I wrote above about a .380, and conclude there wold be no benefit realized by buying the P938 – just an increase in size, weight, and most likely recoil.  The only sensible benefit I can come up with for getting a P938 is that 9mm is cheaper to shoot than .380.  Sensibilities notwithstanding, I’m looking forward to seeing some reports on the P938 when it is released.

Isn’t Your Other Gun A Striker Fired 9mm Without A Safety?

Yes it is, and this brings up my only reservation about using the Sig P238.  My other firearm is a S&W M&P 9C.  As I mentioned, my primary interest in this gun is for the warmer summer months.  Since purchasing it, I’ve found myself gravitating toward the P238 more and more – sometimes I just slip it into my pocket (using an Uncle Mike’s pocket holster) when I’m around the house…in case the Zombie Apocalypse breaks out of course.  I carry it “cocked and locked” with the safety on.  My M&P 9c does not have a safety however.  Most firearms instructors would tell you this is a dangerous combination of dissimilar operating firearms that should be avoided.  I’d like to tell you that I have a good plan for mitigating the inherent danger here.  Do I dump my M&P 9C altogether?  That’s not a particularly palatable option for me, but would be smart from a training and consistency perspective.  I’m considering all my options, but I probably should make some sort of a change.  One thought would be to ONLY use the P238 during the Summer months, and use the M&P in the Winter, and change up my training routine appropriately.  Of course if I went that route, I’d need another 1911 style handgun (preferably in 9mm) for practice and competition.  Which ever way I go, it won’t be an easy decision.  Stay tuned.  :)

Update:  2/12:  My wife picked out some Rhyno aluminum grips for her Sig P238 – she loves red.  Here’s a photo of her gun with the new grips installed:

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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  1. Lloyd Jones says:

    My wife decided to get her CCW. Not strong in the hands and wrists we purchased a new Taurus 905 (5-shot 9mm revolver). She did qualify using this gun, but did not care for the gun or recoil.
    After selling the still new gun, a Sig 238 was recommended. She saw a “Diamond Plate” version and had to have it. Best money we could spend. She LOVES the 238! Easy to load and fire, great accuracy, and super to carry; and that doesn’t even take into account the great nite sights. She has carried this gun EVERY day since purchasing it! We can’t get to our local shooting range enough. Though not really a .380 fan for carry, I liked her gun so much, I had to have one too. Now I’ve got the Equinox model.
    Again, I cannot believe the lack of recoil and accuracy of this gun! So glad we both ended up with the Sigs just before Colt came back with the Mustang. The only wish I have is that Sig sell the weapon with 2 mags. Even so, after some internet shopping we both came away with a great price and a great gun.

  2. Hi Lloyd – your story sounds very similar to ours. Any thoughts on the soon to be released Sig 938?

  3. Dear John,

    Thanks for the review of the Sig Sauer P238. I found your statments to be true as I also purchased the Sig Sauer P238 Equinox a little over 6 months ago. It’s an amazing gun and yes, very accurate for it’s size and approx. 8-pound trigger pull. However, the very short trigger pull made all the difference for me once I got used to it.

    I also have a full-size S&W M&P 9mm full size with laser grips. I love this gun, but it’s simply too big to conceal. So about 99% of the time, year around, I simply use my P238 either in a pocket holster or in it’s small belt holster that came with the gun. I feel confident that I could pull it quickly and that it WOULD do the job in most every case. I also carry a spare clip in a soft nylon knife case that works perfectly.

    I’m very interested in the new Sig P938 too, but am just not sure I need two 9mm guns. I’m thinking about a small-sized .45 like the M&P 45c or Glock 36. Thanks again for the comments above.

  4. Mike Harvey says:

    Re: the SIG P938. Got a chance to see and shoot one today (I also have the P-238 Equinox).

    Be advised, the new 9mm is SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER. It is NOT a “pocket pistol”.
    Although lighter in weight, it is LARGER than my Kimber Ultra Carry II in .45ACP!

    As a shooter, it’s not bad. Recoil is a bit snappy. But , much as I love SIG’s (I also have a P-226 Tactical in 9mm and P-220 Stainless Elite in .45ACP)…I wouldn’t add the P938 to my armory.

  5. Really appreciate this feedback. Yours is the first report I’ve read on the 938. Per Sig’s website, it appears only slightly larger. If it is as big as you say, then I’ll stick with the P238 which I love.

  6. Travis Abram says:

    I just turned 21 on March 31st and decided last week to get my first handgun. I went to my local gun shop and they had a Black Diamond Plate p238, i bought it last Tuesday and i get to pick it up in 10 hours. The 7 day waiting period here in RI is torture especially with me haha. Needless to say I’m excited.

  7. Congrats Travis! Let me know what you think when you get it!

  8. Kimber tactical ultra carry in the cold season, p238 in the warm months.

    Love this gun.

  9. Me too! Any interest in the recently released P938?

  10. Susan Prosser says:

    I’m a beginner shooter and looking at obtaining my CHL. I have not yet purchased a pistol, but have looked carefully at the Sig P238 as a strong option, as I like the sights and external safety on this pistol. My fear is the 8 lb trigger pull and that it might be a bit much for a beginner with a small frame. At only 5’4 and 116 lbs, I’m uncertain. Would love to hear reviews by beginners, especially women, before purchasing.

  11. The trigger pull isn’t that heavy – my wife is smaller than yourself and uses the pistol just fine.

  12. Found your P238 review on YT and decided to click on your written review. I just bought a P238 Nitron myself and absolutely love it. I was torn between the P238 and P938 but decided on the P238 instead . The P238 is just small enough compared to the P938 that it’d be easier to pocket carry if need be plus its faster to get on target with the smaller recoil/muzzle flip compared to the P938. I changed the grips on mine to some Larry Davidson custom Frag grenade/punisher G10 grips. Also switching out the backstrap to some G10 checkered grips from Hogue and installing a stainless steel trigger from PartsProductions. If you want to buy more 7 round extended mags, try cdnninvestments.com. They have a flat shipping rate of $9.99, so your first mag will come out even with regular retail prices but each subsequent factory mag will be $35.

  13. Thanks for sharing this!

  14. My wife also has this same gun, and I got her the same crimson Rhino grips last Christmas.

    Awesome gun, awesome choice!

  15. Great review of the P238. I have just recently bought one of these little gems myself. I did try out the P938 along side the P238 at my local gun range before deciding what was best for my concealed carry needs. I ended up with the P238 for the following reasons….. smaller package, less weight, and a more manageable recoil in this size of firearm, leading me to be more accurate. I feel confident with the capability of the defensive .380 ammo that is on the market these days. Only negative is it is more expensive than 9mm ammo. By the way I really like the color of the original sig grips that came on your wife’s P238. If they are for sale let me know, Thanks.

  16. Congrats on your P238. We always keep all our original parts but there are many makers of handles for the P238 including the factory rosewood ones which can be purchased.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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