Review of the Sig Sauer P238
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: