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Review of the Sig Sauer P938

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It’s certainly been a while since I bought a new gun.  Truth be told, I’m pretty happy with the handgun selection I have.  For competition and when I have the time to dress around my gun, I have my modified S&W M&P 9c:

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Quite often is the case however that I don’t want to bother with strapping on a holster and carrying my M&P 9c – particularly during the summer months.  For those times, I pocket carry a Sig Sauer P238:

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I’ve owned the P238 for over two years, and I’ve practiced with it quite a bit.  While I’m reasonably satisfied that the .380 caliber ammunition which feeds the Sig P238, I was more than a little interested when Sig announced in 2012 the release of the Sig Sauer P938 – essentially the same firearm as the P238, but chambered in the preferred 9mm.  So why did it take me two years to pick up a P938?  Several reasons really, chief among them that I’ve been VERY pleased with the Sig P238.  I really wrestled with the need to upgrade the gun.  There’s also the fact that in most cases its best to wait a few months before purchasing any new production firearm as there are almost always problems in the first few batches, as would seem to be the case with the P938.  In the end, it was hard for me to ignore not only the ballistic advantages of 9mm over .380 which the P938 but also the fact that 9mm is generally more plentiful and easily found than .380 ammunition, and costs less as well.  Besides the obvious difference in caliber, there are very few functional differences between the P238 and the P938 – outside of the ambidextrous safety switch found on the P938, most people would have trouble distinguishing between the two.

The Sig P938 comes in several different variations, but I chose the P938 Nightmare – mostly on the basis of aesthetics.  The Nightmare version  features a black hard coat anodized frame and Nitron coated slide, black G-10 grips and nickel accents:

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My only complaint of the pistol out of the box was the lack of included magazines – mine only came with one 6 round flush fitting magazine (as pictured above).  This is a firearm that retails for (as of this writing) $823.00.  My personal opinion is that the firearm SHOULD have shipped with two magazines, one of which being the 7 round magazine with pinky extension.  I did order some when I ordered the gun (knowing from my experience with the P238 that I much prefer the extended magazine):

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Magazine issue aside, the P938 (like the P238) is a pretty complete package out of the box.  With most other firearms I’ve purchased, it takes both some time and extra money to get them “carry ready” – night sights, stippling/grip tape, etc.  The Sig P938 however does come with(excellent) night sights (manufactured by Meprolights):

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The G10 textured grips, as well as front and back checkering on the frame handle provides plenty of traction (more on that later) and I found my grip is excellent on the P938 if I’m using an extended 7 round magazine, otherwise my pinky dangles.

One of chief concerns with the P938 prior to purchasing it was how much heavier would it be in my pocket than my P238?  While the P938 (15.6 oz.) is a full 2 oz. heavier than the P238 (13.6 oz.), the weight difference diminishes a bit once the magazine is loaded – there’s only about an ounce difference between the two with a loaded magazine.  There’s a bit of an increase in both length and width for the P938 as compared to the P238, but here again the differences are so miniscule that there’s not much of a real world difference between the two in pocket…which is a very good thing.

At the range, things got more interesting.  Any new firearm I purchase I try to put about 200 rounds through it just to confirm reliability.  The first few magazines went well enough.  Here’s my first magazine from 20 ft (only the hits inside the black pasty target are mine):

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 I ran a second magazine through at 20ft. on the same target:

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I then backed up to 30 ft. on a new target:

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My grouping spread out a bit, but it was perfectly acceptable – particularly for a sub-compact 9mm.  So I decided to back up to the back of the range – 75 ft.:

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No prize winner here, but also not bad considering the distance and size of the firearm.  I was certainly “combat accurate” with the P938 at 75ft.  In terms of the shooting experience, I did have some issues – the target doesn’t tell the whole story.

As one might expect with a higher caliber fired from what is essentially the same frame as the P238, the P938 does generate more recoil or “muzzle flip.”  I really had to tighten my grip and found myself readjusting my grip on some strings.  I also found the trigger to be surprisingly not to my liking.  Part of the appeal of this shrunken down 1911 platform is the 1911-like trigger -smooth,  light, and  with little to no take up.  Supposedly, there is no difference between the trigger pull weight on the P238 and the P938 (approximately 8lbs.).  Personally, I found the trigger to be heavier than I like on the P938, and at times inconsistent.  These factors make rapid firing the P938 particularly challenging – the shots taken in the above pictured targets were very slow and deliberate.  The final issue which I had during this session was the aggressive texturing on the G10 handle grips.  After 200 rounds, the palm of my right (dominant) hand was pretty raw:

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Granted, my more typical practice session with a defensive firearm is more like 50-100 rounds.  But again, there was definitely a sharp contrast between shooting the P238 and the P938, which really made me do some more thinking about dumping my P238 in favor of the P938.  I will say that from a reliability standpoint, the Sig P938 was impressively reliable with a variety of target ammunition, including some reloaded ammo I had purchased from Freedom Munitions:

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Honestly, the Sig Sauer P238/P938 is a hard firearm platform to recommend, and certainly one I wouldn’t recommend to a new shooter or average student in one of my CCW classes.  The battery of arms is in some respects unnecessarily complex as compared to some of the GREAT striker fired polymer framed handguns out there.  The Sig P938 also looses the value proposition argument when compared to most other viable options for concealed carry (particularly when the P938 comes with just one magazine like mine).  Still, I’ve tried A LOT of pistols, and I’ve found the P238/P939 to be the most versatile and “pocketable” semi-automatic on the market today.  While a venerable J-Frame revolver would provide similar concealability, it has neither the firepower or ease of reloading that the Sig platform provides.  I personally choose this platform for the no-excuses “my gun is always on me” versatility it provides for pocket carry, not necessarily because it’s the best choice as a defensive firearm.

As of this writing, I cannot definitively say if I will keep the P938.  Based on the shooting characteristics described above, I’m not sure that my wife would be able to shoot it well, which would mean she would definitely want to hang on to her current P238.  That would still mean we’d need to buy some .380 ammunition for both practice and self-defense, which would somewhat defeats some of the reasoning for making the change.  Still, the ballistic advantages of 9mm over .380 are hard to ignore,  so in order to address some of the short comings I experienced, I plan to do two things.  First (and easiest) I plan to replace the stock G10 handle grips with these Hogue rubber grips for the Sig P938.  The second thing I’m doing is having my local gun smith replace plastic trigger with an aluminum one, and also attempt to lighten the trigger pull.  I previously replaced the plastic trigger on my P238 and I’m hoping that by lightening the trigger a bit, the P938 will be more pleasant to shoot.  I’ll report back after I’ve had the opportunity to shoot the P938 with the modifications I plan are installed.  But I do like the P238/P938 platform – perhaps more than I should, and admittedly somewhat for nostalgia reasons.  I grew up with metal frame guns.  I can remember working gun shows with my Dad when Glocks his the market and thinking “why would anyone pay (at the time) $400.00 for a plastic handgun??  The P238/P938 have a frame that is aluminum alloy and the slide is 416 stainless steel.  Polymer frame handguns are cool, but I still like an all-metal gun sometimes.

In addition to this written photo review, I have also prepared a video supplement which can be found on the ThruMyLens YouTube Channel:

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.

  1. Where can I get the red grips?

  2. Read both articles on these guns. I have a P938 and my wife has a P238, both with the black rubber grip. I really like both pistols, but am thinking of getting another P238 for me. In my opinion there is a definite difference in the pocket presence of the two guns. The P238 seems much more comfortable in my pocket. I will keep the P938 if I do get the other pistol. Does that sound crazy?

  3. I think Joe means the rosewood grips on the pic of your 238. Joe, you can order the 938 in a variety of styles, including with rosewoods. Check out their selection at the Sig website http://www.sigsauer.com/CatalogProductList/pistols-p938.aspx

  4. I’ve kept my P238 for much the same reason.

  5. I shot the P938 but the one I shot had the rubber grips on it. Honestly I wouldn’t shoot it with anything else. It felt like I grabbed a handful of clay…it just molded to my hand and their was zero discomfort shooting. I haven’t really carried and I would consider myself a novice shooter thought I can put a tight group at 10yards. I decided to go to this however because it was the smallest 9mm I could find and based on the clothes I wear, for me it was worth the extra money though it still made me wince a bit.

  6. Mike Licona says:

    Thanks for the review. Love your reviews on watches, too! I’m in the midst of choosing between the P938, Shield with it’s new enhanced trigger M&P have on new Shields, and the Glock 43. I want to go Glock but hate that G43 trigger. It’s painful to shoot! I have a Sig P238 and love it. So, the P938 is tops on my short list at the moment due to its size. I’m curious to know your thoughts on the P938 now that you’ve had it a while. Any new insights and are you going to keep it?

  7. Honestly? There’s no good reason for me to have the P938. It has a different battery of arms than the other S&W M&P guns I own, and the Shield covers me for 95% of my pocket carry needs. About the only time I’d need to carry something smaller is with light dress pants, and my P238 is ideal for that (the P938 is slightly bigger/thicker so it’s less ideal). The Shield just plain fits my needs better, is easier/better to shoot, and holds more bullets.

  8. Did the rubber grips help the palm burning?

  9. Absolutely it does. I take it you’ve noticed the same problem?

  10. Absolutely, I was considering one and borrowed a friends and took it to the range. I put 50 rounds through it and i was starting to feel that burn/getting red in my palm from the slide and kick. So now I’m considering the p238 just because of the muzzle flip unless the rubber grips completely rectify that?

  11. The rubber grips do fix that particular problem. However, I think I’d still recommend the M&P Shield over this gun.

  12. How’s the kick on the p238 comparatively, do you have the rubber grips for that one for your wife?

  13. It is interesting the contrasts. I have had my p938 for a year and haven’t experienced these issues. I kept on pausing the video to get a good look at your hand size (not weird at all). Your hand does engulf this weapon and looks uncomfortable even with the extended clip. I haven’t experienced the palm heat. It might be due to my heavy callouses. Either way i am not trying to undermine your review but to at least bring up the point that with a weapon this small hand size will mean a lot. I love it, but one last thing, each weapon has a function and while you should be proficient with all your weapons, the P938 is used as a CCW. If you want to go shoot every weekend go for something bigger and that can hold more rounds than 6-7. My only complaint is the magazine and that last round can put up a fight while loading.

  14. Hi Coro – thanks for writing. For what it is worth, I’m a pretty small guy – 5’8. I have small hands. I think your points are well made, but in my mind, a CCW handgun should be one that is shot and trained with often. I would also share the concern about getting that magazine seated.

  15. I first owned the P238 Nitron; no complaints at all but I wanted to go to the higher caliber 9 mm and bought the P938 AG. I’m keeping them both.Primarily carry the 938 with the 238 as my back up or New York City reload. Keeping them both forever they are great guns. Carry a Smith & Wesson M and P9C when I leave the city limits just for the higher capacity and I’m thinking of getting an M and P 40 C for when I’m out in the woods.

  16. How do you carry your Sigs Ed? Pocket carry? I’ve been using my P238 for dress pants, but lately I’ve almost been exclusively pocket carrying my M&P Shield 9mm – more capacity and simpler operation….I like it!

  17. How do you carry your Shield in pocket carry in dress pants or even casual? I have one as well and cannot find a way to carry it that does not appear to be clearly bulky and noticeable.

  18. Gerald – I have no problem in casual pants (not jeans) with the Shield, but for dress pants I stick to my P238.

  19. I purchased the p938 AG earlier this year which comes with aluminum grips. I found these grips and the G-10 grips to be abrasive. I purchased Hogue rubber grips which are comfortable and more superior to shoot with.
    I have fired over 250 rounds without FTF or discomfort in palm of my hand. Recoil is very manageable, especially for a pistol this size. Truly a remarkable pistol that is well worth the price of admission ( low $600’s). Purchased mine on sale for $585.

  20. I have the Sig Sauer P938 and I like it. But lately I have been looking at the p238. Is the P238 worth the money? I have read many reviews on it, good and bad, but I am still not positive if it will be a good purchase.

  21. I actually sold the P938 and kept me P238 – you can read my review of the P238 here on ThruMyLens. 😀

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