SIG Sauer P238 Review

By CTD Blogger published on in Firearms, Reviews

Written by Be a Blogger for a Day Contest Winner, Rachel McMurry.

I’ve been on the hunt for a good gun that I can learn to handle well so I can get my concealed carry license. It has been a bit of a bumpy road for me because I have small hands. There seems to be this assumption that the best-concealed gun is one that shoots 9mm as a minimum. Unfortunately, most guns that hold those rounds are too big for my hands and I always have to spend a few minutes adjusting before I try to shoot so it doesn’t go flying out of my grip. As a result, I looked hard at the pistols that use the .380 ACP.

I tested the Beretta Nano through a gun rental a few times, borrowed a SIG Sauer P238 HD and the SIG Sauer P238 Nitron, but was eventually given a Ruger LC380 because cost-wise, it was the least expensive option. That pistol started out fine, but my shooting wasn’t getting any better. The Ruger LC380 was a lighter pistol with a mostly plastic frame, so it ended up kicking more. Likewise, it developed some feeding issues despite extensive and frequent cleaning sessions, so it had to go.

I knew I wanted the SIG Sauer P238; of all the .380 pistols, I liked it the best. It fit my hand the right way, had the weight I wanted, the caliber was right, no finger grooves, and it didn’t feel like a Glock. My boyfriend ended up surprising me with an early birthday present by selling my old Ruger while I was at work one day and hiding a the SIG in my lockable case for the Ruger. Inside the case was my brand spanking new, straight-from-the-factory Sig Sauer P238 ESR. We went shooting the next day to try it out.

SIG P238 .380 subcompact gun with Rosewood grip and engraved slide

My first shot with the SIG P238 hit right where I aimed.

Quick Facts

The SIG Sauer P238 is chambered for the .380 ACP and has a flush magazine with a capacity of six rounds—extended magazines with finger grips hold seven rounds. The P238 is a predominately-metal frame with very few plastic parts making it heavier than its Ruger LC380 competition. My particular P238 has a cherry wood grip instead of the usual plastic grips. It also uses a metal frame and engraved metal slide. It is a beautiful pistol that doesn’t look like a toy with the visually appealing features that don’t diminish the effectiveness of the gun. The composition of materials to make the P238 causes it to appear as though it is the mini-me to the 1911 and also weighs more than Ruger LC380.

The P238 has an eight-pound trigger pull and is a single action with a barrel length of 2.7 inches—a very nice change to the Ruger LC380’s heavy double action. The gun weighs approximately one pound even with all the rounds in the magazine and one chambered, ready to go. At 5.5 inches long, just over an inch wide and almost four inches tall, it is easy to hide and can fit inside many small purses. It’s about the size of a large wallet. The P238 also has factory SIGLite night sights installed on the pistol with an easily-accessible safety on the left side of the frame.

Fit

The P238 is fairly petite in comparison to larger-caliber offerings and small compared to some .22 pistols, as well. The size makes it an excellent choice for concealment, but also means it can be difficult to hold without having fingers dangling off the bottom. Enter the extended magazine that increases the grip length and capacity by one round. I have small hands, so I can hold the gun well with the flush magazine. However, with the extended magazine, I always hold it better. Quite simply, I guess this is because I don’t have to think about having my pinky finger accidentally slipping during firing.

The only change I would consider making to the pistol is in regards to the grip. I would consider a longer magazine so it would fit those with larger hands better (my boyfriend) but still maintain the overall small size that makes it a great concealed handgun. My favorite thing regarding the grip is that it doesn’t have the finger grooves. Nothing sucks more than being unable to fit your fingers and grip to the grooves properly, and as a result, you are unable to properly hold the gun.

At the Range

I was able to take the gun to the range less than a week after getting it and before the first round even went through the barrel, I didn’t clean it. Before panties start getting twisted, I should add that I didn’t have to clean it first. It came to me lubed with the factory stuff in all the right places. The dry fire tests didn’t indicate anything was sluggish. I load all the magazines to feel the difference between the flush and extended-grip magazines. I like to pop in the flush magazine, chamber the first round, and send it down range to a target at five yards.

My first shot hit right where I aimed and I learned that the sights were perfect for my left-eye dominant self so no adjustments were needed there. I proceeded to send more down range and began to get more comfortable with the gun, but my groupings got progressively worse. Not because of the gun itself, but simply user error. My finger was wrapping too far around the trigger and causing the gun to shift. Due to the size, I had to conscientiously remind myself to only use the tip of my finger and not relax letting my finger wrap further over the trigger. I adjusted my hold on the gun and began shooting again. Perfect. I immediately began hitting the target where I was aiming.

Maintenance

This is definitely a higher maintenance gun compared to the Ruger LC380. Due to the fact that the SIG Sauer is an almost exclusively metal gun with a negligible amount of plastic, each shooting session requires cleaning immediately afterward. I neglected to clean the gun once after shooting and due to the humidity levels outside, plus the gun being stored in its case in the garage, some surface rust began accumulating on the sights. Fortunately, nothing happened to the actual frame and it was just the sights. However, that was an excellent reminder this isn’t just a cheap plastic thing. It is of higher quality with a lot of metal requiring much higher cleaning maintenance.

Overall, I love this gun. It fits my hand well, shoots where I aim (unless I pull the trigger with too much finger). The only con that I can think of is the only way for me to fully fit my pinky around the frame is if I am using the extended magazine. I also know people with much larger hands than I who have difficulty fitting their hands properly around the frame because it is so small, Their hands just swallow it up. I love that this gun has the “honey, I shrunk the 1911” feel to it, is easy to take apart for cleaning, and is a very accurate pistol for it’s size and caliber. If you are a newbie like myself with small hands, I highly recommend at least trying this one if available to rent at your local gun range.

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SIG Sauer P238
Action Semiautomatic, single-action only
Barrel Length 2.7 inches
Caliber .380 ACP
Overall Height 3.9 inches
Overall Length 5.5 inches
Overall Width 1.1 inches
Weight Unloaded 15.2 ounces
Sights SIGLite night sights
Grip Rosewood
Capacity 6+1 rounds
Magazine 6 rounds
Frame Anodized alloy beavertail style

Do you have a SIG P238? What do you love about it? Share it with Rachel in the comment section.

Rachel is still a novice to firearms and shooting after being first introduced seven years ago by a family friend. As a result, she is still learning which guns she likes the most but definitely leans towards rifles such as the AR-15, AK-47 with wooden stock, 1911 and 1911-style pistols, and the super fun Thompson with drum magazines. Rachel understands the challenge of finding firearms that are easily managed with small hands and is quickly becoming more specialized in helping others with the same issue.

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Comments (50)

  • Paul de Florio

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    Had an LC9 and the feel of the grip and the but of the recoil were unpleasant. Carry a S&W M&P Shield in 9mm and a fine gun. But I wanted a true pocket pistol but was shocked at the prices in my LCS. So bought it at auction, got great Hogue rubber grips, Viridian Laser, three Magazines and the ESR holster(It turns on the laser as you draw. At the range it ate anything and everything, was more accurate than I am and it is now pulling dual role as my EDC with my Shield. I love it.

    Reply

  • TENWOLVES

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    I hear this all the time about how women love the Sig p228 380 and also the P938 9mm, and it’s great when your wife or girlfriend is totally happy with their gun, it gives them a great start in the shooting sports, or just the confidence they need to be a concealed gun carrier and confident in the use of their gun…good choice I hope she enjoys her new Sig…

    Reply

  • VT Patriot

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    My lady and I went shoping for a handgun for her (she has her CCW in CT no less). She tried racking many of the 380’s and loved the ease of racking this gun. Although initially afraid of the recoil, she handled it beautifully, continuing on thru 2 mags without pausing. When she turned to me and said “I love this gun”, I knew we had a winner. She owned it when we left the store/range. Important that she like it and not be afraid of it for self defence. Thanx Sig, great job.

    Reply

  • Jim

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    I carry my p238 and a front pocket holster. Over the last year or so I noticed on many occasions when I stowed the weapon at night the Magazine had dislodged, not to point of falling out, but out about 1/16″. either case not fully engaged. Thought this was a isolated problem with my gun. Until my brother visited me this week and he pulled his P238 out of a IWB holster, Same Thing ! Magazine dislodged. Called Sig this morning, Conversation went like this… After explaining what the concern is the reply was very nonchalant, ‘Yea, we have heard of that happening, send it in we will fix it’ I asked, why no recall. Reply ‘ Not wide spread enough, but we have a lifetime warranty’ My reply, Warranty does me a lot of good if I’m dead because the magazine dropped out if I needed it for protection. His Reply, kinda agitated ‘ Well before you get in a Gun Fight send it to us and we will fix it’
    Great attitude Sig !!!

    Reply

    • Rick

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      I have noticed the black six round mags don’t fit as tightly as the stainless 6 or stainless 7 round mags, depending on the ammunitiion. With Ruger ARX, I can’t even get the mag to snap in tightly whereas I can with Atomic JHPs with the exact same mag.

      Reply

  • Marsha

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    I just happened on this review while searching for the Sig P238. Several days ago my husband and I went shooting. Purposely so I could rent the Sig P238. I too have small hands and short fingers. After I got done shooting, I knew without a doubt that this is the gun for me. One of my biggest problems with most guns was trying to rack them with arthritis in my hand and with most guns I couldn’t do it at all. I found the P238 to be fairly easy to rack. I know as rental it has had many rounds shot through it and would be easier to rack than a new gun. So just to be safe we went to a gun store to see just how easy a new gun would be to rack. I wish we had thought to rent a gun before purchasing three other guns that didn’t work for me (The Bodyguard by S&W, a S&W hammerless revolver, and S&W M & P Shield). Your review was very helpful to me. I have my CCW but am still very much a newbie!

    Reply

  • Robert p

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    I have three p238 pistols and I have large muscular hands. I wanted 380 as I can draw it fast from my front pants pocket while in its holster. Short range accuracy excellent as soon as it clears my pants. .9mms penetrates due to velocity thus mushrooming bullet might not open in time. 380 is slower but at same caliber slug so stopping power should suffice. The essence for self defense is thus speed to deplore a hitting round than stops the attacker. My bed side gun is full sized glock .45 cap.

    By the way, I only clean my p238 once a year. It works fine with like t or dust caked on. It is simply not true it needs frequent cleanings. My Glock works perfectly and it was last cleaned 2010.

    Reply

  • TENWOLVES

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    Thank you for your review, it was well done and covered just about everything, I have the bigger brother to the Sig P238, I have the P938 in 9mm, it is very close in size and I really like this gun, I have large hands ,but with the extended mag, I can grip the gun without any problems, my trigger finger is another thing, and it wants to go to the second joint, which I’m not use to, but I seem to be able to hit my target without any bad groupings, the P938 is more accurate than it has a right to be for its size and caliber which blows me away, and you’re right the 1911 style makes these guns just feel right in hand, mine has rubber grips and is all black, I just liked the feel much better than the other offerings and it works for me, these guns are very easy to conceal carry and you don’t even know it there unless you need to get it out, I wear mine in a DeSanti Mini Scabbard, I’m a lefty and appreciate the ambi side safety’s because I won’t carry a gun that isn’t ambi friendly, thank you for this review…..,

    Reply

    • Archangel

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      Like all my guns (except my rifle that shoots 7.62×54 mil surplus), I clean them when they get wet, start leaving crud when I handle them, or accumulate enough cat hair or lint so as to notice.

      Reply

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