When you think of what to expect from pocket pistols, aesthetics and self-defense probably won’t be the first qualities that come to mind.
That’s lucky, as Sig Sauer’s P238 isn’t the best-looking or most powerful pocket pistol on the market. However, if you look past the gun’s appearance and firepower (and you should), you’ll see what makes it the right firearm for shooters interested in concealed carry.
This Sig Sauer P238 review dives into what makes this gun stand out among pocket pistols in its category, so keep reading to learn all about it!
Table of Contents
|15.2 ounces (unloaded)
Sig Sauer P238 Review – Overview
If you can’t help but see the Colt 1911 when you look at the Sig Sauer P238, that isn’t a coincidence: this gun is effectively a scaled-down version of the former gun. Sig Sauer purchased the rights to the Colt Mustang, made a few alterations to their new intellectual property, and released it as the concealed carry pistol that is the subject of this review.
Since then, Sig Sauer has released several versions of the P238, including the “We the People“, Spartan II, Desert, Select, Rosewood, and Rainbow variants. This .380 ACP handgun also has a larger 9mm version, the Sig P938.
Like the 1911, the P238 is a single-action, micro-compact pistol. It also borrows the 1911’s classic design, albeit in shrunken form, eliciting feelings of nostalgia for experienced shooters and gun enthusiasts.
Use Case and Size
There are two use cases for the Sig P238: you either get it to conceal carry or as a backup weapon for your larger pistol.
With a 2.7-inch barrel length, 3.9-inch height, and overall length of 5.5-inches, this tiny and lightweight (weighing 15.2 ounces unloaded) pistol screams “pocket carry gun”. While I wouldn’t recommend you carry it in your pocket without a pocket holster, it’s such a tiny pistol that I can see the temptation.
Moreover, because of how small this gun is, you can adopt different carry styles while holstered, including ankle and inside the waist, and go about your day without anyone being the wiser that you’re packing heat. And it works well with lighter clothing, too.
I will say that the gun’s caliber may give some shooters pause, and for good reason: unlike 9mm or .45 caliber weapons, the diminutive P238 doesn’t have as much firepower. As such, you can view the Sig P238 as a last resort weapon.
Frame and Ergonomics
In my opinion, the Sig P238 isn’t the most pleasant-looking pocket pistol available (save for some variants like the Rosewood one), but aesthetics aren’t everything.
However, what this gun lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in build quality: Sig Sauer gave the P238 an aluminum frame, corrosion-resistant Nitron coat finish for the slide, a stainless steel magazine, and serrations for a comfortable grip.
In other words, it’s got a lot of metal compared to modern polymer-framed firearms. No doubt that contributes to the gun’s weight, but I prefer to use the term “sturdy” when describing how this gun feels in hand. That said, this is a compact gun we’re talking about, so even if it’s heavier than some of its peers, it’s still very light to carry around.
Additionally, even though the gun is small, it still has an adequate grip size that provides unfettered access to the trigger, slide, and other components. Although you won’t find any finger grooves on the P238, it still handles well.
Capacity, Magazine, and Magwell
The Sig Sauer P238 has a six-round magazine capacity (single-stack) out-the-box made with stainless steel. You can get an extended magazine that provides seven shots and offers the additional benefit of extending the gun’s grip length for shooters with larger hands.
Inserting magazines into the mag well is smooth and pain-free, and performing the opposite action is equally so. In the case of the former action, you can expect an audible click that indicates your mag is locked and loaded, while dropping a magazine makes it fall free without getting stuck on the way down.
You’ll find the mag release on the P238’s left-hand side. I think it’s placed and sized appropriately, though some shooters may be bummed out by the fact it isn’t reversible.
The Sig P238 has a light slide that shooters with small or weak hands will find easy to rack. You’ll find the manual slide lock positioned above the magazine release button, and it does a good job of indicating when you’re out of ammo.
Similar to the 1911, it’s possible to use the P238’s slide lock as a slide release and takedown lever, though you should only attempt this when the gun is clear.
Sights and Accuracy
I really like the full-sized three-dot sights on the Sig Sauer P238. Sig Sauer blesses this handgun with its Siglite night sights, and they provide an accurate sight picture day or night. Not only can you acquire your target quickly, but you can shoot accurately at farther distances. That’s impressive, considering it’s meant for close-quarters shooting.
The front sight combines a green fiber optic and tritium blend and is fixed. Meanwhile, the rear sights have Tritium and can be adjusted for drift. All three glow in the dark and are very visible.
Sig Sauer’s P238 has a single-action trigger with a seven-pound trigger pull. If you gasped at the trigger’s weight, don’t worry: it isn’t as heavy as it sounds. On the contrary, the trigger buckles cleanly from the force of your trigger finger, and its single-action nature makes it incredibly stable. Meanwhile, the reset is short, producing an audible click upon return.
Some may find Sig Sauer’s decision to go with a polymer trigger odd, considering how the rest of the gun has higher-quality build materials. Still, I think it does nothing to detract from the shooting experience.
The P238 inherits a lot from the Colt 1911 looks-wise, and the trigger is no exception. However, similarities between the two guns end there, as the P238’s trigger has the hinged design common to modern pistols, a departure from the 1911’s pull. Additionally, its trigger face is ridged, so if you’re used to smooth faces, you may not like how it feels on the first go around.
All told, I’m impressed with the P238’s trigger. Not only is it excellent for a gun this small, but it also feels better than the triggers on some full-sized weapons. There’s next to no grittiness on the pull, and it just feels right.
Given the P238’s compact size, you could be forgiven for thinking that this concealed carry gun would have a crazy amount of recoil when you shoot a couple of rounds. However, the felt recoil on this handgun is pretty manageable, light even, for shooters with small hands anyway. Meanwhile, the gun handles follow-up shots fairly quickly.
Aside from the light recoil, I was blown away by this gun’s accurate shots at distance. Although the Sig P238 was made for close-range shooting, it excels at hitting targets up to 25-yards away. I’ve already sung the praises of the P238’s sight picture, but can I just add that each sight on the gun pops against the target, and thus contributes to my accuracy?
My take is the P238 is fun to shoot. Even the biggest hands won’t have trouble holding this gun correctly when firing shots.
Now for the big question: would I recommend the .380 caliber P238 for self-defense purposes? It’s hard to say, especially since I (thankfully) haven’t had the opportunity to find out. However, here’s my take: yes, the gun can hit targets farther than others in its category. But I’m not sure it has enough stopping power.
Therefore, I’ll have to recommend something with a larger caliber if the main reason you’re carrying is self-preservation. As for how reliable this little gun is, I didn’t experience any issues, not even after feeding it different ammo types. So I guess you can rely on it to shoot when required, which should count to the points it earns as a defensive weapon.
Sig Sauer includes a manual safety on the P238 that may prove divisive. Perhaps, it’s because I don’t usually use compact pistols with a safety mechanism. Still, I found this thumb safety challenging to engage and disengage, and its size and roundness didn’t help matters. Anyway, if you’re anything like me, expect operating the manual safety to take some practice.
Don’t get me wrong; safety features on mouse guns are necessary. I’m just not used to them, and kept forgetting to switch it on and off before and after use. Of course, other shooters may disagree with my assessment (hence “divisive”), and they’re welcome to.
In addition, the P238 has a firing pin safety block, a hammer safety, and a disconnector that prevents the gun from firing until the slide is locked. It doesn’t have a grip safety but doesn’t suffer without it. Sig Sauer definitely did a good job making this gun as safe as possible, so misfires shouldn’t be an issue.
Cleaning the P238 isn’t too difficult. The gun’s short barrel means there isn’t a lot to clean, so the process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. One thing to note is how you carry the gun determines how much cleaning you’ll be doing when the time comes.
For example, like any concealed carry piece, storing this handgun in your pocket means flint may accumulate in the gun’s hammer area and near the barrel. Luckily, you can get rid of the build-up in your gun using compressed air.
Taking down the P238 isn’t complicated in the slightest. It’s as simple as pulling the slide back until its indentations are aligned, then pulling the slide release while pushing the slide forward again. Then, you can extract the recoil spring and barrel to fully take apart the pistol.
As you’re well aware, the Sig Sauer P238 is a small pistol with little space for accessories, so it’s best to manage your expectations with regard to available accessories and customizations. With that said, you can get laser sights for this gun if, of course, a laser sight is a must-have on your list of accessories. They don’t come cheap, though, so have your wallet at the ready.
Also, it’s possible to get grip panels for the P238 from popular online retailers like Amazon and Brownells and, as mentioned above, extra magazines. On the latter point, you should consider getting the extended magazine if you’ve got large hands, as it really helps to increase the gun’s grip length. Otherwise, you’ll leave your pinky finger hanging, which will affect your grip.
Finally, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality holster you can wear inside the belt when conceal carrying.
Also, I guess it’s worth mentioning the gun’s starter kit at this juncture. Some versions of the gun come with one, and it’s a plastic case that may come with a laser sight but usually has a lone six-round magazine in it. Nothing to write home about, but worth mentioning nevertheless.
I think the Sig Sauer P238 is an awesome concealed carry weapon. It’s small enough to carry discreetly but not so small that recoil poses an issue when you shoot it. It isn’t high-maintenance and is pretty accurate at short and moderate distances. And though its mag capacity is small, it’s size-appropriate, so you can’t fault the gun for that.
It may not be my go-to personal defense firearm, but it’s reliable, which, when you think about what matters in personal protection, is almost as important as stopping power, if not more so. For all of the above reasons, I can’t recommend the Sig Sauer P238 enough as a pocket pistol.