It was just a couple of decades ago that most
folks in this country considered the 380 ACP cartridge as
severely underpowered for social work. It was grouped together
with cartridges such as the 22 Short, 32 ACP, and a child’s
cap gun. However, in recent years, 380 ACP ammo has become more
powerful, and is loaded with bullets that are capable of
expanding at 380 velocities. The demand for 380 ACP ammunition
and pistols is now greater than ever, as more and more citizens
assume their civic duty to go armed. There are several very good
small, lightweight 380 pistols now on the market, and SIG Sauer
entered the market with another dandy choice a few months ago;
the SIG P238.
The P238 is different from the other popular
offerings available. Instead of a polymer frame, the P238 uses
an aluminum frame with a stainless steel slide. It is also a
single action design, with a thumb safety, very reminiscent of
the defunct Colt Mustang of a few years back. The P238 operates
with a locked-breech short recoil action. The hammer must be
cocked either manually or by the action of the slide to fire
each shot. The best way to carry the SIG P238 is in what is
called condition one; that is with a round in the chamber,
hammer cocked, and the safety on. In this mode, all one has to
do is point the pistol, flip off the safety, and pull the
trigger to fire. Most small 380 pistols now on the market do
away with the thumb safety, relying instead upon a long trigger
pull and a firing pin safety. Either system works very well, and
is as safe as the person carrying the pistol. Some people prefer
a manual safety, and for them, the P238 is an excellent choice,
with one limitation. The P238 is a decidedly right-handed
pistol, as there is no thumb safety for a left-handed shooter.
Of course, a left-hander can fire the SIG perfectly well, but in
a hurry, it is hard for a lefty to manipulate that thumb safety
and keep a secure grip on the pistol. The thumb safety works
very well, and secures the hammer from movement. The thumb
safety is placed perfectly for a right-handed shooter to quickly
sweep it downward with the thumb of the right hand to ready the
pistol to fire. It is also easy to place back in the safety-on
mode, when needed.
The P238 is a very good-looking pistol, with
its matte black frame, wood grips, and stainless slide and small
parts. The slide has diagonal serrations for easy manipulation,
and the sights, while large and easy to see, are well rounded so
as not to abrade clothing or skin. The P238 slide locks to the
rear on an empty magazine, and the slide latch release is easy
to reach with the thumb of the shooting hand. There are vertical
serrations on the front and back of the grip, as well as
stippling on the wood stocks, for a secure hold while firing the
pistol. The frame has a generous beavertail to protect the web
between the shooter’s thumb and trigger finger, and the hammer
recesses into the beavertail section, to avoid any chance of
hammer-bite while firing the pistol. The P238 is a very compact
design, and while it is slightly heavier than the polymer 380
pistols on the market, it is just as small.
Critical specifications are listed in the
chart below. The weight is listed in ounces, and linear
measurements in inches. The grip and frame widths were measured
at their widest points. Maximum width is measured to include the
thumb safety. Height includes the sights and magazine base. The
trigger pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Weight is listed
with an empty magazine in place. SIG specs call for an unloaded
weight of 15.2 ounces with magazine, but I weighed the sample
gun repeatedly, and found it to be a bit lighter.
|Maximum Grip Width
I fired a variety of ammunition over the
chronograph to check velocities, with the results listed in the
chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second.
Velocities were recorded ten feet from the muzzle. Bullet
weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint
bullet. DPX is a hollow nose homogenous copper bullet. FMJ is a
full metal jacket roundnose bullet. FP is a full metal jacket
flat-nose bullet. PB is Cor-Bon Pow’RBall.
HC is a hard cast flat-nose lead bullet. Velocities were taken
at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air
temperature of ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity of
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore FMJ
|Buffalo Bore HC
|American Marksman FMJ
Shooting the P238 held no surprises. The
little jewel functioned perfectly, feeding, firing and ejecting
every round fed it. Twice during testing, the slide failed to
lock open on an empty magazine, but it was near the end of the
day, and the pistol had become pretty dirty. The trigger pull
averaged seven pounds even, and was very consistent. For a
pocket pistol such as this, the trigger pull is just about
right, stiff enough, but very crisp, with just a bit of preload.
The SIG is very comfortable to shoot, being a little heavier
than most of its competition, but still plenty light enough for
comfortable carry. While on the subject of carrying, the little
SIG comes with a very well-designed Kydex belt holster that fits
the pistol perfectly. Of course, it is a right-handed holster,
but this is a right-handed pistol. It is very thoughtful of SIG
to include the holster with the pistol. The holster clips onto
the belt, and has a very secure hook at the bottom to assure that
the holster stays on the belt. The holster weighs only one and
one-half ounces. SIG also offers a leather pocket holster
online, for those who prefer pocket carry.
The sights on the P238 are highly visible and
easy to use, unlike the sights on many 380 pocket autos. The SIG
has an excellent set of sights. The ones on my test gun are
standard three-dot sights. This 238-380-BG model is supposed to
have SIGLITE night sights, and that is how the label on the box
reads, but this gun does not have the SIGLITE tritium sights.
However, I do highly recommend the
SIGLITE option for a defensive weapon such as this. Accuracy
was very good, due largely to the excellent sights provided on
the pistol. Keeping all shots well within the kill zone of a
standard human silhouette at twenty-five yards was no problem,
and firing the P238 rapidly from anywhere from three to fifteen
yards offhand proved that the little pistol would work very well
for resolving distasteful social conflicts.
The SIG P238 is a dandy little defensive
pistol. It is small enough and light enough that it can always
be with you. If a fight comes, a larger weapon is preferred, but
we never know when trouble will seek us out, so a weapon that is
within reach is the weapon of choice. The P238 can hold its own.
It is compact, reliable, accurate, and made in the USA.
Check out this and other SIG products at www.sigsauer.com.
For high performance 380 ammunition, go to www.cor-bon.com
For those of you having trouble finding good
inexpensive 380 practice ammo in stock, go to www.theamericanmarksman.com.