Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Sig Sauer P238

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Mike Cumpston, GUNS Magazine
With Deborah Davison

Back in the mid 20th century when full-metal-jacketed auto pistol bullets were just about the only game in town, the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol round was widely regarded as the smallest “serious” defensive cartridge. A qualifier frequently appended was it wore said endorsement only out of “politeness.”

In recent years, bullet technology has matured and the 9x17mm invokes greater confidence among the armed public. It still represents the entry level among defensive cartridges and at the same time, the pistols firing it are often the largest guns a wide segment of the public are willing to carry. The current, downsized .380’s are wildly popular.

The SIG SAUER P238 has been available for about 7 years, and is a mature design noted for reliability and ease of use. The pistol is of stainless steel and alloy construction and resembles a miniature model 1911. Safety features include a left side, frame-mounted thumb safety that engages firmly and is easy to manipulate. There is a passive firing pin block, an inertia firing pin and a 1/2-step hammer notch. It will fire with the magazine removed thus is non-compliant in a couple of states.

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Deborah Davison shooting her P238 “Pearl,” an upscale model sporting a
engraving on the slide and faux pearl grips. Deborah’s P238 Pearl has
an extended magazine floorplate (right). It is a very tastefully rendered
model available with Black faux pearl grips, if white isn’t your thing.

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The SIG, unlike other .380 pistols of this general configuration has an open
under-barrel cam and eschews the internal barrel/slide lug arrangement in favor
of a raised chamber that accomplishes lock-up by engaging the port. Upon reassembly,
it is necessary to depress the ejector as you return the slide to the frame.

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Five rounds each isosceles at 3, 7, and 15 yards (above, the prescribed distances for
the various drills of the Texas Handgun Proficiency Demonstration). The SIG comes on
target fast for the initial and follow-up rounds. SIG is making very high-quality
proprietary ammunition now. This group (below) is from the bench at 25 yards.

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Sights

The sights are high visibility Patridge profile with either high visibility dots or, more frequently, tritium night sights. Some variations have had fiber optic front elements. The catalog currently presents 21 variations of the basic 238. They vary from the subdued and utilitarian often preferred by seasoned shooters to high art and bling-worthy fashion statements to complement Milady’s haute couture.

Our samples include the Edge supplied by SIG SAUER and the Pearl, Deborah Davison’s personal deep concealment arm. Both finishes are via physical vapor deposition (PVD), a high-tech application both very hard and extremely resistant to wear and other environmental deteriorata. The Pearl has faux white pearl grips, a black anodized frame and a high-polish, black-finished and tastefully engraved slide. The Edge is a parfait of colors on the blue-cyan end of the color spectrum. Deborah identified it as a likely choice by women who favor personal accessories and clothing in matching colors. Whatever the target demographic, the Edge pistols are brisk sellers.

We fired the pistols side-by-side on Deborah’s training range. She found the trigger weight of the Edge to be somewhat lighter than her own handgun and thoroughly saturated the 10- and X-rings of the B-27 silhouette target at 10 yards. The Texas qualification course includes drills at 3, 7 and 15 yards. I fired five rounds at each distance and none of my shots were wider than the 9-ring.

The balance of the SIG .380 is such the crisp trigger pull seems much lighter than the measured weight of 6 pounds, 12 ounces, and rapid center hits at these distances are very easy to obtain. We did some 1-hand and 2-hand shooting from 25 yards keeping most of our shots in the high-value scoring rings. Most of my 5-round bench groups from 25 yards were single efforts landing in less than 4 inches.

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The DeSantis Ammo Nemesis (above) holds the gun in proper position, breaks the
outline and remains firmly in the pocket when the pistol is drawn. The Edge (below)
arrives in a hard case with this belt holster, owner’s manual, cable lock and
bright orange chamber plug.

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The balance of the SIG .380 is such the crisp trigger pull seems much lighter than the measured weight of 6 pounds, 12 ounces, and rapid center hits at these distances are very easy to obtain. We did some 1-hand and 2-hand shooting from 25 yards keeping most of our shots in the high-value scoring rings. Most of my 5-round bench groups from 25 yards were single efforts landing in less than 4 inches.

I re-shot a couple of unfavorable groups and got them under the 4-inch mark as well. Point of impact from the bench was 3 inches right and the same distance low except with Black Hills 90-grain JHP and the Hornady American Gunner. Both of those were centered horizontally under the aiming point. The 238’s are a pleasure to shoot. They are comfortable, handle recoil well and deliver rapid repeat shots with commendable precision for pocket-sized handguns.

By and large, both pistols function smoothly with the usual run of ammunition. The EDGE did display two mid-magazine failures to completely enter the chamber with a ball load and a Hornady Critical Defense round. These were the only malfunctions and occurred during the break-in period. The Edge comes with a single magazine with flush floorplate. It needs to be seated firmly to assure engagement. Deborah’s 238 Pearl’s extended magazine makes positive insertion very easy. It detracts very little from concealability and permits placement of all fingers on the grip.

Deborah deems the SIG .380’s ideal for most of her women Concealed Handgun students. They are easy to conceal in a strong-side belt holster underneath a light cover garment. Just such a holster (a polymer open top with belt clip and tension adjustment) is included in the hard case with our sample Edge. These handguns do fit the mold of the traditional Pocket Pistol and men may prefer strong-side pocket carry over most methods. My DeSantis Ammo Nemesis holds the gun in proper position, shields the trigger and is configured for a spare magazine.

The SIG SAUER 238 series, resembling, as it does the archetypal 1911 in miniature, is well grounded in the realm of traditional handguns valued by purists. At the same time, modern production and state of the art finishes combined with ideal handling characteristics recommend it to the arriving population of armed citizens as well.

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Typical 5-round bench groups at 25 yards run about 4 inches. Unlike these Black Hills
JHP’s, most loads hit about 3 inches right of point-of-aim. No big whoop at 25 yards,
but any sight adjustment should be via a sight pushing tool to protect the tritium
tubes of the sights.

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A highly visible sight picture, ideal balance and crisp trigger pull make
the SIG 238 a very user-friendly package.

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P238 EDGE

Maker: SIG SAUER
72 Pease Boulevard
Newington, NH 03801.
(603) 610-3000
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/sig-sauer-inc/

Action: Locked breech, single-action semi-auto, Caliber. .380, Capacity: 6+1, Barrel length: 2.7 inches, Length: 5.5 inches, Height: 3.9 inches, Width: 1.1 inch, Weight: 15.2 ounces, Sights: SIG-LITE Night Sights, others, Grips: G10, Finish: PVD (EDGE), black Nitron, engraved (Pearl), many others, Material: Steel slide, alloy frame (black anodized), Price: $776 (EDGE), $779 (Pearl)

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