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HIT or MISS: Sig Sauer P238 Review

Presented by Shoot Smart
Review by Scott Thornton

Sig Sauer P238

Introduced in 2009, the Sig Sauer P238 is a single-action only (SOA), sub-compact semi automatic handgun chambered in .380 ACP. It was released as an updated and upgraded version of the original Colt Mustang. The P238 is currently offered in 22 – yes 22! – unique versions which vary in price from $599 to $850. There is something for everyone in this line of pistols. The frames are available in either anodized aluminum or stainless steel, which does affect the weight, and to some extent the reliability of the model. I have purchased two of these pistols – an aluminum frame for my mom and a stainless steel framed HD for my sister.
One of the features I like most about the P238 is that racking the slide is easy. It is probably one of the easiest slides to rack I have seen on a small semi-auto. That is a great feature for shooters that have strength issues in their hands, like my mom who is 80 and has some arthritis in her fingers.
Here’s where I put the Sig Sauer P238…


HIT: Reliability. As with many small semi-automatic handguns, the P238 is a picky “eater.” It works best with heavier (90 grain or more) FMJ bullets and polymer tipped hollow points. Lighter bullets can induce short cycling of the slide, causing either a failure to eject or failure to feed malfunction. Hollow points with a large cavity tend to catch on the feed ramp, and don’t always feed correctly. However, once the correct ammunition for the pistol has been determined, the P238 runs well with very few issues. I prefer the Hornady 90 gr. FTX Critical Defense polymer tipped hollow point for concealed carry. This load is designed specifically for short barreled, concealed carry firearms.
HIT: Ease of Maintenance. The P238 has an all-metal frame and slide and is not as forgiving as a polymer framed pistol when it comes to maintenance. If you shoot frequently then cleaning after every other range session (about 200 rounds) is recommended. If the P238 is your carry pistol, then cleaning after each range session is recommended. Disassembly of the pistol takes less than a minute. Reassembly, while easy, does require that you pay attention while inserting the slide stop due to a small spring, which must be in the correct position on the slide stop during assembly.
MISS: Durability. The most common issue we have with P238s in the rental fleet is having the grip screws come loose, fall out, and being lost on the range. This is a result of having an aluminum frame and using steel screws to attach the grip panels. The screws are easy to over tighten, which strips the threads. The models with a stainless-steel frame don’t seem to have the same issue. I would use blue Loctite, or a similar product, on the aluminum frame model. The recoil spring should be replaced after a few thousand rounds as well. Springs are inexpensive and will increase the service life of your handgun.
HIT: Accuracy. With a barrel length of only 2.7 inches many shooters consider the P238 a “close range” pistol – “close range” being 7 yards or closer. However, its accuracy is more than adequate for engaging targets out to 25 yards. I shot these groups at 7 yards and 15 yards with a P238 from our rental fleet.
HIT: Sights. The sights on the P238 are some of the best I have seen on a small pistol. They are available in either white dot or SIGLITE Night Sights. The sights are easy to see and provide good sight alignment and sight picture. The sights are large and durable enough for hard use during training as well. This photo compares the sights on a Colt Mustang (left) to those of the Sig P238 (right).
HIT: Ergonomics. For shooters with average to small hands, the P238 has a nice feel even though the pinky finger curls under the frame when using the 6-round magazine. An extended magazine is available and it provides support for the pinky finger. It also gives the pistol the feel of a larger pistol. The controls are easy to reach and manipulate. Shooters with large hands may find the pistol to be too small. I have average size hands and have no problem getting a correct grip on the pistol.
HIT: Trigger. The P238 is a Single Action Only (SAO) pistol which uses a hammer to strike the firing pin. The trigger has very little slack during the press, and has a distinct audible and physical click upon reset, which is short. Though the trigger pull-weight is a little heavy, between 7.5 lb. to 8.5 lb., that is normal for small pistols designed for concealed carry.
HIT: Safety. The P238 features a frame mounted, thumb activated, safety. An ambidextrous safety is available on some models. On most models the thumb safety is designed for right-handed shooters. The thumb safety is disengaged by pressing down on the safety with the firing side thumb as you present to your target. It is engaged by pressing up with the thumb. If the hammer is in the cocked position the slide will still move when the safety is engaged. This lets you load or unload the pistol with the safety ON.
MISS: Magazine. The P238 comes with a 6-round magazine which fits flush with the bottom of the magazine well. While this makes the pistol easier to conceal I would rather have the extended magazine as the standard magazine. The extended magazine gives you more control of the pistol during recoil and just feels better.
HIT: Value. With 22 models to choose from there is a P238 to fit most shooter’s budgets. The Nitron model is on the lower side of the price range at $599. This puts it in the mid-level range for a defensive handgun. With proper care, and maintenance, the P238 series of handguns should provide good reliable service for years to come.