SIG Sauer P238 [Review]

It’s been proven over and over that .45 ACP and 9mm are solid for self-defense, but that doesn’t mean they are the only players in town…

There are just as many people saying pocket .380’s perfectly fine for self-defense as there are people saying it’s terrible.

Sig Sauer P238
Sig Sauer P238

As I’ve mentioned before, ANY bullet size is better than no bullets at all.  In the end, shot placement > bullet size in every case.

But now it’s time to talk about the Sig Sauer P238.

The Sig Sauer P238

There is this gun you might have heard about called the “1911.”

at Cabela's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

A little company named “Colt” released it a few years ago.  A little over 100 years ago to be exact.  It shot the big .45 caliber mamma jammas and looked rather pretty while doing it.

At some point in the early 80’s, someone said: “You know, this is an awesome gun and all but I want something a bit smaller so I can hide it in my waistband.”

Colt was like “good idea, Slappy, we’ll get right on it” and released the .380 Government model.

It was essentially a scaled down 1911 with all the features removed that were too hard to fit into a smaller gun (like the grip safety and such).

Then someone said: “I love this .380 Government Model but do you have anything I can carry in my pocket?”

As a response to that guy, Colt released a gun called the “Mustang” in 1986.  This was an even smaller and lighter pistol than the GM and had even fewer moving parts.  This was a popular little gun but, for whatever reason, Colt stopped making it (until recently).

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about…

SIG P238 Rainbow
SIG P238 Rainbow

There’s this company called SIG Sauer that makes guns.

They make good ones, I might add.  They bought the rights to the Colt Mustang, made a couple of modifications and released it to the world as the SIG P238.

It’s a tiny 1911 that’s chambered in .380 ACP.  Like the 1911, it’s a single action, semi-auto pistol with a manual safety and slide release lever.  SIG also ships them with their glow in the dark night sights.

This pistol can fit into pockets easily and, being an all metal gun, feels a bit sturdier than some of the polymer offerings of the P238’s competitors.  Even though it’s all metal, there isn’t a noticeable weight gain to it as compared to the other polymer pocket pistols either.  The thumb safety is stiff but easily disengaged when you want it off.

But that’s not…wait…yes!  This is what I’m here to talk about!  Let’s get to it!

By The Numbers…

Ease of Breakdown 4/5

It breaks down similar to a 1911…kind of.  Actually, it breaks down almost exactly like my LC9.

Move the slide back until a couple of indentations line up, pull out the slide release lever, push the slide forward, pull out the spring and then the barrel.  When you reassemble, you have to push the ejector down in order to get the slide back onto the frame.

P238 Breakdown
P238 Breakdown

If you don’t, you can destroy the ejector.  It’s a little detail but I don’t like the delicateness of that particular step.  Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to pull apart.  Just freaking be careful.

For that little “oops, I just broke my gun” potential, the P238 gets a 4 out of 5.

Maintenance 5/5

Once you do have it broken down, there’s not much to clean.  It’s got a tiny barrel.  There isn’t much in the way of surface area to scrub.  I was able to scrub it completely spotless in just a couple of minutes.  If you do pocket carry, you’ll want to give special attention to the hammer area with some compressed air.  You don’t want a massive amount of lint building up there.

I like a gun that’s simple to clean. 5 out of 5.

Reliability 5/5

Pocket pistols are notoriously finicky.

In many cases, there are warnings in manuals about “only use X grain ammo in this gun” or people on forums saying “only use Winchester ammo in a ______ pistol”.  This gun, however, was solid.  Not a single malfunction with my lovely cheapskate range candy.  Face it, when you’re carrying a pocket pistol, you’re carrying it for one reason only: to protect yourself.  Anything less than a perfect score in reliability is inexcusable.

That being said, this gun gets a 5 out of 5.

Safety 5/5

Keep in mind, this is a tiny 1911.  If you’re carrying in Condition 1 (cocked & locked), the hammer is going to be cocked.

This might make some people, especially those new to carrying, a bit squeamish.

Not to worry, SIG has you covered with a laundry list of safety features.  There is a manual safety on this gun.  I know there are some that don’t like a manual safety on a carry pistol but as long as you properly train yourself to disengage that safety on the draw it won’t be a problem.

There is also a firing pin safety block, hammer safety, and a disconnector that keeps it from being able to fire if the slide isn’t locked into the correct position.  All in all, like most new guns, this thing isn’t going to just “go off”.

Considering where I’d be carrying it, my Jimmies are happy to know that they’re safe. 5 out 5

Poor Technique 5/5

I mentioned before that pocket pistols are notoriously finicky.  They’re also notoriously unforgiving.  There are tight tolerances and not much room for error.  The slightest limp wrist can cause slide bite or smoke stacks with many of them.

I’m happy to say that’s not the case with this gun.  Try as I might, I could not get this thing to malfunction.

Pocket pistols are also known for being a bit snappy.  When you have a very light gun with a very short barrel, the muzzle flip can be surprising.  In some cases, it can be almost as bad (if not worse) than larger caliber pistols.

The P238, on the other hand, had an amazingly light recoil.  If I stop and say “wow” after the first shot, that usually means it’s a winner.

The lighter recoil makes this easy to aim and easy to get back on target. It also makes it easier to practice with frequently.

I have no complaints in this area. Definitely a 5 out of 5.

Starter Kit 2/5

Oh Siggy, you had a good streak going there.  In your kit, you get a plastic case and a single 6 round magazine.

In the case of this particular model, it also came with a laser sight.  That’s it.  Nothing special here.  On the bright side, the plastic case is at least decent quality.

Other than that, nothing here is really blowing my skirt up. 2 out of 5

Accessories & Upgrades 3.5/5

The problem with pocket pistols is there isn’t much room to play with.  There are a variety of laser sights made specifically for this pistol by multiple manufacturers.  Extra magazines for it are surprisingly expensive.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The grips, however, are removable and there are lots of really cool options in that department.  You can put different sights on it also but the ones that come with it are so good, I can’t imagine why you’d want to.

Could be worse, 3.5 out of 5

Conclusions 4/5

This gun was a delight to shoot and carry.  So much so that I’m seriously considering trading in my LC9 for one.


The LC9 isn’t much bigger but it’s big enough that I can’t pocket carry it in all my pants. I couldn’t find any that the P238 wouldn’t fit into.

While I never recommend buying your daily carry as your first and primary pistol, if you’re going to get a tiny gun as your first, you really can’t go wrong here.

In the end, SIG Sauer’s P238 gets a solid 4 out of 5.  Check out our other choices for Best .380 Pistol.

Got a SIG P238? Carry a different pocket pistol? Let us know in the comments!

Previous Comments:

Posted @ 10/23/2012 3:11 PM by TZH

TZH's avatar

I’ve been gawkin at this SIG for a long time now. My dad will be getting one of these soon. lucky him. we both shoot 1911s in standard division IPSC, so I should have one myself. I have a P3AT. it hasn’t let me down and I put a premium on its low weight. 10 or so ounces with a loaded mag means I can IWB it while jogging. haha

still, the SIG is a mini 1911 and it looks and works fantastic.

maybe someday

Posted @ 12/6/2013 1:11 AM by PinkH20Lilly

PinkH20Lilly's avatar

Just went and looked at some Sigs today for my first gun. I have never been into guns and truly never wanted one, but after our house was robbed last week I decided it was time to get over my fear of guns and get one. Tomorrow I am picking up my Sig Sauer P238 Pearl. I am really excited to try her out. 🙂

Posted @ 1/9/2014 3:28 PM by randy

randy's avatar

I’ve had mine for about a year. It’s now my primary carry gun. Only malfunctions have been with oddball ammo, like Hornady’s Critical Defense with the conical nose. Remington Golden Sabres run through it like a hot knife through butter. It kicks a little, but falls right back on target. It outshoots my 4.5″ Makarov. Highly recommended.

Posted @ 4/12/2014 3:52 PM by Luke

Luke's avatar

Went to Lgs yesterday to browse, and came across this little p238 with rosewood grips. Never held one before. As soon as I held it, I knew I had to have it. Owner said it was a return and said he shot 2 full boxes through it before he put in the case. Said the guy just didn’t like it. I offered him some $$ and it’s mine now. I love it!!! Sweet little gun. I got it so cheap I almost feel guilty. One shot and you know it’s quality.

21 Leave a Reply

  • john henkel

    just shoot my new sg p238 .love it .Its very accurate at 15 yards ,im sure it will be a easy carry weapon.a little pricy at 650 out the door in ca but great bang for your buck

    1 second ago
  • Abe Maidaa

    just got my sig sauer p238 in stainless steel pick it up in 4 days:)

    4 months ago
  • Trailblazer

    Got one several years ago and really, really like it. It goes bang EVERY time I pull the trigger no matter what kind of ammo I'm running or how long I've carried it since the last cleaning. Most carry guns can be less than satisfying at the range, but this one is pleasant to shoot and quite accurate. Showed it to a neighbor and they got one the very next week. I've worn out several pants pockets and all the color is gone from the gun's edges. Yes, I carry it a lot. Thanks for reading. Tom

    4 months ago
  • Guncritic

    Excellent review. This gun was a delight to shoot and carry. Nice gun

    9 months ago
  • Carl

    I.have probably gone threw a dozen small gun for personal protection but wasn't guite satisfied. Until I purchased the Sig. P238 my search ended. Love this gun

    1 year ago
    • Eric Hung

      Nice, glad you found the one for you!

      1 year ago
  • Patrick

    Just purchased a sign p238 today. Took it out of the box and attempted to insert an empty magazine. I could not do it unless I pushed the magazine release down. Most other guns I have had, you could just slide the empty magazine right in. Any thoughts.

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      Hey Patrick, any chance the gun was modified before you got your hands on it? An improperly installed aftermarket mag release could maybe cause that issue. Beyond that, I'd say disassemble the pistol and make sure the takedown lever is all the way clockwise as far as it will go before reassembling, and try again. You should definitely be able to insert a mag without depressing the mag release.

      1 year ago
  • G.T.

    I’m a beginning shooter, and after comparing the Sig P938 (a 9 MM version of the P238) to the similar Kimber Micro 9, I bought the Sig. Later, though, I traded the Sig in for a Kimber Micro 9!!! Here’s why: The thumb safety had too much friction and was too difficult to turn to OFF consistently when drawing the gun (maybe 20% of the time), much more so than other guns of this type I have since tried, like the Kimber. This is a serious problem and my tactical instructor told me not to rely on this gun for EDC. So, I got rid of it. I also thought that on both guns the use of a 2-piece recoil spring and guide rod was an anachronistic nuisance, when most striker-fired guns I’ve seen have simpler to install 1-piece units. I guess it’s a tradition thing with 1911’s. Overall, if it weren’t for the safety lever issue, I feel the Sig is a mechanically better gun than the Kimber. But both guns shoot accurately, look nice, and are very easy to conceal.

    1 year ago
  • ray

    great review

    2 years ago
  • COB

    Bought this gun in Sept 2016. It's been back for repairs 2 times. Slide stop come off in the middle of a shoot. They keep telling me it's normal.....their solution was to send me 2 extra slide pins. Bought this weapon for defense purposes. Can just see me telling an intruder to stay still while I put the slide pin back in so I can shoot him........very disappointed.

    2 years ago
  • Ken Smith

    Have a sig P238 and have been having problems with it ejecting the casings. The casings get lodged in the slide. Any help here?

    2 years ago
    • Bobo

      Check your grip, had a friend who found it to be so soft shooting that they didn't grip it as tight as they should have and had the same issue, made the adjustment and problem was solved.

      2 years ago
      • E. Ryan

        With this little beastie that is likely the cause. I found that I had the same issue about 5 times in 150 rounds and every time it happened I shored up my grip again. It really doesn't feel like it's kicking back much compared to my main carry (SA's EMP9 3") so I now have to retrain myself to grip the same even when it feels like I'm shooting an over confident pellet I can not fault the weapon for my mistakes.

        2 years ago
    • Johnny Lest

      Check the ammo

      2 years ago
  • Robert Protasewich

    Could not finish my post. Would like to see a review of the newer Sig P938. Like most newer concealed carry people--I do not want to buy different types of ammo--would like to stay with 9 mm. Also the Gun Noob article on the P238 had an error. It referenced the "P239". Thinking that was a typo as there is no such Sig model. Keep up the good work on the gun reviews.

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi Robert, thanks for catching that and we're looking to do an update soon!

      2 years ago
  • Robert Protasewich

    Read the Sig P238 Review by Gun noob. Any chance of updating this Review with the new

    2 years ago
  • Fred

    own3 380's; sig is the queen; never one ftf or misfire

    2 years ago
  • Mike

    I'm wondering, did you mean to say P239 under Poor Technique? Or did you mean P238?

    2 years ago
  • Luke

    Went to Lgs yesterday to browse, and came across this little p238 with rosewood grips. Never held one before. As soon as I held it, I knew I had to have it. Owner said it was a return and said he shot 2 full boxes through it before he put in the case. Said the guy just didn't like it. I offered him some $$ and it's mine now. I love it!!! Sweet little gun. I got it so cheap I almost feel guilty. One shot and you know it's quality.

    5 years ago
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