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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.

.380 ACP Round
.380 ACP Round

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.

Rock Island Midsize 1911 vs Fullsize
Rock Island Midsize 1911 vs Fullsize

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.

Popular Pistol Calibers
Popular Pistol Calibers

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…

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.

at GunMag Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Overall 4/5


The SIG P238 gives you the classic styling and function of a 1911, with the convenience and size of a pocket pistol. It’s a serious joy to carry and shoot. The starter kit is rather sparse, but the quality of this little pistol makes up for it.

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.

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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!

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25 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    John T Turner

    Looking at some of the comments. Yes it is so damn accurate. And yes it’s got a great trigger. In fact I can keep all rounds at 25 yards inside the thoracic cavity. Damn. But that’s not what this pistol is designed for.
    Get on your gun belt, inside the waistband holster, your P238, extra mag and practice clearing, drawing and putting rounds on target at 3/5/7 and 10 yards. Slow fire at 25 yards? Meaningless.
    Oh yes. Mines never had a malfunction either but I practice the 3 malfunction drills and the two reloads, emergency and tactical.

    June 8, 2020 1:56 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John T Turner

    I have a P238. It’s the main reason I went from owning one Sig to now 11.
    It’s my summer carry pistol. Or maybe my only carry pistol
    However I don’t recommend this pistol for many folks. It’s not one you get your significant other who’s not familiar with firearms or who isn’t into dry practice. Why! SAO pistol! Very easy (esp if you’re new to guns, etc.) to have a negligent discharge.
    Also very easy to forget about the 1911 style safety and lose a second or two wondering why your gun doesn’t fire.
    It may not be the right carry pistol if you’re someone who plays around with which gun to carry today!! Oh! My gun didn’t fire! That’s right! Today isn’t Glock day or DA/SA day. It’s 1911 day and I forgot about the safety!
    So sad. He was such a nice guy but that brain fart caused him to get shot.
    So really if a P238 is your carry gun then make sure it’s your one and only.

    June 8, 2020 1:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Its so darn reliable and accurate I shoot it at my local IPSC range after practicing with my full sized 2011 and essily hit plates at 15 yards. The recoil is light enough for novice shooters too. I love this itty bitty gun. 100% carry.

    May 6, 2020 1:55 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I picked up a Sig P238 ASE model for $600 and couldn't be more pleased. 15 oz 380 pistol with almost nonexistent recoil. This pistol is FUN to shoot at the range while my Ruger LCP (1st version) is not fun to shoot at all.
    I have fired hollow points, FMJs, and have not had a failure of any kind after firing 2500 rds.
    The ASE, alloy stainless elite, version comes with 6 and 7 rd magazines.
    The price drives some buyers away but I will use an analogy here.............when I was looking for a motorcycle helmut The cost of helmuts varied from cheap to expensive. I asked the salesperson what the difference was and he said, " If you have a $50 head buy a $50 helmut".
    The trigger on the 238 is excellent and @ 5 lbs single action. The trigger on my LCP was 9 lbs and had a very long travel.......NO comparison.
    I own a Sig P230 but the 238 is much better for pocket carry.

    January 13, 2020 5:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    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

    August 22, 2019 7:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Abe Maidaa

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

    April 9, 2019 2:20 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    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.

    March 24, 2019 2:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

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

    November 14, 2018 10:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    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

    March 22, 2018 11:48 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Nice, glad you found the one for you!

      March 26, 2018 3:29 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    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.

    February 25, 2018 3:14 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      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.

      February 26, 2018 8:30 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    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.

    November 7, 2017 4:47 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    great review

    May 6, 2017 6:11 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    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.

    April 21, 2017 8:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    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?

    March 5, 2017 11:47 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Johnny Lest

      Check the ammo

      March 12, 2017 10:17 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      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.

      March 25, 2017 9:00 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        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 gun...lol

        I can not fault the weapon for my mistakes.

        June 15, 2017 8:49 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    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.

    December 31, 2016 5:45 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

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

      January 3, 2017 10:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert Protasewich

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

    December 31, 2016 5:38 am
  • Commenter Avatar

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

    December 5, 2016 12:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

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

    September 9, 2016 2:32 am
  • Commenter 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.

    April 12, 2014 7:52 pm