Let’s face it, .380 ACP pistols often get a bad rep, or at the very least, are overlooked in favor of their 9mm and .45 ACP counterparts.
But the micro-compact .380 can serve a purpose – mainly as a gateway gun to gun ownership, a backup gun for when SHTF, or as an alternative when fashion dictates a teeny-tiny gun.
And today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite .380s…the Sig Sauer P238.
Hitting the scene in 2009, this micro pistol delivers a 1911 vibe but in the tiniest form. That said, can it really compete in a market full of striker-fired 9mms?
We’re going to find out.
So, let’s run through the specs, talk about some features, hit the range, and ultimately decide if it deserves a space in the concealed carry sphere.
If you’ve thought about grabbing this tiny .380 ACP, you’ll want to keep reading…
Table of Contents
Sig Sauer P238 Specs & Features
As I mentioned earlier, the Sig Sauer P238 is a 1911 inspired .380 ACP micro-compact pistol. One look at this gun, and you’re instantly going to think Colt Mustang…I mean, it’s hard not to. Just look at it.
But what that means is you get a tiny pistol that isn’t going to bog you down. In fact, weighing in at 15-ish ounces means you can barely feel it while carrying – but more on that in a minute.
Lengthwise it measures 5.5 inches with a 2.7-inch barrel.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
This single-action-only handgun sports a magazine capacity of 6+1 or 7+1 depending on your mag. But it’s a micro-compact, so is it a surprise that capacity suffers here? The answer to that is no.
Sig offers a few models in the P238 family — some more basic than others. My particular version brings rosewood grips and an engraved Nitron stainless steel slide.
While I usually don’t prioritize aesthetics when buying guns, I admit this variant is gorgeous. The engravings class this joint up, and it tends to turn heads at the range.
To say she’s a looker is an understatement.
Topping off some of its more notable features are SigLite Night Sights.
Standard white sights are annoying, so having a front sight post that stands out is a huge blessing on the range.
Finally, the P238 ships with a manual safety.
If you’re used to 1911s, you’re likely not shocked by this addition. But if you’re not accustomed to working a safety, you’re going to want to put in the practice to become proficient.
As someone who carries a striker-fired pistol 90% of the time, there’s a learning curve here – which is why I relegate this gun to my special circumstances carry pile.
But if you love that 1911 vibe and are comfy with operating a manual safety, you’ll be fine.
I will note, the safety felt stiff initially. So, you might have to work it in a little to get it to the point that it feels comfortable.
But that’s a minor detail that will likely resolve over time and use.
The frame itself is hard coat anodized and feels pretty sturdy. This gun has been shoved into a few different carry situations with me and has proved durable during its time in my service.
Now with the specifics out of the way, let’s talk about range performance.
To the Range!
In truth, I’ve owned this P238 for over two years, and it’s held up.
It’s seen well over 1,000 rounds through it, and it just keeps going. In my experience, .380s can sometimes be particular with ammo, but that’s not the case here.
I have used high-quality ammo and dirty brass, and the P238 takes both like a champ.
Not to mention, it’s a very smooth shooting pistol. Tiny guns can sometimes be difficult to control because, let’s face it; there’s not a lot to grab here.
But that’s the beauty of the .380 pairing. .380 ACP is a mild round, so it works well in this micro-compact.
Recoil is minor and controllable, and it’s a pleasant gun to plink with – easily one you can shoot for a while without getting sick and tired of.
But – because there’s always a but — I could see where shooters with larger hands might struggle. It’s so tiny that large hands would likely engulf the pea shooter, making it hard to get a satisfying grip on.
So, I would caution those with larger hands to try this gun out before buying – lest you walk away with buyer’s remorse.
If, however, you are on the petite side as I am, the P238 shouldn’t be a problem to grip. In fact, it’s pretty darn comfortable.
While shooting, it becomes pretty evident how useful those SigLite sights are. Against targets, they stand out well enough to grab your eyes and bring them where they need to be.
All in all, I’ve been really pleased with the Sig’s performance.
It seems reliable, holds up at the range, and is a fun one to plink with – assuming you have the money and time to source ammo during these trying times.
How Does it Carry?
I originally bought the Sig P238 because I needed a micro-compact when my usual EDC, a Shadow Systems MR920, wouldn’t work.
For me, that means going out on dates or to events where I might be in dresses or skirts.
Though I prefer to step down to a Smith & Wesson Shield to keep with a striker-fired 9mm platform, I sometimes find myself in clothes that require something smaller and lighter.
And the P238 fits the bill.
I can easily slip this gun into a Can Can Concealment Garter Holster under shorter dresses or skirts.
It also nestles into an ankle holster pretty well – though I don’t find myself carrying this way often.
And, when I grace the soccer or football fields with my kids, I can tuck it into the Alexo Athletica shorts, skirt, or yoga pants.
It simply disappears underneath clothes, and no one is the wiser.
Now, you are stuck with a 6+1/7+1 capacity. In a world of midsize and compact guns sporting 10 or 15+ rounds, that feels a little lackluster.
That is until you remember the gun’s purpose.
This isn’t your heavy-hitting zombie apocalypse gun. Instead, this is your last resort BUG or the gun you have when you can’t carry anything else.
In short, it’s better than nothing. But I do recommend you grab an extra mag and take it along on your adventures.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room…it’s a .380, so it lacks the same oomph as 9mm and .45 ACP.
Is that a dealbreaker?
Not really, so long as you take that into consideration as you carry. Shot placement is key here, folks.
While I prefer 9mm for carry, newer shooters intimidated by 9mm would likely feel very comfortable with this gun.
And if a .380 will get you to carry and practice, then, by all means, use a .380. No judgment here.
Not to mention, the manual safety offers that extra layer of security most new shooters prefer.
Want to know what the PPT crew carries? Check out our article here!
By the Numbers
It’s a micro-compact, so it might be an issue for meatier hands. For me, though, it works.
I’ve had this gun for over two years, and it’s still going with no stoppages in sight.
While it’s no Glock, there are upgrades you can make including new grips, sights, and even a laser if you’re so inclined.
Depending on which model you spring for, it can be pricey, especially compared to the Ruger LCP. But if you want something reminiscent of a 1911 and you don’t mind paying a little more, you can’t go wrong with the P238.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
It’s a soft shooting .380 ACP with a nice aesthetic and reliable nature — the perfect companion when it comes to situations that require ultra-concealment.
For newcomers to concealed carry or shooting in general, the mild .380 paired with Sig’s 1911-esque design works well as an entry-level pistol.
Alternatively, seasoned shooters looking for a backup gun or micro-compact for concealed carry will also be pleased with what the P238 offers.
For me, it’s for special occasions and outfits that prevent me from carrying the S&W Shield or MR920. And it would serve you well under the same conditions, as a BUG, or as a first-time purchase.
Sig Sauer P238 Gun Deals
What do you think of the Sig Sauer P238? Let me know in the comments below. Want to know what other .380s are out there? Check out our guide to the Best .380 Pistols.
30 Leave a Reply
Wonderful review, been considering one of these for a while. Maybe I should bite the bullet and give it a try.
What edition is that 238? It looks absolutely beautiful! Couldn't find it on Google.
Took my new P238 to the range for the first time today. What a great shooting little gun. So comfortable with minimal recoil. Nice grip with extended magazines. Great trigger. Surprisingly accurate with big night sights. This gun is a winner!
The P238 was my first CCW gun, and to this day I still love this little sucker! I can shoot 3-inch groupings at 15 yards. Safety? No problem if you train properly - as anyone who carries concealed should. I wonder why when you are addressing the small grip issue you don't bring up the fact that the optional extended mag provides the perfect place for your pinky thus also providing a fuller more comfortable grip for those folks with bigger hands. I bought 4 extra of those extended mags since they are so easy to conceal in pockets and purse, and they make the grip of the gun perfect.
My primary reason for purchasing/carrying this gun was due to my arthritic hands/fingers and lack of strength for racking slides. As I practiced and shot more, I eventually built up my strength, and now the P238 feels like a toy! I have since "graduated" to the 9mm P938 (with extended mag) which I alternate between my Springfield EMP 9 and Glock 19. I much prefer the 9mm round, so the P938 provides the compact size of the P238 (the 938 is only slightly larger) with the more powerful 9mm round. Also, the P938 is just as easy to rack as the 238.
As for comparison with the M&P Shield 9... the M&P fits my hand like a glove, however it is MUCH more difficult to rack. I packed it for awhile, but my strength has diminished with the progression of arthritis, so I have stopped carrying and even shooting the Shield. I live in Commyfornia, so I don't have the option of purchasing any of the newer "off roster" pistols (thank you for that Kackling Kamala!), so I have no opportunity to try the Shield EZ, Glock 43X, etc.
My wife carried a P238 for years while I carried a P938. I finally let go of my P938 for a P365. But when her hands couldn’t use it anymore and she went to a .22 revolver, I kept her P238. Why? There’s no noticeable recoil-less than any other I’ve used. And the P238 is a tack driver at 7 yards. I feel more comfortable carrying it cocked and locked with the safety in a soft pocket holster than a striker fired without a safety. It’s fun to shoot and works good in an ankle holster as a BUG gun.
I would also take a look at the P238 Legion. Its a bit larger grips and looks nice. Its my go to CC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
just got my sig sauer p238 in stainless steel pick it up in 4 days:)
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.
Excellent review. This gun was a delight to shoot and carry.
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
Nice, glad you found the one for you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have a sig P238 and have been having problems with it ejecting the casings. The casings get lodged in the slide. Any help here?
Check the ammo
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.
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.
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.
Hi Robert, thanks for catching that and we're looking to do an update soon!
Read the Sig P238 Review by Gun noob. Any chance of updating this Review with the new
own3 380's; sig is the queen; never one ftf or misfire
I'm wondering, did you mean to say P239 under Poor Technique? Or did you mean P238?
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.