Review of the Sig Sauer P238

I have been looking for a concealed carry pistol, and in my previous reviews, I was considering a Bersa .380, a Beretta 21 Bobcat .22 LR, and the Ruger LCR .38 Special. After a trip to the range with our friend’s LCR, I decided that my desire for a revolver was misplaced. Even with the light trigger of the LCR, I have a tendency to pull the gun to the side, and, being a short barrel, my aim was way off. It reminded me of the snub nose .38 Smith & Wesson I inherited from my grandfather. I could not hit the broad side of a barn with that thing, so I traded it in years ago towards a used hunting rifle at a local dealer’s shop. I hadn’t owned or shot handguns for years, until 2008, when we got a S&W M&P 9mm. And I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with it for accuracy and use. In fact, I love that gun. But it is too big for me for a concealed carry. Some larger guys may be able to carry and hide something that large, but at 5’ 8”, the only way I can carry that is in a holster. So the quest was on for a smaller concealed carry pistol.

Visiting my local dealer, Nesbit’s Guns, in New Castle, PA, I compared the Bersa and the Beretta, and found that the Bersa was not as compact as I remembered, although it is an easy pistol to operate and it shoots well. I was also considering the Beretta for size and concealability, but Jeff Nesbit’s original shipment of Berettas had a safety that took two hands to flick off. I thought that would not be very advantageous in an emergency situation. (Jeff returned those and got another shipment I tried out later and the safety was just fine on those.) I think, all in all, the Beretta would have been my second choice, and I’d still like to get one for my wife when she gets her concealed carry permit.

P238-Blackwood Sig Sauer

Jeff encouraged me to consider the Sig Sauer .380 as a concealed carry. While not as small as the Beretta, it fits nicely in my pocket if it is the only thing I have in there. It has a safety switch, and the quality of construction is superb. Jeff’s main line of reasoning was this: “If you are in a life or death situation, God forbid, what price is your life worth? Do you want something inexpensive, or do you want something that is top quality?” Jeff and I are friends, he’s not just a store owner, and he was speaking to me about his belief in the quality of the gun for himself. In the end, after a few weeks of reading reviews and research, I decided to get the Sig Sauer P238 Blackwood. I like the feel in my hand and it looks nice, although looks are a secondary consideration.

To the Range – Breaking In the Sig P238 with Different Types of Ammo.

Even though I have a concealed carry permit, I will not carry a gun until I am completely familiar with it and comfortable with it’s operation and peculiarities. So over the past several weeks, I’ve taken the Sig out to the range. Reviews I’ve read of almost all compact 380’s say that they have a tendency to jam when new and that you have to break them in, preferably shooting at least 200 rounds through them. To date, I’ve had the Sig fail to eject a cartridge two times: once on Hornady Critical Defense 90 grain FTX and once on Winchester 95 Grain Full Metal Jacket Target/Range load. When I say fail to eject, the casing is partially ejected and the slide closes on the casing, locking up the firing mechanism. However, there was a cartridge in the chamber. To clear the slide, I had to drop the magazine and roll the pistol sideways and pull back on the slide. If a cartridge is in the chamber, once you pull back on the slide, the cartridge will drop out through the empty grip. I have now shot just over 200 rounds in this pistol.

The only other problem I have had with the pistol is that 2 times, when I released the slide, a cartridge was not loaded into the chamber. I am not sure what happened the first time, but the second time I did not have the magazine completely inserted into the pistol. It should snap into place when fully inserted. Since then, I always roll the pistol to check and see if a cartridge is in the chamber, and this problem has not recurred. So, I would say the problem was user error and not the pistol itself.

Aiming the Pistol:

Unlike my other pistol, where you aim in the 6 o’clock position, I found the P238 to be most accurate when I put the front site right on the target to cover it. When I aimed at 6 o’clock, I was shooting low. The other difficulty with a short barreled pistol is that is is much harder to line up the sites accurately and you are more apt to be at a variance on the target with the slightest misalignment. I found that was shooting consistently to the left of the bulls-eye, and it took me a long while to get on target. As I begin to practice with a new firearm, I start slowly, taking full time to aim with one eye, until I get used to the feel of the firearm. But as I progress, I try to operate it as if I were in a panic situation without being able to take time to slowly aim. In this case, I keep both eyes open and look at the target, not the sites. As I get used to the pistol, my accuracy with this method improves markedly. I learned this technique, since I have not been through a self defense training course, from years of skeet shooting, where you must watch the target and anticipate, but not try to aim down the barrel of the shotgun. If you try to aim, you’ll miss every time, but if you follow the target with your eyes and move the gun with your body, you can become very accurate.

The Ammunition

To date, I’ve shot four types of ammunition through the Sig.

The first time out, I shot 50 rounds of Blazer while getting used to the gun. I had no problems with it, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy, compared to the Winchester, because I was just learning how to shoot it. I also shot about 70 rounds of the Winchester ammo. One of the odd things I noticed is that several of the Winchester casings were bent when I retrieved them. I suspect that the force of the ejection, hitting the low roof of the range, and thin brass casings on the target load made this ammo subject to damage.

Winchester Casings Bent on ejection
Winchester .380 ACP Casings Bent on ejection

I don’t think you could use these casings for reloading. However, aside from the one ejection failure noted above, I had no problem with the Winchester ammunition. I was able to improve my accuracy shooting the rest of the 100 rounds my next time out.

My last time out, I was sent a box of Sellier & Bellot ammo to test. Now, as an amateur to intermediate pistol shooter, you’ll have to take my review with a grain of salt, because any inaccuracy on the target itself may be due to my limited abilities and not to the ammunition. But wanting to give this ammo the fairest test that I could, I set a target up at 25 yards (arguably too far for short barreled .380 ACP accuracy). I then rested my hands on the bench and aimed carefully. At 25 yards, the L&B seemed to be shooting left and in a 14” group. So, I put in some of the Hornady ammo, and did the same bench rest shooting. I was able to bulls-eye the target at 25 yards. The grouping was more like 8”.

Lellier & Bellot FMJ 92 grain, Browning Court, made in Czech Republic
Final Grouping at 7 yards

After moving from the bench and shooting up about 20 rounds of the S&B at 25 yards, I then moved in to 7 yards and started again. This time the S&B performed very well using two handed, standing position.. See the target.. I could not see any difference between the performance of the S&B at that range and the Hornady. Since most assaults or confrontations that might require an armed response happen within 7 yards, I feel perfectly comfortable putting either the S&B or the Hornady in my concealed carry, and don’t have any fear that either will fail to hit the target. Hopefully, the ejection jam problem will not ever occur again, but even if it does, I hope the first shot will be all I need. I’ll keep practicing with it and see if I encounter any troubles.
Burn marks on .380 shells

One other thing I notice with all the ammo except the Hornady is the burn marks on the brass. Not sure if this is a characteristic of .380 short barrel powder burns or just the way these cartridges are made.

By Jefferis Kent Peterson 

Specifications of the Sig Sauer P238
 Item Number 238-380-BG
  Caliber .380 ACP (9mm short)
  Action Type SAO
  Trigger Pull DA N/A
  Trigger Pull SA 8.0 lbs
  Overall Length 5.5 in
  Overall Height 3.9 in
  Overall Width 1.1 in
  Barrel Length 2.7 in
  Sight Radius 3.8 in
  Weight w/Mag 15.2 oz
  Mag Capacity 6 Rounds
  Sights SIGLITE® Night Sights
  Grips Blackwood Grips
  Frame Finish Black Hard Coat Anodized
  Slide Finish Natural Stainless
  Accessory Rail No
  Features Beavertail style frame, Blackwood grips
  MSRP $738.00
  CA Compliant No
  MA Compliant No

21 thoughts on “Review of the Sig Sauer P238

  1. Nice review. I also purchased the 238 , in April of 2012. I really am impressed with this pistol the more I shoot it. It is also easy to carry every day. I can carry my cz po7 duty in the colder months, but when the extra clothes and coats are not required, it is almost impossible to conceal. That is why I bought the sig. The real reason I am responding to your review is the pictures of the casings you posted. I have noticed several of my spent shells in the same condition. I always shoot outdoors. did this occur with the Hornady and S&B? I have yet to shoot any critical defense ammo. I have put apprx. 200 rounds through the sig so far. Thanks for the review, just now found it and you are the first to mention the casing issue. Do you think this is a problem? Or is it due to cheaper grade ammo? I have had one failure to eject with the pistol ever, with no other problems in firing or loading. Does your slide always lock on last round fired from a magazine. Mine did not lock back at first but is now starting to with more rounds through it during the break- in process. I read in the sig site that this can be a “normal” occurrence during break-in and can be the result of ammo used. I have really only tried one type of ammo so far. Federal fmj. Guess I will just have to try some different bands of ammo and see how it goes. Again thanks for the nice review.

    • Hi Bill, this is Jeff Peterson, owner of the Sig. As I recall, it was only the target load ammo that had the bent casings. If you shoot outdoors and saw this, it must be the eject strength in the gun itself that is causing the bend. I would not think it is a problem. It must be the thinner casing of the target loads. Id did not have the problem of the pistol not locking back after the last round. I assume you mean also that you had NOT one failure to eject? If so, I can correct your post…

      Jeff

      • Thanks for the reply Jeff. I thought I had proofread, but that one got by me. I HAVE had 1 fail to eject in the rounds I have fired. The not locking back has also ended as of the last time I shot the pistol this last weekend. I have really enjoyed shooting this pistol. Once I start shooting, I can’t stop till there are 8 rounds left. Gotta have some just in case. Thanks for the review and reply.

        Bill

  2. Nice post, guys. I”ve had my Sig P238 for 2 years, and have put around 500 rounds through it. It has not jammed once. I love the gun, and feel great whenever I conceal carry. Keep up the good work!

  3. Great post man. Im only 22 with my concealed carry permit and this is my first pistol. I bought it for concealment purposes I have put nearly 500 rounds through it and I love it.

      • I also purchased a sig p238 in dec 2012. love the gun but noticed I was shooting great groups from 25′ to 75′ only about 4″ to 5 ” low. liked the comment from an earlier post saying he had the same problem . he said to cover the target with the front sight. I tried I and works but is really hard for me to change my way of aiming. am looking into changing the front sight. [non adjustable] has anyone dealt with this issue before. my rear sight is adjustable but only for windage. will I have to change both front and rear sights and what is a favorite sight too consider. I want some kind of night sight

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  5. I just bought my first handgun, the P238 and have yet to fire it. I’m a small female 4’9″, 100lb female and other than the Glock this was the first I found in 2 years where I could easily work the slide. I normally shoot my S&W .38 but want to get a carry conceal and this sounds perfect. I really look forward to shooting it this week. And it’s so pretty too.

  6. hello. I love my P238. However, I bought extra magazines (Sig Sauer made). They have an extended lip at the bottom. For some reason, when I use the new magazines, the slide does not lock open after shooting the rounds. It closes.
    Unlike when using the original clip – the slide stays open after finishing the round.
    Any thoughts? And should this concern me?
    Karen

  7. Just bot a Sig P238 Nitro. Took it to the range today with 150 rounds of Winchester FMJ/Target. Have 2 extended magazines (7 rounds). Handled well, great feel & no problems for first couple firings. Then I noticed that during firings the magazine would “eject” about 1/8″ after 2nd/3rd shot. At first, thought it was “me” putting my thumb on the magazine eject button but did a couple more magazines alert to that and same problem. Had the range master take a look; he fired a few shots from both magazines; same issue–magazine “ejects” about 1/8″ after 2nd/3rd shot. Anyone experiencing that with the P238? Anyone have ideas on possible cause? All comments appreciated. Many thanks! Dave

    • Dave, did you buy the pistol here? Are the extended rounds aftermarket by Sig? I have the standard 6 round and don’t have that problem.

      • Wow!!! Thanks for quick reply! I bot the pistol at an Academy store in San Antonio, TX. One of my 2 extended rounds clips came with the pistol; the 2nd I bot aftermarket (Sig Sauer branding) at local reputable gun shop. Cannot tell clips apart now but BOTH do the same! Thinking about buying a standard 6 round and see if that cures problem. May call Sig Monday AM too. Other thoughts??? BTW: I like your site! Current, informative, rapid reply-THANK YOU!

    • Try this with an empty mag…
      Fully insert the mag in your (unloaded) pistol. Then, without pressing the mag release, try pulling the mag out. I suspect it will pull out about 1/8″. If that’s the case, it sounds like a mfg defect, or perhaps those mags were originally made for another pistol.

    • I and my Brother both have p238 pistols and we both have had the same problem that you described. Fire pne or two rnds. and the mag drops down about a 1/4″. I like you thought that I was hitting the mag release. Now I am not so sure now that I find others are having the same problem. It might be time to talk to a SS rep. and see just how much of a problem this is. Thanks for your comments Dave. John

    • I purchased the Sig w/rose wood grips. Sent it back to Sig w/failure to load issues. They recommended using Federal ammo. Took it to the range yesterday and fired 100 rounds of Sig Performance ammo. Had two failure to loads, one stove pipe, magazine came out 1/8 inch after two rounds and the slide always fails to lock back after last round. Had the same issues with Federal ammo.
      I can’t trust this pistol and am sending it back to Sig. I purchased an HK P30sk LEM to carry.

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