So, a lot longer ago than I realized I received a SIG SAUER P238 for review:
That's the MA-compliant Nitron version (there are over 20 versions!) which comes with one magazine, a very cute kydex OWB holster (or IWB for lefties), a small tube of lube, and a chamber flag (along with several trees' worth of paper in the form of manuals, warnings, and other assorted legalese). It all comes in the standard SIG plastic lockable box, and this model comes with SIG's SIGLITE night sights.
The P238 is obviously influenced by the Colt Mustang. The design, controls, size; everything about the P238 is similar to Colt's 1911-based micro-380. Barrel length, overall length, and weight are very close to the littlest Pony; in fact, don't tell anyone, but I picked up a second magazine for the P238 - a Colt Mustang magazine - and it worked fine. Being a fan of the 1911, and also of the pocket pistol, the P238 was a natural fit for the armory.
Fit and finish on the P238 is top notch. The slide is done in SIG's Nitron finish, the frame is anodized black, and the grips are polymer (although I couldn't resist and found a nice pair of Hogue wood grips for it - much dressier!). While it weighs in at less than a pound loaded, it feels solid in the hand - not like you're trying to hang on for dear life. It's an excellent balance of light weight and usable size.
Carrying the P238
Obviously, a firearm this small is designed to be carried, and it was carried quite a bit. Some have issues with the idea of pocket-carrying a single-action only firearm with the hammer cocked on a loaded chamber, and while I can understand the issues, the safety on the P238 is very solid and did not move in all the time it was carried. It fits all the standard holsters that I have for pocket pistols:
It's in the molded kydex SIG holster, and under it are an Uncle Mike's #1 pocket holster, a Dragon Leatherworks Chimaera, and a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster. The P238 fits in all three (although I will admit to bias towards the Chimaera, naturally) and doesn't carry any differently than the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 that is normally in the Chimaera. The weight is within an ounce or so of the Bodyguard 380, and the dimensions are so close that they fit the same holsters.
Here's the P238 in comparison with two other pocket 380s:
Kel-Tec P3AT on the left and the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 on the right. There's little appreciable difference in size between the three pistols, although the Kel-Tec is significantly lighter than the other two (and thinner). The P238 carries just fine in a pocket, and I saw no noticeable difference between it and the Bodyguard 380 when carried in a front or rear pocket.
Shooting the P238
What sets the SIG SAUER P238 apart from other pocket 380s is the single-action only trigger. It's much lighter than the DAO triggers of the other guns, which translates into less of a learning curve from a long pull, heavy trigger DOA. The size and heft of the P238 are well-suited for the 380 ACP - it's nowhere near as snappy in the P238 as in the P3AT - and it was much easier to shoot the P238 than even the Bodyguard 380. Up until I shot the P238, the BG 380 was my gold standard for "shootable" pocket 380s. It's still one of my faves, but the P238 is easier to shoot.
Not too shabby for a pocket pistol with a 2.7" barrel! That's at 25 feet with the magazine emptied as quickly as I could pull the trigger. Slower, more carefully aimed fire results in even tighter groups - and superior handgunners were able to shrink the 25' groups to a single ragged hole.
Reliability was excellent, with the only notable exception being the steel-cased Tulammo .380 ACP. I could not get the P238 to function with the Tulammo at all. All brass-cased ammunition, from Winchester White Box to Federal Hydra-shoks, fed, fired, and ejected reliably in the P238. It didn't seem to prefer any particular bullet shape - the flattened nose WWB worked just as well as the pointier hollowpoints and the standard round FMJ from Remington/UMC.
Recoil, while noticeable, was entirely manageable (although this is coming from someone that shoots a 12 ounce .357 Magnum, so consider the source). The P238 doesn't jump around between shots, making followup shots (a necessity for the marginal 380 round) much easier. The SIGLITE night sights are easy to use even in daylight, and while I didn't do any night shooting, they really do stand out in low light conditions (and they scared the HELL out of me the first time I opened the pistol safe...)
Cleaning the P238
Another pleasant surprise from the SIG SAUER P238 came at cleaning time. It's quite easy to take apart for cleaning: simply rack the slide so that the dimple behind the slide lock notch is over the edge of the slide release, push the pin out, and slide the slide off the frame. Remove the barrel and recoil spring, and it's ready for a scrubbing:
There's no pins to punch out (or have a hard time getting back in, yes, Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380, I'm looking at yooooouuuu), it slides out with the push of your finger (or a pen cap or other non-marring pointy surface). Everything comes apart quickly and easily and goes back together the same way. It's entirely possible to clean this on the fly like a full sized gun.
Specifications (from SIG SAUER Spec sheet):
Item Number: 238-380-BSS, 238M-380-BSS
Caliber: .380 ACP (9mm short)
Action Type: SAO
Trigger Pull DA: N/A
Trigger Pull SA: 7.5-8.5 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: Contrast or SIGLITE Night Sights
Grips: Fluted Polymer Grips
Frame Finish: Black Hard Coat Anodized
Slide Finish: Nitron
Accessory Rail: No
Features: Beavertail style frame, fluted grips
The SIG SAUER P238 has an identity crisis. It's a small gun that thinks it's a full size gun. This might lead to problems for the P238 in schoolyard fights, with it picking on guns much larger than itself for caliber wars, but it makes for a pleasant shooting experience, a small gun that shoots like one much larger than itself. It's easy to carry, disappearing into a pocket or inside a waistband, with a size (and weight) suitable for having with you all day long.
There are less expensive pocket 380s out there, but none have the panache of a micro-1911 in your pocket!
That is all.