By Bill Caffrey – HCA Editorial Advisor
For years, SIG has cataloged a .380 pistol in the form of their P-232 pistol. It is a sleek looking semi-auto with a distinctive European look. In today marketplace, with more powerful mini and micro 9mm pistols available, some are going to ask why SIG decided to build yet another .380 pistol. The answer is quite simple, really.
Ever since Colt stopped producing their .380 Government and Mustang series, there’s been a large void in the market for a small, durable, metal-framed .380 pistol. Not everyone wants a double-action pistol. And, some of us want a small, metal framed gun that can’t crack if we sit down on it before remembering we’re carrying it.
The SIG P238 looks nothing so much as a reinvention of the Colt Mustang with SIG lines and much better 3-dot sights. Like the Colt, it’s slim, thanks to a single-stack six-round magazine and it’s a single-action pistol. Like the Mustang, the SIG is so compact that it’s not legal in California or Massachusetts. That alone should make you want one, or at least send SIG a thank-you card.
At 3.9-inches tall and just 5.5-inches long with a narrow 1.1-inch width the P238 is just big enough to get a good grip on it. Compared to the traditional SIG P232, this little pistol is an inch smaller in height & length and 1/10th of an inch narrower.
The outward appearance to the Colt is obvious with it’s “Baby 1911″ looks. The thumb safety is large enough to be operated easily, it has a slight beavertail and a Commander-style hammer. With a 2.7 inch barrel, the SIG P238 can easily disappear into a front or back pocket. The resemblance is solely external, however, as the P238 has a standard SIG barrel and lockup.
I liked the addition of grooves in the front strap to aid in controlling the gun. The aluminum grip panels work well too. You might think they’d get slippery in wet or sweaty hands, but they don’t. The box-stock trigger pull is supposed to measure 5 pounds. The one I test fired, courtesy of an out-of-California friend, tipped our scale crisply at just under 5.25 pounds.
At 15.2 oz unloaded and about 17.8 loaded, the SIG is light enough to carry almost anywhere, thanks to the aluminum alloy frame. Like Colt’s Mustang, the gun is just large enough that most of us with average size hands can get a solid two-finger grip.
This little SIG is available in five finishes. The all black Nitron-finished model, a stainless version (HD), a two-tone version with a stainless slide and black frame that looks really sharp, SIG’s Equinox and a Rainbow Titanium finish that’ll add pizzazz to a personal gun or one purchased as a gift.
SIG has already notified customers that any P238 with a serial number between DA000501 and DA003216 should be returned to SIG to upgrade the thumb safety. Apparently some early production guns mount a safety lever that is out-of-spec and may not engage fully. If your gun hasn’t been upgraded or you need to know its status, contact SIG SAUER CUSTOMER SERVICE at 603-772-2302.
The P238 is fun to shoot and the recoil is pleasurably mild. Understand that when it fires you know it, but the recoil isn’t bothersome. The slightly heavier weight how well it fills the hand contributes to the ease of shooting. Even scaled down, John Browning’s classic design proves to have good ergonomics. But, it is loud due to the short barrel.
Time didn’t permit us extensive testing, but shooting a variety of FMJ and JHP’s from Federal, Cor-Bon and Speer showed the P238 wasn’t a picky eater. At 7 yards, the better 3-dot sights allowed me to keep all the shots easily inside the 9-ring on a B-27 silhouette target. One handed shooting was almost as good since the P238 pointed well for me. Muzzle rise was minimal and the sights are easy to return to target.
Since the SIG P238 is a single action, it will not be a good choice for those who want to drop a small pistol in their pocket and forget about it. A cocked & locked single action pistol needs more care, thought, discipline and a decent holster for safe carry. One should expect ugly things to happen if the Sig is carried in a casual manner and you toss in car keys or other items.
The P238 does not have a magazine disconnector to prevent firing if the magazine is removed. Nor does it have a chamber-loaded indicator.
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Finish: black aluminum frame, stainless slide either natural or with a black nitron finish
- Action type: single-action only
- Safety: external thumb
- Capacity: 6+1
- Weight (w/o mag): 15.2 oz.
- Overall length: 5.5 in.
- Height: 3.9 in.
- Width: 1.1 in.
- Barrel length: 2.7 inches
- Sights: 3-dot (white), SIGLIGHT night sights available
- Trigger pull: 5 lbs.
- MSRP: $543-$600