SIG-Sauer P238

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SIG-Sauer P238  
The muzzle is well finished. Note the luxury, for a defense sub compact handgun, of having a front sight bead as a separate part mounted in a dovetail machined slot

After several changes of its American headquarters, Sig Sauer has now settled in Exeter - New Hampshire, and that’s where the P238 comes from. It is not the first case of a European company that, to satisfy market strategies, opens a factory in America where there is a huge demand for handguns. Among other things, the P238 semiautomatic handgun vaguely resembles the venerable 1911 Colt. This should ensure the success of small SIG-Sauer among  .45 Government, a handgun that still has many followers. The 9mm Short pistols usually have a blowback system. There is nothing to complain about this system as long as you carry the weapon locked and loaded, with the round in barrel and there are no malfunctions whatsoever.

In this remote case, the procedures to enable the weapon to shoot may become complicated.

SIG-Sauer P238  
The wide ejection port and the almost horizontal feeding angle of the SIG-Sauer 238 ensure a smooth and jam free shooting cycle

The resistance of the main spring of a pistol based on the blowback design will cause difficulties to those who do not have a reasonably strong hand- women in particular. The sizes of these weapons do not help; they usually are compact or evens sub compact packages that make it quite difficult to grip the slide to pull it back. So, it was an excellent choice to give the small P238 a Browning type short recoil barrel locking system, because it allows those who do not have a strong hand to easily manipulate the handgun. Keep in mind that the weapon, used for personal defense, will be used under stress when all fine movements become more difficult if not impossible.

SIG-Sauer P238  
The SIG-Sauer 238ʼs magazine is made of steel and holds 6 rounds

The .380 ACP caliber used in the P238 was sometimes belittled for an alleged insufficient “punch” on the target, but, in our opinion, it is an excellent choice for personal defense, especially when used in street and home defense. Featuring with an average kinetic energy of 22 Kgm, the .380 ACP has adequate penetration qualities for carrying out the task. The gun is supplied in a plastic case, convenient for transportation. The kit includes a single magazine, a blister pack of lubricating oil, firing pin protection and manual. The molded Kydex holster deserves to be mentioned. It will prevent the buyer from having to endlessly search gunshops to find a suitable carry holster. Given the small size of the holster with clip, we recommend testing thoroughly the extraction maneuver in order to identify a suitable belt to prevent pulling the holster with the gun during extraction.

SIG-Sauer P238  
The trigger, typically 1911-styled, is vertically grooved. This feature is more suited to target shooting, but we personally welcome it on a backup!

The handgun features a stainless steel slide and high strength aluminum alloy frame. The design of the gun recalls the lines of the Colt 1911 or, more properly, those of the more compact Mustang, a model no longer produced by the company. The beavertail is very functional and prevents annoying pinching in the hollow of the hand due to slide travel and hammer cocking. The P238 size allows for a reasonable grip, especially for small hands owners. Unfortunately, the magazine lacks a pinky finger support. But, keep in mind that the P238 is a backup, so the focus is all on concealment. The company offers the P238 in a variety of configurations. The gun can be delivered finished in two tones of stainless steel, like the tested model, or completely matt with a very rugged finish called Nitron.

SIG-Sauer P238  
Field stripping the SIG-Sauer 238 reveals a mechanically similar structure to the 1911, albeit a simplyfied one. Note the wire spring that holds in place the slide stop lever

For the more refined, there is a titanium finished version with the slide that changes colors like a rainbow under sunlight. There is a copper version and one finely engraved with floral motifs. You can take your pick. There are alternative aluminum or plastic grips, but since we are somewhat conservative in our tastes, we prefer the walnut models. The ridging of the grips and those on the frame despite the small sizes still allow for a good grasp. The well-designed high slide with large milled surfaces enables the user to pull the slide back with a  reverse saddle grip, recommended in tactical environments.

SIG-Sauer P238  
More 1911 in the SIG-Sauer 238: the manual safety, the slide stop, the magazine release and the internal extractor, all obviously “Colt Government Inspired”

The SIG-Sauer P238 is a semiautomatic pistol with exposed hammer and a single-action trigger. The factory claims 7 pounds for the trigger pull, just over 3 K; trigger travel, in the sample tested, was really clean and free of any friction up to break, with a quality beyond what is really required for weapon intended to fire at defensive distances. One of the positive features of the SIG-Sauer P238 is the adoption of the modified Browning short recoil locking system. This eases pulling the slide back and improves handling of the weapon. Despite the appearance, do not expect to find the classic small cam and connecting rod, the ribs on the barrel ceiling and respective recesses inside the slide. The locking between barrel and slide is implemented by the prismatic shape of the barrel that fits into the ejection window. In place of the linked cam, a L-shaped slot has been machined in the rear lower base of the barrel, which provides the necessary unlocking action tilting the barrel downwards after a few millimeters of travel of the locked slide/barrel assembly, allowing the slide to travel rearwards on its own, cycling the weapon. The modified Browning locking system based on the prismatic barrel, used on the P238, is the most popular because it has constructional simplicity, resistance and a precise locking fit that is wear resistant.

SIG-Sauer P238 
SIG-Sauer 238: left side view
SIG-Sauer P238  
SIG-Sauer 238: right side view

Filled the magazine with the appropriate number of rounds, and having inserted it into the mag well, it is possible to load the handgun pulling back the slide. This movement will load a live round in the barrel. The weapon will be ready to shoot as soon as pressure is applied on the trigger. When firing, barrel and slide travel back together. After a few millimeters, the cam milled in the barrel base, engaging the cross bar of the slide catch lever, forces the same to tilt downwards and stop, disengaging the slide that is free to continue its backward travel alone, ejecting the spent case, and arming the hammer.

Once its kinetic energy is depleted, the recoil spring thrusts the slide forward. At this stage, the slide strips another round, thanks to the feeding rib milled under the slide itself, and pushes it into the chamber, closing the cycle and leaving the weapon ready to fire the next shot.  This cycle will continue until exhaustion of the rounds contained in the magazine. When the last round has been fired, the slide catch lever, driven upward by the magazine follower, will intercept the milled notch on the left side of the slide, leaving the slide locked back. 

SIG-Sauer P238  
The SIG-Sauer 238 kit includes a holster. Note how mall the hangun is compared to the Authorʼs hand

The few parts of the weapon allow for a quick and easy disassembly without tools.

After checking that the weapon is unloaded, simply hold the weapon with your strong hand and make sure to wrap the slide with your fingers while your thumb passes under the hilt.

In this way, thanks to the locking system, you can easily move the slide back with one hand to align the slide stop lever with the front and rear milling formed on the slide.

In this way, you can extract this lever and separate the slide from the frame by sliding it forwards.

Afterwards, you can remove the spring guide rod with recoil spring and separate the barrel from the slide.

When reassembling the weapon you should be careful to lower the lever that controls the automatic safety latch to the firing pin.  

SIG-Sauer P238  
The sights are more than adequate: despite the small size, the Sig-Sauer 238 is very comfortable in the hand

The gun features a firing pin automatic safety  that allows the user to safely carry this small compact semiauto "locked and loaded". 

To the delight of most Colt system enthusiasts, there’s a manual safety lever on the frame that allows condition one (loaded chamber, loaded barrel, safety latch engaged) carry.

The handgun comes with one stamped steel magazine that can hold 6 rounds and has control holes.

Unfortunately there is no finger support, which would be convenient for stability purposes shooting such a compact gun.

A magazine with pad is available as an aftermarket item.

The P238 does not respect the tradition whereby a sub compact gun must have basic gun sights.

The sights of the small Sig-Sauer are well proportioned and surprisingly good, using  high visibility white dots; they are mounted in a milled dovetail groove that allows precise windage adjustment. 

SIG-Sauer P238  
The SIG-Sauer 238 in itʼs plastic transport case. The kit contains a single magazine, a small vial of oil, a Kydex holster, the manual and a padlock

Beads and rear sights with different numbered heights are available to compensate the impact point in height. In practice, the weapon is intended for personal defense, but we believe that with a little training shooting targets placed at 25 m will not look out of place with a little training. As mentioned, the weapon is available in several finishes. You can have the magazine with 7 shots capacity and with a pad for the finger - standard on the Extreme version - although we would have preferred it to be standard in every version. It is also available in a version with laser aiming system already mounted.   


SIG-Sauer brand is in itself a guarantee, both with regard to the mechanical workmanship and the materials used. Since we are not talking about a sports gun, but an object on which we must entrust our lives, I believe that quality is of primary importance, and the price tag is more than justified.

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