Pocket pistols, loosely defined as being less than 6 inches long, about 1 inch wide and no greater than 4.5 inches tall, are a growing segment of the concealed-carry market.

They are ideal as backup weapons and can be concealed deeply under garments or in off-body carry modes such as in purses and day planners. Though pocket pistols may have some perceived shortcomings like stopping power, their size and light weight make them comfortable to carry, which means owners will carry these firearms more often.

Though .380-caliber semi-autos have lead the recent growth of this market segment, arms-makers like Ruger and now Sig Sauer have upgraded their .380 platforms to 9mm. Sig Sauer’s P938 Nightmare was introduced early in 2012, and it’s the company’s first 9mm pocket pistol.

The P938 is only slightly larger and heavier than the popular P238 chambered in .380 ACP. However, from a user’s standpoint, the only noticeable differences between the pistols are the effectiveness and controllability of their cartridges. The 9mm cartridge is significantly more powerful and offers a greater number of available loadings than the .380 ACP, but at the cost of less control and more perceived recoil. In fact, I recently tested both the P238 and P938 to compare their ballistics: The velocity of a 95-grain .380 ACP Winchester load is measured at 832 feet per second (fps) from the P238, while the P938 shot 115-grain 9mm Winchester rounds at an average of 1,089 fps. Yes, the barrel length of the 9mm pistol is 0.3 inches longer and thus increases velocity, but that alone does not explain the 257-fps increase in velocity and the 157 foot-pounds of additional energy with the heavier 115-grain bullet.

The P938 is slightly longer (0.3 inches longer due to its barrel), weighs a bit more (about 0.9 ounces) and possesses a marginally longer grip than the P238. The P938’s slide is also somewhat wider and taller, precluding the use of holsters molded specifically for the P238. Sig Sauer does in fact sell a pocket holster for the P938 and will include a right-handed, molded, strong-side belt holster with the P938 this year.

Now, let’s examine Sig Sauer’s little pocket 9mm a bit closer and see how it performs.

Gun Details

The P938 is a single-action pistol that fires from a locked breech using a tilting-barrel and locking-block method similar to the one that Sig Sauer uses on its full-sized P-series and P238 pistols. Like the newer, full-sized handguns, the P938 uses a wide, externally mounted extractor. The slide is machined from 416 stainless steel bar stock, and the Nitron-coated stainless, 3-inch barrel has conventional broach-cut rifling.

The P938 has an ambidextrous thumb safety with small but functional levers and an internal firing-pin block that captures the firing pin until the trigger is depressed. The firing-pin block allows the pistol to be safely carried in a proper holster with a round in the chamber and keeps the firing pin away from the primer should the pistol be dropped muzzle-down on a hard surface. There is no magazine disconnect safety.

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