The Sig Sauer name is revered in the personal-defense realm. Producing pistols for the military, police and armed citizens around the world, Sig clearly knows a thing or two about building defensive firearms. One of its most popular personal-protection handguns is the P238 chambered in .380 ACP.

This semi-automatic, locked-breech, short-recoil operated, hammer-fired, single-action pistol features a 7+1 capacity with the standard extended magazine and a 6+1 capacity with a flush-fitting mag. The P238’s profile and design is immediately familiar to fans of the classic 1911 pistol, closely resembling it minus the barrel bushing and grip safety. The P238’s steel, Commander-style, skeletonized hammer must be cocked for the gun to fire, and the left-side-mounted thumb safety makes cocked-and-locked carry, the preferred method for keeping the pistol in a self-defense ready state for most, easy.

One very nice feature is that the user can leave the safety on (activated) and still manipulate the slide, greatly increasing user safety when doing a press check or some other slide manipulation. The slide lock/slide release is fully functional, not something often seen on micro-compact pistols, and extremely convenient and easy to use. The slide locks open on an empty magazine, and the slide release allows it to easily drop. The magazine release is located in the most familiar place for American shooters, right behind the triggerguard, and briskly ejects the steel magazine. The slide serrations at the rear are deep enough to offer good purchase for slide manipulation but aren’t so aggressive as to include any sharp angles. The end result is both comfort and extreme functionality.

Atop the slide are Sig’s outstanding three-dot SigLite night sights. These are dovetailed into the slide and are drift adjustable for windage. While unobtrusive, they are high-profile enough to acquire a real sight picture and offer excellent sighting capabilities. They also glow very brightly in low-light conditions, allowing for accurate targeting even in less than ideal conditions. It is truly a pleasure to have a micro-compact pistol with real sights, which add to user comfort and confidence.

To help cut down on the pistol’s weight, the frame is aluminum alloy. The frame’s matte black Nitron finish is extremely well done and matches the finish on the slide and barrel. The rear of the frame features a short beavertail that extends past the end of the hammer and does an excellent job of protecting the web of the hand against hammer bite, especially with a high handhold. The grips are tactical gray and black Hogue G10 with very aggressive checkering for a secure hold. The front and the rear of the grip frame feature vertical serrations that aid in obtaining a firm hold. The rear grip-frame serrations are actually on the polymer mainspring housing. The area underneath the triggerguard has a slight upward indentation that helps users get a better grip. Even with my large hands I was able to get a full two fingers on the front of the grip, which aids greatly in attaining more comfort, more accurate shooting and, by keeping the gun from shifting in the hand, faster follow-up shots. Internally, the P238 features a non-captive, full-length, steel guide rod and a flat recoil spring. Flat springs purportedly provide improved cycling and longer spring life. Also very much like a 1911, the P238 features a steel internal extractor.

The thumb safety is the primary mechanism for keeping the gun safe. There is no magazine disconnect, so the pistol will fire with a live round in the chamber when the magazine is removed. Finally, there is no loaded-chamber indicator, and the only way to tell if there is a cartridge case in the chamber is to open the slide and visually or physically inspect the chamber. On the range, the P238 handled beautifully with zero malfunctions. The best results consisted of a tight 0.95-inch group at 7 yards with a Black Hills 100-grain FMJ load. Although this is the smallest and lightest-weight pistol Sig manufactures, at just over 15 ounces empty it is slightly heavier than comparably sized, polymer-framed micro-compact pistols. The P238 is barely noticeable in the pocket, and its weight helps soften recoil.

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