Sig Sauer makes three models of pocket pistols: the P238, P938 and P290. The P238 is chambered in .380, while the P938 and P290 are 9mm. All three models measure no more than 1.1 inches thick and 5.5 inches long. All feature a single-stack design with a standard magazine capacity of six rounds. There are between six and 17 variants per model, for a total of 28 pistols, in Sig Sauer’s compact lineup.
The P238 is a single action and fires from a locked breech using the same tilting barrel and locking block method that Sig Sauer uses for its full-size pistols. A locked-breech design is unnecessary for .380 and lesser calibers, but it does offer advantages over blowback designs, including shorter length and a lighter-weight slide and recoil spring.
Dimensionally, the P238 pistol is about 1 inch wide, measured at the slide, and at 5.5 inches long and 4.5 inches high, it’s compact enough to fit into an average man’s hand. The P238 weighs less than a pound unloaded (15.2 ounces) for versions made with an aluminum frame (20.1 ounces for stainless), and it comes with a flush-fitting six-round or extended seven-round magazine depending on the variant. Three-dot night sights made of steel are standard. Packaged with most P238 variants is a right-handed, strong-side, plastic-molded belt holster.
The P238 uses a stainless-steel slide made from 416 bar stock, a carbon-steel barrel and, depending on the model, either a forged aluminum frame (finished in a black anodized hardcoat or Cerakote) or a stainless frame. The metallic frame, like the locked-breech design, sets the P238 apart from its polymer-made peers. Only the trigger shoe, mainspring housing and grips are non-metallic.
The P238 is operationally similar to a 1911—they both are single action, use a single-stack magazine and have a frame-mounted safety lever operated by the left-hand thumb. Certain variants like the Equinox offer an optional ambidextrous safety. There is no magazine disconnect safety. There are some noteworthy differences, however. The P238’s safety does not lock the slide closed when applied with the hammer cocked. When the hammer is down and safety is on, the slide is locked. Also, unlike on the 1911, the trigger is hinged, not sliding, with total travel of about 0.125 inches. The factory-specified trigger let-off is a heavy 7.5 to 8.5 pounds.
Because the P238 has a firing pin block that only releases when the trigger is depressed, it can be safely carried in a proper holster with a round in the chamber and the safety applied. Do not carry this pistol in your pocket in a cocked-and-locked condition without a holster.
The P238’s 17 variations appeal to a broad market. There are designs that are “strictly business,” while others possess an aesthetic appeal. Among the business variants are the Tactical Laser, Equinox and Extreme. The Tactical Laser sports aluminum grips, a stainless slide, a black anodized frame and a red laser mounted ahead of the triggerguard. The Equinox offers a Tru-Glo green fiber-optic front sight with a tritium insert designed to focus the shooter’s attention on the front sight in bright light or darkness. The Extreme has very aggressive, scallop-finished G10 grips, a Nitron-finished slide and a seven-round magazine with a pinky rest to provide better control.
For those who want a pistol with panache, there’s the Gambler, the Lady and the Rainbow. The Gambler has rosewood stocks and a gold inlay of “aces and eights” on the top of the slide, while the Lady has laser engraving, a gold flower inlay and a red Cerakote finish on the frame. The Rainbow version has a slide, safety lever, mag release and slide lock finished in titanium oxide, reflecting light in several colors.
The P938 is a slightly upsized version of the P238, chambered in 9mm. It shares the same operational and design features of the P238 and like the latter gun holds six rounds (with several versions accepting a specially made seven-round magazine). In contrast to the P238, the P938 has 20-lpi checkering instead of flutes on the frontstrap and an ambidextrous safety on all variants. The 20-lpi checkering is necessary to keep the pistol from turning in your hand as it recoils from the blast of a 9mm cartridge.
Unlike the P238, which can be had with either an aluminum or a stainless frame, the P938 is only available in aluminum. And because it’s larger than the P238, the P938 does not fit in the P238’s molded holster. Sig Sauer is devising a holster to fit the P938 and will include it with the pistol in the future. In the meantime, customer’s can opt for a P938-compatible pocket holster. Also, the laser that mounts on the P238 will fit the P938.
Sig Sauer offers six versions of the P938, and more are expected in 2013. Each variant features a black hardcoat anodized aluminum frame, but they differ with respect to grips (rubber, G10 or wood), magazine capacity and slide finish. All are designed for concealed carry, not for flash.
Distinct from the P238 and P938 is the P290. Though it shares the locked-breech design of the former two, the 9mm P290 is double-action-only (DAO) and has a polymer frame. The P290 was improved in 2012 over the original design. The new design added a beavertail backstrap, improved the trigger pull, contoured the slide lock lever and magazine release differently, and added a finger-groove baseplate to the six-round magazine. More significantly was the change to a true double action with a restrike firing mechanism. The new design has “P290RS” engraved on the slide. There is no manual safety lever, but it has a long, heavy, 9-pound trigger pull. There is no magazine disconnect safety, and like the other models, a round can be safely carried in the chamber due to an internal lock that captures the firing pin until the trigger is depressed.
The slide is made from 416 stainless bar stock, and the broach-cut-rifled barrel is carbon steel. The P290 is truly snag-free, with rounded edges and a bobbed hammer that fits nearly flush with the rear of the slide. The pistol has removable side grip panels, and Sig Sauer will soon be offering different inserts made of polymer or aluminum with custom engraving options. Sights are three-dot tritium and made of steel.
The P290 is 3.9 inches high, 5.5 inches long and 1.1 inches thick. It weighs 20.5 ounces unloaded. The slide is finished in either stainless or black Nitride, which provides wear resistance and lubricity. The P290 comes in five varieties that differ with respect to slide finish (stainless steel, black Nitride, or Nitride over diamond-plate engraving) and accessories (two versions come equipped with a red laser mounted to the fore of the triggerguard). For more information, visit sigsauer.com or call 603-772-2302.
Sig Sauer makes three models of pocket pistols: the P238, P938 and P290. The P238…
by Dennis Adler / Mar 21, 2013