Sig Sauer’s P238 Tribal combines flashy, natural stainless steel looks with Sig’s world-famous build quality, resulting in a pocket pistol that shoots as good as it looks.
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.
The Sig P938 is identical to the P238 and features almost the same weight and only slightly larger dimensions but is chambered in the more powerful 9mm cartridge for the ultimate in pocket protection. Like the P238, the 6+1 P938 is directly inspired by the classic 1911 pistol and is available in a variety of finishes and grip options. Tthe pistol has an optional magazine that provides an increased 7+1 capacity. A left-side-mounted manual thumb safety allows for cocked-and-locked carry, and there is an available ambidextrous safety to satisfy the needs of left-handed shooters. The Commander-style hammer and slide release add to the pistol’s provenance as an heir to the 1911, as does the round, steel magazine release. The ejection port has been enlarged for improved reliability and extraction, and the gun also includes windage-adjustable, high-visibility night sights. One model comes standard with a mounted laser unit for effective use in low light.
Of course, for those who prefer a more modern design, it is hard to beat the incredibly innovative and award-winning Sig P250 series of pistols. These completely modular polymer guns only serialize the internal steel frame and fire-control unit, so one gun can be easily converted from full size to subcompact, in a range of calibers, for any need. The grip frame, slide, barrel and magazine can all be changed by the user, turning one gun into many. In the subcompact category, there is the P250 Subcompact Nitron, which can be had in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP. This DAO gun has all the advantages of a polymer frame (low weight, corrosion resistance and durability) and adds a fully ambidextrous magazine release and slide stop/release.
The P250 Subcompact also boasts a 12+1 capacity in 9mm, 10+1 capacity in .40 S&W and 6+1 capacity in hard-hitting .45 ACP, all in a very small package. At nearly 25 ounces empty, it is hardly a pocket pistol, but it provides such a high level of versatility that it is well worth considering for concealed carry. Keeping the same dimensions but reducing the weight by more than 5 ounces is a .380 ACP subcompact P250, which has a 12+1 capacity and lower recoil.
Sig also offers three pistols that can truly be considered designed for pocket carry, guns that remain largely full-powered. The P290 Subcompact is a polymer-framed, 9mm semi-automatic with a 6+1 capacity. Designed from the ground up as a concealed-carry handgun, the P290 features DAO operation and a lightweight, snag-free design.
Distinct for a polymer pistol, it also includes removable grip panels that can be replaced with wood or aluminum for a custom and personalized look and feel. The P290 has a fully usable slide stop and standard full-sized night sights. The P290 is one of Sig’s smallest and most compact pistols, nearly besting its offerings in .380 ACP. One version is available with an integrated laser module that has easy, ambidextrous push-button activation. For more information, visit sigsauer.com or
From revolvers to autopistols, Smith & Wesson provides top-quality concealed-carry handguns!
by David Bahde / Oct 1, 2013