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Sig Sauer makes the broadest line of defensive pistols in the U.S. The most diminutive Sigs are represented by 32 variations of three different models: the P290RS, P238 and P938. The P290RS and all but one of the P938s are chambered in 9mm, while P238s are chambered in .380 ACP. All are no wider than 1.1 inches, with a footprint no larger than 5.9 inches long and 3.9 inches high using flush-fit magazine. This makes each pistol concealable even within the palm of your hand.

Besides easy concealment, there are other characteristics that are important in a concealed-carry pistol, like tritium night sights, a stainless steel slide and a rust-resistant stainless or aluminum frame, as close-to-body carry can expose these guns to sweat. All of these pistols can also be safely carried in a proper holster with a round in the chamber.

I have tested each of these models, and they have several reliability and design features that make them very good personal-defense pistols when small guns are warranted. For example, the P290RS uses a one-piece molded polymer frame instead of two plastic clamshells screwed together. The night sights are made of steel, not plastic, and are mounted in dovetail slots, allowing them to be replaced or adjusted. Flat recoil springs with longer service lives than round wire springs are used, and the guide rod is made of steel, not plastic.

The replaceable grips are made from high-quality materials, and finally, the longevity and popularity of these Sigs gives you a wide array of choices in holsters and accessories to fit them, from lasers to grips.

P290RS Nitron

The P290RS Nitron is the slimmest Sig at 0.9 inches wide. It’s also 5.5 inches long, 3.9 inches tall and weighs only 16.4 ounces. It holds 6+1 rounds of 9mm ammo in the flush-fit mag and 8+1 rounds in the extended magazine. The Nitron designation refers to the matte black corrosion-resistant finish on the steel parts. The one-piece polymer frame has slide-out grip panels, and Sig offers replacements with different colors and textures. The P290RS also has rounded edges all over. It also has a bobbed hammer that fits nearly flush with the rear of the slide, offering nothing to catch onto your clothes for a snag-free draw.

The P290RS is double-action-only (DAO) design with a long trigger stroke that resembles a revolver fired in DA mode with a specified trigger pull weight of 9 pounds. This pistol also has a re-strike capability (hence the “RS” in its model name). The hammer will cock and fall each time the trigger is pulled without needing to rack the slide to reset the trigger. This allows the shooter to re-strike a primer if it does not fire on the first strike, an unlikely occurrence with quality ammo. For me, the real advantage of the RS is much easier dry-fire practice without needing to rack the slide after each trigger press.

Long-stroke triggers with relatively heavy weights are certainly more difficult to keep on target than light, short triggers. However, my personal experience with the P290RS showed that the smooth trigger stroke and grip design allows rapid shots with very good practical accuracy. My accuracy was even better when using the extended eight-round magazine, which affords a full grip.

P238 Series

The P238 is easily one of Sig’s best-selling pistols. With a selection of 19 models, there’s a P238 for just about anyone’s preferences and purposes, ranging from a practically styled backup piece (the SAS model) to a pistol with panache (the Rose Gold model). This .380 ACP pistol is 1.1 inches thick at its widest point (the slide lock lever), 5.5 inches long and 3.9 inches tall. Most variants feature durable aluminum frames and weigh less than a pound. The frame materials are aluminum or stainless for the HD version, which weighs in at 20.5 ounces unloaded.

The P238 is a single action with a left-side lever safety allowing for “cocked and locked” carry with a round in the chamber. The gun holds 6+1 rounds in its flush-fit magazine, and the trigger breaks at 7.5 pounds. And though it resembles a 1911, the P238’s operation is different. The chamber can be cleared with or without the safety applied, while the 1911 only allows the chamber to be cleared with the safety in the “fire” position. For left-handed shooters, a right-side safety lever can be installed for $100 by the Sig Custom Shop.

P238 Variants

Sorting through 19 variations to find what P238 is best for you is easy once you know how they differ. The principle differences are in the finish of the frame, slide and controls, the type of grips and whether you want cocking serrations on only the rear of the slide or both the front and rear. The Equinox model features a green fiber-optic front sight for day use and a tritium insert for night firing. In addition, the Equinox also has a two-tone slide.

Grips options include wood (walnut, laminate, rosewood), aluminum for the newest “We the People” model, G10 or, my favorite, a Hogue one-piece wraparound rubber grip with finger grooves. All of the grips are designed with a textured surface to provide a slip-free hold.

P938 Series

The P938 is a 9mm version of the P238 that also holds 6+1 rounds in its flush-fit magazine. Though the two essentially share the same basic design, the P938 has a larger aluminum frame with a slightly longer barrel and slide, a heavier recoil spring and an ambidextrous thumb safety. This pistol is 1.1 inches wide, 3.9 inches tall, 5.9 inches long and weighs 16 ounces unloaded.

The P938 comes in 12 variations, and like the P238, there’s a mix of the practical and flamboyant styles. There’s also a .22 LR variant for plinking that has a longer slide and barrel as well as a fully adjustable rear sight. And my favorite variant, the Emperor Scorpion, has a threaded barrel for mounting a sound suppressor, front and rear slide serrations, and flush-fit and extended magazines.

Deep-Cover Options

Because the Sig P290RS, P238 and P938 pistols are small and svelte, there are many different carry and holster options out there. Note that Sig Sauer sells several holsters that have the benefit of being extensively field-tested by the Sig Sauer Academy’s instructor staff.

A shoulder holster is a good choice for those who wear a jacket that is too short to conceal a belt-mounted holster, or need to draw from a seated position. The shoulder rig is typically used for much large handguns, but a horizontal rig like the leather X400 from Kirkpatrick keeps the pistol well concealed yet accessible.

OWB

Strong-side OWB holsters are among the fastest to draw from. Sig’s own molded plastic holster fits the P238, P290RS and P938 like a glove, but Galco, DeSantis and others also offer effective options made with leather. If your Sig is a backup piece or if you want something accessible when seated in a car, consider a cross-draw OWB rig.

IWB

There are many choices to suit personal preferences, but I prefer IWB holsters with as much material separating my body and the pistol for better comfort and moisture control. Some designs like the Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 also offer adjustments for cant and ride height. The Cloak Tuck can also be mounted off-body, secured to places like under a table or desktop, on a bedside or under a dashboard using the docking clips.

Ankle

Ankle holsters are a prevalent method for carrying small backup pieces. Light, flat-profile pistols like these Sigs are very comfortable to carry in such a manner. Drawing from an ankle rig requires the correct technique to achieve a fast, smooth presentation, and don’t assume that this method works equally well with every pair of pants. I find the Sig Sauer, Galco Ankle Glove and the DeSantis Die Hard models to be very comfortable.

Belly Bands

Ideal for the gym, jogging and while wearing a T-shirt, belly bands are typically made of elastic nylon with sewn-in pockets. These machine-washable holsters are surprisingly comfortable. Get one in a color that won’t easily show through the intended over garment so it isn’t noticeable. The Galco UnderWraps belly band comes in tan or black and can hold two pistols and two magazines or a badge, a knife, etc.

Garter Holster

With a skirt or dress, a garter holster can offer very effective concealment for these lightweight, compact Sigs. Furthermore, there are not many options in this niche, but two that offer very different designs and materials come from Can Can Concealment and DeSantis. Keep in mind that this holster’s comfort and ability to keep from slipping down your leg are vital.

Corset Holster

Your choices for corset holsters are also limited, but these are more stylish. The Can Can Concealment corset holds two pistols and has a slot for a knife or extra mag in the back/kidney area while those from Dene Adams put the pistols in front. Your clothing and body shape need to be considered. For instance, back carry allows you to wear an open-front jacket that shows the fashion details of the corset, but sitting in a chair could be uncomfortable. Also, learn how much of the pistol’s grip protrudes above the fabric because reaching into the corset to draw your pistol is time consuming and very difficult under stress.

UnderTech UnderCover specializes in clothing that has integral sewn-in holsters. The company’s broad product line includes men’s and women’s jackets and vests that don’t scream “I am packing heat!” like the shoot-me-first photographer’s vest. The T-shirts are made of compression fabric for a tight fit and have a sewn-in elastic pocket under each arm with retention straps for a secure fit, making them ideal for the gym or jogging.

Signature Steel

Small guns have the unique advantage of being carried discreetly in a jacket or pants pocket. The holster and gun should be the only thing carried in that pocket. Holsters should hide the outline of the gun, keep itself from coming out of the pocket when the pistol is drawn and keep the pistol in the proper orientation so you can grasp it quickly. Many designs are available, but the most intriguing is the new DeSantis Pocket Shot for the P238.

This particular pocket holster allows the pistol to be grasped and fired while it’s still in the holster. In fact, it has no material surrounding the slide to impede its functioning. It also negates the risk that drawing the pistol from your pocket will carry the holster with it and cause a problem.

Sig P238 Equinox, P238 Rose Gold & P290RS Nitron

Manufacturer Sig Sauer P238 Equinox Sig Sauer P238 Rose Gold Sig Sauer P290RS Nitron
Caliber .380 ACP .380 ACP 9mm
Barrel 2.7 inches 2.7 inches 2.9 inches
OA Length 5.5 inches 5.5 inches 5.5 inches
Weight 15.2 ounces (empty) 15.2 ounces (empty) 16.4 ounces (empty)
Grip Blackwood G10 Polymer
Sights TruGlo TFO front, SIGLITE rear SIGLITE night SIGLITE night
Action SA SA DAO
Finish Matte black, stainless Matte black, rose gold PVD Matte black
Capacity 6+1 6+1, 7+1 6+1, 8+1
MSRP $738 $932 $492

For more information on the pistols, visit sigsauer.com.

This article was originally published in “Pocket Pistols” 2018. To order a copy, go to outdoorgroupstore.com.

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