There are a lot of opinions out there about the size and caliber of firearms intended for self defense or armed professionals. Most instructors, including me, advocate carrying the largest gun and caliber you can accurately shoot. That said, there are times when carrying a larger firearm isn’t easy and all but the most committed will sometime go without and that is, at least to me, offensive. How do we fix this problem? You find a high quality, accurate, easy to operate small firearms. The problem is, there are not many great options, UNTIL NOW.
My biggest problem with most small firearms isn’t the fact that they are chambered in smaller calibers. My problem is related to the operation of the gun. Most gun manufactures make these “mouse guns” and shrink the whole gun. This makes for a small package, but it is difficult and uncomfortable to shoot, so you practice less, problem one. The controls are so small that executing a magazine change, or malfunction drill is impossible, problem two and last but not least, the sights are so small that night sights are not an option, if there are any real sights at all, problem three.
Recently, Sig Sauer capitalized on the tried and true 1911 single action style and reproduced a small 380 ACP pistol very similar to the classic Colt Mustang. The best part of this gun is it’s close to full size controls and full size night sights! This was a big gamble on Sigs part, as other manufactures like Ruger and Kel-Tec have produced popular, reliable 380s similar in size and about half the price. But based on the media coverage and the lack of availability in gun shops, Sig will reap the reward of their risk.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of the 1911 design. Needless to say, when I saw a press release about the P238, I figured it would end up in my safe. After some research, and monitoring a small recall issue, it was time to get my hands on one. Well, a lot of other people must have had the same idea, because it was not easy to find. The good news is the popularity indicates that people might be happy with it and the aftermarket will pay attention to it with holsters and such. The bad news is that it will keep the price on the high end. Well, in the end, with a little effort, I was able to get my hands on a new Sig Sauer P238 in the Two-Tone Blackwood Special Edition Model.
The fit and finish is great with this gun, even higher then what I expect from Sig. The gun is small and fits in the palm of your hand. It measures 5.5 inches in overall length and 3.9 inches in overall height. It is also very thin at 1.1 inches. With this size you can tell this gun is made for concealed carry. It isn’t the lightest gun of its size weighing in at 15.2 oz with the magazine in, but it feel more sturdy then heavy and it balanced very well. In the hand the first thing you notice is that the gun feels larger than it actually is. To a 1911 shooter, the controls are located in the proper positions and are large enough to manipulate without trouble. The sights are big three dot night sights. The magazine holds six 380 ACP rounds and is single stack like its older and larger relative. Like I mentioned, my sig is two toned and wears nice Sig Sauer marked Blackwood grips, but the P238 is now available in nine models, so there is a lot of options, like Sigs SAS and Equinox models. My Sig came in the classic blue lockable plastic case and included the manual, one magazine and Sig injection molded holster which I do not consider to be to a poor design, but it is ok to use until you find a better holster.
Even the sharpest looking gun is nothing more than a paperweight if it isn’t reliable, so I took the Sig to the range right away. On the range, the gun is a blast to shoot. This gun feels great in the hand and the extra weight makes the gun not only manageable, but fun to launch lead downrange. The big, bright sights make for an easy target acquisition and sight picture and I found the gun to be incredibly easy to shoot accurately with its crisp 8 lbs single action only trigger. As you shoot it, you will often forget how small it really is. Before I knew it, I shot 100 rounds of full metal jacket rounds and 25 Gold Dot defensive rounds with not malfunctions to report. This gets the “stamp of approval” from me.
To carry the Sig, I picked up a leather DeSantis pancake holster, and after a couple weeks of carrying it off duty, I can tell you is it comfortable and vanishes even under a t-shirt. With an IWB holster, it would be even easier to conceal, and that is my next purchase for this little gun. Many holster makers are jumping on board and making pocket, OWB and IWB models in leather and kydex, so you will have no problem finding a quality carry rig that suits your needs. Another aftermarket item that has caught my eye is the custom grips that are now being made, they come in all types of materials and allow the shooter to personalize their new gun without a trip to the gunsmith.
The MSRP of these guns is in the $700 range, so expect to find them in shops going for $550 to $650 depending on the model, not cheap but you are getting a high quality gun and in my opinion it is well worth it. The one downside I can tell you is that the magazines sell for $44, which is expensive for such a small magazine, but some dealers have coupons for “free” extra magazines that cost you $10 for shipping, so I recommend you ask your dealer when you make your purchase.
In conclusion, I think the Sig Sauer P238 is a great concealed carry gun. It is reliable, fun to shoot and has the controls and feel of a much larger defensive pistol. It is a single action gun and is designed to be carried cocked and locked, so if you are comfortable with that method and like the 1911 design, take a good hard look at the P238 and I think you will also like what you see.
Take care and stay safe, remember, failing to train is training to fail.