SIG Sauer P238 Review

SIG P238 .380 subcompact gun with Rosewood grip and engraved slide

Written by Be a Blogger for a Day Contest Winner, Rachel McMurry.

I’ve been on the hunt for a good gun that I can learn to handle well so I can get my concealed carry license. It has been a bit of a bumpy road for me because I have small hands. There seems to be this assumption that the best-concealed gun is one that shoots 9mm as a minimum. Unfortunately, most guns that hold those rounds are too big for my hands and I always have to spend a few minutes adjusting before I try to shoot so it doesn’t go flying out of my grip. As a result, I looked hard at the pistols that use the .380 ACP.

I tested the Beretta Nano through a gun rental a few times, borrowed a SIG Sauer P238 HD and the SIG Sauer P238 Nitron, but was eventually given a Ruger LC380 because cost-wise, it was the least expensive option. That pistol started out fine, but my shooting wasn’t getting any better. The Ruger LC380 was a lighter pistol with a mostly plastic frame, so it ended up kicking more. Likewise, it developed some feeding issues despite extensive and frequent cleaning sessions, so it had to go.

I knew I wanted the SIG Sauer P238; of all the .380 pistols, I liked it the best. It fit my hand the right way, had the weight I wanted, the caliber was right, no finger grooves, and it didn’t feel like a Glock. My boyfriend ended up surprising me with an early birthday present by selling my old Ruger while I was at work one day and hiding a the SIG in my lockable case for the Ruger. Inside the case was my brand spanking new, straight-from-the-factory Sig Sauer P238 ESR. We went shooting the next day to try it out.

SIG P238 .380 subcompact gun with Rosewood grip and engraved slide
My first shot with the SIG P238 hit right where I aimed.

Quick Facts

The SIG Sauer P238 is chambered for the .380 ACP and has a flush magazine with a capacity of six rounds—extended magazines with finger grips hold seven rounds. The P238 is a predominately-metal frame with very few plastic parts making it heavier than its Ruger LC380 competition. My particular P238 has a cherry wood grip instead of the usual plastic grips. It also uses a metal frame and engraved metal slide. It is a beautiful pistol that doesn’t look like a toy with the visually appealing features that don’t diminish the effectiveness of the gun. The composition of materials to make the P238 causes it to appear as though it is the mini-me to the 1911 and also weighs more than Ruger LC380.

The P238 has an eight-pound trigger pull and is a single action with a barrel length of 2.7 inches—a very nice change to the Ruger LC380’s heavy double action. The gun weighs approximately one pound even with all the rounds in the magazine and one chambered, ready to go. At 5.5 inches long, just over an inch wide and almost four inches tall, it is easy to hide and can fit inside many small purses. It’s about the size of a large wallet. The P238 also has factory SIGLite night sights installed on the pistol with an easily-accessible safety on the left side of the frame.


The P238 is fairly petite in comparison to larger-caliber offerings and small compared to some .22 pistols, as well. The size makes it an excellent choice for concealment, but also means it can be difficult to hold without having fingers dangling off the bottom. Enter the extended magazine that increases the grip length and capacity by one round. I have small hands, so I can hold the gun well with the flush magazine. However, with the extended magazine, I always hold it better. Quite simply, I guess this is because I don’t have to think about having my pinky finger accidentally slipping during firing.

The only change I would consider making to the pistol is in regards to the grip. I would consider a longer magazine so it would fit those with larger hands better (my boyfriend) but still maintain the overall small size that makes it a great concealed handgun. My favorite thing regarding the grip is that it doesn’t have the finger grooves. Nothing sucks more than being unable to fit your fingers and grip to the grooves properly, and as a result, you are unable to properly hold the gun.

At the Range

I was able to take the gun to the range less than a week after getting it and before the first round even went through the barrel, I didn’t clean it. Before panties start getting twisted, I should add that I didn’t have to clean it first. It came to me lubed with the factory stuff in all the right places. The dry fire tests didn’t indicate anything was sluggish. I load all the magazines to feel the difference between the flush and extended-grip magazines. I like to pop in the flush magazine, chamber the first round, and send it down range to a target at five yards.

My first shot hit right where I aimed and I learned that the sights were perfect for my left-eye dominant self so no adjustments were needed there. I proceeded to send more down range and began to get more comfortable with the gun, but my groupings got progressively worse. Not because of the gun itself, but simply user error. My finger was wrapping too far around the trigger and causing the gun to shift. Due to the size, I had to conscientiously remind myself to only use the tip of my finger and not relax letting my finger wrap further over the trigger. I adjusted my hold on the gun and began shooting again. Perfect. I immediately began hitting the target where I was aiming.


This is definitely a higher maintenance gun compared to the Ruger LC380. Due to the fact that the SIG Sauer is an almost exclusively metal gun with a negligible amount of plastic, each shooting session requires cleaning immediately afterward. I neglected to clean the gun once after shooting and due to the humidity levels outside, plus the gun being stored in its case in the garage, some surface rust began accumulating on the sights. Fortunately, nothing happened to the actual frame and it was just the sights. However, that was an excellent reminder this isn’t just a cheap plastic thing. It is of higher quality with a lot of metal requiring much higher cleaning maintenance.

Overall, I love this gun. It fits my hand well, shoots where I aim (unless I pull the trigger with too much finger). The only con that I can think of is the only way for me to fully fit my pinky around the frame is if I am using the extended magazine. I also know people with much larger hands than I who have difficulty fitting their hands properly around the frame because it is so small, Their hands just swallow it up. I love that this gun has the “honey, I shrunk the 1911” feel to it, is easy to take apart for cleaning, and is a very accurate pistol for it’s size and caliber. If you are a newbie like myself with small hands, I highly recommend at least trying this one if available to rent at your local gun range.

Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

SIG Sauer P238
Action Semiautomatic, single-action only
Barrel Length 2.7 inches
Caliber .380 ACP
Overall Height 3.9 inches
Overall Length 5.5 inches
Overall Width 1.1 inches
Weight Unloaded 15.2 ounces
Sights SIGLite night sights
Grip Rosewood
Capacity 6+1 rounds
Magazine 6 rounds
Frame Anodized alloy beavertail style

Do you have a SIG P238? What do you love about it? Share it with Rachel in the comment section.

Rachel is still a novice to firearms and shooting after being first introduced seven years ago by a family friend. As a result, she is still learning which guns she likes the most but definitely leans towards rifles such as the AR-15, AK-47 with wooden stock, 1911 and 1911-style pistols, and the super fun Thompson with drum magazines. Rachel understands the challenge of finding firearms that are easily managed with small hands and is quickly becoming more specialized in helping others with the same issue.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (56)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.