Sig Sauer P238 Review: Choosing a Firearm & Concealed Carry

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Sig Sauer P238 Review: Choosing a Firearm and Concealed Carry

By Kelly Black

Sig Sauer P238 vs P232

If you have a concealed handgun permit, or you just like to shoot, then you probably already know that selecting the right firearm is a very personal decision. Determining which pistol would work for best in my situation was no different. Eventually, I discovered that the Sig Sauer P238 was right for me. But it took some time to find that out.

I’ll admit right up front that most of my shooting experience has come from working with Sig Sauer pistols because that’s what Bryan carries and he’s the one who taught me to shoot. I’ve found Sigs to be very reliable and enjoyable to shoot. I’ve shot a few different 9mm options, but chose a Sig P232 a couple of years ago for my first handgun while at a local gun show. It’s a .380 caliber pistol that I thought at the time would work well for me, but once I got it home and started using it, I realized that it wasn’t a good match for me.

Beginner’s Regrets

Looking back, I didn’t do my research before buying my first pistol. All of the problems I had with the P232 (and still have with it) could’ve been avoided if I had handled it more before buying it, or testing it out at a gun range. It made me wonder how many people have bought a firearm at a gun show, sales counter, or online thinking they could make it work for them, or if I’m the minority with my impulse gun purchase.

When I saw the Sig P232 I thought it looked sleek, compact and the price was right. Regrettably, I only held it only for a few minutes before drawing the conclusion that it would be a good purchase for me. Bryan was trying to be supportive and let me pick out what I wanted, but I think we were both a little anxious for me to pick out a gun that I could call my own.

Sig P232

Once I was ready to actually use the gun, I found the slide was extremely hard for me to rack. How did I miss this major detail before I bought the gun? I recall Bryan and I talking about it at the gun show, but we thought the slide would get smoother once the gun was used. What actually happened as I tried to use the gun was that I was having to move the P232 from my right hand to my left, point the gun towards the ground then try to rack the slide with my right hand before I could begin shooting. Each time I took it to the range I would listen to suggestions from Bryan on different ways I could try to rack the slide. None of my efforts were graceful or easy and the slide hasn’t ever gotten easier for me to maneuver.

Additionally, my index finger can’t easily reach the trigger on the P232. I have to slide my right hand around towards the front of the pistol grip so that my index finger can rest where it needs to on the trigger. Since the P232 has a double-action trigger the first trigger pull is heavier than the subsequent pulls, so I have to make sure my finger is positioned well enough for me to fire the first round.

The P232 is still a great gun, its fun for me to shoot (once I’ve got a round chambered) and its very reliable, however its not one that I will ever be able to comfortably carry as a fast action self-defense firearm. It was a good deal at the gun show and I liked how it looked, but I made the mistake of selecting this gun by assuming it would work for me.

Thinking Harder Before Buying

When we were at the 2011 SHOT Show I wanted to see the Sig Sauer pistols that were on display. I spotted the P238 Copperhead and was immediately drawn to it. It was lightweight, the slide was super easy for me to rack with the appropriate hand and I loved the look of it. There wasn’t a sales person breathing down my neck, so I played with the P238 for awhile, put it down and walked away. I came back later during the show to handle it some more and see if I had any new ideas or discoveries. The more I handled it, the more I liked it.

Sig Sauer P238

It wasn’t until later in the year that I actually purchased the P238 and had a chance to fire it. I wasn’t overly concerned about test firing this particular gun before buying, because I didn’t plan to carry concealed at the time and I hadn’t come to all the realizations I’ve mentioned in this article. When I had the opportunity to finally hold the 238, I was reminded of handling it at SHOT Show and just how comfortable it was in my hands. The grip size was perfect for me, my index finger easily reached and gripped the trigger, the slide was easy to maneuver and it was light enough for me to want to carry it concealed when I was mentally ready for that next step.

Basic P238 Specs

  • 15.2 ounces (most models)
  • 5.5 inches long
  • 1.1 inches wide
  • 5.5 inches tall
  • 6 round capacity (+1 chambered or with extended magazine)
  • 7.5-8.5 lb trigger pull
  • SIGLITE night sights (glow in the dark)
  • Single action
  • Manual safety
  • Numerous colors/models to choose from

More Shooters Weigh in on Choosing a Sig Sauer P238

My friend, neighbor and fellow pistol league member Jessica began acquiring an interest in shooting in recent years. We’re both new to being comfortable with firearms and concealed carry, so when I found out she had started carrying a Sig P238 Nitron I couldn’t wait to ask her what she thought about it.

Black version of the pistol

I asked Jessica what led her to choose the P238. Coincidentally, we both had our first shooting experiences with other Sig 9mm pistols and naturally gravitated to other Sigs when looking for our first gun purchases. “I wanted something that was small enough that I could carry, plus at the time I was still afraid of guns and I thought with it being smaller it wouldn’t scare me as much. I thought if I could get comfortable with a little one then I could move to a bigger one. I like that it’s easy; I can [rack the slide] without help, I can load the gun by myself and I liked the way it shot.”

When Jessica mentioned she could load the P238 by herself it reminded me that this is a very easy gun to load. Some guns have magazines with stiff springs that make them difficult to reload and can require a magazine re-loading device to help.

Andrea, one of the facilitators in our pistol league, noted that she’s now in the market for a P238 after shooting Jessica’s a few times. ” I have a G[lock]19 supposedly for concealed carry, but it’s too big and bulky and doesn’t get carried. I believe I can realistically carry the Sig without having to drastically re-do my wardrobe and [carry] habits. It’s slim, it feels good and fits my hand well especially with the extended magazine. It has very manageable recoil and it comes in lots of pretty colors.”

It was a common point made by other members of our ladies gun club that the P238 is small, lightweight, shoots well and is easy to maneuver. One member even added that she has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but has no trouble operating the P238. The manual safety is another feature that women in our group seem to prefer.

Sandra, another friend from our neighborhood and gun club, had this to say about shooting the P238. “The recoil is manageable. I like this trigger better than the double action trigger [on her Sig P229], which can be a safety feature for some people. [With the 238] you push your safety down and its ready to go.” When comparing the Sig 238 to other small, concealable .380 guns, Sandra also noted, “I didn’t like the Baby Glock because it’s too squared and my trigger finger was too small to fire the gun correctly. The Ruger LCP has a very long trigger pull and a very thin frame that I find difficult to handle.”

Different Shapes and Sizes

As you know, we all come in different shapes and sizes. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. With that in mind, I thought it was important to share with you just how different my grip and hand size is from Jessica’s, but the Sig P238 works well for both of us.

Comparing hand sizes

Sig Sauer P238 vs P232

I use the standard magazine with my P238, but Jessica opted for an extended magazine with a rounded base to fit her hand more comfortably. Even though my index finger is much shorter than hers I’m able to comfortably reach the trigger.

Caliber vs. Accuracy

There have been many people, both men and women, who’ve voiced concerns about a .380 not being a high enough caliber to provide adequate self protection. Fortunately, there are shooters on both sides of that fence.

Granted, smaller pistols regardless of caliber tend to have a smaller magazine capacity. That’s why one of my main goals in practicing with my carry pistol is to always improve when it comes to accuracy. I want to feel confident that I can put my limited number of rounds in just the right spot so I’m provided as much protection as possible.

Since that’s just my opinion, I wanted to see if Jessica and Sandra felt a .380 caliber pistol could offer them enough protection. They both agreed that their reasons for carrying concealed is to stop an attacker and that if they are proficient with operating the gun they carry, they feel they can stop an attacker with a .380 caliber pistol or a .22 caliber pistol. Jessica went on to say, “Personally, I don’t think its the size of the bullet that’s going to be the difference if I get out of a situation or not. I think if I had my .22 and I shot you enough times, you’re either going to stop coming after me or I’m going to kill you if I hit the right spot. To me, it’s more if I’m comfortable with [the gun] and proficient enough with it to shoot with it.”

Carrying the P238 Concealed

Jessica carries her P238 Nitron concealed by using the Astraea pocket holster or the Athena appendix holster, both made by Soteria Leather, depending on what type of garments she’s wearing. Both holsters have helped Jessica to confidently carry her P238 on her body. I’m currently testing out a few different concealed holster options to see what works best for me.

Concealed Carry

Athena appendix holster

The P238 has an optional extended magazine so you can carry an additional round. For those who prefer to carry more than the six (or 6 +1) rounds a standard P238 magazine permits, you may want to consider carrying an additional magazine within reach of your pistol. Many custom holster manufacturers make their products with the ability to carry not only your firearm, but also an additional magazine.

Additional Magazine

When I first took my gun out of the case I noticed it came with a small, hard plastic mini-holster that can be clipped to a belt or waistband. I wasn’t impressed with the plastic holster at first because when drawing from this holster I’ve had to use my left hand to hold the holster while my right hand draws the gun out. The only use I’ve found for it is when I’ve carried my gun in my purse, I utilize this holster to keep the trigger covered and protected.

I’d also like to note that I personally think carrying concealed in a purse is not the best option, as the gun is not readily accessible as it should be when on your body. Also because the gun can get jostled around and create a safety hazard.

The Flip Side

As with most things you buy, there are both positives and negatives when it comes to a product. Fortunately with the P238, the down side is brief as far as I can tell. Below, I’ll share a few usage notes.

The cost to run the Sig P238 is higher than some larger caliber firearms due to ammunition for a .380 pistol being more expensive than ammunition for a 9mm handgun. There are other ways to save on ammo, like buying in bulk and limiting the number of rounds you go through each time you go to the range. As Jessica said, “with the 9mm its cheaper to go shoot and practice than with the .380.”

Another option to consider if the cost of ammo has you nixing the P238 as the concealed carry gun for you, is the new Sig Sauer P938. This gun is very similar in style, size and functionality to the P238, but comes in 9mm instead of .380.

When I took my P238 to the range for the first couple of times, I had difficulty getting the first round to fire. I found that I had to slam the magazine into the mag well when I loaded it to make sure the magazine was fully engaged. Those first visits to the range left me with a bit of soreness in my left hand since I wasn’t used to tapping the magazine so hard, but as I learned how to use my gun better this has become a non-issue.

There have been a handful of occasions where my first round in a magazine has not fired, but there is evidence of the firing pin hitting the back of the bullet. It hasn’t happened enough for me to think my Copperhead isn’t reliable, but I’ve learned I need to make sure I’m racking the slide hard enough to the rear before letting go; properly chambering the first round. Since the slide is so easy to rack on the P238 I think sometimes I’m not pulling and releasing it fast enough to fully chamber the round.

Anyone in the market for a personal defense firearm that’s easy to carry and conceal may seriously want to consider the Sig Sauer P238. This is a tough little gun that can help you put up a big fight should you need it to.

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  • Pete Volkmar

    Yes I agree that your gun should fit in your hand. However the P230/232 is an excellent conseal carry gun. It has smooth lines and little or no snag areas on the pistol. It does have a hard spring on it, and requires a strong grip to engage the first round. I wouldn’t say I have large hands but, my hands are thick and little gun fits nicely. The steel sights do not snag, I can hit the steel targets at 25 yards. I am confident I will make contact if necessary. If your gun store won’t let you try it first, go to one that will.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment, Pete!

  • Mike Russo

    Nice write up. It’s good to hear of more women gaining interest in guns, an their own fate. Choosing a handgun is extremely personal, as you stated. Comfort is a definite must have for new shooters. I would be careful to not make excuses for your gun though. Thoroughly examine every malfunction and evaluate if tht problem was user induced, ammo/magazine, or just mechanically induced. The most important thing is to ask yourself if the problem is likely to be replicated under extreme stress. If te answer is yes, you may want to continue your search for the “right” gun. Also look at how many times you forgot to disengage the manual safety at the firing line. I am not saying you did, just an example. If that number is more than one, you need to seriously consider if that, “piece of mind” can get you killed. I am not a fan of a manual safety on a defensive handgun, however with proper training and much repetition, the drawbacks can be minimized.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks, Mike! I thought your comment about not ‘making excuses for you gun’ is a good point. That gives me more food for thought (so to speak) as I handle my P238.

    • Angie S.

      I would love to know if you had any issues with sighting. I called SIG Customer Support to confirm that the sight is calibrated such that you’re supposed to use a “combat sight picture” where the front dot covers the target & that the sight is set for 15 yards. I’m new at this, so I’m practicing strictly at close range (anywhere from 15 ft to 25ft depending on which local range I’m at). I called SIG Customer Service to ask for their recommendation concerning how I ought to adjust the sight picture for close range shooting < 8.33 yards. The rep (Steve) told me at that close range, I should be able to use the recommended "combat sight picture" regardless. I'm not so sure. My husband and I were both grouping several inches below where we were aiming. Did you have any issues with low impact on the target? I mean to go back to the range and rent the P238 again to try moving the target out to the 15 yard/45 ft mark and see if we stay on target using the recommended "combat sight picture". (I hadn't thought to do that at the time since I was so focused on fixing whatever I might've been doing wrong to not be able to hit my target at such a close range!)

    • Kelly Black

      Hi Angie, thanks for your comment! I have had difficulty utilizing my sights properly but I’ve attributed it more to my own eyes/focus than the actual sights on the gun. I’ve recently gotten to a point where I can aim my pistol, have my sights in position but be able to also look past them without my eyes crossing. (While at the range on a handful of occassions I simply worked on not closing one eye before shooting which led to me not knowing quite how to focus without a lot of effort.) Your reference to “combat sight picture” wasn’t immediately familiar to me so I did a bit of research online so I could get on the same page with you. I can’t say that I line my sights up exactly in that manner. (My husband has probably told me about this in the past, but obviously it didn’t stick…LOL.) I use my front sight more than anything and keep in mind height over bore. This method has helped me to control my aim much better than trying to line up all three sites evenly. You may have a steadier hand than me when it comes to aiming and controlling your hand/arm position while firing. I’ll definitely try using the combat sight picture when I’m at the range next time.

    • Angie S.

      One of the sales guys at my local range is in your camp. He was clearly pro Kahr P380 for concealed carry and didn’t like the manual safety on the P238, recommending the Kahr for me; his bias was so clear, I was afraid to ask if I could order a P238 SAS AMBI through them. However, I am still leaning towards the P238 because it fits like a glove in my hand and I had ZERO problems operating it (I had tried it at another range that had it available as a rental) — whereas with the Kahr P380, while I absolutely LOVED the buttery smooth and comfortably flat trigger, I had huge problems operating the slide release as well as racking the slide. I’m relieved to hear other women have the same issues with difficult to operate slides with tight/hard springs — and that it’s not just me as a newbie! Strangely enough, my husband and I were trying out the same gun and sharing a lane; he had some jams/misfires while I had ZERO issues (and he’s the experienced shooter). My hypothesis is that he might not have been fully releasing the trigger before firing the next round — either that or his big hand might’ve been moving the manual safety a little; those are the only reasons I could think of that might explain why he had so many errors and I had none — and we were taking turns, me shooting a mag and then him shooting a mag, etc.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your feedback, Angie! Reading your comment about your husband having misfires while you didn’t have that experience with the same gun leads me to think the misfires I’ve had really are attributed to operator handling more than the pistol. I’m glad to know of your comparison which will help me to remember to effectively load and ‘make ready’ before I fire. : )

  • timothy gauthier

    I love my SIG P238 Nitron. I originally bought it because I was looking for a weapon with similar controls to my 1911 and that could be carried in condition one. While I have a “subcompact” Kahr CW45, even it was too large to carry in shorts and a t-shirt which is the norm in south Georgia about half the year. Compared to the Keltec P3AT and the Ruger LCP, the SIG is of much higher quality particularly with the crisp controls and trigger pull. I have much more confidence carrying this gun. The factory sights shot a little low at 10 yards but that is easily remedied for less than $20 at your local gun smith. It is worth the cost because the sight pusher is $187! As with any gun, but especially a small caliber shot placement is critical and the P238 is nuts on. There is negligible shift in point of impact between WIN White Box and my carry Hornady 90083, 380 ACP, 90 Gr, Zombie Max. Not that I’m hunting zombies, but the this is great ammo that can usually be found at a discount because of the slime green ball. Regarding .380 ammo I would definitely go with a JHP with the plastic ball insert such as the Hornady or Corbon Powerball for better clothing penetration. Premature expansion and slowing in clothing is a real problem with .380 ammo. I like the extended mags for additional purchase for large hands although they don’t come cheap. The stock grips are rather slick so you should consider grip tape on the outside (away from the body) grip panel. Finally, some Ameriglo or Tritium night sights would be a great first upgrade. Although mine came with a Crimson Trace laser, I took it off. There is really no use for it at 7-10 yards. Anything further and I’m running away! You can’t go wrong with this pistol. As for the failure to feed problems, you ought to put at least 250 rounds through any weapon before even considering carrying it. All-in-all a great weapon. Perfect size for carry during hot weather.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment, Timothy! Grip modifications are definitely something I’ve been thinking about just for comfort and when my hands get sweaty. Now you’ve got me curious about the ammo you use, too! : )

    • timothy gauthier

      Try spray on truck bed liner. Or if you’re not sure try grip tape. I have grip tape and a cut piece of bicycle tube on my CW45 and has shared me well for over 4 years and thousands of rounds. Costs less than $5 and can be removed in minutes if you don’t like it. Great article…keep them coming!

    • Check out the Hogue Molded Rubber Finger Groove grip replacements. I put a set on my P238 and my girlfriends P238 actually came from Sig with them. I love the feel of them, definately gives you a nice grip on the firearm.

    • Determination…and a plan, is the key to success. and you Got it !! ;0)

  • Adam Messer

    I didn’t purchase it for carry, but I bought a Springfield XD without shooting it. I bought it based on the safety features and it seems to have a good reputation among most. I did handle it for a while in the store and it felt GREAT in my hand…
    But after a few hundred rounds it’s a different story. The thumb of my support hand rests on the edge of the takedown lever and every time it recoils it rubs against my thumb and creates blisters rather quickly. I tried several grip variations and came to one conclusion: It just don’t fit!
    So I’m back in the market for a handgun, this time shooting all of the ones I like. Top picks: Sig P226, Smith & Wesson M&P, and the H&K USP.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment, Adam! Enjoy testing out the guns you’re considering. I’ve shot the Sig P226 and liked it, but I haven’t shot the others yet. Keep us posted on what you go with next.

    • crane

      forget about the m&p. not even close to par with sig or h&k. smith & wesson need to ditch their “hinged” trigger saftey. it is a horrible thing to put on a handgun especially a double action trigger. it will cause you to over anticipate/compensate. first round of a double action trigger is a further reach and combined with the “hinge” having to open to locked position before the actual trigger begins to move makes your finger travel in a terrible oval moverment instead of a clean squeeze/pull. you might want to add CZ to your list of sig & H&K. i prefer my sig’s but my law enforcement buddy carries a CZ when off-duty and my navy pal sleeps with his h&k under his pillow. all three great choices. also all are steal slides with steal or aluminum frames which means, yes they are slightly heavier but that makes them quite a bit more accurate.

  • Michael

    First, I love Sig. I’ve got a 239 and a 226. But for small carry I went with the Kahr CW40. Less than an inch wide, light, and .40 caliber. The grip is slim for those with smaller hands. It’s not an expensive weapon, it shoots well (4 inch group at 35 feet) and throws a good bullet. I originally thought the P239 would be my go to but with weight and bulk, the CW40 won out.

    But before I sound like I wouldn’t go .380, I’ve got a Bersa 380 that I like. And the first rule of gun fights is “make sure you have a gun”…..

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your feedback, Michael!

  • Jason Dellinger

    This is an excellent article and one that I’ll make sure that my wife reads before we decide to purchase her own handgun.

    We have a range here that has a variety of rental guns. If you buy a gun, they waive all rental charges so there’s no risk or pressure to buy any type of gun and it’s the best way to “try before you buy”. I highly recommend that your readers seek out similar establishments when considering a handgun purchase.

    I also agree completely that the caliber/capacity debate is overrated. As you point out, it’s much better to hit 3 times with a .22 than miss 5 times with a .45. Statistically, the mere presence of the handgun and the attitude that it WILL be used stops most violent crimes. This is also the best argument that the weapon should be carried on your person and not in a bag/purse. It only adds to your panic if you forget said bag/purse in a restaurant knowing there’s a loaded firearm inside and it’s impossible to use something that you don’t have immediate and unrestricted access too. Furthermore, your bag will be the target of a “purse snatch”. At best, it will be extremely difficult to draw the weapon if you don’t have control of the bag. At worst, the guy gets your bag AND gun. He either uses it against you or commits a crime with YOUR gun, leaves it on-scene, and the cops trace it back to you. Not good AT ALL.

    Again, excellent article and I look forward to more from you here on ITS.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your feedback, Jason! I’m glad to hear you have a access to a gun range that sounds like its really geared to help shooters find what’s going to work best for each individual person.

      I agree with your points about carrying in a purse or bag. I look forward to acquiring enough holster options so that purse carry becomes a non-issue at some point.

    • Christa Garbin

      became interested in the purse part of this article. Purses are an interesting problem for some. I typically prefer my purse, because the holster allows a full size 1911. And it is in perfect draw position from my shoulder. Almost like having it in a cross draw shoulder holster. But, it does force me to draw right handed. I prefer shooting left handed. My targets say left/right does not really matter, but having sight in only the left eye, just prefer left. I have a Kahr MK9 for concealment, but being a very small person (as in 0), it means buying clothes a size too big, or layering to hide that little Kahr. So, like choosing a gun, carry methods are based on personal choice, then training. When my purse is armed, it never leaves my left shoulder. Plus, being under my left arm means I can draw true and easily with no fumble. If it were a hobo bag I randomly dumped in chairs, then it shouldn’t carry anything more important than lipstick. I think women have to put a lot more thought into where they carry and how.

  • Dan

    The Sig P238 is a great gun, I own/carry one myself. When I sold guns in a Gun Club in Scottsdale AZ, I was always encountering women shooters looking for their first ccw firearm. Most of the time, they were accompanied by their boyfriend/husband. Being the macho alpha male stereotype, he would try to force the woman into something that he liked, something that he shot well. This would always lead to a Glock 26, Kel-Tec PF-9, J-frame 38/357, etc. Most of the woman had never shot a smaller handgun before, or any hand gun for that matter. Always ended with a bad choice. I learned to ignore the men, and only talk to the women. Some would like one gun because it was “cute” or it “matches my purse”. One lady wanted to know if she could get Louis Vuitton grips to match her purse. I am not making that up. The Sig P232 was a popular choice, and every woman encountered the same issued you did, Kelly. It wasn’t until the P238 came out that I felt completely comfortable recommending a small 380. They are so easy to shoot, unlike a Kel-Tec P3AT or similar size guns. I kept mine with me every day, just so that people could shoot it before the bought it. My P238 has had 750 rounds shot through it in just under 2 years, and I have only shot 150 of those rounds….the rest are all customers that have tried it before purchase. If you are looking at a P938, they are a little snappy, and the shorter mag digs into my palm…much better with the extended grip.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment and recommendations, Dan! I admit I chuckled when I read the part about Louis Vuitton grips. While that would totally coordinate with my Copperhead, I just can’t imagine looking for something like that. To each his own, I suppose. ; )

      I’m glad to hear more about the P938. I’ve heard mixed reviews from people online so far, but may consider testing it out at some point. I’m glad you have quite a bit of experience at the gun counter with helping women find the right gun and shared that in your comment. All of the great input we’re getting from experienced shooters such as yourself will surely be beneficial to a lot of people.

  • James Chao

    I can’t speak for everyone, but I think many more people than might be expected experience these same growing pains as you have. As youtube user MrColionNoir has said in the past, it’s a process. As you learn and get more comfortable it’s natural to seek experience and try things out for yourself to figure out what works for you. Even then, what works for you today may be completely different to what works for you tomorrow.

    My own first handgun is a S&W 686 combat magnum with 4″ barrel. It’s a great revolver but attempting to carry it in any way for me was so cumbersome and borderline unsafe it really made me reassess my thought processes and seek out other platforms. It’s been four years since then and I’ve learned quite a bit not just from my experiences but from mistakes/successes others have had as well. I’ve since found a great balance of carry-ability and accuracy with my M&P9 however I know this is a journey that never really ends. I know you’ll look back at your P232 and P238 one day and have a sense of nostalgia from how much you’ve grown since the time you purchased them.

    • Kelly Black

      Hi James, thanks for your feedback and for sharing your experience.

  • Mike Foster

    Great article! I just spent an hour yesterday at the gun shop I hang out with trying to explain to someone they need to at-least “feel” other guns. Don’t by an XDM45 because your friend has one and you kinda liked it. Or go to a range and shoot other handguns. This experience is extremely personal. I love my XD9, my wife likes it… but she loves her G19. And that’s the way it is… looks aren’t everything. Even holster choice, I’m a huge fan of the Blackhawk Serpa (Thanks dad!) but I know quite a few people that don’t. Everything in the firearm world is personal.
    Tastes in guns, gear, and even bullets.
    Your articles are awesome, the way your bring personal experience in really hits home.

    • Kelly Black

      Hi Mike, thanks so much for your feedback!

    • Eric

      Mike’s got a big chunk of it here. It’s all personal. VERY personal. Do you like how the gun handles when you’re shooting? Are you comfortable reloading it? Do you like carrying it?

      I’d add to the “it’s personal” the comment one that I found out when I was buying a carry weapon.

      It’s about trade-offs.

      I know a LOT of people who carry a 1911 for personal protection. Nice gun that fires a favorite round in the defensive shooting world, .45. But that’s a very large firearm. It weighs a lot (relatively speaking). And it’s not cheap to shoot.

      So by carrying something smaller (9mm or .380) you lose some of the penetration of a .45, but you gain something you may carry more often and practice with more often.

      Among the guns I’ll carry is a Ruger LCP. It’s a .380, so I’ve traded some of the penetration of a .45 or a 9mm for a VERY small size that I can carry ANYWHERE. I can wear it around the house and forget I have it on until I’m getting ready for bed. I also carry a Sig P-239 (9mm), but that’s a bigger gun and it’s a heavier gun. Not something I can conceal easily with shorts and a t-shirt in the summer time.

      Is the LCP the “best” for carry? That’s the wrong question, because it differs for everyone, for the personal preferences and for the trade-offs you’re going to make along the way.

      But I know I’m going to carry it more often because of the weight.

      Personal taste and trade-offs.

    • Kelly Black

      I couldn’t agree more, Eric! Thanks for your comment.

  • Psybain

    Does your friend have trouble holstering her Sig in the leather IWB? From my experience, all-leather IWB holsters like to collapse once the gun has been removed. That is why I ended up choosing a Comp-Tac MTAC for my Glock 23 – it gives me the comfort of a leather backing against my body, with a kydex shell that allows me to holster my glock without having to lose situational awareness by looking down.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment! Jessica may chime in and answer your question directly, but from my experience with leather holsters you definitely have to watch for wear when using one and replace it if it gets too soft. The leather holsters definitely don’t stay rigid forever like a Kydex holster, but I honestly don’t think I”ll be comfortable enough with any holster to not carefully re-holster my gun after drawing. I understand your concern about losing situational awareness so hopefully we’ll get more comments from more experienced shooters that can directly address your concern. Please stay tuned! : )

    • Jessica C

      I have had no problems with the re-holstering as of yet. I have only had the holster a couple of months so it has not started to collapse at all. I have also not been in any situation that has required me to try to re-holster fast. Most of the time I am at home when I am pulling the gun in and out of the holster. The few times I have been out in public such as a gun range (that allows you to pull from a holster) it has been just as easy for me.

  • timothy gauthier


    Milt Sparks makes excellent IWB leather holsters that are reinforced so that they remain open when empty. The general theme in the comments bears out the fact that what fit and functions well for one person may be completely wrong for another. Hand size, flexibility, grip strength, what you wear all affect which weapon is right for you. Although Glocks are great weapons, the XD more closely approximates the grip angle on my 1911 which I shoot the most. The SW Airweights are light and highly concealable but difficult to control, especially under stress. I find myself using different weapons depending on where I’m going and what I’m wearing but not everybody has that option. If you can have only one it its better that it fit you, be reasonably accurate, and utterly reliable. As the author suggested, get a high quality holster and spend the gun savings on practice ammo. Don’t forget to practice with your self defense ammo so you know its capabilities… such as the change to point of impact and recoil. The P238 meets all of the requirements and is also enjoyable to shoot; which cannot be said for a lot of small pistols. Comfort and competence will encourage you to carry your weapon all the time, which is what having a CPL is all about. After all, if you could predict trouble you would just avoid it.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for addressing Pysbain’s concern, Timothy!

  • Sean Depolo

    Mrs. Black, I’m trying to teach my girlfriend how to shoot as well, because I think that it is important she be able to have every advantage over an attacker when I’m not around. But she seems to have a lot of the same feelings you did when you started shooting, she tells me “she’s afraid of disappointing me”. Is there any way I can make her feel more comfortable, or anything that worked for you I can try?

    • Kelly Black

      Hi Sean, thanks for your comment and your question! I can completely relate to being worried about disappointing or embarrassing my husband while I was learning to shoot. This might sound far fetched if your girlfriend is just learning, but I can’t recommend a women’s shooting group highly enough. Hearing direction and guidance from like-minded women helped me a ton! I’m not sure where you guys live, but if you can find A Girl And A Gun League chapter near you I’d definitely reach out to them. If that’s not an option, have someone else work with her either at a range or some type of instructional class. That’s not because I think you can teach her, but I found that when Bryan would try to help me I would allow myself to show my emotions more so than if I had been working with someone I was less comfortable with. I have built up more confidence as I’ve learned on my own than I did when I was relying on Bryan. (That’s nothing against him at all, he’s a great coach. I just seem to work harder at learning and relaxing when I don’t have him to lean on.)

      You can also get her the book by Julie Golob called Shoot. It’s breaks guns, ammo, body positioning, aim, etc. all down to a very basic level without sounding condescending. I learned a ton from Julie’s book! I think as your girlfriend begins to acquire some confidence on her own she may not worry so much about disappointing you. I know I’ve been excited to share my experiences with Bryan after getting home from the range and seeing his pride in my newly gained confidence boosts my spirits even more.

      Please let your girlfriend know she can email me through our Support link on the website if I can ever answer any questions directly. My best wishes to you both and I hope you’ll keep me posted on what develops!

    • Sean Depolo

      Thank you ma’am! I really appreciate the advice. I think having her attend a course might be the best idea then. Since living in california finding a women’s shooting club is even harder than finding one for men I’d have to guess. I’ll tell you when I find one!

  • james

    @Sean Depolo

    It would probably be easier and less stressful from both a relationship and learning perspective if your girlfriend took individual shooting instruction (e.g. you aren’t there watching her) from a professional firearms instructor that she has no personal relationship with. It will be much easier for her to concentrate on learning the basics and improving her skills if she’s not worried about what you think of her every move.

    There’s nothing personal against you at all – it’s just better mentally for her. Once she gets the basics down and has developed some confidence in her own abilities, then by all means, enjoy a session at the shooting range together to keep improving skills and confidence. Note: If she learns from a reputable professional instructor, then if a technique that works for her is a little different from the one you use, it doesn’t mean either one of your techniques is “wrong”. Just try not to be ragging on her constantly about always doing things “your way”. It will cause more harm than good.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for chiming in, James. I couldn’t agree more!

    • Sean Depolo

      Thank you for the advice as well! I completely understand what you both are saying, I just never would have thought of it. I teach everyone I know how to shoot, they don’t care what I think of them though haha. Great Idea. I’m trying to find her some kind of instruction right now.

      Actually, would it be bad if one of my friends taught her? Or is there something else bad about that.

  • Rusty Bunton

    What a great article… wife has the P238 and loves it. Easy to handle, easy to load, easy to conceal. The slide action and ease of operation were the major factors in purchasing this gun. She, like many women, doesn’t have extreme forearm and hand strenght. When she worked with the P238, she loved it…..and a happy wife is a happy life!!! nuff said! Thanks for the article.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment and input, Rusty!

  • Mossback

    I”ve had my CCW permit for 6 years, and have mainly carried a S&W .38 revolver in a IWB holster. About 2 yrs ago I made the impulse purchase of a Ruger LCP. I hated that thing. Pain the butt to load and rack. So much so that I felt it was a danger. Recently, my son was home from the army on leave – he’s an infantry guy and a gun nut. He went with me to the gun store and directed me to this Sig P238. Love at first sight. Easy to load, a nice size, not much kick. I”ve been carrying regularly in a Flashbang bra holster ( LOVE!!) . Highly recommended. My LCP was traded in and I wasn’t sorry to see it go.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience with moving to the P238, Mossback! I haven’t tried the Flashbang holster, but I must admit I’m intrigued by it.

  • Xavier R Santoni

    I wish Sig do a 10mm Gun…I hate the looks i get from my friends when they see my Glock 20 and i have to say WHAT?

  • Adonica Jones-Parks

    I bought a Sig P238 for concealed carry and it is my first firearm. I absolutely love it! I have the extended magazine and laser attached. I have been to the range with it, and it is easy to handle and re-load. For recreational shooting and for distance, I am looking to purchase a full-size Sig, but for a compact, this model is it.

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment, Adonica! I’m glad you started off with a firearm that works well for you.

  • I have forwarded this article to my daughters, both in thier early 30’s and looking for a CC pistol to fit thier small frames (5’1″ and 5’4′, both ~ 110 lbs). I have been searching with some dificulty for weapons from a lady’s viewpoint, be they long guns or pistols. Your articel really fits the bill in regards to CC considerations for women.

    While I do not forsee myself accepting anything smaller than a 40 as a good defense caliber, I understand that there are ways to compensate by bullet choice. Hornadys Critical Defense being one choice amoung a few. And I also understand that what works well for some, will not work for others. Daddy carries a Ruger New Model 357 Magnum, not the best of choices for his little girls.

    A very fine article that I will be forwarding to other women. And perhaps a few Daddy’s as well. 😉

    Semper Fidelis

    • Kelly Black

      Thanks for your comment and your feedback, Gunny Doug! I hope your daughters enjoy the P238 as much as I do. Keep us posted.

  • Marty

    what excellent commentary on the 238 and sooooo good to see and article written by women that can not only help other women but also applies to men who might want to carry the small, 1911 Sig.
    i am fortunate enough to have both the 238 (Marine) and the 938 (Nighmare).
    i LOVE the 238 as my carry pistol but the 938 might soon replace it.
    The 938 is 3/4″ longer and the grip is wider and thicker to accomodate the 9mm in lieu of the .380.
    i really like the grip, feel, and balance of the 238 but only with the extended mag. i don’t like the feel of leaving my last 1 or 2 fingers off of the grip with the factory 6 rd mag.
    yes, the factory Sig extended mag is expensive but please note that there are top quality aftermarket mags out there in the $20’s that fit & function perfectly. Also, any mag the fits the Colt Mustang also fits the 238 perfectly. (Look @ CDNN)
    i too was not completely thrilled with the factory grips and found a pair of Sau Paulo wood grips on Ebay for $28 that increase my grip AND make my 238 drop dead gorgeous!

    • Kelly Black

      Marty, thanks so much for your feedback and the input on modifications.

  • Cassandra

    Thanks for the holster suggestions and the write up on this gun Kelly! I also carry this weapon and have been looking for a better holster to use for conceal carry. I love this gun. Easy to hold, easy to shoot, easy to load and dependable. Haven’t had it fail yet!

    • Kelly Black

      Cassandra, thanks for your comment! I actually just ordered the Athena appendix holster and I can’t wait to try it out. I was very impressed by Jessica’s holster and her feedback about using it. Keep me posted on what holster(s) work best for you.

  • Mrs.Black
    The reason you have a problem not finding a weapon that suites you well is because no weapon manufacture creates a gun to make you look good at work or in front of all your neighbors. You see the weapon is not there to generate a self image of being a hard ass. It was designed with one purpose, to kill. It is very arrogant to assume that you or your neighbors think you are a good enough to take down or stop a threat with a .380 or even bolder, a .22 without any problems. Before posting inexperienced comments such as these I would suggest doing a little more research on how fast a threat can close on you within the time it takes you to draw that gun from your purse. You might be surprised to find out that getting off even two shots accurately is a real challenge when in an urban environment such as a parking lot. You might also seriously reconsider the skill it takes to kill someone with a .22 or .380 under these conditions. I realize the article was written to give advice on choosing a firearm for women but speaking about “Caliber vs Accuracy” should be left to someone with more experience than yourself. I will give you one thing, I am sure Sig is very happy that ITS is marketing all of their products so well.

    • Just to be clear, in no way is anyone at ITS compensated by Sig for speaking highly of their firearms. I just wanted to point that out, since it seems you’ve been using the Jump to Conclusions Mat while you troll. Before you start criticizing Kelly for her comments, perhaps you should research the lethality of a .22 round. I had a friend that nearly died from a .22 that wasn’t even a well placed shot. I’d also suggest you research the power of positive thinking. What would you have everyone do? Believe there’s no way they can reasonably defend themselves and just bury their heads in the sand? Also, if you could point out in the article where Kelly references the P238 helping her look good at work and in front of her neighbors, I’d appreciate it. I’m having a hard time finding that inference in the article.

    • Kelly Black

      Nikola, while I appreciate you taking the time to read the article and comment and address me as if you mean to pay respect, it seems you have made your own inferences based on whatever conclusions you’d like to draw from my post. I’m not worried about how I look with a weapon. Perhaps you missed the point that I’m talking about concealed carry. My concern is how I can operate the firearm and the ease of use. As I also mentioned, there is much debate when it comes to caliber vs. accuracy. I haven’t claimed either side to be right or wrong, its simply what a concealed carry holder feels more comfortable with. And, finally to address your statement about Sig being happy with our marketing of their products… we like Sig Sauer guns. I also like other specific brands of various products that I’m likely to refer people to just because I like the brand and it works for me. Have a nice day, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Nikola, or whatever your real name is.

  • Brav0Charlie


    The Mrs. shoots the P938 at the range during her lessons (rental is included in lesson). There’s a popular compact 9, but it’s double stacked and she has to use an assist device to load the magazine. She likes the ease of the Sig Sauer single stack magazine a lot better. Is the P238 easier or same to load?

    And for holsters, girls bodies are more curvy. You find anything that accommodates that? Hope I’m explaining properly. If you were going to buy a holster for your Aunt or Mom, suggestions would be welcomed.

    Thank you.

    • Kelly Black

      Hi Brav0Charlie, I find the P238 magazines very easy to load and haven’t had any trouble with the magazine that came with the gun or the additional ones I’ve purchased. As for holsters, I’m actually testing out some different options now. You may want to start by determining how your wife wants to carry first, i.e., in the waistband, out of the waistband, belly band or even a bra holster. I haven’t tried out all of these options, but there are definite styles I know I wouldn’t want to wear so I could exclude those right off the bat before investing in something I thought would work for me. There are some great videos on YouTube from women who share what types of holsters work for them and they discuss what types of garments they typically wear so your wife could see if their dress style is similar to her own. I know my response is vague, but as with choosing a firearm choosing a holster is a very personal decision. What works for me may not work for everyone. Thanks for reading the article and for your comment!

  • Angie S.

    As a new shooter, I was having a tough time deciding on my first pistol for concealed carry. A part of me wanted a 9mm for more stopping power, but I found the 9mm to be very fatiguing and difficult to control well for a newbie not used to all that recoil. So, in the end, my husband, who had been trying to convince me that I ought to consider a .380 as my first CW, won out. I do believe the P238 fits like a glove in my hand. Oh, and this past weekend, I believe I’ve figured out the root cause of some of the problems I was having with low impact on the target. It took me 30 minutes, but I finally noticed that my grip was TOO relaxed and loose — in my attempt to mentally remind myself to relax, I relaxed my hold on the grip too much, leading to impact below my point of aim. Once I noticed and corrected that, the pistol was pretty spot on. My husband, a better, more experienced shooter, had very good accuracy from 25 ft to 45 ft.

    Also, has anyone else noticed that the P238 is extremely accurate, but to achieve such accuracy, it necessarily has very tight tolerances. I noticed that it is very unforgiving of mistakes and/or bad technique/form. 🙂 I’m convinced it is the perfect choice for me, as it will encourage me to improve my technique and discourage me from getting sloppy.

    Oh, and a tip from a policeman in the family — SIGs are great guns…just make sure you keep them clean. 🙂

  • Ron Brown

    I have a Sig P230, which I have had for some time. I purchased the Sig for Conceal Carry
    but have never been able to use it as such. The one and only problem I have had is the Magazine
    release. As you know you must push the release on the butt which pushes the main spring and should allow the magazine to be removed. I am a fairly big guy and it’s all I can do to try an pull it out. If I were confronted with a dangerous situation and needed that second magazine I would be SOL dead. That is why I don’t carry it concealed. It could be just a bad design ans most have the magazine button up near the trigger guard. I have tried to find a weaker mainspring so their would not be so much pressure but still cock the hammer but to no avail. If you or any of your readers have a solution that would be much appreciated.

  • Jules Gollner

    Excellent article Kelly! I have come away with a lot of good info after reading this article & the
    comments that were sent in.
    With the exception of ‘Mr.Negative’ Nikola.
    My gun trainer started me on the Sig380 last week & I love it. It will be my cc weapon of choice.
    I have very small hands and the racking on other guns was too difficult for me.
    I knew I needed something I could handle & re-load quickly; also that would be easy to carry often.
    I will be sending this article on to my daughter & lady friends on the plus’s of the Sig.
    Also, I will point out how negative speech & behavior limits your outlook on life.

  • Gatorcop1

    How do you like the single action on the P238? Do you carry it with the safety on and hammer cocked, or are you training yourself to cock the hammer as you draw it out of your holster/purse/etc.?
    My wife is in love with the P238 and we are contemplating purchasing it, after she handled over a dozen other guns. I am a bit concerned about it being a single action. Comments? Thanks.

  • C Hickman

    Bought two Sig P238s for Christmas–one for me and one for my Mom. I don’t like carrying in Condition One. The P238’s single action with one in the chamber gives me an easier feeling. I practice drawing and cocking for muscle memory as often as possible, and the split second more it takes to cock than to deactivate the safety seems to be a reasonable trade-off. My mom absolutely loves the weapon. I carry it everywhere, even if it is a .380. I alternate Buffalo Bore 100g standard pressure and Federal 95g JHP in the clip, carry an additional, identical seven-round clip, and am unafraid. My S&W 6906 was my primary carry, but I couldn’t wear it with everything in the Summer. The Sig goes everywhere.

    • Gatorcop1

      The wife bought the Sig P238. She loves it. This being her first handgun, ever, we are going over all of the safety rules. She’s shot about 35 rounds out of it so far and continues to handle it while watching tv (unloaded of course) to get used to it even more. So far we haven’t practiced drawing and firing it yet- that’s coming down the line. I can honestly say both on her behalf and mine, that the single action for the first round is not a concern, now. Thanks for the input. BTW, she purchased the P238 with the optional formed grips, 7 round magazine and Sig laser. She’s a bad-wamma-jamma now!

  • Stalt

    I have a P238 and for me it is an intuitive handgun…. It feels good in hand, the trigger pull is perfect for me. the P238 slide is easy for me to rack. I found it to be a very accurate handgun for me to shoot from day one. I did not need to get used to firing it. It just works for me… I have Hogue Grips with Extended Magazine.. The factory Laser does not work for me. It interferes with my grip so I will not be using it. The key words are “for me” .. Please try various brands and also various Grips on the brand and model that “Feels Right to you” Then it is time to fire one….. A trip to Cabelas and Gander Mountain is worthwhile, they will have many brands and configurations… I bought mine online from an out of state gun shop and saved more than $200.00 from prices charged by local stores.

  • Reverend

    I own a few weapons, handguns, pistols and rifles. For the longest time I was carrying a S&W Chief Special, 2″ .38 Stainless. It was bulky and heavy to carry all-day and I got myself the Sig P232 Stainless. Experienced same as you indicated and was thrilled when I recently purchased a Nitron P238. It was a special run,uncatalogued P238 that came with the Sig Night Sight-Rear and Front Fiber Optic Sight, Hogue Rubber Finger Grooved Grips, 2 Magazines (6 and 7 round) and a holster of my choice. It was manufactured in May 2013 so all the issues with spring etc have been addressed by Sig. I have nothing negative to say about the P238. It is great for concealed carry, lightweight and is even a joy to play with while I’m at the range with my bigger toys. I carry it with Hornady Critical Defense loads and an extra magazine with same ammo. I am very confident that I can slow down any aggressor from 50′ out, if needed. Closer then that, they will be stopped. Now, I am trading my P232 for a .45 Sig Sauer for range play.

  • darkalley

    Just wanted to say I’m really glad to have come across this post. I’m 20, looking at buying my first handgun(with the express intent of getting a concealed carry license) in a couple months, and while I do have some experience with a moderately wide variety of guns, I don’t have any female friends who shoot or carry regularly. While my male friends have been helpful, this article addressed some concerns I had and has been a huge help. Thanks!

    • kellyblack

      @darkalley That’s awesome to hear! Thanks for your feedback and for taking the time to comment. All the best to you as you acquire your CC license. Stay vigilant!

  • JasonD

    You seem pretty desperate to elevate yourself, which is the typical recourse of little baby-brains with inferiority complexes. Go learn some people skills before going on the internet and trying to interact with grown ups.

  • kellyblack

    SirDanMur Thanks for your feedback! Jessica loves the holsters she’s purchased from Soteria Leather. I’ve only tried an appendix holster, which hasn’t worked all that well for me. Maybe I’ll give another style of holster from Soteria a shot at some point in the future. I’m definitely still pleased with my P238. If you have the chance to invest in one, I definitely recommend it!

  • kellyblack

    @Reverend Thanks so much for your feedback! It’s always great to hear about the experience other shooters have had with their firearms. I also love hearing from shooters who are confident a .380 can defend them. Stay safe and be vigilant!

  • kellyblack

    @Stalt Thank you for sharing your feedback and emphasizing the details of what works for you. That’s so important for anyone to keep in mind as they investigate which firearm will work best for them. Excellent points to consider!

  • kellyblack

    @Gatorcop1 Honestly, it took me awhile to get used to the idea of carrying concealed with a round chambered. No matter if the gun is parked in a holster in my bag or on my body I’m always conscious of the gun being jostled around. Part of what helped me to get past that is the ability to have the safety on when I carry the P238. The safety is easy for me to release after I draw the pistol and have it in position.
    With regards to the trigger, the double action is all I’ve really worked with consistently. It works for me. Keep us posted on what your wife chooses!

  • kellyblack

    @Jules Gollner Hi Jules, thanks so much for your feedback! I’m glad the article was helpful and appreciate you sharing it with friends and family. Keep up the training and stay safe and vigilant!

  • kellyblack

    @Ron Brown Thanks for your feedback. You definitely bring up great points for any shooter who may have larger hands or a different way of gripping the firearm when drawing from a concealed position. Hopefully we’ll get some comments with recommendations on what may work better for you.

  • kellyblack

    @Angie S. Thanks so much for your comment, Angie! I’ve found that my grip and form need to be firm, too. Even though I’ve been shooting for a few years now I still have to tell myself to relax, breathe and focus. Maybe one of these days everything will be second nature for me, but until then I have to coach myself as I go. I like what you mentioned about how the P238 encourages you to improve your technique and not get sloppy. I agree! I was at the range one day last year and a few young males were firing some large caliber pistol and I heard them say, “This is one of those guns where you can hit anything!” My immediate thought was, “Dear God, why am I in the bay next to them” and then I hoped that I would be a better shooter by really developing better skill with my aim and not just relying on a single big bullet to cover more paper. I know when it comes to self defense either method will work fine, but I like the idea of nailing that bulls eye with my .380 round. Keep up the great practice and stay safe!

  • WaspinatorPrime

    I bought a p232 a while back and found it to be a GREAT pistol.
    Matter of fact I now own two. One I sent back to Sig to be tuned – sweet.

  • AlrogErs1

    this was extremely informative.  I have the sig p238 and love it.  I have been looking for a good holster to purchase, I am left handed and it can be difficult.  I settled on the Athena

    Thank you!

  • Dark Anubis

    I agree the P238 is a great deep carry pistol. I had a friend who had a Colt Mustang and after I saw this Sig come out, it was a no-brainer. I am a 1911 man, so having a super-compact with the same placement for the safety, etc. is very comforting. It is also far more comfortable to shoot than most .380 blowback models. In fact it is downright pleasant for a compact .380. It has replaced my Kel-Tec .32 as my “throw in a pocket and go” pistol. The only thing stopping it from being my ONLY pocket pistol is my insane fascination with .25 ACP pimp guns like the FIE Titan.

  • aa aaa

    We’re a 2 P238 family, wife liked mine so much over her Springfield we bought another Sig, very happy!

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