SIG Sauer P938

By Walt Rauch - Last updated: Thursday, August 23, 2012 - Save & Share - 23 Comments

Handgun review photo: Left-side thumbnail of SIG P938.Handgun review photo: Left-side thumbnail of SIG P938.

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Summary: Walt Rauch’s review of and rating for the SIG Sauer P938 pistol, including a range report, photos, MSRP, specs, user ratings and user comments. (Click here to see all of Rauch’s pistol reviews.)

Editor’s Review

The author’s sample P938 Nightmare, from the left.

Early this year, SIG Sauer announced the P938, and updated/bigger version of it’s P238 pistol, which was introduced in 2009. I obtained a sample of the P938 Nightmare model and put it through its paces. My review follows below.

The Details
As noted above, the SIG P938 chambered in 9mm is an updated version of SIG’s P238 chambered in .380 ACP. With the P238 being a locked-breech, short-recoil-operated pistol, the action is more than sufficient to handle the more powerful 9mm round. In one sense, the original—the P238—is overbuilt for .380 ACP (many other pocket pistols in this caliber successfully work with a more simple and less-costly-to-produce direct blowback system). Mechanically, the only change applied to the P238 to turn it into the P938 involved slightly enlarging to accommodate the longer-in-length 9mm cartridge. If you want to get picky about it, you can also include the new standard ambidextrous manual thumb safety of the P938, which is an extra-cost option on the P238.

The single-action-only P938 resembles a miniaturized version of a 1911 pistol, yet mechanically varies from this ancient (but still quite effective) ancestor. One quickly-visible change: There is no manual grip safety.

The P938 is reportedly available in seven configurations:

Barrel lock-up is straight SIG, with the chamber hood mating with the ejection port. There is no barrel bushing, but there is a full-length, non-captive recoil spring on a metal guide rod.

The author's sample P938 from the right.

The author’s sample P938 from the right.

It has an exposed and rounded hammer, ambidextrous manual thumb safeties and an overall length of 5.9″. It measures 3.9″ high and 1.1″ wide, and SIG says the trigger pull weight is 7.5–8.5 lbs. The barrel length measures 3″, and the gun weighs 16 oz. (without a magazine).

The grip panels are checkered except for the horizontal strip centered on both in which “SIG SAUER” is cut into the smooth surface. Four blued Allen screws—two to a side—hold them in place. The grips extend upward, partially shielding the slide stop, magazine catch and thumb safeties. These safety flanges or shelves then protrude just enough for manipulation, while still providing some protection against accidental movement.

I encountered one problem with this protection: When shooting with a high grip, part of the flesh of my shooting hand was pinched when I disengaged the ambidextrous safety. If I were to own this sample, I would experiment at softening and/or lowering the sharp edges of the panel beneath the safety so that the safety movement would push away, not trap, the flesh of my hand. For me, though, this is but a small price to pay for the advantages of easily operating the safety with either hand and lessening accidental disengagement, which I often manage to do when carrying or using other 1911 pistols lacking this thoughtful consideration. (My usual solution is to either remove the off-side safety or file the flange down to such an extent that it takes effort to operate it at all.)

The author’s hand was pinched here.

The P938 Nightmare’s slide comes equipped with SIGLITE night sights, which are held in dovetails on the slide. While not specifically addressed in the accompanying instruction manual, the SIGLITE sights, as well as the standard sights, are adjustable for elevation. Six rear and five front sights allow approximately a 2″ point-of-impact change at 25 yards. You adjust windage by moving either or both sights in their retaining dovetail cuts.

The ejection port is quite large. There are seven grasping grooves to its rear. The spring-powered extractor, retained by a hollow pin, is on the ejection port’s right side. The sides of the slide have the SIG look, which is a centered relief cut with the top portion narrower than the lower portion. This treatment runs from muzzle to the rear of the ejection port.

Examining the bottom of the slide shows a feature first used on the cartridge pick- up rail of the P238. This is a dome-shaped projection on the bottom forward portion of the rail, and its function, according to a SIG engineer, is to help ensure the last round’s empty case fully clears the gun. As was explained to me, when the last shot is fired and an empty magazine is in the gun, the dome then presses against the magazine follower as the now-empty case extracts and ejects. Also, the forward lower edge of the pick-up rail is beveled to aid the cartridge’s movement into the barrel chamber.

The alloy frame has a decent-sized beavertail, relieved at its top, allowing the exposed grooved and skeletonized hammer to move down into it when the gun cycles. The magazine well is slightly beveled. The front strap and the mainspring housing are finely checkered.

The horizontally-grooved slide catch, magazine release and ambidextrous thumb safety are all on the left side and frame-mounted in 1911 locations. The slide catch is above the trigger guard, the magazine catch is at the guard’s lower left rear and the manual safety is at the top-rear of the slide (on both left and right sides, of course). Safety note:You can manipulate the slide for loading, unloading or chamber inspection with the safety in the up or on position.

The mainspring housing is checked, too.

The trigger is grooved and the front strap checked.

SIG has also addressed a problem I found with my Colt Government .380, on which the thumb safety is too easily dislodged. On the P938, the thumb safeties move positively but with authority in and out of on-safe or off-safe mode.

The pivoting polymer trigger is vertically grooved on its face. My measurements showed trigger weights of 7 or 7.5 lbs., depending on where I placed the trigger gauge arm on the curved trigger face.

Also as mentioned earlier, there is no grip safety or barrel bushing, but a passive firing pin safety system is in the slide and is similar to that used in other semiautos.

The single, flush-fit, all-metal magazine holds six rounds and features six inspection holes on each side. An optional seven-round magazine is in the pipeline (it will come standard with P938 Extreme).

I was sent one of these optional seven-round mags for inclusion in this article. The protruding magazine has a polymer spacer that fills in the space created by its additional length, with the collar fitting nicely and adding to the grip length. I found the collar improved the gun’s feel because I could now get a full three-finger grip. It actually adds only .5″–.625″ to the length of the frame, but I’d go with this setup over the flush-fit magazine for everyday carry unless maximum concealment is absolutely necessary.

Don’t depress the ejector too far when disassembling!

When the recoil assembly is correctly installed (unlike here), the notched area won’t visible.

Disassembly
To disassemble the P938 (after ensuring the gun is unloaded and magazine removed), move the slide rearward until the slide disassembly notch is aligned with the slide-stop tab. With slide stop removed, the slide comes off to the front of the frame, but take care not to lose control of the non-captive recoil spring on its full-length, stainless steel guide rod.

Remove this assembly with forward pressure and a lift. You can then drop the barrel down and out of the slide. For those familiar with the Colt Government .380, there was a problem of sear spring over-ride of its ejector, which was corrected by Colt with a user-installed metal clip. SIG addressed this by having the lower edge of the sear spring captured in a notch cut in the lower forward face of the mainspring housing.

When you re-assemble the P938, there are a few musts. You must make sure the narrower end of the recoil spring faces the rear on the guide rod. Also, the notched side of the guide rod must face toward the barrel. (If done correctly, you can’t see the notched area when the assembly is installed.) If you don’t do either of these steps, the gun will malfunction. Also—and this is another biggy—you must depress the ejector only enough to allow the slide full rearward travel on the frame. Push the ejector down too far and your next step is shipping the gun back to SIG. Per the instruction manual, “This condition is not correctable at the operator level—the pistol must be returned to SIG Sauer for repair.” For those who might have done this with the Colt .380 and managed to correct it, I don’t see this happening here because the internal parts are not the same.

Range Report

Bill Beradelli fires the author’s sample SIG P938 Nightmare.


At the range, three of us shot this sample gun with a limited amount of ammunition, which included Federal Hydra-Shok 147-grain JHP, Hornady 124-grain JHP/XTP and Winchester 115-grain FMJ. We shot at 15 yards, seated, over a gun bag rest, with a Master Gamma Chrony chronograph, 300 feet above sea level in an ambient temperature of 73 degrees F. The groups listed below represent a five-shot average:

All the ammunition worked without any failures. (Note: SIG recommends changing the recoil spring every 1,500 rounds for best functioning.)

The only limitations I found were the same as what I had with the P238. Down-range accuracy depends on distance to target, but more important for me was how well or not I managed the trigger. Most important, however, was how well or not I maintained the same stiff arm hold while firing. The short sight radius didn’t help either. I did try the longer magazine and found the results to be the same, but I felt I was expending less effort to get there.

That said, the P938 is not a bulls-eye pistol unless the “target” is a well-placed defensive shot or two, three or more fired in self defense. For this purpose, the P938 will dot an eye, so to speak.

Final Thoughts
With SIG introduction of the Model P938 semiauto pistol chambered in 9mm, we now have a quite viable miniaturized version of the 1911 handgun for personal defense. SIG has not re-invented anything, but certainly has improved on an existing design and has provided those devotees of the 1911 with a choice of caliber and operation well suited for personal defense in a highly-concealable package.

The author’s target results from 15 yards, seated, using a table for a rest.


Walt Rauch received a BS degree from Carnegie Tech and completed service as a Special Agent in U.S. Army Intelligence. Rauch was a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent and a Philadelphia, Pa., Warrant Unit Investigator. He now operates a consulting company for defense-weapon and tactical training. Rauch & Company services include expert witness testimony on firearms use and tactics.

Rauch is also a writer and lecturer in the firearms field. He’s published in national and international publications including InterMedia’s Handguns, several Harris Publications specialty magazines, Police and Security News and Cibles (France). He is the author of a book on self-defense, Real-World Survival! What Has Worked For Me, as well as Practically Speaking, a comprehensive guide to IDPA defensive pistol shooting.

The Specs
Caliber Capacity OAL BBL Height Width Weight
9mm 6+1, 7+1 5.9″ 3″ 3.9″ 1.1″ 16 oz. w/empty mag


MSRP: $795–$893

Crimson Trace Laserguard Sig Sauer P238 P938 With Pocket Holster (Gander Mountain) Gander Mountain Logo

$239.99

Buy Now

The P938 Equinox.

The P938 Extreme.

The P938 Blackwood.

The P938 Rosewood.

The P938 AG.

The P938 AG.

The P938 BRG (i.e., black rubber grip).

The P938 BRG (i.e., black rubber grip).

The P938 SAS, with rounded edges.

The P938 SAS, with rounded edges.

The P938 Scorpion, which features a flat dark earth frame and slide, Hogue Extreme G-10 grips and mainspring cover.

The P938 Scorpion, which features a flat dark earth frame and slide, Hogue Extreme G-10 grips and mainspring cover.

Posted in $501-$750, $751-$1,000, 9mm, Semiauto, SIG Sauer, Subcompact • Tags: Top Of Page

23 Responses to “SIG Sauer P938”

Comment from TED WRIGHT
Time January 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I BELIEVE THAT THIS GUN IS A GOOD CONCEPT. IF IT IS TRULY BASED ON THE P238 PLATFORM IT WILL BE A GREAT SUCCESS AND PROBABLY KILL THE KIMBER SOLO. I HAVE OWNED A P238 FROM DAY ONE AND LOVE IT. THE EXTRA STOPPING POWER WOULD BE ADDING CHOCOLATE TO THE ALREADY GREAT CAKE.

Comment from GP
Time August 2, 2012 at 12:17 am

I got the new P938 Extreme. Love the feel and shoots very accurate dispite what other shooters are saying. The main flaw I have found so far is the FTE’s with Certain Ammo. The Fix for this from Sig direct is to use only 124 grain and above which in a gun this size will hurt a little more I am sure but if it doesn’t jam should be worth that added effort.

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Time August 28, 2012 at 8:36 am

[...] read it yet, here is a very thorough report, on the SIG Sauer P38 9mm subcompact pistol. Walt Rauch reviews the SIG Sauer P938. It’s looking good. Share:FacebookTwitterMoreLinkedInDiggRedditStumbleUponPrintEmail This [...]

Comment from mark
Time November 8, 2012 at 10:22 am

Picked up an extreme a month ago. still on the fence as to whether I like it as well as my 238. A problem I’ve encountered though is when the last round is ejected, the follower sometimes cants backward in the magazine and locks the slide 1/2 way. I have to eject the mag and rack the slide to reset. I will call Sig about this. Overall, a fun gun.

Comment from Doug
Time January 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I’ve had my P938 about 30 days and have about 500-600 rounds through it. I have not reached the point where I’m confident in the gun as a carry weapon (Ruger SR9c is my choice for carry). FMJ seems to feed fine; hollow points not as well. Jams, failure to feed, stove pipes seem common. The dealer polished the ramp and that helped but didn’t cure the issue. Looks like it will be going back to Sig. I generally like the gun overall.

Comment from Mike Geske
Time January 25, 2013 at 7:40 am

I’ve run a few hundred rounds thru my P938. 115 grain white box Winchester FMJ and 124 grain Fiocci HP. Zero FTE, zero issues period. Maybe Sig has fine tuned the design a bit, I’ve read quite a few reviews where FTE sounded common with 115 grain rounds so I was hesitant to try it. That’s what I’ve run thru the most now and I’m really enjoying this pistol. Decent groups at 25 yards IMHO for a pistol this size!

Comment from Ted Mann
Time January 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I recently bought a p938 and am very impressed. In my opinion it is a handsome looking pistol, easily manageable, accurate, reliable, very concealable and seems to successfully shoot various brands of 9mm ammunition without fussiness. I have owned and shot numerous small pistols and I like this one best.

Comment from ken weathersbee
Time February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

love the size. have not shot it yet, just got it last nite. only problem i have had so far , the magazine is hard to load after two rounds. it may be my old hands. 78 years old. other wise it looks great for carry. cocked and locked. retired military. Should sell every one they make. mine is the nightmare mode.

Comment from ken weathersbee
Time February 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

5 stars

Comment from Wendy
Time March 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

This is my 3rd handgun to own. I have recently gotten on the gun/ammo bandwagon and therefore have tried several small/micro pistols. Looking for concealed carry for a small frame female 5’7 131 lbs.

This pistol compared to Ruger LCP and Lc9 wins hands down. Compared to my S&W Bodyguard 380 it is easier to shot by far! I am able to conceal it, edges are smooth, it’s load with even 115gr but i do not find the recoil to be a deterrent. I wanted something that would have more knockdown power without the canon feel of my Kimber 1911 Super Ultra Carry II (.45 cal.). The Kimber definitely has the sweetest trigger of them all though.

I find the slide easy to manage and feel in control of the weapon. No pain or discomfort for my small, weaker grip/hands.

Waiting on the Kimber Solo to compare.

The novice…, nonetheless, gun lover!

Comment from Paul Le
Time April 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Got p938 equinox last Christmas as a gift. so far I used all type of ammo I got from 115 to 147 grain (about 400 rounds) no problem at all. very good groups at 15 yards or less. It is my carry gun now. only thing don’t like about this Sig is for $700.00 pistol but come with only 1 6 rounds magazine. Sig should include a 6 and a 7 round magazines (very hard to find the 7 rounds magazine)

Comment from Mike Moore
Time April 22, 2013 at 9:11 am

I notice what appears to be a “half cock” position. Is it safe to carry the P938 with a round chambered? Does one use the “half cock” position for the hammer when doing so?

Comment from Walt Rauch
Time April 22, 2013 at 9:15 am

Mike, it’s not safe to use the half cock to carry the pistol with the chamber loaded. The purpose of the half-cock notch is to catch or capture the hammer if the hammer slips out from your fingers when lowering it fully forward over a loaded chamber.

If you choose to lower the hammer over a loaded chamber, you should–must–practice (a lot) this with an empty gun. One method of lowering the hammer fully forward is to hold it with thumb and forefinger and while covering the rear of the firing pin with another finger, press the trigger after taking a good hold and then then slowly lower the hammer. When the lowering hammer touches the finger covering the firing pin, slide this finger out of position and continue to slowly and fully lower the hammer.

Don’t get cocky! It’s all too easy to have the hammer slip while doing this, and because you’ve now pressed the trigger, the now falling hammer won’t be caught by the half-cock notch.

Comment from jim morris
Time June 11, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I’m a 1911 junkie, and settled long ago on a Kimber Ultra Carry II. So, when I saw this miniature 1911 manufactured by Sig, I had to hold it. Once I did, I told the sales guy I would do some research that night and get back to him. Walt’s review was one of them, and enforced my decision to buy this weapon. I was a bit worried about the original versions, but felt Sig had corrected the problem. My break in session could not have gone better. I shot 250 of my reloads, with neither FTFs or FTEs. Accuracy was outstanding. Recoil very manageable. Bottom line–gotta get you one!!!

Comment from Mike R.
Time July 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

A nice, compact dead-on hitting pistol. I have the SAS model which is great for concealed carry, fires all sorts of ammo.
Dinged it 2 stars, 1 for the non-captive recoil spring which requires some wrestling to get it back in place and 1 for the hard to load mags…the last 2 bullets are a struggle….I use an aftermarket mag loader to make it easier when I’m shooting a lot at the range.

Comment from Phil
Time September 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

My P938 is always fully “cocked and locked”. The thumb safety is excellent, no worries. Also I only use 115 FMJ, Runs great, I think I had one failure the first time I took it to the range. No failures last 300 rds later.

Comment from Mickey M.
Time October 10, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I thought no gun would replace my Glock 23 for EDC but this P938 is near perfect carry. With an extended 7rd mag with Speer GDP +P Short Barrel ammo cocked & locked it gives me a great, accurate defensive tool I can carry IWB, OWB or pocket. I have had zero issues with ammo which I attribute to 124gr HP/FMJ being ideal for a gun this size/weight. For those who think the recoil sharp I suggest the Hogue rubber grip like the one on my Blackout model. Accuracy is center mass, great at up to 15yd….beyond that you shouldn’t be firing defensive shots anyway.

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Time October 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

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Comment from stan
Time December 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

My P938 Nitemare has provided all the expectations I had for it. It’s consumed close to 1,000 rounds with no failures of any kind. Contrary to alot of threads it’s fired every kind of ammo it has been fed. It has not seen steel casings. It never disappoints, my wife enjoys firing it although the recoil is not to her liking, even with 115 standard FMJ. Agreed…it’s not a target pistol but at 10-15 yards the pattern is tight.

Comment from Sue
Time February 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I purchased the 938 AG and can’t say enough about how comfortable it is to shoot. I have small hands and generally find a double stack grip a bit bulky for me. The trade-off to 6 or 7 shots is well worth the security of the grip to me. It’s light weight and minimum recoil also have me back on target quickly shot after shot. Love the sights. Love the accuracy at 15 yards. It’s definitely a keeper!

Comment from Don
Time May 8, 2014 at 7:03 am

I have owned the Nightmare version of this gun for about 2-1/2yrs now and absolutely love it! During this time I have shot it every week (sometimes 2 times/ wk) with no issues since the 1st box of ammo. I had one feed issue when the gun was brand new and none since. That is pretty amazing considering I reload most of my range ammo and have put over 6,500 rounds through it. Perhaps some may say I just got a good one but my daughter shoots a 938 as well with similar results. I put everything from low velocity 100g RN reloads to 124g +P JHP through it and not a single issue since the 1st box. I will say you may want to get 300+ rounds through it before using lightweight low velocity reloads – let the spring break in. The gun shoots more accurate than I can (sub 2″ groups at 7 – 12yrds), is a pleasure to shoot, easy to breakdown and easy to carry (which I do). Yes this may seem like an advertisement but properly used and cared for you can’t beat this for a 1911 style concealed carry.

Comment from Ssnow
Time May 31, 2014 at 10:31 am

Just bought mine three days ago, dinged it one star for the recoil spring and another for the sharp edges on the trigger.
I used various reloads, 4.7 to 5.3 grains of HP-38 behind 90- 115 gr. hornady XTPs with no problems at all.
It will replace my DB9 as daily carry pocket gun after a couple more trips to the range.

Comment from Mickey
Time May 31, 2014 at 11:46 am

reply to Ssnow
Some have complained about the trigger and some said the bottom of it bites but since this is a hinged trigger (not like the 1911) the best finger technique for comfort and accuracy is placing the finger tip high up against the frame while pressing to fire. It has greatly improved my accuracy which I criticized at first. This tip was passed to me by a long time pro shooter.

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