Sig Sauer P938 Review

sig-sauer-p938-review

Last year during the Shot Show, Sig Sauer introduced its second 9mm “pocket pistol.”  The first was the P290.  It’s a 100% reliable firearm (P290), just like any Sig Sauer product, but the chief complaint by shooters was that it was too “blocky” like a Glock and the trigger pull had a substantially long travel before firing, which is very similar to the P250 (not a fan of this particular trigger).  So Sig developed the P938 to compete with other 9mm pocket pistols like the Khar CM9, Ruger LC9, Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield, or the Kel-Tec PF9 to name just a few.

The P938 is identical in appearance and operation to the P238 (.380 ACP).  The P238 has an impeccable service record like any Sig firearm, but the .380 round is just too small and does not pack enough punch for me.  The complaints with the P290 and popularity of the P238 led to the P938.  The P938 is the first 1911-inspired 9mm micro-compact by SIG SAUER. This lightweight, all-metal pistol builds on the trusted P238 platform, delivering accuracy and reliability with duty caliber performance.

I purchased my Sig Sauer P938 in early January this year with the intent of carrying it simply as a concealed carry weapon (CCW).  Sig or not, before I ever put any weapon into service, I like to conduct several tests at the range.  There are some people out there who don’t mind taking a gun right out of the box and putting their life behind the gun’s operation.  If you want to rely on the one or two rounds they shoot at the factory, that’s all you.  But any competent and highly effective shooter is going to take their time and make the gun earn their trust.  Of course barring any crazy manufacturer defect, the gun is going to operate flawlessly out of the box (except that most 1911s require some fine tuning) but you should really take the gun home and clean all the manufacturer’s oil off and use your preferred lubricant.

My New Baby…

The P938 looks just like a mini 1911 minus the beaver-tail safety.  It’s a single action only (SAO) firearm, with a consistent 7.5lb-8.5lb trigger.  So just like any 1911 platform, it can only be fired from and is carried in the cocked and locked position.  There is virtually zero slack in the trigger.  If I was to give it a number, I would say it’s easily 1mm or less and very difficult to detect.  I can only describe the trigger as crisp.  There are eight different variants of the gun that are all completely based on aesthetics in terms of finish and grips.  All eight variants operate exactly the same.  The variants are: Blackwood, Extreme, Rosewood, Equinox, Black Rubber Grip, Nightmare, AG, and SAS.  They all come with full-size SIGLITE night sights and have an ambidextrous safety.  With dimensions just slightly larger than its .380 ACP counterpart, the P938 packs six plus one rounds of 9mm into an all-metal frame. The cocked-and-locked single-action trigger gives the P938 unmatched accuracy in a pistol its size (sigarms.com).  Some of the variants like mine come with a seven round extended magazine instead of the flush six rounder.  I highly recommend purchasing the seven round extended magazines if your specific model only comes with the six round magazines.  The extended magazine gives you just enough extra space for people with larger meat hooks, like Chris and me, to get a proper, full, comfortable grip.  If you need a refresher on proper grip, check out Chris’ article “7 Habits of Highly Effective Shooters.”  That is my shooting bible!  According to Sig, the only models that come with the extended magazines are the Black Rubber Grip and Extreme variants.  These are metal single stack magazines that aren’t exactly cheap.  They both retail for $46 from Sig, which is on par with any high-end all-metal single stack magazines.  Most gun stores are selling them for $49.99.

A drawback of many micro-compact or 9mm pocket pistols available today is they can be punishing to shoot a box of fifty rounds at the range.  Every major gun manufacturer today lightens their firearms by simply replacing metal with polymer.  Polymer is great, but not in a micro-compact 9mm round, especially if you’re carry/defense ammo is 124gr or 147gr.  The all-metal platform provides a stable platform that easily handles the recoil of any 9mm round even in a micro-compact frame.  The all-metal frame really makes a difference.  I like the way my P938 handles recoil better than my Glock 26. Plus the P938 is so much easier to carry, especially IWB.

Crazy Relatives

Before I get into my range report/review, let’s clear the air and talk about the problems many P938s experienced last year.  In this section and the follow-on review, the following terms mean: FTF (failure to feed) and FTE (failure to extract).  If the gun simply did not fire after the hammer struck the primer, I’ll just call it a good old misfire.  So the initial release of the P938 up until models manufactured to OCT 2012 (per Sig and my research) are the ones that had FTF and FTE issues.  Sig narrowed down the actual serial numbers.  The serial numbers on the P938 all start with “52A0,” and then all numbers after that are the unique numbers to your pistol.  The ones with serial numbers of 8899 and lower are the “misfit toys.”  These serial numbers relate to manufacture dates of about mid-September 2012 and earlier.  Now we talked about the P238 and P938 being very similar in appearance and size, except one is chambered in .380 ACP and 9mm.  Though the P938 is slightly — and I mean slightly — beefier, the internals are the same.  This is the root of the problems.

Apparently Sig used the same extractor, extractor spring, and recoil spring from the P238 into the new P938.  Remember that the .380 ACP round is pretty much a shorty-9mm round.  But the these parts (the extractor, extractor spring, and recoil spring) from the P238 were not enough to properly function and extract the 9mm round.  This is where the FTE problems came from.  Now the FTF problems were directly related to the smaller P238 recoil spring coupled with what I call a “not so polished” feed ramp.  Once the problems were identified, you could send your P938 directly to Sig (on their dime) and they put in what they called an enhanced extractor assembly and recoil spring, along with properly polishing the feed ramp.  From what I’ve seen from Sig and forums like SigTalk, those who had the upgrades installed were happy with the final product.  I’m sure Sig used those parts from the P238 as a way of cutting costs.  I mean, it’s a business so these things happen.  But what sets Sig apart was how quick they identified the problem and took care of their loyal consumers.  I did my research before I purchased my P938 and made sure my manufacture date was beyond SEP 2012 and my serial number was higher than 8899.  Mine is actually 3XXXX, which is well beyond the problem line.  If you have one of the problem guns, you should contact Sig and have them replace the parts, even if you haven’t seen the problems.  If you have a problem gun and haven’t seen the FTFs or FTEs, Sig says you’re likely using 115gr ammo or lower.  If you hit the 124gr or 147gr, you’re going to start seeing the problems.  These are rounds most people use for carry/defense ammo.  And if you find yourself buying a previously owned P938, private party sale or from an authorized dealer, with a serial number 8899 or lower, you can contact Sig with the serial number and ask if the enhanced upgrades have been completed already.

Order Up!

When buying a pistol, especially a micro-compact pistol like the Sig P938, one is likely doing so with the intention of carrying the weapon concealed.  This is why this specific firearm was designed and produced.  Now I know times are tough for many people with the economy, but when it comes to buying a firearm for self-defense, you should not be cheap.  If you want to spend $300 or less for a new gun that you’re going to rely upon when your life or someone else’s life is on the line….well all I can say is good luck.  I’m not saying that you need to go out and buy the most high-end firearm, but you should do your research and go with the a company like Sig Sauer who is simply reliable.  Again, Sig is what I carry as my duty pistol and concealed carry pistol.  This is my personal preference.  Take your time buying a reliable firearm from a reliable company.  Even in the rare instances where a firearm from a company like Sig has some manufacturer defect, they will go out of their way to remedy the issue and go as far as replacing your firearm with a brand new one.

Where Was I?

So finally, here’s my review and range report.  I fired a total of 1,200 rounds (1,000 rounds of range ammo and 200 rounds of defense ammo) from my purchase date in early January 2013 to the end of March 2013.  This was completed over a total of fifteen different range visits (all indoor sessions).  I shot the various targets listed below from distances of three yards all the way out to twenty-five yards.  Now let me be clear, a 9mm micro-compact pistol was not designed as a long-range pistol.  It’s intended for close quarters defense situations.  I pushed it out to twenty-five yards to test the gun’s and my limitations.  The firearm was accurate out to twenty-five yards and I was easily able to hit center mass.  Part of my success at this distance for such a small pistol was due to the weapon having the full-size SIGLITE night sights.  They are exactly the same sights that are on my duty pistol (Sig P229R-DAK chambered in .40 S&W).  So the sight picture was identical.  Don’t forget this rule when it comes to self-defense shootings, “three, three, three.”  Most self-defense shootings occur within three yards, last three seconds or less, with a total of three rounds or less fired.

I fired 256 rounds before I had my first malfunction.  It was an FTE.  All malfunctions that I had going through all 1,200 rounds were FTEs (a total of twelve), with the exception of six misfires.  I was shooting the cheapest ammo I could find when I had my first and most malfunctions, which was the HSM 115gr FMJs.  HSM is a small company out of Montana that sells reloads/remanufactured ammo.  It comes loose in an orange box.  This was the first time I had ever seen or heard of this ammo company.  Out of the twelve FTEs, ten of them were during the one hundred rounds of HSM I shot.  The other two FTEs came with the Magtech 115gr FMJ and the other with the Winchester Ranger T-Series 147gr JHP.  Out of the six misfires, four of them were also with the HSM ammo, one with the Magtech, and one with the Remington UMC 115gr.  With all the misfires, I attempted to fire the round a second time with no success.  I then took the misfire rounds and tried to put them through my Glock 26, since Glocks have a fantastic track record of being able to eat any ammo.  All six rounds also misfired in my Glock, so this was a complete failure of the round and not a malfunction of the P938.

Man-Up!

I would shoot on average of between fifty and one hundred rounds each session at the range, as I wanted to take my time and get a true feel for the gun.  Even on the days I shot one hundred rounds, I experienced no fatigue or pain.  With other 9mm pocket pistols that have a polymer frame like the Kel-Tec or Ruger, it can be a bit rough to even shoot a box of fifty rounds.  The all-metal platform of the Sig P938 gives it just enough weight and beef to absorb the recoil instead of all the recoil being absorbed by your wrist.  I shot the pistol strong-hand supported and unsupported and reaction-hand supported and unsupported.  I shot from various stances and positions ranging from combat (squared up to the target), weaver, modified weaver, kneeling, strong and reaction side barricade, and shooting through the barricade window.

Equipment Used:

Targets:

  • Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 8-inch Bulls-eyes (sticker)
  • Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 9-inch Silhouettes (sticker)
  • Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 12-inch Site-ins (sticker)
  • DHS/U.S. Treasury Transtar 1 Silhouettes (blue and green)
  • DHS/U.S. Treasury Transtar 2 Silhouettes (blue and green)

Ammo:

  • Target/Range:
    • HSM: 115gr FMJ (remanufactured – worst ammo I could find)
    • Federal (white box): 115gr FMJ
    • Federal American Eagle: 115gr FMJ
    • Federal American Eagle: 147gr FMJ (subsonic flat-nose)
    • Magtech: 115gr FMC
    • Sellier & Bellot: 115gr FMJ
    • Remington UMC: 115gr FMJ
  • Carry/Defense:
    • Speer Gold Dot: 115gr JHP
    • Federal Hydra-Shok: 124gr JHP
    • Winchester Ranger T-Series: 147gr JHP

Pros:

  • It’s a Sig!
  • Micro-compact frame
  • All-metal platform
  • Chambered in 9mm
  • Slim and lightweight
  • Full-size SIGLITE night sights
  • Ambidextrous safety
  • Checkered rear grip/back strap
  • All-metal single stack magazines
  • 8 different variants
  • Reliable and crisp 7.5lb-8.5lb trigger with virtually zero slack
  • Easily concealable whether IWB, belt carry, or ankle carry
  • Disassembly/Assembly is simple
  • Easy to clean
  • Fun to shoot
  • Did I mention it was a Sig?

Cons:

  • Initial release had FTF and FTE problems
  • They only come with one magazine
  • Magazines are expensive and hard to find
  • 6 round magazine is too small
  • Magazines are a bit tricky to disassemble/reassemble
  • Trigger face is a little rough

Did you notice I didn’t mention anything in the “Pros” or “Cons” about price?  MSRP depends on the variant you choose and ranges from $795 to $838.  I purchased mine in WA state from West Coast Armory in Bellevue, WA for $699.  It was a steal, especially given the current climate and political non-sense surrounding firearms…don’t get me started!

Sig Sauer P938: PASSED

My overall impression of the Sig Sauer P938 (Black Rubber Grip) is that it’s an exceptional firearm.  I give the gun a grade of A.  I would expect nothing less from Sig Sauer.  I would have given it an A+ if it came with more than one magazine.  I enjoyed shooting this gun and love carrying it concealed.  The “Pros” in my opinion far exceed the “Cons.”  Even in a micro-compact size, the pistol is highly accurate.  When it comes to shooting, the equation of human factors + firearm factors + ammo factors + weather factors = accuracy.  I only shot this gun at an indoor range, so weather was not a factor.  When it comes the firearms factor of the P938, the full-size SIGLITE night sights, the zero slack trigger, and extended magazine are all geared toward increasing the accuracy of the firearm.  I was easily able to keyhole my target out to fifteen yards.  It’s just a great gun to shoot.  My wife and other people that I’ve let put rounds down the range absolutely love the gun too.

Carrying this gun concealed, as it was designed, is pleasant.  With the correct holster, you virtually forget you’re even carrying it.

Bottom Line:

Sig hit the mark with the P938 and they now have a competitive firearm in the popular 9mm pocket pistol market.  I’ve tested this gun extensively and it’s my first choice when I want to carry a pocket pistol.  I have no reservations with relying on this gun to save my life or the life of another.  I highly recommend the Sig Sauer P938.

If you’ve shot this pistol before or have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Chris Sajnog