Through 20 years of trial-and-error in finding the right concealed carry pistol to best suit my requirements, the Sig Sauer P938 emerged as my personal #1. In this product review, I will provide an overview of Sig Sauer's micro-compact 9mm pistol and share the details of my range report.
Twenty years ago, when I first earned my concealed weapons permit and began carrying, I was heavily influenced by my competition experiences with the .45ACP platforms and a relative lack of effective 9mm cartridges. Therefore, a sub-compact 1911 in .45ACP was the only apparent option for me at the time. My first carry pistol was the Colt Defender in .45ACP. It was relatively heavy and had sharp corners that snagged the inside of my shirts. After a few years, I "stepped up" to the Kimber CDP (Custom Defense Package). While the CDP's "carry melt" eliminated the snagging problem, it was still difficult to conceal under shorts and T-shirts in the summer months. The edge of the back-strap would "print" (reveal the outline of the pistol) in light clothing. I eventually moved-on to the Ed Brown Kobra Carry with the "bobtailed" back-strap to alleviate the printing problem. This, however, did not alleviate the problem of excessive pistol weight.
I then considered polymer options and started with the sub-compact .45ACP Glock 36. Anyone familiar with Glock pistols, knows that they may be lightweight and near-indestructible, but they are THICK and not necessarily easy to conceal. My search then turned to Springfield Armory's latest offering, the XDS (Extreme Duty Single-Stack) in .45ACP. I remained frustrated by my percieved feeling of "imbalance" caused by the differential of the metal slides and polymer frames.
While all of the above pistols represented great options, none of them truly fit what I was looking for. While I was experimenting with various .45ACP platforms, the ammunition market made tremendous strides in producing quality 9mm personal defense ammunition. With this in mind, I narrowed my search for a sub-compact or "micro" 9mm pistol with a steel slide and aluminum frame. These parameters led me directly to the Sig Sauer P938. In addition to its basic attributes, the Sig Sauer P938 is actually very similar to a 1911.
Introduced at the 2012 SHOT Show (Shooting and Hunting Outdoor Trade show) Sig Sauer capitalized on the success of its best-selling P238 platform and transformed it from .38 caliber into the more popular 9mm chambering. With only minor dimensional modifications, the P938 in 9mm was born.
The steel slide mated to an aluminum frame, the P938 measures 5.9" length, 3.9" height, and 1.1" width all in an unloaded weight of 16 ounces. The pistol includes SigLight night sights and ships with two magazines: a flush 6 round magazine and a 7 round magazine with an extended finger grip. With the exception of the .22 Long Rifle variant, differences in the P938 line of pistols are all cosmetic, offering many combinations of color, finish, and grip texture.
Earlier, I had mentioned that it is "similar" to my beloved 1911s. The P938 is single-action-only with a solid straight-bar trigger and ambidextrous thumb safety. For a 1911 shooter, the operating surfaces, such as the slide stop, magazine release, and thumb safety are all in familiar positions. Small, but effective, the beavertail protrudes over the web between the shooter's thumb and index finger to prevent "hammer bite." 1911 lovers will also appreciate the feel and "clean break" of the P938's straight-bar trigger, as opposed to the excessive travel found in most fulcrum triggers. Also, P938 component disassembly and re-assembly is very similar to the 1911.
While the P938 is "similar" to the 1911, there are a few notable differences. The two most pronounced differences are that there is no barrel bushing to mate the barrel to the end of the slide and there is no "beavertail" passive grip safety. Furthermore, when the thumb safety is activated in the P938, the slide can still be operated, thus ejecting and/or chambering a cartridge... something that cannot be done in the 1911.
I purchased the Sig P938 Extreme in June of 2012 and have found it to be an exceptional concealed carry pistol that is very reliable. I've fired 300 American Eagle 115 grain full metal jacket rounds and 25 Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain rounds without a single operational failure. The SigLight night sights present a clear and sharp sight picture in daylight shooting as well as a bright, but not glaring, sight picure in low-light shooting. Sig's Nitron finish has held-up well through two years of concealed carry in a kydex and leather holster. The P938 is exceptionally concealable in waistband, ankle, or pocket holsters. Although the 6 round magazine capacity may be a point of concern to some, the magazines are small and concealing extra magazines is easy.
The small and concealable nature of the P938 necessitates inherent cons. For shooters with large hands, the small frame will take some getting used-to. Even with the 7 round magazine's grip extension, my "little finger" dangled underneath the pistol. This was more pronounced while shooting the 6 round flush magazine. It is just a matter of training to overcome this.
Micro-compact pistols and their 3 inch barrels offer minimal mechanical precision and overall potential accuracy. This is a product of both the short duration of projectile travel down the bore and the short sight radius of 4.6 inches. The sight radius is the distance between the front and rear sights. Both combine to challenge the shooter to make up for the lack of inherent mechanical precision with a greater degree of training and skill to produce accuracy. Speaking of shooting skill, the 7.5lb trigger break also takes a little getting used to. On the plus side, each trigger break is identical, predictable, and manageable.
Most projectiles fired out of short-barreled pistols tend to produce greater amounts of muzzle flash than their longer-barreled cousins. The P938 is no different. This is due to the fact that ammunition manufacturers create their pistol cartridges to safely fire out of as many caliber-specific platforms as possible in order to sell the most units and make the most profits. Since the majority of pistol barrels produced are between 4.5 and 5.5 inches, ammunition manufacturers cater to this market and add a commensurate amount of propellant for projectiles to fire out of these barrels. Therefore, firing these same projectiles out of short barrels, such as the P938's 3-inch barrel, will result in a considerable amount of propellant burning outside of the bore during and after the projectile exits. I noticed a considerable amount of muzzle flash on a well lit range. I imagine that it would be even more pronounced while shooting in low-light conditions.
Aegis Academy promotes the principles of Fit, Function, and Finances when evaluating pistol selection. In the paragraphs that follow, I will analyze the "3-Fs" in the context of my range report.
I considered fit in two different ways when evaluating the P938. In the paragraphs above, I analzed how the micro-compact pistols fit in my large hands. To me this was an acceptable provision in order for the pistol to be easily concealable. So, as a component of how it fits in my hands, it had to also fit well into a concealment holster and be easily concealed underneath a T-shirt. In this aspect, the P938 excelled and offset my requirement to train myself to shoot the small pistol. In the photos below, you can see how well this pistol is concealed underneath a T-shirt as well as how easily it is accessed. For the P938, I have chosen an IWB (In the Waist-Band) holster manufactured by CrossBreed Holsters, Inc.
Based on my long experiences with 1911 pistols, which are single-action-only with straight-bar triggers and active thumb safeties, the P938 satisfied my requirement for function. With 325 rounds of flawless function, it meets my requirements for reliability. Through the course of those 325 rounds fired, I've increased my familiarity and skill in firing this pistol accurately. In the photos below, I've fired American Eagle 115gr 9mm cartridges at a variety of ranges from the modified weaver stance. Each shot was fired from the "low ready" position in 3 seconds or less, using a Pact shot timer to keep pace. Considering that the average self-defense shooting engagement takes place at 15 feet or less, you can see that the mechanical precision and shooter accuracy combined to produce more results that are very acceptable.
Only each individual shooter can justify the combination of functions, features, and quality in regard to their finances. Sig Sauer lists the P938 MSRP as $833.00. In contrast, chronically overpriced Cabela's lists the P938 for $755 and other retailers list it in the low $600's. For example, Impact Guns has the P938 for $631.00. Considering that this is roughly the same cost as the Glock 36 and Springfield Armory XDS models, I believe that the steel-on-aluminum Sig P938 with SigLight night sights and Nitron finish is very competitive in this market.
In my opinion, the Sig P938 is reliable, accurate, concealable, and affordable. After a decades-long search for my ideal concealed carry pistol, I've found the Sig Sauer P938 to be my solution.
So what's your favorite carry pistol? How many models have you gone through to find it? Share some of your stories in the comments below or shoot me a note at HHall@aegisacademy.com.
In the mean time, stay safe and shoot straight!
~ Howard Hall
Disclaimer: Aegis Academy does not endorse products reviewed. The observations and opinions are the author's only. I have no personal, professional, or business ties with Sig Sauer or CrossBreed Holsters. I purchased the products reviewed at full price and have not been compensated by Sig Sauer or CrossBreed in any way for this review. I provide my observations and opinions for your information and consideration only.
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