Saturday, January 23, 2016

Guns: SIG P938 review - A Singular Single Stack 9mm


Aside from the 1911, gun makers are introducing relatively few single-action pistols nowadays. There are probably a number of reasons for that, but I think a big one is that today's handgun buyers want the simplest manual of arms possible. In the turmoil of a defensive shooting, a lot of people fear (rightly) that they'll forget or be unable to disengage that safety.

The SIG P938 is an outlier, then, in that it's a single-action in a sea of striker-fired single-stack 9mms - the Kahrs, the S&Ws, the GLOCKs, the Rugers. The pistol even superficially resembles a 1911, though the internals are very different. Is the P938's uniqueness a good thing, or is it an affectation of a bygone era?

First Impressions

SIGs are generally pricey, and the P938 is no exception. The Rosewood model I picked up has a street price of $650, give or take some, which is hundreds of dollars more than comparable single-stack polymer-framed 9mms. For that sort of coin, you wish they did more than give you a single 6-round magazine and a crappy injection-molded OWB holster (in fairness, SIG was also running a mail-in promo that included two more magazines and a gun rug, pictured above). 

Once the gun is in hand, you do see where some of that money is going, though - checkered rosewood grips, checkered front strap, dehorned frame and slide. Despite being a small aluminum framed 9mm, I never got cut or bitten by any part of the P938, which is more than I can say about other guns in this category.

Sights, Trigger, Safety

Most models of the P938 sport the SIGLITE night sights that come on most of the company's guns. They're excellent bright green tritium three dots that are very precise in any light condition, and are one of the biggest selling points on the gun.

On the the other hand, people expecting a crisp 1911-like trigger pull might be disappointed. It's not that the serrated trigger is bad, but it's heavier and creepier than it should be considering the usability penalty imposed by the safety. The safety itself is ambidextrous and positive, but tiny. I have small hands, but I had trouble consistently flicking it on and off at speed.

Range Report Part 1

Out of the gates, the P938's design proved to be reliable, but my particular gun developed a couple of parts-related problems. One of the tritium vials in the rear sight broke (which happens sometimes with night sights), and the two-piece guide rod refused to stay screwed-in (which is a problem unique to the P938, and only remedied by a specialty threadlocker - that is, something with more oomph than Loctite):

SIG shipped me a new guide rod immediately, and gave me prepaid shipping to send in my slide and install new sights, all for free. So, you do pay more, but you get the customer service to back it up.

Here are a few groups from this time period:

18 shots of Winchester Super X 147 gr. TMJ at 10 yards - this was when I noticed the guide rod coming unscrewed. It didn't cause any failures, though:

Winchester 124 gr. (NATO-spec) at 10 yards:

14 rounds of standard pressure 124 gr. Speer Gold Dots:

14 rounds of S&B 115 gr. 9mm, 10 yards:

Range Report Part 2

After everything was squared away, I proceeded to shoot a wide variety of different ammo types through the gun. Reliability was generally excellent, and accuracy was about as good as you can expect from a 16 ounce 3" barreled 9mm.

Here are 7 rounds of S&B at 15 yards offhand, which I think is stretching the limits of what the gun is designed for. I got one light strike in this magazine:

12 rounds of good old Winchester White Box 115 grainers at 10 yards.

The same amount of rounds at 15 yards. Again, the SIG is accurate enough to make decent hits at this distance, but it's starting to get iffy:

14 shots at 10 yards of Speer Lawman 115 gr. TMJ:

14 rounds of Federal 115 gr. bulk pack at 10 yards:


When the safety is disengaged on the P938, it's a fine CCW pistol. The problem is getting to that point, which requires using your thumb to push down a lever that's the size of a Tic Tac, on a gun that you're only holding with two other fingers. For me, this was impractical. If I were to carry this gun, I would install an extended thumb safety immediately.


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