Sig Sauer’s P238 and the 365 .380


If the Great Gun Fairy were to drop down and offer you the choice between 2 micro compact handguns, which would you choose?
You can opt for either the Sig Sauer P238 with pretty carved grips or the newer Sig Sauer 365 .380 with a pretty rainbow finish. They are both .380 caliber guns. They’ll both fit in your purse. They’re both micro compact and easy to manage. Which is the better choice?
The P238 has been around for well over a decade. It’s a hammer-fired gun. (One strike against it for me, but Joe prefers hammer-fired guns.) The 365 is a striker-fired gun. (One plus for it in my book, and agin’ it in Joe’s.)
These are really small handguns. The P238 is 3.9 inches high, where the 365 is 4.2 inches. The P238 has an overall length of 5.5 inches, and the 365 is 5.8 inches long. The P238’s barrel is 2.7 inches and the 365’s barrel is 3.1 inches long.
Both the P238 and the 365 have stainless slides. The P238 has 2 big white dot rear sights and an equally large white front dot sight. The 365 has SIGLITE night sights. They are small night sights in the rear, and a SIGLITE front sight surrounded by green fiber optics.
The P238 is a smidge lighter at 15.2 ounces, while the larger 365 weighs in at 15.7 ounces. Robert Farago, in his 2010 gun review of the 238 says: “The gun’s light enough to stash in a pocket, yet heavy enough to make it a perfectly controllable pistol.”
The single-stack P238 holds six rounds, while the double-stacked 365 comes with a 10-round magazine. However, you can find a 12-round magazine for the 365, and that is what we have in the gun today.
Today’s P238 has pretty carved wooden grips: not standard, but available. The 365 is the model with the Rainbow finish and has the not-standard but obtainable, 12-round magazine.
Joe and I are visiting the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office range again on a Wednesday. It’s our good fortune that my friend Tam is here too. The three of us will shoot these two guns for:

  • ease of slide pull,
  • ease of trigger,
  • light trigger travel,
  • easy recoil,
  • and grip that fits the hand.
    Both Tam and I have small hands and Joe has large hands.
    We rate on a 1-5 scale. A 1 means it is easy or we like it, and a 5 means it is difficult or hard and we do not like it.
    Racking the slide on the P238 is easy for all of us. We give it a 1. Racking the slide on the 365 is harder. Tam and I give it a 2.5. Joe thinks it is easier and gives it a 1.5. (He’s stronger than we are!)
    Trigger pull on the P238 is easy for all of us. The 3 of us give both pull and travel a 1 or a 1.5. Trigger pull on the 365 is a 2 to 2.5 for Tam and me. Joe rates it a 1.5. At home, later, Joe put each gun on the Lyman Digital Trigger Gauge. The P238’s trigger pull came in at 5.14 ounces, and the 365’s at 6.11 ounces. You can see that they both are similar and light.
    Trigger travel is short and crisp on the P238. Trigger travel on the 365 is longer. We give it a 2.5. Travel isn’t so clean and crisp on the 365. It’s a bit grainy.
    Recoil is different. The P238’s recoil is a 2.5 for Tam and me, where Joe finds it a 1.5. The 365 has a lighter felt recoil. Tam and I give it a solid 2. Joe puts it at 1.5. Easy.
    Grip? Well, the single-stack P238 is small and narrow: great for Tam and my small hands. We also like the grip on the 365. The fit is very ergonomic. The zigzag of 365’s double-stacked magazine allows for a narrow tang. This makes the grip feel small even though it is double-stacked. Both Tam and I find it comfortable and give it a 1 for a great grip.
    Joe, with his larger hands, still likes the P238’s grip. He gives it a 2. Even though he has “pinky dangle,” he finds the gun quite controllable.
    Accuracy? We all found both handguns to be very accurate at the target 21 feet away. These micro compact guns are made for short distance accuracy. Probably no one has a room much longer than 21 feet long, so if Mr. Bad were to break down the door and threaten bodily harm, accuracy of 21 feet should be sufficient.
    Each of us take 3 shots with the larger 365. You can see that the groupings on this 8” target are quite reasonably tight and we are happy with our shooting. We shoot the P238 with similar results.
    So, which gun is better?
    My concern with the P238 is that it’s a hammer-fired gun. Joe trained on the 1911 hammer-fired gun in the Navy. He was trained to flick his thumb down on the safety and then pull the trigger. He likes a safety. He also likes the 1911’s smooth triggers.
    Well, a lot of us were not service trained. I worry that I might not remember, in a time of great stress, to flip off the manual safety. I might even forget whether it is on or off. At a highly stressful time, when life is at stake, I don’t want to have to think. I just want to hurry and neutralize the threat.
    As Farago explains: “The average shooter won’t think/know/remember to switch the safety on and off during practice… They’ll only use the Sig’s safety when they’re done at the range, for holstering. When push comes to shove they may forget to switch the safety off. Oops.”
    In length, the P238 seems a lot shorter because the beavertail sticks out so far, while the length of the 365 is all slide. Remember, the 365’s barrel is 3.1 inches, and the P238’s is 2.7 inches. The 365 has the feeling of a larger gun, even though it’s just a little longer, a little higher, a tiny smidgen narrower, and it weighs just a little bit more.
    Tam and I shoot both well, and even with large hands, Joe does too.
    So, “Come on!” says the Gun Fairy. “You must make a choice!”
    Based on shootability and accuracy, both guns are quite evenly matched.
    But let’s not get frivolous here. To make the profound choice, the wood carved grips on the P238 can coordinate with your shoes, belt or purse. The 365 Rainbow’s colors will match just about any color dress or T-shirt you own.
    Thank you, Gun Fairy!

Marj Law is the former director of Keep Wakulla County Beautiful who has become an avid shooter in retirement.