This new SIG SAUER Model P938 Nightmare, chambered in 9x19mm caliber, is an updated version of SIG’s Model P238, chambered in .380ACP, which was introduced in 2009. With the P238 being a locked breech, short recoil operated pistol, the action is more than sufficient to handle the more powerful 9x19mm round.
In one sense, the original – the P238 – is overbuilt for the .380ACP caliber, as many other such pocket pistols in this caliber successfully work with a simpler, and less costly to produce, direct blowback system. Mechanically, the only change to the P238 to become the P938 is being slightly enlarged to accommodate the longer 9x19mm 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 P938 resembles a miniaturized version of a 1911 pistol, yet mechanically varies from this ancient (but still quite effective) ancestor. One quickly visible change is that there is no manual grip safety.
Focusing on the single-action-only P938, it has a Nitron® coated stainless steel slide over a dark, hard anodized alloy frame with Hogue® Black Diamondwood grips. The barrel lockup is straight SIG, with the chamber hood mating with the ejection port. There is no barrel bushing, but there is a full-length, noncaptive recoil spring on a metal guide rod.
It has an exposed and rounded hammer; ambidextrous manual thumb safeties; and an overall length of 5.9 inches. It is 3.9 inches high; has a width of 1.1 inches; and the suggested trigger pull weight is 7.5 to 8.5 pounds. The barrel length is 3.0 inches and it weighs 16 ounces (without 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.
The only problem I encountered with this “protection” was that, 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 with the intent of the safety movement pushing away, not trapping, 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 the lessening of 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 offside safety or file the flange down to such an extent that it takes effort to operate it at all.)
The slide of the “Nightmare” model 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. A choice of six rear sights and five front sights allow approximately a two inch point of impact change at 25 yards. Windage adjustment is done 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 the muzzle to the rear of the ejection port.
Examining the bottom of the slide shows a feature first used on the cartridge pickup 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 insure that 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 is then pressing against the magazine follower as the now empty case extracts and ejects. Also, the forward lower edge of the pickup 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: The slide can be manipulated for loading, unloading or chamber inspection with the safety in the “up” or “on” position.
SIG has also addressed a problem I found with my Colt Government .380, in that its 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. SIG SAUER states the trigger pull weight to be 7.5 to 8.5 pounds, as noted earlier, while my measurements showed weights of seven or 7.5 pounds, depending on where the trigger gauge arm was placed 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.
One Extra Round
The single, flush fit, all metal magazine holds six rounds and has six inspection holes on each side. An optional seven round magazine is in the pipeline and is to be an optional purchase, except for the P938 “Extreme” model when it will be supplied.
I was sent one of these optional seven round mags for inclusion in this article. The protruding magazine has a polymer spacer which 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 “feel” of the gun, as I could now get a full three finger grip. Only .5″ to .625″ of an inch is added to the length of the frame, but, for me, I’d go with this setup over the flush fit magazine for everyday carry unless maximum concealment is absolutely necessary.
Apart and Back
To disassemble the P938, after insuring the gun is unloaded and the magazine is removed, move the slide rearward until the slide disassembly notch is aligned with the slide stop tab. With the slide stop removed, the slide comes off to the front of the frame, but take care not to lose control of the noncaptive recoil spring on its guide rod.
This assembly is removed with forward pressure and a lift. The barrel can then be dropped down and out of the slide.
When you reassemble it, there are a few “musts.” You need to make sure the narrower end of the recoil spring is facing to the rear on the guide rod. Also note that 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. To not do either of these steps guarantees that the gun will malfunction. Also – and this is another “biggie” – the ejector must be depressed 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 SAUER. Per the instruction manual, “…this condition is not correctable at the operator level – the pistol must be returned to SIG SAUER for repair.”
At the range, three of us shot this sample 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. Our groups ran two to three inches – center to center – for five rounds and all the ammunition worked without any failures. (Note: SIG recommends the recoil spring be changed every 1500 rounds for best functioning.)
I also found the extended magazine to be a definite plus when I did some draw and fire work using a DeSantis prototype Mini Scabbard® belt holster. When I drew using the flush fit magazine, I fumbled my draw as I found I was barely taking a two-finger grip, but, when I switched over to the extended magazine, its surrounding collar/base pad allowed me to get a full three-finger grip. Putting a fine edge on this, now I felt as though I was drawing a full-sized – not pocket-sized – pistol. Conversely, the extended magazine hindered my draw from a front pants pocket, since it allowed the gun to catch on the lip of the pocket.
The only limitations I found with the gun were the same as what I had with the P238. Downrange 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. This said, the P938 is not a bull’s-eye pistol unless the “target” is a well placed defensive shot or two, three or more fired in selfdefense. For this purpose, the P938 will dot an “eye,” so to speak.
With SIG SAUER’s introduction of the Model P938 semiauto pistol chambered for the .9x19mm round, we now have a quite viable miniaturized version of the 1911 handgun for personal defense. SIG has not reinvented anything, but certainly 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. According to the SIG SAUER Web site (as of this writing), four versions of the P938 are now offered. This is incorrect, as the “Nightmare” actually is number five. The P938 ships in a lockable, hard case with one six round magazine. The Nightmare’s MSRP is $829.
SIG SAUER® P938 NIGHTMARE- Technical Specifications
- Caliber: 9x19mm
- Action type: SAO
- Trigger pull: Single-action 7.5 – 8.5 pounds
- Overall length: 5.9″
- Overall height: 3.9″
- Overall width: 1.1″
- Barrel length: 3.0″
- Sight radius: 4.2″
- Weight without magazine: 16.0 ounces
- Magazine capacity: Flush fit – six rounds (supplied) Extended fit – seven rounds (optional purchase – price TBD as of this writing)
- Sights: SIGLITE® Night Sights
- Grips: Hogue® Black Diamondwood grips
- Frame finish: Black hard anodized
- Frame material: Aluminum
- Slide finish: Black Nitron®
- Slide material: Stainless steel
- Features: Beavertail-style frame; ambidextrous thumb safety
- MSRP: $829.00
- CA compliant: No
- MA compliant: No
About the Author: Upon receiving his BS degree from Carnegie Tech and completing service as a Special Agent in U.S. Army Intelligence, Walt Rauch was a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and an Investigator with the Warrant Unit, First Judicial District, PA.
Rauch is also a writer and lecturer in the firearms field. He is published regularly in national and international publications.