Historically, small concealed carry automatics have been chambered in calibers such as .32 ACP and .380 ACP. Thankfully, the current move in concealed carry pistols is to build ultra-compact handguns in full-powered cartridges such as the 9mm Luger and .40 S&W.
These calibers have garnered good reputations as “fight stoppers” when compared to the .32 and .380 and likely mean that a police officer will be carrying a backup that uses the same ammunition as his primary.
The Star PD
I like the idea of the full-powered concealer, and one of my bygone favorites in the small yet full-caliber pistol range is the Star PD. The Star PD was made by Star Bonifacio Echeverria in Spain. Chambered in .45 ACP, the Star was quite popular throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, with noted firearms authors Jeff Cooper and Massad Ayoob extolling the virtues of this little pistol.
The Star PD was discontinued almost fifteen years ago. The plant making it and the company importing these guns are both long gone. These guns are still easy to locate on the used market, but spare magazines and replacement parts are getting harder and harder to come by. If you're fortunate enough to own one of these fine little handguns, it might be time to pay your respects to old age and give the piece a place of honor in your gun safe.
Why write about the discontinued and obsolete Star PD while reviewing the new little SIG P938? Because upon handling the SIG, I was immediately reminded of many features that made the Star great.
The Sig P938
The SIG — like the Star — looks like a scaled down M1911. The magazine release, manual safety, and slide release are all in comfortable and familiar locations, but there is no grip safety. Internally, the Star and the SIG function in a very similar manner, and the design heritage between the two seems obvious when compared side by side.
Chambered in 9mm Luger, SIG's new P938 is built using a machined steel slide and aluminum frame. Weight — unloaded — is right at a pound, and the pistol holds seven rounds with one in the chamber. The thumb safety allows for “cocked and locked” carry and is ambidextrous. The lever does not lock the slide shut when engaged, so the pistol can be loaded and unloaded without manipulating the safety.
The trigger, like the one on the 1911 and the Star PD, operates in single action only mode, and I like the fact that the slide can be worked with the safety engaged. The 938 is available in several different finish options, and most models come equipped with tritium night sights. Included in the box is the usual owner and warranty paperwork and an extra magazine that is slightly extended to hold seven rounds.
The 9mm Luger P938 is essentially the earlier 380ACP SIG P238 enlarged to accept the slightly longer 9mm cartridge. The most notable difference is the width of the grip. SIG basically took the 380ACP grip and magazine and stretched it to accept the more powerful 9mm Luger. The result is a very compact yet relatively powerful handgun.
In the course of this review, I carried the SIG on a daily basis for two weeks. The P938 carried well in a Desbiens AIWB holster, with the pistol's light weight and short grip making it nearly invisible even under a fairly tight t-shirt. Even with the accumulated lint and dust bunnies that can come from daily carry, the SIG functioned properly when shot.
At the range, the P938 proved accurate and reliable with a mix of full metal jacket, cast bullet handloads and Hornady 147gr XTP hollow points. Controls were smooth and easy to operate, and I was pleased with how the little pistol handled when drawn from the holster. I have tested a few other compact pistols recently and am happy to report that I had no issues with inadvertent magazine release while shooting the little SIG.
If I were to levy one complaint against the SIG, it might be to say that the gun is actually too small! I know this seems ridiculous when reviewing a concealment handgun, but my concern is that there are a number of potential consumers who'll buy this gun based primarily on size. I am concerned that these people will buy this little pistol and then be overwhelmed by the snappy recoil. Novice shooters or those looking to buy a small handgun for a spouse might be better off buying the SIG P238 in 380ACP.
Today's peace officer or concealed carry holder has the choice of some truly excellent pistols that are perfect for backup or off-duty carry. Add another great little pistol from SIG to the mix!