February 27, 2018
By Jake Edmondson
SIG SAUER has an entire family of what the company calls Emperor Scorpion pistols. Of course, there's a full-size Model 1911 Emperor Scorpion in .45 ACP with a 5.0-inch barrel. There's a Model 1911 Fastback Emperor Scorpion Carry in .45 ACP with a 4.2-inch barrel. There's a 9mm P226 Emperor Scorpion with a 4.4-inch barrel. There's a 9mm P938 Emperor Scorpion with a 3.5-inch threaded barrel. And there's the .380 ACP P238 Emperor Scorpion that's the subject of this review. It's the smallest of SIG's Emperor Scorpions. All Emperor Scorpion pistols have Flat Dark Earth finishes, black G10 grips, front slide serrations, and SIGLITE night sights.
Officially, the pistol's name is the P238 Emperor Scorpion Micro-Compact. And the single-action .380 ACP P238 is basically a tiny Model 1911 in appearance and handling.
The little SIG P238 has been around for nine years and has earned a reputation for reliability. It has a 2.7-inch barrel. Capacity in a flush-fitting magazine is six rounds, and it also comes with an extended magazine that holds seven rounds. The extended magazine has a grip extension as well.
The P238 Emperor Scorpion is 5.5 inches long overall and 3.9 inches tall with the flush-fitting magazine. With the extended magazine inserted, the pistol's height grows to 4.4 inches. The pistol's grip frame is 0.9 inch thick and 4.75 inches in circumference. The slide is 0.8 inch thick. At its widest point (the slide stop), the pistol is 1.1 inches wide. The pistol weighs 15.2 ounces, empty.
The gun's rear sight is dovetailed and has two tritium dots, and its square notch is 0.15 inch wide. The front sight has a single tritium dot and is also dovetailed into the slide, and its post is 0.14 inch thick. The sight radius is 3.8 inches.
As I said at the beginning, the Emperor Scorpion pistols feature Flat Dark Earth finishes and black G10 grips. SIG calls the grip panels Piranha, and their style includes dimple-like texturing and the SIG logo. They are attached to the frame with black hex-head screws.
The slide is stainless steel, and the frame is alloy. The FDE finish on the slide and the frame is PVD. The trigger, the skeletonized hammer, the mainspring housing, the magazine release, the thumb safety, the slide stop, the sights, and the barrel are black.
The P238 operates much like the classic Model 1911 that John Browning designed over a century ago, but there are some major differences. Like the original Model 1911, the P238 has a tilting barrel that rides on the shank of the slide stop. However, there is not a separate barrel link and pin like on a true Model 1911, and the barrel doesn't use a bushing at the front of the slide like the original Model 1911. In addition, at the rear, the barrel's hood does not lock into the slide.
There is no grip safety. There is a firing pin safety, a hammer safety intercept notch, a disconnector, and a manual thumb safety. The thumb safety operates a bit differently than the manual thumb safety of a true Model 1911. Unlike a true Model 1911, when the hammer is cocked, the thumb safety on the P238 does not lock the slide into battery. That allows the shooter to work the slide to empty the chamber with the pistol in the "Safe" mode, but it also means the engaged safety doesn't keep the slide from moving rearward when the gun is holstered in a tight holster. I didn't have any trouble with it, but I was aware of the situation before I tried holstering it and positioned my thumb to prevent the slide from retracting while holstering the pistol.
Additionally, the safety can be engaged with the hammer lowered, and when that is done, the slide is locked and the hammer can't be fully cocked.
Disassembles Like a 1911
The P238 Emperor Scorpion disassembles like a Model 1911. After removing the magazine and making sure the pistol is unloaded, cock the hammer, move the slide rearward until the half-round cutout in the bottom left of the slide lines up with the tab at the top of the slide lock, and push out the slide lock. Then move the slide forward off the frame. Lift the recoil spring guide and recoil spring out, and then lift the barrel out of the slide.
Caution: Do not engage the thumb safety with the slide off the frame because moving the safety up will cause the detent plunger to separate from the frame.
The magazine is disassembled by depressing the magazine follower, capturing the magazine spring by inserting a small punch or pin through one of the cartridge witness holes in the magazine tube, lifting and rotating the follower until it clears the tube, and removing the spring.
Points Naturally and Shoots Well
Following Shooting Times protocol, I fired the P238 Emperor Scorpion for accuracy from a benchrest at 25 yards with a variety of .380 ACP factory ammunition. The loads ranged from SIG SAUER's 90-grain JHPs and Hornady's 90-grain FTX through Federal's American Eagle 95-grain FMJ and 99-grain HST to SIG SAUER's 100-grain FMJ. The results are listed in the chart on page 58. All loads gave adequate accuracy, well under the self-defense standard of 4.25 inches at 25 yards. My pistol's best group average came with the American Eagle 95-grain FMJ. Five, five-shot groups averaged 2.84 inches.
Since 25 yards seems like a bit of a stretch considering this pistol is designed for up-close personal protection, I also took the time to run 50 or so rounds through the P238 Emperor Scorpion offhand at closer ranges, shooting on the move, from cover, and from awkward positions, such as flat on my back. SIG included a plastic belt holster with the P238 Emperor Scorpion, so I used it for drawing and shooting.
I used the extended seven-round magazine for the offhand shooting because with it inserted I could get all three of my gripping fingers on the pistol's grip. With the six-round magazine inserted, my pinky finger snugged up underneath the bottom of the magazine, and while that was not uncomfortable, I much preferred the feel of the seven-round magazine.
The pistol pointed naturally, and I found the sights to be excellent. They were fast and easy to acquire, and I made consistent hits on silhouette targets at varying distances, ranging from 7 yards to 15 yards, without difficulty. The trigger pull was a bit heavy, but I had become used to it during my accuracy shooting from the bench, so I didn't have any trouble during the action-shooting portion of my evaluation. According to my RCBS trigger pull gauge, the trigger pull averaged 7.0 pounds, and it ranged from 7.0 to 7.25 pounds over the course of 10 measurements.
As for functioning, the P238 Emperor Scorpion never missed a beat, and I experienced no failures of any kind during the firing of more than 150 rounds. Other micro pistols aren't always that reliable, which is understandable because in a tiny gun, there just isn't as much room for the engineers to work with to improve feeding angles and solve extraction issues. SIG's engineers have definitely figured it out.
The SIG P238 Emperor Scorpion performed exceptionally well in the accuracy, reliability, and ergonomics departments. It felt good in my hand despite its thin grip frame. I have medium-size hands, and the pistol's 4.75-inch grip circumference is about the slimmest I would want on any personal handgun. The grip frame just doesn't fill my hand the way I like. However, this gun is designed for carrying, so its minimal dimensions are a plus in that regard. Bear in mind, it's not the smallest .380 ACP pocket pistol on the market, but it's the smallest I would personally consider carrying. It carries comfortably, points well, and shoots accurately.