SIG SAUER P232 Stainless .380 ACP Pistol
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
We first encountered the all stainless steel P230, predecessor of the P232 Stainless, in the mid 1990's. It impressed us with its style, quality and simplicity of operation. In the intervening years, the P230 has evolved into the P232, which brings us to the subject of this review.
SIG-SAUER P230 & P232. For Sig P230/P232 contains 1 factory standard recoil spring and 1 each extra power recoil springs in 16 and 18 pounds. Add to cart; 30490: SIG P230, P232.380 ACP XP RECOIL CALIB PAK: 18.79: Top of page. For Use in: Sig P-230 with serial number below: Blue Models: S165076 Stainless Models: S053921. SIG Sauer P230 - Vaud Special Police - sn S108xxx. SIG Sauer P230, manufactured in Germany and issued to the Swiss Canton of Vaud for police use. Very good condition with 91% original finish. Frame and slide matching serial numbers. Left side of the frame has two small marks in the bluing to the left and below the takedown lever.
Our friends at SIG SAUER (www.sigsauer.com) were kind enough to consign a new P232 Stainless .380 for this review. Our test pistol came nicelypackaged in a padded, lockable, polymer hard case with one magazine, aninstruction manual larded with useless safety warnings, a small tube of'cleaner/lubricant' gun grease and a gunlock. It is a very completepackage, except for the lack of a second magazine, an expensive oversight. (Aspare magazine costs $46 from SIG SAUER as this is written.)
The P232 Stainless features a satin stainless steel finishwith Hogue black rubber, wrap around grips. These have the usual Hogue deepfinger grooves that we dislike. However, for once, the grooves approximatelyfit our fingers. If you are not a fan of Hogue finger groove grips, they can be easily replaced by the smooth SIG polymer grips that used to be standard equipment. We made this change immediately after the shooting portion of this review and are pleased with the result, both aesthetically and functionally.
We think this an exceptionally handsome pistol. For those whowant something different, SIG also offers the P232 with a black (Nitron finish)steel slide and black anodized aluminum alloy frame, or Two-Tone silver/blackstainless/aluminum versions. The aluminum frame guns weigh less than 19 ounces.We reviewed a Two-Tone P232 in 2010; see the Product Reviews index page.
The P232 is petite, but it is not a subcompact pistol.It is about the length, height and weight of a Glock 19, Baikal IJ-70A(Makarov) or Walther PP. We'd call it a compact pistol. It is similarto and directly competitive with the Walther and Makarov service pistols, withwhich it shares the same basic design. However, SIG has gone beyond thoseexcellent pistols by simplifying and improving the Walther PP concept toproduce the finest pistol of its type. This is a bold statement and we do notsay such things lightly.
Like the original Walther PPand the somewhat simplified/improved Russian Makarov copy of the PP, the SIG P232 is astreamlined, double action (SA/DA), blowback operated, fixed barrel, autoloadingpistol with a single stack magazine retained by a heel clip. Waves complete v9 mac dmg. All three of thesepistols are similar in size, shape and weight. All three are handsome,accurate, well made, reliable pistols that are chambered for the .380 ACP (9mmKurz) cartridge.
Why do we say the SIG P232 isthe best? Because SIG has gone farther to improve the basic concept than anyoneelse. Here are the notable improvements incorporated by SIG engineers. Theyeliminated the slide mounted, dual function, safety/decocking lever andreplaced it with a single purpose, frame mounted decocker. It is conveniently located at the top of the leftside grip panel. This is a better, easier to operate design and there is nomanual safety to fumble or forget in moments of high stress. The P232 has avery clean shape with smooth external contours and rounded edges for snag-freedraws; the decocking lever is its only external operating control. Simpler is better.
The P232's hammer has a smooth shape with a small, conventional hammer spur that is partlyshielded by the rear of the slide, rather than the exposed burr hammer used inthe Makarov and PP. Not only is the SIG hammer design snag-free, it is easier to thumb cock.
The P232 has a wide, smooth-faced trigger and a useable out of the box SA trigger pull. (The specification is 4.4 pounds, although our test gun's trigger actually measured lighter.) It is, in fact, one of the very few modern autoloading pistols that does not require a trigger job before being pressed into service. The mechanism incorporates an automatic firing pin block and a rebounding hammer for increased safety.
The P232 is builton a one-piece frame/trigger guard. There is a small, flush mounted, takedownlever instead of the pinned in place, pull-down trigger guard used to releasethe slide for removal in the Makarov and Walther pistols. It has thewide, easy to grip SIG SAUER slide serrations, which are particularlyimportant on an inherently hard to rack blowback pistol.
The P232 comes with high visibility, Patridge type sights that are far superior to the sights on most competitivepistols. (SIGLITE tritium night sights, as supplied on our test pistol, are a popular option.) Here are the P232 specifications as reviewed.
- Item number: 232-380-SSS (stainless steel finish)
- Type: Semi-automatic, blowback operated, compact service pistol
- Caliber: .380 ACP (9mm Kurz)
- Magazine capacity: 7 rounds
- Action: DA/SA
- DA trigger pull: 10 pounds
- SA trigger pull: 3.75 lbs. (measured)
- Overall length: 6.6'
- Height: 4.7'
- Width: 1.3'
- Weight w/magazine: 23.6 ounces (empty)
- Barrel length: 3.6'
- Sights: SIGLITE tritium night sights
- Sight radius: 4.8'
- Grips: Hogue black rubber wrap around
- Frame finish: Stainless
- Slide finish: Stainless
- Country of origin: Germany
- 2013 MSRP: $799
The P232 is a .380 pistol,but it is not tiny. At least for us, it is too big and heavy to carry in anankle holster, vest pocket or pants pocket, as one mightcarry a mini-revolver or .25 auto. Most users will probably choose to carry itin a suitable belt holster, shoulder holster, fannypack, purse, briefcase or other sturdy container that fits their lifestyle.
To field strip the P232 forcleaning, remove the magazine and ensure that the chamber is empty. Cock thehammer and then rotate the frame mounted takedown lever 90-degrees downward.(This is the small lever inletted into the forward left side of the frame.)Pull the slide all the way rearward and lift the back of the slide off theframe's slide rails. Then, run the slide forward off the fixed barrel. Pull thetapered recoil spring off the barrel. (Note that the larger diameter end of thisspring is forward.) That is all the disassembly required for cleaning andnormal maintenance. Reassemble in reverse order.
From the operator'sperspective, the P232 is one of the easiest to use autoloading pistols on themarket. The only fly in the ointment is that the slide is difficult to pullback. This is a common complaint with blowback pistols, as only themass/inertia of the slide and the power of the recoil spring keep the breechclosed when the gun is fired, so the spring must be heavy. One suggestion is tocock the hammer before attempting to pull back the slide. That way you are notfighting the recoil spring and the hammer spring. (Both are substantialin the P232.)
Once you have managed to rackthe slide and load the chamber, operation is simple. Depress the left sidemounted decocking lever to lower the rebounding hammer. There are no otherprotruding levers or controls to worry about. The extractor is raised slightlyabove the surface of the slide when there is a cartridge chambered and servesas a tactile 'loaded chamber' indicator. Once loaded, the P232 is assimple to use as a double action revolver.
When you want to shoot thepistol, you have two options. At very short range, essentially arm's length,just pull the trigger through its double action stroke to fire. This is a truedouble action, trigger cocking mechanism and there is a double strikecapability in the event of a misfire. The DA trigger pull is acceptableat 10 pounds and reasonably smooth. Practical accuracy is poor,because the long, heavy trigger pull makes it very difficult to hold the 1.5pound pistol steady during the firing stroke. As we said, the DA function isfor immediate self-defense at very short range.
After the first (DA) shot,the pistol will self-cock and subsequent shots will be fired single action. Inother words, the trigger does not have to cock the hammer, so the trigger pull(after a long initial take-up) is short, although there is a lot of over-travel. The trigger pull of our test pistolmeasured 3.75 pounds per our RCBS pull gauge. Single action is how the pistol will normally be fired and the only way to takeadvantage of its better than average intrinsic accuracy. Whenever you have timeto do so, or any time you must shoot at greaterthan contact distance, manually cock the hammer for the first shot, as youwould a SA autoloader or a revolver.
The rebounding hammer is partiallyshielded by the shape of the rear of the streamlined slide to avoid catching onclothing, but enough of the hammer spur protrudes to make thumb cocking for thefirst shot easy. If you lack faith in the decocking lever, enough hammer spuris available to make lowering the hammer with the thumb practical.
The magazine follower automaticallyactivates the slide stop after the last shot, holding the slide open. However,when you clear the pistol by removing the magazine and racking the slide toeject the chambered cartridge, you will find that there is no manual lever tokeep the slide open. We found this a little disconcerting, particularly whenhanding the pistol to another person, as we are accustomed to doing so with theslide locked open. Conversely, if you rack the slide with an empty magazine inplace, there is no way to close the slide short of removing the magazine. Tochamber a round after inserting a loaded magazine, you must pull the slide backslightly and release. We understand that SIG dispensed with a manual slide lockto minimize the number of operating controls and to keep the pistol snag freeand easy to use. Nevertheless, it is one manual control that we missed.
The .380 ACP cartridge shouldnot be belittled for self-defense purposes. Contrary to those who call the 9x17mma 'mouse cartridge,' it is not. Nor is the SIG P232 a mouse gun. Infact, with appropriate JHP ammo, the .380 ACP has a proven one-shot-stop recordon a par with .38 Special snub-nose revolvers and .45 ACP ball ammo. The keysto quick stops are bullet placement and proper bullet expansion. Both can beregularly achieved by a P232 loaded with proper ammunition. Marshall and Sanow,in their seminal 1992 book Handgun Stopping Power, found after examining106 actual shootings that the .380 achieved 65% one shot stops using Federal 90grain JHP factory loads. For comparison, in the same study the .38 Special snubbydelivered 66.6% one shot stops with +P 158 grain LHP factory loads and fullsize .45 ACP service autos delivered 64% one shot stops with standard 230 grainFMJ ammo.
For our test shooting withthe P232, we once again visited the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene,Oregon. This outdoor facility has covered shooting positions with bench restsand target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. Unlike many publications thatshorten the range for .380's and other pistols they consider suitable only forclose range defense to seven yards, we did our shooting at 25yards, our standard range for testing handguns. The western Oregon springweather was mostly sunny with a high of 71-degrees F and a gusty 15 MPH breeze.
Due to the ongoing Obama post re-election ammo shortage, our test ammo was limited to Remington/UMC 95 grainFMJ (MV 955 fps) and Blazer aluminum case 88 grain JHP (MV 1000 fps) factory loads that wehad on hand. These are economy loads and we regret that premium ammunition was not available for this review. We shot five-shot groups for record at 25 yards using a PistolPerch rest. Guns and Shooting Online Chief Technical Advisor Jim Fleck,Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays and Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks did thetest shooting, with Technical assistant Bob Fleck and Technology maven DaveCole spotting. Here are the shooting results:
- Blazer 88 grain JHP - smallest group 1-7/8', largest group 4-5/8', mean average group size = 2.9'
- Remington/UMC 95 grain FMJ - smallest group 2-1/2', largest group 3-3/4', mean average group size = 3.3'
Sig Sauer P230 Manual Pdf
As you can see from the resultsabove, the P232's 25 yard accuracy was better than average for .380 pistols,particularly with the Blazer 88 grain JHP load. Except for a blown 4-5/8'group that skewed the average, the accuracy results with the Blazer ammo wouldhave been even better. This time out, Chuck shot the smallest single group.
Unlike subcompact .380 autos,the P232 is a medium size and weight gun with a full size grip that aids accurate shooting. We have already mentioned thepistol's fixed barrel design, decent SA trigger and highly visible sights. Thesights were factory regulated to hit about at point of aim at 25 yards,unusually good performance for fixed sights. These characteristics combine tomake range sessions pleasurable and rewarding.
We used a small amount of thehigh-tech white 'cleaner/lubricant' packaged with the pistol on theslide rails to avoid the functioning problems we had encountered with analuminum framed P232 Two-Tone pistol we reviewed in 2010. (We discovered thenthat these pistols must be greased.) Our advice is to keep the P232's slide andframe rails lubricated, but avoid using an excess amount of grease that willattract powder residue and dirt. The all steel P232 functioned perfectly throughoutour testing.
Naturally, we did our test shooting in broad daylight, when the P232's highly visible Patridge typesights could be conventionally aligned. At night, the test gun's SIGLITE tritium nightsights provide a three green dot illuminated aiming system.
Sig Sauer P230 Sl Serial Numbers Lookup
Some shooters, especiallythose raised on 'modern' combat pistol technique (as promulgated byJeff Cooper and his disciples since the early 1950's) will probably complainabout the heel clip magazine release, since it makes for slower reloads thanpush button catches and drop free magazines. We found the heel clip positiveand easy to use. It does somewhat slow emergency reloads, but how many privatecitizens will ever need to replace their magazine at maximum speed? It is unwiseto drop empty magazines on the ground, potentially losing or damaging them,when you will need to reload them to keep shooting. (Civilians do not have anendless supply of magazines; we usually have two and we need to keep them ingood working order.) With a heel clip you cannot inadvertently drop the magazineby pushing the wrong button. We have seen that happen many times withpush button mag releases. While we are mentioning magazines, the stainlesssteel magazine supplied with our P232 fed cartridges perfectly.
Sig Sauer P230 Sl Price
To summarize, the SIG SAUER P232 is a deluxe compact pistol. For experienced shooters withstrong hands, the P232 is an excellent choice. Unlike mini guns and subcompact .380pistols, the all stainless steel P232 is a medium size pistol with good ergonomics, excellent sights and a decent trigger. It is easyto shoot and its fixed barrel design gives it an inherent accuracy advantage over tip-barrel designs.
Note: A review of the SIG SAUER P232 Two-Tone (stainless/aluminum) can be found on the Product Reviews page.