In the library there is a book, within reach, with something inside should a bad guy appear in the door as I'm sitting with something to read and a Martini. OK, more likely a cup of the herb tea with the bear that looks like he's stoned on the box, but you get the idea.
The Sig P232
Before there was the Sig Sauer 232 there was a 230. That was before I starting shooting pistols but it was said to have quality and simplicity of use. So when I had a chance to get a hold of a P232 I said "sure". With my P220 being my favorite .45, I've always been a fan of Sig quality.
Chambered in .380 (9mm Kurz/9mm short), with a fixed barrel blowback action, I couldn't help but compare it in feel to the Bersa I bought for myself four years ago, then sold. I was quite pleased with it for the price, and have recommended it to women wanting a small caliber for $500 or less, but I was wanting something a little nicer for personal carry. There was something about the design of the P232 I liked and the quality of Sig Sauer has always impressed me. It's "vintage", if that word fits, and handling the piece brought me back to old black and white movies or classic James Bond films. Silly perhaps, but I like that in many things, the quality of items used to protect or defend or build in generations gone by, meticulessly crafted and cherished by only discerning people.
Like many small handguns, it comes with a large polymer case with an instruction manual full of the obligatory safety warnings and all the info you need on the basics of care. There are models with a stainless steel slide and black plastic grips that in bulkier weapons make me think "Holstein" but in this model it's pure sports car. There's models in all black and all stainless steel as well.
The P232 is advertised as Sig's second smallest and their lightest pistol, only the subcompact P238 being smaller. I wouldn't call the 232 a subcompact though, being more the size of the Walther PP. It's not a tiny gun, and wouldn't be ideal for a vest or snug pants pocket but it would work well most everywhere else (including fitting nicely into an Uncle Mike's size 2 pocket holster as the perfect garage accessory).
Like the original Walther PP (or the Russian Makarov copy of the PP) it's a SA/DA double action blowback operated fixed barrel autoloading firearm. It also has a nice single stack magazine that is retained by a little heel clip. One of only two operation controls other than the trigger, the magazine release is at the bottom of the grip frame behind the magazine. It's pressed rearward with thumb pressure using the non-shooting hand and once released, the magazine must be pulled from the grip frame. I rather prefer a Colt style magazine that drops the magazine in one clean motion, but I'm sure that with time it will seem more natural. Certainly, dropping a magazine to the ground by accidentwould be a rare event.
It might be argued that this type of release makes for slower reloads in an emergency. It might and is definitely something you should practice with more than once. But frankly for the typical self defense scenario, not a TV style shoot out, you may not need to. It's just my opinion, but if you can't disable/stop a thug with 7 rounds you have more to worry about then your magazine release
Just a note - unlike other weapons in it's class, the P232 doesn't have a magazine safety or disconnect and remains quite functional with the magazine removed.
In trying it out for the first time, I'd say I like it more than the Walther PP, even if they share the same basic design. For starters, the slide mounted dual function safety/decocker has been replaced with a single purpose decocker that's located at the top front of the left side grip panel. No manual safety to fumble with, especially in times of having to defend under high stress load (flat edged weapon equipped evil clowns, etc.). The shape is smooth, rounded, nothing to really snag on anything. With the decocking lever the only external operating control, you can pretty much draw this from any type of holster or pocket "snag free". The "snag free" extends to the hammer, which is easy as pie to cock with your thumb and it doesn't have that exposed burr you see in the PP (and the Mak).
This pistol has not had a trigger job. I concur that out of the box, it really didn't need one. It's smooth faced and even with fairly large hands, I was able to fire quite comfortably. The double-action trigger is reasonably smooth and easy to use, as well. There is some takeup and over-travel, but the single-action trigger breaks like a piece of glass, making repeating fire a pleasure.. Sig advertises a automatic firing pin block and a rebounding hammer for safety. I'm not sure if it made me a lot more safe than what's between my ears, but I'd say, given the quality I saw already in the piece, I'd take their word on that.
To shoot it at contact distance I just pulled the trigger through it's double action stroke to fire. This is definitely a true double action, trigger cocking mechanism and rest assured there is double strike capability in the event of a misfire. Id' say the DA trigger pull is a bit stout but fairly smooth. The long heavy trigger pull does make it harder to hold the pistol nice and steady during the firing stroke, impacting practical accuracy. But you're going to use the DA function for immediate self defense and it has the accuracy you need for that.
After my first DA shot, the pistol self cocked and subsequent shots fired single action. the trigger pull after the initial negligible takeup being short and the break at a manageable weight. This was the way to fire this gun while taking advantage of it's engineered accuracy.
There's a common complaint that blowback pistols have slides that are hard to pull back. as only the mass/inertia of the slide and the power of the recoil spring keep the breech closed when the gun is fired, so the spring ends up being heavy. There's truth to that. If this was going to be the personal piece for the woman in your life, have her try it first. That feature of most blowback pistols would not deter me from purchasing one, but I'm 5' 8 and quite strong (well except when involving willpower and a piece of apple pie).
The sights are typical of Sig configuration and designed with a dot on the front sight and a rectangle on the rear. Simply aligh the dot over the rectable. That's it.
I had only one complaint with the firearm, and with more use, it might not bother me so much. The magazine follower automatically activates the slide stop after the last shot, holding the slide open. When you clear the pistol by removing the magazine and rack the slide to eject the chambered cartridge, there's no manual lever to keep the slide open which seemed odd as I normally hand back the cleared firearm to someone for them to shoot it with the slide locked open. Also, if you rack the slide with an empty magazine in place there's no way to close the slide short of removing the magazine. I understand Sig nixed the manual lock slide to reduce operating controls and contribute to the whole "snag free" effect, and it certainly makes that aspect of the firearm easy to use, I just missed the manual control a little bit.
To carry for conceal or not. I will always be a fan of a bigger round for concealed carry. That being said, there are times that due to your build, your clothing or other reasons, that's not always practical. A .380 is certainly more effective than the proverbial sharp retort, but the .380 cartridge often is not capable of getting past that 200 FP of instrument energy you need, and some loads don't even get close.
If you are carrying the .380 as your only personal protection, pay very close attention to what you use as ammo. For my firearm, I'd use frangible ammo from a reputable manufacturer. If I really wanted to get serious, there's some great Cor-Bon 90-grain +P JHP load that will exit this stubby little barrel like it's on fire. But personal carry is NOT the time to get cheap ammo or use those reloads your neighbor Earl made for you one night after 3 cans of Schlitz. Good ammo, bullet placement (practice practice practice) and proper bullet expansion are all key to stopping power in a round and esssential in a smaller round.
It is not an inexpensive firearm but compared to my old Bersa there was a noticeable difference in quality. Yes, you pay for it, but I'm willing to pay for it. It's lightweight but not fluff, and would be easy to carry for long periods of time.
There is a reason the P232 is a very popular back up piece for off duty law enforcement officers and federal agents. My experience with it shows a reliable, extremely well made pistol with good ergonomics of grip design, easy to use sights and a sweet little trigger, all which contribute to accuracy if you really have to use it. Because sometimes, even in the classic Bond films, the bad guy might get a jump on you and you need a realiable backup that's withstood the test of time.