There are a lot of choices in the world of pocket-sized CCW pistols out there, but is a .380 ACP the right choice for you?

Just how much is enough? This question is the root of endless discussions on choosing the correct caliber for your defensive handgun. A round that is always in the mix is the age-old .380. To many this round is quickly brushed off as a 9mm set on “stun,” yet none of those jokesters are willing to be “stunned” with a .380 to prove their point. Many people are unaware that the .380 is the creation of John Moses Browning, the creator of our beloved 1911 pistol.  Blasphemy you may say, yet the .380 has a history many are unaware of. In fact, the .380 is the round used by Gavrilo Princip in 1914 to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife which eventually led to the first world war. Talk about a shot heard round the world. The Colt Pocket Model 1908 chambered in .380 was also carried by General Patton in World War II. So to dismiss the .380 is a mistake. However, we are not here to explore ballistic history. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons as well as the whys and why nots of the .380 for the modern CCW user.

Compact .380 ACP pistols, like this Beretta Pico, offer reasonably power in a very small and portable package. Image courtesy of Beretta.

As a sign of how hot the .380 market is, even Glock has gotten on the bandwagon with its Glock 42. Image courtesy of Glock.

In this Corner

Currently, guns chambered in .380 tend to fall into the pocket pistol category. People are looking for a lightweight gun that is easy to carry and produces manageable recoil. The small size of these guns is a major benefit because they are easy to carry and conceal. Many people are unable or unwilling to carry a full-size gun and gun manufacturers have addressed this market with pocket guns that in most cases are less than five inches long and weigh in at less than a pound. Ballistically, the .380 round is considered by many to be the “power floor” or smallest round to be used in a self-defense capacity. Rounds generally average in the 90-grain area and produce decent penetration considering their size. Without question, any .380 gun carried for defensive purposes should be loaded with hollow points. So in regards to size and weight, the .380 has some solid benefits.

Picking out your .380 is not all there is to the choices you face—you must also decide how you are going to carry it.

And in This Corner

The downside of our little friend, however is its size, both the round and the gun. The .380 is simply not a very powerful round. While I loathe the term “stopping power” in regards to handguns, the .380 lacks the mass and velocity to cause significant trauma capable of consistently “stopping” an adversary when compared to rounds like the .45 ACP. Have there been many people shot and stopped with a .380? Absolutely. However, there have also been countless people shot with this round that were not effectively stopped. It is not a question of “will it work,” it is a question of “will it consistently work?” When it comes to handgun caliber it is better to go with a caliber that has a higher probability of physically and or psychologically stopping an adversary. It is not always a bigger is better scenario contrary to what the devotees of the .45 ACP round may say. Ballistic performance should be our driving factor. As for the size of the gun, the pocket pistols lack sufficient real-estate to get an optimal shooting grip. This is especially true for those with bigger hands. The byproduct of this is excessive movement of the gun under recoil. Slow fire shots may be easy to manage, but longer strings of fire tend to cause groups to climb and spread out. When you only have an average of six rounds to begin with, all of them need to be on target.

Help You Carry

So, you have weighed the pros and cons and have decided to carry a pocket pistol chambered in .380. Sure, a larger and more powerful gun might be a better companion, but the ease of carry and size of the .380 is right for you and your situation. Now, let’s take a look as some carry methods as well as a few other points to consider. While the term pocket pistol is catchy, it leads some people to believe they can just drop the gun in a pocket and go. However, this mode of carry has pros and cons (like everything always seems to).

A simple and easy way to carry a CCW gun is in your pocket, but I advise you use a holster such as the DeSantis Nemesis rather than just dropping it into a pocket. Image courtesy of Galco.

A good inside-the-waistband holster, such as the Galco Tuck-N-Go, is a good option as well for your .380 of choice. Image courtesy of Galco.

Pocket carry is simple and easy (but I advise you to use a dedicated pocket holster like the DeSantis Nemesis to ensure it is safe and secure). You can put your hand in your pocket and on the gun without arousing any undue attention, and it is very easy and simple to use. However, it also makes the gun inaccessible while you are sitting and is also makes for an awkward draw in the best of circumstances. Also, once you place your pistol in a pocket, that pocket is now out of bounds for any other item. Extra things bouncing around in a pocket will ultimately find their way into the trigger guard and potentially cause a negligent discharge.

With a round like the .380 that is at the “floor” of defensive power, you should select as effective a load as possible. Federal’s HST line is a good option. Image courtesy of Federal.

Other options include inside the waistband holster (like the Galco Tuck-N-Go) or even ankle holsters (like the Gould & Goodrich Ankle Holster). They are light and small enough that they are hardly noticeable. One carry method used by many women is a purse carry. It is a personal opinion, but I would avoid this if at all possible. The reasons are many but at the top of the list is the time it takes to get the gun into the fight and an overall lack of security of the gun inside the purse. If you do carry with a purse, you need to train with it as well as make sure you have a holster inside for your gun. Or better yet, choose a purse made by a professional company dedicated to this type of carry. Ammo-wise, I will once again point you towards hollow points as offering the best performance. Federal HST or Hornady XTP JHP are two options that will serve you well.

When the Black Flag Rises

Range time with your selected handgun is as important as the gun you select. Make sure you can hit where you need to when you need to under duress.

The last thing we will discuss is just what to do with your .380 should a bad day come. Shot placement is key as with all shooting. Placing your shots center mass in succession will lead to the best chance of discouraging their assault. If you are in close quarters proximity, I am a believer in multiple head and face shots. Even if they do not prove to be “cranial ocular” hits, they are massive blows to the head which can produce the desired effect. This may not be vogue in some shooting circles, but it is a very powerful deterrent. If you agree, I recommend doing some practice on the range of drawing from your holster close to the target and aiming for these head shots. I would also work on drills with torso shots as well just to make sure you are ready for any contingency.

The choice of concealed carry gun is a very personal one. Educate yourself about what your options are. Simply relying on a friend or even gun shop owner is not enough. They will not be standing in your shoes should you have to present the gun in self-defense. Choose wisely and remember that while the .380 is not a hand cannon, it is better than having no gun in a fight for your life. And this guide is by no means exhaustive, but rather is meant to get you thinking about what your self-defense needs are and how best to address them.

{ 68 comments… add one }
  • John August 8, 2019, 12:48 am

    Going for head shots in a high stress situation with a pocket pistol is probably not a good idea. A center mass hit with a good .380 hollowpoint is going to be enough to discourage most attackers, while if you aim for his head you’re probably going to miss and just piss him off.

  • Harris D November 19, 2018, 7:40 pm

    In the late 70’s thru the 1980’s they made bigger 380’s that were easier to shoot and much cheaper in price. Names like Walther and Davis come to mind.

  • Rafael January 31, 2017, 2:55 pm

    I have SW 380, for concealed carry in Fla. with 7 rounds (one in the chamber) I purchased it because it easier to carry than my 5 hole 357 snub nose, and a lot lighter, I know it does not have the stopping power. But it si better than my old 32 acp or 25 .

  • RON January 31, 2017, 1:33 pm

    My wife and I bought LCP’s for anniversary presents 4 or 5 years ago. At least one of us when we’re together carries one. When we’re apart we each carry. FYI, we both have CCW permits. With Corbons loaded we feel we can disperse any threat. And by the way, we both can hit what we aim at. I witnessed her hit a rattler at 15 feet, 4 out of 5 shots when it was hissing at me using my walker after knee replacement surgery going past it within 5 feet. Our 13 and 15 shot 9mm”s are car and bedside weapons but are still to large and bulky to carry all the time. When hunting or hiking in bear or cat country my .44 mag is in a bandolier holster. Point is carry for the conditions, but always carry!

    • Gordon October 22, 2017, 10:21 am

      I have never had a problem carrying my G19. It’s not to big at all.

  • Noel P. January 31, 2017, 2:08 am

    I’ve had to carry many a .380 over the years. This was when the European police were carrying .32 pistols. As at that time I could not hit my foot with the issue small checkered grip Detective Soecial .380 was about as big as I could get. The nines of that time were hardly concealable. You also did not get a wide range of pistols in .380 at that time. I used a Walter PPK which had a horrible double action trigger pull, it was a beauty, but unlike the information in the article it weighed in at about a pound 6 onces. During a duty trip to Spain I got my hand on llama baby 1911. Itvonly held about 8 rounds but it was a pleasure to shoot. My rig was a Lesther shoulder holster that was comfortable and I could carry two additional clips in it. These pistols were adequate for most duty unless you were going up against a Turk. Then you wanted an artillery piece. My choice then rapidly went to the Colt Commander. Ammunition in Europe, unless you could get some custom handload rounds, was allways FMJ.
    Currently running from Astra down the alphabet to Walter I have some 14 pistols in .380. This includes a few near antiques and shortly a Revolver made down South America way for my wife. I have s Marcov in ,380 (why that caliber I do not know) that I call a truck gun ( if it gets stolen or broken you don’t feel so bad about it). Some of the pistols that I have in .380 are mechanical works of art and oh yes I still have the llama in .380, in fact I have three one of which is engraved and Gold plated that I never shoot.

    • CRS, DrPH January 31, 2017, 3:15 pm

      Agreed, the little Llama .380 1911 pistols are great guns!

  • ejharb January 31, 2017, 1:45 am

    380 hollow points are good for failure to stop.they simply do not penetrate enough to reach vital organs especially if they hit a arm before impacting torso.I would use fmjs and go for shot placement and double taps.

  • Dave Vets January 31, 2017, 1:25 am

    I’m not a know it all or even close when it comes to guns but what’s wrong with a simple reliable 38 cal snub compared to a 380-acp. when it comes to self-defense or even conceal carry?
    Thanks for any advice;

  • Mark January 31, 2017, 12:48 am
  • Jonathan January 30, 2017, 9:31 pm

    If you shoot someone in the head in Texas, even in obvious self-defense, You will be arrested and prosecuted for murder!

    Carry enough gun.

    • Ken Mann January 31, 2017, 4:09 pm

      I have just heard of this. In Louisiana, we had a perps parents come foreward and declare a shot in the head is personal. Really ? You cannot use all means to defend yourself against death threats ? Still have not seen it tested in court here.

  • kahrcrazy January 30, 2017, 8:51 pm

    Precision 1 380 xtp hp simply the best 12 inch to 18 inch penetrating hp ammo on the market hands down !!!!!

  • Stan d. Upnow January 30, 2017, 8:21 pm

    Having formerly worked in the firearms trade for a number of years, I’ve heard most of the cons regarding the .380acp. The reality is that it is a true 9mm cartridge. Most people somehow equate it with something on the order of a .25-caliber. OK, it throws a lighter bullet at less velocity than a 9mm Para, which most people have no trouble accepting for self-defense. But, at really close range, higher velocity(75-150fps) doesn’t offer anything magical in wounding capability. It might even present a liability due to excessive penetration.
    The larger consideration has been the size of the handguns chambered for the .380. As one gent commented, in a hot weather climate, like FL, it’s not practical to conceal-carry a large pistol without being conspicuous. That consideration has been fading lately, as the manufacturers have been shrinking guns for the 9mm Para to not much larger than a .380. Also, in hot climates, people wear very little clothing. Penetration is less of a consideration.
    Interestingly, the .380 dominated police depts. in Europe for a good portion of the 20th century. It was even the standard sidearm cartridge for a number of militaries.

  • Spike January 30, 2017, 4:32 pm

    I look at it this way, a gun, any gun is better than no gun. I have many pistols in many calibers. I live in Florida where it’s 90+ 6 months out of the year. It’s hard to carry concealed of any larger caliber. I have the XDS in 45, Glock 27 etc. They are a challenge to carry in the summer.
    I recently bought the LCP II.

    As a side note, I live ten minutes from the movie theater where the retired police officer shot the guy a few years back with one shot from a .380. He didn’t live.

    • Bill T. January 30, 2017, 11:32 pm

      “He didn’t live.” A bit ambiguous. Who is “He”? The retired police officer? The guy the officer shot?

      • DIYinSTL January 31, 2017, 12:44 pm

        It was one of the few black days for CCW. The retired cop, a concealed carry permit holder and the aggressor in this sad story, got into a stupid argument with another patron of the theater. I’m not taking the time to look it up (as you should do if you are interested) but popcorn may have been involved. Bottom line is the former cop shot and killed the other patron for no good reason.

        • Old Cop August 12, 2017, 10:56 pm

          I recall the movie theater shooting by a retired police lieutenant. The retired lieutenant got into a verbal thing w/the couple in front of him b/c they were using a cell phone during the movie. Things quickly escalated and the retired cop shot the guy, killing him. He was using a S&W .380 that reportedly jammed after the first shot but the retired cop was arrested and charged w/murder. Never did hear if he was convicted.

  • Jim January 30, 2017, 3:54 pm

    I willingly will never carry or trust my life, or the lives of my Children to a .380 again.

    Two shots did not put down a charging and agressive pitbull. Yes it ran away, but only to be sewn back together later in the day and then Bit another child a few months later… the owner himself finally put the dog down permanently.

    But as dar as .380 as a calibre… no I wouldn’t want to be shot with it, any more than with a paslode cordless framing nailer… which also could be deadly at close range… but we are talking about a pistol to save the life of an important human being… be it myself, or my wife or children… if called on to perform I dont have time for stories of 1900’s assassination calibers or what a tank commander carried for ammusment…. my family and friends lives are more important than Gunshop Fairytales and other spun yarns.

    Call it a 9mm short if you like… but its “Short of actual stopping power” when it matters most.

    Keep it… I dont even want it.

    • Larry January 30, 2017, 6:44 pm

      Two non lethal shots equal bad shots.A 380 will dispatch a well placed shot.Most contacts with a bad guy is close and if you have a 45 and can’t hit your target your toast .Maybe a little more time at the range would help ….

      • Jim January 30, 2017, 10:36 pm

        Lol if you can do better… on a charging pitbull… closing range from 20′ to 15’… one center mass from frontal and the second center mass broadside… I’de like to see it.

        If some people would treat a caliber with even a portion of the caution you do with the brand and style of weapon… you would drop that caliber as “too Iffy” or “Unreliable”.

        Think about it… if a gun had a known 20-30% failure rate… would you trust that with your life?

        Then why in the hell trust a caliber that just dont have the powder to push the ball???
        Especially from a short barrel auto…

        And if you dont need a “short barrel auto”… then why bother with a .380 when a full 9mm is practically the same size ???

        • krt July 4, 2017, 6:52 pm

          Sounds like it stopped the threat to me job done

    • Larry January 30, 2017, 6:52 pm

      Two non lethal shots equal bad shots.A 380 will dispatch most bad guys with a well placed round .Most contacts with a bad guy is close and if you have a 45 and can’t hit your target your toast .Maybe a little more time at the range would help ….

  • KMacK January 30, 2017, 2:55 pm

    With the 9mm Kurz, two things are of primary importance: Barrel length and Bullet.
    Why these two things and not others? The barrel length is the ticket to bullet velocity and to a degree, accuracy. Sadly, today the makers of most .380acp pistols stick a barrel on their offering that would be considered short in a .38 Special (which has much more powder than the .380acp does. Short barrels affect accuracy too, magnifying the degree aiming error significantly.
    Finally, short barrels mean short slides and lack of mass in blowbacks, necessitating overly heavy return springs.
    Bullets in a 9mm Kurz are also at a disadvantage when they are slowed by a short barrel and reduced acceleration space. About the only rounds I carry are the new plastic ones; they act like a full power 9mm, and I carry them in an old Beretta that my father brought back from WWII. No, I can’t hide it very well, but then I don’t choose to carry concealed because of the insane requirements the State imposes on CC people.
    “Bottom floor cartridge” Short barreled automatic. Sounds like a recipe for trouble to me.

  • Nathan January 30, 2017, 1:30 pm

    About the hollow point in 380, they are fine in 4 inch plus barrels, like Bersa or Walther, but in 2.75 inch pocket carries they do not perform consistently, especially through denim. LeHigh extreme penetrator have answered that problem. They penetrate like an FMJ, with a would channel like JHP for the entire penetration. I carry them in my Ruger LCP now. I have Hornady XTP also, but after seeing a real comparison on Youtube by a competent, unbiased tester (hard to find in the arena of ballistics) I shelved my XTPs for the LeHigh Extreme Penetrators.

    • Stan d. Upnow January 30, 2017, 9:15 pm

      If you wish, you can buy a .380acp in a larger package than what is typical with the so-called “micro” pistols. You might be more pleased with a pistol like a Browning BDA(or others that are current), but it certainly isn’t a pocket-pistol.
      Your comment is not very valid. First, considering barrel length- even the “micros” have a 2-3/4″ barrel. You say that’s not enough? Funny, .45acp carry guns sport a 3″ barrel; .38Spl revolvers intended for CC are usually 2″, or Less! Yes, barrel length Does affect velocity to a measure. But, in a SD pistol intended for use at extreme close range, that matters little compared to compactness & light weight. Second, accuracy- again, at extreme close range, that matters little.
      I won’t even address your “short slides” remark, as it is utter nonsense.
      Your bullet comment is invalid, as well. Today, bullet manufacturers can tailor a bullet for not only the caliber, but for specific guns; i.e., short-barreled pistols. An example would be Federal’s HST load developed just for the “micro” pistols, and so designated.(see article)
      You come full-circle with your post when you say you don’t carry, and only use a WW2-era pistol. Well, all I can say is good luck to you. The rest of us who DO carry will take advantage of modern arms & ammunition.

      • Ken Mann January 31, 2017, 4:15 pm

        Actual barrel length is less the length of the cartridge. Revolver barrels are true so why measure the length of a semi-auto barrel including the chamber ???

  • Shawn January 30, 2017, 1:15 pm

    G2 Research RIP ammo is overpriced junk that, sadly, appeals to the uniformed.

  • Max Hoyle January 30, 2017, 12:56 pm

    Sorry bubba but the Archduke was shot with an .32acp!

    • Dave January 30, 2017, 6:06 pm

      And your point is? Even if you are correct the 32APC is an even less powerful round than the 380.

    • ejharb January 31, 2017, 1:49 am

      What I thought,wasn’t sure though 100%

  • Warner Anderson January 30, 2017, 11:50 am

    In the Four Corners region – read Four Seasons – it’s Sig P220 from October through April under the parka, then Bodyguard .380 in summer in hip pocket or cargo pocket holster. The author says ballistic performance should be the driving factor. Yeah, in a perfect world. In my world it’s more what’s in the realm of possibility. I think it’s a good idea to think of a .380 as a half inch diameter sharpened rod I can stab with repeatedly from 20 yd away, about 10″ deep. Not ideal but if it’s what I can manage in summer, so be it.

  • Dave Ahlers January 30, 2017, 10:20 am

    Another method for cc of a small .380 is a shoulder holster. I carry a kel-tec p3at .380. I bought a pants suspender from WalMart for $8 and made my own. Twist the suspenders into a figure 8 to fit over your shoulders, sew the bisecting pieces together; in the center of you back; then see how it fits. I then bought a $7 cloth hip holster, at WalMart, and played with it until I figured out where it best fit on the suspenders and sewed it securely. Works great for me. I live in Florida and we don’t wear a lot of heavy clothing, so sometimes carrying can be a bit of a challenge. This works great for me. I also carry pocket and IW. Depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing. Use your imagination. Try whatever works for you. Hope this helps.

  • Marty Peltier January 30, 2017, 10:02 am

    I have sold many pistols from my days at the gun counter and when asked by so many woman and also men of less than legendary size what my recommendation is for carry I always suggest picking out several pistols that are comfortable to hold and send a box down range from each one. Then buy the one that you are most comfortable shooting – and then shoot as much and as often as possible. Because if you are ever having that “bad” day and you ever need to count on using your carry. That one time. You NEVER want to be in a position to count on firing that one time if for any reason you hesitate for one second to fire. Whether you hesitate because the recoil is “scary”, whether the bang is too loud and hurts your ears, whether the grip is uncomfortable and you feel like you may drop it, whether it’s too heavy and you can’t keep the target; whether the pink color takes your focus from the sights or even because your are too angry at your boyfriend because he pushed you into buying the Glock. Any reason what so ever you hesitate for a split second – that’s not the carry for you! Even if that means you carry a .22 Mag; a .22 with a hit on center mass is better than a miss or hesitated no-fire any day in a critical situation. (drop the mic)

  • kb31416 January 30, 2017, 10:02 am

    The .380 that I have is better than the 1911 or AR15 that I don’t have. I carry my Ruger LCP in a Recluse holster that looks & prints just like a wallet. I remain amazed that I pass hundreds of people daily, yet no one knows I’m carrying, even in Church.
    Winchester XTP ammo (Black Talons without the black paint…) are my carry ammo. I train doing the ‘Mozambique drill”: two rounds center of mass, one to the forehead. My first tactical choice is to escape, but barring that, I doubt that many perps would prosper with a few XTPs administered at spitting distance. Will I be able to repel the Islamic hoard with my LCP? Of course not, but that is not the point. I should have a high probability of being able to extricate myself from a problem with my 7 second chances, and another 6 in a spare mag, if I am ever unfortunate enough to need it.

  • BillyBob January 30, 2017, 9:57 am

    Why is 380 ammo than 9mm ammo ? Why is this gun not availible in the USA , (Glock 25 380 double stack 15 rd . ?) ANY GUN IS BETTER THAN NO GUN ,even a BB gun ! BUT you will just make them madder if you have to shoot them ! Is smaller better ? Can you shoot and hit moving targets ? What if there are mult THUGS ( RIOTS ) ? Do you have time in a gun fight to reload your gun and do you carry extra ammo to reload it ? Is your family going to be happy knowing the perp (may or may not die) after you did even though you fired the fist (defensive) shots ? What do you thank the person you shot is going to say if they live ( I was just asking for directions and ?? shot me ) ( ??? Tried to ROB ME THEN SHOT ME ) ( That Racist shot me for no reason ) What happens if you are dead and they are not ? Will the THUG file suit against your estate ? Who are the POLICE GOING TO BELIEVE ? The lady Sgt. Police Officer shot the THUG 7 times before she DIED !The THUG was wearing a vest that stopped the caliber of bullets that she used ! IF ONLY SHE HAD SHOT HIM IN THE HEAD OR NECK OR IN THE HIP ! God Bless Her and her FAMILY, she gave her life looking out for US !

  • Noel January 30, 2017, 9:54 am

    “The one that’s with you” is my mantra. Having a 45 is great but for concealed carry in 100+ heat and in shorts and light tee shirt it just doesn’t work. I got up this morning and dressed to go to the gym. Pocket holster w/ 3AT. Credit cards, DL and carry permit next to the holster. Bills in the other pocket. Head shots–too easy to miss. Two to center of mass then a shot to the head is a lot more certain. Accuracy—-face it folks this is a belly gun. You don’t go sniping with one of these. I do occasionally shoot mine at 25 yards. All or most in a IDPA targe is great. If you are that far away though the cetral thought should be—–run.

  • DarthVaderMentor January 30, 2017, 9:43 am

    I own two Ruger LCP’s (LCP and LCP II), a Glock 42, Glock 43 and Sig P232 and a Sig 238. I have carried (and still do) them all concealed at one time or another. I range practice with all of them at least once a month. Accuracy is key and only possible with practice. They are all good guns. Some are lighter than others. I believe you have to match the weapon choice to the clothing and to the occasion, However, my favorites are still the Walther PPK and PPK/S in .380ACP. Why? Because the objective is to carry the most ready to shoot weapon with the largest caliber you can safely, and I can carry the PPK and PPK/S, despite their weight, with one in the chamber and a full magazine with a safety on. Yes, they are heavier, but flip the safety off as you pull it out of concealment and you’re ready to go regardless of whether you pull back the hammer or not and it won’t accidentally go off in your pants or holster by mistake. Call me old school, call me obsolete or anything else you want, but I have always not trusted anything in my pants or jacket with one in the chamber without a good, solid, independent mechanical safety.

    As to 9MM versus .380ACP versus .45ACP and other calibers? I’d much have .50AE, but there’s a trade-off, so I have made a pact with myself that once I have to pull the trigger, Did it once, will do it again if I have to. I will pull it more than once and hope the bullet technology, my accuracy and volume of rounds to the target will overcome the shortcomings of the smaller round.

    May we never have to use our weapons to defend ourselves. Semper Fi.

  • Rick January 30, 2017, 9:37 am

    IDK man…. one shot to the torso is better than 5 shots that missed the head………. just a take…..

  • Oldtrader3 January 30, 2017, 9:01 am

    Try using a “Sneaky Pete”, leather belt case. It makes my Colt Mustang look like a cell phone and even in the paranoid PR of Washington, no one has spotted it as anything but, to date? Also their are loads (85 gr, 1080 fps MagTech) which may enhance the strike force equation?

  • The Equalizer January 30, 2017, 8:53 am

    Use G2 Research’s RIP (Radically Invasive Penetration) ammo and the .380 ACP is just as deadly as the 9mm in close range conditions – even with Glock’s M42. Check out the YouTube videos of people testing it. However, it is expensive at $1.50 – $2.00/round so you will need to practice with the cheaper rounds first, then shoot a box to familiarize yourself with the RIP recoil, then carry RIP in you EDC .380.

    If the ballistics tests I watched on You Tube are accurate, you WILL put down an attacker with one shot even if it is the arm or leg, imho

    • Michael E. Hensley January 30, 2017, 9:37 am

      I Agree, It is a Nasty Round. A nice compliment for my Kimber Micro .380

  • JJ January 30, 2017, 8:50 am

    Just adding my 2 cents: I am a 45acp and 9mm fan but I often carry a 380 and even a 25 in my pocket when I can’t adequately carry anything with more stopping power and size. Assuming the weapon of choice will be a good, reliable one and you are in the everyday world; when it comes to choosing a 380, 25 or even a 22 calibers; It seems to me the real questions are 1) Why am I carrying? 2) What will I be doing?, 3) What am I wearing (clothes) 4) Where will I be? 5) Who will I be with or around me (or not)?, and 6) What is the main job of the smaller gun (primary or secondary/backup)? There is no doubt a 357, 45acp, 9mm, 38spc, etc (to name just a few) may be all more potent rounds and larger size guns and can have more capacity, etc, but it won’t do me much good if you can’t safely and appropriately carry it in the average every day scenario. I am not going to get into bigger and more powerful is always better, but I can step on a the average bug, I don’t need a sledge hammer to that. There are some places and circumstances in my world that make it hard or impossible to carry a bigger gun. With the high quality smaller guns being made now and the performance of smaller caliber bullets you can stop near anyone at close range, unless, they a wearing body armor, or on some majors drugs, and even then 4, 5 or 6 rounds will stop most people. Also when I go to the range I go through a drill with my smaller caliber firearms from up close and personal to no more the 10 to 15 feet.

    • JohnL January 30, 2017, 11:23 am

      Personally I prefer a British Challenger II tank. But when that s not avail 380 acp with good ammo at close range will work just fine. Thx for your detailed and accurate reply.

  • John January 30, 2017, 8:05 am

    Carry the size gun that fit where you are going or what you are wearing, just carry. Obviously the larger the round the more stopping power you have.

  • Mike K January 30, 2017, 7:53 am

    I only have one question. Why? Yes, I’m a 1911 guy, but every now and then I carry a smaller gun. No, it’s not a .380. Why would I trust a .380 when there are so many quality 9 mms out there that are very little if any bigger than a .380? My Kimber Solo is a perfect example, but it is one of many.

    Re the pocket carry discussion, some of these .380s are single action guns. I’m not going to carry a “cocked and locked” pistol in my pocket, nor will I carry an uncocked single action gun that I have to rack the slide before it is ready to meet a threat. If you’re going to carry any single action pistol for self defense, carry it in condition one with the safety of a thumb break that puts leather between the hammer and the firing pin. And that piece of advice rules out a mini pistol of any kind designed in single action. I just don’t understand the gun companies building these things when great double action triggers are now readily available.

    I think it was Clint Smith that said, “Carrying a gun is not supposed to be comfortable. It’s supposed to be comforting.” Carry a quality gun, Carry it in a readily accessible location. Load the with high quality ammo designed for self defense. And, most important, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

    • Blasted Cap January 30, 2017, 8:29 am

      The answer to why is because we are all built and respond to recoil differently. I love recoil. I love my S&W 329PD with full house 44mag loads and think nothing of it. My 5’3″ 115 lb wife on the other hand doesn’t, neither does my 6′ 280lb boss. She carries a .380 because she is more comfortable carrying and shooting it than a slightly larger 9mm.
      It’s always better to have and not need than need and not have. If you’re not comfortable with using something, you won’t.

      • JohnL January 30, 2017, 11:25 am

        I am a recoil wooooossss as well!

    • Jason Kurna January 30, 2017, 9:27 am

      I agree with Blasted Cap: I can handle recoil fine, but I’m not a big fan of it. That’s the main reason why I stepped down from a .45 to a 9mm: I did a test and found that I could put shots on target much faster and more accurately with my 9mm than the 45 I was carrying. The 9mm was more pleasurable to shoot and cheaper. I have considered stepping down a half-step further to 9×18 Makarov, which is even more pleasant to shoot but still has plenty of power.

      My wife is very recoil sensitive. The only calibers she really liked were .380 and 9×18 Makarov. She did like shooting the 1911, but it’s way too large for her to ever carry. We tried a number of .380 guns and she settled on the Sig P238, which is single action. She loves the pistol and practices with it every weekend: it’s just right for her, and it’s a pistol she can actually conceal. The single action is no problem. Carry what you like! Yes, guns are meant to be comforting, but if it isn’t also comfortable, we won’t carry it for long.

  • John Arden January 30, 2017, 7:27 am

    Russell got close to this one and maybe noticed, and yes Glocks all look alike, but you featured the Glock 42 in .380 but thanked Glock for the photo – of a GLOCK 43 in 9mm!

    • LL January 30, 2017, 1:06 pm

      My brother loves his Kahr .380. Before I got into guns at all, he let me handle it. I could barely rack the slide(P.O.S.) and he told me I needed a revolver. A friend of ours has an outdoor range and happened to have a Ruger LCR .38+P handy. I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn door with it at 15 ft. I did a little gun shop/range exploration on my own and the sales rep recommended the Walther .380 as it’s slide is the easiest to rack out there. I tried (test shot) many 9mm brands as well.(except a SIG for budget reasons) Low and behold, I LOVE my G43, easy to carry CC, fun and cheapest to practice with, easy to clean, Glock Dependability, and most comfortably, I chose it without anybody else’s opinions that works for me. I use a sticky holster(inside leather jacket pocket) or a Detroit Holster/John R model with a hook for cargo shorts upper pocket carry and the John R along with a Berne Echo One CC winter jacket(with 3 extra loaded mags in the other velcro pull down outer pocket for fast draw winter carry. For 3.75 oz more weight than the G42, I get way more than 3.75 oz punch with my G43 chambered with Federal 150 grain HSTs(recommended for barrels less than 4″). I feel much better with a 9mm than any .380 anyday. j/s.

  • Bill January 30, 2017, 7:19 am

    This article was not worth publishing. I am dissapointed in myself for wasting my time reading and commenting on it. I can only hope my comment will encourage readers to seek articles written by better informed authors.

  • Dan January 30, 2017, 7:11 am

    The old adage…… it you can hit what your aiming at doesn’t it matter! To some degree it does! How ever, no one want to get hit with any bullet! My very small frame wife carries a .25 cal Browning that my Dad brought home from WWW II. She can hit what ever she aims at! She feels safer carring it! She has trouble with all the new modern pistols, can’t rack the slides!

    • puz January 30, 2017, 8:09 am

      So true. The ONLY issue I have with very small pocket guns (I have several) is that they aren’t very intimidating should you have to draw the weapon (e.g. “That’s not a gun…that’s a cigarette lighter!”). Personally, I would rather draw and NOT have to fire.

      • Dan January 30, 2017, 11:36 am

        Size does matter! But, to carry or not to carry is the topic! I don’t care what she carries as long as she carries and that she know when to use it and how to use it and can hit what she aims at! Yea! You might think oh that’s a cigarette lighter or is it? Might make the person back up or leave the area fast retreat! Little one Is in Her pocket the bigger ones in the purse!

  • Rhetred January 30, 2017, 7:06 am

    Interesting article, however I have to agree with Greg…a comprehensive comparison of “stopping power” would be an interesting read. One thing that I was extremely delighted to see was the use of the term “negligent discharge”…I get sick and tired of the pundits talking about accidental discharges….like these are situations that just occur. Any discharge that isn’t planned by the shooter is negligent NOT accidental. Thank you for that.

    • dirtsailor67 January 30, 2017, 9:35 am

      So, ANY discharge not planned is “negligent”. Thanks for your “Oh so wise, all-knowing, all-seeing” comment there.
      Well the sarcasm in this reply to you is not “accidental” or “negligent”.
      Fucking idiot.

      • JoeUSooner January 30, 2017, 11:11 am

        Careful, Sailor…

        Rhetred is correct. A true “accidental” discharge is a firearm’s mechanical malfunction, while being handled/stored safely. And those are exceedingly RARE (nationwide, only one – 1 – was formally recorded in all of 2015), especially in modern firearms. So, yes, virtually all “unintended” discharges are indeed negligent, not accidental.

  • Bisley January 30, 2017, 6:50 am

    Any gun is better than no gun. If, for whatever reason, you have difficulty carrying and concealing something more potent, a .380 is a great improvement over nothing. I have a LCP in my pocket a good deal of the time, when it’s not practical to wear enough clothing to hide something larger. It’s always a compromise between what you’d like to have, and what you can find a way to keep out of sight.

  • Greg January 30, 2017, 6:39 am

    This article could have been published in the 1980’s when I entered the tactical world and back then it was probably mostly true. This is an intellectually lazy piece though. Ammunition has changed radically in thirty years and most gun writers don’t seem to get that, not just this guy. The real world performance of a .380 +P round today is probably better than the rounds most police officers carried in their duty 9 mm handguns back then, when I first heard all this. I would love to see an article compare the expansion, penetration etcetera of some of the key calibers back “in the day” vs. today. It would take actual research and thought though. The .45 got a fantastic reputation as a “manstopper” in WWII and that was hardball ammo. I wonder how that round would compare to topshelf, modern .380 +P ammo today? I suspect the difference isn’t as big as the pundits repaeating the same thing, over and over, for decades would have us believe. When is there a thought shift and a new baseline is established?

  • Russell Watson January 30, 2017, 5:23 am

    Yet another “me too” article on an age old topic with nothing new other than a Glock 43 that shoots .380 (sic)

  • DBM January 30, 2017, 5:21 am

    Lehigh Defense 380 Auto 65gr Xtreme Defense Ammunition is a great choice for 380 ammo.

    • iRev January 30, 2017, 11:30 am

      My sentiments exactly. Interspersed with the Extreme Penetrator.
      And yes putting rounds in different locations is not a bad thing

    • Nathan January 30, 2017, 1:37 pm

      I use the 90 grain LeHigh Defense Extreme Penetrator in my LCP. People would do well to research how a sub 3 inch barrel handles hollow points. A different beast than 3 plus inch barrels.

  • carter January 30, 2017, 3:12 am

    good article and good advice. i sometimes carry a .380, and those times are when even my “pocket” 9mm is going to be too big to completely conceal under the circumstances. the only reason i use a .380 is when i need a package too small for even the 9mm round.

    whether you agree with it or not, the truth is some americans occasionally or regularly carry a concealed handgun where it is unlawful for them to do so. these situations can include densely populated “soft targets” with little or no armed security (and more importantly, no barriers to entry with a firearm other than a posted policy). these situations also include public or private “gun free zones” that involve walking to and from personal or mass transportation in dangerous areas. there are entire cities where it is virtually impossible to get a permit, but where violent crime is a real problem.

    my point is some people have a good reason to be armed where they dont have a right to be, but in choosing to carry they have to be certain they can completely conceal.

    anyway, everyone who carries a .380 should have a realistic understanding of it’s limitations and what it takes to be sure the attack stops….which i would agree is best accomplished with multiple head and/or face shots. so, that’s how i train with mine. 5-7 yards max and either straight from the draw to the face or no more than 2-3 rapid center mass shots before moving to the face.

  • Larry M January 27, 2017, 6:42 pm

    Great article and very informative. I choose not to carry a .380 and the deciding factor as stated in this article , I want to make sure I have the penetrating power on hand. I also agree you will not see anyone volunteer to be shot with it.

    • Browncoat January 30, 2017, 6:26 am

      I agree but neither would I volunteer to get shot by a .22 Short. Or a .177 pellet gun. Or a BB. But my wife is in love with the idea because of the size of a .380 and the ease of charging the Sig model a couple of her church friends have.

    • Nathan January 30, 2017, 1:53 pm

      LeHigh Defense Extreme Penetrator out of a pocket 380 has amazing penetration in ballistic gel, through denim also.

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