The eagle-eyed amongst you may recall that I posted the world’s shortest review of the Masterpiece Arms (MPA) Protector .380 pocket pistol. I reported that my over-curious FFL dealer racked the slide and broke the damn thing. I received an immediate email from the infinitely understanding PR maven Laura Burgess. Her clients at MPA laid the blame for the breakage at the feet, well, hands, of my guy Steve. So I pulled the pernicious post pending further investigation . . .

MPA boss Phil Cashin belled me. Turns out you are NOT supposed to dry-fire the weapon when the magazine’s out of the gun. The mag helps keep the trigger spring in place. If you take out the mini-mag and pull the trigger, and the spring comes off the hammer.

Sounds dumb I know. But Phil told me that the design affords an MPA owner the opportunity to fire a chambered round at the bad guy should the mag somehow manage to leave the gun (unlike his competitors’ products). As he predicted, putting it right was an easy fix.

Phil said the MPA Protector should have had a sticker warning against magless dry firing. And he explained the limitation: they designed the gun so that the mag can’t eject accidentally. Sensibly enough, MPA’s sacrificed the possibility of combat reloads for the safety of a flush, fingernail-operated mag release at the back of the gun. More on this in the full review.

We’re awaiting .380 ammo from our new BFFs at Lucky Gunner to test the MPA. I’ll get it up ASAP. And if it stays up for more than six hours, I’ll call my doctor. I’ll be here all week. And then some.

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29 Responses to Masterpiece Arms Protector .380 Mystery Solved. Review Due.

  1. So the mag release is a flush, fingernail affair on the back of the gun. Despite the fact that sure sounds like it will be umm, fun to work deliberately, there’s a work-around to allow firing just in case the mag somehow drops out. Uh-huh.

    Sorry, I just think that a gun that can be rendered inoperative by dry firing without a mag needs a bit more drawing board time.

    • Agreed – I’ll stick to my full-size carry guns anway… of course, I have considered the new XDm 3.8 Compact in 9mm, which of course can likely be dry-fired 10000+ times without issue.

  2. “…the design affords an MPA owner the opportunity to fire a chambered round at the bad guy should the mag somehow manage to leave the gun (unlike his competitors’ products).”

    Uh, my Kel-Tec .380 can fire a chambered round without the magazine in place. And although dry-firing it isn’t the best idea, I’ve done it several times (with and without the magazine in place) and nothing ever broke/fell out/came apart.

    I’m not saying Kel-Tec hasn’t had plenty of issues with this model over the years (they certainly have), but after the 500+ rounds (a quarter of them with hollow points) that I’ve run through my example, I’ve had only one malfunction (a failure to eject), and that was within the first 20 rounds.

    Sure, small pistols are a study in compromises; I just hope MPA carefully considers just how many compromises those in the market for such guns are willing to accept.

    • Lets see. Its concealable, dependable, and I can carry it anywhere (the law allows). Not quite what I would call useless.

    • My 380 literally fell apart after a few rounds fired. I sent it back for warranty 2 months ago and i still cannot find out the status of my repair. worst customer service that i have ever dealt with.

  3. I’m leery of any gun where I’m told “don’t fire this a lot at the range…it’s for emergency use only.” Finally! The design concept behind the compact spare has been brought from automotive world to the world of personal defense. And we all know how well those compact spare tires work. Sheesh…

  4. For those who actually GIS, this gun’s real competition is not the plastic 380s, it is the much more pricey Seecamp LWS380 which reails at $800.00+ (and you won’t find any discounts available) if you can find one, and it has more limitations than the MPA.

    The MPA Protector 380B retails for $342.00 and can be had for well under $300.00 if you look around. It, like the Seecamp is a solid steel, true pocket gun that weighs in at just over 11 ounces and is smaller than its plastic cousins. I like solid steel.

    The “don’t fire this gun alot at the range” is actually, “you won’t want to shoot this gun alot at the range”. It, in it’s original configuration, is not comfortable to shoot, just like the Seecamp…in fact exactly like the Seecamp.

    Masterpiece Arms has moved to help ease the discomfort by upgrading the trigger and adding a mag extension to improve the grip. The upgrades began shipping to existing owners last week. When I first fired the MPA 380 (under 60 rounds) it was painful, exactly like the Seecamp and a little moreso than the Ruger LCP and Taurus TCP738. It is smaller than the LCP and TCP so the mag extension won’t hurt concealability. AND again it is all steel (with NO MIM parts).

    My second trip to the range (119 rounds) was as painful as the first but there have been zero (0) problems with the pistol.

    The new trigger (designed to eliminate finger slap), which I should get this week, along with the mag extension should make this pistol as easy to shoot as the LCP and TCP.

    I do not work for Masterpiece Arms.

  5. I can’t see that your FFL is to blaime for this. It is not clear (to me, at least) whether he dry fired it with the magazine out or just pulled back the slide, or both. None of these actions should have caused the pistol to disassemble itself and they are things that anybody examining a new pistol might do.
    I am also unclear as to why designing a pistol in this manner would allow the user to fire the chambered round with the magazine out but that’s probably just a failure of perception on my part.

  6. I’ve had this pistol for about 2 months. Love it. Have not had the issue that is referenced in this review, but don’t really know why you would dry fire a pistol without a magazine in place. I just like to keep it simple – only pull the trigger when your ready to shoot.

    I purchased the Protector because I wanted a small carry pistol that would fit in my front pocket comfortably. Its smaller than the P3AT, LCP, etc and I did not want to spend $1K on a Seecamp.

    Its not “fun” to shoot but performs without issue. I carry the pistol daily and the Protector has proven itself to be very dependable at the range. No issues. About 200 rounds – both FMJ and Hollow points.

    I have, but don’t use, a P32. The pistol is a piece of #@$. The mag falls out all the time because of the mag release button’s location. I guess its a good design if you don’t plan on carrying it because if you sit on the pistol, the mag is coming out. Also, when I practice a quick draw from the ITP holster, the mag just wants to come out. It also jammed so much, that I just quit messing with it.

    The Protector is all steel, which is a nice departure from all the plastic versions on the market. Grew up shooting steel weapons and the toy guns just don’t do it for me.

    I would recommend it.

  7. you guys act like you have all been robbed and held up at gun point and and been in gun fights while they robbed the local bank etc,etc,etc, I can ganrantee none of you have ever and mean ever pulled a gun on anyone in your life, you stick the thing in your pocket and pull it out only if you need to stop a threat, I can ganrantee that when you pull it and point it at a threat he is not going to say “well thats a f—–g mouse gun that won’t hurt me” its not made to go in a gun fight at the ok coral.

    • Some will. Some won’t. Are you willing to bet your life on that guess?

      I haven’t been in any lethal force incidents but I’ve known men who have. Not one of them told me, afterwards, “I wished I’d been carrying a smaller gun.”

      With all the verified horror stories of 9mm and .40 caliber handguns with hollowpoints failing to euthanize a rabid twenty-pound raccoon, why on Earth would anyone carry something smaller?

  8. Regarding the MPA Protector in .380 does anyone know how to field strip this pistol and if the recoil springs need to be changed after 200 rounds like in the Seecamp .380. I was going to originally buy the Keltec PF9 because it has a rail for a laser but changed my mind after seeing a target practice video where the mag released during the shooting session by the shooter. A crimson tracer grip for the MPA might be advantageous as it has no sights but then again I don’t know how far a distance you can accurately shoot with this pistol anyone know?

  9. Yes, go to youtube and search masterpiece arms protector, this is an absolutely fine pistol, I would pay more than there asking price for it, it is way underpriced, it is superbly made, and would put it up against my seecamp any day. My seecamp jamed, failed to feed, failed to eject ect, ect, I can not carry this weapon (seecamp) on my person with confidence and hope it shoots, because its having a bad hair day because it doesn’t want to shoot silvertips or hydro shocks or what ever, noway in hell. The seecamp is a fine weapon but poor on reliability.The Protector is I believe 100 times better and I have not seen one malfunction yet and its not ammo sensitive, it has a natural point and shoot capability because of the grip and yes it looks like the old Autauga, but good for them, they have taken a incredible design that everyone missed and made it 100 times better, it was just ahead of its time, go to the web page for Masterpiece Arms, you’ll see, they are sold out and I’am waiting on my second one that I have ordered for my wife! An absolute Masterpiece indeed. I have a ruger lcp w/crimson trace, a S&W bodyguard 380, and a Sig p238 also, and I love them, but I carry my protector 380 everywhere I go because it fits in my shirt pocket, my front pocket, my back pocket, ect, ect and nobody even knows that I’am carrying, I don’t have to worry about inside the pants holsters or outside the pants holsters or what ever, I just grab it and and stick in my suit pocket, jacket or pants pocket (front or back) it just doesn’t print and it packs a punch, thats the beauty of this piece! This is my opinion.

  10. A lot of bad info here. The Rohrbaugh R9 does not need to be “rebuilt” every 200 rounds. That’s when it is recommended to replace the RECOIL SPRING. The Seecamp 380 has a recoil spring replacement interval of 300 rounds. It’s not that far off from some compact service caliber pistols.

    There’s a few pistols on the market right now, some very popular, that not READING THE MANUAL can lead to situations such as the above. Not all firearms are meant to be dry fired, and this is certainly not the only one that requires an inserted magazine to do so. Let’s get real. Anytime I read of someone Fing up a gun doing something the manufacturer specifically states not to do, I think,”good job, dumbass.”

    All of those saying they are sticking with full size pistols are completely missing the point. These are POCKET PISTOLS to be used when that full size or compact 9mm, 40, 45acp or wheel gun is too damn big to conceal under the garments being worn.

    As has been mentioned this competes with pistols like the Seecamp, NAA, and Micro Eagle guns, where the idea is the smallest, thinnest, and simplest pistol possible. The Seecamp has been the smallest 380 for some time, and is sold at a premium it really doesn’t deserve by the manufacturer keeping it exclusive. Hopefully these guys will put them in check.

    I ride a motorcycle every day and don’t have a practical way to carry my full size 1911. The work situation also makes that impossible and having a gun print in that environment would be disastrous. I also HATE the feel of all polymer framed pistols. A fast re-load is not a requirement as a spare mag won’t even be carried. A lot of other pocket guns are notorious for dropping mags at inopportune times. That’s obviously not an issue here. Something like this would be perfect. Whether or not I get one, I hope this succeeds unlike the Autauga that precedes it.

  11. All I can say is near impossible to shoot. I have a plenty strong trigger finger yet can pull back as hard as I can (all the way) and trigger will not fire. It takes both trigger fingers to reach fire point, and with the blowback slide right above hand that is not cool. I’ll contact MPA but after excited anticipation, this gun is for sale!!

  12. I just wanted to post my experience with my new MPA 380 stainless pistol after reading so many others lately when researching the gun.

    I picked up my new stainless MPA 380 yesterday. I immediately put about 70 rounds through it before even cleaning it. First of all, the little gun was exactly what I was expecting….very small but built very well! I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the mag release but didn’t find it to be an issue and pretty easy to use.
    I was expecting at least a few FTF’s, but instead it perfectly fired off about 70 rounds including new winchester ammo, reloads, and Corbon hollow points.
    I’ve also read comments about how tough it is on your hand. I don’t get that. Granted, it is a tiny .380 and has some kick, but I shot 70 rounds with no problems and no abrasions on my hand.
    I got my MPA 380 for $283 and couldn’t be more pleased with it. I can’t wait to put another 100+ rounds thru it to break it in good.
    I would recommend this little pistol to anyone wanting an affordable, small, well-built .380 pistol.

    I also found it to be very accurate from 20 feet!
    The trigger pull is very smooth and normal for a DAO .380, so I don’t get the comments about that either. If you think the trigger pull is long on the MPA380, try the LCP. That’s the worst trigger pull I’ve ever felt!

    I did find it to be a little difficult to take down for cleaning. You almost need a 3rd hand to help in disassembly. After doing it once though, it will be easier the next time.

  13. Just bought a Protector II. It appears to updated over some of the older pics I have seen of the weapon on the internet. Beavertail, Alum Grips and Ported Barrel. Gripping the weapon was by far the best of any of the small 380’s in the case at the local gun shop.Really like the appearance, and after reading several reviews online- decided to give it a try.

    Pleasantly supprised. Very comfortable to shoot. The ports on the top of the barrel really seem to take a lot of the bite out of the recoil.

    Fired 50 rounds of Critical Defense and about 30 rounds of some ball ammo I had sitting around. Only 1 failure to eject – and it was on the last round.

    I will carry this weapon daily. Love the appearance and the machining details, fit and finish are really amazing. I think they are selling it too cheap.

    I also echo Rick’s comments above. Read the manual. Follow the instructions. If you dont, and the weapon – or any other mechanism – has a failure due to non-conformance of the operating instructions, then dont blame the manufacturer.

    • I bought the stainless MPA several months ago and was very impressed from the first time I picked it up. I have fired 150 rounds thru it without a failure and it is my daily pocket carry. I forget it’s even there. It is small but built very well and doesn’t feel like a cheap plastic piece. I don’t think anything compares to the size, build, and price combination of this piece. I highly recommend it. It is also very accurate for me in the 20 – 25′ range.

  14. forget trying to get warranty repair service my 380 was sent back 2 months ago! worst customer service that I have ever tried to deal with!

  15. I thought long and hard before buying my Protector: now I want two. Maybe three, one in .32 cal…I am a fan of the .380 from several manufacturers, but I am a little, skinny guy, and carrying [almost anything] concealed is not easy for me (or a slender lady, I imagine) to pull off. This gun does it perfectly. And, it shoots as straight at 25 feet as my TCP738 or TCP732, and straighter than my Beretta. I suppose this may be due to the all-machined construction and the non-moving barrel: all my other .380 pistols have the floating-barrel design and are made from polymer and MIM parts. This gun feels like after it is empty, you could beat someone unconscious with it.

    The mainspring jammed after the first 10 rounds: turns out, the gun shop had mis-reassembled it after showing another customer (who didn’t buy it) how it breaks down. After pulling it apart and turning the spring(s) around, it is fine. It much prefers the shorter hollow points or shorter FMJ ammo, probably because it appears to have been originally designed as a .32 (which is also available) and then “stretched” into the .380 on the same frame. The Owner’s manual recommends new mainsprings at about 200-500 rounds for the .380 (but not for the .32), very common for mouse guns in my experience. These are protective weapons, as this one’s name implies: it is not your weekend shooter hobby gun.

    Some of my (also skinny) friends carry the Baby Browning in .25 ACP for reasons like mine: this gun is the SAME SIZE as the little .25 and really packs some extra punch in comparison.

    I like it!

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