Previous Post
Next Post

The .380 ACP, also known as 9mm Short, 9mm Kurz, or 9x17mm, is one of the most important calibers of the last few years, probably even the last couple decades. Why? Simple: it’s gotten more people to start carrying than virtually all other calibers combined.

The .380 has seen a massive increase in popularity thanks to the still-exploding concealed carry market. The guns are small, light and easy to carry…qualities that many new carriers look for in a personal defense gun.

The fact is, .380 ACP is rarely used for anything besides self-defense. There aren’t many competitions where it’s an advantage. It isn’t much good for hunting. It’s not especially great as a range round due to ammunition cost. But what it is great for is carrying all day, around the clock, thus making it one of the most trusted rounds out there.

I read and write about 9mm constantly and why it’s a great choice to carry. That doesn’t come from loyalty or a sense of superiority. To be honest I don’t even own a 9mm, a .45 ACP, or a .40 S&W. I’ve owned and shot many of them over the years and have been dissatisfied with all, save one or two.

Today I carry a .380 SIG SAUER P238 and I love it to the point of not wanting anything else. So despite my recommendations for the 9mm in previous posts, I actually believe that, for all its many benefits, 9mm isn’t as good a choice for the beginner as .380ACP.

The .380 has its downsides in cost and ballistic performance compared to 9mm. But it offers something that even 9mm can’t — extreme compactness and ease of use. Those two things are why it’s so popular and that popularity has come with some interesting byproducts.

The .380’s popularity has caused an ammunition revolution. The small size of both .380 bullets and the guns that shoot them drove advancements in ballistic performance. With the limits of the .380 ACP came major steps forward in new bullet designs. The caliber went from a somewhat underpowered, last-ditch option to a reliable mainstay in a matter of a few years.

That development resulting in modern masterpieces like the Hornady Critical Defense and Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator. These are two very different bullets that do dramatically different things, but both lend their superior performance to the .380 and make it a very viable personal defense caliber.

A beginner looking at .380 ACP will see these huge benefits:

  • Compact size. The author’s SIG SAUER P238 weighs just over a pound loaded and easily fits in a pant or jacket pocket. .380 pistols are even smaller than 9x19mm versions in virtually all cases and even a 10% reduction in size makes a big difference.
  • Very powerful new ammunition. Buffalo Bore offers some truly amazing .380 ammo today. Some of their offerings include a .380 +P that can deliver an 80gr bullet at over 1200fps from a micro-compact pistol. The author carries Buffalo Bore 90gr +P that fires at just under 1150fps.
  • Easy to manipulate slides. This may come as a surprise to many macho dudes out there, but the ladies and most regular people don’t want a slide that’s difficult to rack. Most .380 pistols have easy-to-use slides that don’t take a tremendous amount of strength to pull back.
  • Low recoil. This is a significant benefit that will dramatically lower training time. The relatively low recoil of the .380 is something that makes it feel ‘weaker’ than other options out there. Make no mistake, a jacketed hollowpoint at over 1100fps isn’t a joke, even if it feels light in the hand.

How about downsides to the .380? There aren’t many because of how purpose-driven this cartridge is, and most have been addressed as much as technology will allow.

  • Comparatively high ammunition cost. While substantially lower than .40 S&W and .45 ACP, .380 ACP ammunition is generally more expensive than 9mm. That’s due to the fact that there are fewer cheap practice options for it. Ammo cost has come down quite a bit in the last few years. Today practice ammo can be had for about $0.25-0.30 a round with carry ammo being more.
  • Lower capacity pistols. Sure, a regular snubby revolver holds only five rounds and most .380 pistols pack at least 6+1, but it’s a complaint for some people. I find that the SIG P238 with the pinky extension gives me excellent capacity for the weight and size at 7+1 rounds. And pocketing a spare .380 magazine is easy.

Some of the best .380 ACP pistols out there include the following:

  • SIG SAUER P238 I can’t say enough about this pistol. I enjoy the SIG quality and the attractive appearance of this little piece. I’ve never had an issue with it over the course of a couple thousand rounds and it just keeps chugging and carrying easily. It also has the easiest-to-use slide of the guns on this list. A manual safety is also a plus for pocket carry.
  • GLOCK 42 GLOCK did a great job with this gun and it could be thought of as the first of their Gen 5 line. I have owned and shot several of this pistols over the years and have enjoyed their light and compact frames. Compared to the SIG P238, the G42 has a bit more top-heavy and isn’t as fast on target and the slide is stiffer to pull for someone with weak hands.
  • Smith & Wesson Bodyguard These are good pistols and benefit from being extremely compact. That comes at a cost, as the slim profile can be hard to hold onto for some, and for many the double-action trigger can feel stiff. There’s a new model from S&W called the Shield EZ. This is a .380 single-stack that has features meant to be easy for new shooters, the disabled, and elderly.

Modern .380 ACP ammo to take a hard look at come from the following makers:

  • Buffalo Bore These guys truly rock. Buffalo Bore is always going above and beyond when it comes to performance. They really make stuff that is as powerful as it should be. I love what they are doing with .380 and I will continue to test and carry it as long as I can.
  • SIG SAUER’s V-CROWN line is state-of-the-art and is made to work. The nice part about it is that it has a corresponding FMJ line that is nearly identical in features, but priced for practice. You can sleep well knowing that you can practice for cheap and carry for keeps.
  • Hornady makes some of the most popular carry ammo in the world today. Critical Defense is all that many people carry. Also look for their great American Gunner line that offers excellent ammo at affordable prices.
  • Lehigh Defense has some of the most radical and best-perfomring bullet designs out there today and their projectiles can be found in ammo lines like Black Hills Honey Badger series. These bullets can be pushed hard and fast, typically around 1100-1200fps.

There are few cartridges that I would recommend as heartily for the beginner as .380 ACP. The latest advanced personal defense ammo and the modern guns that fire it are essential to self-defense and should be a regular item in your pocket, just like your knife, wallet, and cell phone.

Because .380 ACP chambered guns are so easily carried, new shooters are more likely to have one with them than something larger, bulkier and heavier. The realities of the world are such that you never get to choose when and where you’ll have to protect yourself or others, and a .380 in your pocket or on your hip trumps a .45 ACP at home every single time.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. What’s with the plug for Buffalo Bore? That brand targets people with magnumitis…the people who are sure that missing with 500 ft/lbs of energy beats hitting with 200 ft/lbs. I imagine all of Buffalo Bores customers to be exactly like Jeff Quinn from…kinda simple people who are just sure that .44 magnum is the minimum acceptable caliber for self-defense, and .454 Casull is even better than that, and that .500 S/W Magnum is even more better. Look, normal pressure loads work just fine.

    • Never heard of gunblast before so I clicked through… good lord, my eyes are bleeding. It looks like a 90s geocities page. I didn’t stay long enough to verify but I assume there are web ring buttons and a hit counter at the bottom.

      As for Buffalo Bore, they are definitely in the “bigger is better” niche but in my experience their ammo is high quality and they’re realistic about warning if a round shouldn’t be used in a particular gun.

      • Agree Buffalo Bore is a good thing not a bad thing. Sure, some consider it to be high priced “boutique ammo” but who cares-it does what is says it does. more is better, and their quality and R&D efforts are legit as is the owner’s understanding of ballistics and usage. Gunblast does push BB quite a bit, but their ammo is hot and low flash powders are used along with realistic velocity testing data.

        • I love Buffalo for a specific purpose. I enjoy plenty of their ammo, .380, 44 mag, .38, .45, and their 30-06 deer round is a whitetail slayer. Good stuff, niche market. Likewise, the Underwood line has some very solid performers.

      • I just visited Wow… I think it could use a few more animated gifs.

        My first thought was “this site looks so dated, they probably use tables”, so I checked the source and…they use tables. I also checked the meta tags. They built the page in MS Front Page 4.0, which, as far as I can tell, was part of MS Office back around the turn of the century. I’m guessing Boge the “Webmaster” (remember that word from the ’90s?) went down to CompUSA and bought a Compaq (or maybe a Gateway 2000) PC, fired up MS Office, and picked the best template they had available.

        • And yet is has a better content that people can put together with Node.js and WP. Funny how that works.

        • LOL! This critique of is cracking me up… tables, Frontpage 4.0, GeoCities, webrings and webmasters… man, that takes me back!

          Not too hard these days to set up a site using WordPress. That site might have good content, but I wouldn’t give them the first bit of confidential customer data. 🙂

    • “…and that .500 S/W Magnum is even more better. ”

      Precisely !

      This is why we need national open carry: all the .500 pistols seem to need a sling, more than a holster.

      People brag that the .45APC not only kills, it will kill the sou. Well, .500 (with a hit anywhere on the body) will kill the perp, kill the perp’s soul, and consign it to the Gehenna Fire where it will burn forever in eternity.

      Saw it on the internet.

      • No, I would typically use my 500 Magnum for home defense, for my neighbor. Mainly when the perp is hiding behind the refrigerator in their house and I’m in my house behind mine.

        • “No, I would typically use my 500 Magnum for home defense, for my neighbor. Mainly when the perp is hiding behind the refrigerator in their house and I’m in my house behind mine.”

          Now that’s what I call “common sense gun control”.

    • I have to agree here. There’s a lot of internet talk about increasing pressure loads and pushing the limits. For most applications a round was designed for, its standard load is more than enough to kill. I also get tired of the constant:

      “Well, you can hotload caliber X till it’s just about as powerful as caliber Y, therefore caliber Y is obsolete and so you should just use caliber X, or move up to caliber Z.”

      That constant, stupid line of thought I see on ALL gun blogs can be used to invalidate every single caliber. For example:

      “You can hotload .380 up to 9mm levels, so, why bother with 9mm. Go .380 or go up to .40.”


      “.380 is just an intbetween cartridge between .32 and 9mm. Forget .380 and just carry .32 or 9. A hot .32 is just as good as a .380 anyway.”

      This argument can be made from .22 short all the way up to .50BMG.

    • If you make your way up to the northern rockies where I live, buffalo bore isn’t a “niche” round. If you see someone carry in the woods for griz, wolf, lion protection, they are almost always carrying buffalo bore. That include forest service and game wardens. It is by far the preferred 4 legged predator protection against things that will eat you.

      • Not sure if I completely agree there. Their solid cast is the go-to ammo for protection against bears, and esp brown bears, with a handgun. But I would think tht a good self-defense ammo would be better against wolves, and maybe even mountain lion. The problem with esp brown bears is that any type of hollow point, or even any musrooming round is unlikely to pierce their skulls, and you sometimes need a head shot to stop them. that isn’t the case with wolves and mtn lion, where something that works well with 2 legged predators will likely work just fine, and the solid cast just keeps going, through and through.

        We do have all 4 big predators here in the county, though only the black bears really come down to the valley floor, where most of the people live. We live w/i city limits, but they are frequent guests in the neighborhood late at night. The rest mostly live up on the ridges surrounding us.

  2. You don’t own a single 9mm, .40, or .45 handgun? Only revolvers then? Or a .357 Sig or 10mm? Or no handguns except in .380? Rifles only? Only mp5 types? Maybe we need a ttag writer feature, “Notable/favorite guns I own.” Seems like there should be a semiautomatic pistol somewhere stuffed in your safe… Or I know, the house fire and subsequent boating accident took them out. Maybe that would be “Notable/favorite guns I used to own, before the accident.”

    • Well, to be fair – I also do not “currently” own either a .380, 9mm, .40s&w, .45… but I’ve owned all four at different times. Some folks just like flipping guns and keep the ones they like the most… or if they’re like me just haven’t yet gotten around to buying something in those chamberings worth holding onto. But I could name examples of each of very much like to add to the safe.

    • Ask any Craftsman, you have to use the right tool for the job.
      How do you know what is the right tool? Experience / practice.

  3. Perhaps the police should opt for .380 ACP also? Better yet, the venerable .32 is even more compact, with low recoil. I predict the FBI will go .32, to accomodate its weaker agents.

    • If they did, half the country would follow suit, judging by the amount of used 40s that shower up when they switched to 9. Walther could release a new ppk and everyone could run around pretending to be James Bond.

      Full disclosure, I own a ppk but only run around pretending to be James Bond in the privacy of my own property.

      • I’m still a little annoyed with myself that I gave away my P99 to a buddy as a birthday present. Best Bond gun ever… May need to get in the market for a new one.

      • Does wifey like that roleplay – maybe she pretends to be Ursula Andress or maybe one of the newer Bond girls?

    • Historically, that was done. The Walther PP and PPK were police issue to some European countries and were chambered for .32 acp. Once upon a time even the pipsqueak .25acp was considered a sufficient if not exactly ideal defense round by some folks.

    • And in another 20 years, as law enforcement and society gets weaker and more feminine overall, expect .25ACP to replace .32ACP.

    • BOPE, the Brazilian fellas who go cartel hunting in favelas, use Glock 25s, the .380 you can’t buy here. A buddy of mine who was on the team killed a couple dudes with it, it seems to work okay.

  4. The Glock 42 is ok, but I prefer the trigger and compactness of the LCP 2. I shoot it surprisingly well, easily ringing eight inch plates out to 20 yards or so, and I’ve gone 8 out of thirteen on a man sized target at 100 yards.

    I live in a very low crime part of a very low crime State, so I do not feel undergunned with a 380 in my pocket, especially one I shoot so well. It is small and lite enough that I can garaunte program compliance. If I am wearing pants, I am carrying my LCP 2.

    I prefer front pocket carry primarily because it is the most natural and non threatening thing to stand at a gas pump, for example, with your hands in your pockets, and it makes for a very fast and inconspicuous draw.

    All that being said if someone is looking to buy one handgun to use for carry/home defense/ range use a Shield to G19 sized 9mm is still probably the best place to start. Cheap ammo that’s readily available, good reliability, good practical effectiveness and a really shallow learning curve make these GENERALLY the best choice for BEGINNERS. Emphasis added so all the people emotionally attached to their caliber don’t have a hiss fit.

  5. I carry .380 a LOT. I am under no illusions to its stopping power. Still, it could prove enough to disrupt bad actors.

  6. I am tired of this series. Lets just end this right now with the truth. .22lr is the best caliber for a beginner. It is cheap, has a higher capacity and much lower recoil than anything else on the market. This round with allow you to practice all the needed skills so you can pick the caliber that fits your needs so you will not need some BS a writer is telling you about the best round for beginners.

    Grump mode off

    • I think we all agree that 22 is the best place to start, but a lot of people just want to buy one handgun for carry/home defense/range use, and I think that is the point of these articles.

      I disagree with the author on this one, though I carry a pocket 380 everyday, in that the cost of ammo and moderate effectiveness make 380 a pretty poor choice for the aforementioned type of people. For the very recoil adverse something like a Walther PK380 or that new one from Smith might be a good choice, but otherwise most people would be better served with a compact 9, if they are the type of people I believe these articles were written for.

    • The last couple of years 22lr has been damn near impossible to purchase, outside of the retired folk who get up early, buy up all of the supply, and scalp it on local forums. From 2013 to 2016 I didn’t see a single box of 22lr on a shelf in any store. When it did appear, it was 10-15 cents a round. I go into reloading, and shot 38 special cheaper than I could by 22s.

  7. Now, nothing personal here Dan, but there is a certain underlying Fudd-ness to this article.
    I have had the honor of bringing several new peeps into the POTG association.
    What works and personal choices made after initial shooting experiences have varied greatly for the armaments they have gone to purchase for personal use.
    The new S&W 380EZ was the missing link for my wife to finally come onboard. And I could not be any more impressed with that model. It is outstanding. (The S&W also!)
    I have personally seen several peeps get very turned off by 380 mouse guns because of the “snappiness”, and FTF/Es from limp wristing because of fear expectations.
    P238 is great; P938 is better (IMHO).
    I believe in the sage advice of “…if it works for you.”
    That said, I don’t believe the 380 the be all, end all caliber for newbies. Just for some of them.

    • I am about to get the EZ for my wife. I had bought her the PPQ but as we get older, she seems like she really has to work to manipulate the slide. Aside from that, no (manual) safeties at all makes her a bit uneasy. Can’t have that with someone that I can hardly talk into shooting in the first place. She says we will shoot this again this weekend to see for sure that the slide on the PPQ is too hard to be done rapidly and without undue effort and concentration, if it is, she will have a the new M&P Shield EZ .380 next week.

  8. Meh…not going below 9mm or 38. I had a Taurus TCP that ran fine but cost more than 9mm ammo with half the power. How hard is it to hide a Glock 43,Ruger LC9s,709 slim(which I have and runs great )or the new Sig 365?!?

    • I personally agree, my wife when looking for a new concealed carry piece(she got tired of lugging a sp 101) tried multiple versions of guns in 380 and in 9mm and could not tell the difference.

    • I think that no matter what the ammo costs, you will be glad to pay it if you need it. Most any of us would be somewhat close to the perp before shooting him/her. Unless they are wearing layers of thick winter clothes(or a ballistic vest), a .380 will do a lot of damage.
      I really like the size of my P64 with a Mak round, but a plastic micro gun in .380 would fit in the front pocket or even the side tool pocket of a pair of carpenter jeans, or in a wallet holster for one of the back pockets.

  9. What’s with you insisting in every article that .40S&W is super expensive? I can find .40 practice ammo for the same price as .380 all day. I’m not insisting that .40 is the best, but you seem to think .40 and .45 ammo is priced way higher than it really is.

    • You’re obviously not a real 9mm fanboy. Part of being a 9mm fanboy is grossly exaggerating the downsides of .40 and .45, while denying their advantages.To hear a true fanboy tell it, .40 costs $.50 a pop, kicks like a .454 Casull, and is actually less deadly than 9mm. Not only that, the guns hold half the ammo.

    • I agree. I buy online in bulk and .40 doesn’t really cost me that much more than 9MM. Besides, with many PD’s going to 9 there’s quite a bit of cheap trade-in .40 out there. Have bought 500 round lots of .40 for $99.99 not too shabby.

  10. .380 +p Buffalo Bore… For a beginner? Are you out of your mind? That’s a sure way to get someone to quit carrying altogether.

    Beginners should have the biggest, heaviest gun chambered in the smallest, softest caliber they can stand. They’re going to trade it in soon or sell it and upgrade once they’ve got some time under their belt.

    .380 guns are small, yes. They shoot like crap, and their tiny size magnifies recoil. If someone HAS to start with a .380, it should be the biggest .380 they can get. At least a Bersa Thunder or a Glock 42. And leave that +P Buffalo Bore crap out of your gun, it’s overpressure, it’s delivering 9mm ballistics in a gun that’s only designed to handle .380. Recipe for disaster sooner or later.

    • Agreed. This has been one of the least informative (and least informed) series ever to be featured on TTAG. This site needs to up their game or risk sinking into obscurity and disrepute.

  11. Another .380 carrier here. I have gone through 9×17 pistols and I am back at the Glock 42. So far this year I have about 900 rounds through it and it is an easy gun to shoot (however, it does tend to the left). It also carries well. For ammunition I am using Inceptor ARX and am happy with its performance.

    Of course I reload. Otherwise I would agree that the ammo can be pricey. While I use factory loads to carry, I have also loaded the ARX bullets for practice. It is a bit harder than other bullets to reload. I attribute that to the bullet itself being harder.

    In all I am happy with 9×17. Sometimes I consider getting a modern 9×19, my only one is a High-Power. However, like I said, I am happy with what I have.

    • As a fellow Hi-Power owner, you’re not missing out on anything by getting a more modern 9mm. Newer guns are lighter but that’s about it – you can’t beat the dead-nuts reliability of Browning’s last and greatest design.

  12. Well now we know why the other articles said what they did. Slammed .45, .40 gave a nod to 9mm because it isn’t as bad as those big calibers. And some of what he said I agreed with 9 is a good beginer caliber because the guns are plentiful, fairly cheap and the ammo is everywhere and compared to other calibers cheap. Which is good for a biginer who needs to shoot a lot to become proficient.


    I only own a .380????? It’s a great self defense caliber???? Great for a beginer???? Even though you say a downside of it isn’t a good range gun because ammo is expensive and not plentiful. That’s what beginer need. Lots of practice.
    Granted a .380 is better than nothing but please don’t try to say it is anywhere near 9mm, .40, or.45.
    Why don’t you just suggest a nice little .25. Then you can just piss off your attacker😂

    • I must admit, I’d love to get a baby Browning or a Colt vest pocket and make a Taxi Driver rig. Not because I think it would be a good idea, but because it would be lots of fun.

    • I want to know what the hell the new authors that TTAG hired’s qualifications are. Right now JWT is the only one that I put any stock into what they say. Now it’s this random guy and some girl bitching about responses to her articles.

  13. Its interesting to know that the German Army chose the .32 acp over the .380 acp simply because it out penetrated the .380. They could not penetrate a helmet with the .380 but they did with the .32 acp so next time you hear all the gun writer blather about the .32 acp being a worthless caliber it shows you how little gun writers often know. Agnes Herbert way back in 1900 came to the same conclusion about the bull sitting gun writers of her day. My how little things have change din 118 years.

    The two big problems with the .32 acp is there are few expanding bullet loading’s in the original 71 grain bullet weight and the lighter 60 grain expanding pills often fail to cycle reliably if the pistol was not designed to shoot them and very few are. The Seecamp was designed around the 60 grain Winchester Silver tip but worked well with my handloads using the Hornady bullets. The other problem is rim lock because unlike the 380 which is rimless the .32 has a rim which often locks into the bullet below it in the magazine producing a jam.

    I STARTED COLLECTING AND SHOOTING PISTOLS IN 1962. The majority of .380 pistols are straight blow back which produced vicious recoil in the small hand guns that are generally made for them. I saw a post on the Sig forum several years ago of a modern low budget plasticky junk pistol that cracked its frame right behind the trigger guard that was in .380 which is again proof of their sudden violent recoil if they are of the blow back variety.

    Now there are locked breach .380 pistols but they are a different bread of cat altogether and will take some very hot handloads.

    Years ago I tried some hot .380 hand loads out of two blow back .380 pistols and both were brand new one was a 1955 FN Browning an the other a Browning 10/70. With only one box fired out of each pistol I warped the frames on both guns proving if you like to load your self defense ammo hot stick with a lock breached .380

    Its gotten to the point now were you can actually buy some baby 9×19’s that are smaller than some .380 pistols but they usually are heavier in weight.

        • to Power Brain

          quote———————Oh look, the commie likes to pretend he knows something about guns…——————————quote

          I sometimes wonder if you ignorant Hill Billies will ever learn the difference between a Communist and a Socialist. You really make me laugh.

      • Gun Freak Out in a School Zone
        quote—————————Bullshit. comrade cisco.————————quot——-

        Tell me Out House Denizen where you able to compose that response without help from your wife Ellie May.

        • Your entire first comment was bullshit. But you knew that when you made it.

          And there is no difference between a socialist, communist or fascist. Their actions speak louder than your lies in their defense.

          If you were in any way educated you would know that the german military did, indeed, issue .32 and .380 pistols. To people like higher officers and air crews who’s primary jobs were not close combat. All they could make of their own and steal of other nations production because german military and civil .gov of the time were pistol heavy users. Even postal employees and meter readers were uniformed and armed.

          For folks actually expected to get into the mud the issue weapons were 9mm.

    • How come all of your made up, fake news caliber stories involve shooting helmets and the Germans?

      • To Constipated Wannabe Army

        quote—————————-How come all of your made up, fake news caliber stories involve shooting helmets and the Germans?————————-quote

        Like most ignorant Hill Jacks you only succeed in making a fool of yourself by broadcasting to the world your complete lack of World History. History has never been the forte of the unwashed in the land of the Out House.

        • So by your own definition you’re a ignorant hill jack, eh, comrade cisco.

    • You should get a Hi Point. Straight blowback, very little recoil. Not the most easy to conceal, but you’re unlikely to crack the frame, and if you do it’s guaranteed for life.

  14. .380 ACP from a PPK/s or a P230 is likely to be more pleasant than from a Kel-Tec or an LCP. Probably as effective as a .38 snubbie, conceals easier, higher capacity and reloads quicker.
    A person could do worse.

  15. Stop looking at published velocities. In the real world, the .380 struggles mightily to push a 90 grain bullet to 1000 FPS out of a mouse gun. That’s literally half a standard .40 Smith 180 at 1000 combo.

    While I don’t hate the .380, and occasionally carry one, it’s a pricey and wimpy round. Being armed with a Glock 43, Sig 365 or similar gives users a lot more power and cheaper ammo in a package that’s only slightly larger.

  16. Am I the only one that thinks Hornady is very overrated especially in .380 and .38spl? I have never personally tested it but in almost all the Youtube ballistic gel tests, these two calibers fail to expand out of short barrels almost every time. Honestly that goes for a lot of .380 and .38 offerings. I love the idea of compact guns like the LCP but the ammo gives me great pause.

    • S. Crock,

      You are NOT the only person. I have the same reservations about .380 ACP self-defense ammunition. That is why I load standard pressure Buffalo Bore 100 grain hardcast lead bullet cartridges. The hardcast lead bullets ensure plenty of penetration (virtually guaranteed an entry AND exit wound) and a decent permanent wound cavity (should be about .45 caliber) due to their meplat (flat bullet face of the bullet).

      And the hardcast bullet shape should feed reliably. Unfortunately, due to the cost of those cartridges, I have not actually verified whether most/all semi-auto pistols chambered in .380 ACP will cycle reliably with them. Given that those pistols cycle similarly shaped bullets without any trouble, I figure that most/all semi-auto pistols should cycle those hardcast lead Buffalo Bore cartridges reliably.

  17. Well color me surprised that this wasn’t a bash article on .380, while heaping more praise on 9mm. For real. I was honestly surprised.

  18. European .380 has more pepper than American .380. If you look at the Czech loads in the 20s and the gun they made for it(CZ-24), you might understand the power. The Gun has a rotating barrel and is a dream to shoot. They went to the lighter .32 in the CZ-27 because it was cheaper to manufacture in blow back form. If the .380 wasn’t so hot, they would not have changed, the handgun was made for military and police(who should have been able to handle it. Face it, the American .380 was de-powered.
    I would compare the old 9mm Kurz (from Europe) load to the 9×18 Mak load. Anyone who has shot a P64, a CZ-82 or even a Makarov without gloves has felt the sting, and those are steel handguns.
    The Nazi officers liked the CZ-24 (.380) better than the CZ-27 (.32).

    • Roger that on the P-64, CZ-82, and the Makarov in 9×18. Have ’em all and they are fun to shoot. Another one I have is an FEG P-63. Now that one IS a hand stinger. I do like me some 9×18 and Hornady loads it in Critical Defense now, too.

  19. I don’t consider the S&W Bodyguard any easier to shoot than a 9mm Shield. In fact, if it weren’t so darn small I’d not own that hateful little thing.

  20. God how I LOL at the “concealability” nonsense.

    Oh, that’s why .380 is good, so you can buy a mouse gun. Because something slightly larger weighs soooo much? Or because your fat overhangs your belt to the point that you don’t have the “right body type” for a bigger gun? That’s why mouse guns fly off the shelves?


    Sorry, but that’s what I deeply suspect because here’s what I see: fucktons of mouse guns SELLING but nearly no one at the range SHOOTING them. When they are being shot the accuracy is piss poor. That suggests strongly to me that for more people these guns are a “comfort and feelz” gun rather than a decent carry piece.

    • …….or, it sure is nice to stick one in your pocket when it’s 90 degrees out and you’re wearing flip flops and a tank top. Accuracy isn’t really an issue because these are belly guns. Not familiar with that term? Look it up. (Hint…it has to do with the distance the gun will be used to shoot from)

      • ^ This!

        I believe the .380 ACP platform is an excellent self-defense platform for repelling two-bit thugs and opportunistic rapists at contact range — which just happens to be the overwhelming majority of violent assaults.

        We simply need to understand the limitation of .380 ACP — especially with ultra-light and tiny “mouse guns”. In my mind .380 ACP ultra-light mouse guns are only inadequate for:
        — engagements at ranges beyond 10 feet (3 meters)
        — stalkers and boyfriends/husbands intent on murder
        — attackers stoned out of their mind on the likes of PCP
        — suicide attackers and terrorists

      • Spot on Pvw20. It’s hot down here in Texas and the one absolute truth is the Khar PM380 in my pocket trumps that .45 sitting at home. And let’s face it, we’re not COPS ” running toward the sound of gunfire”. Besides I just put new springs from a company called MaGuts in my 6 rd mag and turned it into 7rds., and now 8 rds of critical defense ammo in my pocket. I’m good.

  21. Going to buy two S&W .380 EZ’s. One for my wife and one for me. With her disabilities she can’t rack the slide on her Bodyguard any more. I can still rack anything I own but I want the ease of carrying a gun that fits my hand better than the tiny assed .380s out there. At 65 everything gets a little tougher.

  22. The P238 is a good handgun, but it feels too small in my hands. if you want a better one check out the (now discontinued) P230 (or P232). It has the de-cocker SA/DA action that I favor.

    I have a P230 in stainless. It’s good equipment.


  23. Anyone else see a serious anti-Ruger bias among all the other issues people have pointed out? Four articles about caliber, complete with recommendations for carry guns, and not a single Ruger? Paid adverts? Just saying…

  24. Not the best writing; weak on technicals, talks in circles, bullet points so long as to defeat the purpose.

  25. What about the Bersa Thunder 380? 15+1 capacity, fixed barrel similar to the Walter PPK. Very good shooting and accurate gun.

    • Yeah, the author failed to mention Ruger LCPs (as Mirch mentioned above) and Bersa Thunder series — both excellent semi-auto pistols.

  26. From GUN TEST

    No Go Bang Sometimes:

    M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

    Also, Woodard said it’s worth noting a significant ammunition restriction Smith & Wesson posted in the announcement:


    Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

    “It seems the function of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol can be influenced by the type and quality of ammunition used with the pistol,” said Todd Woodard, Editor of Gun Tests Magazine. “Most gun owners realize that’s the case with most firearms.

    “In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, however, the company has found ‘that in very rare circumstances,’ ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired. That could be very bad for a concealed-carry gun owner who’s depending on the EZ in a self-defense situation.”

    Should this occur, a company statement says, “You will not be able to fire the next round unless and until the manual safety is reset to the Fire position.”

    m&p ez shield manual thumb safety
    So, as of April 4, 2018, Smith has engineered the manual safety so that it will be less susceptible to the influence of ammunition weight, velocity, and loads, Woodard reported.

    “Any M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol produced before April 4 is eligible for a no-cost upgrade,” he said.

    To determine if this consumer advisory applies to your pistol, please utilize the serial number verification tool on the company’s consumer advisory page. Click here to navigate to that page.

    Then, Woodard advised, if your pistol is subject to this fix, call Smith & Wesson at (800) 331-0852 or email them at [email protected]. A FedEx return label and shipping instructions to facilitate the return of your M&P 380 Shield EZ pistol will be mailed to you.

    Also, Woodard said it’s worth noting a significant ammunition restriction Smith & Wesson posted in the announcement:

  27. A .380 pistol not mentioned so far (I think) but I really think is the cat’s meow (no pun intended) – the Beretta Cheetah. Accurate, reliable, and drop-dead sexy. And the 84 holds 13+1.

  28. I reload 9x19mm. Having a .380 would complicate my life by making me have to sort the 9x17mm cases out from the 9x19mm cases.

  29. Every time I’ve looked at 380 it is about the same price as cheap .40. Rarely have I been able to find a sale that changes that.

    We had a P238. Loved the concept of that gun however it had a fatal flaw in our hands. The grip size was so small that your thumb would rest on top of the mag release. Unless both my wife and I were extremely careful, on recoil it would occasionally drop a mag. Sure, it is something that we could have trained out of, but it happened often enough that neither of us fully trusted it in the heat of the moment.

    The P938 that replaced it as my wife’s carry gun has more power, and just a slightly deeper grip. Completely fixed the issue. The thumb now rests naturally just far enough back that it has never happened. Plus ammo is cheaper.

    I’m still sticking to my G23 though.

  30. I bought a .380 Bodyguard for my wife, she no likey, I do. I carry it in my pocket most all the time. It does what it should, but that laser is useless. FWIW, I can speak to it’s killing power at close range; I spined a doe one time bowhunting and quickly put her out of her misery with the Bodyguard. One shot to the brain and it was lights out.

  31. .380 is widely considered to be the smallest effective self defense caliber.
    It is relatively underpowered and may not reliably expand hollow points.
    Flat nose type bullets more reliably give the required penetration.
    Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were both shot with one round nose .380 each.
    Both died and this set off WWI

  32. In a lot of ways the micro 380 is the snuby of our day. Small, cheap, fairly simple manual of arms. Popular for carrying often and shot little. First rule of a gunfight? Have a gun.

  33. The P238 and Glock 42 are leaders for sure. The former works great for fudds who think that statistics do not apply to their luck, so they will never forget to disengage. The latter is great for everyone else, except very small people with tiny pockets. But the Bodyguard…? Please. One of the worst .380s ever invented. Well, among the popular ones, anyway. At least have a good sense to suggest LCP II: that one has a merit of being small.

  34. I don’t know where you get your ammo from, but you generally post prices 50-100% higher than reality in all of your articles.

    Have you ever heard of the internet? I get my range .380 for $0.17/round

  35. Your series of articles is great, but you lost me a little here. It’s a great round for a pocket pistol and underrated. But for any regular size gun it’s unclear why you would not just carry 9mm. still a good article keep it up

  36. For some time, I cc’d 45 or 9m…9m in summer (for easier concealment) and the 45 when the weather got colder (more clothing for hiding that 1911). But then a funny thing happened – I got old. Recoil and the ability to rack a slide all became bigger deals as arthritis started settling into my hands. Anticipation of pain really messed with my accuracy.

    After experimenting with several different approaches, I discovered .380. Specifically Bersa Thunder and .380. Easy slide racking, almost no recoil, less pain in my hands when shooting, accuracy restored. A great answer for my situation.

    Would I rather carry a larger caliber? Yeah, but I’ve gotta work with what I’ve got. So today I carry a Bersa Thunder CC loaded with .380 Lehigh eXtreme Penetrator (along with an extra mag). It’s a great setup for geezers like me.

  37. The real shame of it is the .25acp and similar size .22 lr. pocket pistols seem to be almost extinct on the American market but then again most of them in years past were banned from importation due to the Gun Control Act of 1968 which labeled small pistols as “evil”.

    The real facts are that most people who get concealed carry permits end up finding that carrying a large pistol to be so uncomfortable and often hard to conceal especially in hot weather that in years past many gravitated to carrying the .25 acp or .22 rim fire. They are so comfortable to carry I have often forgot I even was carrying one.

    And before you poo , poo the small .22 l.r. look at how 3 grown men went down for the count in the Reagan Assassination with only 1 shot each. The video of the event shows you how powerful even a .22 l.r. can be. The large security guard that spun around and crashed to the ground was really quite dramatic not to mentions Brady lying in a pool of blood. The only thing that saved him was the exploding bullet that blew up on the outside of his head. A conventional round would have went right through his head causing instant death.

    Generally the smaller the pistols such as the .25’s , 22’s and the .32’s and .380’s are way more comfortable to carry and usually lighter in weight and far more likely to be carried everyday without fail.

    A colleague of mine who never carried a gun because they were uncomfortable to carry and hard to conceal for him once admonished me for carrying an FN .25 acp. He said they were totally worthless. I replied when you come out of dark alley at night a .25 acp in the hand is a hell of a lot better than only having your dick in your hand. I had a good laugh when I saw the expression on his face.

    Its interesting to note that a recent hospital study found that 4 out of 5 people who are admitted to a hospital with a gun shot wound survive proving how anemic all pistol calibers really are.

    And its interesting to note far fewer who are admitted to hospitals survive knife wounds. I once saw two very small and skinny small female prostitutes get suddenly attacked by a man that was at least 6ft 5 in. In a flash of an instant both girls pulled knives and turned the tables instantly with the large man backing up with his hands in front of his face as they cut his hands to ribbons in a split second. I do not think they could have turned the tables any quicker if they had used pistols.

    In conclusion if you carry every day without fail and practice hitting with one even if only at very close range you can often be very well armed even with the small caliber hide out handguns. No one survives or keeps fighting with a shot to the head, eye, throat , etc.

    • This is basically five paragraphs asking “Well, would you want to get shot with it?”

      No, of course I would not but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice.

      Your points about shot placement are certainly correct

  38. Why is this conversation now another iteration of caliber wars? The title and original intent was about calibers for new shooters, not experienced gunslingers. The thrust of the article was a group of observations of which calibers might be best as “starter” calibers for those wanting to gun-up for self-defense.

    The article is intended for an audience looking for information about how to work their way into defensive gun carry. As to caliber wars, IMHO only the .500 handgun round is a serious caliber, suitable for everything short of killing trucks.

    So, let’s stick to the subject, and opine on newbies and their first steps in deciding how to select a defensive round, and the launcher that would be most suitable for the moment.

  39. I own three pistol calibers; .380, 9mm, and .45.

    The 9mm is (more or less) a collectors piece so is rarely carried.

    The .45 ACP is my daily carry (never leave home without it), it’s heavy and accurate … and should I ever run across someone asking to be shot, it’s going to manage an attitude adjustment on the first round.

    I also enjoy weekends rides on a motorcycle, and the .380 (a Walther PPK) is perfect for that … light, low-recoil, and reasonably accurate to ~15 yards. And, it’s pretty much the “safest” firearm to handle or shoot.

  40. I see Buffalo Bore makes some good loads in 380. The hardcast catches my interest. What im hesitant about are their +p loads in 380 auto. I believe SAAMI doesnt have a definition of +p in 380. Im using a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard which clearly states to not use +p in it. I dont have a need for a duty powered load as an everyday thing meaning i will eventually shoot up the ammo at nothing really and weaken the action or possibly damage the pistol.

  41. Underwood Xtreme Defender +P, it is the Lehigh bullet. Underwood is great ammo. I accidentally washed my 6round Springfield 911 .380 mag. With Underwood ammo in it. So I took the ammo out and placed it in a zip lock bag in my range bag. I wanted to see if it would fire. Every round fired as expected.

  42. I carry a KAHR P380 almost exclusively. Mostly because it is one the smallest 7+1 .380s in existence, but also because it is ridiculously accurate for such a small thing, it is reliable (once broken in & cleaned/lubed well), it’s easy to maintain, works like my Glocks, and it wasn’t too expensive. But the biggest reason I like it is because of the smooth trigger and lack of extra safety. KAHRs are instinctual to shoot – like a revolver. Just aim, smooth trigger pull – and bang. When micro-seconds count, ease of use matter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here