Gun Review: Browning 1911-380 Black Label Pro Speed .380 ACP Pistol

Browning 1911-380 Black Label

The Browning 1911-380 comes in a variety of models and configurations including matte or stainless steel slides. (Courtesy Browning)

By Jason Bayne

As a 1911 fan and daily carrier, when Browning first introduced the 1911-380 and 1911-22 a few years back I was intrigued. I wasn’t sure if these were practical guns or more of a novelty. I did a little research and read the reviews I could find about them, but the price seemed a little much for something that may be nothing more than a novelty for me.

Browning sells quality firearms, which is why their firearms are generally on the more expensive side compared to similar models from other manufacturers. For the premium you pay for a Browning firearm there is no doubt you can expect to get a gun that is very nicely machined with excellent fit and finish.

Over the last few months I have started to see what I consider very good deals on many of the Browning 1911 variants in both .22LR and .380 Auto. When I saw I could pick up a 1911-22 for around $350, I decided it was finally time to see if one of these mini 1911 pistols were worth adding to my collection. So, I ordered the 1911-.22 pictured below. It’s the compact version of the 1911-22 with the 3.6” barrel.

Browning 1911-380 Black Label

My first Browning 1911 purchase; a 1911-22 compact variant (Jason Bayne for TTAG)

My 1911-22 originally came with a standard non-threaded barrel. I contacted Browning’s parts department and found out I could buy a threaded barrel directly from them for around $150 delivered.

While I have many .22LR hosts for my several .22 suppressors, I couldn’t resist being able to see how well the Browning would do with a can.

Browning 1911-380 Black Label

The 1911-22 turned out to be one of the quieter and more accurate 22LR suppressor hosts I own. (Jason Bayne for TTAG)

Let’s just say it did well enough to inspire me to order one of Browning’s center-fire .380 ACP pistols for around $100 more than I paid for the rimfire .22LR version.

Though scaled down to 85% of the size of the original 1911, other than the polymer frame, Browning’s 1911 pistols designed for the .380 ACP cartridge are true clones of John Browning’s iconic 1911 .45 ACP pistol right down to the internal extractor and leaf spring in the trigger system.

I was very impressed that Browning stayed true to the original design because I know they could have easily cut corners and simplified the manufacturing process by using an external extractor or a simplified trigger system; but, they didn’t.

Like the .22LR model, the .380 ACP pistol is available in two barrel lengths; the compact has a 3.6” barrel and the full-size has a 4.25” barrel. I decided to go with the full-size 1911-380 Black Label Pro Speed model.

Browning 1911-380 Black Label

The Browning 1911-380 full-size model with standard barrel. (Jason Bayne for TTAG)

Though the grip of the Browning 1911 is 85% smaller than JMB’s 1911 grip, it feels great in my hand. The grip angle is 100% the same as the original, so the pistol points and handles just as naturally as its big brother.

Those with smaller hands will probably find that the lighter and more svelte Browning 1911 handle feels better in their hand than the original. At a mere 18 ounces, the 1911-380 weighs about half of the typical full-sized 1911 .45 ACP. (The .22lr version weighs a scant 14 ounces).

I suspect had Browning made these diminutive 1911s out of all steel parts (frame, grip safety, thumb safety, mainspring housing) it would probably weigh close to 30 ounces. Part of me wishes they did make an all steel version.

While I have no doubt the polymer frame and the cast, MIM, and aluminum small parts are of good quality and can handle whatever stress they endure during firing, the 1911 purist in me would love an all-steel version. One can always dream.

Like most modern 1911 .45 ACP magazines, the 1911-380 single-stack steel magazine holds 8 rounds. The pistol comes with two mags from the factory. That’s a good thing because factory replacement magazines are fairly pricey with an MSRP of $45.99. Fortunately, it seems they can easily be found online in the twenty-dollar range. I paid $22 each for the spare mags I bought when I ordered my pistol online.

The Browning webstore not only sells spare magazines for their 1911 pistols, they have a few solid holster options for these pistols as well, including a nice leather IWB holster, and a compact Kydex OWB holster with a Tek-Loc adapter to attach the holster to your belt.

The Tucker Gunleather DC-2 IWB Holster (left) and the Browning Factory IWB Holster (Jason Bayne for TTAG)

I ordered the leather IWB ($79.99) holster and can attest it’s a very well-made, quality unit. I also had Tucker Gunleather make one of their excellent DC-2 Holsters for the pistol. I’m partial to the Tucker DC-2 or Cover-Up Plus for all my carry guns because it’s the only IWB holster I know that is easily adjustable for both cant and ride height.

The one thing Browning doesn’t offer are replacement sights for the 1911 series of pistols. Unfortunately, no one else seems to offer them for these pistols either. The factory sights are actually quite nice. They’re modern, all steel, three-dot combat sights.

The rear sight has a tactical ledge so you can rack the steel buckmark-stamped steel slide on almost any surface one-handed. Both the front and rear sights are inserted into the slide via the dovetails that are machined into the slide. That makes sight removal and installation fairly simple.

The problem is three-dot sights don’t work well for me…there are two dots too many as far as I’m concerned. I prefer a blacked out rear sight and a fiber optic front sight on my defensive pistols. I will even settle for a tritium front sight, or a set of Straight 8s.

I will never understand how the firearms industry settled on the three-dot set up as the industry standard. Bottom-line, if you like 3-dot sights, you’ll be very happy with the factory sights. If you prefer night sights, Browning offers 3-dot tritium night sights as an option on some of their production 1911-380 pistols.

The one concern I had before shooting the 1911-380 was the same concern I have with all .380 auto pistols; what kind of recoil experience would I be in for? Straight blowback .380 semi-automatic pistols usually have relatively harsh recoil (Walther PPK), while locked-breech .380 pistols tend to have fairly mild recoil (GLOCK 42).

In my .380 experience, the difference between blowback and locked-breech operation is so pronounced that it’s hard to believe I’m shooting two guns in the same caliber. Since the 1911 fires from a locked-breech, and the Browning is a 1911 clone, I was hoping the recoil would be fairly tame. Because less recoil means faster, more accurate follow-up shots.

Right after I picked up the pistol from my local FFL dealer, I took it out of the box and bag it came in, field-stripped, cleaned and lubed it the same way I clean and lube all of my 1911 pistols. I reassembled the pistol, grabbed a bunch of Remington UMC 95gr FMJ and some Hornady Critical Defense 95gr and headed to the range.

Not only did I find the recoil of this little 18 oz. pistol to be mild, it was surprisingly mild.

I loaded up the 1911-380 magazine for the first the time and proceeded to fire this group with the Remington FMJ ammo

I very easily could have packed my bag after firing the first 16 rounds from the mini .380 1911 and been very satisfied with the performance of the pistol. But I continued to test it with a variety of ammo to see what it would do.

The 1911-380’s super-mild recoil combined with the naturally excellent ergonomics of the 1911 design makes the 1911-380 an absolute joy to shoot. The single action only pistol‘s trigger is exactly what you’d expect from 1911…light and crisp. It’s incredibly easy to produce nice, tight groups with this gun within 10 yards. It’s fired all the rounds I’ve fed it flawlessly, without incident.

With a smile on my face I ejected the magazine and reloaded it with the Hornaday Critical Defense ammo and fired my second group with the Browning 1911-380

I’m not a fan of tiny guns, and the 1911-380 is not a tiny gun. In my experience the tiny pocket .380 Autos currently available on the market are unpleasant to shoot, difficult to manipulate because the controls are so small, and hard to shoot consistently well from shot to shot. As a result, they don’t make good range guns because they are not that much fun to practice with. That’s why I personally have no interest in owning a defensive pistol any smaller in size than the 1911-380.

Simply, the Browning 1911-380 semi-auto pistol is a lot of fun and extremely easy to shoot well. I know I can consistently hit what I’m aiming at from shot to shot, no matter how quickly I have to pull the trigger.

While I generally don’t like to carry a gun chambered in a round smaller than a 9mm, in certain situations it’s necessary. In those situations, I wouldn’t hesitate to strap on my 1911-380 and head out the door. This pistol would be a great option for those with smaller hands looking for a lighter weight, easier-recoiling handgun.

The Browning 1911-380 features an extended beavertail grip safety with a skeletonized hammer and trigger. It makes a great, lighter weight concealed carry option. (Jason Bayne for TTAG)

Note that my 1911-380 Black Label Pro Speed was a limited run model that is no longer in production. But Browning makes a dozen similar models in both compact and full-length version with various combinations of features.

Armscor Ammunition

Specifications: Browning 1911-380 Black Label Pro Speed

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 8 rounds
Overall Length: 7.5″
Barrel Length: 4.25″
Weight: 18 oz.
Finish: ATACS-AU camo frame and grips, matte black receiver and slide
MSRP: $700 (about $600 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * * *
Come on, it’s a 1911. Is there a better looking handgun? Anywhere?

Customization * *
Other than grips, there isn’t a huge aftermarket for parts and accessories.

Reliability * * * * * 
Perfect.

Accuracy * * * *
I had no problem shooting 2” and smaller groups within 10 yards unsupported. I would imagine with more practice I can cut group size noticeably. I’m certainly going to try.

Overall * * * *
Whether you’re a fan of 1911 pistols or not, this gun is a joy to shoot and very easy to carry concealed. Its light recoil and excellent trigger make it a great option for those who don’t want to carry something bigger and heavier for self-defense. You can’t go wrong with any of the Browning 1911 pistols.

 

comments

  1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    I was underwhelmed with mine. The workmanship was subpar, it has a magazine disconnect, and it’s expensive. I’m hoping to unload mine at a show this weekend. I’d go for a Sig P238 for comparable money. It’s also 1911-style.

  2. avatar Jerre Peak says:

    I bought a Browning 1911 .380 a while back and it wouldn’t shoot a mag without a malfunction of some kind. I called Browning and they wanted the gun back. I sent it to them and they called me saying the gun was indeed a “lemon”. They sent me a new one and it shot fine for about 400 rounds and then started having malfunctions like the first gun. I had 4 Browning mags and it would jam with all 4 mags. Didn’t matter if you shot FMJ or hollow points, the gun, like the 1st one, wouldn’t shoot a mag without a malfunction of some kind. That’s 2 different new Browning 1911 .380’s and they were both a piece of junk ! I got rid of the gun and bought a Glock 42 .380 and it hasn’t had a malfunction of any kind. I’ve shot it about 500 – 600 times with all kind of ammo and it’s digested everything I’ve put in it without any malfunctions of any kind. Stay away from the Browning 1911 .380 ! They’re nothing but JUNK ! !

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      That was my experience with ball ammunition. Oddly enough, I never had a problem with JHPs of any type. So it was an unusual situation where I felt it was reliable for carry but a pain on the range. Unlike virtually everybody who carries a .380 I find that in principle the Browning is the right size. That extra inch plus of barrel length over the typical pocket .380 makes the round much more effective. I have been thinking about re-engaging the .380 with the Shield 380 EZ. It is lightweight, compact with a much better sight radius than a pocket pistol and has a longer barrel. The only thing stopping me is that I can’t see role for it at the moment.

  3. avatar Achmed says:

    The 380 makes no sense. 15% smaller?? That’s not small or concealable enough to justify .380.

    The 22 looks decent but it better be accurate because there are now many accurate 22s out there.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      A .380 should be larger, not smaller. Pocket .380s don’t have enough barrel length to get the most out of the round. With all the tiny 9s out there why would you want a .380? A compact sized .380 is perfect for the recoil sensitive and older people with weak wrists.

      1. avatar Jerms says:

        Wouldnt people who are recoil sensitive or have weak wrists just get the 380 Shield EZ version?

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          That would be the best choice but the current wisdom is that if it any bigger the a P365 it is too big to carry.

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Exactly. I understand a .22LR conversion for plinking, but for carry, a 9mm is the minimum if you don’t want to go all-out .45 ACP. A .380 just doesn’t make sense to me.

  4. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Maybe this would be a good step up from my .22 space gun plinker…if I can get it for under $500.

  5. avatar JoeWay says:

    This pistol for me was equal to the boat owner. I was only happy two times having it. When I purchased it, and when I got RID of it. In my experience, it was a total failure. No matter what ammo I put in it. It would not squeeze off more than two in a row. Wasted money on extra mag. Finally just had to admit that the only thing good about this pistol was the look. This was when it first came on the scene. Still not an excuse to manufacture junk.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “I was only happy two times having it. When I purchased it, and when I got RID of it.”

      The author noted his was a “special”. Could it be the standard production guns are a problem, and problems go away when more custom versions are purchased?

  6. avatar Kevin says:

    I have heard that the .380 cartridge is, in essence, 78% the size of a .45 ACP cartridge in all dimensions. So, shrinking a 1911 78% in all dimensions (or, in this case, 85%) would actually seem to make a lot of sense. It keeps things in the same relative proportions.

  7. avatar MB says:

    At $300 the 1911-380 BL would be a bargain, at $350-400 it would be competitive with S&W 380-EZ,and at $600-700 it’s a big no thank you. I have shot one, nice, but not even close to the S&W 380-EZ as far as comfort, and recoil, and sup-part to quality also. For guys who have to have a 1911, but can’t handle .45ACP it’s fine I guess, and I wouldn’t mind paying $300-350 for one.

    1. avatar Jerre Peak says:

      With the experience I had with 2 of these Browning .380’s, I wouldn’t take one if it was give to me ! ! They’re JUNK ! !

      1. avatar MB says:

        @Jerre, You have more experience with this gun than I have, but I would only consider this gun a range toy, never a CCW defensive weapon.

        1. avatar Jerre Peak says:

          Yea, but kind of expensive “toy” don’t you think ?? ……. LOL ! I would never, ever, even think of carrying it as a CCW defensive weapon either. They’re not dependable at all ! ! I do carry my Glock 42 .380 though as it’s a very dependable gun. Have a great day, my friend.

  8. avatar Swarf says:

    “Browning sells quality firearms.”

    Oh, are they bringing back the Hi Power? I kid, I kid.

    But seriously, bring back the f’ing Hi Power.

  9. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    Great review. I’ve had mine for 5 years and it has functioned flawlessly with anything you put through it. Then again, like you, I’m experienced with the 1911 and know how to handle it. If you shoot it like a girl throws a hardball it will fail to feed. Too many comments above citing fail to feed. Any of you guys shave yet?

    1. avatar Jerre Peak says:

      Shave yet ?? I was shaving before you were even born ! !

    2. avatar Cea says:

      Mack,
      You may be onto something there, about being familiar with the 1911 platform in general.
      The Browning is my 8th, of 12, 1911s. And that includes a Les Baer, two STIs and a Tripp Research 1911. Some nice pistols for sure.
      So yeah, knowing what you have, and how to work with it does make a difference.

  10. avatar Cea says:

    I bought one for my wife, just to plink around with at the range. She likes it enough, but I love it!! Mine has been flawless with seven different mags (I read about nightmare mag problems) and all different kinds of ammo. I bought whatever brand I could find years ago, and some of it was/is some weird stuff. But my 1911-380 fires them all without fail. I too find it to be very accurate, and easy to shoot well. And, if one was to consider 380 for SD, the 4.25″ barrel on the Browning is getting everything there is to get, out of the cartridge. Considerably more than the 2″ guns out there. In full disclosure, I also have a Sig P232 (Hate it!) and a LCP II. The LCP II is also very accurate for it’s size, and isn’t nearly as harsh to fire as my brother in laws P3AT. Way better sights on the LCP II…making it a 4″ group shootin’ little gun at 7 yd. I think that that is great!!
    But the Browning 1911-380 is a fantastically accurate little gun!

  11. avatar Cknarf says:

    You could buy like, three Bersas instead.

    1. avatar Rocketman says:

      I’ve had some pretty good experiences with my Bersa BP9CC, both of them (1 for me and one for my late mom). 21.5 OZ. empty, 8 shot mag and a light trigger pull. Only downside are $50 dollar mags and the slide and barrel is nowhere as resistant to rust as the Glock is.

  12. avatar Hannibal says:

    “Though the grip of the Browning 1911 is 85% smaller than JMB’s 1911 grip…”
    – I’m guessing this is supposed to read “85% as large as…”

    I dunno how much appeal this has. Those who want a .380 gun for its concealablility can find much better options. Those who want it for its soft-shooting can find guns at the same size for less money and probably with better capacity. Those who want a 1911 probably want something with a cartridge starting with a 4.

    Oh well. Maybe because I’ve never had much reverence for the 1911 (my nostalgia leans more towards wheelguns) I just don’t get it.

  13. avatar Randy Hudson says:

    Have had no problems with my 1911 380 pro. Very accurate . I have no problems with it out to 20 yards. Because of the accuracy I have no problems carrying it when the 45 is a little much. The 1911 22 is a different story. Not sure of the model but I don’t know what I was thinking getting a pistol with no adjustable sights. That one is going to be someone’s Christmas present.

  14. avatar StuckInIllinois says:

    “or use a simplified trigger system”? How much simpler can a trigger system be than a 1911? No pin, one leaf spring. Every time I home Smith a CZ or S&W 1/2 gen I marvel at JMB’s simplified genius.

  15. avatar StuckInIllinois says:

    Oh, and I may be in the minority, but I love to see the guts of a firearm that is being reviewed. Tells a lot about a particular gun.

  16. avatar enuf says:

    This one tempted me when it first appeared, but reports by actual owners were not favorable and I resisted the appeal of a MADE NOT HERE pistol. The Browning name is properly cherished and respected, but let’s face it, he’s dead and somebody else worked up this scaled down popgun.

    If an American gun maker would offer a .380 pistol with a double-stack magazine, external hammer fired, with a decocker, I’d buy one.

  17. avatar wmg1299 says:

    The Browning interested me, but I found too many horror stories regarding reliability when I did my research. The Rock Island Baby Rock is very similar, but is all steel. The Baby Rock also retails for significantly less (bought mine for $306 shipped earlier this year). Anyone thinking about the Browning should take a good look at the Baby Rock before making a purchase.

    1. avatar Philthegardner says:

      Got the Baby Rock. Nice price. Really small in my hands, but then I think a G21 is a good size when my knuckles aren’t dragging on the floor when I walk. Like that it’s all steel but somehow the design makes recoil (what little there is) a real pain. Oh well, it’s a good, affordable range toy.

  18. avatar Sam Hill says:

    Again I ask why, these gun reviews are about the high dollar guns? Everybody don’t have center of the earth deep pockets. Mine are actually shallow well with high water table deep.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      TTAG welcomes user submitted reviews, if you have an inexpensive firearm you’d like to review and submit I’m sure it would be appreciated. I need to get some nice pictures of my Benelli and my daughter’s Browning for review here soon, but I understand affordable now compared to 14 years ago were two different ball games.

  19. avatar "keep yur paws off my dead guy" possum says:

    Ahh dang it, polymer frame.

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