When Does a .380 Beat a 9mm?

This is an image of a caliber comparison

Photo: author

Have you ever heard the phrase “Friends don’t let friends carry mouseguns”? I have; in fact, I’ve uttered it more than a few times myself over the years! The implication, of course, is that calibers below a certain threshold, arbitrary though it may be, are not suitable for protecting one’s life.

What that threshold is, exactly, depends on one’s point of view. For some people, anything with a caliber that doesn’t start with “.4” is a mousegun, For others, low-powered cartridges like the .22 Long Rifle and.25 ACP get the nod. But for many, the lowly .380 ACP is the most common (and most derided) of the species.

Should it be?

The fact is that you probably...

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Just Because It’s Common Doesn’t Make It Wisdom

The common wisdom goes something like this: the .380 doesn’t have much stopping power, making it a less ideal choice than the next step up the ladder, the 9mm. I’ve even heard people say that if you were to shoot an attacker with a .380, all you’d succeed in doing is making him mad!

Since modern 9mm pistols are so small these days, often very close to the size of the lowly .380, most gun folks would say that it makes little sense to bother with the mouse cartridge. If you can get a more powerful round in the same sized gun, they’ll ask, why bother with the smaller offerings?


It Isn’t As Weak As You Think

Let’s get the performance questions about the .380 ACP out of the way so we can have an intelligent discussion. While I’m not here to heap excessive praise on the .380, or even suggest that it should be your primary choice for carry, let’s start by looking at the data.

two rounds from handguns

Which round is which? Photo: author

The best database of handgun performance I’ve yet seen comes from Greg Ellifritz at Active Response Training. His results, compiled from hundreds of actual shootings over many years, show that while the .380 doesn’t work quite as well as the 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP in its job of stopping attackers, it’s also not that far off.

In Ellifritz’s studies, the “major” calibers are pretty darned close to each other in terms of actual performance. Close enough, in fact, that they are in a statistical dead heat. The .380, on the other hand, is definitely not the performer that the bigger cartridges are. But the little .380 is still remarkably effective and a whole lot better than anything smaller. In fact, the difference between the .380 and the .40 S&W, to pick one at random, is less than the difference between the .380 and the .32 ACP.

Is the .380 half as good as the 9mm? If the data is accurate, it’s actually better than that.

Facts, as John Adams pointed out, are stubborn things. The important point here is that, despite what we feel or have been told, the .380 ACP is not the complete weakling everyone would have you believe. I’ve personally met two people who successfully defended themselves with a .380. Both incidents were over within three rounds, and both defenders emerged unscathed. The same could not be said of their attackers, neither of whom are with us any longer.

The fact is that you probably can successfully defend yourself with this particular ‘mousegun’ caliber. The question is, why would you want to?

Balance of Speed and Precision

The answer is more complicated than you might think, and revolves around your balance of speed and precision. The target dictates the level of precision you need to reach, and that part of the shooting equation never changes. The variable is how fast you can deliver rounds into that area. The more recoil the gun/cartridge combination produces, the slower you’ll be able to shoot into that level of precision. This is the balance of speed (your ability to shoot multiple rounds accurately) and precision (the area of the target you must hit).

The less recoil you are forced to deal with, the faster you’ll be able to shoot to any given level of precision. That translates into being able to deliver more rounds on target in a specific time frame. In the case of an attacking criminal, the more rounds you can put into his vital areas, the sooner he’s going to stop being a threat to your life.

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So What If It Hurts?

This is why so many major defensive shooting trainers have come to embrace the 9mm over the .40 S&W and .45 ACP: you’re able to deliver more statistically identical performing rounds in any given period of time to any given level of precision. It’s a great tradeoff, because there’s almost no downside. Given a choice between shooting the bad guy three times with one caliber or five times with a different caliber that has been shown to give statistically indistinguishable performance, I know which I’m going to choose!

Where does the .380 ACP come into this?

If we take two guns of roughly the same size and weight, one in .380 and one in 9mm, the 9mm will recoil more than the .380. This is to be expected. A markedly heavier bullet, fired at a higher velocity, will produce substantially more recoil and will more obviously affect your balance of speed and precision. It’s also going to be painful to practice with, which means people might not do so.

a small Walther 380 acp

This small Walther-esque .380 ACP has an aluminum frame and would be much more difficult to control if chambered in 9mm. Loaded with high-performance ammunition, it can be surprisingly effective. Photo: author

“It doesn’t matter,” people often say, “because in a real fight, the adrenaline dump will mask the pain.” That’s partially true, but it’s also immaterial. When you’re in the midst of dealing with an attack, the reduction in blood flow to your hands (along with the chemical changes in your body) will likely result in an increase in your pain threshold. You probably won’t feel as much pain in your hands or joints when the rounds go off as when you’re practicing on the range. That much is true.

The issue, though, isn’t your pain level. The issue is that the recoil doesn’t go away, it just doesn’t hurt as much. It still affects your control of the gun, and while that heavy recoil won’t bother you as much, it will still present the same level of physical disruption in your shooting. Your balance of speed and precision isn’t going to get better just because your pain receptors have been temporarily numbed. The gun’s recoil will still affect how quickly you can shoot to any given level of precision. Just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean that recoil is no longer an issue!

This is the root of the decision we face with the choice between 9mm and the .40 S&W. In that case, the performance of the rounds is much closer — a statistical dead heat, remember — so it becomes a choice of shooting more bullets of equal effect than fewer bullets. More bullets win, because it’s the number of rounds we can get on target that have the greatest effect on an attacker.

Making a Logical Choice

The recoil effects in a small gun are profound. A number of micro 9mm pistols I’ve tested range from quite unpleasant to downright uncontrollable in a realistic string of fire. A gun of the same size but loaded with softer-shooting .380 projectiles is much easier to control and results in more rounds landing accurately on target in a shorter period of time. We’re back to the idea of shooting more rounds to any given level of precision.

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Of course, the difference in this choice is that the .380 is definitely not at the same performance level of the 9mm. We’re giving up some effectiveness, though as I pointed out, it might not be as much as we’ve been led to believe. But when we factor in the controllability of the gun, the smart choice for some people may very well be the smaller round.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve fired some micro 9mm guns that were very difficult to control. In fact I tested one such gun that squirmed in my tightest grasp so much that the first round was on target, the second was on the right side of the target, and the third was off target! Admittedly I’m no Jerry Miculek, but I’m used to shooting very heavy-recoiling handguns at speed, and this particular pistol was impossible for me to control in a realistic string of fire. No one else on the range that day could either, and these weren’t newbies but experienced shooting instructors!

Still, I was the only one who came away with a negative opinion of the test gun. If I shot sedately, as everyone else who tested and proclaimed the gun to be a “winner” did, it was controllable. It wasn’t until I shot it in a realistic string of fire (rapid multiple rounds) that it showed its less desirable traits. In my hands it was just difficult to control, but in the hands of someone who doesn’t have my experience and skill, the results might be tragic: missed shots and endangered bystanders.

The problem is that these are the kinds of guns too often sold to newcomers. They’re touted as small, light, and “packing a punch.” Buyers are told they shouldn’t settle for a “weak” .380 ACP of similar size when they can step up to a 9mm in the same (or nearly the same) package. It’s a good sales tactic, I must admit!

Still, I caution people to think very carefully about that neat new subcompact. “It packs more power in a smaller, lighter frame” is seductive advertising copy, and a lot of gun reviewers get very excited about such things, but it’s important to think through the ramifications of that choice.

This is an image of a .380 pistol being held by its owner demonstrating combat accurate hits - Best personal defense weapon

This .380, which its owner can control, making rapid combat-accurate hits, is a better choice for her than a similar-sized 9mm that she may not be able to control. Photo: author

Am I Saying the .380 Is Always a Better Choice?

No, I’m not. But in some very specific cases, it may be. The shooting world should stop and think about the end use of the gun, not how much raw power it produces.

Back when I was of the “More power!” persuasion, I met a lady who carries a Browning BDA. The BDA is a double-stack .380 ACP pistol holding 13 rounds. It is, as you might expect, fairly large and heavy for a .380. At the time the micro-9mm fad hadn’t yet started, but even then there were a number of 9mm pistols available that were the size of the BDA and lighter to boot. I actually tried to steer her away from her BDA and to one of the 9mm guns, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She’d tried them and, due to some weakness in her hands, simply couldn’t control them (even with my expert instruction).

For her, being able to deliver all 13 rounds on target in a very short time frame (which she could do) was a significant advantage over delivering only a few 9mm rounds. My mistake was not recognizing that. Thankfully, I failed to get her to change. She knew her needs better than I did, and if we were to have that discussion today, I would simply help her become as competent with her gun as I possibly could. I understand the issues better and have reined in my macho opinions.

If I had to choose between a micro 9mm and a .380 in the same size and weight class, I might choose the smaller round if the difference in controllability were significant. In the case of the test gun I mentioned earlier, I’d frankly rather have a .380! Yes, it was that bad. Yet the gun sells well and the manufacturer reports they can’t keep up with demand. I’m positive that many of those buyers are making a bad decision, and probably for the wrong reasons.

Before you sneer at that lowly mousegun, stop and really think about the job it is intended to do. Understand the real task: to get combat-accurate hits, with an effective bullet, on target as fast as you can get them. In some cases, that “little” .380 might be better at the task than anything else.

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374 Responses to “When Does a .380 Beat a 9mm?”
  1. Jerry Hitchcock

    This is exactly why I got a 308 for my daughter and wife to keep in the house. Neither one are experienced shooters, and I didn’t want them to be scared off by too much gun. Doesn’t do any good to have a gun for protection if you can’t keep putting rounds on target till it runs dry.

    • Comfort

      part 11. The purpose of an irentnal’ serial number would apply when you have a gun discovered at a crime scene or on a criminal who scratched it off. You’d be able to pick up the serial number and trace back how that gun came to be provided to the criminal.2. I’m thinking of a ballistics database for cases where you recover bullets but not guns from crime scenes.3. True but that’s a simplistic way to come up with a premium. A more profitable way would be to charge less than $10/$100 to people who are lower risk and more than $10/$100 to those that are higher risk. 4. I would imagine both would like to get rid of it.5. Probably nothing, existing guns would have to be grandfathered exempt I’d imagine.Part 21. No it doesn’t exist, but it’s a concern among gun rights types (note how even the health law had a provision added to state no gun databases would be made). An attempt to create a compromise bill that would get both sides on board has to address both sides’ concerns, even if we think they may not be valid.2. Possibly, don’t know much about it.3. Interstate commerce would mean its constitutional. Congress could pass a law allowing people to buy and sell guns and the states couldn’t infringe upon that.4. So what? As you point out the insurance would be pretty cheap for any halfway responsible person.I have seen zero (!) suggestions made in the post Newtown shooting period by the anti-gun crowd that would have prevented the shooting. Which is regrettable for the anti-gun crowd. Why should this be a goal? I think it would dramatically cut into many gun crimes and accidents while at the same time only offering minimal hurdles for a responsible gun hobbyist (possibly even removing some hurdles for them).

      • Carlos

        What kind of drugs are you on? The State of Maryland already tried this hair-brained “Ballistic Fingerprinting” idea to the tune of over $50 million without a single solved case to its credit. Besides, to match a spent case to a crime, you have to have a spent case to collect. How many revolvers do you know of actually leave behind cases?

        Let’s say you are able to match a spent case at a crime scene to a particular pistol that happen to have been stolen from its legal owner. Then what?

      • Old Soldier

        NY tried the same thing, with the same result. It is simply an idea that sounds great but is too easily modified on the weapon with an emory board or nail file. Touch up the firing pin, extractor, ejector and chamber and the signature changes. Plus the wasted time of investigators following false positives on cases that are not from a weapon with a case on file.

    • michael mohlere

      Put hollow points in your 380 & rest easy. This is an excellent article! Has anyone compared the fully transferred kinetic energy of a hollow point 380 to say, a single punch from Ali, Frazier or Tyson?? Not to mention the internal carnage. Yes, training, of course….with any weapon. I own a Glock 19 9mm and a Kurz 380 (was given to me by my father) – the glock is too big for concealed carry, but the little 5+1 380 fits easily in the pocket, so it goes with!! All points about controlling the 9mm are well taken and true. My 380 has only 1 purpose – defense against 1, maybe 2 assailants. I plan to add a lighter Kahr 380 to my collection soon.

      • LLeone

        Sorry, I know this is an old thread…But I carry the Glock 19 concealed all the time…In cold weather, with a jacket, it rides great in a Glaco Miami Classic shoulder harness with 2 reserve clips.

        And in warmer weather, it fits nicely in my waistband–back of the hip–just over my wallet pocket–in an Uncle Mike’s inside the waistband clip holster…Both are comfortable modes of carry…Maybe you just haven’t found the right rig or holster for your Glock…Thought I’d toss this out to you–in case it helps…Regards.

          • Ryan

            Aren’t you so clever for knowing the difference between a clip and a magazine? Who cares! You obviously knew what point LLeone was trying to get across, and NOBODY cares about your “weapons expertise” or your inflated ego. Get a life lmao

          • GARY BENFORD

            A magazine is any room, container or area that holds ordinance. The term clip has been used for autos for years (and was so in WW2). It was the original term for auto loading pistol mags in Europe, and is still used there.

          • Paul L JOWERS

            Magazines go in a weapon. Clips are used normally to load top breach rifles with internal magazines. Weapons 101

          • Z Thunder

            Fully known as “stripper clips,” they are used to speedily reload a fixed magazine, such as those found on some “Ancient War Relic” arms, like the M-1 & SKS to name a couple off the top of my head. This is the difference. Using the correct terminology makes you sound like you are a responsible firearm owner. Using incorrect terminology makes you sound like you have a political axe to grind. Or maybe you’re a reporter… with a political axe to grind.
            Also, to address penetration questions; FMJ will over penetrate in virtually ANY cartridge. I know because I’ve tested .380 Auto, .45 Auto, .22LR, 00 & 000 buckshot for both 20 & 12 gauge. All of these will over penetrate if you miss your intended target and end up in the neighbor’s house or maybe even past that. Use #4 shot. Instead of Swiss cheese you’ll get hamburger. Don’t believe me? Run your own tests at the range. Range won’t let you shoot cool stuff to learn the limitations of your weapons? Find a different range or perhaps a rural landowner. I have an extensive essay I prepared as a response to the penetration question of the .380 Auto. I’ll post it if anyone would like to read it. It’s about 4 pages, single-spaced. Full of Real-World information gathered by myself.

      • hayden dickson

        Your reading too many gun magazines. You need to load a 380 with FMJ ball, period! Hollow points just don’t penetrate deep enough and cause the little 380s to jam more often. You got to get into the vitals so you need ball. You also need that thing not to jam, so you need ball. Hollow points are useless! It is always bullet placement and depth of penetration. Shock has nothing to do with it!

        • Terri

          Amazing! I have a Ruger .380 LCP, and I LOVE IT!!! Shoots beautifully with little recoil. I totally agree with this gentleman, and his opinion on being able to “control the gun.” I do NOT like 9mm at all! The recoil jumps out of my hand up in the air. I’m a woman, and I have been around guns all of my life. I prefer the .380 pistol because of control, and I use JHP rounds. My gun of choice is the S&W .357 Magnum (Revolver) for control as well; however, for a lighter gun, I prefer the Ruger .380 LCP Pistol.

          • Richard

            I also have an LCP which I pocket carry when the choice is it or nothing if I am unable to carry a larger weapon. .380 ACP is a lot better than nothing. The .380 ACP is sometimes compared to the Colt 1851 Navy (.36 caliber) in terms of terminal ballistics.

          • vince

            i have a s&w 686 best most accurate on . the planet.i shot the 10ring at 100 yards once with 2 wittnesses i could never do it again but i did once

        • Mike

          Need to look at defense rounds that are legal. Fmj may not be legal for self defense/carry purposes.

          • Sherm

            I don’t know of any states that ban full metal jacket ammo, but there are several that ban hollow point ammo. These states are not concerned about stopping power, or over penetration, they’re only concerned that you may hurt the bad guy too much, or possibly kill him.

          • John

            Depends on where you are, the crazy government in San Francisco forbids hollow points for defense.

          • G P

            Check out “Oathammo.com” a little more expensive but excellent stopping power.

        • jeff

          I use hornady XTP hollow points in my 380 it stopped a full grown boar with three shots when I was walking in the woods. and you say hollow points don’t work ,,,,,HA!

          • Cory

            This, my friends, is the best .380 advice available. The XTP bullet will penetrate the 12 – 18 inches required to stop a threat. Many manufacturers use this bullet and they are all good. In .380 the best bullets get VERY poor marks. Yes, I am talking about HST, Gold Dot, Ranger T, etc. They all vastly under preform.

            If you carry XTP bullets, the .380 is a respectable caliber.

          • Victor Bailey

            Hornady XTP .380 ammo meets all FBI standards for a person defense round out of an LCP. They average 13 inches of penetration in ballistic gel with two layers of denim, with even expansion round to round. There are many videos on this round that show this. Anyone that is still claiming that .380 HPs don’t penetrate is working off of old data from the 1990s.

        • Ryan

          First off, it’s you’re not your when you’re telling someone that they are doing something. Second, hollow point ammunition does not cause stoppages, shitty ammunition does. Third, have you heard of temporary and permanent wound cavities? If you have, you’d know that hollow point rounds do serve a purpose through expansion. You are partly right in saying that shock has nothing to do with it, depending on what form of shock you are referring to. If you need a backing statement, I’ve personally shot with three letter agencies who carry hollow point ammunition as their duty load.

          • Brickkicker

            Let me get this straight… you knock someone for correcting someone else for using “clip” instead of magazine, then YOU play the grammar police on another post… You are the one who needs to get a life and no one cares if you’re an English major. Creative spelling and grammar is ok on internet message boards so chill out.

        • Guido Sarduchi

          You are correct but it should be the right hard ball. Lehigh defense makes a cavitator and a penetrator round even for the .32 that meets the FBI designation as meeting acceptable standards as a defense round.

        • tunnel rat

          There are so many statistics that say different. If you are worried about penetration then make your first rnd. a ball and follow it up with good quality defensive ammo.

        • Kevin Gilbert

          Mr. Dickson the .380 with ball penetrates way too much! I have a Beretta 70S .380 and I’ve seen what ball will do.

          If a firearm has it’s chamber throated by a good gunsmith you shouldn’t get jams. I have a Colt pony Pocketlite customized by Scott MacDougal and that pistol doesn’t jam with my defense ammo. Also Buffalobore 90 grain +P will definitely open up and definitely penetrate on all but Hulk Hogan!

        • H Stan Boring PHC USN Ret

          Sorry, but “stripper clip” did not have a “reply” below it. In two years on the Guantanamo Rifle team, we used en banc (bless the French) clips to load our match M1s. It was ejected with the firing of the eighth round. The vaunted “ping” so much commented upon back in the day was hardly noticeable. Stripper clips are restricted by the design to bolt action rifles. Chief Boring

      • Robert

        depends on the level of clothing. Hollow points can actually reduce penetration in some cases where clothing is a factor.

        • David

          Use Horn@dy Crit. Defense rounds that have an FTX tip designed for clothing penetration and that will solve that problem. It is basically a plastic stablilizer/penetrator that delays expansion and fragmentation of the bullet. It was so effective that they have added the FTX to several of their hunting bullets to improve stopping power.

        • Anon E Mous

          Clothing is not much of a factor in Florida, except on those few days like today where you wonder where all the “manmade global warming” nuts are hiding!

          • Tboner

            LOL. manmade global warming nuts? So pretty much every scientist? Yea, they’re probably at work doing important things, not hanging out in their trailer, in their tighty whities crushing a 30 case of Bush and trying to convince people that Trump isn’t garbage, like I imagine you do every day.

        • Zared

          This is an older thread, so these rounds did not exist at the time, but Lehigh Defence Xtreme Penetrator rounds solve this problem. They offer near HP wound channels with 18″ penetration through 2 layers of denim!

          • James

            Underwood puts the lehigh architecture, on steroids, making the cartridge even more lethal, while the cartridge weighs only 65.

        • GBlock

          I read that clothing actually does not hinder penetration with hollow points. The clothing fiber actually fills in the hollow point and helps with penetration. True? I don’t know.

      • Alexis Hope Olson

        I just bought a Ruger.380 for the same reason. My Glock 17 is next to unconcealable.

        • Jim Brown

          I don’t see why you can’t hide a Glock 17 — though I don’t carry a Glock,I do carry a S&W M&P (similar size) in a Alien Gear IWB Holster with wearing a Next size up polo shirt or a unbuttoned “overshirt” with no problems — I work as a Close Protection Agent (Bodyguard) and sometimes “Dress Down” dressing like I said here and the weapon (S&W M&P) “hides” just fine. so if I may suggest (just my professional/personal opinion) try a different holster/shirt combo to cover the “17”

        • David S Ross

          duty pistol, 17 that is. Not really a conceal carry pistol. My brother was issued that as an aviator in the navy. I’m 5′ 5″, carry a glock 19 on and off body. Love it.

      • John Thomas

        Try a Sig Sauer .380 mini 1911 in stainless steel (20.5 Ounces). This gun is all metal; no plastic, nothing cheap about this one. They have other variations of the same gun (18) but they weigh 15 .4 ounces and that does make a significant difference in the recoil. This gun is highly accurate, little recoil and can be quickly brought back on target even for women. I purchased this gun because of a farm accident which took off half of my trigger finger and approximately 1/3 of my net two fingers. I purchased the magazine with the extra round capacity that has a place for your little finger to get a grip. This was all necessary because of my handicap and also I have arthritis in my shooting hand. In the beginning I purchased a single stack Glock 43 9mm. I had it get completely away from me twice. I practiced and practiced holding it with both hands but my concentration affected my accuracy. I rarely placed a shot on target at 7 yards. I was up and down, right and left of the bull’s eye. I even spent over a hundred dollars to put night sights on the Glock 43. No difference. Next I purchased a Glock 42 .380 ; mostly plastic, too light and at least I could shoot fairly accurate, I could not do it with any speed. After much study and thought (common sense) I purchased the Sig Sauer P238 in stainless steel. Best decision I have ever made. I can place my shots (Critical Mass) all 8 of them very quickly !!! I don’t think I need a 9mm. 40 cal or anything larger to stop any intruders. I use the Sig Sauer Hollow Point bullets.

      • Billy Williamson

        Why would you put hollow points in a .380. That makes no logical sense, you already have a round that statistically only borrows to a depth of 9″ and that’s a good hit. Your counsel is wrong on this, if you want penetration, make sure you load at least 95 grain FM. Make sure it is a good manufactured round, because .380 is known to stove, and jam. Good day.

    • ed sanson

      i heard something one night and was sure it was a burglar so i emptied five rounds down the hallway from my smith and wesson 500 magnum turned out to be just the wind but now me and my ol lady are legally deaf and learning sign language so yea go with a 380 or maybe even a crossbow cause bein deaf is no fun

      • Jeff

        Your post had no capitals or punctuation so I’m partially guessing at what you wrote. It seems you’re saying you heard a noise and blindly fired a gun down your hallway at something you couldn’t see? I think you have to be joking..no one would ever do something like that.

        • Lee

          Our Ex-Vice President Joe Bidon during one of Obama’s attempts to disarm ‘We the People’ plainly said, “get a shotgun and fire threw the door”

      • will

        You shot rounds without verifying your target? OMG! You are more dangerous than a Democrat with an idea…
        Please do not move in next to me.

        • Ryan

          Will, you are right in saying that Democrats with ideas are dangerous. I’m a Democrat, and I had a crazy idea 5 years ago to enlist in the Marine Corps as an infantry Machine Gunner. The Taliban would definitely agree with your statement, you little Patriot you… 😉

          • John

            Marines? So you mindlessly killed people in another country , just so Dick Cheney and Haliburton could make billion of dollars? You must be a good little Democrate!

        • Joe

          There is nothing more dangerous than a Democrat with an idea, well, maybe Democrat with more than one idea is more dangerous, that would be about it though.

        • Dr Bob

          Thank you ! He’s either kidding or stupid, I’ll go with kidding. This was a good article. My experience…a BIG bore is good for the first shot, recoil and re-targeting are a huge problem with rapid fire. A well built 380 with “Buffalo Bore” hollow pt ammo will do the trick. Re-targeting during rapid fire is easy, HITTING your target stops your aggressor, although..if your lucky enough to hit your target with a big cal. , all it takes is ONE round. Most street fire fights will show multiple rounds fired with few if any actual hits. THE OBJECT AGAIN IS TO HIT THE TARGET.

      • Ryan

        You sir, have made my life worth living. If there really are firearm owners that are that negligent and moronic, I must be doing just fine in this beautiful world!! Lol I do hope you are joking though…

    • Wendy

      I think you meant a 380 (pistol) – not a 308 (rifle) – very different animal…

    • Tom

      I would actually recommend a security shotgun. Doesn’t have to be a 12 gauge. Could be 18 or 20. The thing is, almost no matter how nervous a person is it is 99.9999999 percent likely they will hit their target and no worries about the slug traveling farther than their intended target.

      To each their own however, after all that’s what makes the world go’round. 🙂

      • Matthew

        What? You’re using shotgun slugs for home defense? Bad idea. If you think a shotgun slug won’t penetrate a wall, you’re not thinking. If you think you’re more accurate with a slug gun over a handgun, you’re also not thinking.

        Buckshot on the other hand, yeah, you’re not likely to miss. You’re also not likely to miss your neighbors house either… after those oo or ooo’s go through your house walls.

        If you’re going to use a shotgun, for Gawds sake, stick to bird shot… #6 or so.

        • Ryan

          You most certainly are thinking if you think a shoulder fired, 18+ inch barreled shotgun is going to be more accurate than a handgun… What the hell makes you think it wouldn’t be?

        • 39er

          Bird shot is for birds! Never use it for home defense.

          I’m thankful to live way out in the country. My nearest neighbor is several miles away…no concern about overpenetration here. 🙂

      • Bryan

        Ive shot deer at 200yds with a 20ga. Slug…it went all the way through. It would go all the way through your house(unless its brick) and into your neighbors. And for home defence, use a (legal) sawed-off with buckshot, not slugs.

      • Gregg

        Remember when using a shotgun that when at in the house distances, like 20 feet, you need to shoot it like a rifle. Shot spread is about 3 inches.. That 40 inch spread you think about is at 40 yards. #6 shot lacks penetration against winter clothing. Better choice is likely to be single O buck or #2’s.

        • Mike

          At inside the house distances that 1oz (437grain) load of #6 is going to penetrate anything but good quality body armor, but even with that a hit in the body will make the perp think about looking for an exit.

    • Mr. Bill Thomas

      I have .380 and 9mm. My “carry gun” is the 9mm simply because I practice a lot and 9mm is cheaper to shoot.
      I feel that both are viable “carry rounds”!

    • Bubg

      I wouldn’t think that giving them a BFR in .308 would be a real good idea? Definitely take care of the threat though…if they can hit him!

  2. Shawn

    I reject the premise over “pain” or controlling recoil,
    it is a training issue. there is video of 9 year old girls shooting 45 Acp faster and more accurately then I have seen many shoot a 9mm, 380 etc etc. how many people can out shoot Robbie latham with him using a 45 and them a 9mm? sure it takes time and effort. but it is what it is. and yeah I would rather shoot some one 5 times in the chest with a 45 then 5 times in the chest with a 9mm in the same amount of time. because it is a training issue that can be mastered with effort. if you want to make the case that its better for people who dont want, or cant put in the effort, then Im listening

    • Dave

      But most non “gun people” don’t have the time, money, or desire to practice that much.

      • Mery

        This is getting a bit more suitecjbve, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of neighbors will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune Social is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

        • Matthew

          Nonsense. I’m a firm believer in training (not just good ol uncle Joe’s school of shooting tin cans offn a hillside). However, I’d never advocate not owning a firearm solely on lack of training.

          There are thousands of documented cases of less than trained individuals who have, through the use of a handgun, warded of an attacker.

          Again, I’m a very strong advocate of training, and can firmly state it’s in the best interest of anyone who wishes to win a gunfight to be well trained.

    • Justin

      Training can mitigate harsher recoil to some extent, but physics is physics.

      The same techniques that make a .40SW “controllable” make the same gun in 9mm even more controllable, and hence faster on target.

      The comparison isn’t between 5 rounds of .45 and 5 rounds of 9mm– that’s too simplistic. How about 8 rounds of 9mm inside 3″ of POA compared to 5 rounds of .45 in a 6 inch group?

      • Eva

        Boonton,Part 1.1 -> I think they do. I’m unclear on where you would put a serail number that couldn’t be removed but could be seen.2 -> All guns so far as I know are fired by the Mfg. Many include a target to demonstrate they are accurate. This objection deals with identifying the gun and shooter? How often is this an issue? Are you solving a problem that doesn’t exist?3 -> The pdf I linked the other day indicated that given the frequency a $1 million policy would cost about $100 per year for gun owners, which means $100k would be $10. The very small elasticity of murder rate to gun ownership indicates to me (if I understand what is meant by elasticity) that legal gun ownership rates are basically irrelevant to gun crime.4 -> Sellers would like getting rid of the waiting period.5 -> What do you do with antiques?Part 21 -> I don’t think this exists? Is this being suggested?2 -> Is this like the Illinois FOID card (an ID card to buy guns or ammunition)?3 -> That would be, uhm, Constitutional which Chicago is discovering. 4 -> Clips is a silliness to annoy the pro-gun lobby (and one part is to call them clips , they are called magazines apparently). Changing a magazine is a matter of about a second, maybe two if you’re unpracticed. Assault weapons are a basically meaningless distinction based on largely cosmetic details attached to a semi-automatic rifle. If the Colorado theater shooter was interested (logically) in inflicting mayhem a bag of semi-auto 12 gauge shotguns would have been more effective. That weapon (semi-auto 12 gauge) is the most common advice for your home defense buyer, btw (for those who buy guns for that reason). Would it have prevented the Newtown shooting? Probably not, I have seen zero (!) suggestions made in the post Newtown shooting period by the anti-gun crowd that would have prevented the shooting. Which is regrettable for the anti-gun crowd. I suspect the insurance policies would not cost very much given that most guns almost never end up in crimes or accidents but those who establish a habit of letting their guns get into wrong places the premiums would become steeper (which they should given they would be by definition less responsible gun owners).$10/year for $100k isn’t too steep.

        • joe

          Do you find it hard to stay on-topic? Rambling a lot lately, are we? And please STOP suggesting added costs for responsible gun owners just to catch a few bad guys.

        • John

          More guns, less crime. Gun safety & correct shooting abilities should be a mandatory class every year from 8th grade & through college along with mandatory gun ownership, except for non-citizens. They should all be deported now! Would be a lot less banks robbed if the robber new every teller was trained and caring a handgun along with all the customers in line.

          • Fred Dahlgren

            I always thought it would be a good idea to issue all airline travelers with a loaded firearm to discourage hijackers. (might also improve the surly disposition of some flight attendants d8o).

          • Fred D

            I always thought it would be a good idea to issue all airline travelers with a loaded firearm to discourage hijackers. (might also improve the surly disposition of some flight attendants d8o).

    • Tom

      I have always loved my CC gun in .45ACP. But, my carpal tunnel syndrome is making the recoil too much to control during rapid fire. I can blow the center out of a target all day at the range. But, I fear that, in a self defense scenario, I would not be able to get enough effective hits on target. Therefore, I have decided to switch to 9mm. I encourage you to read the article again with an open mind. It doesn’t say .380 is always better. But, in some cases it is.

      • Kev

        Using Shawn’s logic, you must train through your carpal tunnel syndrome! Hammer through your injury and ignore the pain, which is simply weakness leaving the body! Embrace the suck! Anything less than a .45 is a training issue!

        Common sense dictates: use what is comfortable and confidence-inspiring for YOU. Don’t be bullied by big-bore pistol packin’, macho men, who have yet to experience the joys of carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.

        • Angel S.

          I don’t think he’s trying to be a jerk about it. I just think he has no reality with it. Most men can’t relate because they can’t imagine how different it really is and haven’t considered the issues fully. Not everyone is built the same. Pain is not an issue for me as I have a high tolerance but the recoil does affect my speed of recovery and even with a respectable amount of training to bring that lag time down it’s still an issue. I would have to train a LOT and often to maintain better control of a .40. With a .380 I have great control, shoot faster and more accurate with not a lot of training.

        • Jim

          Yes, Its not just pain with carpal tunnel and arthritis,its also manual dexterity.
          And the ability to get shot placement.

    • Angel S.

      Well there are other issues too. My 10 year old female neighbor has a much thicker hand and wrist than I do. I also have arthritis issues to deal with and old injuries so that has to be taken into account. Age doesn’t always mean weaker.

    • Randy

      The reality of the situation needs to be considered. Too much recoil and people just aren’t going to train as much with it. Less recoil makes for a more enjoyable shooting experience, and that should encourage people to train more. Make it painful to shoot and train with, and the battle is lost, except for perhaps the hard core, and really, how many of us are that. This is an advantage of the lesser caliber that should not be so quickly dismissed.

    • Frank Tucker

      While Shawn is correct in that training is helpful in developing skills, it is physics, economic considerations and age/physical abilities that also play into the training equation. As an instructor, these are many times thing beyond my control so I see my job as providing knowledge and guidance in the selection and use of a defensive weapon among other tools. Most of my students will leave the class with a better understanding of the physical, emotional and technical demands of an armed confrontation and will then exercise their own prerogative as to the types of and frequency of their training and skills development and sustainment as is their constitutional right. In my opinion, a .380 is the only viable choice for some based on the above considerations. While I regularly carry a .40, I often carry a .380 as backup and as an alternative choice when being discreet is an imperative requirement. I rely on my ability to put many rounds into the threat as we all ultimately do.

  3. Jon

    On the topic of recoil management, even .380 packages can pack a punch. One example is the LCP. I carry it a lot and practice with it frequently because of the recoil issues. Great article good information for those looking at viable calibers pros and cons.

  4. Kendahl

    Three popular ways to make a 9 mm hard to shoot:
    (1) Make the grip so short there is no room for your little finger.
    (2) Make it out of polymer to minimize weight.
    (3) Load it with +P ammunition.
    To give an example, I’d rather have a Kahr K9 or T9 with standard pressure ammunition than a PM9 with +P. If you insist on mouse gun size and weight, I agree you should stick to mouse gun calibers.

    According to Ellifritz’s data, the .380 is comparable in performance to the .38 Special and both fall below the 9 mm. Best of the handgun calibers was .357 which, in my opinion, belongs in a medium or large frame steel weapon.

    • Par6

      Nonsense. Your pinky doesn’t need to be involved at all. J-Frame revolvers and my Glockl 26 are easily controlled with a proper 2 finger grip. I shoot plus-P 9mm out of my light weight, polymer framed, 2 finger gripped handguns just fine. And do would you if you practiced.

  5. Dan

    Great article! A few questions, though. 1) Can you give us more of a hint on the identity of the unmanageable micro 9mm pistol? Is it the LCP? Do give us more of a hint. 2) Is the .380 the lowest that you would recommend? Is the.32 ACP just too weak? How about the .32 sized revolver rounds like the .327 Federal magnum or the .32 H&R? Thanks!

    • David in Oklahoma

      Dan, while I would not carry a .32ACP for self defense I do have some experience with one. I’ve got pretty little entry / exit bullet hole scars in my upper arm that was made by a .32ACP. Thank God it was a solid jacketed bullet, not a hollow point.

      It passed straight through without hitting the bone.. just clipped the upper & lower muscle and caused impact damage to a nerve running down the arm. I never felt the impact. The bullet wound itself never hurt one bit. It was about a hour, before the I felt anything. Then all the pain I ever felt was in the palm of my hand, it was like a hot nail had been shoved through it.

      Even though it took a hour for me to feel any pain from the gun shot, the instant I was hit my thumb, index & middle finger wouldn’t move. They were straight as a board.. couldn’t even twitch them. The nerve wasn’t cut, just pinched-off by the impact blast so the electric impulses from my brain wouldn’t pass through to the fingers. It was 6 months before I could twitch my fingers enough to see movement and a year before I could make a fist.

      That was 30 yrs ago, and to this day I still have some pain in the palm of my hand from the nerve damage in the upper arm.

      Note: According to my neurologist, if the nerve had been cut by the bullet, then my fingers would have closed into a clinched first and would have had to be pried open and I most likely wouldn’t have regained use of the hand.

      I tell you this as a example of why you want to use good penetrating & expanding hollow point bullets for self defense. With a .32ACP round nose and other larger calibers of round nose bullets, many people have reported that they didn’t realize they were shot until later when they had calmed down and their adrenaline wasn’t flowing. The jagged petals of a good JHP will cut nerves, tendons and tissue that cause immediate incapacitation though out the body.

      • Tom Petchel

        I believe Hilter committed suicide with a .32
        One shot and evil was gone. All the bombs/weapons that were thrown at him and a .32 did him in.

        • Steven

          shooting a cannonball truohgh a car lengthwise (including truohgh the engine block and transmission):skip to 1:45 for the muzzle-flashy goodness.Short version: the cannonball literally left a hole that allows the camera to see most of the way truohgh the car. It would be all the way, except it was deflected slightly upward.

    • Carlos

      Got some 9mm and .308 today and the local wallmart was well stkoced, only thing out was .223. . . = (Got 9mm and .380 a week or so ago. . may need more .308. .. and .223 if I can find it next week or so. . .

  6. Grant Cunningham

    Dan –

    The gun in question is the original Kimber Solo, which had perfectly smooth front & rear straps and thin grips. They’ve since learned the error of their ways and have made special editions with checkered straps, which are significantly easier to control – relatively speaking, of course.

    If you take a look at the data (particularly the chart of incapacitation failures that Ellifritz published), you’ll see that there isn’t a lot of difference between the .380 and the 9mm (or .40 or .45, for that matter.) When you drop to the .32ACP and smaller, there is a BIG increase in the failure rate regardless of the number of rounds fired.

    As to the .327 Magnum, there aren’t any reviewed shootings of which I’m aware (and certainly not enough for any sort of statistical conclusion.) They remain an unknown quantity, and may for many years – the guns aren’t all that common.

    • Dan

      Thanks for the info Grant! I’m currently reading your book “Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Handguns” and it’s a great page-turner. Thumbs up!

    • Kadir

      Boonton,I’m not going to defend the NRA.I own 2 .22s (a rifle and a ptosil) and want to get back to shooting regularly. But I haven’t joined or contributed to the NRA. If I was to buy a 3rd gun I don’t know what it would be, I was musing on owning a 9mm ptosil (like say the CZ-75) or a M-1 Garand (if I find a place to shoot outdoors on longer ranges the historical WW-II resonances of the US WW-II standard rifle would be kind of neat).

  7. dleroy

    Great article. I sometimes carry a TCP and have caught Hell more than once from other guys. It is easy to conceal, easy to shoot and with practice, dead accurate. I like my M&P9c very much, it’s just not always the right gun for me to carry. I just wish ammo was cheaper and more available. Keep up the good work.

    • Frank Andrews

      I love my little TCP. After a hand injury years back, that little (TOY) became my primary CCW.

      Easy to conceal, low recoil and quick to bring up to target. The grip is a little short but an extended mag cured that problem. NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

  8. Tom from Roanoke

    I am surprised about the Solo being the answer. I assumed it would the Kel-Tec 9. A friend bought it for his wife, she will hopefully scare them away with the noise. She couldn’t hit a thing, so I tried it. Worst trigger I’d ever pulled, and positively painful in recoil. Plus, it twisted in my hands like the Solo did for Grant. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially someone I love. Hmm, wonder whether she’s insured?

  9. Tom from Roanoke

    Meant to say “I assumed it would be the…”
    Guess I’m not a professional gunwriter like Grant or Average Joe.
    : )

  10. Gary

    I’m a instructor for conceal carry and I stand behind telling people to go with what you can handle and shoot accurately. Power isn’t always the best. If you can’t give me 4 to 5 shots accurately in a 5 inch circle rapidly and be able to control it, you may need to look for a different caliber. Misses don’t count in a self denfence situation, that miss could become a liability, we don’t want that. I carry a 380 at times and I have no problem with carring it. While I’m dropping them on my target, the bigger calbers are fighting the muzzle flip, and seconds count and accuracy.

  11. Larry Mahindra

    Armed self defense class. I with my Makarov .380 everyone else with G****s. I consistently
    had head shot accuracy. After 2 days and 800 rounds I perceived that recoil had diminished
    other class members accuracy. I have fired over 3,000 rounds in 30 years with the makarov
    but realize I need to upgrade to a modern firearm. I will likely stick to .380 in a full size.

    • Ankeet

      Dave, I agree with you on mosin fodder. I have two and a half cans but if my local shop has it for less than $80 I will get aeothnr. Never know when surplus will run out.

  12. David

    It’s all a matter of personal preference when talking about 380 or 9mm, or for that matter 9mm vs. 40 or 45. I carry a 40 on duty because I have to, if I could I’d carry a 9mm. Why? I can shoot a 9mm better than a 40, as well as train more with one due to the ammo being less expensive. 40 is less expensive than 45, even if you reload. When loaded with modern bonded JHP ammo any of them will get the job done. A 9mm is a better performer than a 380, but if it isn’t carried it won’t do you any good. If a 380 is all you’ll carry then by all means carry one, good luck finding ammo for it though because I’ve hardly seen any on the shelves, an when I have seen any it was as high as 40! But then, so was 38 special.

  13. Old Cop

    I normally carry a small .38 b/c after a long LE career that’s what I’m most familiar with. When deep concealment is needed I’ll revert to my Keltec P32.. It’s been totally reliable & I can hit what I’m shooting at, rapid fire. While the .32 is a step down from the .380 the difference is not that significant.

  14. Cory C.

    Funny, I let my dad sell his Browning BDA because my wife couldn’t rack the slide (carpal tunnel). Beautiful shooting little pistol. I bought an LCP because he then gifted me with almost 700 rounds of .380, and I carry that little bugger a lot due to its concealability. When I can hide more, I carry a .38 or .357.

  15. Julie

    I own different 9s and a Bersa Thunder .380. Some I like and are easier to handle than others. If it came down to my PF9 versus the Bersa for ease of shooting it would be the Bersa because of the lack of recoil. Now if I was looking at a more full sized weapon, say the Glock 19 or the S&W 5906, I would take either over the PF9 and I do have the extended mag to allow for the little finger to be used. Granted this is preference, the heavier the gun the less recoil, the type of ammo also affects the recoil. I have been finding some .380 around, granted it is still a bit scarce, but have been stocking up when I find it. Thankfully when I do find it, the price is not too much more than 9mm.

    • joe

      I have the Bersa Thunder Plus, 15 +1 shot 380. Little to no recoil, has a decocker/safety and Sig replaceable sights. I don’t think there is another 380 with this 16 shot capacity.

      • G P

        The Beretta Cheetah Mod. 87 has the same round capacity and in my opinion is a better more reliable gun.

  16. DV

    IMHO the bottom line is this. I carry a S&W BG 380 because of it’s small size. I don’t have to ever THINK about bringing it with me, it’s just always in my jacket pocket. If you have a larger caliber you must plan your wardrobe around it and decide to bring it (or not).

    I figure it’s either going to stop the attack, or it’s just my time to go after 7 rounds of HP. It is what it is, but at least I had a fighting chance (or hope I do).

    I remember seeing a meme that said something like, “Dear Lord, please don’t let my last thought be, ‘I wish I had my gun’ “…

  17. Ed

    I recently had shoulder surgery for a “massive” rotator cuff tear…. Dominate arm of course. Weight is a concern…. So a lighter handgun in .380ACP works better for me at this point in rehab…. Although I’m getting better with a .45 in my left hand, it’s not quite “there”. But even with the .380, it is tough to bring up the rt hand to 90degrees without an assist from the left. A smaller 9mm… Like the sig p250 compact might work but I don’t have one.

  18. Rock

    As a retired Marine, a former cop and a long time shooter and collector of guns I have never owned or fired a .25 or .32. I have a couple of .22s for target plinking and teaching my children/grandchildren/wife to shoot handguns. For my personal carry I have an assortment of guns and calibers and which one I carry usually depends upon the weather, what I wear and where I’m going. My preference is either one of my Colts or Kimber 45s if I can keep them concealed. The smallest I carry is a Sig 238. This is also the weapon my wife carries. Using hollow points placing 2 or 3 rounds in your attackers center of mass will stop anything smaller than a grizzly. Is bigger better? Only if you are comfortable and competent with it. Buy a gun you are comfortable with. practice shooting it until you know how it handles, you no longer flinch when it fires, and you are able to hit what you aim at. (long distance isn’t a requirement) Very seldom will you need to fire at anything beyond 10-20 feet in self defense. weapon. Finally, regardless of what others will tell you about storing weapons, keep in mind an attacker won’t wait till you open your safe, remove the gun lock and load the magazine. An empty pistol makes a lousy club.

    • Scott Phillips


      Your comment about an empty pistol making a lousy club…I almost agree with. The only reason I say “almost” is if you happen to have a Hi-Point (any caliber), with a little practice you could throw it and knock someone unconscious with it! LOL

      I won’t fault my Hi-Point, though! It can take more abuse than anything I’ve ever seen and it worked for me for a few years, until I got a nice new gun for Christmas this year. 🙂

      • Don Willis

        Your mission with self defense is just that, but not everyone has the benefit of a badge to gain the benefit of doubt. I am only interested in winning with my life intact, however the attacker may have friends on the way. An extra mag could be handy. The original attacker must be down. Why leave extra ammo for the gang to use against you? A light weight empty gun as a club against a skull or knee can buy time for the family to escape.

  19. wg

    Major issue for me when going to a nine rather than .380 is that until recently, .380 ammunition failed to expand or lacked adequate penetration.

    Plus I had an original PPK (not the post 1968 GCA PPK/S) in that caliber that was remarkably unpleasant in recoil, jamming when not firing FMJ, and its blood drawing cuts with its slide during firing. Needless to say, I went on to fire nines, .38’s, .45’s, and .357’s and none were as unpleasant to fire as that PPK. Never tried the scandium S&W’s though.

  20. Al

    Everyone tends to want to downplay the .380 as if is nothing, yet I don’t know of anyone that would be willing to take a hit with it to prove otherwise!

    • Justin

      That’s because doing so wouldn’t prove anything, and no one wants to get shot, even with a Daisy BB gun. This “logic” is as fallacious as can be.

    • Jimbo

      Funny., That is what I think every time I read articles about effective vs. non-effective, etc. I hope I never have to find out, but if I need to, regardless of the caliber, I’m confident that it will do the trick.

  21. Steve

    I have the Sig Sauer P238 (.380)and P938(9MM). I prefer the P238 for exactly the reason explained in the article. I put Hogue grips on both and they seem to help a lot. I am a CCW instructor and also tell my students that accuracy is more important than caliber. Two .22’s right between the eyes beats only one hit elsewhere with a .40.

  22. Bruce

    .45ACP, 40S&W, 9mm or .380… Although the two latter choices have their niche in shooting, it is NOT in a “combat” scenario!
    The simple purpose of the last-ditch defensive firearm is to save your life, and its ability to do so is greatly compromised when one is concentrating on putting an entire magazine of bullets into an opponent’s torso and hoping to either hit a vital organ or sever an artery. In either of these hopes, one must stop and reload — AGAIN! This means time lost, while one must continue to deal with possible multiple attackers (is there more than one? Are you SURE?) as well as the assailant he/she is firing at while that assailant is continuing to advance (this is Life. It’s not a TV program, and it’s not a movie — the attack, more often than not, does not stop if the attacker isn’t put down NOW!).
    As a former military veteran who’s had to use sidearms in .38 Spl, 9mm and .45 ACP in the line of duty, I KNOW what works best in order to “put a bad guy down” NOW.
    In a life-and-death situation, there’s only one viable solution: you kill the other person. There’s no compromise, no “Well… Maybe I’ll just wound him/her, and he/she will leave me alone.” You MUST take the opposition out of the equation by IMMEDIATELY stopping an attack! Take out the closest threat, and you have the time to scan for, and deal with, other possible threats.
    I know most — if not all — of you have heard all this before, and I’m just preaching to the choir. I’m simply attempting to emphasize that one uses the tool which works best, without “luck” and/or wishful thinking, and that tool is not in 9mm Parabellum or .380 ACP calibers. There’s a plethora of so-called “miniguns” of all calibers on the market, the vast majority of which are of high qualilty, reliability and workmanship. Find the one that works for you and your particular situation, and practice, practice, PRACTICE!
    Regardless, the debate will rage on. In a defensive situation, which weapon caliber works best? Whichever weapon caliber you have in your hand at the time, because it’s better than nothing at all!
    ‘Nuff said. HOOrah!

    • Bruce G

      I have retired from the Corp. My retirement was awhile back. I carried the 1911 A1 for many years. Only so many Marines are for combat. About 4 years into service I was a Comm Ctr Chief. My 1911 was for last minute “Oh shit their at the tent flaps” weapon. At 10 feet I could point, both hands of course, and hit the target at least a couple of times. The M-16 was available but the minds of my operators was focused on their jobs. I checked operations and classified messages, therefore I could see the threat and think after the startled reaction what was happening. And perhaps not if helping with operations. For civilian trainers who practice 3 times or more a week, they believe they will instantly know what to do. But the threat is immediate without warning. The brain takes more than 5 seconds to think. After the detection of “oh shit” happens you may or may not have that chance of protection. Nice to have that 1911 but mostly for my moral. They have come in to kill me on the spot, guns ready. If you are attacked and your brain is not set to scan every scenario your in deep shit. The attack will probably have a planned attack. Run like hell or anything else you can to get away if possible, but that chance is very lucky if it happens. Then that gun if your adrenaline filled brain thinks can be used. I have the concealed license too. But I cannot spend every waking minute on the range nor money to purchase ammunition. The little 380 is nice for lack of hard recoil. I have a laser sight which I hope will help. But I will probably point and empty my first magazine in a spray. Hopefully one will hit. The 1911 jumped all over the place but I prayed for the best. One thing about the classified Com Center was a complete platoon of combat troops surrounding it. Now they were constantly on alert. It was their job as known to scan every movement anywhere. I and several of my operators were so focused on our job we almost go ourselves shot entering back in for our shift. And dead tired, but thankfully not dead. I know this is not what this concealed weapon forum is for really. But the outcome and reaction are the same. Unless you make yourself a ground pounder to play a part.

    • andrew

      I’m a vet but you must remember the Ammo the military uses is regulated by international law/treaty’s

      the military ammo performs no whee near modern ammo on the market.

      this day an age with gangs jumping people i would rather have my 14 9mm rounds then 5-7 45 rounds

      • Yezi

        This is getting a bit more sbvuectije, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of neighbors will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune Social is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  23. Mark Telep

    Many women can’t pull back the slide of even a 380 due to the lack of hand strength required. I have been recommending 38/357 magnum revolvers. Secondly, the extra light revolvers are harder to shoot/control. I recommend a medium weight revolver like a River SP-101 where the recoil is a little lighter.

    • denise

      I had that problem when I first got my ruger 380 lcp. I could not pull back the slide at all.
      then I found a video that shows a 2 hand technique and now it is no problem at all.

      • ginger

        i used to work my slides over and over untill they seemed easier. But if woken from a sound sleep to a fear of someone in your home, you don’t have time to grab, fumble and slide. I just keep one in the chamber now. Not only do i not have to worry “can i slide it” i also have the piece of mind that i now have an extra shot.

    • H Stan Boring PHC USN Ret

      Beretta makes a couple of .380s with tip up barrels for loading a round in the chamber. This negates the need for racking the slide, if memory serves. They might be .22s instead. Check it out.

  24. Doc

    My first pistol (1991) was a Browning BDA 380 … Now I carry a G22 .40 S&W … I love them both … Greetings from Peru

    • Funda

      I bought a box for my xdm9c for home desfnee, because I was looking for a good +p jhp in addition to the box of hydra shoks i already have. Needless to say I loaded my mag wth them, and had a jam in feeding. After that I had to pull as hard as I could on the slide to eject the round. I took them all out and lined them up next to each other, only to find that it didn’t match the other 18. Reason i say 18 is because I found another. I fed remaining 18 and they fed fine, but what if i hadn’t tried to load until SHTF? I’m sure you can guess the outcome. Haven’t tried to fire one yet, but we’ll see how that goes.

  25. David in Oklahoma

    Having worked at a LEO firing range for several years and heard the results of countless shooting reviews that involved officers & law abiding citizens protecting themselves, there is one bit of advice I hope all of you will heed.

    No matter what caliber of handgun you carry .380-.45, if you ever have to fire your weapon in self defense then fire a [initial] multiple round burst such as a triple tap or more. Don’t fire one shot for effect to see if the bad guy goes down or gives up before you decide to fire any follow-up shot[s]. That little bit of hesitation to fully commit could very well get you killed or seriously wounded.

    There are countless examples of both officers & civilians hesitating after their first initial shot.. mostly out of their fear of actually shooting someone for real [it wasn’t pretend on the range anymore or it was a ‘sweet innocent looking baby faced’ teenager with a gun].. and it allowed the bad guy time enough to get off a shot and wound or kill them.

  26. Gregory Bentschneider

    I bought a Bersa Thunder 380 and I really like it. My main carry gun is an XD sub compact chambered in 9mm which I also like very much! But if I were competing in a rapid firing contest for numerous accurate hits,I would want my little 380!

  27. Matt from GA

    I bought my wife a Ruger LC380, and she loves it so much she won’t carry her M&P9C anymore. The difference in control during fast shots is significant, and it simply fits/carries better for her. I upgraded the gun with WIlliams Fire Sights and a CT Laserguard, and she couldn’t be happier. She can and has shot all the major calibers in a variety of different pistols, but the low recoil and improved accuracy make this her carry gun of choice.

    The day we bought it, we ran into one of the ‘gun store expert’ crowd, who openly insulted my wife’s judgement on choosing the 380, who went on to assure her that “That caliber isn’t even going to slow a bad guy down”.

    She asked him if she could shoot him, just once, to confirm that. When he realized she was *serious* he hastily declined. When she asked him “Why not? If you’re right it won’t even slow you down, and if you’re wrong, you’re asking me to bet my life on your advice.” That was the end of the discussion (and advice) between the gentleman and my lady.

    The gun you are confident with, that you train with, and that you carry daily is the right gun – regardless of caliber.

    (p.s. Guess who inherited her ‘old’ 9C, and now has a matched set?)

    • Eric

      I lived in South Dakota for 14 years and passed by bfulafo on the way to town nearly every day. Hunting them with a modern center fire rifle on foot is mostly only a challenge if they calving or if you are hunting during the often brutal winters. Truthfully the bfulafo is a very large animal and they can be very aggressive if given the opportunity. But they are not that hard to put down because you can generally have very precise shot placement. I’ve seen dozens go down with a single shot from a .243. That would not be my choice but it works. A 30-06 is plenty enough rifle for bison. Select the right bullet, a controlled expansion round that will penetrate deep and pick your shots. Shot placement is more important that caliber. I’d much rather see you shoot a smaller caliber that you can shoot well rather than a larger caliber you don’t shoot so well.Today’s high tech hunting ammo will easily get the job done if you do your part. Distances are normally short and shots are normally not rushed. Oddly while on a 4 wheeler or a tractor bfulafo will ignore you unless you get within spitting distance, but on foot they seem to have a very different attitude about humans and it is not all that pleasant. Yet I fully believe that the 30-06 will get the job done.Good luck.

  28. Joel

    Very nice article, Mr Cunningham.

    I would add a tidbit. No one seems to deny that 00 Buckshot is a strong defensive round. 00 Buck is a collection of 33 caliber lead balls traveling at about 1200 fps (dependent upon brand, barrel length, etc). That’s not worlds apart from 6 or 7 380 FMJ bullets traveling at 1000 fps.

    • Yomna

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  29. Cy

    I love .380. For whatever reason my best point-shooting is with a Walther ppk/pp, even with the heavy DA trigger, though past 25 feet accuracy drops off severely. I’ve never felt undergunned with a .380, because I instinctively get it to aim faster than the bigger calibers.

    That being said, I still prefer 9mm as my go to defensive round, and the majority of my collection are 9mm.

    I own two Beretta 84’s (one engraved safe queen, and a chromed carry piece), which are the current version of the Browning BDA. It is a ridiculously under-appreciated firearm. 13 rounds, light, easy pointing, compact, and minimal recoil. Beretta even made a single stack version with a tip up barrel, eliminating the need to rack the slide.

    Sadly Beretta just dropped the gun, so I will be looking for more to add to my collection.

  30. George

    I have a Tomcat 32 auto and a Sig 250 full size in 45. Which kicks more – the Tomcat. It is a small gun to try to get a grip on and has a goody kick. The 45 is easier to me because it is a lot beefier and built for the kick. I carry both on desperate occasions depending on the clothing I am wearing. Or the Tomcat is in an ankle holster. My EDC is a 250 compact in Sig357. How do I exercise and prepare for the recoil? I practice drawing and holding my arm out with a 5 pound dumbbell. In a small gun you don’t want a lot of kick. In a larger gun small calibers are under kill to me.

  31. Pete

    My wife & I both have Sig P238’s. It’s an accurate, very easy to conceal pistol that’s incredibly reliable, unless you’re one of those guys who never cleans their weapons!

  32. Joe

    I think the new Glock G42 will bring some excitement to the .380 group. I personally use a G19 9mm and prefer 9mm. Yet the small size of the G42 and other .380 make it easier to conceal when you are stuck wearing certain business cloths and have to tuck a dress shirt. Also a nice ankle piece. The only good carry is one you’ll carry all the time.

  33. Steve

    One thing not mentioned here is penetration. A 9mm at close range will completely pass through your attacker. A.380 on the other hand is more likely to stop inside and produce the shock wave that will bring down an assailant.

  34. Jim

    I Like the 380 and have for some time. I teach a lot of older folks and women and kids and the 380 suits them well, heck I carry one myself as a backup. I figure if it was good for Bond it’s alright for me.

  35. Chefjon

    I don’t own and won’t own a .380. There are *precisely ZERO* FBI/IWBA approved loads for it. If our professionals can’t count on it, I won’t.

    When I had a need for a pocket-gun, I chose the LCR in .38+P.

    Arguments that .380 and .38 are comparable in performance are based on incorrect data, imo. There are .38 loads that pass FBI protocols, but they are few. It is my assertion that those “approved” loads offer a quantum leap over *any* .380. Even super-heavy, lower recoil wad-cutters rate higher than .380.

    I recommend reading anything by DocGKR over at pistol-forum.com I don’t know any better SME on the topic of terminal ballistics.

    All of this said, if you have physical limitations, carry the most powerful round you can shoot. If *all you can shoot* is a .380, go for it.

    I think the “micro’s” like the LCP, TCP, etc.,have as much or more recoil than a slightly larger 9mm like the Shield, Nano, PF9 (if it wasn’t junk).

    I think that trying to validate the .380 is a bad choice. Some of the ignorance I’ve seen in previous comments proves that.

    Whatever. Best of luck to all, may none of us ever have to find out what the terminal ballistics of our carry-loads are.

  36. Ralph

    I’ve carried for 30 years- I always loved my 1911 .45 cal. but it is extremely bulky to carry concealed and in this day- you can advertise you have a conceal-just too many problems. I spent a lot of time in the Army with the 1911 and later the M9 Beretta (Which I also have now as a primary) But I listened to all the pros and cons -the caliber issues, the multiple hits issues, the control issues, and the type of ammunition issues- I settled on a S&W .380 with a hollow point round- there is a point to were bigger is just ‘bigger’- I liken it to a baseball player and his selection of bats- know your weapon, use good skills, practice, and stay calm- There won’t be too many 800 lb. gorillas attacking you.

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    • Juzt

      This year they should bupemd it up to November 7th. Cher went early yesterday, before work, and cleaned out 2 different walmarts of all their .22lr. That concerns me the most, because I can reload damn near anything else and have been stockpiling reloading supplies for some time now.

  38. Don

    I keep a 9 mm on my nightstand and a 38 in my vehicle along with pepper spray for a non-lethal option. My Baretta 9 mm is too large for a carryt pistol so I use my SW 38 as my carry weapon.

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    • Lucci

      1. All guns must have a serial numebr, and a copy of the # must be embedded inside the metal of the gun too so scratching it off won’t make it impossible to identify the gun.2. Handguns must be test fired once by the manufacturer and the bullet stored to create a database of ballistics profiles.3. Guns must be purchased with a $10,000 insurance policy that will be paid to any unjustified victim of the gun. Should the policy have to be paid out (say your kid takes the gun and injurs the neighbors kids), the owner either has to trash the gun or buy a new policy for $100,000 of coverage.4. Gun sales and transfers will go thru dealers via instant background checks. The insurance policy goes with the gun so if you sell your gun on the black market and five years later it turns up in a crime you’re on the hook for illegal sales and have to buy the $100,000 policy on future gun purchases.5. Guns without serial numebrs, untracked guns etc. would be a serious crime.On the other side:1. No gun databases. The firearm dealer checks the background and provides proof of transfer of the gun but the information will not be saved so you cannot create a database of who has what guns in their homes. You can only prove that the guns found inside a home are legal or illegal. Sort of like how cigarettes or booze has a tax stamp. That proves it was purchased legally but the gov’t doesn’t know you’re buying a little or a lot of the stuff.2. Background pre-clearing’. Register who you are and get a #, unless you get convicted of a violent crime or something like that you can use that # for quick clearing of your purchases or transfers at a reduced or no cost.3. Anti-gun laws voided cross the country. States can decide about concealed carry but cannot make it illegal to have guns in your house provided you followed 1-5 above.4. Assalt weapons, mega-clips etc. can be legalized provided one carries the $100,000 coverage on them.Would it have prevented the Newtown shooting? Probably not, the mother was quite well off and could have easily afforded the insurance and neither her nor the kid had any history that would have caused them to fail a background check. But it would almost certainly frustrate some rampage killings and limit a lot of more mundance gun crime an accidents. I suspect the insurance policies would not cost very much given that most guns almost never end up in crimes or accidents but those who establish a habit of letting their guns get into wrong places the premiums would become steeper (which they should given they would be by definition less responsible gun owners).I don’t get volokh’s concern about costs to lower income gun owners. Look, a gun is a material thing, material things cost money. The nature of money is that the more of it you have, the easier it is to get more material things. Guns aren’t cheap, even the lowest end oens cost a few hundred dollars. If you can’t afford that then you can’t afford a gun. Get a better job or cut back on other spending.

  41. Paul

    For many of us, concealed means invisible under dress clothing. I cannot conceal my SR9C under a jacket without a huge bulge, except for small of back carry, which is not too practical. Hence, TCP .380 with Fiocchi XTP’s in pocket holster. Absolutely invisible. Is SR9C better and more comfortable at a range? Of course. I don’t understand the “women can’t handle the recoil of small.380’s or rack the slide”. I am male but have smaller hands. The TCP is easy to rack, trigger and accuracy are decent, and the recoil, while a bit snappy, is easy to control. Same with S&W BG .380 that I tried as a rental . I have tried and like S&W Shield 9 but even it is too large for me to make invisible in dress clothing.

    • Claudio

      This year they should beupmd it up to November 7th. Cher went early yesterday, before work, and cleaned out 2 different walmarts of all their .22lr. That concerns me the most, because I can reload damn near anything else and have been stockpiling reloading supplies for some time now.

  42. Erick

    Simply Trash . A man in drugs effect ?? whit 180kg. ?? is not defensive option . Minimum 9mm JHP ,Corbon , Hornady a real defensive option.See actually FBI caliber.

  43. Richard

    I carry a 9mm as well as .380 depending on the season. In the winter months I carry my 9mm, S&W 3913 and in the summer I carry my Bersa Thunder .380. As a retired LEO for over 25 years I can tell you for a fact that no one wants to be shot, regardless of caliber. I feel confident carrying my 9mm as well as my .380, and confidence is half the battle.

  44. Sgt Bodeau

    Simple!, if you cannot put down an attacker with a 380 acp. You may have no business carrying a firearm. Steady arm three shots at drop. Chest-lower throat-face.
    Trained as I am.. Anyone can learn better control and instinctual aim better with a 380.
    9mm is a round that goes thru-thru. Not a very nice round for people behind your attacker.
    380 HP. Spreads enters and destructs. Period
    Especially since 90+% if self defense situations take place within under a meager 16′.. No-one is aiming out a window and down the street.. Pull/shoot. 1-2-3. Still moving? Repeat. Almost any intruders will flee once they hear a round chambered or hear a warning shot hit a nearby base board..
    If your shooting while being attacked. Your at nearly point blank range.

    • GP

      I agree totally with what you said except for one thing…NEVER fire a warning shot, and always shoot to kill. After a gun fight there should only be one statement taken..YOURS ! As taught by the MO. Highway Patrol Academy.

  45. harleyvan

    Recently gave up the 9mm for the .380 so very much easier to deliver shots on target and greatly improved accuracy and confidence… what is the difference in a 9 mm to the head and a .380 …nothing…he’s just as dead…one way or he other… I am confident in delivering shots to ,make a difference with myBersa vs as i evetever was shooting the Block….Man or woman putting shots where and when is the object of the exercise…gimme my Bersa and end of story except for the local headlines

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    I bouht a .380 a few years bac because carrying my 9mm Ruger or the mini glock .40 cal was difficult at best. If I can drop 7 rounds on target ove 2 or 3 then great. I have probably stopped or slowed my attacker enough so I can get away. The 380 was to be a back up, but carrying 2 firearms was a pain. I am 70 and the 380 works nice for me. I can get one round in an 8 inch paper plate from 5yds to 20 yds.

  49. Joe the American

    Due to 9mm and 380 guns being the same size, I’d pick the 9mm anyday. It’s more powerful, hands down. If recoil is a concern, shoot standard pressure 9mm JHP and NOT +P or +P+. Everybody I know and have trained have been able to handle 9mm standard pressure, even seniors with arthritis. Also, you can try some light rounds, like Hornady Critical Defense, etc, something with low muzzle flash, light recoil.

  50. Eric Ramos

    I would really like you to do some ballistics tests to support what you’re saying. I’ve seen some with .22 magnum hollow points that would make your toes curl. People need to get INTO THEIR HEADS that they’re not carrying bb guns but small mortars with better control. You carry the firearm you can CONTROL, SAFELY.

  51. Larry Hoover

    My rule of thumb….carry what you can handle and control… with a degree of accuracy. The rest will take care of itself.

  52. Randy

    If you are carrying concealed the weight and size of the gun are as important as the caliber it shoots. I live in Florida and bottom line for most days you have to carry “light”. I cannot be uncomfortable. I would “rather” carry a 9mm but after testing several compacts I have determined that I am not as accurate with most of them due to managing the recoil. And for those of you who would immediately say this is a “training” issue then you must know I do shoot as often as I can and still the compact 9mm is not as reliable as the 380 under the stress of multiple quick rounds. Now I have become a Glock fan and currently carry a 42 Gen4 6 Mag plus two 9 Mags as back-up . This is a 380 auto which is held in an IWB Alien Gear Cloak n Tuck holster (highly recommended). I recently had the opportunity to shoot the 9mm G26 and found managing the recoil to be much better than other compact 9mm plus the double stack mag holds 10 with option of 15/17/33 as extra. I always end up coming back to the same issue. While the 26 is the same height is only a fraction of an inch longer and wider, it weighs quite a bit more 26.1 oz loaded vs. 17.2 for the loaded 42.

    So I am in a bit of a quandary as my desire to carry 9mm is there but I know for sure that if I had to draw and fire today with the G42 380, I would put 6 rapid rounds within a 10 inch spread at 10 yards and be loaded with my next 9 in second.

    So I have to say that “carry” comfort level and accuracy brings me back to the G42 380 each time. I intend to get an IWB Alien Gear Holster for the G26 and make that purchase next and see “if” my comfort level can move up to the next level.

  53. Mark Fitton

    As several have said, the one in your hand is the one that matters. If someone will carry a .380 everyday who’d leave their 9mm or 40 at home, then .380 it is.
    Personally, I have an LCP in .380, Shield in 9 and LCR in .38/.357. As I practice with micros, compacts and snubs regularly at the range, I feel no disadvantage in my average civilian life carrying any one of the three.

  54. NoMObama

    I’ve carried for 33 years. I’ve had to “use” my gun on 4 occasions against humans and twice against animals. Situational awareness is more important than ballistics in a threatening situation. In all my confrontations I managed to understand the situation and get the drop on the threat and effectively stopped them at that point. Stay calm, stay focused, and shoot if you must. I stay calm and focused during life and death situations, and I’ve been in a few. I wait until after the event passes to almost have a heart attack and shake like a leaf, and I do.

    At the very least I carry a Glock 26 with a Pierce magazine extender to ensure all my fingers can grip the gun. It fits nicely in my front pocket with a Galco PH286 front pocket holster and a Crimson Trace laser sight on it. Even my son could shoot this gun effectively with +P ammo when he was ten years old. I recommend using hollow point ammunition to minimize the chance of the bullet passing through your target and hitting another, which can easily happen with a 9mm.

    There is a lot to be said for raw, pure stopping power. This is why at home I choose to use a shotgun and .45 ACP handguns for protection. I’d rather get one .45 ACP round to the body of an attacker than a handful of .380, or even 9mm. That’s just me. I also have an excellent security system at home with cameras everywhere and a few monitors in areas that I spend most of my time. Again, awareness and avoiding a bad situation is your first line of defense.

  55. Daniel

    Everyone has a favorite weapon so the diatribe will go on forever about which is best. Here is the real skivvy. Know your weapon. Coolness and marksmanship is what counts. One shot, on target, with the .45 ACP leaves no concerns about stopping power, recoil or magazine capacity

    • joe

      Which is why you need a bersa 380 15+1 shot weapon…because even cops often miss with quite a few shots. Since it all happens so quickly, often with little time to place that first shot, so that means “follow-up shots” will be required. When this happens (more than one shot required) you want a gun with minimal recoil and a lot of bullets. Enter the Bersa Thunder Plus, 15+1 shot 380.

    • William

      “At the core of his desperate firefight was a murderous attacker who simply would not go down, even though he was shot 14 times with .45-cal. ammunition — six of those hits in supposedly fatal locations.”

      “In this free-for-all, the assailant had, in fact, been struck 14 times. Any one of six of these wounds — in the heart, right lung, left lung, liver, diaphragm, and right kidney — could have produced fatal consequences…“in time,” Gramins emphasizes.”

      “When the suspect bent down to peer under the car, Gramins carefully established a sight picture, and squeezed off three controlled bursts in rapid succession.
      Each round slammed into the suspect’s head — one through each side of his mouth and one through the top of his skull into his brain. At long last the would-be cop killer crumpled to the pavement.”


  56. Adam

    My gf is recoil sensitive. She likes to shoot the bigger stuff but after a few rounds thru a m&p40 (my edc) or sp101 her hands are done. On the flipside she will go thru every bit of 380 with her Bersa thunder 380+ (15+1). Very light recoil, accurate, good capacity, and it feeds hornady custom with boring monotony; that is why she prefers that as her ccw/bedside.

  57. JJ

    Nice article! I strongly agree… choose the model/caliber that allows you to put several rounds on target in the fastest time… I will add, also put VERY HIGH on the list which pistol is the best in ‘Point Shooting” (vs. Aimed fire). A BG taking 3 rounds into the face or center of the heart/liver.aorta area is going down, but in an encounter… will you have the time to line up those nice sights, or will you just pull and start blasting (albeit in a controlled manner)? probably the latter. My favorite CCW is the .380 Beretta 84fs, awesome natural point shooter… super ergos for me… followed by my Kahr PM9 Black Diamond. I alternate loads in both, Magsafe or Glaser and a good traditional JHP, Gold Dot, HST or PDX1. I would like to find some +P+ .380 loads… probably will have to special order from a local hand loading company…

  58. Sandy

    Well, to bring the diatribe into the new year I’ll add this my two cents. I’ve had .380, 9mm, .38 and .357 handguns by a variety of makers. Recoil is important in determining accuracy. My Diamondback .380 was VERY small and light, with snappy recoil, and even less accurate than my Beretta Nano 9mm. What I think our esteemed author is saying is that it doesn’t matter what caliber it is, so long as the shooter is able to make it perform the required task. Obviously .500 S&W is better than .454 Casull is better than .357 Magnum is better than 9mm is better than .380 (9mm kurz). But it’s only better if you can hit with it. To do the reductio ad absurdem

  59. Sandy

    Well, to bring the diatribe into the new year I’ll add this my two cents. I’ve had .380, 9mm, .38 and .357 handguns by a variety of makers. Recoil is important in determining accuracy, but caliber doesn’t determine recoil or comfort. My Diamondback .380 was VERY small and light, with snappy recoil, and even less accurate than my larger (but still small) Beretta Nano 9mm. What I think our esteemed author is saying is that it doesn’t matter what caliber it is, so long as the shooter is able to make it perform the required task. Obviously .500 S&W is better than .454 Casull is better than .357 Magnum is better than 9mm is better than .380 (9mm kurz) for one shot stops. But it’s only better if you can hit with it. To do the reductio ad absurdem; would you rather be missed a tank or hit by a BB?
    I will disagree a bit with our author though. At IMMEDIATE defensive ranges it’s unlikely that accuracy will be a very big issue. If somebody is more than 25 feet away and doesn’t have a gun out while you do, make sure they can see it and leave the area carefully. If they do have a gun out and you don’t, run to cover. If you both do, it’s a whole new world of s**t and not very common at all. That’s when you run and shoot to cover your retreat. None of those require accuracy, just the threat of injury/death.
    If it’s less than 25 feet and you have a gun while they don’t, shoot NOW because they can be on you very soon. If they have a gun and you don’t, give them whatever it is they want, unless it’s your life. If it is, then run AT them, scream, and try to control the gun’s muzzle. If it’s less than than 25 feet and you both have guns out fire three rounds fast, move, scan the area, assess the threat and regroup, then look for a chance to get away.
    Mind you this is all general advice, so taylor it to your needs. Remember though, in any type of defensive situation with typical people who don’t practice much it will be decision making, not accuracy that brings you through safely. Certainly if you’re in a hot, dusty country looking for people whose sworn objective is to do harm to you and everyone you know you may want to get a larger caliber and more practice time. If you’re a single woman going to an Oakland bodega at 1130 on a Saturday night for a gallon of milk you shouldn’t be thinking “should I take the .380 or the 9mm?”, you should be thinking “how badly do I need the milk?”. No matter what caliber you use, make decisions so you’re never in the type of situation where it’s necessary.

  60. IYomps

    Kahr CW380 loaded with Liberty Self Defense. 50 grain 1500 fps muzzle velocity. In my pocket in a wallet holster. 7 shots in 3 seconds – 6 inch grouping from 15 feet. Concealed carry at it’s best and easiest.

  61. Doug

    Being a Homicide Detective in Washington, D.C. for ten years and seeing many murders and witnessing hundreds of GSW autopsies conducted, I would still recommend the minimum self-defense caliber as 9mm.

    You can shoot lightweight and standard velocity ammo or shoot heavier weight +p+ ammo.

    Also 9mm is a lot easier to find and it cost less than .380 ACP.

  62. Joe

    I am 80 years old and carry a Ruger SR1911.
    I have no trouble concealing it under a
    vest, or loose shirt in the summer. I can
    destroy a 6″ target in 7 rounds. My wife carries an LC380. I would not want to be in front of her when she is shooting, She is
    78! However, I do keep an LC9s in my back pocket.

  63. Rick

    This article seems reasonable to me! I am 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds. I have a Colt 1911 LW Commander in .45 ACP that when I was a bit younger I loved to shoot all day. Then a few years ago I got a Sig 2022 in 9 mm and it is a joy to shoot — on day 1 I was more accurate with it than I was ever with the 1911. At the range the old 1911 barely makes it out of my bag these days. I am considering a compact Sig P290RS, and while I am leaning toward 9mm, I think I should shoot it in 380 also just to see the difference with that little handle.

  64. Bagpipe mike

    Good comments all. Here’s another two cents. With FBI stats consistently saying most attacks occurring less then 7 yards, any firearm shot well & quickly would suffice. I carry one of two for CC. 380 or 45 depending on attire. Either gun can be drawn,pointed & fired confidently. I have faith that a good hit with a 380 is better then a miss with a larger round. Marksmanship is paramount! Peace

  65. Dave

    I live in Florida, where it’s difficult to conceal anything more than a pen when your daily wear is a tank top and shorts. The LCP .380 I carry is almost impossible to detect, and with the correct personal defense ammo, I feel secure. Any gun is in fact a last resort to save your life or the life of your family, and my .380 will deal quite well against the one or maybe two attackers we may encounter. When I’m at home though, and concealment isn’t an issue, I follow the rule of “the bigger the better”. 380 is then not even a consideration.

  66. Bill Schmidt

    Ammo choice for your .380 is far more important. It’s one of the few guns where I’d feel BETTER carrying a FMJ than most hollowpoints. I say MOST hollowpoints. A few stand out, but most suffer from shallow penetration in a .380. A good (and easy to find) choice for a hollowpoint round in the .380 is the Federal Hydro-shock. Another good one is the Hornady XTP. Even if these rounds fail to expand, they tend to stay within the magic 12 to 16 inch range.

  67. Kirk Sandall

    In the Coast Guard, I carried the M9 Beretta 92FS. Loved the DA/SA design, safety/decocker and magazine release but didn’t love the weight, size of grip, nor the recoil.

    Never felt a need to own a handgun after I got out until a few years ago. Went to my cousin’s gun shop fully intending on buying the Beretta Px4 Storm, primarily because of the size and Beretta’s safety/decocker. Picked it up and immediately hated it (I hate those top heavy, polymer grip handguns).

    Looked at a few more compact 9s and didn’t like any of them. So, I started looking at 380s. Hated every single one of them. I thought I’d be going home empty handed until my cousin went over and pulled the most expensive one off the shelf (we were actually in the warehouse portion of the shop). It was a Sig Sauer P232 (.380 ACP) with the rubber grip. As soon as I picked it up I fell in love with it. Beautiful balance, the grip was a perfect fit, and at nearly half the weight of the M9.

    I have to admit I’m not fond of the magazine release nor the lack of traditional safety, but the DA trigger pull is easier and feels smoother than the M9’s and the SA pull is just perfect (4.5 lbs). Took it to the range and after two mags, put 13 rounds in the 9 ring of a silhouette target and over half of those in the 10 ring… at 7 yards! I NEVER had that kind of accuracy with the M9.

  68. Socrates

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned is the fact that a lot of 380s are blowback action as opposed to locked breech which allows for a greater degree of accuracy in my opinion.. I live in Seattle which is not a very gun friendly place, and I carry concealed. My daily carry is a Bersa Thunder .380, which I carry all day with no problems – I am a carpenter so a bulky piece is out of the question. I also can’t risk a customer freaking out when they see a weapon. The only problem I have with .380 is the high cost of ammo as opposed to 9mm.

    Reasons I carry a .380 –

    Within about 30 feet my shots are spot on, which covers the vast majority of self-defense scenarios.

    I can easily handle and fire it just as easily with one hand as with both.

    Reasonably small and lightweight while not compromising marksmanship.

    Plus, living in the city, the last thing I want to do is have a stray bullet fly through a wall and hit somebody. Less of a chance of this with a .380 in my opinion.

  69. charlie partsch

    I agree 100%. Trying to persuade someone to change from what they do well into what you think they should do is a bad deal for both. The best gun for any individual is the one that THEY shoot accurately , effectively and with confidence.

  70. Art Norton

    I own quite a few weapons. I carry, every where, every day, a Beretta 84; 13+1 with a 3.9″ barrel and a spare 13 round mag. Corbon 90gr JHP Self Defense ammo. If I can’t solve my problem with this, I’ve underestimated my problem.

  71. Lawless Broussard jr

    Try useing RBCD 380 rounds and the stoping power is unreal. I carry a 380 9 mm and a plr223 and shoot Rbcd rounds in all of them

  72. Mike

    I hate when people say “that’s nor enough gun”. Its a gun! Small women have fought off rapists with just their hands and feet. You are miles ahead of your attacker when you carry a gun, any gun! More people are killed by the .22LR every year than any other caliber. Yes, that’s because its so popular, but the fact is the .22 is a deadly round and here were talking about .380 which is significantly more powerful.

    I was once shot with a pellet gun. It hurt like hell. The pain and pure shock of being shot was more than enough to make me change my priorities to myself and that was with a pellet gun. Taking multiple shots from firearm to the chest, intense pain, lungs filling with blood causing the sensation of drowning, ears ringing, eyes stained with the after-image of the gun shot, intense pain every time you inhale, thinking you are going to die….those are the things that are going to stop 99.999% of attackers. A bigger bullet will be the determining factor in that one in a million situation, but in reality its just not that important of a point to consider when carrying a gun for self defence.

  73. RG

    Interesting and well thought out article. I picked up a Bersa 380 a year ago and never thought too much about its stopping power. I figured it was enough to get the job done, but little did I realize how effective it is with it’s low recoil and perfect (for me) ergonomics. I’ve had fun many times at the range, putting tight groups together at 25 feet in just a few seconds.

    So the point is well made. Less recoil, more rounds on target. Common sense.

    • Bert Thomas


      • joe

        I think the bersa Thunder Plus that I own is the highest (or one of the highest) capacity 380’s. The clip holds 15 and 1 in the chamber makes 16 total….

  74. BC Parker

    The most important thing when carrying a .380 pistol is the ammo you shoot in it. The older hollow points and ball ammo have very poor stopping power. Now .380 ammo is available that meets or exceeds the FBI’S standard for law enforcement carry in penetration and wound track damage. FBI standards for penetration is not less than 12″ not greater than 18″. Good Shooting to all.

  75. Tim

    I think all of this talk about which caliber is better is absurd. My response is “What is the smallest dog you would like to get bitten buy?” Heck, even the more lowly .32 acp was carried by European police and U.S. military officers as a back up weapon for years. This author is absolutely correct. What round you can accurately get on target, and how quickly you can do so, is much more important that carrying the biggest handgun you can. I have a friend who is an NRA handgun instructor. He recently attended a tactical shooting event in South Carolina. He was the only civilian, and the rest of the participants were all LEO’s. He informed me that at the end of the class, the average on target hit rate for the .40 and .45 calibers was 26% and 24% respectively. Those are LEO’s, who likely get to the range much more often than the typical civilian. Those compact and sub-compact 40’s and 45’s for CCW are just a handful of recoil, and carrying a full size version of those handguns to better mitigate recoil just isn’t that realistic.

  76. bruce

    Just bought 3 S&W Bodyguard 380’s for my sons (31 and 34) and of course one for myself. They never shot pistols, only shotgun (12ga skeey) and .243 (deer). I shot 25 years ago, some 22,22 mag, 38 spl, and 357 but its been a long time. Guns are combo birthday and Christmas presents. I have arranged private lessons for all of us with a retired game warden now firearms instructor. At the right we will do conceal carry class together. Think it will be lots of fun and hope I have selected the right handgun. Hopefully this will ignite a love of shooting in them and they can move on to other interesting choices from here. I almost went with .45 in a small Colt because I love the 357 but then I remembered my first was a Browning Challenger II and that little 22 was the best gun ever and I kick myself daily for tradeing it. Again, I think the S&W 380 will be a great first gun.

  77. Walt Barr

    Not once did I see the word accuracy in your discussion. When does one accurately placed big cal. round take second to two or three “mouse gun” rounds?

    • cst

      Just so we are understanding each other. When talking about defensive shooting “accuracy” is a YES or NO proposition. Meaning, did you hit what you intended/needed to hit, yes or no? Combat Accuracy (or Defensive Accuracy) is any round that significantly affects the bad guy/target’s ability to pose a lethal threat. Our goal in a defensive situation is to get as many Combat Accurate hits on the threat as quickly as possible to end the lethal situation.

      I will assume you’re asking “When does one combat accurate hit from a big caliber round (assuming 9mm, 40S&W, 45acp) take second to two or three .380 rounds?” In the context of the article, it always takes second if the person shooting is unable to shoot the bigger caliber gun and get multiple round strings of combat accurate hits on the threat (or target) but can achieve this with a “mouse gun”. This was stated in the article as “being able to deliver all 13 rounds on target in a very short time frame (which she could do) was a significant advantage over delivering only a few 9mm rounds.”

    • joe

      When in the heat of battle, the bigger cal misses the target on the first shot and then the alignment/set-up for the follow-up shot is blown to hell by the greater recoil of said larger gun…..that’s when…

    • cst

      The two that are of the modern striker fired type are the Glock 42 and the M&P Shield (without the thumb or magazine safety).

    • G P

      In my opinion the two best are Sig Sauer P238 and Beretta Mod. 87 Cheetah. More expensive but how much value do you put on your life or that of a family member ?

  78. Michael Rutherford

    I have carried a Remington Rand 1911 .45 for years, I mean years. I now carry a LCP .380 ACP. I feel the same way this author does about it. More rounds accurately/quickly means lethal protection. I love my little pocket pistol, and my back loves too. That thing was a beast, nice weapon, but a beast.

  79. William

    wow, very fair article.
    I vary twO Taurus TCP 380s daily.
    I carried a 357 magnum for 6 years but wanted a smaller semiauto instead.
    after lots of research I realized the 380 is plenty for a carry weapon.

  80. william

    The article you quoted said the rounds don’t matter and yet you quoted it, my guess is the lead you have inhaled at the range have rendered you retarted. Lead does cause mental impairment and you should probably get checked.Great fact dude.

  81. Craig Bathurst

    I know of a woman who tried shooting a 9mm, but couldn’t handle the recoil and she bought a 22 cal revolver. I told her of my concerns that in an home invasion, Empting her revolver probably will not stop the invader. You better have a second revolver and use that. You will not have the time to reload your revolver. You would be better off getting a 22 cal pistol and a bunch of mags and train in reloading it. I would recommend that she does exercises to strengthen her hands so she can work up to a 9mm pistol.
    My wife just got certified to shoot at the gun range. My 9mm has too much recoil for her handle and to rack the slide. Someone let here use a 22 cal. firearm and she passed her test. I’ll have to take her to the gun shop with a range and rent a .380 to see, if she can handle the recoil. If so, she will own a .380 pistol in the near future. I guess the answer to the question is can one handle the recoil of a certain caliber and fire multiple rounds and stay on target and keep control of the firearm.

  82. Master Kong

    Bottom line is that the best gun is the one you carry. I have 2 380s, 9mm, 40 and a stainless 1911 45 acp. Guess which one fits in my pocket and goes everywhere with me. The SW 380 M&P Bodyguard. Its got a heavy trigger also. Don’t want a touchy trigger in your pants. The 45 1911 probably has the least recoil out of all my guns but it is heavy.

  83. david yardley

    My sig 938 in 9mm recoils less and is more accurate tha my smith and wesson bodyguard 380. Taking into account barrel lengths and actual velocities, various 380 loads only produce muzzle energy of 125 to 170ftlb, while the 9mm 938 produces 240 to 360 ftlb. Size is almost identical. The slide and spring design appear to affect recoil and shootability greatly.

  84. JR. Pina

    I’V shot 22 Mag. Has about same punch power as 380 an compare to a 9mm.,almost same pop an recoil, it depend on the ball-ammo, Yet the light hollow point has less recoil too, I love my 9 as a tactical weapon. 15 rounds gives me more tactical defense. More to work with, we need the extra ammo. That’s all, I don’t do well with 10 rounds I want backup I want that extra edge. I know there are revolvers they have 4 to 6 in. Barrels means more accuracy; can’t with 2 an 3 in. Barrels! That’s like shooting almost 1 mile at a target w/a knaked eye. an no scope.

  85. Brian K

    Good article! I agree that a .380 is a good round for smaller pistols that may need a lighter round for more controllability. Especially for people who may need something easier to handle for their use cases.

  86. Jake Martin

    Shot placement is 100% of self defense. A 22 cal to the brain is more effective than a 44 mag to the ear.

  87. Robin Lee Compton

    I recently came across a case where a person committed suicide with a 380 pressed against his right temple. A hollow point was used and there was no exit wound ! Also no blood spatter was found to exist. Does this make sense ? Would Blow Back Exist ? Please folks help me out with this… I have a hard time believing this… Thanks…

    • Jay

      Some of you have some really great observations on the topic above and throughout. However, “some” of you suck as far as your hi-jacking attempts, and trolling. What gives with THAT? I would
      advise that you all go to the following EXCELLENT article crafted on USA Carry and read slowly.
      It’s beautifully summarized at the end with all the key points that you were all discussing. ACCURACY
      is key here and NOT the “make my Day” syndrome! Go to: http://www.usacarry.com/hold-over-hold-under-hold-on/ … and LEARN something! As I stated earlier, you people whom “suck” are operating
      under false pretenses and are going to LOSE when it ever comes to a real showdown. May God be
      with you particular few… tsk tsk.

  88. Jamie Douton

    Thanks for all the great information. I am a newcomer to handguns and a paraplegic. I may not always be in the best position to defend myself . the more accuracy and less recoil the better. Thank you so much for your help in making an educated decision.

  89. abc

    It really doesn’t make much difference which caliber I use? My guess is that if I hit you in the heart with a .380 or with a 9MM, you will be just as dead either way. I believe it is how good a shot you are that really matters.

  90. Jim Meier

    With the improved .380 Lehigh defense extreme penetrator and Precision One ammo the .380 does quite well. Check out the newest ammo Quest videos with these two.

  91. capt. Rick

    Any caliber gun accessible by a non shooter is a recipe for disaster. There are more accidental discharges And collateral damage than home invasions and personal attacks. A gun is a handicap without training and practice.

  92. SCOTT

    I wanted the control and a little more selection on just how fast I’m going to injure or kill someone …after all all Im trying to do is stop the threat. I shoot with a Ruger LCP .380 .. small fits in the pocket and I have deadly aim

    • Customer Service

      Hi, Victoria. The penetration of a personal defense round into the human body depends on a lot of factors such as caliber, bullet weight, powder load, etc. How the bullet reacts once it enters the body also depends on many different factors such as angle, bone, muscle or fat, etc.

  93. David Godley

    So u been shot by a .380 did it make u mad no i bet u if some one pulled it u be a pussy

  94. Jim

    I don’t usually post, but I found this article rather compelling and well researched. Some of the comments have also make me think, so I’ll toss in my two cents. I admit that I’m a large caliber guy, and if I had my choice I would carry my XDM .45 with 13 round mag and one in the pipe with three or 4 extra mags, because more is better. However, that is largely impractical. When I got my CC permit, I wanted to split the difference and stepped down to an M&P 9c. Thirteen rounds in a compact gun that I could shoot the ticks off a dog with. Still have it, still love it and tend to carry it in the winter when more bulky clothes will ensure there is no printing. While not illegal in my state (CO), because of people being scared due to mass shootings, printing is something I really try and avoid. No point getting the authorities involved because someone thinks I’m the bad guy.

    As a big guy, I find it harder in the summer to carry a larger gun IWB, because things poke out at funny angles (printing), can be harder to draw at the 3 o’clock position, and even with a Kahr CW9 or XD-S .45 my pants sag on that side. Unless I wear an overly large shirt, its also easy to expose the handle if I reach for something or bend over. Shoulder carry is also out unless I’m wearing a suit or jacket. All of these things create problems. I finally settled on a Kahr CW380 with extended mag. I can easily pocket carry it in a variety of cloths and I don’t feel naked with 8 rounds of .380 hollow points. It’s also easier to carry a few extra mags on me as well. I tend to stagger my mags with Liberty Civil Defense rounds, HPR round, and/or sig sauer elite performance v-crown rounds. All of which feed well and reliably through my Kahr CW380.

    I have also learned through extensive research that there is no such thing as the “magic bullet” or “best caliber”. In the real world, there are so many factors that effect how bullet works and how a person reacts to getting shot, that its best to get rid of expectations. I knew a Vietnam vet that was at the Tet offensive, his position was over run. He emptied his 1911 into a charging VC without any effect. In the end my acquaintance ended up having to stab the man to death with his knife. I have a good friend who was a collage football player. He weighted close to 400 lbs at the time and is 6’3″. He was on drugs and involved in a car accident. He was hell bent on pulling the other guy out of his car and beating the crap out of him. He had the guy half way out the window when the man pulled out a .22 caliber pistol and shot my friend in the shoulder. That single shot stopped my friend cold.

    The body is an amazing thing. Sometimes the littlest thing can stop or kill a person. Other times a person can survive the most horrendous wounds and keep on functioning. The truth that I have found out is that handguns are crappy for stopping people when compared to a rifle or shotgun. No matter how well a bullet is designed and performs in tests, in the real world it can fail. The body is composed of skin, muscle, bone, and even hollow spaces, all wrapped in a layer or layers of clothes that can and does effect how a bullet preform regardless of caliber, grain, velocity, or kinetic energy. In a high stress situation fine motor skills tend to go out the window and gross motor skills take over. In a stress situation, your performance may only be 10% of your worst day on the range. I am a survivor of several potentially deadly violent situations including guns and knives. I have been shot at multiple times and in each event my only thought was to dive for cover and stay there. Even if I had a gun at that time, I would have most likely stayed behind cover, only shooting any threat that came around the corner or over the wall. It saved my life then and that’s what’s important.
    After decades in the martial arts and surviving violent confrontations I have learned that if cornered I will fight, but given the opportunity I will run. My Sense always talked about having zones of engagement and options. I carry pistol, a knife, and if all else fails, I can use my body to fight. My .380 is just one option to reach out and touch someone if SHTF. I suffer no delusion that I am Jack Reacher or some other invincible character ready to battle it out. At the end of the day I just want to go home to my family and carrying an easily concealable gun that I can deploy quickly without anybody knowing its there until I have to use it means more to me than carrying around something heavy, bulky, and harder to control in a high stress situation.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Carry what works for you and what your comfortable with. Never underestimate the power of confidence in a violent situation. Just remember that there is no guarantee that whatever you carry can or will “stop” the bad guy, but at least you have options.

    • RIck

      Jim, I agree with you. Carry what works for you and you’re comfortable with. It’s that simple.

  95. chad

    I have never heard someone say I wonder if a 10mm is powerful enough to stop a human, and that is what I carry. Concealing a Glock 20 is not that hard.

  96. Staci Winter

    Hit the nail on the head. I like to tell all the macho men, “It’s not about the size of the bullet, rather where you put it.”

  97. Mike

    In your opinion, how would a .380 with an 80 something grain projectile compare; target damage wise; to a .380 projectile at a 90 + grain weight ?

    • Customer Service

      Hi, Mike. When choosing a defensive round it is generally recommended to select a modern bonded hollow point that is heavy for the caliber from a major manufacturer. However, with the .380 performance can vary greatly in terms of penetration and expansion so it is recommended to try and find ballistics gelatin tests or real world reports of a specific load’s performance rather than just relying on bullet weight.

  98. Happy Hippy

    Another can of worms,

    When I started seeing news items of churches and meetings being shot up by radicals, I decided to start carrying. I’m 77, with arthritis, and I haven’t done any real shooting for 15 or 20 years. So, I convinced friends and relatives to loan me their pistols, all different calibers from .22 to .45. We went out to the local range, and I tried them. In order to be confident about being able to protect myself, I realized I would have to shoot 200 or 300 rounds, at least, to be sure. And another 50 rounds every so often. I was able to shoot one clip of .45s with my son’s weapon (I’m an ex-marine from the 1950s, back in the days of the M1 Garand, so I say “clip”.) I managed to shoot the .45 and actually hit the target, but my hand and wrist hurt. I shot a friend’s Bersa .380, and I was able to put a box, 50 rounds, through it, and my hand and wrist didn’t hurt! And the Bersa actually fit my hand, unlike some other “pocket pistols”. So, guess which pistol I purchased. And being retired, the price was right, $250 vs. $400-$500. (Jensen’s in Loveland, CO.) I realize that I am not going to be able to stop a car with a shot through the engine block, and I’ll never be good enough to take out a sniper at 500 yards with this pistol. But I am confidant that I can protect our church at a range of 4 feet to 75 feet (yes, I am a sheepdog at church.) I haven’t had to actrually use it, yet, andI hope I never do. But I am confident that I can, and will, if necessary, with a .380.

    The Happy Hippy

  99. Henri

    Excellent article. Keep in mind that there’s a reason that expert gunmakers like Beretta (cheetah) and Walther (PP) only made these top models in .32 and .380 and NOT 9 x 19, which could have been done easily. They deliberately chose not to. Also keep in mind that one of the biggest problems of the M9 in 9 x 19 is that it has so much energy (about 600 joule) occasionally it just flies right through targets, delivering not a fraction of it’s energy. In an EDC gun, the .380 is a more than a sufficient cartridge, provided good shot placement and controllability of the follow up shots. Not only for the elderly or women, but also for stronghanded men, if they put their ego’s aside.

  100. James E Pitts

    Very good article. Just exactly what I was looking for. This enforces my opinion. I once really admired the 1911 in a 45 cal which I still think is a great setup, just not for me.
    I don’t see myself in a situation where I need to setup a field of fire a city block long. I will avoid a shooting if at all possible. I would expect 25 or thirty feet to be more likely and 7-8 feet highly likely.

  101. David

    I have a Ruger LCP 380 and i can put all 7 rounds in the head from 10yards (an attacker will nost likely be alot closer) in a matter of a few seconds. it might not pack the punch of 40+ cal but i want to see someone try to walk away from that kind of accuracy i get in the smaller cartridge.

    • Shane

      I carry the LCP Ruger .380, but I replaced the stock 9 lb. spring with a 13 lb. spring and it made a world of difference in both comfort during practice and keeping the muzzle from leaping too high for reliable grouping during rapid fire.

  102. Joe

    A Sig 250 compact with a 15 bullet clip. It’s light and great for my lady in purse. 3-4 shots in seconds. Great protection lots of shots. LCP Ruger is 6-7 shot very concealable with pocket holster. Rapid fire will do the trick. Ruger LC 9 mm compact 7-8 shot is concealable but heavy. But so much for everyday walkin’ around self defense, 380 and all. However, just the cocking sound of the sawed off (legally) 12 gauge H&R pump action shotgun has changed the direction of a couple of trespassers.

  103. Pastor Ron

    The reason I switched to a small 9mm, was not the stopping power but the cost and availability of ammo. Maybe that will change with our new president.

  104. jeffrey smith

    Unless your in a gunfight with individual in dense thick clothing at 20 feet or more ill take the 380, with ball ammo. you will stop an attack with with a 22long as long as you learn to shoot the weapon accurately learn your human anatomy and practice practice, practice !

  105. RIck

    I have 9 mm handguns. However, due to a chronic illness I weigh about 150# at 6’3″ in height. Because of being sick I can’t gain weight. I used to weigh around 235#, I lifted daily, boxed and played competitive Judo. Those days are gone. That was back 30 years, before I got what’s called an intractable migraine. That means it never goes away, 24 x 7 x 365, I have a migraine. Some days it’s not too bad and with medication I sit at about a 3-4 on a scale of 10 for pain. At times it’s so bad I have to go to the ER and get shot up with dilaudid and phenegran. I’ve had between 30 and 40 concussions in my life and have a lesion on the right side of my brain, likely from head trauma. So, at the weight and height I am, carrying one of my 9 mm handguns is very difficult, without it showing. When I was in my 20’s and up until I turned 31 years of age I worked as a private investigator and bodyguard. In those days I carried what I was most familiar with a Colt 1911, actually for carrying purposes I carried a Colt Combat Commander. I carried it in a shoulder rig along with 2 extra mags. Yes, I’m a Veteran and though I learned to shoot long before I went into the military, I didn’t shoot many handguns. I shot with a rifle and shotgun always. I got my first rifle at age 11, it was a .22 training rifle from World War II. Picked it up at an auction, it was an accurate rifle and I shot it frequently at my Grandfather’s range. So I learned to shoot handguns in the military and this was before we abandoned one of the best handguns ever designed, the Colt 1911. What can I say, I worked in the Detroit Metro Area. It was the Murder Capital of the US, at the time and I wanted to make sure my clients were safe and that I went home at the end of the day. While investigating I rarely carried anything, there wasn’t really a need and the last thing I wanted was anyone to think was that I was a cop. People stop talking to cops, but to some innocent appearing bystander, with the right line of BS, people will say an awful lot. A surprising amount of information was attained, as long as they didn’t think I was a cop. So I told all of that to get here. At this moment in time I carry a Smith& Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380. I generally wear cargo pants and the 380 fits in a pocket holster in my right front pocket. I live in an area without a lot of crime. It’s very rural and the wife and I love the small town life. We have a farm, buried in a wooded area and most folks, even those who have lived here their entire lives have no clue there’s a house back here, let alone a 60 acre farm. I mentioned that because we have a range here at the farm. We shoot everything from skeet and trap to a very nice Mauser K98. We have about 20 guns here and shoot a lot of them pretty regularly. I will say this, obviously a 9mm has better ballistics than a .380, but I can carry the .380 without anyone knowing it. I shoot Hornady .380 critical defense, it’s 90 grain FTX. The Bodyguard 380 doesn’t jam with that ammunition or at least it hasn’t yet and I’ve run 4 boxes of it through the handgun to be certain that it won’t and so far so good. If I’m just traipsing through our woods and I am carrying the 380 I have it loaded with FMJ. Also, the wife was nice enough to buy me a 10 round magazine for my little Bodyguard. As long as I’m not in public, i.e., just being at home, I carry that magazine loaded with FMJ. I’ve have had a few FTF with the 10 round magazine, which makes the double strike capability of the gun pretty handy. The Bodyguard has a seriously heavy trigger pull, which in one way of thinking is bad, but when you consider having a round in the chamber is good. The chances of you shooting yourself in the femoral artery of your right leg pretty slim. Yes, there’s a safety too, but because of the heavy trigger, I don’t generally use it when I carry. I’ve gotten to be pretty good with the .380, it is an accurate handgun. If you consider the real life use of the gun in a PD situation, getting the gun out and in a ready to fire position must happen very quickly. The average distance in those situations is pretty short. If you aren’t in a ready to fire position quickly you’re in trouble. Even an average speed runner can cover 21′ in less than 3 seconds. So, being ready to fire, in a brief time, is critical to using a gun of any size or caliber in a self defense situation. I can have the Bodyguard out and firing in less than 2 seconds from my pocket. Additionally, due to the lack of recoil, I can be ready to fire the second round quicker than I can any of my 9 mm handguns. So agree with the author, Grant Cunningham, there are times when a .380 is a better choice than a 9 mm or larger caliber handgun. One man’s opinion.

  106. Lauretta

    What would be some recommended .380 striker-fired sub-compact, single-stacked handguns you recommend? I’m looking for concealability as I tend to wear very tight-fitting clothing and have smaller hands as a girl. Thanks.

  107. wayne

    Have had my wather ppk for 37 years. It has saved my and my family’s life twice. I use premium ammo and practise when I can. Important thing is to practise. I always fire 3 shots starting low. Works for me so far. wont change my ppk for anything

  108. MICHAEL

    Depends. Yep. It depends on where you are going and how you are dressed. You can hide just about anything if you dress off the rack at goodwill. That’s my poopoo remark. Now, .380 (LCP or Glock 42) outside my pants and under a light fleece vest works for me. I really don’t like something that close to my buns or other stuff with IWB. Sometimes I cram my 1911 9mm or my Kahr CW9 the same way. Choose a good holster holds your firearm close and is snug and doesn’t ‘print’. Hell, nobody looks at your butt anyway. The .380 can easily be transferred to a pocket if situation warrants. .380 or 9mm or hand carry cannon (for the bigger is better crowd) Check Lucky Gunner for great gel ballistics on all major brands of defense ammo. Most all defense ammo is designed to penetrate 12 to 18 inches. My ‘mouse .380’? Yep. My 1911-9mm? Yep.My Glock 19? Yep. My .38 Special? Yep. Just pick a quality brand, make sure it works in your piece. Practice until you can put all rounds in the eye at 4 yards. (I can consistently do that). The only time I feel under gunned is when I remember that I’m 74 years old and don’t like to roll around on the ground anymore.

  109. Chano

    My EVERYDAY carry is always my trusty Ruger .380 LCP custom. Whether its on my ankle or in a wallet holster, I can always count on it be concealed. I can draw it quickly and put all 7 rounds in the kill box everytime.
    Especially running high end ammo, no reason to have it not on you. You cant always lug a .45 but you can always squeeze a .380

  110. Sean

    thats why i bought a sig p238. i am more accurate with my sub compact p238 than i am with my p2022 9mm. 30 feet with a sub compact and 3 inch grouping with almost rapid fire.

  111. Justin

    I own both. When my dad said not to carry a 380 I took a large bowl we eat popcorn out of and mixed a 50 round box of each, both Magtech brand, in the bowl and told him to separate them. I ended up having to help him because the only way you can tell the difference is by looking at the small print on the bottom of the round.
    Btw getting hit with a marble or frozen paintball at 875 fpa can still kill you.

    Use Hornady or a good SD round and carry what you’re comfortable carrying. I’d take a 22LR over a knife any day.

  112. Cali Burr

    Ever hit yourself in the face full force with a framing hammer, try it, thats only a small % of pain compared to a .380, every a**hole thinks they need a big bore, kiss 💋 the bad guy in his face with a .380, its over!! The End!!

  113. Sarah J

    This article was amazingly helpful! I’m 18 and just acquired my carry permit and have been researching what I should look into getting to actually carry. Lots of articles suggested a 9mm, which I started leaning towards, with .380 ranking lower on the lists. My beau has been suggesting a .380 since the beginning for me, and similar to the lady you met I have a weak wrist where it was broken in a car accident. All in all, I’m feeling like the 380 is right for me!

  114. Ronnie

    I have a Berser 380 and the myth that it’s not a great defense weapon is wrong. At 15 yards King Kong would be hurting. It holds 7 rounds and is a tough molded pistol and heavy. The magazine is very hard to load and that’s it. But no matter the weapon if you can’t hit your target it doesn’t really matter does it. ???

  115. TL

    shield, until we tried to belt it. Too large, cumbersome and not all that conducive to getting a hold of it. We were convinced on the 9mm SW Shield, but, handling tipped the scale to the .380 Ruger LCP 2. Thank you and God bless!

  116. Bill Hancock

    For home self defense I originally bought a Ruger LCP in 38 special +P. My wife developed arthritis in the hand and found the gun very uncomfortable to shoot. I bought her a Beretta Brigadier 9mm; less recoil, more comfortable and controllable. 31 shots without having to rack a slide. I just developed some arthritis also and for carry I just purchased a Sig P238 380. With the laser sight on the LCR the first shot was a bulls eye but I flinched every time after that.

  117. G P

    I watched a test between the 380 and 9mm where a guy set up two identical blocks of clay at 25 yards. The blocks were 12 inchesx12inches. He shot the first block with a 9mm, small hole going in, larger hole (approx. 4inches coming out). He shot the other block with the 380 and it totally destroyed the block. The difference…the 9mm has the power to go all the way through transferring little energy. The 380 however is slower and transfers all its energy to the target hit…(same as a 45ACP). For self defense and raw stopping power the 380 is an excellent round, not to mention it will cause little collateral damage by going all the way through your target. The Europeans have carried 380 or 9 Makarov for decade upon decade very effectively. If its good enough for James Bond its good enough for me..(JOKING)

  118. Sam

    Awesom!!! What a great discussion!!!
    You hit all the nails on the head.
    Everyone knows and wants “Gun Control”.
    I’ve been looking strongly at the .380 “pocket” guns, then I found they have put the 9 in the “pocket”. I thought it was great a first, but having owned a full size S&W 9, I know the power, it’s through the roof. You don’t want to be in front of it. With the full size there was minimal recoil, but alot of power. I was questioning how this power would convert to a “pocket”. Didn’t think it would mix. You might scare them with the noise a 9 makes but how would you control it.
    It’s like the .357 deringer. Sounds good, makes alot of noise but can you hit the barn.
    Hopefully, people will get to read your discussion before they make a big mistake.
    .380 in a group, under control, will get the job done, really well and make alot of noise.
    I like the idea of the 10 shot mag.!!!

  119. Mark

    I pocket carry a Ruger LPC its my work an on the job pistol. You are correct about recoil, I also shot higher caliber pistols . I think the 380 is great!! Mark

  120. Jim

    Just bought a SCCY 9 – 10 shot mag DAO love it. Long trigger pull but it works for me.

  121. Ron McDonald

    Not very common, but if you can find a Beretta Mod 84BB or 84F. Double stack magazine takes 13 rounds plus one in the pipe. Not light like a polymer model, so it’s a nice stable platform. Fits nicely in a cargo pocket or car console.

  122. Robert Jones

    I live in a 55+ mobile home park. My concern for home defense is missing an intruder and killing a neighbor. Anyone who has been in a gun battle where the attacker is moving and firing at you will tell you that you’re going to miss, sometimes often. I’ve taken several pieces of normal siding (inside panel, foam insulation and exterior metal panel) and fired 40 S&W, 9 mm and 380 auto through 2 pieces set about 10 feet apart. All rounds were similar hollow points. The 40 S&W and 9 mm penetrated both panels, the 380 auto did not. As an open carry choice I use the 40 S&W, my girl uses the 9 mm. At home we both keep a 380 handy. My friends are dieing fast enough without my help.

  123. Tony tolentino

    I bought my .380 no help with friends..meaning i shoulda got a larger caliber..saying i got a girly gun(no offense)ladies.but after we went practiceing.i got silver dollars almost all the time at 25y.and on the fly..long story.short..my taurus and(ammo counts)ftx rounds,will protect my family and me with no doubts.I did my homework and got an A-….my 380 taurus A+..thanx proud owner

  124. Gringo

    I normally carry a Glock 17 and a 32apc KelTec. In some situations, crowds at the mall for example where over penetration is an issue could be a reason to go for the pimp gun, mouse gun instead of the 9mm and a 380 might be another good choice.

  125. CountryBoy

    The REAL question is ….. What is the largest caliber that you are Comfortable with and that you will Practice with in order to become a proficient shooter …….. that is why it is important to go to a shooting range and TEST different firearms and calibers in order to see what works for you….

  126. Shake

    I believe your points are right on the money. Caliber, gun, and ability all need to be weighed. Truthfully, is rather carry by XDM 4.5 .40s&w all the time. I shoot it we’ll, but with my body type I just can’t conceal it effectively All the time. On the other hand, my EDC now is a Browning 1911 Black Label .380. I’m not a LEO, but advised by a couple friends who are who said”whatever you’re going to carry, carry it every day! Practice with it.” I’ve taken that to task. The Browning is really a very sweet shooting gun, and with today’s ammo, I don’t tell “undergunned.” I’m confident and very accurate to 10 yds, maybe not as fast as the “pros but I wouldn’t want to face me in a shoot out(which I hope to never have). The longer barrel gives me a little more, recoil is negligible, and I’m just fine with
    380. Now, when and if they make a 9mm in same gun, hmmmm, ….

    PS – my backup is usually a Ruger LCR 38 on my ankle, or a NAA 22 Mag Black Widow in my pocket, depending on what I’m wearing.

  127. Steve

    I was always told and even read and heard that a 22 cal carried was better than any other left at home. I taught the wife to fire a 22 Sig then had her transfer to a 380 to carry. Needless to say after firing the 22 caliper and then the 380 she prefers to carry the 380 cause it is a smaller gun and yet she can handle it and keep it on target. But I pity anyone who tries to attack her as she shoots a little low and they would be screaming from pain before they drop dead with her third shot. She can hit what she wants. For someone who had not handled a pistol before me teaching her she is dead accurate.

  128. paul bertan

    Age old argument here that “lightweight” aluminum guns cannot hold on target.
    I like both .380 and 9mm but speak well for the .380!
    INcedentally, I could not hold a .25 on target.

  129. BUURGA

    The.380 is just a 9mm short. At personal ‘engagement’ range (7 feet or less) it really doesn’t make much difference between it and the 9×19.

  130. Cody Claxton

    It’s important to think of the handgun and ammunition as a system. The bullet is what makes the wound, and the gun is a delivery system. Many professional LEO’s recommend using regular ball ammo rather than hollow-points, or hollow-points that act like ball when hitting the body. One LEO who has seen a lot of people shot with 380’s tells about rounds not exiting the body (leaving zits on their back), or exiting but going 10-20 feet and landing on the ground behind them. And, they tell us the often do not expand. But any bullet that hits a critical part of the body will cause serious damage and lead to disabling the attacker. So, accuracy still trumps, even in 9mm, 40cal and 45cal, but definitely use the best 9mm ball or HP. I use the Hornady Critical Defense and Ball mixed. So, improved recoil control will help if you practice enough. I own a P238, a P938 and carry a compact CZ75 in 9mm. I find the P238 a fantastic gun from an accuracy point of view while moving and strong hand only. However, once the distance gets over 15 yards, accuracy is very difficult unless you are expert who practices often. The P938 is also a fantastic gun, but it is harder to get accurate hits at speed compared to the P238. The other issue with these smaller guns is the number of rounds that fit in the gun. A master shooter I know said this, “I want to be the last guy who runs out of ammo.” I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. These guns typically don’t hold more than 7 rounds. Now while most self-defense gunfights are 3 rounds, some are much more. Let’s say you have multiple attackers, or it’s the other side of the food court and you need more rounds, and you need to hit a target at 20 yards. Most of the LEO’s who have been in gunfights say they shoot until the gun runs dry and very rarely do they reload. They end up using the gun as a rock or drop it and use knife or hard hands at that point. My CZ holds 15 rounds and I can put accurate shots on an 8″ plate at 20 yards, and 30 if I take my time. In either case make sure you use the best ammo available…modern designs work much better. I use Federal Premium HST for 9mm. I have tested the Hornady Critical Defense in various materials and it does really well. Great article.

  131. Danny A Murphy

    I carry a small 32, seven rounds, hollow points. I have a 380 and a 9mm, but I have found them to be difficult for me to conceal. The law now allows me to open carry, but with my traveling with a seeing eye dog, the open carry drew to much attention to me. Even with my vision disability, I am a fairly good shot. At 25 yards I can put all rounds on target; of course, a moving target, who is attacking you, would present a different situation; I don’t know how accurate I would be in that situation. I hope I never have to find out.

  132. Victor Bailey

    Very good article. I agree completely, especially when it comes to pocket guns. One thing I think you should have mentioned though is that great strides have been made in .380 ammo in recent years and the gap in performance is very small. Yes, in the past the .380 round was rather anemic and I think that this is what led to the general consensus among self defense enthusiast that it was not worth consideration. But with modern advances in powder and bullet technology, the gap between the 9mm and the 380 is not what it was in the past and it may one day all but disappear. These constant advances in round technology, must not overruled by old outdated ideas and beliefs from yesteryear.

    I personally carry the Ruger LCP II in my pocket when in dress clothes (I open carry a full size 9mm). I use the Hornady American Gunner XTP round in the LCP II. There are many ballistic gel test available on this round out there that show that this round meets all FBI requirements for a personal defense round, even through two layers of denim. One thing that also bares mentioning is that, there is such a thing as Too Much Power when it comes to personal defense. In other words, you don’t want something that is so powerful that you are going to shoot clean through an attacker and kill an innocent on the other side. This is why there are minimum and maximum standards for personal defense rounds. The bottom line is, there are now .380 rounds on the market that meet the standards set for a personal defense round these days, and that just about eliminates the argument against them, because when it comes to a personal defense round, you only want so much power, but not too much.

    At the end of the day, the best defense weapon in the world, is the one you have with you when you need it. While 9mm have gotten small, they have not gotten small enough to be kept in your pants pocket comfortably without being noticed. This is a niche held almost exclusively by the .380, making the .380 pocket gun a go anywhere at anytime PDW. While we would all love to have a nice full size 9mm on us at all times that would give us maximum stopping power, comfort, and control; life does not always afford us that privilege, and this is where the .380 pocket pistol comes in to rescue the situation.

  133. Albert Baerenklau

    I carry a Ruger LCP loaded with defensive rounds and am very comfortable with it.

  134. Mr. Bill Thomas

    I have .380 and 9mm. My “carry gun” is the 9mm simply because I practice a lot and 9mm is cheaper to shoot.
    I feel that both are viable “carry rounds”!

  135. Pugsley the Pundit

    Just a little comment, the best carry gun, is the one you will carry. I am a big guy, and I have a very nice CZ P-07, but I don’t carry that on me, I carry a 380. I have meat hooks for hands and a small 9 is harder for me to control than the 380, I can hit my target rapid fire much better with it and I am always thinking about getting to my 9. My carry gun will keep me safe until I get to my “backup 9”.

  136. Dale Chapman

    I got my wife a Glock 44, .380 It’s loaded with Hornady Self Defense rounds – hollow point with the plastic filling. My wife likes it because of the less recoil than a 9mm or a 40 cal. She can put more rounds at a target, than I can with my Glock 22 (40 cal.), same length of time, and also a tighter group.

  137. Anne Carnathan

    Thank you for your excellent comparison of a .380 vs 9mm, .40 or .45 ACP. I am a middle age woman with a Sig Sauer P238 .380. I have been able to pass a PC 832 and two CCW courses with this gun! I Love and rely on this gun for my protection. I could not even rack most of the 9 mm guns that were used by most students; but I was accurate and consistent! I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and am greatful for my .380.

  138. john rucker

    i carried a Sig P226&aSig P230 for years on & off duty. on duty the 226 was on my side while the 230 was on my ankle. Off duty or plain clothes details the 230 was my carry piece. the 230(.380) was the most accurate weapon i ever fired out to 20 yards. beyond that, the longer sight radius of the 9mm won out. the 9 was loaded @125gr JHP, the .380 @ 95 grain. I had FULL CONFIDENCE in the .380 at the distances it was intended for.

  139. Bob

    The best gun is the one you have with you as the one you left at home (for what ever reason) is useless. I prefer a .45, commonly carry a 9mm, and sometimes my 380 all depending on clothing and situation.

    Practice and carry are the magical terms IMHO.

  140. art

    If your shot or shoot someone at average civilian combat distances, 0-7yds, with a .22 or .500 S&W its gonna hurt and make you think WTF!….even a .22 is better than nothing…

  141. Steve Carroll

    I agree 100% with Grant. Everyone looks at ballistics but seem to totally ignore speed and the ability to put more shots where you want them.
    In a couple of studies I’ve seen of hundreds of civilian shootings (no LEO or military) the 380 required fewer “shots to stop” and fewer shots required to cause death-fractionally, but fewer none the less.
    I carry 9mm most of the time. But living a warm climate, I often need to carry something a little smaller. The Bersa Thunder in 380 is perfect.I practice with both the 9mm and 380 in almost every session and I always get smaller groups with the 380 and considerably more speed.
    Modern defensive ammo, in my opinion, also negates some of the old arguments for larger calibers.The arguments about hollow points in 380 not being as effective may have some merit but there are many other options for defensive ammo these days.
    A final point; not all 380s are “mouse guns” and difficult to control in large hands. The Bersa and Walther PPK are smaller but I wouldn’t call them mouse guns. I’m 6 feet and 208 with larger than average hands and I have no problems with these guns.
    But the ability to put more shots on target much faster and the stats showing fewer “shots to stop” and fewer “shots to kill” are what convinced me.

  142. Larry Lutz

    You are right on point about the .380. I have a Beretta that shoots superbly with the caliber. I have friends who tease me about it, but not one has taken me up on my tongue in cheek offer to stand in front of it while I squeeze one off! As for bigger calibers, they have their place; my go to open carry pistol is my SR1911 in. 45 ACP, while my CC I’d my glock 19 in 9mm. Deep CC is my S&W 37 snubby in .38 Special. I can keep all of them well inside “minute of bad guy”. As others have said, the best gun to carry is the one you will. Good article; thanks!

  143. Mike

    Howdy Folks,
    Back in the 1970’s when the Dirty Harry movies were in their heyday I was young and foolish and fell for the S&W model 29 .44mag and the .44 auto mag hype. The recoil was just too much unless I switched to .44 special or .44 Russian for the Model 29 and I quickly sold the .44 auto mag while the price was still on a movie high $$. I’m not sure if this discussion is only for .380 and 9mm comments which are both OK caliber weapons. However over the years I’ve decided to go for ultra light wight, low, low recoil, and high count magazines my carry weapon for the above reasons is the Kel-Tec PMR-30 .22 WMR with a 30 round magazine and one in the chamber it is enough for even me to hit the threat. Try it you’ll be pleasantly surprised. MFH

  144. Robert D. Wilcox Sr.

    So is a 380 the same as a 9 mm I think it is it’s only a little smaller bullitthan the 9mm is I use hollow points on my 380 s&w body guard and hollow points on my 9mm to

  145. Jerry mull

    I agree with the logic of the argument and have known this for some time fortunately one thing that helps is the new technology of ammunition that allows for a faster bullet that causes more damage. a confrontation up close and personal is the ideal for a 380 concealed at 15 yards it takes more practice to get the hits you really need.

  146. Cricket

    Showing you things are not always equal. Working and understanding something makes a big difference. Thank you for that story.

  147. George Carlaftes

    One of the 1st Pistols I had is a Ruger .380 with 7rd magazine.(plus7+ 1rd)I still practice rapid fire with misfire reloads & fast mag. changes.. When I first started it wasn’t real pretty. I got alot better after watching the “Expert fast draw Shooters run their drills”… Keep practicing you will see it works, even with dry fire practice when you can’t go to a Range. The more you can practice, draw engage your target 6 rds.to the body, 2 rds.to the head,with mag change then 4 rds. to the body 1 to head & 2 more to the body. I load all with hollow points

  148. Gary Freeland

    That’s why I carry a Sig 380 loaded with Golden Saber 102 grain HP
    . I wanted to max the penetration and let expansion take care of itself if it hits something hard. Installed a green laser for close in night work. Pistol is light and easily concealed, if 5 rounds does not get the job done nothing will. I have 9mm and 45acp, but most of the time I go to the sig 380

  149. David Patterson

    So, get a Makarov. I have a compact 9 in the car. Good for 10 feet. But I can put three quick rounds into a 3” circle with the Makarov in two seconds. Only 9 I own that will do that is my P08.

  150. Mike Gaudiello

    Excellent article. I personally own both G19 (9mm) and G42 (.380) and I will say I carry my G42 more than I do the G19.
    Only down size to the G42 in my opinion is the number of rounds which is why I added Pierce +1 ext and changed out my magazine follower to a mag guts alum one which now allows me to carry 8+1 in my G42.
    I’ve never agreed with the bigger is better but with .380 hollow point you get plenty of stopping power.
    One point that I did not see mentioned is that most gun fights take place within 5 to 10 yds (30ft). If you plan on shooting an attacker out to 25 yds. It can be done with a .380 but would not be my first choice do to accuracy from a short barrel gun and the knock down power is reduced quite a bit from a 9MM at that longer distance.


    recently replaced my 9mm with a 380. at almost 77 years old I found it more advantageous to be more accurate and able to shoot more rounds without getting sore hand, than trying to be macho looking with larger calibers. let the youngsters shoot the heavier artillery.

  152. Mark Brown

    I’m very happy for all of the 9mm shooters out there. My Browning Hi-Power is my favorite 9. It’s not my EDC. That task is performed by either my S&W bodyguard .380 or Springfield XD 45. I practice with both almost daily and can put full mags on target with both every time. Practice + Comfort = Proficient.

  153. John

    As a retired US Army Special Operations officer, I came to similar conclusions many years in the rear view mirror. Those observations informed my urging my wife to choose a .380 as her EDC. For years she carried a Walther PPKS and last year migrated to a Kahr .380. In short, during defensive shooting practice, she places more rounds on target with her .380 than when she fires any of our 9mm pistols, thereby providing some affirmation for Mr. Cunningham’s view. As a corollary, she points out that the .380 is more “comfortable” in her hand while shooting than any of the 9mm pistols…a very important factor.

    Nice article, Mr. Cunningham!

  154. Ralph Brown

    Very good article but there is one thing missing on the recoil issue. As one of the older generation I am familiar with the straight blowback generation of .380 pistols. The recoil was sharp and very pronounced in smaller pistols like the Walther ppk and ppks. The 9mm even in smaller pistols and truly in the micro 9’s use some type of retarded blow back which tends to mitigate the recoil. I’ve fired a couple and found them to be quite mild and readily controllable as compared to the .380s. of yore.

  155. wayne

    i don’t think people realize that the .380 and 9mm shot the same size bullet. we are not trying to shoot someone at a long distance. most shooting happen with in 3-21 feet.

  156. Vincent Slone

    I don’t care WHAT you say, 9MM just isn’t .40 S&W. I know what he’s trying to say, that 9MM is “just as effective” as .40 S&W. Problem is that he’s using that fatally flawed data to prove his point, yes I’ve read that article. According to that article there’s no difference between any round, which is ironic considering there IS a difference of effectiveness in LE (.40 typically tends to be anywhere from 10-15% more effective in one shot incapacitations). The reason you can’t look at that data however is because it’s only made available to LE. In a able body shooter .40 is always gonna be more powerful and cause more damage, of course I would never suggest anyone carry a gun their not more comfortable with. Watch Paul Harrell’s YouTube video “Police Pistols: 9MM vs. .40 S&W”, he really demonstrates the capabilities of both rounds in a fair and unbiased comparison. Would also like to note that military use of 9MM h I own a XDS in .45 ACP,
    and what an absolutely atrocious pistol it is! You really don’t watch a full size caliber in anything under 3.5″, the loss in velocity and capacity just doesn’t dignify the performance ESPECIALLY over something like .380 ACP. Plus I’m not a big fan of .45 ACP, should of went extinct years ago. Only reason it’s still relevant is because it was attached to the beloved 1911.

  157. Carlo Graziani

    I carry a 9mm Sig, or my 1911 45or or my FNH 5.7×28. But when I dress up or shot summer day, I carry my Glock 42 380 with critical defense rounds, they have excellent penitration

  158. Joe Schoetz

    I have been telling this to my clients for years now. One additional thing that changed my mind was the newer defense rounds as opposed the FMJ. Thanks for your input very good.

  159. Bob ODonnell

    Thank you for your excellent review. This is valuable information and well worth consideration when purchasing and carrying a handgun.

  160. USPatriotOne

    Grant is correct on this .380 ACP vs 9mm vs .40S&W vs .45 ACP. There is a number of factors in purchasing a firearm and the individuals abilities to hand that firearm. I am a Cerified NRA Handgun Expert and believe Iknow what I am talking about. Women find the .380 ACP more manageable and inmost cases can keep around on target over the larger calibers. But again, it depends on that persons ability to handle and control that firearm. A number of gun ranges allow people to rent a firearm and test them out. This gives the person the ability to determine what works best for that individual to protect themselves and their love ones.

  161. CARL

    Before I purchased a pistol for my wife we went to our local range/gunship and tried several calibers. We ended up getting her a .22. Why? Simple. There is a human factor involved that is only partially covered. She felt much more comfortable with the recoil, but more importantly she shot more confidently with it. If a person doesn’t enjoy during a burst of several shots they will not have the confidence in a life-threatening situation. I believe that having the confidence to place several shots where you need them more than makes up for the oft touted “stopping power”. Hitting your target with multiple shots should dissuade all but the most crazed attacker. In that case a .44 Magnum may not even work. Just my humble thoughts.

  162. Louis

    Very good article.
    Brings up the old addage: Is it better to hit your target with a pellet or miss with a .44 magnum?
    It has been said many times, the best gun to carry is the one you shoot well.
    I carry a .40 caliber in a Sig SP2022. I have two backup guns, a Sig 938 in 9mm or a Bersa Pro in .380. The Bersa is an Aluminum/steel gun and is actually larger than the Polymer/steel Sig.
    BUT bottom line with any semi: can you pull the slide.
    Also Sigs V-Crown and Federals Hydra shock loads are very effective. Small short barreled semis can be finnicky with ammo. Practice, practice, practice!

  163. George

    I use a colt series 80 .380 and browning .380 and am satisfied with both, especially with the kind of 380 bullets you can get with them today!

  164. Eric

    This was a very good discussion. For years my primary carry was the Browning BDA, same a mentioned in the article. I moved from there to the Browning. Pro 9. I liked used these two weapons for years and was very proficient with them. The appeal was not only caliber, but also the hammer fire & double action features. I also equipped my Pro 9 with a Crimson Trace lasser. When I move up in caliber I choose a Springfield XDM compact in 45 cap, with a lasser. It took me a while to adjust to the striker fire action and more so to the increase in WEIGHT for everyday carry. Most important was the size and feel of the weapon in my hand. Once I adjusted to the weight & recoil I’ve come to love it and it’s versatility. But, because I like hammer fire action I’m going to try a Springfield XDE 1911 in the 45 acp. Thanks for your article.

  165. Jim Sheehan

    I agree about the accuracy. Unfortunately I have been carrying a 380 with only 6+1. With hollow points it will suffice with a close range confrontation but when adrenaline kicks in I fear I will lose accuracy and am now leaning to a login with a larger magazine. I definitely need a course that will help me control my shots under pressure.

  166. Tommy

    I have a Glock 19, 9mm, and my wife carries the Glock 42, 380. I carry mine fine, and she hand it well. But, for carrying, she prefers her 380. I like shooting it, it handles well. I’ve even carried it a few times. My only problem is range ammo for the 380 is more expensive and not as easily available as the 9mm. But I feel completely comfortable letting her carry the 380.

  167. simon151

    for as similar the .380 is to a 9mm; the real reason is wins is for all the pain free days you didn’t use it.

  168. Jimmy Weemes

    I trained a young lady who had weak upper body strength. The Bersa 380 that I let her train was perfect. She could shoot accurately and hitting here target. This was the very first time ever fireing a firearm. She was very excited that she was able to qualify under the NRA standards and get her Certificate of Qualification.

  169. Melvyn Albiston

    Interesting. My .380 hurts to shoot I can only imagine how a 9mm the same size hurts. Actually I hate the gun but there are times the small physical size gun is the only gun that can effectively be concealed.

    • Alan

      I came across this site and thread because I am seriously looking at .380s as a replacement for the 9mm Shield I don’t carry due to (a) its weight, and (b) my self-consciousness about its size. Better to rely on the one you have than the one in the safe, and all that… One reason I bought the Shield is because my Taurus TCP just eats up the web of skin between my thumb and forefinger. Hate that thing, so I never got in enough range time. So, I began looking at .380s and decided on the Sig P238. Then I made the mistake of comparing the P238 to the P938, which has sent me into another decision loop. After all, if I can get 9mm power out of the same size package, why not go for it? Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can accomplish the same control in using the P938 as I have in the P238 (superb, by the way). But then, there is the weight delta, right? On the order of 1 oz extra in bare the weight, and the extra 40-50% weight in the ammunition in order to have a 9mm, which could sway things either way. As things stand tonight, my other thought is that after not carrying on a regular basis for the past 20 years of having a CHP, maybe the best approach is to get used to carrying the weight and bulk of the P238, and later work up to the P938. There’s always room in my life for another pistol……. Just my $0.02

  170. Gpa 1945

    I find your discussion of the 380 versus and 9MM very interesting. What you don’t point out is that both bullets are the same diameter .355 and the shell casings of the 380 is a shorter in length than the 9 mm, but the exact same size shell casing in diameter. So then I have a question for you why you call it a mouse gun caliber when they’re the same 9 MM caliber? The major difference is the amount of propellant in the shell casing. A 380 Max propellant load is 2.9 grains versus 4.5 for the 9 mm, for a 90 grain commercially produced round. For example when a 380 leaves the gun barrel at 15,900 PSI versus the 9 mm at 32,200 PSI, the amount of pressure is what makes the rise or drift. So it all goes down to; do you want around stop your assailant or take the chance that endangers others when at close quarters? I believe I’d rather hit the individual with the second shot than take a chance of missing. Just the thoughts of an old man.

  171. RW

    Thank you for the excellent information concerning the 380 acp. My daily carrry is a Bond Arms Ranger ll chambered in 45 long colt, & 410. I bought & carry it because every one I read said “that if you weren’t trained to shoot @another human, your first shots are going to be all over the map”, & following that advice, I choose 410 with tripple ought buck. I figure if nerves are in force at least I’m going to get a piece of my assailant which may change their minds about pursuing any further altercation. But my Ranger ‘ll holds only two rounds & the recoil kicks my butt. So I bought a 380 which carries 7 + 1 for immediate back up fire power that is much easier to fire & control.

  172. Richard corriea

    I agree when you fire 380 you can get on target quicker in with you shooting at nine andat about 15 yards the 380 is very accurate

  173. Mike L Massengale

    Very interesting article and this makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate you articles. I am a 71 year old. In great shape and work out regularly and have a full size 9 mm double stack 17 rounds for home. As well as a small 9mm double stack 12. I regularly carry with me in the car. Yet I agree with your premise on the .380.

  174. paul

    my concealed carry choice for the last 15 years has been a Makarov 9/18. Although I have never had to use it in a life/death situation, has allowed me a degree of proficiency that I could not have achieved using a 9mm. There seems to be a tendency to dump everything you have when using a 9mm and hoping there is not another bad guy before you reload. I am trained to do the 2 to the torso and one to the head him and if that does not stop them I repeat. I guarantee the Makarov 9/18 is like a 380 on steroids and with hollow tips WILL stop them.

  175. Charles Brinkmeyer

    Curious which micro 9 mm you tried and discussed here. I own one, have had pretty good success, but never tried to shoot it “fast”.

  176. Garth Burger

    Buy the gun you can shoot…I tryed a small 380 at a range and found that it was a bear to shoot. I then went to a slightly larger gun in 9 mm. I found that the little extra size and weight made a great difference in hitting the target and a lot easer on my hand. I went to the Ruger LC9s Pro. and love it..

  177. Thomas

    While the .380 is a good option on paper and I have carried a .380 multiple times throughout life I’ve retired the round for very practical reasons.
    1) 9mm is cheaper (literally more bang for your buck)
    2) all my handguns are 9mm (keep it simple)
    3) I trust my 9mm to always do the job
    4) I have my smallest 9mm equipped with a laser for the less practiced folks in my home and that compensated for the control issue enough IMO.

    Nothing overtly wrong with the .380 I just can’t get past paying more for less.

  178. Mike

    Very good article! This probably explains my angst right now. I just might be looking into trading my compact for a regular size now. Thank you for the insight.

  179. Roxanne

    Great article, just reaffirmed what I already knew. At first I was “sold” on the idea that I needed at least a 9mm also, but knew it was more than I wanted to deal with regarding recoil and accuracy. My Sig P238 is my weapon of choice.

  180. David White

    what you Americans call 380 is actually 9mm short, the bullet is exactly the same diameter the load is actually less than 10% powerful than a 9mm. What anyone should get for self-defense is the biggest bullet with the lowest recoil a Webeley and Scott 455 revolver or a Colt 45 black powder revolver. Huge lead bullet moving slow, the British Army and the American Department of defense said the same before WW1. Today you should get something with a grip or trigger safety, big enough so you can shoot it

    • Z Thunder

      Seriously? Black powder? Have you ever, actually, fired a black powder weapon? I know it is possible to load modern cartridges with black powder but… WHY would you do that? Black powder has two major disadvantages. First, it is an explosive and can be ignited with a static electricity discharge. I’m NOT carrying that around all day every day. EVER. Second, it generates a lot of smoke, which is why modern “smokeless powder” is used these days. In the U.S.A. anyway.

  181. Jack Gordon

    Let’s split the difference and go for the round the Soviets depended on for decades, the 9 X 18 Markarov. Cheap ammo is available (lots of practice), defense ammo is available at a higher price (good stuff from Hornady, for example), and the pistols that chamber the stuff, all blow back and therefore inherently accurate, are very reasonably priced. What’s not to like?

  182. Andy

    Many seem to think that a .380 round will bounce off you. This round has been killing folks since 1908 or thereabouts. I carried a J frame 38 for many years and recoil and accuracy were a problem. Most mouse 380’s have a longer barrel and compares favorably with the 38 in the power department. But recoil sensitivity is a reality with many gun owners especially older folks so the 380 mouse guns are very discreet and easy to carry and conceal and maybe the ticket for many.

    • Z Thunder

      Yup, when the .380 Auto was introduced it was considered ridiculously large, according to one of my reloading manuals. It will get the job done if you hit your desired target. I would avoid FMJ though unless you don’t mind shooting through several walls.

  183. Pandaz3

    I own nine 380 pocket pistols and a Browning BDA 380. I was leaving on a tour of duty overseas and bought a S&W Sigma 380 for the wife she was okay with it but thought she should have something bigger, enter the BDA. The wife still likes shooting the BDA, but the safety/decocker throws her off. She now conceals a G-42 and has a G-17 for the house along with a AR. I have two 380’s that I frequently ;home’ carry a LCP II or a CW-380. Outside the home I carry a XD40 SC (Mod 2) for primary and a XDS 40 backup. Still I have carried a 380 many times and likely will in the future.

  184. Barry

    Very informative; thank you.

    Try shooting for both speed and accuracy with your CCW gun at a 3″ x 4″ index card and you will get one heck of an education. To achieve more hits, your speed must decrease while your time on target increases.
    I actually went from a Hi-Power 9 mm to a Walther in 380 and watched my speed/hit percentage increase significantly.

  185. Donald

    When I was a young dude, the .40 and .45 were my carry choices. Now at 71 and weaker hand strength, the 9mm and .380 are my carry choices. Age and physical ability make the choices for you. That’s life.

  186. Jon

    I think the .380 acp is a great round, and I love carrying my Kahr P380. Three points to consider. First is penetration. A JHP will penetrate more than a defense round, and with the right manufacturer will meet the minimum penetration based on FBI testing in ballistic gel. Second, this is based on testing with minimum layers of denim over the gel. So in winter time, with more heavy layers on penetration is greatly reduced. For that reason I often carry a 9mm subcompact during the winter months, especially outdoors. If I’m going to mostly be inside then the .380 works fine. Thirdly, to say a 9mm is less controllable than a .380 is misleading I believe. My 9mm is a Sig P938 all metal pistol, and is comfortable to shoot and practice with. My Kahr P380 is smaller with a polymer frame, and for that reason it’s more snappy and harder to control. It’s taken many hours of practice, and thousands of rounds to effectively master trigger and recoil control for this weapon to where I can rely on it. I think it’s safe to say that the little .380 took more hours of practice than any of the larger caliber pistols that I own. For home protection I have a .45 acp and a large Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff, guard dog. So that’s me and what works for me, presumably, as I haven’t had to use the weapons yet. The Mastiff though, has proven many times to effectively discourage undesirable visitors at my doorstep. If only I could take him everywhere I go.

  187. Sam H. Stedman

    I first started carrying in ’91, debated a snub nosed .38 vs . 380. Took a course, the instructor chided my decision. I had particular concealment issue the reason for the semi . 380. Took the course and shot a perfect 300. If the round goes where you want it to, the caliber matters less

  188. Holly Dickerson

    Thank you, so much for this article. I happened across this and couldn’t stop reading. Every word rings true for me and I carry a 9mm. If you can’t control ones own weapon what is the point of having one. Now I want to check out a Kahr.380.

  189. David

    Good information. I suggested to my wife that she shoot and compare similar size 9mm and a .380. Stating that she will probably have more fun shooting the latter this making her a better shooter. This article supports my advise and has been forwarded to her.
    I once worked with a former Marine a hunter and serious gun entustiast. Discussing caliber choice he said “When you put six 22 caliber rounds in an attacker’s forehead you’ve changed his motivation”. Of course not suggesting resting your life on that advise when making a personal protection gun selection, but being able to repeatedly hit the target was his point. He carried a .357.

  190. Kelly Morgan

    I appreciate your article. It reinforces my decision to shoot a 38 as opposed to a 9 mm. I also am considering penetration. I am 5′ 20″ and 250lbs. The 9mm will penetrate 12″ plus. I’m only about 12″ thick, not considering my breasts. I’m thinking that shooting a 38 would be less likely to lead to shooting through-and-through and less chance of unintended damage and wounds/injuries/deaths. I only want (?) to penetrate an attacker not perforate them. Considering the extra control available, I’m going to exchange my new 9mm back to a 38. Thanks, Kelly

  191. Best 9mm Pocket Pistol

    Uhhhh, what’s this about? The guy who shot the dog,how many times did he shoot it? I’ve not had much luck with 9mm parabellum one shot stops, and before I went Buddhist, I shot a lot of dogs. Eight in one year, and the 9 s always took two shots, once using Corbin +p shot a bloodhound in the head, corbon 115 grHP , it just blew out his eye and some of his head but he was still walking in circles when I came back with the shovel to bury him. So far I’d say close range a shotgun 12 gauge seems the best. FMJ’s in 223 ain’t worth a fuck, had to shoot a goat three times before it quit flopping around. Hollow points a whole nother story, they end it right quick. I’m glad I’m not the killer I used to be.

  192. James

    If the .380 pistol were loaded with Underwood extreme defender +p, it would become a truly lethal weapon, most likely surpassing the lethality of traditionally designed 9 mm cartridges. Modern technology, thus, has resolved the issue. S&w will be offering a newly designed .380 pistol called EZ. racking the slide can be done with one finger, and the recoil is smoother, purportedly, than all other cow .380 pistols. Watching videos of the weapon being fired by several people, of both sexes, seems to justify the claim. Issue date is end February, 2018, I believe.

  193. Chuck H

    After having read the ridiculous comments, unwarranted slurs, political inference, and uneducated comments, I want no parts of this site or those who patronize this parody.

  194. Wayne

    Great article! Higher caliber in a smaller frame may not be for everyone when it’s time to actually defend your self. This is what will steer me back towards a .380 for the wife. I have a compact 9mm for me. 🙂

  195. Kim Abts

    I own a SWMP40, stays in the nightstand. However I need a conceal carry pistol. Trying to decide between SW Shield 9 mm with laser or a .380? I love the magazine size of the 40 (15) I’m an older lady, I can tolerate the recoil of the 40 however would not want to shoot regularly. I was very accurate at last visit to range. With that being said: would you recommend the SW SHIELD OR 380. I always buy FEDERAL HOLLOW POINT? thank you Kim. Excellent article!

  196. Robert

    Anyone remember where the Brady Bill and the 3 day wait period for handguns came from ? What caliber isn’t enough???

  197. Mendy

    Why didn’t u name the 9 mm you could barely control? Those comments u made are useless when the manufacturer goes unnamed. Unless I missed something.

  198. Alfred Alder

    Very good description. I do own a new 380 and a


    Very good commentary. I own a new Ruger 380 lcp II and a S&W 9mm Pro “Luv It” Done with any other Pistols. Have owned them ALL.
    and just acquired a 25 acp with a internal striker. I’m done with getting anything else!

  199. Super Senior

    So true. 5 22s is more effect in an intruder than 1 9mm in the intruder and 4 in the wall.

  200. John Ford

    My wife and her friend both have Kimber Micro .380’s.

    Neither one of them can work the slide on larger calibers and have trouble with the long trigger pull on the striker fire weapons.

    • Mike Williams

      This is an old thread & argument; some good, some bad, like most. Different guns & ammo for different people in different situations. I read some of this, try different things, & do what I like. Others aren’t paying for it, I am. I don’t give a hoot about what most of them think. Who cares?

    • Mike Williams

      This is an old thread & argument; some good, some bad, like most. Different guns & ammo for different people in different situations. I read some of this, try different things, & do what I like. Others aren’t paying for it, I am. I don’t give a hoot about what most of them think. Who cares? I have a new CZ83 that shoots perfect every shot, more reliably than my Ruger Service Six, which is outstanding, & as accurately as my Browning 1911 .380 with a 4.5-inch barrel. I like them all & they serve different purposes.

  201. H Stan Boring PHC USN Ret

    Fifty and sixty years ago, in my Naval career and beyond, in security work, I used a .45 or .357. But now I’m 80 years old and have relatively small hands, so I have “graduated” to the 9mm. As time goes on, I would certainly consider the .380, as my (long since) “retired” carry caliber of choice. Thanks for your article. Chief Boring

  202. Roger H.

    Well written and objective. Question of capacity not adressed, .380’s are often, to keep the size down, limited to 6 or 7 rounds.

  203. mike hill

    The .380 has never been as inadequate as some have made it out to be. In the early 90s I was forced to shoot my neighbor’s Pit Bull because for some strange reason, after much time making friends with her, she decided she wanted to eat me. Thanks to a .380 Walther PPKs and a Hornady hollow-point, I escaped being chewed alive. And this was a bit prior to the much-improved bullet technology we enjoy today. The police investigating made two unprovoked comments—“Damn, she’s big” and “Looks like she never had a bath”—then came a question, “how long did it take her to die?” I responded, “About 5 seconds.” I heard in return, “Hmmm.” When I questioned that one officer told me that it was known for officers to have to shoot a Pit Bull with a .357 magnum or .45acp, knock the dog down only to have it get up and charge again, thereby forcing the officer to shoot the dog multiple times to end the threat.

    Now, much can be said for “luck” in this case because the bullet hit just right, though not where I aimed. The dog was charging, and had the shot fired hit where I aimed, in the front of her muscular chest, I can’t be sure the outcome would have been the same. I was fortunate because she turned a bit to her right just as I fired. The bullet entered just behind her left shoulder, and in the aftermath, from my hunting days, I could tell it was a lung shot. The bullet knocked her down, she jumped up, spun around about three times, ran about 30 feet away and fell dead, all in about 5 seconds.

    With today’s ammunition improvements, and when circumstances require it, I can’t help but think a .380 is now even more adequate for self defense when/if the need arises.

  204. David Gordon

    People constantly give me crap about my Hi-Point .380. Not a micro, by any means. Large and heavy. No chance I would give this up! My wife, and daughter, have learned to shoot with this weapon. They are very proficient with it. My 9 is too uncontrollable for them in rapid fire. For self defense, at close range,you can’t beat it. I also have the Hi-Point .380 Carbine. Love em, or hate em, these have been great for us.