When Does a .380 Beat a 9mm?

This is an image of a caliber comparison

Photo: author

You may have heard the phrase, “Friends don’t let friends carry mouseguns.” 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...

Best Personal Defense Weapon

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.

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.

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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755 Responses to “When Does a .380 Beat a 9mm?”

  1. Jeffrey D Edwards

    The thing that most people don’t understand about the 380 is Browning designed it to be fired from the Colt automatic pistol which had a barrel length of 4-1/2″. This will significantly increase the round performance.

    Reply
  2. Juan

    Yeah i’m thinking 380 is the way to go, more accurate, less recoil, more accurate shots, more on target

    Reply
  3. Skye

    Yeah i’m thinking 380 is the way to go, more accurate, less recoil, more accurate shots, more on target.

    Reply
  4. Gus

    The Police 👮‍♀️ in Nuremberg Germany 🇩🇪 all favor the .380 cartridge pistols as an Excellent Choice!!!
    A .380 pistol and knowing how to shoot it well is all we really need to carry. It’s better to have it and not need than to need and not have it. A .380 pistol is better than as they say ‘ a stick to the 👁 eye ‘ Amen 🙏!!!🙏😇👮‍♀️🇩🇪🍀🌵

    Reply
  5. tom

    love my little LCP original w 16round extended clip. tiny front jeans pocket n the extended clip makes for quikDrawMcGraw surprise if I should need it. otherwise a small padded envelope looks like mail wherever I may be

    Reply
  6. Walter Knight

    I really like your article. I have a Kimber pro carry. A 45 with a 4 inch barrel. When I first go it 12 years ago I could shoot it very well. I could but everything inside the 9 ring on a B27 target.

    A lot of things have changed over the last 12 years. Today I must use a wheelchair to get around. Also, I am not as strong as I use to be.

    I went to the range last week. I thought I had a hand cannon. The recoil was horrible and my shots were all over the target. I am giving a lot of thought to greeting a 380. I believe there is some ammunition out there that will work.

    Reply
  7. Frank

    I was looking at buying a gun for the house that my wife could handle and asked a lady friend, who shoots competitively, about the 380 she said the 9mm is so much better for plethora of reasons. After reading this article I’m going to reconsider since I hadn’t made a final decision yet.

    Reply
  8. Ruben Cortes

    If you go to the majority of guns stores and ask the “pros” what’s the difference between a 380. and a 9mm the majority of them will say that “they’re the same”. When you look at the numbers on a 9mm is 9x19mmR while a 380. is 9x17mm. A 380 is the European 9mm used by the police in several European countries started in Germany for many years. It works it is a man stopper.

    Reply
  9. Bud Orr

    I agree with you 100 percent. I help many people try and figure out what firearm to carry. My first choice is a 380. Thank you for sharing this info.

    Reply
  10. PhillIp Owens SFC (SS) Ret

    I have a Tisas 380 which is somewhat larger than most .380’s and this results in far less recoil, I also have found that the lighter .380 ammunition with the polymer projectile to be very effective as well. This combination is carried in both my .380 and 9mm carry guns. I shoot every week.

    Reply
  11. Dr Allan Grossman

    As the years passed I went from .45 to 9mm to.380 for all the reasons you mentioned. I am now 82 (have been shooting since age 8), and have finally faced the facts. I will carry a .380 or a reduced power .38.

    Reply
  12. Steven Sprague

    Excellent article. I have carried a .380 shooting jhp and have had the discussion about why not carry the 9mm or .45! My response then and now was it isn’t the size of the round but the placement. Heck, I bekieve the caliber of choice of an assassin used to be .22! Not because of the initial impact but the damage it does bouncing around. Again, great article.

    Reply
  13. Ken Collins

    Excellent article, well thought out! For fourteen years managing an indoor shooting range, I was asked repeatedly, what caliber and gun combination do you suggest? My reply was always the same…the one you can control best, even if that’s a .22!

    Reply
  14. Paul

    The .380 you can carry comfortably always beats the 9mm you leave home. I have a nice Ruger SR9C that is not so compact IWB. So I added a Taurus TCP and a Sig P238. The Taurus has a good bit of recoil but is so small I can carry it in the breast pocket of a sport coat. The Sig has minimal recoil and is perfect IWB or in a cargo pocket. And yes, I tried the Sig 938 side by side with the 238. The recoil and muzzle flip were much more significant with the 9; as much as the TCP but without the tiny size. It’s all a matter of one’s hand size, body size, and carry preference.

    Reply
  15. Roger White

    I am very satisfied with the results I get at the range with my 380 Taurus. I hope to never use it for defense, but I know the tight groups will do the job when needed.

    Reply
  16. Harvey

    So glad to read your comments on the 380. I have been carrying a Glock 380 for years now for just for some of the reasons you pointed out. However, let me also say for me my 380 is a gun I will carry and do carry every day! I have lots of pistols to chose from so this decision comes down to comfort. I literally ware it all day. Even at home. And the extra magazine in the left pocket.
    Find the gun you will carry everyday then practice with it.

    Reply
  17. Werner Buras

    After reading this article I tend to agree with your findings. Which helped me make my mind up about using one of my .380’s for my CCW as a 2nd weapon.

    Reply
  18. David Leas

    I have to agree with you and I don’t know if it’s possible to get a better understanding of what it would be like for us to get to know that we are not supposed to be able to help with the things that I don’t know if it’s possible for me to help you out with your statement or if it’s possible to help get them to understand what you are saying about the 380 people who are going to have to be able to tell them that they are not doing anything wrong but they don’t have a clue about what it means to be able to hit what they are aiming at and then maybe try to see if they can do it again but if they don’t have a good hold on the gun then they will need help to get rid of the stuff that they have been doing wrong and then they will need to do something that doesn’t help for them and then maybe they will need to help us out with the things that we are trying to get to see them Keep it will be a great way to get to know what to expect from them yet again but if they do it right then everything will be a waste of time and your life maybe lost because of the things that they didn’t have to remember and then maybe try it again but if they are unable to hit what they are aiming at it won’t make any difference if it’s a 45 or 40 or 9 mm I know that you are right but it’s hard to convince them to get rid of the things they have to do to help them with your idea of what you need help to be able to hit what they are trying to work out and if they don’t want to get a better understanding of what it will take to get the job done right before they are out of luck I hope that we can help them out and if it’s possible to help them to do it for the people who don’t know what they want to get them everything done right before they have to take a good look at what it takes to do it right before they are able to do anything they want For they’ll help us out getting hurt and I will try everything that will need them again but if they don’t get it I’ll try again to see if they can understand that I am just trying to get a better understanding of what they want to do. I hope that I make sense and I hope that I can help with your life if one person is saved then I have been doing right

    Reply
  19. Bill Wood

    I like the way you explained it.I tell my friends to buy the best380 you can and make sure it fits your hand and for carrying ammo. There is many brands out there today.That why it is up in the 9mm class.Neither one is no good in less you practice with it.

    Reply
  20. Robert Chilcutt

    The other consideration is Many women do not have the hand strength to rack many 9mm semi automatics.

    Reply
  21. Patrick A Buccieri

    Over the year, I have read a few articles similar to yours on 380 vs 9mm. When my mother and I decide to take shooting lessons we went to a local range. They actually went through the process of finding guns that fit our hands. My mother had longer thinner finger and mine were shorter and more muscular. They fitted her with a 9mm and found that one of the few guns that my trigger finger fell in proper relation to the trigger was a 380-colt government model. I love this gun and it has minimal recoil which means I can get back on target quicker.

    I use Hydra Shocks.

    Reply
  22. Anon E Mous

    The first gun I paid for myself was a Jimenez .380 which I sold as soon as I could. It had terrible recoil. I replaced it with a Walther PK-380. I also bought a Walther P-22 to train with using .22LR., which was under 5 cents at the time. The Walther PK-380 & P-22 are medium sized pistols. The PK-380 has noticeably more recoil that the P-22, but not a whole lot more. The size of the .380 (and all other pistols) affect the recoil. The little Jimenez 380 bothered my arthritis more that Model 1911 .45 or a Taurus Judge!

    Reply
  23. Chuck Cochran

    A .380 was my CCW for a little over 25 years. Easy to conceal and control, it always performed without fail at the range. I’m thankful that I’ve never been in a situation requiring my weapon. That gun was retired to range baby status for one reason. My aging eyes. I could no longer make out the sights in Low Light drills. The gun, a Walther PPK/S, is not a gun I’d want to have the slide milled on, so I decided to retire it and replaced it with a SIG P365. The Night sights just “popped” for me in low light drills. Even though I’ve bigger than average hands (2XL gloves), I’ve no problems keeping my grip on it, even though I carry and +P ammo through the gun. Timing wise, my shot strings are milliseconds apart between the 2 calibers and guns. Though the Walther is the more accurate of the 2 (a pinned barrel is just more accurate than a Tilting lock system).

    Had there been a Walther with Night Sights already standard, I would have gone that way. There wasn’t, and so the SIG won the day.

    Reply
  24. Major Mike

    Practice with what you have in your holster. It really doesn’t matter what caliber it is. In my law-enforcement career I have seen people shot dead with a two shot Derringer and survive a 357 magnum. just keep Amy at Center mass and pulling the trigger until you either run out of bullets or the bad guy falls at your feet.

    Reply
  25. John

    My wife swears by her .380, she has arthritis and has trouble working the slide on larger firearms.
    It’s also patterned after the 1911 with a single action trigger, she also has trouble pulling the trigger on striker fired pistols.

    Reply
  26. Mike Cozzolino

    Very well discussed and said ! I personally own a 380, get all the mouse crap, But would not have anything else! Absolutely love it

    Reply
  27. Robert

    I have a 9mm S&P 8+1 Rounds, I also have a Bersa Thunder plus 380, holds 15-1 I am much more accurate with the Bersa thunder. I feel it would be effective with hollow point ammo, plus lets not forget 15 rounds.

    Reply
  28. Chuck Rogers

    Thanks for your honest opinion, I have severe Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint inflammation and pain, I need a lower recoil and feel control of the gun more important than power, if I can deliver 6 + 1 rounds on target, its worth it…..thanks again for being honest, Chuck Rogers Scottsdale Az.

    Reply
  29. V

    Anyone reading this should be interested to know that federal hydrashok deep, federal punch and any brand of 90 gr Hornady XTP are the only expanding rounds in 380 that will reliably pass the FBI bare, heavy clothing and IWBA denim tests.

    Reply
  30. V

    The new Ruger LCP max is probably the ultimate carry gun for all the reasons you listed above.

    Reply
  31. Phil Kipnis

    Having shot for close to sixty years I would agree with the accuracy verses power of the hit argument. I shot a .38 for three decades, that being what I was trained on. I declined to upgrade to the. 357 because it was a cannon. Too loud, too much recoil and too much bulk. Same reason I returned the .45 1911 I was issued.right after I qualified with it. In the early 1990s I got “persuaded to either get a 9mm or a .40SW. After firing both of them for a day I chose the .40 in a 1911 frame style. Yeah its heavy and large, but! I can put 13 rounds downrange in a fatal pattern. So… ignore the experts. Shoot the weapon you can effectively control . After all your life depends on your adversary not getting off any rounds towards you. Its important that you live, they die. Let the courts decide the details.
    AND FOR SAKE, PRACTICE DONT PLAY.

    Reply
  32. Dominic Sinisi

    Hey, if 007 can dust bad guys off with his .380; then so can you. .380’s are awesome!!!

    Reply
  33. Gunner

    Good report and review of the .380! I’m kinda tired of conceal carrying my large, bulky .40 caliber and looking to downsize to a .380 soon. I agree in that it is better to be able to effectively shoot a smaller caliber .380 and get shots on target than to have to deal with recoil from a .40 or .45 caliber. I was a Firearms Instructor in the Air Force (1980 to 1992) when we were issued (and teaching) the .38 Smith Revolver (M-10) to the troops. I always qualified with the revolver, but the recoil was not fun to deal with. In the late 80’s (as I recall) we went with the Beretta 9mm. From day one I was shooting dead center with that thing, all because it had so much LESS recoil than the .38 revolver. The older I’m getting, the less recoil I want to deal with. I think the .380 will fit my needs.

    Reply
  34. Barry Gordon

    not once in this article did it say that the bullet on the .380 and the one on the 9mm are the exact same bullet.

    Reply
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  35. Charline

    Thank you Grant I have 2 S&W Sheild 380 EZ one for me and one for my daughter so feel I made the right choice. Talk soon

    Reply
  36. Vitor Dang

    I love and like this your disclusion
    I had more Bersa .380 for two my daughters and my spouse
    Thanks

    Reply
  37. Lewis gershman

    I have Arthritis in my hands i have both a 380 And 9 mm I can control the 380 better. Bersa. 380 Taurus 9mm

    Reply
  38. Michael M

    I would think that a .380 in a lighter load (with less velocity and penetration than 9mm) in close quarters would be more suited for home defense. I’d want that mushroomed round staying inside the brain of a would be attacker, not tearing through it and possibly injuring my kids or pets who happen to be in an adjacent location…Hope this makes sense!

    Reply
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  39. WILLIAM BUSH

    I`M 89 YRS. OLD AND HAVE BEEN SHOOTING HAND GUNS SINCE I WAS IN MY EARLY 20S. 22s,380s .38s, 9mm @ 45s. I AM NOW JUST SHOOTING THE 22 & THE 380.I CARRY THE 380 WHEN GOING OUT. I GO TO THE RANGE TWICE A MONTH AND SHOOT ABOUT 120 RNDS, ( PER VISIT ) AT 5 TO 20 FT AND HITTING IN THE CHEST AND STOMACH AREA . MY WIFE SAYS I DO PRETTY GOOD FOR MY AGE & I HAVE TO AGREE WITH HER. SHE SHOOTS BETTER THAN I DO. I ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE AND AGREE WITH YOU. A WELL PLACED SHOT IS BETTER ANY DAY THAN ONE NOT PLACED WHERE YOU WANT IT TO HIT OR AT LEAST CLOSE. I HAVE TWO BOYS & IN THEIR 50s & THEY BOTH CARRY 380s. & THEY LIKE THEM. THEY ALSO HAVE 9MM. & ONE HAS A 45. & THEY LIKE THEM. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME EXPRESS MY THOUGHS.

    Reply
  40. Christina Doris

    I just like the valuable information you provide on your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and take a look at once more here frequently.
    I’m fairly sure I will be told a lot of new stuff right here! Best of luck.

    Reply
  41. David

    A 41 magnum (my old service revolver), a 1911, my car gun…the Glock 20 (10mm), and even a 9 mm are much better for stopping bad guys and delivering “knock down” power. But, step out of the “perfect world” and welcome to reality: in a combat situation, ONLY THE GUN YOU’VE STRAPPED ON will do you any good. The hand cannon you have in the gun safe, the monster weapon in the trunk of your car, and the beast of bullet valley in the next room are useless…maybe worse than useless if you became complacent in your unarmed state. I put on my .380 when I climb out of bed and regardless if I’m working in the shop, mowing the lawn, doing the treadmill, or just quick running into town for a minute, I’m always armed. In a Bulldog or Sneaky Pete I never know it’s there–until I need it.

    Carry the gun you’ll carry always, become expert in its use, and use the big iron only as “better when available.”

    Reply
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  42. William Miller

    An added plus is with all the new 9mm bullets and powders you customize your loads to fit your purposes

    Reply
  43. Gary Sackman

    Finally a positive article on the .380 caliber. I qualified expert with the 1911 in the Army, the first time fired it. The recoil wasn’t too much an issue from the used rattle-trap I was issued. Anyway, I purchased a Walther PPK/S in the 80’s when manufacturing moved to America. It was small enough to be concealed and newer selections of ammo were available for the caliber. I liked the pistol and learning to fire it was a real experience. A sharper recoil than the .45. I had a Training NCO in the Guard who was on the Western Marine Corp Pistol Team. He had no trouble putting 5 rounds in the bullseye at 50′ at our indoor range. The caliber may not be as powerful as the other ones, but with practice it is just as deadly. I practiced with ball ammo, but loaded the magazines with Federal Hydra-Shok hollow points for carry when I worked as a news photographer for ABC. I didn’t feel under-gunned and was happy when I could go into a dangerous area with the weapon concealed from prying eyes. I am buying a .380 for my wife to keep for her personal protection. I considered a 9mm, but at 75 she isn’t as strong as she was when we got married 30 years ago. Not to worry about her marksmanship skill. Her dad taught her to shoot when she was teenager, using a vintage (pre-1940) .45 Colt SAA. I have shot with her and she is more dangerous than some law enforcement and military members. If I had the choice for carry, even the Walther, I would choose the .380. Especially with all of the new models being created by manufacturers.

    Reply
  44. balisong

    how many of you have shot any animals with a 380? I have, and 380 jhp’s dont expand in flesh and blood. The only reason to choose one is if you’re too feeble to control anything else. Most 9mm loads are not worth much, either in micro compact barrels. if the 380 has locked breech, you can handload to the needed velocity to get expansion in flesh, IF you load a dead soft lead hp, or if you pull the aluminum-jacketed hp from Winchester Silvertip ammo Youll need 1200 fps in either case and that gives you 300 ft lbs. You can get a copper jacketed 90 gr jhp 9mm to 1350 fps in a micro 9mm, but nobody offers such ammo, since CorBon stopped doing so. I have not tested solid copper hp’s on animals, but I’d bet anything that they require substantially higher velocities to expand reliably than lead cored jhps. As in 1600 fps or more.

    Reply
  45. Billy McGaha

    I have a 45 and a 380 – if you don’t believe the 380 isn’t any good – let me shoot you 3 times – 2 to the chest – one to the head at 10 yards, then tell me if it works.

    Reply
  46. Ellen

    I have a Ruger .22. I’m 77 years old and it is my first gun. It is for home protection since I lost my husband. What would you recommend for me? I’m thinking of getting a shotgun, now that I am comfortable using a “mouse” gun.

    Reply
  47. glenn

    All your analytical stuff is absolutely correct….but as you said…bottom line is that all of the five defensive calibers have almost identical stats as far as “incapacitation” stopping power. 7% of shots are one shot kills…head and heart and the rest…it takes two hits to incapacitate and they all do just about the same. Would I rather have a bigger gun in a bigger caliber with more rounds…absolutely, but my 1911 doesn’t fit well in my summer shorts….you need a gun for all seasons :) S&W Bodyguard 380 or Glock 42 are better than no gun at all and the S&W Shield 380 EZ is the #1 recommended handgun for ladies…full grip, 8 rounds and easy to shoot accurately.

    Reply
  48. paul bertan

    When I fired a .25 Walther, no matter how I held it with both hands, the barrel ended pointed up so that weapon was to light.

    Reply
  49. Juan Cruz

    I liked the article. Some very good points. Other advantages of some 380 guns are that; they tend to be easier to handle for shooters with small hands, and they seem to be easier to rack for weaker shooters. They do not have the range of the 9mm but for defensive encounters they have an adequate range. On the Interceptor ballistic gel video, you mention that most 380s are not as reliable with HP or other non-ball rounds. That may be the case with some, but I will say that the Walther PK380 will fire anything reliably. I have fired hundreds of HP, RIP, Interceptor, and ball ammo through my Walther PK380. All in an effort to find the best round for my gun. I have never had a malfunction of any kind. I highly recommend the Walther PK380 to any one who may be thinking of a 380 as a defensive handgun.

    Reply
  50. Dave Sargent

    For the arthritic shooter, this should be a no-brainer. I will not practice with a gun that hurts and I prefer never to have to use one. Snub-nose revolvers are an absolute “never again”. Carry a SR9c when off and an inexpensive .380 when I have to lock it in the car at work. It is pre- micro era and a delight to shoot.

    Reply
  51. Ken Pereira

    I completely agree. My wife had a terrible time with the recoil on my 9mm and re-acquiring her aim on the target. With a smaller caliber she became more accurate with her grouping and much faster in delivery of rounds.

    Reply
  52. nathan h fryer

    On the subject; .380…I bought NEW Rock Island 1911 model .380 great carry…beauty to shoot. I’ve also got full size and half size 1911 .45’s…both new from Springfield Armory. They..(45’s) are both weighty-firearms…not
    your great everyday carry as far a comfort…regardless of “knock-down” power…that .380 pistol I carry, is gonna
    sting no less than the .45…and still get the job done.

    Reply
  53. Janel Mortensen

    Thank you. I agree with everything you said in your article. I use a 380 and will continue to do so unti I am confident enough to use a 9mm,which may never happen.

    Reply
  54. Pat Crispin

    I have 2 9mm and 38 special and Ruger ACP 380 I carry the 380 all the time using hallow ponts. Hope I never have to use it I have 6 shot clip and carry 2 extra clips, great artical

    Reply
  55. Stefan

    “… the .380 doesn’t have much stopping power, making it a less ideal choice than the next step up the ladder, the 9mm. …”

    OK, the 9 mm Ultra/Police (9×18 mm) is gone, but the 9 mm Makarov is still around.

    Else: Every bullet that damage the tissue like it should damage and makes it’s way to that tissue, is fine for self defence. The biggest advantage of the 9 mm Luger (9×19 mm) over the .380 ACP might be the ammo cost.

    Reply
  56. Gary

    Don’t knock the small calibres, my issue side arm for ther first 10 years of Policing was a .32ACP either a Colt 1903 or a Browning 1910. Our highway patrol got the Browning 1922 and yes a lot of criminals were shot with that calibre and a lot of officers were saved using that calibre, our neighbouring State Police carried the Browning 1922 in 380 ACP at the time, the other neighbouring State Police had just changed over from the Webley & Scott Metro Police in .32ACP to Smith & Wesson Model 10 38 spl revolvers with 3″ barrels. Of course we went through the revolver stage after the .32s in .38spl calibre and have once again reverted back to the semi automatic in .40 S&W calibre in all three States. I never felt under-gunned throughout that time as accuracy was always the first priority.

    Yes bullets did bounce off shirt buttons but you must remember they were tough shirt buttons in those days.

    and remember they bullets were jacketed round noses, not like some of the fancy defensive rounds advertised today.

    I enjoyed your article and I’m digging out the old pistols to introduce them to some of our much younger members for familiarization training.

    PS I believe my subscription may be due.

    Reply
  57. Ken Buck

    I have been carrying a little Ruger LCP .380 for years. Due to job restrictions and living in a hot climate in Texas, it is the perfect carrying size. I have put a lot of rounds through it, so I know what I can do at close range with it. I would feel much better with one of my 45’s, but they don’t do me any good sitting at home.

    Reply
  58. Jerry George

    I carry a 380 sometimes when I don’t want the weight and size of my Glock 19. The 380 is the Ruger LCP II with the new trigger. I have it loaded with the R.I.P. rounds which should be excellent for very close range. This gun is primarily for defense against car hacking or strong arm robbery where I can use it at point blank range. The Glock is loaded with Hornady Critical Defense ammo for maximum shock value. You only need to think through what use the gun is to be used for, and out the appropriate load in it. 😎

    Reply
  59. Joseph Vedovati

    I’m an NRA Certified Instructor since ’94, and have trained a number of men and women that the .380 was a better fit for, including me in the summer months. When it’s hot I carry my Glock 42 in a Sneaky Pete holster which is easy to carry, easy to draw from, and quite comfortable. The Glock is also larger than many .380’s which allows me to get my meathook sized hands on it and provides better control than the same sized 9’s.
    During winter months it’s easier to conceal a larger frame/caliber, (Springfield .45 XDM) which provides the punch to penetrate winter coats, etc. while providing a larger grip surface and weight to lower felt recoil and provide better control.

    Reply
  60. David Greene

    This ‘Thread’ keeps circulating for years! Some replies are from 2014, and people replying to posters from that era!
    To the real facts? I would rather have a trained 12 year old with a .22 with very accurate aim, than an untrained 35 year old with a .45! Truth? It doesn’t matter if it’s a. 22, 9mm, .380, .40 or any other round! The PERSON is what matters! Training, Training, training! Know when, where, and HOW to take down a person WITHOUT endangering other innocent people!
    Like I said, a highly trained 12 year old can beat an untrained adult every time! Why? Expectancy! He’s trained in what his emotions will do, and HOW to overcome them! He knows to LOOK for his opening, and most importantly when to, and when NOT to take a shot! Give this kid a .380, and he’ll protect himself (and you) properly every time! Size doesn’t matter, practice does!

    Reply
  61. David Lee

    Mr. Cunningham:
    Many thanks for your astute commentary. Many years ago i used to shoot all of the bigger stuff from .38 Special up to .44 Magnum. Several years ago I bought a Springfield XD 9mm subcompact for its size and 10-round magazine. Then, both of my thumbs started to ache alot, and racking the slide on the XD wasn’t easy any more. My doctor said that both tendons had stretched and torn with age. They could be repaired with surgery but she actually recommended against it, as the recovery was slow and painful. So, I got an S&W .380 EZ. The slide is amazingly easy to rack, and my shooting was more accurate from the first time i fired it. I’ve read that loading a .380 with Federal Hydrashock Deep is a good way to go for self defense and that’s what I’ve done. It works for me.
    Many thanks, again.
    Best regards,

    Reply
  62. Dwain Sanders

    You definitely do not want to be shot by a .380. My son shot a pretty good mule deer with a win .270 that ran up a ridge and down the other side and into a valley. The deer was down but alive. My son shot him in the chest with a .380 bodyguard pistol and it finished him immediately.

    Reply
  63. Skye

    I also am a handgun instructor, and the majority of my students are female. I could not agree with you more. Very well thought out, and we’ll written also. I can’t tell you how many students have shown up with a 9mm or even a .40, bought for them or recommended by a macho male in their lives. It is a delicate situation to deal with, but I offer to let them shoot my .380 if they are struggling. Since I don’t sell firearms, I have pretty good credibility.

    Reply
  64. mark

    i agree that the little compacts are hard to control even as a .380. i had a S&W bodyguard and my Sprigfield XDM.45 was easier to control. however, i traded in that bodyguard for the EZ .380 and find it wonderful as they designed it like a ‘ larger ‘ gun but it’s a .380 and the control problem literally disappeared!

    Reply
  65. RadarRecon

    I carried a Colt Govt. Mod. IV for 4 years as a constable. Never had to “use” it but drew it at least 3 times on duty.
    I got kidded by other local officers about how small it is (still my EDC), but all I could tell them was “it doesn’t matter what you hit ’em with. It’s where you hit ’em.”

    Reply
  66. Gordon Gaines

    I love my little 380. Most of the women I know carry a 380. I have also shot a 9mm subcompact and hated it. It was extremely hard to control and I gave up on it. I don’t carry my 380 all of the time because I have a compact 9mm now that I can control.

    Reply
  67. Anon E Mous

    There are .380 guns and there are .380 guns.

    I had a small 6 round .380 Jimenez that had recoil worse than a 1911 .45 caliber pistol. The operative word is “had”. I sold it.

    I replaced it with a Walther PK-380, which is hardly a mouse gun, since it is much larger and has less recoil. My wife trains with it when she isn’t shooting her Henry lever action .22, which my son-in-law and the grandchildren love to shoot too.

    Reply
  68. Colleen Peraza

    I am new to the fire arm world, I’ve bought a M&P shield EZ 380. It was the only gun I could actually rock back and I still don’t like the recoil on it but I can hit my target right on almost every single shot. This is the perfect gun for me.

    Reply
  69. Eddie Green

    The .380 acp should definitely not be sneered at as a self defense weapon. I carry one in my cat for the very reasons you state here. However in the house I have 45s and 40s. The .380 acp coupled with hollow point developed rounds (handloaded) make for a very accurate combination at speed. Less recoil and better penetration of the rounds make it lethal. There is another drawback if you have a single stack model. The size of the magazine is very slim and makes it difficult for rapid reloads without a lot of practice.

    Reply
  70. Mark

    I have always been a believer of placement of shot than calibre. That is using the characteristics of the calibre effectively. Smaller calibre- softer vital areas like the throat and face. The first firearm I owned was a CZ 83…and I swear by that gun as being as good a self Defence weapon as any bigger calibre. It was ambidextrous, easy to take apart and put back together-especially in a hurry and most of all having put more than 10 000 range rounds through it never ever had a stoppage or malfunction due to mechanics or types of ammo used, even reloads.

    Reply
  71. Peter

    The gun that is matter is the gun you carry regardless what caliber you have when you need to use it. Shoot with the gun you like & train with not what others said about it because they are not going to be there to save you even policemen. I owned both .380 & 9mm, more power will have more recoil and can add to less accuracy. Where you place the bullet is key, what if you miss with a larger round but hit with small round then which do you choose? Again, carry & shoot with what you like and practice with it because what you have is what matter when you need to use it not so much the caliber. Please carry what you like & train to use it.

    Reply
  72. David Aldrich

    Very good article that I completely agree with. I would only add that the gun buyer should also understand caliber is only one of a dozen other equally important parameters of projectile performance. There is bullet weight, bullet material, velocity, bullet design, etc. etc. I carry a .380 but it is loaded with very specialized ammo designed specifically for maximum internal damage to human tissues with very high resulting body cavity pressures. It is a very light bullet of special frangible material with extreme high velocity. It is essentially one shot kill ammo. And since it is .380, I can get off more shots easily as needed.

    Reply
  73. Andrea

    One of the more concise, to-the-point, unbiased articles I’ve read about this discussion. Great insight, thanks!

    Reply
  74. Richard

    Your comparisons are great. Seems to me that too many new shooters are steered toward subcompact pistols. In many instances a subcompact .380 can be more difficult to control than a compact 9mm and much more so than a full size 9mm. I routinely shoot 40 S&W and 45 acp without issue. Frame size and weight are your friends when firing a handgun.

    Reply
  75. Robert Smith

    As a firearms instructor of 30+ years, I have seen the “bigger is better” mentality imposed upon the wives of husbands who are certain the “Little Lady” needs a 45ACP to be properly protected. The fact is that most could shoot one of my .380’s with proficient accuracy and not be able to hit the target with hubby’s 45. The fear of recoil was usually set aside with the lowly .380. It all boils down to, what firearm are you able to shoot accurately every time you pick it up. Excellent article!

    Reply
  76. Bob

    It’s a pocket pistol! A belly gun. I carried a Beretta .32 Tomcat for years before switching to a S&W .380 Bodyguard w/ laser sight & sticky pocket holster. I don’t like the trigger pull but it’s a very concealable piece. It goes where I go and nobody knows. If I go someplace I suspect danger, then I opt for my 1911, or my S&W eight shot .357.revolver. If it’s really bad there is always the old 12 ga. w/ # 1 buckshot.

    Reply
  77. Nancy Merrell-Robertson

    First, Grant Cunningham had great research and wrote a compelling article. I love .380 and 9mm and am super accurate with both, but I can put shots faster and closer together with my Glock 42 than with my Glock 19. IF I could find a full-size high-capacity .380 (such as the Glock 25 which currently can’t be exported to the US) I would shoot it full time and never look back. Current .380 is a powerful little round; I have complete faith in my Hornady Critical Defense rounds.

    Reply
  78. Mike Harney

    For those who claim .380’s are mouse guns, are you willing to let someone shoot you with this wimpy caliber? Just wondering how confident you are in your claim on this caliber.

    Reply
    • Craig

      I have been saying this for years. Anyone who criticizes a small caliber round doesn’t have the balls to let themselves to be shot with it. I like my Spectrum.

      Reply
  79. Glenn Moses

    I feel very comfortable with my Ruger 380 loaded with hollow point rounds. I can consistently put each round on target at what I feel is pretty quick. My opinion on this article is positive, hope more shooters read it and practice then make their choice based on how they feel. Again this is just my opinion.

    Reply
  80. Michael romano

    My taurus millennium pro is loaded with 12+1 of Underwood +p 90gr xtp. I can put all 13 rds in the 5x within 6seconds. As an accomplished combat shooting instructor I’ve tried em all from 22 to 44 mag and I love this little round for all the right reasons. Mainly, ease of carry, ease of putting the whole mag center mass even at 10 yards due to the light recoil and the availability of a good defensive load in the Underwood brand. 13 rds in the chest cavity at 1200 fps with 288′ lbs energy? Fight over. Guns don’t kill people gaping holes in vital organs do and I agree 100% with the author. Semper fi

    Reply
  81. KENNETH PASSEY

    Very Helpful… The Smaller Sounds better for My Mother how’s Small but a not bad Shot but getting older. Thanks for the Info.

    Reply
  82. Rae

    Thank you! This article helped me make my decision. I’m 60 & have several guns. I wanted a small new gun to add to my collection. My hands aren’t as strong these days and agree about recoil. The ammunition being made today should also be taken into consideration. I have two 22’s one LR and one hand gun for plinking. Ammo like CCI Stinger brought .22lr ammo to an entirely new level, their high velocity hollow points definitely do some damage, especially when using a large clip. At age 25 I owned a 357 magnum long barrel it was way too heavy and awkward. My fear then as it is today was it would throw me off and could have been taken from me and used on me instead. Smaller, easier to pull, with ammo made to do damage is exactly what I need.

    Reply
  83. Melanie

    Thank you so much for this article. Have been so torn on if I should get a 380 or the 44. I have arthritis in hands so I want something that I can control good. Everyone has tried talking me into the 44 but I keep feeling like I would do better with the 380. Now I know to follow my gut feelings about it. Going shopping today!

    Reply
    • Mike Harney

      Due to your arthritis, check out Shield’s EZ .380. My dad had concerns about racking the slide with his arthritis and other ailments. The EZ is so easy, a child could rack it. Also, it’s pretty darn accurate.

      Reply
  84. Amanda

    I chose the S&W Shield .380 as my first concealed carry weapon for the simple fact that I’m a very small framed female. I use hollow points and I’m confident that it would be highly effective against an attacker. More so than if I had chosen a more powerful round that packed too much recoil and threw off my accuracy.

    Reply
  85. Cwolf

    Bullets are relatively tiny things. Human beings are full of voids with relatively small vital areas. “Power” may drive the bullet deeper, but the holes are pretty much the same.

    Lots of folks don’t want to carry a large, heavy gun. Lots of folks can’t work a large caliber slide. For some folks, a revolver is a better choice.

    When I worked in a gun store, folks wanted to buy a gun and 6 bullets. Not everybody wants to be an expert shooter.

    So, you’re right….. it’s better to have a gun you can carry, operate, and shoot than no gun.

    Reply
  86. William Kunert

    I’m 65 and have a nerve disease in both hands. I can no longer run my Walther PPQ, so I got an m&p shield EZ, I will never look back. What a great, controllable gun.

    Reply
  87. Doc Graham

    I have been trying to explain this for the last two years. It is especially true with the ad vent of the Lehigh defense projectiles known as Extreme Defense and Extreme Penetrator. They fulfill all FBI terminal ballistics criteria and create a wound channel 2.5 times larger then some 9 mm expanding projectiles.

    Reply
  88. wade wingfield

    You neglected to mention the type of firearm that chambers the .380. Some like the Walther ppk/s use a fixed barrel and generate more recoil than a 9mm in a similar size package with a tilting barrel style of action. The first Ruger lcs I fired had so little recoil , I thought the gun misfired.

    Reply
  89. Robert

    There is nothing wrong with a .380. I usually carry a Colt 1911 .45 on my hip. At times I may trade to my Bersa .380 and carry that. The Bersa Thunder is a very accurate, has a 7 round magazine. I keep loaded with hollow points but also have the ARX bullets.

    Reply
  90. Josh

    Do you think that modern manufacturing of ammunition comes into play when evaluating effectiveness of what ammo is “better”?

    Reply
  91. RadarRecon

    For 4 years as a constable in the ’80s, I was kidded a bit about carrying a .380 (Colt MK IV/Series 80 Govt. model). I just responded that it’s not what you hit ’em with, it’s where you hit ’em.

    Reply
  92. Les

    Like you said, you know 2 people who defended against an attack and in both cases the attackers didn’t survive…enough said.

    Reply
  93. mattblum

    There is an old saying in the trades: “The tool you can use is a good tool.” If that tool is a .45, well and good. If it is a .380, well and good. If it is another round, well and good. A gun is worthless if you don’t carry it or can’t hit accurately with it. Use what works and ignore the zealots.

    Reply
  94. Rob Sorbara

    I purchased two Browning 1911 .380s for my wife and I. We can consistently and accurately hit center mass targets under rapid fire. I like the size and concealability. With RIP rounds, I am confident that one, two or three rounds in virtually any perp is going to stop the threat. With 7 in the mag and one RIPs in the chamber I have 8 excellent chances at successfully stopping even the biggest, meanest perp. I have most of the larger calibers, 9mm, 38 Spec. & 45 and prefer to carry the .380 when outside my home. I hope I never need to use it but if I do, I’m pretty confident that I’ll end up on the winning side. Great article and thanks for the info.

    Reply
  95. STANLEY

    Oh yea, not to mention, I think Patton carried a .380 as a backup pistol as well a other military brass.

    Reply
  96. STANLEY

    The .380 is the cartridge that began WWI (shot out of a 1908 Browning if I’m not mistaken). That’s a pretty powerful little cartridge. But I agree with Mr. Cunningham. In some cases it’s a better choice to have available. Makes sense.

    Reply
  97. Tracey Gordon

    Fantastic article! I am very new to shooting and have a Walther PK380 which I love. I have tried shooting my husband’s larger more powerful handguns but because of having very small hands I find them painful to shoot. As stated in your article, after shooting my husbands, S&W .40 Shield, I then find it so much more comfortable to shoot my 380 accurately and so will eventually carry this when I’m more confident as I now have a CCW permit.

    Reply
  98. Mike K.

    Can you compair
    38 2″ snub nose revolver
    To the 380.
    My friend needs to see a report
    From an expert.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  99. kevin wyman

    I carry a .380 S&W Bodyguard as part of what Mas Ayoob calls ones “gun wardrobe.” Sometimes a pocket pistol is all that will fit into a particular situation, think wedding where close contact is the norm (hugging, dancing, etc). A holstered pistol could participate an embarrassing situation if another attendee were to bump into your holstered firearm. For me the .380 works well for this.

    Reply
  100. Walt Kravic

    Great article! Backed up my feeling of carrying my .380 – great defense of the 9mm little brother.

    Reply
  101. kenneth j mclaughlin

    I agree with your article, I train with 40 cal, 357 38 and my 380. they are all great weapons but what was not brought into play was the daily carry. a 9mm or 40 cal. not carried or carried only when someone thinks they need it is the type of person who is always fumbling around checking to see if the weapon has moved. the 380 is easier carried and is much better on the person then the 9,40 45, 357 0r 38 left in the vehicle or at home. My thought only. size of individual will also enter in to what is carried daily. thanks for letting me rant

    Reply
  102. Andrew

    I’d rather carry my mouse gun (LCP in this case) comfortably all day long than struggle concealing and carrying with a heavier and larger pistol. I know that .380’s bounce off T-Shirts /s. I put a Hogue grip on the pistol and it was a great improvement on draw and fire. I use the actual LeHigh brand 90 grain Extreme Penetrator ammo in standard pressure as my defensive carry for penetration and what ever Hollow point effect I get from the hydraulic design.

    Reply
  103. Craig Knapp

    Since this discussion started the Taurus Spectrum has come out. I recently bought one. As soon as my wife saw it she wanted one too. We love these guns. It easily fits well it our hands. We both carry it in an IWB holster. Mine in the appendix carry as a back up to my Glock .45. The Glock is at the hip carry so the .380 can be drawn faster if need be and from a seated position. I am using DRT rounds in both guns. I am very happy with my choices.

    Reply
  104. Dave

    Very well written. Most of the women I know that carry, carry a .380 for precisely the reasons you point out. For that matter I have known a few men that carry a .380. A good example of your argument for control; I have a S&W model 360 (It’s a scandium frame, very light revolver for those that don’t know S&W models) with a barrel just under 2″. It’s chambered for .357- You will shoot .357s in it once! It is very hard to control when shooting .357s or even .38+Ps for that matter. I shoot .38s in it and when I carry it, it’s loaded with .38s.
    You did a great job outlining the pros and cons of the .380… keep up the good work! and yes I own and regularly carry a .380!!

    Reply
  105. Allen Mullen

    Sounds like your trying to convince yourself more than me, but that’s ok , it is a very well written article. Thanks . What you should write about is people who carry weapons they have never shot . And tell them for myself and our family’s , please don’t. Scares me worse than Palosie . Later

    Reply
  106. General

    I have owned, shot and carried just about everything you could imagine at one time or another. After a friend and I got into this very conversation one day we decided to do some real life situational testing. Using skin on ham hocks at 25 feet, they were not nailed down or attached to the tabletop in anyway (yes they were completely thawed) and we worked hard to not hit the bone for purposes of this test. We found that all rifle rounds went straight thru to the point of nearly zero movement of the hock upon being shot. Ball ammo was used on all pistol rounds simply for an equal comparison. I am going to paraphrase much of this for time sake. .22 .380acp 9mm .38/357mag .40cal and .45acp were the test pistol calibers used and all were of normal size barrels as would be average to mid to full framed pistols one would carry. Almost all rounds not only over penetrated but made nearly the exact same size exit wound as the entry. Keep in mind that while not as much on some, for the most part, pig skin is tougher than human skin. .22 shot from a Ruger Single Six revolver was like a laser beam. an and out. Now for something un expected. While most all rounds went in one side and out the back cleanly, to the point of only a few even knocking the hock over, only three rounds did major cavitational damage.
    The .45acp took out a large chunk of flesh upon exit and knocked the hock completely off the table. Now for something unexpected. The 9mm made a clean through and through wound and barely rocked the hock yet the .380 shot from the exact same length barrel went nearly all of the way through 8″ of hearty pork and knocked the hock from the table with almost the same intensity as the .45acp. Upon inspection it raised a golf ball sized welt on the backside of the hock.The .38spl went through but took out a large chunk as well. Due to its reduced rate of speed and therefore power they were able to dump all of their energy within the flesh vs piecing the hock. Is .380 a good self defense, daily concealed carry round? In our afternoon of laughs and bad jokes we all walked away with a very simple answer when asked. We now all carry .380 at all times as the issues with over penetration are moot, target reactivation is faster and therefore more rounds on target make it our preferred ammunition. We will be doing the full test again on video in the near future and posting for everyone to see.

    Reply
  107. John P

    I have several friends whom are either shooting instructors or owners of gun shops and stores all of whom carry the so called lowly .380 APC as their in store weapon of choice.

    Reply
  108. Rod

    Very good article. I have to agree with Grant. I also am guilty of giving the same advice concerning if its the same size go for the most power. I have begun tempering that advice as I realize I too have limitations not evident 20 years ago! In fact I am considering a .380 for myself.

    Reply
  109. William

    I carry a .45 Govt. My wife carries a .380 Ruger LCP. I carry the .45 because I can and I can carry it open or concealed. She carries her .380 because it fits in her purse perfectly or she can wear it concealed comfortably. I carry Corbon. 230 grain +P JHP. My wife carries Corbon 90gr HP. My .45 will stop the bad guy and knock him back, down and finish him. Her .380 will stop the bad guy, knock him back and finish him. That’s pretty much it.

    Reply
  110. diver63

    Since this article was written the SIG P365 has been marketed and in my opinion, it is far better than any .380. I have carried several .380’s for the Ruger LCP to the Colt Mustang, Walther PP and even a LLama Especial IIIa. Now that the 365 is available using a 12 rnd mag I thoroughly have confidence in handling and accuracy. Teaching a woman to shoot is a challenge and depends of her strength. Jumping in and making sweeping recommendations is risky. I buy based on what feels good in the hand and aiming properly. That is where you start. A person can develop the muscle strength to hand to slide and recoil.

    Reply
  111. Paul

    The Walther PPK/S is my go to backup gun!! Seven in the mag one in the chamber with hollow points of course.

    Reply
  112. Hugh R McCarron

    Great article. The best caliber to use in your carry weapon is the one you are most comfortable shooting in panic situation and wearing on your person. If you are not comfortable shooting or wearing you won’t be carrying.

    For me? I love shooting my Kimber Custom 2 45ACP. But I carry a Sig p238 SAS with Veridian Reactive Laser. Easy to conceal. Comfortable to wear. And very easy to shoot quickly and accurately two hand, one hand, and off hand.

    Reply
  113. El Mac

    I’m dropping the BS flag. Most of the offerings in .380 deliver more recoil than the modern 9mm “micro” type guns. They usually come with very crappy sights, poor controls and poor triggers as well. Plus .380 ammo is generally more expensive and can be hard to find compared to 9mm. Taken together, the .380 is a crap choice.

    Reply
  114. David

    As someone that will be purchasing my first gun, that’s excellent food for thought. Was thinking of either the G-43 or the P-365. After reading this I’m thinking the G-43X might be the best bet due to possibly the best controllability of the three.

    Reply
  115. Gary

    Question: how does the 9×18 mm compare to the .380? I’ve got an old Makarov that I can put 17 of 18 round on target, and a lightweight 9 mm I can’t control worth a turd. Makarov sounds a lot like the .380, which I’ve heard called 9 mm Kurz (short).

    Reply
  116. Bill Mullen

    I’m 82 and not as strong or fast as I once was. A couple years ago I switched from a .40, Taurus PT 100, that I could shoot accurately and fits my hand, to a Versa Thunder ,380. It is more concealable and I can shoot rapid rounds much more accurately. And, I feel much more confident that, if the situation occurs, I can hit the enemy multiple times. I am convinced the 9mm in smaller guns is a dangerous marketing game by Sellers and manufacturer for many, if not most, people.

    Reply
  117. Bert Hunter

    I totally agree, I always caution first time gun buyers to look at a bigger first gun as the difference in recoil can be substantial

    Reply
  118. Ronald

    While a .380 may not “beat” a 9mm, it is probably equal to the task of providing self defense is used in the right pistol (or even pistol caliber carbine). The right pistol being one with sufficient barrel length and of course using adequate ammo. I recently purchased a S&W M&P 380 Shield for the wife. The Shield has a 3.675 in. bbl and carries 8 + 1 rounds. I also at the same time bought a Sig P365 for my own pocket carry. Incredibly both pistols recoil about the same for me – lightly. Do some research on ballistics test for the S&W and this question should be put to rest. Which would you rather be hit by, a VW doing 90 or a Ford F150 doing 90?

    Reply
  119. eddie dobson

    my 380 is as good is my 9m/m infack when I go to the range I take most of my guns with me I have 3/4/5 inch guns my 40 is the one I carry my 45 is my bed gun but most acaurt gun my380 s

    Reply
  120. Jim Blosser

    I have a Bersa Plus, 15+1 that I’ve carried for years because I figure the “little” .380 started WW1. Carried for many years by military and police in many countries. It does have advantages over 9mm. With modern ammo they fair well in close combat situation. I want more rounds on target. They might not end the game first shot but they will make someone want to quit playing. Even a .22LR can end the problem if placement is good.

    Reply
  121. Gary Burns

    Since I responded in 2017 I bought yet another 380, a Ruger LC-380, same frame as the LC9s or EC9s, but in 380. Easier to rack, than most 380’s, it also has fair three dot sights and has less recoil, just like you would think. This gun is smaller than a G-42 in most dimensions, definitely skinnier. My Son bought a S&W 380EZ and really likes it

    Reply
  122. John Wolfe

    I am an instructor inTN and another factor in the 9 vs 380 debate is the ability for individuals to rack the slide. This is especially true with female and elderly shooters. Smith and Wesson just came out with their EZ 380, so I am certain it is a widespread concern. My wife, and I must admit myself, enjoy shooting the Walther PK380 and the SIG.
    I 100% agree with your statement concerning the ability to accurately make hits on target, that is what counts foremost.

    Reply
  123. Patrick Buccieri

    I tried a number of .380 and 9 mm when i was looking for a gun. Most made hand hurt between my thumb and index finger after 5 or 6 rounds, until I tried the Colt .380 Government model which I bought.

    From the classes I took the other consideration is you don’t want something so powerful that it will go through and hit an innocent bystander.

    A .380 Hydra-Shock hollow point type shell fills that bill nicely.

    Reply
  124. Travis Adkerson

    I carry my Bersa thunder 380. I have my kids shot it at the range. I love it, small and I can control with ease. I do have full metal jackets that I use at the range and Hydra shocks for self defense and hollow points also.

    Reply
  125. Glenn Parker

    We have to agree that immediate comparison of size, .380 vs 9mm, the nine would probably be a better performer. More importantly, has the shooter practiced SUFFICIENTLY to be effective with their choice. It is critical that the shooter practice. I test fired three of the popular micro 9mm’s only to find, as this author did, I couldn’t get three rounds off, accurately, in time. A slightly larger gun, Glock 43, S&W shield, etc would serve them better. When you make the choice to carry, your wardrobe is going to change, your training, hopefully your attitude and many more things, are going to change. Test, experiment, talk with other shooters before you make that purchase. Time and rental fees are worth the investment; then practice some more!!!

    Reply
  126. Mark

    I think any of the micro guns are harder to control. I have a .45 but I also have a .380. Originally the .380 was a S&W BODYGUARD and my .45 was easier to control because I could get all my fingers around it. I traded my BODYGUARD for the S&W EZ .380 and because its designed in size etc. like a larger gun it’s a dream in large measure because it’s easier to control.

    Reply
  127. Mike

    This is a great article. I am a retired Deputy Sheriff and carried a SW model 59 my entire time on the job. I used Silver Tips for many years and then switched to Talons, both were very good rounds. My back up was a Colt Govt .380 loaded with BAT rounds another very effective up close and personal round. After retiring I continued to carry the .380. The full metal gun delivered down range quickly and effectively with little recoil. Well with the introduction of these new smaller framed 9mm’s I have started carrying the 9mm, So when my wife decided to carry I found her both a Taurus .380 and a FMK 9mm. She normally carries the .380 due to its concealability and keeps the 9mm at bedside. She is well practiced and accurate with both. All of our weapons are loaded with Hornaday Critical Defense rounds which all know are a great round. Please don’t get me wrong, my bedside is an XD 40 also with HDC rounds. Bit I feel for the weaker hand the 9mm and .380 are perfect. Like the man said more rounds, accurately delivered is better then fewer. Thanks for the very informative article, even if it is an older one.

    Reply
  128. Mark Roehrich

    The .380 will beat the 9mm that you left at home because it’s to big to carry, I carry a Kimber Micro 9 with CT lasergrips everyday. It’s light, accurate, reliable, easy to carry, and it looks good too. 7 + 1 beats my old snubby .38 with 5 rounds

    Reply
  129. Jesse

    I’m 68 and weak waists due to RA and wear and tear . I wasn’t thinking about a 9mm. Now reading what you said about the 380 I’m thinking maybe that’s direction I should go. What’s your thoughts. Should I go that way. I’ve had surgery on my left wrist ( I had What they call Slac wrist)

    Reply
  130. Glenn Weckel

    58 years old, NRA pistol instructor, RSO, former concealed carry instructor and current part time gun sales at Academy Sports…have sold a lot of guns and done a lot of research…I agree with a lot of what you said, some not but let me summarize the facts: of the major defensive calibers, .380, .38, 9mm, .40 and .45, ALL have almost the same “real world” “incapacitation” ability. 1.Only 7% of the time is there a one shot kill to head/heart and all the above will perform equally here, otherwise it takes two shots to incapacitate from any of the above calibers. 2. “does it hurt”…the adrenaline idea is a myth…it does hurt and 28% of any hit on any part of the body from any caliber causes the situation to stop…we call it a “psychological stop” because the bad guy didn’t necessarily get into this situation to get shot, it does hurt and the realization that they might die today causes them to quit. 3. 51% of all shots fired, even by law enforcement miss their target. Put all this together and “the experts” therefore recommend the 9mm caliber because it has equal stopping power compared to “the big boys” yet you can get guns with higher capacities. 380’s are generally limited to no more than 8+1 (S&W EZ) and 40/45’s will be less capacity than 9mm due to size of the cartridge. BUT, those who carry 45’s and put down the 380 simply don’t have the facts. Yes, force equals mass x acceleration and on paper a 9, 40, 45 have more knockdown power than a 380 but as you stated, in real world “thousands of encounters”, the little 380 does just as well as the big boys; takes two to incapacitate.

    Reply
  131. Fred

    I have two 9 mm S&W M&P pistols and one .380 S&W M&P pistol. I use the .380 for second carry pistol on my ankle. I believe the .380 isn’t good for longer ranges. I agree with everything your saying. That is why I don’t carry or fire a .40 S&W or .45 ACP. I won’t want to go small than a .380 like a .22 or .25.

    Reply
  132. Michael Bollinger

    I know a man that faught in Vietnam. He was issued a Colt .45. He got a .380 off of a North Vietnamese. From then on he preferred it over the .45. So much so he had his father send him Ammo so he would never run out. Go figure.

    Reply
  133. Daniel

    Load your .380 ACP with Ruger (Polycase) ARX & have your cake and eat it too; less recoil & more power. In my own testing (have my own range) the .380 ARX equals or out performs the lower end 9mm rounds. No, it does not equal a Speer LE 124 gr JHP. For that use the ARX bullet loaded in the Polycase round or the NOVXX round. New bullet technology changes things.

    Reply
  134. Frederick Wilhite

    I just bought the new S&W m&p 380ez. The EZ stands for easy of course; and that describes this weapon perfectly! It is so easy to rack back and lock back for disassembly. This is the reason I got it. I bought it for my 13yr. Old daughter. I want her to learn to handle a weapon safely. As she gets older I want her to be able to defend herself. My wife is also small framed and had nerve relocation in her right arm and has a really difficult time breaking a weapon down. She had trouble racking a lot of them back. I finally found the m&p 9 Shield performance center edition. The 380ez is actually a Shield; but the barrel is 3.6” long. That’s even longer than my edc M&P9C. So, while the reason I ended up getting the 380was the ease of use; I had also read up on differences in the usual calibers. Great article!

    Reply
  135. Al

    I have two Glocks, a 40 caliber and a .380 , plus a Nano 9mm. I like the .380 for close quarters. It is easy to hold and very accurate. I do use the extended magazine as I am big… 6’ 4”, 240 lbs with 37” arms. I practice on my home range with the .380 at 25-30 ft from the target and get very good results with little recoil. At longer ranges I use the .40 caliber Glock and intermediate ranges the 9 mm. For self-defense, I use hollow points. I don’t yet have a CCW, although I have been through the training and should do it soon. I would rather not carry, but with the current life circumstances, I probably will do it soon.

    Reply
  136. Richard

    The ‘380’ is a good, ‘entry level’ firearm particularly for inexperienced shooters. First, the physical size is less intimidating and the muzzle blast is not overwhelming. It is also still an effective protection weapon, an intruder doesn’t have to be decimated to be repelled. 4-5 shots to the head or chest can be quite convincing. And, after all…James Bond carries a Walther PPK …

    Reply
  137. Bill

    I totally agree! With out a doubt I own both An 100% the 380 acp is my carry of choice ! Much better lighter an accurate at times of trouble ! Yes Sir !!

    Reply
  138. Richard Hunt

    I totally agree…..I have been an NRA instructor and pushed the fact that if the gun hurt to shoot you’d be hesitant to fire. I on the other hand…like the big boom I carry a Glock29 with CCI aluminum200g……and can drop10 rounds in the 8 ring at 10 yards in less than 7 seconds. But I have been shooting IPSC for about 30 years….and qualified 250/250 with it for my CC license.

    Reply
  139. Dennis Goff

    Let me begin by saying great job on that story! I will try to be brief. I have a safe full of pistols and revolvers of all sized. I have shot them all over the years and enjoyed them. My favorite is my S&W 686+ 357 with a 6″ barrel. I love to shoot that gun. But it is not one that you can conceal carry. I use to carry my S&W 40 cal. I also love that gun. lol… But to the point. I am older now and have arthritis in both hands. I have also had 5 trigger finger surgeries, 3 on one hand and 2 on my right hand which is my shooting hand. I also have another finger on my right hand that will most likely need surgery on it soon. So I can tell you the recoil is not any fun for me. I do carry my 380 Bodyguard in my pocket but being a small gun it has a bad recoil also. I now carry a S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ. The reason is simple. This gun has the least recoil of any gun I have owned or shot. With a 5 pound trigger pull and the easiest racking gun I have ever shot not to mention the lightest recoil I can shot it very accurately and quickly with out pain in my hands. I have studied up on it and I feel that I am not losing anything by carrying this weapon. I don’t know about the “big boys” who mock this gun but I sure as heck would not want to get shot by a 380. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this.

    Reply
  140. Piute

    I am a retired officer with 37 years behind me as a LEO. I have carried several models of S&W revolvers and stuck with S&W when we went to autos. First was a mod 659 and later the .40… I acquired a Browning BDA.380 several years before retiring to carry off duty and still rely on it. It has been a great weapon for what I need and as long as I can keep qualifying in the mid to high 90’s with it, I’ll stick with it. I use rounds similar to the old Black Talon round or the Golden Saber and have never had a feeding or ejecting problem. I went to this weapon due to its size for concealability in summer and found that my accuracy and delivery of vital hits are much like this story indicates. As far as stopping ability, its where you place the shots not how big the round is. In most cases, I don’t think anyone needs to be able to engage at more than 15 yards for self protection and at 15 yards I have consistently put all rounds center mass. Maybe at 25 yards I might throw one or two due to my aging eyes and the shorter barrel, but I am confident in my choice of a weapon.

    Reply
  141. Paul Fey

    I use live animals for bullet and caliber testing. I trap a lot. Trapping allows me the opportunity to try out a lot of guns and bullets.
    I will put up a 22 mag. hollow point in actual killing power to anyone’s anything.

    I have blown heads half off with those rounds. Animals that is.

    The 22 mag HP is a very serious caliber and round , and most definitely has the speed to penetrate.

    The 380 ACP with HP is also a serious weapon. A large olive exit wound is serious tool.

    Reply
  142. JAMES CARLYLE

    Supports my conclusions on this subject. I carry both options, depending on what I perceive as the threat.

    Reply
    • Chuck Cochran

      I forgot to add a real life anecdote.
      Throughout modern history, only one caliber has started a war. It was a .380 ACP that started WW 1, Gavrilo Princep assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie.
      No other caliber can make that claim.

      Reply
  143. Blondie

    Bravo! Finally someone who realizes that not all of us are gym-crazed fitness nuts in the prime of our lives!

    Reply
  144. Tionico

    I’m an avid road cyclist (the push bike kind, not the moto) and am almost always out and away from town or riding inside town. When I learned of a specific place where I have ridden was being targetted by homeless grifters, who would hide out of sight waiting for a group of riders then spring a trap…. clearing out all the valuables from the riders….. I decided it was time to get my Mother May I Card and a handgun. We use a riding jersey that has three wide pockets across the back of the jersey, at the bottom edge of the jersey. At the time the smallest lightest weight gun I could find was the Smith Airweight, I chose the .38 Spl five round. I would put it, muzzle down and outboard, Friends told me it [printed pretty obviously, but I could not find any sort of holster or flap to prevent that. Over time I also found that the very edge of the muzzle was wearing holes in the jersey pockets. I tried a washcloth, but retreiving and presenting the weapon was, uhm, complicated. Then the Ruger LCP came out, and I got one. It comes with a “rug” and I found that by turning the weapon muzzle down and outboard again, ready to hand for retrieval, inside the rug which would remain unzipped, it fit the pocket perfectly, did NOT print (it looked even to experienced riders much like any of the different tool rolls riders would carry in exactly the same place. Only thing. is that gun is a BEAST to fire. I did not like that part. THen I discovered the mess my sweat, rain, etd, did to the bluing on the gun. Rusted up pretty badly. Then Kahr came out with their P 380. The folks at my gun dealer let me compare that side by side with the LCP…. it is actually a tiny bit shorter, though same barrel length, a touch heavier (not an issue) and slightly wider slide, again, not an issue and I think a good part of why that Kahr is so nice to shoot. I’ve probably ridden 30,000 miles with that Kahr back there. No one has ever “made” me with it, Not my first for an every day carry, and it is NOT. But, out there very vulnerable and often alone, I have something effective. As Massad Ayoob so often says “any gun will do if YOU will do”. I have this funny feeling, and strong hope, that should the “need” ever present, the marauding dirtbag would have his lil ol eyeballs buggin out REAL BIG as he stared into that HUGE hole in the end of the stainless slide…… and rather rapidly make in informed decision to leave off his evil intent. There are quite a few places in some of the cities I ride in where I will NOT ride at night…. the “wrong” kind of people congregate there and there HAVE been “incidents”, including on the bike trails in one larger city.

    I also found, at a gun snow some years back, a real pretty handgun.. a Browning 380 ACP, four inch barrel, Belgium made in the mid 1960’s. that thing is a real joy to shoot, and is incredibly accurate. My EDC is a Browing Hi Power, standard, also Belgium made about 1964. My favourite handgun of all time to shoot, and SO comfortable and reliable. BUT, can’t take that on the bike in any place that is quickly accessible. I’ve got plenty of bigger, badder things, all are great guns, but THAT is the one suits me best for going everywhere I go. Being all steel, it is VERY gentle to shoot, but deadly acdurate. Who needs better than that?

    Reply
  145. Kendahl

    While there is overlap in gun size between .380 and 9 mm, there are no 9 mm guns as small as a Kahr P380, Ruger LCP or Keltec P3-AT. And, if there were, you wouldn’t want to shoot them, anyway. The advantage of such a small gun is concealment. Even a small person can hide one in a pocket (in a pocket holster). A Sig P365 is the smallest 9 mm made yet it is an inch longer, half and inch taller and a quarter inch thicker than a P380. That makes it a belt gun rather than a pocket pistol.

    The real limitation of .380 compared to 9 mm is less power due to the smaller case capacity. In 9 mm, there is enough power to provide for both adequate penetration and substantial expansion. As ShootingTheBull410 showed in his AmmoQuest series on YouTube, in .380 you have to sacrifice expansion to maintain penetration deep enough to cause an incapacitating wound.

    Reply
  146. Mark Brown

    I’ve carried a Bursa .380 for the last 11 years. It is easy to conceal, shoots where I point it, and within the theoretical target distance (<30') it puts pretty much the same sized hole as a 9mm. I own a Beretta FS92, a .44mag, a Walther P38, and a .32. The .32 I leave in the glove box. The .380 I carry every time I leave the house.

    Reply
  147. Darin Bahnsen

    Thank you for the wonderful article! My wife and I are considering purchasing a handgun for protection and we both are complete novices with them. Have shot shotguns in the past but that is it. I have been researching what would be best for us and truly was completely lost with no idea how to approach ownership wisely. The majority of articles usually seem to point to the larger calibers without a lot of consideration for people with our lack of experience or build/size issues. I believe after reading this that the .380 is where we are headed. I am guessing machismo, or just the natural tendency to forget how it was at the start probably a long time ago, that kept many from writing to include the beginner/novice level. There are many more like us out here who desire to protect themselves and struggle to find information from people who will tell us the truth and not be worried about looking like the biggest John Wayne (meaning the coolest/baddest of course) in the room. Not calling them liars. Our lack of experience but desire for protecting our lives means we will be purchasing 1 if not 2 of this caliber. Ourselves and the public wouldn’t have been nearly as safe as we would have thought we were after the purchase. We look forward to more articles from you. This one alone will mean for us more frequent and enjoyable practicing, ownership and a better chance at survival. Using a handgun we can control accurately with more shots than hoping for that 1 lucky shot from the hand cannon. Nice work!

    Reply
  148. 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.

    Reply
  149. 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.

    Reply
  150. 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.

    Reply
  151. 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

    Reply
  152. 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.

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  153. Super Senior

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

    Reply
  154. Alfred Alder

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

    s

    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!

    Reply
  155. 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.

    Reply
  156. Robert

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

    Reply
  157. 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!

    Reply
  158. 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. :)
    Thanks

    Reply
  159. 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.

    Reply
  160. 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.

    Reply
  161. 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.

    Reply
  162. 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

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  163. 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.

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  164. 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.

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  165. 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

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  166. 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.

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  167. 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.

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  168. 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.

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  169. 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.

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  170. 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.

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    • 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.

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  171. 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?

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  172. 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

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    • 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.

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  173. 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.

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