Why I Don’t Like Ultra-Compact .380s

Reading the title of this article, you may think I’m going to say the .380 is just not powerful enough. That it is not capable of being up to the task of self-defense. That it is just a “pea shooter.”

I would be lying if I said I think .380 is the “best” caliber, but it does have its role in defensive pistols. Small “mouse gun” type semi-automatic pistols utilize this round quite well. With modern ballistics and bullet design, it does fall into the “capable” category. It does not have the penetration of other calibers and does not meet FBI ballistics standards but is still the best option in these ultra-compact defensive pistols vs other caliber options. So if I believe the round is the best in this context, why don’t I like the .380 ACP?

ruger lcp

A friend received this Ruger LCP with pink camo as a Christmas present.

Marketing is the real problem here, with the guns available in .380 ACP being marketed as concealed-carry guns and given to first-time shooters. Even worse, they are specifically marketed to new female shooters, with pink and purple colored frames. I can tell you from my experience that many women come to class nervous about shooting — and many times I have had women who did much better than their significant other, who claimed to be a “gun guy.”

Many female students come to my Intro to Defensive Handgun courses with .380 ACP firearms, in particular Ruger LCPs. When I ask them why they chose that gun, many of them say it’s what the guy at the counter recommended when they said they were looking for a concealed handgun. When I tell them the gun is harder to shoot than a larger 9mm, they look at me like I’m crazy.


If we look at the .380 ACPs widely sold, most of them are Double Action Only, with the Ruger LCP being the most popular. The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard is another popular example of the small DAO variety. These do meet the criteria for what I consider a defensive pistol, but they are not beginner guns. The long DA trigger amplifies deviation. The release of the Glock 42 in 2014 provided a solution to this problem and filled a large void in the striker-fired category. But the Glock 42 is nearly double the price of the LCP at my local gun store. For an experienced and knowledgeable shooter, the Glock is well worth the price.


Another reason it’s harder to shoot these small .380 ACPs is they have less grip area, making it more difficult to get a good grip and therefore tougher for students to learn how to properly grip a defensive pistol. To grip an ultra-compact pistol, you must slightly modify your standard two-handed grip due to the thinner and shorter grip. Most of these models do not have enough height on the grip to be able to place the pinkies on the bottom of the grip. The shooter must slow down to control recoil.


The biggest issue with this marketing is that, since the .380 is a less powerful cartridge, .380 pistols are marketed to new shooters as having less recoil. Having shot many firearms and a number of .380s, I can tell you they do not have less felt recoil than many of their bigger brethren. I once had a student bring her husband’s Micro Desert Eagle to class for me to shoot. Firing it was a blast (pun intended) but it was also possibly, with the exception of some large-bore magnums, the hardest gun I’ve ever fired to manage recoil on. With its small 2.22-inch barrel compared to the 2.75 of an LCP, it had far more felt recoil.

Firearms work off pneumatics (gas pressure), similar to how a pea shooter works. Put enough pressure behind the bullet and it flies downrange. Firearms just do this very efficiently and with far greater pressure, which causes the recoil when released from the muzzle. This gas pressure is dissipated through a longer barrel and therefore the length of the barrel has a significant effect on the felt recoil. To test this, go out and fire a .22LR in a rifle and then in a pistol. You will notice a pistol has more recoil and a louder sound than a rifle. The lower pressure of the ultra-compact pistol’s cartridge is offset by the shortness of its barrel, giving it the same if not more felt recoil than a full-size 9mm. To a new student who just purchased a less-powerful defensive firearm in an attempt to avoid recoil, this can be scary and lead to their not continuing training.

Manipulation Difficulties

Another reason I don’t like these ultra-compacts for beginners is the lack of area on the gun to perform manipulations. Techniques such as racking a slide properly are much easier and safer to learn on a larger firearm. When the slide is racked to the rear, it opens the ejection port — a large hole where the empty case comes out. This large hole needs to be avoided by your hand to prevent it from blocking the cartridge or, in the case of malfunction clearing, the empty brass or bad round from ejecting. Although this is bad, it is not the worst thing it can cause for a new student.

ejection port

With the slide taken off the frame and the barrel removed, the ejection port becomes very obvious. The serrations on the back of the slide are meant to be where to grab the gun when racking to avoid interfering with the ejection and injury. Photo: author

Early in my career as an instructor, I took the NRA Personal Protection in the Home course as a student prior to taking the instructor course. An elderly lady in the class had an LCP and several times when she attempted to rack the slide, she got her hand stuck in the ejection port. This happens when someone new to defensive pistol rides the slide forward and has their hand over the large hole that opens. When you move forward, it closes and any skin caught in it gets a nasty bite. The woman actually had the pistol stuck to her hand several times and needed help to get it off. Not only was this embarrassing but also extremely painful and caused bleeding.

This is not the only time I have seen this happen but it was the worst, since she did it multiple times. With proper technique for someone experienced in defensive shooting, this is not an issue. But again these pistols are marketed to beginners and more specifically females. The longer slide of a mid- to full-size defensive firearm offers more area where the serrations are for you to manipulate the slide without risking this.

Slide Bite

The other issue I have seen many times from these ultra-compact .380s is slide bite. This happens when your hand is gripping too high on the back of the pistol. When you fire the pistol, the slide comes back and can slice the webbing between your thumb and index finger. This is more prevalent on ultra-compact .380s because they do not have as large a beavertail on the back of the pistol to guide where your strong hand should be placed. On mid- to full-size pistols, this large curve would make it very awkward to get your hand over the top of it to interfere with the slide. But an ultra-compact is much easier to grip over the top of this curve and get your hand bitten by the slide.


My Springfield Armory XD Mod.2 3-inch subcompact. There is a noticeable difference between the beavertail and grip in this gun and those in the Ruger LCP above. This larger grip area helps new students learn an effective grip and reduces the likelihood of injury. Photo: author

Adding Up the Negatives

Combining all these factors causes a bad experience with training. Giving someone a pistol that causes higher deviation makes them less successful or even slower than the person next to them, and they feel less secure in their abilities. Couple that with having a small gun that is harder to manage recoil or manipulate, and students can have a scary and frustrating experience. This leads the student to train less and fail to become proficient with their defensive tool.

I am in no way saying these are not quality firearms. They have their place and I simply feel that place is not for most beginning shooters. I also feel it is unfair to women that these firearms are directly marketed to them. I believe it discourages women from getting involved in shooting and more importantly being able to defend themselves by creating a bad introduction to firearms.

What Should a New Student Do?

My first recommendation is to take a class with a qualified instructor prior to purchasing your defensive pistol. These are not the only issues I see students come to class with after purchasing a gun prior to taking a class, but they are some of the most common. Research the instructor and look for writings from the instructor to be sure they are up to date on their information. You may even have a conversation with them prior to registering to ask their feelings on issues that are important to you.

Do some research prior to going to the gun store. You would most likely do this research if you were buying a new car or even a television. Don’t leave it to a salesman to educate you — that is not their job. Their job is to sell you a gun. If you come in saying you want a tiny gun you can fit in your purse, that is what they are going to sell you. As an instructor, I would have to educate you on the small gun and why I don’t think carrying in your purse is a good idea. We both have different roles, so don’t expect a gun salesman to educate you if you would not expect a car salesman to do the same.

If you do choose an ultra-compact .380, learn how to properly manipulate and grip the firearm, then practice these manipulations. Practice racking the slide and pay attention to where you place your hand. Practice drawing and gripping the pistol to be sure your hand is in the proper place so it will not interfere with the movement of the slide. Then train with your pistol to become proficient with a smaller gun and get the hits you need.

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184 Responses to “Why I Don’t Like Ultra-Compact .380s”

  1. Eric Phillips

    A few years ago I realized that I was no longer as strong, quick or balanced as I had been at 65. My decision to carry, at least when bringing a couple of wheeled suitcases into jewelry stores, was the best solution I could come up with if I wanted to continue working. I went to a sporting goods store and got the “feel” of a lot of different firearms before ordering an LCR 357 Magnum, which can be loaded with 38 specials for cheap and painless practicing. When working, I need to wear dress slacks and a tucked in dress shirt, making a larger gun hard to conceal. I also realize that if I ever am forced to use a gun, it will probably be in a store after being followed, exiting a store, or in a gas station or parking lot, all up close, with a significant risk that a miss or a pass-through could harm or kill an innocent bystander. I also considered the possibility of lint from pocket carry fouling a slide on a semi-auto. I frequently read that a 9mm will often take a number of rounds to stop a threat, which would also be unacceptable. The LCR is a double action revolver with an enclosed firing pin, making it difficult for an attacker to grab. I carry it loaded with 357 Magnum JHP’s, which at close range should offer very good stopping power, with minimal likelihood of a pass through. For my needs it seems to be the best solution available.

  2. Jay

    Wow I read every single comment and no one mentioned the sweetest shooting little 380 there is. A Kahr p380 or a Kahr cw380. There you go now you know!

  3. Rich

    All this talk of penetration is comical. My guess is none of you EVER FIRED A ROUND IN ACTUAL self defense. Getting shot in the gut with a 380 will take the fight out of 99% of the human population. Self defense is not for killing an attacker, but just to end the attack….PERIOD!

  4. Robert Haldi

    For a beginner I recommend a .22 like my Walter P22 or the equivalent Ruger or others – easy to rack, low recoil, good sights, light weight and FUN AND CHEAP to shoot. You can and will practice with these. Then, when you know how to shoot, disassemble and clean a gun and your own needs, requirements, abilities, likes go rent several guns in different calibers, sizes, etc and buy one that fits you – your needs, abilities, price and other requirements. I have a 38 snubby, 9mm and .380 and have owned many others and my favorite gun to shoot and practice with is still my P22 and will be my last one to sell or trade.

  5. BRIAN

    I know I’m showing up late to the party. I just joined the PDN and this is the first time I have seen this article.

    I must say that if this is the caliber of writing for all of the articles, I may have wasted my money.

    While I agree that ultra-small pistols of any caliber are generally not for beginners, there are some glaring errors in the article above. I’ll hit them in the order in which they appeared above.


    I have large hands. I own two first generation P-3AT’s, one Second generation P-3AT, and a Ruger LCP II. I can only get one finger around the grip of any of them below the trigger guard, but that has not stopped me from being able to place multiple hits on target in quick succession.


    Other than the additional weight that is generally afforded due to the extra length, longer barrels do not reduce felt recoil. In fact, if all else is equal, they increase it.

    If it were possible to get a Remington 700 in .308 Win. with a 16 inch barrel, and a 24 inch barrel of the same weight, the 24 inch barrel would generate more recoil. Why? Because every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The energy pushing the bullet down the barrel is also pushing backward. Since the bullet would be in the 24 inch barrel for a longer time, the opposing energy would also be pushing back for a longer time.

    Also remember that objects at rest tend to stay at rest. If the barrels weight the same, the same amount of kinetic energy is required to begin to get them in motion. If the longer barrel is also heavier, then more energy is required before it would begin it’s rearward motion. If it is heavy enough, the weight may overcome the extra energy generated by it’s length.

    A rifle will almost always have less felt recoil than a pistol in the same caliber, no matter what that caliber is, due to the added wight and the manner in which they are held.

    Something else that effects recoil is the manner in which the firearm operates. Blow-back operated semi-autos will have more felt recoil than a firearm of equivalent weight than one that operates on the locked breach principal. Racking the slide will also be harder. Fire a Bersa Thunder 380 next to an LCP, P-3AT, or Bodyguard 380, and although the Bersa is almost twice the size and weight of any of them, the recoil is at least as bad, if not more so. I have done this, and I would much rather shoot the P-3AT than the Bersa for any length of time.


    The small slide on the weapons make them more difficult than others to grip the slide. That being said, one should never, “Ride the slide”, no matter which gun they are using. Semi-automatic firearms are designed to feed from the magazine at full speed. Slowing the speed of the slide while loading that first round could cause the round to hang-up on the rear of the chamber, or even stove pie. The best practice is to grip the rear of the slide with the off hand while holding the gun close to the body, and forcefully push the grip forward while holding the slide in place. Once the slide is all the way to the rear, continue pushing the grip forward, and release the slide. This will keep everything clear of the ejection port, and is the best means of racking the slide for those with weaker grips.

    Slide Bite:

    I have never had an issue with slide bite. The beavertail on all of the pocket .380’s that I have handled is sufficient that getting a grip high enough to get slide bite would feel very unnatural. The only way that I see that as being a possibility is if you are placing your off-hand thumb across the back of the frame, which also feels unnatural, and is an improper grip anyway.

    While I do think that most of what was stated is BS, or at least easily overcome by a newbie with about 5 minutes of instruction, I still would not recommend a pocket .380 for a novice for two reasons:

    1. Trigger pull. Most of these guns have trigger pulls that weigh 9 pounds or more. My first generation P-3AT’s are both just over 12 pounds, and that’s after hundreds of rounds of use. The heavy trigger pull causes muscle fatigue in short order. within 20 or 30 rounds, holding the pistol on target becomes difficult and the gun begins to shake as I pull the trigger. The LCP II is hands-down the best of the bunch at about 5 pounds 7 ounces on my trigger gauge. I have dry fired the Glock 42, and it feels about the same. Those two are the only ones that I would even consider recommending to a novice, but then there is that second reason…

    2. Accuracy. While all of these guns are beyond capable of accuracy that one would not expect from such small packages, it takes some practice to get the most out of them. The small, almost non-existent sights, short sight radius, small gripping surface, and heavy trigger pulls combine to make accurate shooting much more difficult than with a larger firearm. Although not much bigger, and in a far more potent caliber, I am able to shoot accurately much faster with my P-40 than with any of the pocket .380’s. The LCP II is close, but none of the others are in the same ball park.

    None of these shortcomings are insurmountable given enough practice. However, if the gun is inaccurate, hard to shoot, and causes muscle fatigue, it is not going to be fun, and therefore, a novice may be dissuaded from putting in the practice necessary to overcome those shortcomings. Starting off with a small to mid-size 9 or 40 makes much more sense.

  6. theglassedbear.tumblr.com

    Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my ipone and tested
    to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop,just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad iis now broen and she haas 83 views.
    I know tis is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  7. Vic vapor

    true enough,
    about the author position on the small firearms. Ruger has addressed his concerns…
    … the LCP 2… easier in every way.

  8. Vic vapor

    true enough,
    the smaller firearms are not necessarily easier to operate.
    Had a Kahr cw380 that my wife could not actuate the slide adequately at all
    My Ruger LCp, she had intermittent trouble,
    depending on sweaty hands, etc.
    Enter Ruger’s newer LCP 2…. easier to rack, better grip, better sights, better trigger…
    My wife likes her new companion,
    and her aim is mighty fine.

    Thanks for the article, PSN.

  9. SteveO

    I guess that you never have fired a Beretta Model 84. Try it, you might like it. Build on the
    92 frame.

  10. Kevin Schryer

    I was very unhappy with the authors explation of recoil in small pistols. Recoil is a function of bullet energy and firearm weight. Felt recoil is akso impacted by the shape and area of the contact point between the firearm and operator. A rifle recoils less because of weight and contact patch not barrel length. Muzzle blast, (noise and pressure) is a function of barrel length. Articles like this further confuse new shooters.

  11. Timothy May

    Needs approaches his subject from the point of view of a man, not a woman. A woman has smaller hands and her fingers do not have the problems with grip and trigger placement on a subcompact pistol one would expect if a man were holding the piece. Less tendency for slide bite on a subcompact when a feminine hand is at the controls.
    Like anything mechanical, a certain amount of instruction is necessary regardless of gender and with a firearm, there is no substitute for practice. Women are not stupid. While they are in general less mechanically inclined than a man, a good instructor can easily overcome this with patience and dialing in to her motivation, using her motivation to inspire her to believe she can and she must as a matter of urgent need carry the desired instruction to success – first round legally on target without hesitation and with a quick recovery for a fast second tap or she will be killed.
    Two final points – Needs failed to discuss the difficulty of weapons concealment on the feminine figure, which is made easier by carrying a sub-compact semi-auto pistol.
    but this statement from Needs ought to get no traction: “Don’t leave it to a salesman to educate you — that is not their job”. So, are you saying, Mr. Needs, that you see no problem with a gun salesman selling to a largely unknowledgable, 5-foot, 100 lb. lady a 4-inch barreled .45ACP on a shortened frame and a full-sized grip for concealment purposes because his job is not to educate?
    The purpose of a salesman – or woman – is to lead the client to make the best decision in their own best interests, ultimately described by Tom Hopkins as “helping your client to own benefits”. That requires a salesman or woman with strong product knowledge and the moral strength to never surrender the point that the right piece will save a life, but the wrong piece will get its owner killed.

  12. Allen Marker

    Mr. Pincus, sir, what is your opinion of micro compact 9mm? I’d guess that it is about the same as the micro compact .380. So wouldn’t it be better for the title of your article to just read “Why I don’t like the micro compact pistol”? I believe everything you mentioned could also be mentioned of the 9mm micro compact pistols. As evidenced by the remarks here, you have shifted the conversation away from the issues you have with micro pistols to the caliber. You have also pointed the finger at a particular manufacturer & model of firearm. Both a bit taboo in the instructor circles, in my opinion. Just one more note, your “twitter”,”facebook”, etc. buttons on the left side of your articles cover some content & make them hard to read without added mousing. Keep up the good work. Have a good day sir.

  13. Jim

    I can tell you from my own experience owning a .380 Bodyguard, which I’ve since sold, but that little piece will kick the hell out of your gun hand. I only shot it a few times at the range so really never got the hang of it, but of all my guns that one was the one I could hardly keep on target!

  14. Eileen Worstell

    I appreciate your comments, as I am the female new shooter you described. I was fortunate to have knowledgeable people at the Vandalia Range & Armory in Ohio teach me how to rack a slide and allow me to try different guns. I wanted a semi-auto but could not handle my 9mm S&W because my hands are too weak to rack the slide and in particular to lock it open. I purchased a Glock 42 and train with it every week. I love it and feel confident with it. Great instructors, great gun! Thanks.

  15. Jojo

    I have a BDA 380, Browning double action. It shoots really well and accurately that is because it’s not subcompact. Magazine capacity of 13+1 and full size grip. Not too great for concealed carry, but it’s relatively small and can be carried inside pockets. Have those subcompacts added extra 2 or 3 rounds of 380 in magazine it’ll still be good concealed carry and of course lengthening the grips. It’s slim enough to carry concealed as well. Now, why won’t they do that? I also have an AMT backup. It’s very very hard and nearly impossible to shoot.

  16. Jerry Young

    I have a sub compact 380 I use when I cannot carry anything else and sometimes as a backup, I do agree that sub compact 380’s are harder to shoot the recoil is greater making them harder to control, as far as the grip it’s better to get an extended magazine or a magazine base plate extension, these increase the grip area giving you more control, I find it harder to shoot these little guns accurately but they do the job when you need them, I have a laser on mine while in bright sunshine it isn’t very effective it does give an edge when it comes to hitting your target, like I said I only carry mine when situations dictate the need and recommend a larger framed gun such as the Bersa Thunder or similar, as far as caliber a 380 will do the job for self defense given the fact the close quarters that most occur

  17. Stuart

    The Kimber Micro Carry has got to be one of the most delightful Sub-Compact .380’s I’ve ever shot. The all steel frame adds weight, and the slide is extremely easy to rack back. Although a single action (SAO) is not usually a first time shooters preference (as well as the $$), I feel like it’s a terrific option. It shoots like a .22Lr, IMO.

  18. randy adams

    I agree that micro .380 pistols are better for experienced shooters than beginners but they should be included in the training to help a shooter become proficient in all aspects of self defense. We all need to be familiar with the function of different guns whether small or big. PDN has even suggested this very notion years ago and I for one believe it’s true. You may need to use another persons gun in a self defense scenario and the moment may not allow much time to understand it’s function. I carry and train with an LCP,238, Kimber micro .380, Kimber micro 9, Shield 9, SR 1911 9 CMD, S&W model 10,27,36 and 637. I have 2 LCP’s because I wanted the stainless slide due to carrying in my ankle holster caused corrosion due to sweat on my black finished slide. I carried that LCP for years all over the country driving longhaul and it was the only available gun to practice with unless I got a rental. But I’ve been taught to practice with what you carry so that’s usually what I did. I have been carrying my new Kimber micro 9 for about 6 months and can’t believe how well it shoots and feels in my hand. But when I reach for a pocket gun it’s still usually a LCP.

  19. Margot

    Started shooting 5 years ago at 68. Am 5’1″, small hands, & arthritic. Read mostly crime & CIA/FBI novels, so was familiar with most popular brands. Went in looking for Glock (most commonly mentioned). Couldn’t rack anything but SIG p238. Love at first firing. Can’t beat a SIG. However, the more I trained & experimented w/different guns, I decided I’m not fond of 1911 style, & the .380 not so much fun for training or competition–even w/magazine extensions, still too short a grip. I traded it & got a Walther CCP. Love the way it feels, the trigger (once you get used to the fact it needs to be fully reset to ensure proper load of next round). BUT after firing only couple 100 rounds, casings stopped ejecting (no, not limp-wresting). Called Walther & they sent list of their “tested” ammo-suggested this is finicky about ammo. I had hand surgery & have not been to range since. Also, I read a review posted by an engineer who complained about the eject arm being unstable causing malfunction (& take-down a pain, almost as bad as Ruger 22/45). I’m really disappointed, to say the least. I have one finicky gun, SIG Mosquito, but love it anyway. I have a SIG p320 and love it, but obviously, not a CCW, but I’m thinking maybe I should have gone for another 320 in sub compact, 9mm. I’m sold on SIG.

  20. Randi

    Thank you for an excellent article! When I bought my first handgun in November, 2012 (yeah, right after the election), my brother convinced me to buy a handgun for CC. Stupidly, I listened to the guy at the gun show who talked me into the S&W Bodyguard .380. While I did learn to shoot it well, my hands really took a beating until I got a pair of padded gloves.

    I sold my Bodyguard (for more than I paid) and bought a Sig P238. I also have the Kimber Micro 380 and Glock G42. All three are great for first-time shooters. I have talked many women out of Ruger LCPs and S&W Bodyguards and steered them to the Sig, Kimber or Glock. From a performance perspective, IMO, I rank them Kimber, Sig then Glock. Cost perspective – just the reverse.

    Several (almost all) of the women in my local shooting chapter started with one gun and wound up switching to the P238. Some have migrated to 9mm for their CC. My personal favorite for CC is Springfield EMP. I am a huge sucker for a great 1911 platform (have several .45 ACPs).

    I would love to get my hands on the Rock Island Baby Rock 380. Read great reviews but pretty tough to get!

  21. jp walmer

    My suggestion would be to move up tp the LC-380 , however I’m waiting for a striker version.
    I had a LP-9 and it concealed well using an ISWB holster.jp

  22. John

    NY State in all it’s wisdom will not let you apply for a CCW permit unless you first place a deposit on a pistol at a gun store and have a bill of sale for a weapon with your CCW application. To make it even better you cannot handle a pistol at a gun shop until you have your CCW permit. So the ultimate Catch 22 situation; you can only point at a pistol/revolver in the display and say “i’ll take that one” without even handling it. That makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? But that is in line with a lot of NY State gun laws. You can have 10 rounds in your semi auto if you are at a NRA certified range but only 7 rounds if you happen to be carrying the gun or have it at home for home defense. Somehow I don’t believe the governors protective detail follows those guidelines.

  23. Michael Kincaid

    As a licensed CCW instructor, I frequently see the same problems. Also one woman came in with a pink Ruger LCP. It looked like a toy and any assailant would probably think the same thing. I told her that if she got into a confrontation, she would probably have to shoot the perp, just to prove to him that is was a “real” gun.

  24. Bill

    What you say about a small 380 is true But having a 380 is Shorely better than having nothing at all sometimes especially in the summer it’s hard to conceal something any better than that so in my case I would rather have a 380 And never ever need it than to not have anything

  25. Daniel Johnson

    Guys, loved the article and the subsequent discussion. I’m looking at the S&W M&P Shield 9mm or the S&W SD9 Mod 2 for myself. But for my wife, who has never fired a weapon of any kind, I’m thinking .38 Revolver. I believe that racking the slide will be a problem for her and the revolver will be easier for her to load and clean. Having said that, understand that I am NOT picking out the handgun for her; she’ll choose her own, with some advice from me, my friend Tom, my brother Rick (both os whom have used handguns for years), and the guys at the range/gun shop. Meanwhile, I’m researching for her (she won’t ever do this) by reading magazines and internet articles like this one. So thanks for the advice and discussion.


    I agree on size & recoil in any 380, as you must know, IF it’s too big & too heavy it stays HOME. My SP101 in 357 is a great defensive piece BUT it weighs too much & is only a 5 shot, so what do you recommend for someone who wears tucked in ELY shirts ???

  27. Roger

    We sometimes overlook the obvious. You are totally correct and I should know this owning an LCP myself. I like this firearm but I had to work with it and it would be a terrible choice for my wife. Thanks for the wake up!

  28. Tim

    My wife and I are both NRA certified pistol instructors, and most of our training/coaching is done with women shooters. I agree completely with the author’s analysis of the small .380s being a bad choice for new women shooters. We are also past retirement age, and no longer have the strength we once had. Proper technique helps, but the small size of the sub-compact .380s does not provide much gripping surface for manipulating the pistol. I have one of the older Ruger LCPs, and would not recommend it to anyone not already proficient at shooting. The recoil is sharp, the trigger geometry results in a bite to the trigger finger on every shot, and a laser sight is required because the “sights” are part of the slide casting and the pistol shoots four inches low and four inches left at a distance of 10 feet. The new version of the LCP corrects some of this, but Ruger will neither sell the newer parts, or upgrade an old pistol. A tiny .380 is, as the author states, a poor choice for a new shooter.

  29. Dave M

    I couldn’t agree more. I have large hands, and even though I’m an experienced shooter, I’ve had slide bite twice; from a .25 and .380.

  30. Greg Patzer

    Excellent article Mr. Needs! It places the role of the ultra-compact .380 ACP in appropriate perspective.

  31. rick bennett

    great article ,i have encountered a lot of what the author has pointed out while looking for a gun for deep concealed carry.having carried metal framed 380 ‘s in my early years i too find the new composite gun have more recoil than my colt mustang or ppk i got from grandpa(both hammer fired and not as lite as today striker fired guns,still found a need for a dedicated holster and not good for pants pocket carry:ie:they print easily ) best advice i got was to shoot as many as possible and pick whats right for you both men and women

  32. BikerBill

    My wife is working towards getting her concealed carry license. She usually shoots my Smith 22A, but you can’t take the test with a .22. So she did a ton of research, including shooting my Sig p238, which she felt was too short, although she was very accurate with it. After handling just about every .380 on the market, she bought a Glock 42 and loves it. I’m not a Glock fan, but told her I’d butt out unless I thought she was making a huge mistake, like a J-frame or a 1911. I think she made a good decision. Test to come early next year.

  33. DIYinSTL

    I picked up an LCP when Cabela’s had a sale for $200. I like that it is very light and easily slips into a front or rear jeans pocket when carrying a larger gun is impractical. I don’t like to shoot it. While the felt recoil in the palm hurts, the trigger finger positively stings. Even worse is the (newer?) LCP with the anodized triggers – I shot one last week and the sharp edges on the trigger will have you checking for blood. On the other hand, the contours of my brother’s Kimber Micro makes it a pleasure to shoot but at the cost of weight, making it less of a pocket pistol.

  34. Mike Hartman

    I absolutely agree that men and women alike will be much better served by at least a 9mm compact, and even moreso by something like a S&W M&P in .40S&W. Also, carrying in a purse is a poor idea for numerous reasons, including both safety and security. Without wanting to start a “mechanical safety vs no-safety” argument, a mechanical thumb safety that is easy to dis-engage with your strong hand only (like that on an M&P 40C) is one more barrier to negligent discharge, especially if you must carry in a purse or fanny pack.
    One more thing, ladies (and men): If you must carry off your person, and you have small children, you MUST NOT leave a round in the chamber, ESPECIALLY if you have no mechanical safety.
    Dozens of terrible accidents could have been avoided if the gun were not chambered at the time the little one took it out of the purse.

    Having carried concealed for many years with no incidents, there is much more I can add. Suffice it to say:
    Train well, carry and store safely, and shoot straight.

  35. Irondoor

    Assume your attacker is a 300 lb. male athlete, high on drugs and wearing layers of clothing in the winter. Do you want to bet your life on a 380 mouse gun with limited capacity? Not me.

  36. Landis

    Good article, agree. Think it time to take another look at the .32’s. With modern bullets. The .32 auto, the .32 revolvers; .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R, etc. Understanding that many of the old .32 autos may not feed HP’s. But some do. Hits count.

  37. Dave

    Nice article… well written and good “down to earth” advice. Keep up the good work. Thanks-

  38. Wayne Campbell

    Very informative. I bought one for my wife thinking it would be a good a good personal defense weapon for her because it was lightweight and she doesn’t have much strength in her hands. Needless to say she couldn’t even rack it. So I got her a revolver which she likes better. So I kept the Ruger. I carry a Hi-Point 9MM and although being a much heavier weapon I prefer it over the .380. I found that after taking it to the range was exactly like you said I have better control ove the Hi-Point! But I will continue to practice with the .380 and carry it also. Thanks for the info.

  39. Gerri N Daniels

    I agree with you on the “micro-pistols” in .380 caliber. However, you should try out a Bersa .380 Thunder. This is my carry pistol and it fits my hand perfectly. There is a nice sized beavertail below the hammer, and I can get all my fingers around the grip. The recoil is very controllable and I am a pretty good shot with it. “Try it! You’ll like it!”

  40. Mark

    Good article overall. Understand the .380 serves a purpose, best gun to have in a gun fight is the one you have with you. I’ve had the s&w bodyguard for years, loved the laser, 10rd mag better filled my grip, light and easily concealed. Happily sold it when I got the Browning black label 1911-380. Can’t say enough about it, you just have to try one out for yourself. My usual edc, even though I own and can carry pretty much any other calibers.


    My wife owned a Ruger LCP and found it difficult to shoot well so we sold it and got her a Sig 938 Skorpion. Both were 9mm and she struggles with the Signed. She shoots my 5″ Kimber 1911 and my Glock 41MOS, both .45 acp, quite well. I’m picking out her next gun as she struck out twice already. Soon she will be the proud owner of a full size Glock 9mm. Anybody want to buy a Sig? Lol.

  42. Gary B

    I have eight 380 Pocket pistols and a Browning BDA in 380. The Browning is a pleasure to shoot as it is best described as a all steel compact, plenty of grip area and weight with about a four inch barrel. I have a Ruger LCP (Like described in the article); a LCP Custom, much better sights a wider better feeling trigger and a Stainless Steel Guide Rod (for who knows why); a LCP II slightly better trigger, better sights than a standard LCP but not as good as the Custom, it has a way better trigger and is now Single Action, slightly better grip (I guess, still pretty small). I have a new Remington RM-380 that is double action only so you can have second strike capability, easiest racking Pocket gun, okay accuracy, Shoots everything so far, I need to shoot it more to warm up to it, Kahr CW-380, very good sights, accurate, controllable but finicky on ammo brand, get ammo it likes and stick to it (I modified mine after reading about reliability issues I now have Lakeline striker and guide rod). I have a Colt Mustang XSP which is not similar to a Sig 238 (The Sig is similar to the Colt) soft enough shooting, not as accurate as some (I Love it but a lot of people don’t care for a ‘Locked and Cocked…or Cocked and Locked’ pocket pistol) I have a Glock 42 easily the easiest to recommend, but the biggest pocket pistol for me, soft shooting accurate, reliable. Finally a older S&W Sigma 380, not a lot to like other than easy racking, fairly soft shooting and it is stone reliable. I recommend Glock 42, Kahr, and a LCP II, I only use mine as backup to a larger gun.

  43. David

    When I went to purchase my wife a gun for conceal carry, we had decided on the Ruger LCP. Partially for size, partially for price. I was fortunate and had a great gun salesman that I had worked with on my home defensive weapon. He did not say not to get the LCP, but rather showed me some guns that may work better for her being a novice and having a hard time manipulating the slide. After working with the salesman for a while,we decided on the Walther CCP. I am very glad we did…the cleaning can be a bit tricky, especially for a novice like me, but the guns shoots great and fits her hand and mine. The salesman mentioned many of the same drawbacks that you did.

  44. David

    I agree completely with this article. I have been in law enforcement for over 20 years and am also a certified firearms instructor. I have had many individuals come to me wanting information about what kind of gun they should get. I tell them that they should above all else get a gun that is comfortable and that they feel comfortable shooting. They all ask “what caliber should I get” and I tell them “whichever one one shoot best with”. I tell them that it’s no sense in having a 44 mag if you can be accurate with it, if you can only be accurate with a 22 then that’s what you need to carry. As far as for the size of a gun, I will use my wife as a example. She started out shooting a small frame revolver but do to having small hands she was unable to shoot it in double action. She then tried a S&W bodyguard. 380 and like was mentioned above she had trouble manipulatin the weapon. The trigger pull was better and at 10 yards she was able to maintain 6 to 8 in groups. Well, one day while at the range she ran out of ammo and wasn’t ready to stop shooting. So I convinced her to shoot my full size .45acp 1911. After a few minutes of instruction on grip and trigger differences she started shooting at the same distance. And to our surprise her groups were smaller (3 to 6 inches). Since then she has sold her bodyguard took over my 1911 and is saving up to buy her own.

  45. Laura

    I happened to come across this article tonight in my email. Even though I’m not sure why an almost 1 yr. old article is being included in a Christmas Day email, I nonetheless found it interesting. I can only speak from my ‘novice’ experience but would like to put forward another side to what I perceive as your outspoken & lengthy dislike for the .380. By scanning the names in the Comment section it appears around 97% or more are male.

    I am female. I got my license 2 1/2 yrs. ago at age 62. I had never held a gun prior to that time. I tried various guns/calibers/manufacturer’s & ammo before purchasing my current gun. I put together a spreadsheet of each gun, the different types of ammo I used in each & why I did or did not like each gun. I spent a year of testing & researching before my purchase. I also had valuable help from a relative who provided articles & educated input. I had a well qualified teacher at a well respected & established range. No salespeople tried to ‘sell’ me anything. Instead they answered my questions & gave me their pro’s & con’s to each gun in which I was interested. When I was ready I shopped for a great sale & purchased. My husband encouraged me every step of the way. My choice came down to what I could handle & shoot accurately. I did not have the hand strength to rack a 9, 45 or other higher caliber gun. I could easily rack the Sig Sauer P238. I was comfortable with it. The recoil, to me, was much less than any of the others I tried. It fired smoothly. I have never pinched myself with it, thanks to paying attention to good instructors. In summary, this gun gave me everything I could handle & needed in a gun. I have been extremely happy with it.

    I respectively request that in the future should you wish to espouse a ‘female’ point of view, from only your opinion & experience as a teacher, to include actual interviews with females whose opinions differ from yours (even though I highly doubt I will ever see another of your articles).

  46. Rick

    Ask any Skeet/Sporting Clays shooter. A .410 is an experts gun, not a “Beginners Gun”. The same holds true for the .380 micro pistols. Larger .380 may fill the bill however. They are usually back-up, last ditch effort, up close and personal guns. My wife has the usual problems with semi-autos as others. Racking, recoil, etc. I bought her a EAA Windicator snub nose in .357 Magnum. She shoots .38 Specials in it. For her it is comfortable, accurate, and most importantly she enjoys shooting it. That makes it the perfect choice for her. To paraphrase from Harry Potter, “The weapon will choose the shooter”.

  47. Mike Murray

    Absolutely nailed it. I’ve been down that exact road (and all it’s speed bumps and potholes) with many men and women.

  48. James

    I have owned many, many handguns in my lifetime 9although I am far from an “expert”). I went through a “phase” early on in my gun acquisition when I bought several of the micro .380s including the Kel-Tec 3AT, Ruger LCP, and one other that I can no longer remember! I agree with basically everything that the author says in his article about them and that they are a poor choice for ANY beginning shooter, male or female. Even most female hands are too small to get a solid three finger grip on these tiny pistols. Their springs are much stronger because they have to be and it makes it very difficult if not impossible for many shooters, especially women but not only women, to rack the slide. They often have slim to no real sights and the sight radius is very small for any shooter, much less a beginner. I tend to think of them as somewhat like the old derringers, a “belly gun” that could perhaps serve as a backup gun when wrestling with someone with deadly intent. And I DO believe that many potential perpetrators would back off from attacking a woman if she produced ANY type of firearm and showed almost any degree of competence in using it. But, having said that, I believe that there are just too many choices these days in small 9mm handguns that are much better choices, including the Glock 43 and many, many others. The only .380 that I still own that I would even consider carrying today for self-defense would be an old Beretta “Cheetah” that I own (13+1) .380 that is basically a cut down version of the Beretta 82 or M-9. It is a pretty little pistol with essentially a full sized although somewhat small grip and can handle to supped up modern .380 ammunition that is on the market today like Buffalo Bore and Underwood, etc. But really, I would most likely carry this nice looking pistol as a “dress” pistol. I carry my Springfield XDs 9mm in a pocket holster as an everyday pistol. And can upgrade to the Springfield XD MOD 2 9mm subcompact that the author shows which can also be carried in the pocket of the cargo type pants that I normally wear. Or my Glock 19 in a IWB. I personally think that the Glock 19 just might be the “best” all around choice for a self defense pistol if I could only own one. Carried in a high quality IWB or similar concealed carry fashion. I’m NOT disparaging the tried and true 45 ACP at all. Just my 2 cents.

  49. Robery Palmer

    I have a g42 and use Precision one +p ammo. I had better results with this gun than with my g19. Both are very good shooters for me, but I usually carry the g42. I have a problem concealing the larger weapons because I am very sensitive to heat and spend most of the time in shorts and polo shirts.

  50. Arnold A Jones

    Thanks for this helpful information on the compact .380’s, I have a full size .380, 2 to be more accurate, and have been contemplating on purchasing the smaller compact for concealed carry reasons, but after reading your great information I think I will just stay with the full size, a little harder to conceal but still a safer purchase. Thanks again

  51. Alan

    One more thing, DA’s like the Walther PPK may have a great rep because of the Mfg’s lineage, but the trigger of the AVERAGE out of the box PPK is stupidly heavy.
    I’ve seen several woman unable to pull that trigger in DA mode.
    Dumb, just dumb Walther.

  52. John

    I am a 73 year old guy and I recently purchased the new Ruger LCP II. I believe they have overcome several of the concerns expressed in the article. My go to in the past was the Bersa Thunder in 380 but now I prefer my new Ruger. Light weight, low recoil, easy to manipulate and with the proper magazine has slide lock open after last round. Not totally satisfied with the sights but with a dab of white paint they work for me.

    • Vic vapor

      right on John,
      that Lcp II crosses off
      a lot of the minuses the original LCp and other smallish firearms have for grip, recoil, and slide operation. the Glock 42,
      while being a tad larger and heavier for concealed ability,
      brings many good qualities also.

  53. bob

    Most people buy the latest rage instead of fit. I needed small gun I could carry in my right front pants pocket daily so like most did my homework on a dozen or so and visited the local Gander. I had the salesman lay them all out on the counter. Here’s the deal, I shut my eyes and had him hand them to me one at a time with eyes firmly closed. I went strictly by fit of hand, rack and trigger pull. I eliminated all but one very quickly and found the Glock 42 the best fit and the funny thing is that it wasn’t even on my list. The salesman snuck it into the group. The LCP I thought I wanted was the first eliminated. I bought the Glock and wear it in a Galco Pocket Protector holster daily in my pants pocket. Lehigh Xtreme Penetrators are the round of choice as they easily pass he FBI tests.

  54. Alan

    In addition, most compact .380’s are blowback, and my years as an instructor showed me that many petite women haven’t the strength to rack the slide due to its heavy recoil spring.

  55. Rob Westcott

    Your analysis is excellent! For small concealed carry, I tell my students that the striker-fired .380 Glock 42 or 9mm Glock 43 is worth the investment. A self-defense firearm is no place to go cheap! Would you want your surgeon to use a bargain-basement scalpel ?

  56. Ron

    I “moved up” from a Ruger LCP in 380 to a Beretta Nano in 9mm. I wasn’t unhappy with the LCP, I wanted something with more punch. I wanted a longer barrel and a slide I could get a better grip on. I carry my Nano in a IWB REMORA HOSTER at 10 O’Clock.

  57. W.P. Zeller

    We, too, run many Intro classes as well as follow-ons. A third of them are women-only, as my female partner, as lead instructor (as well as being an accomplished, sponsored competitive shooter) draws a strong female contingent.
    The micros, as we call them, are a worsening problem for the new shooters. Not just the plastic .380s but the J-frame clones as well.
    More than one woman has told my partner that she went for the micro because being smaller and lighter, she believed she could more easily handle and control it.
    I couldn’t even count the number of times we’ve seen a lady put down a tiny gun and say “I hate this and I’m not going to shoot it any more.” We saw a Ruger .22 Mag LCR go back in trade after just two rounds.
    In the semi-auto realm, the larger .380s hold hope- possibly the best ever was the Colt Government .380. The newer 1911-looking Brownings and similar also have potential. So, apparently, does the Bersa.
    I consider them good reduced-power alternatives. Particularly the Colt, with which I have a lot of experience, these can be comfortable and easy to run.
    I would turn to the Mustang for the tiny size gun, much as the Sig 238 as other posters have said. It’s so easy to rack the slide it requires no thought. Shooting it is not in the least unpleasant; my problem runs more towards shooting up too much ammunition. I have restrict myself to only bringing 200 rounds or less, or I’ll go through the whole box. Hardly a sign of a tough-to-shoot gun.
    I don’t have much confidence in the .380 as a defensive caliber but it’s vastly better than nothing. If that’s all you can get going with safely and with any sort of proficiency, it’s a good solution.

  58. Mike Clark

    I agree and strongly disagree. .380 high performance cartridges will do the the job quite well. We did a ballistic test with 9mm+P and .380 both in Second Amendment defensive ammo. The difference in penetration was negligible. The 9 went about 1.5 inches further than the .380 at 5 yards. Police statistics indicate the average confrontation is a matter of feet, a matter of seconds, less than 4.5 shots fired (NYPD 1999). I train people three days a week and would NEVER recommend a personal protection (carry) firearm of any size or caliber with any type of external manual safety, i.e. one that must be disengaged by the shooter prior to shooting. The facts support that position – you simply don’t have the time!!!

  59. Brian

    Dunno if its considered an Ultra-Compact, but my bride’s Bersa Thunder is a great little gun. Problem I have is JHP expansion is so unreliable in .380.

  60. tom regner

    just bought 380 bodyguard.i shoot a lot.but the bodyguard will take some practice.it is my first sub compact

  61. Kassy

    He might not like it but I love it. I went to the store with the intention to get the Ruger LCP but then I saw the .380, when I held it I was like “this pistol was made for my hand.”

  62. Cherie Grivna

    I have carried a Kimber Solo for 4 yrs. and I love it but I can not rack it very easily. I just got the Kimber Micro 380 and love it. I can rack it and it has less recoil than the Solo. I am pretty accurate with both guns, I practice usually once a week. My hands are small and the gun fits nicely. Don’t get me wrong, my favorite is a 1911 to shoot, but being a woman it is just too big to conceal.

    • tanker_bob

      I picked up a Kimber Micro Carry .380 months ago and I love it. All my friends who shot it want one. I have an all-steel AMT Backup .380 that hurts my hand to shoot. The Kimber weighs a lot less and I can shoot 50-100 rounds at a time without any discomfort. I particularly like the M1911-style design and manual of arms and single-action trigger. No unmodified striker-fire or DAO trigger comes close to the feel and precision of a SA trigger. The sights are also highly visible, making it easy to get back on target. The Micro fits in the front pocket of my tactical pants w/o printing at all. The .380 is not my primary carry weapon, but it makes a very nice backup to my larger Kimber M1911s.

  63. Michael Lilley


    Spot on, in my limited experience. While by no means an expert such as you, I’ve had several couples turn to my wife and me for advice for new woman shooters. While we point out that LCPs, et al, offer greater concealability given women’s typical clothing limitations, you’re right: These things bite, bark and twist. Unfortunately, most of their husbands didn’t listen — until the outcomes you cited came to pass and the wives essentially confronted their spouses with: “Get me something else, or I give up.” AND most of these couples didn’t have the money to spend experimenting, buying this gun, then that. Great advice. Thanks so much for such a helpful article.

  64. Dr Dave

    My wife and I both carry strictly Hornady ammo. She uses the mentioned Bodyguard with Custom and I carry a Glock 19 with Critical Duty
    However for 30 years I carried a Walther PPK in 380 that I had to get special permission to carry since the agency I worked for had the same mindset that the 380 was an inferior caliber. Now realize that the PPK is not a sub-compact anything it is a medium frame semi but in the smaller caliber.
    I agree that the size of the frame has far more to do with things then the caliber but as a surgeon I can tell you all the ballistic gel and FBI tests in the world mean nothing because I have pronounced guys dead with 17 cal and 22LR as I have with 45 cal.
    Yes the larger cal do leave a bigger mess but after you get to about 20′ or so the accuracy vs. the energy transfer becomes a significant issue
    I see far more good solid 380 hits then spot on 45 or 357 cal hits by far
    If the issue is lead on target then it comes down to frame size and ability to control both felt recoil and get back on target then size of the off target wound. REALLY easy to say what will happen when you are at the range but turn the lights off and take it outdoors with stress of being attacked and the adrenaline rushing and you will have NO clue as to your shot outcomes. Practice all you want unless you are under simulation conditions (which virtually no one gets to do unless you are FBI) then take accuracy over energy every time
    Dr D

  65. Mary

    I see the majority posted here are men, I decided to post my selections since I am an older woman (over 60) of slight build.
    Years ago I started with a S & W 357 Mag revolver as an Armed Guard. Many years later I purchased a small Kel-Tec 3AT. While it is a Nice little pistol & easily concealed I did have problems with the initial rack and it actually was too small for my hands to shoot without pulling my shots and with the oneset of osteo-arthritis it snapped my wrist back too sharply with light weight. So I chose to go bigger & heavier… I chose a Glock 40cal. both the compact & sub-compact for conceal carry. Went fine for several years then my husband got a M&P Shield 9mm I decided I would trade in my two Glock 40’s for two Glock 9mm’s which are what I open carry and conceal carry to this day.
    I also purchased a small pocket pistol for when my attire demands small, the Baretta 21A in 22LR….I call it my “Up close and Personal” gun or an EN&T gun….
    It’s quite fun to shoot too….

  66. Lorri Porter

    I agree with this 100%. I have taught many lady friends about shooting and many gun stores market the 380’s to inexperienced women. It’s hard when they don’t regularly practice getting muscle memory and hand strength for racking the slide. I suggest women going to ranges that rent pistols so they can try before buying.

  67. Jeff

    Great article. Familiarity is necessary before purchase of your first firearm and that can be difficult without adequate facilities to train. Ranges with rentals and friends with all models are in short supply. This article at least outlines hands on application of the tools and there uses along with accompanying concerns about skill sets. My back-up is a Bodyguard for the very reasons listed as deficits. Heavy frame, heavy trigger. It suits me. Hopefully, this article will give others that same most important piece of insight : find the gun that fits you. The way you shoot. The way you carry. Ultimately, your choice is comfortable in your hand to be of value for its intended purpose. Possiblly one second of use after a lifetime of care and preparation. The unique choice of gun is as important as the commitment to use it. That puts the responsibility for both squarely in the hands of the user. Choose wisely.

  68. PeaceSouljer

    I will be starting my wife off with a wheel gun and it will likely wind up being her EDC. Revolver is ‘point and shoot’ v. auto safety on/off, reloading, round in chamber, etc. etc. her daddy carried a .38 she will have one too


    I agree totally with this article. I have a different problem I have big hands by most people’s standards but I also have a medical condition that makes gripping the smaller hand guns. I have also found that different rounds have different types of felt recoil. I actually have an easier time with a .40 and .45 than I do with the 9mm and the smaller .380’s, The smaller rounds have a tendency to be more “snappy” where the .40 and especially the .45 are more of a “push” that I have a much easier time dealing with my particular condition.

  70. Gerald Morton

    Bought my wife a Ruger 380 lcp She could not rack the slide using two hands. Traded it in for a SIG 380, slide works like butter. You get what you pay for.

  71. Bill Johnson

    I have no problem admitting my wife can outshoot me even w/ my Taurus Tracker in 44mag in fact I’m proud of her capabillity.

  72. GAC

    Another vote for the Sig P238. Specifically the model with the rubberized Sig/Hogue grip. With that grip AND an extended mag, the gun is very comfortable and controlable. Racking the slide is much easier that the Ruger LCP or Keltec P3AT.

  73. ermedina

    This is a well written opinion on the “ultra-compact” .380 as a bad beginner gun, and or not so primary for female self-defense. What it missed was highlighting .380 mid-size guns… you get the best of both worlds with regard to recoil, and size. I know that was not the premise of the article, but at least give a final option (besides one) if one were to still want to go the route of the caliber and less felt recoil. The Ruger LC380, Walther PK380, Bersa Thunder, Bersa BP380cc, Kahr CT380 to name few. I personally carry a DB380 Gen 2, and couldn’t be happier with it’s performance.

  74. Scott

    Jarrod, In the second paragraph you state that the .380 “…does not have the penetration of other calibers and does not meet FBI ballistics standards…” is an incorrect statement. The FBI penetration target is between 12″ and 18″. The round needs to penetrate enough to do its job without penetrating far enough to pass through the target and endanger objects or people behind the primary target. Based on a recent study (http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/ ) no less than 5 ammo options in .380 meet the FBI requirements for penetration and several exceed the penetration target range. I do not consider a .380 a “beginner” gun but instead it is a valid option in certain concealed carry situations (i.e. clothing, carry location, concealability, weight, volume).
    I agree with the remainder of your article with the additional comment that many of the challenges you point out that are associated with .380 are also inherent in many of the small 9mm pistols and the same evaluation criteria and approach to firearm selection should be applied when considering any small pistol.

  75. Billy

    I agree with everything in this article, but I would like to add, some women refuse to carry what they call a heavy gun. Yes, they are easier to shoot, manipulate etc, but they balance fashion and weight. Guys don’t usually care or dress around it.
    I added a Hogue Handall grip sleeve made SPECIFICALLY for the LCP to my daughter’s LCP. It is daylight and dark. For $10 you increase the handle size, reduce the recoil and make if feel good. Add the grip enhancing material Hogue uses and you have a fit. It also enhances the size of the beaver tail. Hogue makes a generic sleeve, it doesn’t fit. You must purchase the one that says made for the LCP 380. Mag release is unaffected, just a good design. Takes 2 minutes to install and all of the components are in the package.
    Thanks for the article, good information.

  76. Harry

    I totally agree with Jarrod. I have a S&W Bodyguard. It is a very nice concealable gun in the summer with shorts and a t-shirt, but to be honest I have more trouble shooting this gun than any of my nines. It is like trying to hold on to squiggly firecracker. :-)
    I have learned to master it, but my wife had far more trouble with this than any of the 9’s. I almost never carry it as the snub is so much easier to carry and get on target.
    The S&W 9mm Shield is an example of just a little bigger, a few more inches of penetration with a larger projectile and, to me, easier to shoot.

  77. Kris

    As a woman, I prefer my .380 pistol over my 9mm. This article should have also had the input of a female with smaller hands than a mans. I have a Sig p238 Spartan and a Ruger SR9 and I have shot several other .380s and 9mms on my own and with an instructor and there are several .380s I would not own. My husband prefers my 9mm and does not like my .380 at all.
    Also to say the pistols are not good for self defense is ridiculous. It is all in the ammo type you choose. Choose the right hollow point ammo and even a .22 can be a great self defense gun or choose other ammo and it will buy you time to get away. Your choice.

  78. Preston Shugart

    Another factor in the increased felt recoil is the simply the lighter weight of the small pistols. I view the sub-compacts such as the LCP (such as I have) as purely a back-up or last resort before a knife or club.

  79. Ed

    I have to disagree, the LCP 380 (preferably with laser) is a fine choice. However you must practice, practice, practice. One well placed shot is all you need.

  80. Sharon

    I have a Ruger LC380 and I love it, however, I do want a 9mm or .40 cal. When I was looking, I thought the LCP380 was too small too. I choose the LC380 because I could hold it better in my hand.

  81. Robert Duncan

    The reason the US Army switched to Browning’s designed .45ACP, aka the 1911 Army Colt Pistol after the Spanish American War was the 6″ barreled .38 Special revolver couldn’t stop Morro Tribesmen from hacking the Americans to death only to bleed out later. In other words, even the much more powerful .38 Special vs. .380’s can’t always get it done and therefore .380’s aren’t considered “stoppers”. Last I read, most pistol stops are made 9-11 feet away from the target…it happens quick depending on the time of day. Most pistol stops take multiple hits just to find a vital organ. I’ve personally walked patients to the ambulance with 6 .38 Special slugs in them. The LAPD’s backup man with a 12 ga. was forced to jump in front of his partner and drop this madman who was charging him with a knife. I’ve seen bank surveillance footage where an off-duty cop armed with a .380 confronted a robber and they became entwined in a fight over his pistol which he quickly emptied into the bad guy as the fight broke and the bad guy ran out of the bank where he collapsed in the parking lot. My point is there are too many self-carry options to trust a .380…unless you have the lucky option to stick it in an assailant’s ear or eye and squeeze a shot off.

  82. Mikial

    I agree with the author. I have taught many new shooters, and many of those were women. I started them all on a .22 pistol for obvious reasons, but quickly graduated them up to full sized 9mm. Once they were used to them we shot a variety of other pistols, in other calibers and sizes. then, and only then, did i let them shoot subcompacts after which we talked about what they should buy to carry. Most did not like the subs and would only carry them if they had no other choice. My wife swears by her Beretta 92, and while she will shoot .45s (she owns a 1911) and Desert eagles, she will not even shoot the PF9 I carry fro a BUG. We call it The Mule because it has so much recoil.

  83. Scoped OUT

    great advice. I learned to shoot a pistol on a 1911. after not shooting for many years I decided to start again and bought a Sig 22lr “mosquito”. Nice gun but I should have gone to a range that had one as a rental and shot before I bought. It was a great gun but too small for my hand an I could never shoot it as accurately as I knew I should be able. Before I bought my 1st self defense gun (a S&W M&P compact in 9mm) I went to the local range with a good selection of rental guns and shot 5 or 6 different variants of a compact 9mm. Fit of the grip and trigger placement and pull were the deciding factors. In my next live I will be able to afford a 1911 in 9mm or an Sti2011 commander size in 45acp. Just dreaming on the latter… Why? Trigger control. Single stage with a clean crisp break which makes being accurate on every shot easier.

    I should also report that my sister has a nice ppk 380 that is a great gun but the Perceived recoil is far worse than my 9, even when I am shooting 124 gr ammo.

  84. Susan

    My first EDC was a Sig Sauer P238. Yes, it’s small, but I have a small hand it I’ve never had any of the above issues in handling. BUT I also have been shooting for a while and my current EDC is it’s big sister, the Sig P938. Both are extremely easy to use and accurate.

  85. Nancy

    I have worked very hard with several female and male friends who are purchasing their first handgun for these exact reasons. 1 bought one reported new in box but was told by dealer it had been test fired. He loaded it for her and she began carrying it immediately. We were at her home and I unloaded and showed her how to break it down for her to clean. What I found was a barrel full of grease and bent firing pin.
    Made her box it up and we went next morning back to that dealer. He gave me the same pitch expecting me to bite as well. When he handed it to me I broke it down and found the same thing.

    Laid her box on the counter her money was instantly returned without asking for it.

    We went elsewhere and rented several and she bought a snub nose 38.

  86. Larry

    I agree that the small .380 are not the best choice for any one’s first pistol. How ever I do not agree about some of what you stated. There is a .380 that is in the same price rang that is a fine gun but a little heavier and larger but still a grate ccw and that is the Bersa Thunder. I was able to get one from my local ACE Hardware store for $250.00 new. It is a fine gun and very easy to shoot. I rank it with my 9mm S&W Shield that way. As for the .380 round not meeting FBI standers that is not true both the Lehigh and Underwood extreme perpetrator do and most of the XTP rounds ether do or come very close. The Glocks are expensive and larger than the guns you mentioned. I have a Trusus PT738 the same size and yes it is snappy but it is a good summer carry option. I have smaller hands and I do not have the strength I did at 20 when I was in the service and carried a commander 38 supper as a Bodyguard. Please check these rounds out and look at the Bersa as an option for some of the students you have.

  87. Dana

    As a female, an NRA pistol instructor, and a firearms sales person I could not have said it better had I written this myself. Yes, Ruger makes me so mad when the put raspberry and purple on those little guns to attract women. I tell my customers that I will not sell one of those guns to a woman. Taurus is another company that has made a white polymer revolver with a pink grip. That thing has about a 25 lb trigger pull. I get the guys to try it and they struggle with it. Now Diamond back is making little pink pistols. Too small to grip, no slide lock, no safety (Important to many women), and a long trigger pull. Seriously, some of these gun manufacturers need to get realistic about the grown number of women who are wanting to protect themselves with firearms.

  88. Vicki Richardson

    I found this article really interesting. As a newbie and female when I received notice for my conceal and carry course it stated that I would need a semi-automatic to take the course. Well sure enough I went to the local shop and purchased a 380 and had so much trouble puling back the slide when I came home that I was really discouraged. I wish the guys in the gun shops would have us try this before selling them to us. I didn’t know the first thing about guns and this is what they said I needed. I went back several times and they did show me how to hold it different to slide it and it will take some time to master it, but I’m determined. I wanted to exchange it and they gave me a story about how they couldn’t give me the exact amount back in a trade in because of some law or another. Well I did take the course and am in the process of getting fingerprinted and am going to start practicing and again, I’m determined to learn how to use this gun and be safe. Thank you for the article and the heads up with the problems, this really helped me.

  89. Raymond Fischer

    With any pistol, new people must learn to shoot it properly or know matter what size gun they have it will be worthless to them. the rules state practice once a week for the first 2 months and then once a month… that should work just fine and one can become proficient with a 380 just fine.

  90. Mowgli Terry

    I shoot all sorts of self-loading pistols. The most difficult to date was a Kel-Tec 380. The pistol functioned well and was accurate for a seven yard gun. Service was good from the company. On the downside it took much effort and hand strength to open the slide. No good for anybody without strong hands. I could see somebody limp wristing the pistol and not being able to pull the slide back to clear the jam.

  91. Warren graham

    Bought my daughter a dig saur 380 accuracy is unbelievable from 75yd. If you are an experd use
    She also has a 357 magnum for range.sorry my typing sucks I love the little gun I have a glock 45 the dig is more accurate.

  92. Grant B.

    Well said article. I completely agree. My wife is an inexperienced shooter and has very small hands. I tried training her on my larger P229 in .40 but she had a difficult time reaching any of the controls and couldn’t rack the slide or even fully load the mag. She didn’t shoot great, but she shot good. We got her a M&P Shield 9mm and she can rack it and load it. She still is only a good shooter, but that will come with more experience. I personally carry the Springfield XDS 9mm and really like it. I did just buy a Glock 42, and I have to it is quite nice. I have bigger hands, more strength, more experience (including combat), so I know how to train to operate my weapons should they decide not to work, and I try to get my wife to think about it, too. It’s training drills that will ultimately save your life.

  93. Les

    Started teaching my daughter at @ age 12-13 with pistols, as soon as she could rack the slide.She very quickly learned to prefer my full sized Sig 226 (9mm)over my wife’s Browning BDA (380) due to felt recoil and control. Now at age 23 she carries a bersa(9mm). Remember , the best EDC Gun is the one you are most comfortable with. Discomfort equals less training.

  94. francis

    I prefer the Bersa cc380. It is both single and double action. I use both the underwood extremepenetrator and the precision one load of the hornady xtp bullet. These are very good defensive rounds

  95. Jill

    I agree that those Ruger LCPs (and some other ultra-compacts) are much more difficult to handle. One ultra-compacts .380 that I test-fired was so bad, I literally could not complete the trigger pull and get it to fire, because it had such a heavy, long pull (on a miniscule firearm) that I couldn’t get it to fire no matter what! I have smallish hands and still couldn’t squeeze it back enough! I bought the Glock 42 and couldn’t be more pleased with my decision – I absolutely love it! I had previously said I wouldn’t purchase a Glock, because I thought they were overpriced, just for the Glock name (and maybe they are, somewhat) but boy, they handle better than any other handguns I’ve fired, and now I guess I’m a convert. Also love the simplicity of cleaning, etc. Now I’m thinking I’m going to sell my Beretta Nano and replace it with one of the Glock 9mms! I love the pink frame on my Nano, but really love the feel and easy handling of Glocks! (Plus, its very easy to reduce the trigger-pull on a Glock, which helps me shoot more accurately). Great article!

  96. JPA

    Great article and I can attest to what the author noted. I bought a .380 LCP for my wife who had been carrying a .38 J Frame. She had trouble racking the slide, especially locking it back. She did not like the recoil and could not control her patterns. She shot my 9mm M&P Shield and decided that’s the gun for her…that’s what we both carry now. She has much better control and repeatability plus no problems manipulating the slide. I still like the LCP and pocket carry it when I’m wearing cargo shorts, other times I carry the M&P.

  97. Jerry

    I carry a sub compact .380 for summertime when less clothing doesn’t allow for proper concealment of a larger pistol, that being said they are not a beginners gun they take practice and knowledge to shoot accurately, as for grip I have large hands and there are extensions for most subcompacts to help with this, if recoil is an issue there are larger framed .380’s like the bursa thunder, I like a 9MM myself for everyday carry but really like the .45, again even in larger framed guns for some recoil may be an issue so you should carry the largest caliber you can shoot accuretly

  98. russ larson

    Yep… a Sub compact is nice as a Backup… but .38 Special Revolver or a 9mm compact … Personally…. I like my Revolvers but at 6’4″
    I chose a Canik V2.. 18+1 ….
    9mm… ..

  99. Keith

    Purchase a Bersa Thunder /Firestorm. Small enough for a purse, light recoil, very accurate and reliable

  100. William

    I could not agree more with Jarrod regarding this subject. Very well written and well presented. This article should be mandatory reading before a new shooter makes a purchase. We need more informed, less “cocky” instructors like Jarrod. If you are lucky enough to find one, be sure to thank them.

  101. Bill

    Just had my wife try my LCP and noted lack of finger strength would result in very inaccurate shooting. Agree with you on racking slide. As an alternate the LCR should be considered. I have been a competive shooter for many years and find either ok for close and intimate use.

  102. G. Gordon

    I’m an unabashed lover of shooting .380 rounds. My main EDC is a 9 mm Shield but I do carry 2 of my 3 .380’s from time to time because of their size and weight, although one is longer than my Shield. I agree that a mouse .380 is not all that great for shooting especially with a small grip. My smallest, an LC380 with mag extension fits my large hand down to the pinky well. It is also quite accurate even the first DA shot.
    With the shorter barrel the shot round does not acquire the velocity needed for good bullet expansion as shown on YouTube testing. In the LC380 I do use XTP rounds that did well using gelatin and a short barrel gun.
    While I agree with most of the article, and yes there are better guns than a mouse gun especially for beginners, if that is the size that fits your needs best, in a bind, it is better than no gun at all. My granddaughter carries the LCP, which fits her well, but it’s not the size gun I would want.

  103. Georganne

    I am both a FFL as well as a NRA-certified instructor. The one gun that defies your comments is the Sig 238 with an extended mag. I have used it with a 79 year old, 90 lb. new female shooter who couldn’t pull the trigger on a 22 revolver using both index fingers. I gave her the Sig and she had no problems. She started with her first shot on the target and stayed on target the entire time she was shooting. The Sig 938 with an extended mag is also a good female’s gun. Even the husbands like the two pistols. The husbands are always surprised at how well the Sigs feel in their hands.

    • Paul

      Yup, the sig p238 is fantastic, the Hogue grip is also a great addition and can be had with ambidextrous controls for us southpaws.

  104. John

    Could not agree more… Mass of the pistol, grip surface area, barrel length, and bore axis together trump caliber size as far as perceived recoil and ability to control. Many are attracted to these tiny guns for a 1st purchase because they appear to be safer and easier. Not the case.

  105. Ruger Shooter

    I have witnessed first hand the problems of new shooters trying to control very small .380’s, & it was not good. However, as a person that has sold large amounts of items in my life, I disagree that the sales person should nor be expected to ‘educate’ the customer. The very reason that my sales numbers were so much higher than others was due to fact that I did take the time to educate the customer; educating the customer is a win-win. I never sold someone ‘something’ just to make sale Even though I am now retired, I find it somewhat odd that people who I do not know approach me in stores, gun shows, etc & want my opinion on an item, and I educate them on the subject. No, new shooters should NOT be sold real light/small .380’s or any other caliber in a similar type package. Sales people need to do more than just sell. Also, be very honest about a product & do not feature items that are not up to par. Very small & light firearms of any caliber do not belong in the hands of new shooters and are dangerous to themselves & others.

  106. george hentschel

    I have been shooting a beretta 380 for over 20 years and feel very safe with this firearm

  107. Brian

    I feel the weight of the firearm determines felt recoil, not barrel length. Yes, the longer the barrel, the heavier the gun. Measure the difference in recoil with a full mag vs. round in chamber with empty mag, same gun.

  108. Michael L

    My deep concealed ‘Girly Gun’, a Keltec P3AT .380 was recently transformed into a mini ‘Uzi’ feeling gun by purchasing a couple of Keltec’s 9 round magazines. Now a 9+1 sub-compact, it is more stable and accurate having a full hand grip.

  109. SE Grieve

    You are absolutely right on. I’m new to firearms and had purchased the LCP .380 and just traded it. I’m ordering a Glock 19 4 Gen. I bought a membership at a gun range and have tried a lot of guns. Just a few short weeks ago the 9 m. Was so loud and I couldn’t shoot it so I qualified CC will a .22. A little time and a person grows in confidence and competence.

  110. Ray

    I use the bodyguard .380 as my ccw. I did put the extension on the clip and that made a BIG difference for draw and holding as all 4 fingers grip it well. I like the lite weight and size for ccw.

  111. Kerry Dillenburg

    I totally agree with you. I did exactly what you described with my mother and after watching her struggle and having frustrating experiences with a ruger 380 we decided to use the 380 as her “bathroom” hide out gun and get another gun entirely. If left to her own experience with this 380 I know my mom would have used it as a paperweight and never shot another round from anything. As I said, I totally agree with your assessment.

  112. Leonard

    I would love to be able to carry my 45, but without a duty belt it is just too heavy, I have a whole stack of holsters and it just doesn’t work, my bodyguard 380 with the laser, is such that I do carry in my pocket holster all day with the added fetcher of no one knowing I am armed, as for the 380 round all I can say is I don’t want to be hit with one.

  113. Mark

    The reason a lot of women tell me they chose the smaller .380 platform is strictly for size. They primarily don’t want to have to make significant changes to their wardrobe and daily routines. Many also do want to carry in a purse, and would prefer to keep the firearm ‘on body’. This is especially true of women who have children and do not want to take any chances with a small child getting access to a gun that could be retrieved from a purse or handbag that is not ‘on body’. Sig Sauer, kimber, and colt all make the ‘baby 1911’ single action alloy framed .380. The Kimber’s are pricey, maybe more than I would pay, the Sig and Colt models are more than say, a G42 or an LCP, but you really get a great “little” gun. Especially the Sig. I own 2 of the P238’s. My wife and I both have one. Mine has over 3000 flawless range rounds through it. The slides are easy to rack, especially for somebody with weak arm or upper body strength. With the Hogue rubber grip installed it really feels great in the hand. My wife has very petite hands, and it fits her hand very well. It’s a platform she is very comfort shooting in practice and does not tire or fatigue her to shoot. I k of I sound like I am selling Sig’s, and I guess i’ll accept that. The quality and the small size make the P238 a pistol that can be carried concealed in the warmest of weather and with just about any clothing styles(except maybe a bikini??). At this point the only thing you have to decide is you feel OK with carrying condition one hit (cooked and locked) 1911 style with a single action thumb safety. I know a lot of people have strong opinions on that both for and against, but these little Kimber’s, Colt’s, and Sig’s are designed for it. For the money though, the Sig is the only one that gives you real live tritium sight in the $500-$700 price range. If you look around (Academy Sport’s), you can often find one for right at $500. Anyway, just my two cents!

  114. Joseph L. Sexton

    My comment is simple, what is the BEST all around 9mm to carry. It has to be small enough for true concealment, light enough to be capable of all day carry & a low recoil if that is possible. My Ruger SP101 is a great, small, powerful 357 BUT far too heavy to lug around, I tried. Even a shoulder holster get tiring..

  115. Don in LA

    You’re all over thinking this. Rule #1 have a gun. Rule #1 know who to use it safely. You can buy a +P+ for a .380 and do more damage than most 9mms. TRAINING solves almost all of your issues with the guns you’re complaining about.

    I had a student who was a small Asian woman. She now owns a REVOLVER as she could not reliable rack the slide. (No racking.. no clearing a jam). Truthfully a .22 is often the best choice for a woman who is smallish.

    • Mike

      I’m with you, Don in LA. Training and practice. Mind you, the ultra-compact .380 is too small for my big ol’ hands, but I purchased a Bersa .380 about 18 years ago and still use it as my primary carry.

  116. John DeGeorgio

    Good points BUT not all ultra compact .380’s are created equal. I have a Sig Sauer P238, the best!!!!

    • Gary

      How right you are. That’s because most 380’s are simple blowback design thus requiring a very heavy recoil spring. the Sig uses a locked breech like a 9mm allowing it to use a much weaker spring that is easier to pull back.

  117. Bob Richert

    I’m sorry to disagree with soldbymichael about the sub compact being difficult for new shooters. I purchased a Glock 42 for my wife and signed her up for a basic pistol class. One week after the class and the first 50 rounds she had ever fired, she proceeded to score a perfect 250 on a Texas CHL qualifier course of fire with only 4 shots outside the 9 ring. I wish I could post the picture of her target! She loves her little Glock.

  118. Bob Hendron

    I do not like the Ultra Compact .380 either. Very poor sights. Too long of a trigger pull. No slide stop.
    I have been an Instructor for 35 years. We tell members of our club to wait and take the class before they purchase a gun
    that they may not like. Better yet go to a range that rents guns so you can try it out before you buy one.
    You have all heard “practice makes perfect.” This is incorrect, Perfect practice makes perfect and what you do in
    practicing you will make the same mistakes in a tactical situation. I tell my students change ammo every two months
    as constant carry breaks down the composition of the power. You may get different results and when you are confronted
    by the bad guy you dont want different results, you want the ammo to work properly and give you results you get in training.
    Thank you Bob Hendron

  119. Paul

    Nothing some practice can’t overcome IMO. My sig p238 is a nice shooter, has the similar ambi controls as my larger CCW 1911, can pocket carry nicely as a BUG, and the added Hogue grip plus extended mag fits my hand beautifully. There’s certainly many other options on the market but not here in California where the selection diminishes every year and we make due with what we can get.

  120. Sandi

    I agree with this. I am trained on a Springfield XD 9mm and bought the Ruger LCP to conceal. And while I’m not a beginner, it is extremely difficult for me to shoot. I have decided to go with a single stack 9mm instead of this one.

  121. Philip H Nielson

    I do like my Sig Sauer P238. It is a bit heavier than an LCP but recoil is significantly easier on the hands. Both my wife and sister-in-law love shooting it and both are fairly accurate. Yes, the Sig is more expensive but well worth the cost

    • Liz

      Completely agree. spent 6 months researching and trying different pistols before I bought my P238. I am a petite female and have had some serious neck injuries. Tried the glock, ruger, S&W, and had trouble w/ them of different kinds. The sig was expensive, but worth every penny. Racking and recoil were so manageable. Glock kept stovepiping (no, I wasn’t limp wristing) and even tho the ruger and S&W “fit my hand” (really don’t like that. It’s not the only test of usability) I had trouble racking, so didn’t bother shooting. I also don’t like the pink and purple. Give me something that doesn’t glow in the dark, except the sights.

  122. CH

    You are right that these little guns are not for beginners, even with a Galway trigger kit and lots of practice it is a tough trigger. I am a woman, I have shot a lot and the Bodyguard is my everyday carry. It kicks like a mule, but I am pretty confident in my aim with it in a no stress situation (and I am no more confident in a high stress situation with any gun, but I am working on that!) I carry the BG because it is so easy to conceal and comfortable to carry every day. I have bigger guns, and when I want to have fun shooting I get out the Tanfoglio Witness 45. At 3 pounds it has virtually no recoil and is a real tack driver. But I can’t carry that or even a 9 the way I am built. We bought the Glock 42. Hate the way it feels and can’t carry IWB without gouging into my ribs when I am sitting even with the lowest setting on the holster and the grip nearly buried too low to grab. Carried it twice, shot it a bunch and then sold it. Of the little guns the Bodyguard has the best features, you can pop off a round even if you drop the mag by accident and it has a last round hold open. Several of the others did not have these features. When Kimber makes their micro series with a DA/SA I will try one!

  123. Mike Murray

    They are definitely an experts gun. Small sights,small grip area, horrible recoil, difficult to manipulate, and an under powered cartridge. You pretty well covered it. I can hear the advice at the gun store now- “Here little lady this is just the gun for you, and it come in pink… ain’t it cute”.

  124. Heidi

    I’m a new female shooter and did tons of research before ever stepping foot in a store. Found a range with gun rental and asked to try the LCP- how can you not love how tiny it is? It hurt my hand in the first three shots. I set it down and stated I don’t think this is for me. He gentleman handed me a Glock .42 and it was love at first shot. Easy to rack, felt good in my hand and much less recoil than I felt with any of the 9mm’s I tried. I hate when I hear that men pick out guns for women. We need to choose one that works for us, as a newbie each one felt completely different. The good thing is these women are least getting some training- most do not. Great article, I do wish it was titled differently. Not all .380’s are alike.

  125. greg

    my wife had never shot a handgun before 7 years ago, after 21 years of asking her if she wanted to go. of the various manufactures available she liked my glock 26, even after i bought her a new gen 4, so we switched, thanks hon. even she didn’t like the 380’s, “too small and hard to control”. use the tool that feels best in your hand.

  126. Bpenn

    Great article. Just had a lady in class bring an LCP. She had long narrow fingers and a diffucult time properly gripping and with trigger pull. I offered a few different guns to try and she chose the Walther PK 380 which she performed well with. Not trying to sell the gun but she really liked how easy it is to rack. I said yep thats great until when you have to reassemble the recoil spring and guide back into the slide after you had feild stripped it for cleaning. Showed her a few tricks with that in case she decided to acquire one.

  127. Richard Gilbertson

    I agree with 99% of what you said in this article. Most of your research results were the same as mine, when I decided to get a .380 for concealed-carry and for my wife to shoot at the range. The Taurus 9mm she has is a bit to heavy. I had the recoils spring replaced with a lighter one so she could rack in a new round. Anyway, I wanted a .380 with a short sharp trigger pull, an easy slide to pull, a comfortable grip, and enough weight to reduce felt recoil. I ended up purchasing a Walther PK-380. It’s DA/SA, with a wide grip (could have made a double stack magazine fit in it if the designers were on the ball). Ok It’s a bit bigger than other Ultra compacts, but it works, shoots great and since .380 will go right through 8 sheet-rock panels it has the power to kill. Using rapid expanding hollow-point personal defense ammo, I an confident that if I need to defend a life, it will get the job done. Thanks for the article. I feel reassured I made the right decision buying the Walther PK380 instead of a PPK, Glock, or Rugar (and it looks like the little twin to my FNH FX-40)

  128. Mat M

    My Glock 42 has one advantage, it is small enough to carry anywhere. I’d much rather have my 17, but it’s too large to take many places.

  129. mlynch001

    Why does everyone automatically go to these micro size pistols for a woman? The are not easy to operate, grip or conceal. A woman, who typically has less strength than a man, will struggle to grip and manipulate the slide on most of these pistols. I have watched this happen time and time again! The grip surface is much smaller and therefore less controllable in a weaker hand. The gun is lighter, so the perceived recoil is greater. The slide is lighter, so the recoil spring is proportionally heavier, even though the 380 is a less powerful version of a 9mm. A larger gun, regardless of your brand preference, is much easier to grip, operate and has less recoil energy than these little pistols. There is no outstanding reason to own a tiny little gun, that I can see.

    • bobo

      I agree with pretty much everything you said Except your comment about them not being easy to conceal.
      As for why, the same reason people tend to push women towards revolvers (and snubbies at that) because women are “weak and can’t use a real gun” (or some such non-sense) so their only option is a “cute little gun”

    • Neal Nulph

      I agree. Years ago, my wife wanted a small pistol and she settled on a .380. When we took it to the range she had great difficulty racking the slide. My personal opinion is the weight of the .380 plays a larger role in felt recoil than barrel length, based primarily on experience. So, I got her a Taurus .357/38 revolver, same approximate size but a little heavier, with a ported barrel to compensate for barrel walk. The recoil she felt was similar not only were her shot groups better, using standard .38 ammo, than with the .380, but she had no difficult reloading, since there was no slide to rack.

    • irwoodi

      I will tell you why, If they can’t rack it, it is worthless. Apparently you don’t have a wife with small hands nor a week grip. My wife rented a Sig P238 and fell in love with it. She had been shooting my LC9 and P89 and never liked them cause of unable to rack it nor did it fit in her hand. You can’t make them train if they don’t like the gun. I am glad she found one that she is willing to practice now she has one that fits her hands.

  130. Curtis St John

    Good article ! I agree that the compact .380 is not a good gun for a new shooter. I purchased a S&W Bodyguard .380 and found the grip too small for my hand. My wife tried it and he double action trigger was too had for her to pull and remain accurate. Needless to say I sold the gun. I now have a Glock 42 for her and it works well, but she still like to shoot the S&W M&P .22 for target practice. I like the .22 for beginners. Get them comfortable with shooting a gun and then move to the .380 or 9mm. Thanks to PDN for all you do to make good training available on line.

    • Kerry D

      I just have to comment. I did the exact same thing with the same model pistols and rests with my mom. She was unsafe with the Ruger 380 and immediately relaxed when she began shooting the S&W M&P 22. She was able to work the slide and squeeze the trigger without being a danger to herself and those of us standing by.

    • Butch

      The Sig 938 has a 22rl conversion kit for about $259 mine came with night sights. Night sights are a great addition to any handgun as you get beyond 60.

  131. Michael Druckenmiller Sr.

    I will be giving this article to my wife to read. Her choice is a Sig-Sauer P238 Rainbow. She has tiny hands so it’s physically a good size for her. She can handle the slide better than the firearms mentioned above. But, before I go that far in debt I’ve got to get her trained. I am concerned about the .380 being adequate, especially in a single stack. The people most likely to break in will be drug addicts and I am not at all sure 7 rounds will stop one. And, with an 80% first gun fight miss ratio… Hey, I’m the husband… What do I know??? (I once saw a rather skinny guy, high on, we think it was angle dust, throwing concrete blocks half a block down the street. Harrowing trying to capture without killing…)

    • Jarrod Needs

      Michael i would also warn her about the mechanically operated safety on the Sig. I actually had a woman who took the class and went home and told her husband my recommendations on defensive handguns (Glock, M&P, & XD). Her husband told her i did not know what i was talking about (he did not take the class with her). He bought her a 238 rainbow and she came back for a level 2 class. About 45 minutes in and not being able to efficiently work the safety she gave up. We let her fire a shield 9mm and she loved it. Having to operate that safety can be very difficult and frustrating.

      • bobo

        Flicking a mechanical (thumb) safety should be neither difficult nor frustrating, sounds to me like an instructor issue as it should only take a bit of practice to be able to do it (and continuing practice to do it without thinking about it)

        • Marty

          Hey bobo,

          Not all people are like you, just like everything else.

          To some people doing something can be second nature and automatic. To other a ton of practice and routine still doesn’t make it automatic.

          Would you like you loved one, wife, daughter, mother, son, father, etc be in that situation and panic when nothing happens as they pull the trigger?

          For me, I want my wife to pick what works best for her. Right now she likes the Glock 23, converted to a 9mm, so a 19.

          Less to think about or do in a high adrenaline state and in possibly panic mode.

          The shooter has to decide what works best for them.

  132. Rick

    Having tried different pistols for concealed carry, last year I decided on a Kel-Tec P3AT. The primary reason? WEIGHT. The Kel-Tecs weigh half as much as some of the other small 9’s and 380’s, and can fit very comfortably in a pants pocket. As with any concealed carry pistol, you MUST practice with it, but I have no problems at all in carrying a 380. Plenty of power, imho…..

  133. Daylon

    I agree about beginner students and these guns. I carry an LCP but have been shooting for many years. However, I have seen ballistic gel testing on ShootingTheBull 410’s youtube channel and he identified a few rounds which did seem to meet the FBI penetration depths with a Taurus TCP, notably rounds using the Hornady XTP bullet and the Federal Hydra-Shok with fairly reliable expansion. Just FYI.

  134. Jeff

    The problem I saw with my wife and her friend is that they didn’t have the strength to rack the slide back…regardless of whether it’s a 380, 9mm, etc. For this reason, I’ve seen them prefer and be much more excited about the 380 or 9mm revolver. For my wife, she wanted something that was point and squeeze and this fit the bill for her.

    • jw

      Jeff, has your wife tried the Sig P238? My wife has left hand issues; her left thumb was almost ripped off and had 2 surgeries to repair the damage. Her left hand is pretty weak and she carried a revolver (S&W 642 Airweight 38 Special) for years due to not being able to effectively rack the slide and load a magazine. Our local range owners wife encouraged her try a Sig Sauer P238 and she was awe struck by how easy it is to load, rack the slide back, the incredibly smooth trigger and the low felt recoil. The pistol is easy to shoot fairly accurately at 30 feet and came with night sights. She and our daughter both carry one now.

      • Kim

        I’m one of those ladies that have a difficult time “racking”. When I decided to buy a gun for CC I couldn’t find one that I felt comfortable with until I got my Sig Sauer P238. I can easily rack it using only 2 fingers and my thumb and love that it doesn’t knock my hand off when I fire it. My only “complaint” is the looong trigger pull. It may not have the “firepower” of a big gun but any well aimed shot can take a guy down! LOVE my Sig Sauer P238!!!

    • Al

      The Walther P380 is easy to shoot and accurate. The real benefit ( for my wife) is that it is easy to rack, unlike others we tried.

  135. Butch

    I have a S&W Bodyguard.380 in a non- slip sidekick pocket holster. I am an experienced shooter with 23 years military veteran. The key aspect of this gun is concealment. In my pocket, it looks like a cell phone. While I agree the caliber is lacking in total effectiveness, I also believe a gun in the pocket is better than no gun in the pocket. If I thought I were in a multiple active shooter environment, this gun would be only a last ditch backup. I would favor a high magazine capacity nine of your choice instead. One that I was totally comfortable and sure of its function and reliability.

    • Irondoor

      Assume your attacker is a 300 lb. male athlete, high on drugs and wearing layers of clothing in the winter. Do you want to bet your life on a 380 mouse gun with limited capacity? Not me.

      • John Kelley

        Or nothing, ok maybe some lipstick. Any of the .380s will stop you in your tracks at 10 feet or less.

  136. landis aden

    There is a reason the .32 acp was so popular for such a long time.
    It’s terminal performance was also better than many thought.
    Time for a .32 revival?
    Including the .32 revolvers?

    • Eighty

      Hear hear! I love my Beretta Tomcat 32. I’ve read more than once the 32 HP is as effective as a 380. Sight radius is a bit short, but adding a laser grip sight makes it incredibly accurate without adding bulk. Most defensive use of a CCW is up close; I doubt if most take the extra time to extend their arms and align the sights. My intuition is something closer to how Tom Cruise dispatches the first thug in the alleyway scene from “Collateral”.

      • TheDesertRat

        Have to agree – the .32 ACP Beretta Tomcat (with wider slide design in Titanium) is an excellent firearm when I can only carry something really small. Surprising accuracy for something in the “Mouse Gun” catagory. Not my EDC, but has it’s place occasionally.

  137. Mike Everett

    380 is just a 9mm short and has not enough power for good self defence. 9mm hydro shock does well for me !

    • Darrell Roach

      A .380 is a capable self defence round,and it has plenty of power for close in self defence,which is what is typical in a self defence situation.With the newer bullets,it will stop any bad guy.

      • Anon E Mous

        Tom, Since you are the one to doubt that a .380 will stop some one, you should volunteer rather than ask the guy who thinks correctly that it will do the job.

        The article is really about the small guns made to shoot the .380, not the bullet.

  138. soldbymichael@gmail.com

    As a fellow instructor I agree completely; these small .380’s are difficult for most new shooters to handle well.

    • Aardvark

      While the standard LCP has a pretty bad trigger, the newer LCP custom (red trigger) is not bad at all. But I will say that comparing the recoil between the LCP, my M&P Sheild 9mm, and my Ruger SR 40c, I believe the LCP has the most felt recoil. It doesn’t bother me in the least, but I can see where a new shooter might tend to flinch more. I just like it because it is so easily concealable. And with 2 extended mags in a mag holder (also very small and concealable), I can carry 21 rounds on me with ease.

  139. Doug

    While the 380 is a small round, it is a very capable round. Gunsure like sign p238 is a small 1911ish 380 that carry well, shoots very accuratly, and has low felt recoil. This is a great beginner gun as it has the qualities a beginner needs and feels comfortable with. , and hence will carry and practice with. I think people who already carry, I myself for over 25 years, tend to overlook all the positives the 380 brings to the begginer.

    • Kerry Dillenburg

      And you have seen firsthand that these 380’s have been delightful and easy to shoot with beginners??

    • -Dan

      The Sigs are fine guns, but I’ve moved away from 380. The Sig P938 is also a small, 1911ish cocked and locked handgun, but in 9mm. The recoil really is not bad, but then again I’ve also been working with the Bond Arms Derringers.

      • tp

        My wife carries a P938, and loves it. The metal frame absorbs recoil even better than similar sized poly 380 models.

    • Michael Berman

      I carry a sig 238 in an ankle holster and feel that while I would prefer my full sized glock 23, the 238 has almost no felt recoil. I would probably never use it in excess of 10-15 yards but at the distance I can easily place six rounds in the upper chest in about 1.5 seconds. Also it is very concealable and ultra reliable. The gun thats with you is always better than the one you leave at home!