You’ve all heard it before. The .380 pocket pistol will not hurt anything bigger than a mouse, thus the “mouse gun” tag. They say it doesn’t have enough stopping power to do the job it was meant for and if you shoot a .380 at an attacker, you won’t be able to stop him; you’ll just make it worse and cause him to retaliate. The .380 pistol sure is a small gun and makes for a great carry weapon or pocket pistol. Also, 9mm pistols, the next step in the handgun ladder as far as power is concerned, are becoming smaller nowadays some of them close to the .380 ACP’s size. So, read on our 2021 Best .380 handgun reviews to get the full picture on which .380 will be best for you.
Is the .380 Pocket Pistol Right For You?
Let’s have a little discussion on the .380 ACP’s performance. Is it easy to shoot? Does it make for a good pocket gun? Do all the pistols on the market have a smooth trigger pull? These are just a few of the questions we will answer in this best .380 pistol review.
According to the handgun performance database collated by Active Response Training’s Greg Ellifritz, the .380 might not perform as well as its bigger brothers the 9mm, the .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, when it comes to stopping an attacker, it’s also not far off.
The database was the result of a compilation of hundreds of records of actual shootings collated for many years. According to the study, the major 3 calibers (9mm, .4, .45) perform pretty much at the same level that each one can be a good choice when it comes to stopping power and it will all just boil down to a few deciding factors like portability and design.
Also, according to the Ellifritz study, although the .380 is not in any way comparable to the major 3, it is still significantly effective and a much better choice than anything with a lower caliber. The performance difference between a .380 and a .40 pistol is smaller than when a .380 is compared to a .32. The .380’s performance has been proven to be better than half of the 9mm’s.
But data can differ from one gun handler to another and is not definite. The important note here is that although we have been told of the .380’s meager stopping performance, it’s also not a hopeless weakling. There are people who have defended themselves successfully with a .380 and have come out unhurt. The attackers, on the other hand, were not that fortunate.
Recoil is also a factor that makes .380 pocket pistols more dependable. Larger calibers mean stronger recoil. .380 pistols shoot softer than 9mms and .45s, so in the same gun size, they are easier to control which increases accuracy significantly. These pistols are improved for low-light settings with the help of a night sight scope. If you are looking for the best .389 handgun for self-defense purposes, night scopes would be advised.
So if you’re asking if you can defend yourself successfully against an attacker using a .380 pistol, the answer is yes.
Best .380 Features to Look Out For
The following section takes a deep dive into understanding the features of the .380 handgun.
When shopping for pistols, things like their safety features, stopping power, and barrel length vary from model to model.
Below is some information on what each feature means to you.
Safety refers not only to the lock safety mechanism but to how easy it is to grip too. Every gun has a safety lock feature, but not all of them are comfortable to click on and off.
Most guns have just one manual safety mechanism on either the left or right-hand side of the gun. The Sig P238 is an excellent example of a manual safety trigger on the left side of the gun.
You must become familiar with your weapon, especially if you plan to wear it on your person. Ensuring that the gun is safe and secure while you wear it is important for not only your safety but the safety of those around you.
When fired, guns have an incredibly strong recoil. Guns that are comfortable to hold with a sturdy grip are considered safe. This varies from person to person and what one person feels is a safe and secure grip, another could beg to differ.
If you struggle with shooting accurately, then a long barrel might just help you out. Guns with longer barrels are easier to shoot than short-barreled guns.
The only problem is, guns with long barrels might be easier to control, but they are much harder to conceal than short-barreled guns. We recommend opting for a short-barreled gun if you are confident in your shooting abilities and wish to wear the gun in a holster.
What is stopping power? Essentially, it is the gun’s (or shall we say the bullet’s) ability to stop an opponent in their tracks. No gun has guaranteed stop power, so this feature can be a little misleading.
As we mentioned earlier in the review, the .380 isn’t extremely powerful. It has the ability to wound an attacker but isn’t likely to do much damage. Your .380 pistol’s stopping power will depend more on the ammo type you plan on using.
The material that the frame is made out of makes a huge impact on the gun’s weight and durability. Aluminum alloy frames and polymer-framed guns are very popular, durable, and long-lasting. Avoid steel-framed .380 guns as they are usually far heavier and may not be comfortable to carry.
You have probably seen handguns that state they are either a K, J, L, LK, or N-frame revolvers. This refers to the revolver’s size, here is a little bit about what each of them means to you:
K-Frame – Very narrow cylinders.
J-Frame – Smallest revolver size option.
L-Frame – Has wide cylinders and is easy to handle.
LK-Frame – Tricky to hold but easy to shoot and hold 6 to 8 rounds.
N-Frame – Very hard to conceal carry.
Best .380 Pistols Reviews – 2021 Edition
Now that we have gone over what makes a .380 pistol a good choice, and some pointers on how to choose one that fits your requirements as well as some pointers in making the most out of your pocket pistol, let’s take a look at some of the best .380 pistols currently available.
1. Sig Sauer P238 (Editor’s Choice)
2. Glock G42
3. Smith & Wesson Bodyguard
4. Ruger LCP 380
5. Beretta 85F
6. Walther Arms PK380
7. Taurus Curve 380
8. RUGER LCP-C 380AUTO
9. Taurus 738FS TCP
10. Bersa Thunder 380
Sig Sauer P238 Review
Sig is known for making exceptional handguns and the Sig Sauer P238 is not an exception. It’s small and easily tucks away if you need a concealable handgun.
If you are into aesthetics, the P238 won’t disappoint but the price might be a little too steep at $700. It’s a great-looking gun with an all-metal construction with its slide made of stainless steel, and an aluminum alloy frame. The combinations of these materials make the P239 a bit heavy for a pocket pistol at 15.2 ounces. The additional weight has a benefit, though, as it helps counteract the recoil usually associated with small handguns.
This is not your usual take apart gun so if you like tinkering with your guns, this may not be the one for you. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not incredibly difficult to disassemble and assemble the Sig Sauer P238. But if you do it the wrong way, you might damage this pistol.
- Made of stainless steel
- Durable frame
- Easy to disguise
- Less recoil than some of the best full size .380 pistols
Glock 42 Review
Glock is another one of those businesses that have built their names on manufacturing great firearms, particularly handguns. Glocks are some of the most accurate and reliable guns in the market.
It seems like Glock wanted to jump in the pocket pistol bandwagon when they came up with the smallest handgun on their roster, the G42. Don’t be deceived by its small size, though. Performance and accuracy didn’t take a backseat when this handgun was designed.
With a 3.25 inch barrel, this is longer than most of the pocket pistols in this list. It weighs a reasonable 13.76 ounces thanks to the polymer frame. Capacity is one inside the chamber and six inside the mag. Street price is at $440 which is very reasonable especially as the Glock 45 pistol is considered a premium pocket pistol.
- Reasonably priced
- Feels rather ‘commercial’
Ruger LCP 380 Review
Framed with polymer and 2.75-inch75 inch barrel, Ruger’s LCP 380 pistol is a lightweight fighter coming in at only 9.6 ounces. Magazine capacity is six, plus one inside the chamber. This pistol is a real bargain and is one of the cheapest around. The current street price is within the $299 range.
The Ruger LCP 380 is one of the most reliable .380 handguns available and there have been no major malfunctions reported when loaded with any ammunition type. Be aware, though, of the trigger. Some experienced shooters may find it long and heavy. The smooth edges of this .380 pistol ensure a snag-free pull so it’s pocket-holster friendly.
- Pocket-holster friendly
- Uncomfortable trigger
Update: Ruger just released its new LCP2. The Rugger LCP II is a compact .380 auto pistol.
Kahr CW 380 Review
Also made with a polymer frame, the Kahr CW 380 is also one of the smallest .380 pistols around with its diminutive weight of a bit over 10 ounces and a 2.5-inch barrel.
Boasting a clean break trigger and good sights, this small handgun makes for more pleasant handling and more accurate shooting. The CW 380 is Kahr’s offering for the budget-conscious pocket pistol shopper. The suggested retail price is $440.
The Kahr CW 380 can be quite picky on the ammo used so don’t buy in bulk. Test a few rounds of a particular ammo type first before buying a bunch. There are ammo types, particularly the specialized ones (hollow point, steel case, and high-end ammo) that might not cycle properly. Generic ball ammo works really fine, though so when you find an ammo type that works really well with the CW 380, stick to it. This .380 pistol holds 6 bullets in the magazine and one inside the chamber.
Some may say that hollow point and ball ammo are just as good a one another. We feel that it all depends on the pistol you have and what shoots the best.
- Considered by some to be a micro pistol
- Lightweight frame
- Not all ammo is appropriate
Smith & Wesson BodyGuard .380 Review
Polymer frame, a weight of 12.8 ounces, and a 2.75-inch barrel length, the Bodyguard .380 is small yet effective. Like many others in this size range, this pistol holds 6 bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber.
It features a heavy and long trigger pull and double-strike capability. If you pull the trigger and all you hear is a click, pulling it one more time makes the pistol strike the primer of the cartridge a second time, and this time it should fire. Hopefully, that is.
There are not that many reports on malfunctions for this gun but there are owners who had issues with choosing the perfect ammunition. Also, the BodyGuard .380 may have a safety lever, but some people find it hard to disengage. This may not be a good thing in an actual firefight. The solution – practice often so that releasing the safe has become second nature.
- Comfortable trigger pull
- Considered very safe and secure to carry
- Well designed
- Safety is hard to disengage
- Not all ammo is appropriate
Taurus 738 TCP Review
If you have a tight budget, this .380 pocket pistol should be at the top of your options list.
Although Taurus was known before as makers of Beretta and Smith & Wesson handguns, the company recently underwent a major renovation making them a reliable supplier of low-cost guns that are innovative, of high quality, and affordable price. Customer service is also very reliable.
The Taurus 738 TCP weighs only 10.2 ounces but it can hold the usual 6 plus one round for handguns in the same size range. It comes in either stainless or blued steel.
- Fun to shoot
- Easy to clean
- Very lightweight
- Feels flimsy
Suggested retail price is at a cheap $225.
.380 Pistol Buyers Guide and Best Products Review
Referred to as a ‘mouse gun because of the low caliber, the .380 pistol has been shunned by many gun-toting elites as an impractical handgun choice because of its supposedly questionable stopping power. For them, only guns that can fire a .4 caliber ammo should get their nod.
But is it really that useless when it comes to personal defense? Is it worth buying? Let’s find out.
A Brief History of the .380 Pistol
The .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) pocket pistols available in the market nowadays, are a product of 21st-century design and technology. However, the .380 hammerless pistol has been around since the very early 1900s. It was first manufactured by Colt at Hartford, Connecticut, and was designed by John Moses Browning. Even before its birth, Colt has been a well-known maker of shotguns, rifles, and pistols.
John Browning carried the same caliber onto some of his most notable handgun designs. Measuring only 6.75 inches in length, a height of only 4.5 inches, an inch in width, and a lightweight 24 ounces when empty, the .380 could be carried or concealed easily inside the pocket of a jacket suit or a trouser, thus earning the title ‘pocket pistol’.
The use of the .380 carried well into the second world war and beyond when it became the handgun of choice for private detectives, government agents, and lawmen. Famous carriers and owners of the Colt .380 included General George S. Patton, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, and Al Capone.
The modern .380 ACP pocket pistol remains a popular handgun choice especially for those who need their weapons to be concealable. Advances in technology and materials engineering also have given birth to pistols that are smaller and lighter than the pocket pistols of the past.
Shopping for a .380 Pocket Pistol
There are a few factors that you need to consider when you’re looking for a .380 pocket pistol or any pocket handgun for that matter.
How will you use it? Choosing concealed firearms has different criteria compared to getting one that is bound to be left at home or inside the car. You should consider weight, size, and style. Too heavy and long and it will be uncomfortable to carry around. To light and short and it can be hard to master. You need to carefully evaluate the purpose.
What is the right size? This will greatly differ from one person to another. You should consider the size of your hands. Maintaining a proper grip on the gun all boils down to a comfortable fit. If something’s wrong, recoil will be harder to counteract affecting the accuracy of your shots. Luckily, aftermarket grips are available to correct this issue. You can even have a customized short trigger if you have smaller hands.
Do you have experience using handguns? If you have been firing different kinds of handguns before and are just looking for a concealable one, you already know what you’re looking for. You already have an idea of what you like or don’t like and can use this to make the decision. If it’s the first time you’ll be buying and using a handgun, do some research first and practice shooting in the local shooting range. They usually have guns that you can rent.
Which type is better? It’s actually a decision between a semi-automatic and a revolver with the former being preferred for its thin profile because of the dimensions and the latter for its simpler operation, handling, and maintenance. You also need to consider loading and unloading convenience, and this is where a semi-automatic .380 pistol tops its revolving counterpart.
Things to Look For
These are features of a particular pistol that separate it from the rest of the herd. If you want better accuracy, comfortable handling, and more reliability, you should consider these as you shop around.
Sight. Because of the shorter barrel and other design considerations, most .380 pocket pistols are equipped with a ‘gutter sight’ where there are only 2 sight posts instead of 3. There is also a trough at the slide’s middle, thus the name. You’ll need to make adjustments when shooting because of this difference in design.
Trigger. Long, heavy triggers are not for those with smaller hands and for women. And although there’s an option to customize the trigger for some models, it’s an additional expense for you. Single action triggers are easier to squeeze but double action ones are more reliable.
380 Ammo. This will make or break your experience in firing your .380 pistol. If you want more penetration, you opt for ball ammo. For more expansion, use JHP ammo. Most experienced shooters prefer hollow points when they carry their handguns around because of their stopping power. For training and practice, the practical choice will be ball ammo.
Here is a detailed buying guide to help you further;
We have covered a little bit about what features to look for in a .380 pistol earlier in the review. However, we want you to make the most informed buying decision that you could possibly make. Below is our buying guide; we hope it can help you choose the right pistol for you.
Think about how you are going to be using your handgun. Is it for self-defense or for hobby shooting? If you are looking for a gun to carry in a holster for self-defense, you should look for a gun that is compact, with a short barrel with a J-Frame.
Not all guns are compatible with every ammunition type on the market. If you have particular ammo that you like to use, make sure you go for a compatible gun.
The average .380 handgun has an ammo capacity of 6-8 bullets. If you opt for the most compact revolver that has a J-Frame, it will only have 5 rounds of bullets. KL-Framed revolvers hold 6-8 bullets and are commonly found in .380 handguns.
When you shoot, you want it to hit the target every time, right? Well, that is usually the case when a handgun is purchased for self-defense purposes anyway. inexperienced shooters should opt for a gun with a slightly longer barrel length to increase the gun’s reliability.
Size and Weight
Now, this is an important feature indeed! .380 pistols should never weigh more than 1 pound if you plan on carrying them around for self-defense. Most .380 guns weigh between 12 to 14 ounces.
This is all about how the handgun feels while you hold it and how easy it is for you to shoot. Ergonomics is incredibly personal and is judged by an individual’s personal opinion.
Making the Most of Your .380 Pocket Pistol
Buying your own .380 pocket pistol is only the first step. You need to maximize its use or it will just end up in your closet or the glove compartment of your car.
Customize your pistol. There is no perfect handgun so you end up choosing what’s best according to your needs and wants. Fortunately, most handguns can be customized with longer or shorter triggers, grips either for improving the gun’s handling and recoil management, or even add-on sight for better shooting accuracy.
Invest in a quality holster. You bought a concealable pistol because you want something that you can carry around comfortably. To integrate your handgun to your daily outfit, a good-quality holster is a necessity. You might even want to buy a few to match the clothes you are wearing on a particular day or event. This is where pocket pistols outshine their bigger competitors. Calling 9mms and 45s! Because of the small dimensions, you are more likely to find a holster with the functionality you require and the design you desire.
Shoot that pocket pistol and shoot it a lot. It’s actually the most important part of owning any handgun. You need to be familiar with your pistol, so keep practicing until everything feels second nature to you. The problem with small-sized pistols is that they have smaller surface areas than full-sized ones. This makes it harder to grip and control. The shorter barrel also means a shorter sight. These concerns make pocket pistols more difficult to shoot. Invest time and effort in the range so you can familiarize yourself with how your gun acts and reacts. Increase the difficulty of your target setups so it will be easier when an actual defensive shooting happens.
The factors mentioned above are the essential parts of your carry strategy. Follow them and commit to carrying your pocket pistol regularly.
Q: Can a .380 stop an attacker?
A: .380 pistols are perfect for self defense. They are designed to wound, not kill, which is ideal for protecting against dangerous people.
Q: Is a .380 a good pistol?
A: It is a very good gun if you use the right ammunition and can shoot accurately.
Q: Can a .380 bullet kill you?
A: Yes, a .380 bullet can kill you. Firearms should be shot with care by an experienced shooter.
Q: Why is .380 so expensive?
A: A .380 pistol isn’t used as frequently as a 9mm pistol, therefore increasing the gun’s price and cost of ammunition.
Q: Should I carry a .380 or a 9mm?
A: .380 guns are much easier to carry. They are more discreet and lightweight.
The .380 pocket pistol may not have the stopping power of a 9mm or a .45 caliber handgun but it’s enough for personal defense if you know how to use it properly. Choose the pocket pistol that fits your profile and customize it if needed.
Keep practicing until you have mastered using your pistol. Carry it regularly so it doesn’t end up in storage. Shoot it regularly. That can’t be reiterated too much.
Remember, the best weapon is the one that you have at the moment of encounter.
Be notified about new posts
Sign up with your email for our newsletter and be notified when we publish new blog posts. Don’t miss valuable advices.
Any gun is better than no gun— that’s that….
As far as the LCP is concerned, it is not reliable, mine will be on its second trip to Ruger for ftf/fte, since purchase in February, does not inspire confidence , they manufacture many fine firearms, the LCP is not one of them.
738 is the best deal out there it eats all ammo and shoots tight groups
Why the original LCP when the LCP2 is a much superior pistol with many upgraded features that the first Gen. didn’t have? Much improved single action trigger, still small diminutive sights but also an improvement over the first Gen., slide hold open feature on last round fired. It’s also not picky on ammo, I’ve been running Underwoods offering of Lehigh Defense Extreme Defender as my defensive round and it eats it up and spits it out, I’ve run about 250 rnds through it at the range to check for reliability (with 0 issues) before trusting it as my carry round.
Morning to all from Fla, I have (3) .380Acp pistols @ 76y/o my every day carry has come down to a TAURUS spectrum in BK on BK it packs (7) Winchester Ranger Ammo that are amzeing at 7yd on Watermelons. Would like to try the new NORMA 380 MHR, their not in my hood yet.