Well, are you going to carry your .380 pistol as a “pocket rocket” or Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) or Outside-the-Waistband (OWB)?
Maybe in your fanny pack, briefcase, bellyband, bra, or purse… or on your ankle, or thigh or under your arm?
The convenient, small size of .380 pistols is what attracts many to them because they can easily conceal them just about anywhere. In a survey conducted for my 13 common methods of concealed carry, over 2,200 voters indicated that after IWB and OWB carry, the pocket was their preference.
Of course, there are many individual variables and factors that influence your decision. If you are thinking about pocket carry for your .380, then the size of your pockets are definitely a consideration. There is a lot of difference between the larger cargo pockets on your shorts and the smaller pockets of men’s dress pants or ladies’ capris. So the design and size of the .380 and the size of your pockets are considerations.
I am aware of at least 25 current and significantly different models and designs of .380 pistols out there competing for your dollars. What is the latest and greatest .380 gun vying for your attention and bucks? Can you narrow the options down to 3 or 4 to chose from? Will it be a striker-fired, hammer-fired, single, double, or double-single action, with or without an external safety, magazine disconnect or not, polymer or steel frame, 10 ounce or 20 ounce weight, 2.5 or 3.5″ barrel, etc. What about the key accuracy and reliability factors?
Well, you better have a system for comparing the many alternatives and know what you want up front. This article will give you my top 10 criteria you may want to use to save you some time and then present the comparative specifications for only 14 of the many .380 ACP models on the market now. You may want to add or subtract from my criteria and modify them to include what’s important to you.
Above all, rent or borrow and try the gun before you buy it to save buyer regret after your purchase. Even though I prefer the 9mm for concealed carry, many readers and students want to carry a smaller size and caliber gun, like the .380. Yes, this is a very personal decision with many variables and considerations. Remember, if you can effectively quantify and measure such a thing as “stopping power,” the size of the bullet hole and its damage are important, just as felt recoil, convenient size and weight, and small hands are considerations. My suggestion is to always SELECT THE LARGEST CALIBER GUN THAT YOU CAN SHOOT MOST ACCURATELY AND THAT IS COMFORTABLE FOR YOU TO HANDLE AND CONTROL. While I don’t own all the .380s in this article, I have shot them, own several of them, and have established my own criteria and field test drills.
For me, accuracy, reliability, trigger press and reset, width, and weight are important first considerations for any gun, be it a 9mm or .380, among other things. So, how accurate is the .380 out of the box, without any modifications like trigger job, different sights, grips, springs, etc.? Is it reliable (defined by me as consistency of good hits over repeated trials)? Durability is another factor. What is the force necessary for the trigger press? There is a big difference between a 4.5 and 7.5 pound trigger press for results? Is the trigger smooth and crisp? What about the reset distance for follow-up shots? Does it have a long or short travel and is the reset point readily identifiable? How do the guns compare? The width of the gun and its grips are more important to me than the barrel length for concealed carry purposes. While both are important, I do not want the wider gun to bulge at my hip line when I carry, like most revolvers do for me. Of course, there is a difference between a 3-inch barrel and a 6-inch barrel when carrying and method of carry affects this. For this article, I arbitrarily narrowed down the many .380 ACP concealed carry pistols to these 14 that have a barrel length of mostly around 3 inches. I could have considered more, but for this brief article I had to shorten my list. My recent book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” considers 21 concealed carry 9mm guns and I compare and rank them there. To answer the question “Is this a gun I recommend for CC?”, I have to know the specifications and features of each gun, then shoot my finalists for my personal decision. It does not really matter what your friends, family members, or the “experts” say, since you have to know for yourself what works with your idiosyncrasies, preferences and shooting abilities. Be careful and compare like features and specifications. Below are my criteria for my concealed carry handguns, no matter the caliber. As always, establish your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, and most importantly, try the gun yourself.
Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, no matter the caliber. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. Dreaming? I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Here are the specifications for 14 current concealed carry .380 ACP handguns, for your consideration. Remember, to also consider your personal preferences, features, etc. and to shoot your final guns before your selection.
There are several characteristics, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your goal, priorities, desired features, preferences for certain factors, etc. We all want all of our criteria to be met, but realistically maybe only 8 or 9 of our 10 criteria can be met by any one gun. Maybe we’ll get lucky and we can meet all of our criteria with that “perfect” concealed carry gun. I guess that is why every year we learn of the next latest and greatest carry gun that has reduced the width of the grip down to less than 1 inch, cut another ounce off the gun’s weight, added an extra round for the mag, or rounded the grip some. If they would just knock another $50 off the price.
I hope my criteria, research and summary of the specifications of these 14 .380 ACP pistols have saved you some time and helped you. Most of them can be carried in the pocket, but a few are too heavy, wider, bulkier, and have larger dimensions. Almost all have the same capacity. The prices vary a lot and range from $258. to $651. But, do your own analysis and decide for yourself.
Overall, do the pros outweigh the cons and are your top criteria met? Also, remember you can have more than one concealed carry gun. Most of my guns are 9mm for carry, but I do have .380s and .45s. It depends on the features you want and its uses… personal preferences.
I hope this article has helped you gain some information you did not previously have about these 14 possible .380 concealed carry pistols. Consider that this is just my point of view with my limited live-range fire and shooting the guns myself. As always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, what features are important to you, and which you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Photos by Author and Manufacturers.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.