Best 380 Pistols for Concealed Carry [2023]

by Travis Pike

September 23, 2023

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Before the explosion of concealed carry pistols, the 380 ACP was almost dead. The little 9mm Kurz was never a hugely popular round in the United States. It existed, and mini pistols came and went, but the popularity of concealed carry revived the 380 ACP.

People wanted little guns, and the 380 offered a small weapon, relatively mild recoil, and decent ballistics.

The 380 ACP was a creation of John Moses Browning, and the little cartridge was designed for the compact pistols of the time. 380 ACP was the right size for a small gun and could work with simple blowback systems without excessive recoil. Over time the idea of a compact weapon has shrunk, and the modern 380 typically fits into one category, concealed carry.

Pros and Cons of .380 Pistols

Concealed carry pistols (CCW) are a big category, but the most common incarnation is a small pistol that’s easy to carry. 380 ACP pistols range in size from subcompact concealed carry pistols to pocket-sized pistols. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of 380 ACP pistols. 

Pros

  • Compact – 380 pistols are pretty small and easy to carry on your person, making them effective for conceal carry. 
  • Popular – Because of their popularity, 380 pistols are available with many retailers so you won’t have a hard time finding a gun and ammo that works for you.
  • Affordable – 380 pistols are pretty affordable compared to most other types of firearms, starting around $300s. 
  • Good performance – The 380 often makes the best use of the short and diminutive nature of the 380 ACP round and has enough stopping power to slow down a threat, so it works out well as an effective home defense or everyday carry (EDC) gun.

Cons

  • Small grip – The compact size of the 380 means the grip can be too small for some folks to draw and take a shot.
  • Tiny sights – The sights are often too small, making it harder to shoot accurately at ranges beyond bad breath.
  • Less power – The 380 caliber is not considered as powerful as other popular calibers like 9mm, .40, or .45. A 380 pistol has enough stopping power for home defense or EDC, but you might have trouble shooting long distances and landing clean take-downs.

Even though the 380 ACP might not be the most powerful firearm in your collection, it’s definitely handy as pocketed protection because of its small build and the ability to conceal well. 

Best .380 Pistols

.380 ACP Pistols

Best overall

Glock 42

Glock 42
  • Extremely reliable
  • Easy to conceal
  • Easy to shoot
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Best pocket pistol

Seecamp LWS 380

Seecamp LWS 380
  • Smallest 380 ACP on the market
  • Made for close encounters
  • All metal design
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Best for home and CCW

Browning 1911 380

Browning 1911 380
  • Hand-filling
  • Railed for a light
  • 85% the size of a 1911
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Easiest shooting

S&W Shield EZ 380

S&W Shield EZ 380
  • Low recoil
  • Easy to load
  • Easy to operate
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Kahr CW380
  • Smooth DA trigger
  • Capable sights
  • Corrosion-resistant
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Bersa Thunder Plus
  • 15-round capacity
  • Walther-type design
  • Budget-friendly
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Walther PPK
  • Ergonomic
  • DA/SA design
  • Fixed barrel for increased accuracy
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Sig P238
  • Excellent SA Trigger
  • 1911-like design
  • Comfortable shooting
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Ruger LCP 2
  • Budget-friendly
  • Pocket pistol-sized
  • Refined DA trigger
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Specs of the Best 380 Pistols Compared

CapacityWeightLengthHeight
Glock 42612.17 oz5.94"4.13"
Seecamp LWS610.5 oz4.25"3.25"

Browning 1911-380 

818 oz7.5"4.5"
S&W EZ Shield 380818.5 oz6.7"4.98"
Kahr CW380610.2 oz4.94"3.9"
Bersa Thunder Plus1520.5 oz6.6"4.9"
Walther PPK 619 oz6.1"3.8"

SIG P238 

615.2 oz5.5"3.9"

Ruger LCP 2 

610.6 oz5.17"3.6"

#1 Glock 42 : Best Overall

Glock 42

Glock 42

If you’re looking for the most well-rounded 380 ACP pistol on the market, this Glock’s got you covered.

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  • Shootability B
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A

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Glock 42 Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 12.17 oz
  • Length 5.94″
  • Height 4.13″

Say what you want to say about Glock, but they make a reliable firearm. The Glock 42 is no different, and like most Glocks, it runs like an absolute clock.

The Glock 42 is a pocket pistol-sized firearm intended for concealed carry. The lightweight gun comes in at 12.17 ounces, and I can easily carry it in nearly any way I want to. With the right holster, it’s a safe and comfortable pocket pistol. With an IWB rig, it’s as close to invisible as a gun can get. Heck, the gun is so small it disappears with an OWB rig.

I like that it eats through nearly any type of 380 ACP ammunition without being picky–from standard FMJs to well-designed defensive JHPs of varying weights and velocities. That said, it’s good to test a few types of ammo to figure out which one works the best for your gun because you’re counting on your self-defense gun to be reliable at all times.

I like my firearms safe and reliable, more so if I’m carrying it on my hip all day. The Glock 42 is excellent in the safety department because it comes with what they call a Safe Action® System: three different safety measures to prevent the gun going off by accident. Now, one auto-safety is cool, but three? Pretty impressive.

Glock makes plug-and-play guns and the simplistic design makes operating it a piece of cake. This is one reason I picked it as my overall best; the Glock 42 is easy on any kind of shooter whether they’re experienced or not. The recoil is mild and the design is pretty comfortable to handle so it’s a great first gun for new shooters.

Usually, small and light 380 ACPs are snappy and often painful to shoot and handle. With that being said, the Glock 42 isn’t the smallest gun on the market, but it’s a much easier shooting handgun because of it. Glock’s little 380 found an excellent way to be easy to conceal and carry while remaining easy to shoot. Like every other Glock on the market, the Glock 42 makes it easy to find holsters, triggers, aftermarket magazines, and beyond.

Glock 42 Pros and Cons

  • Easy shooting
  • Highly reliable
  • Massive aftermarket
  • Glock sights

#2 Seecamp LWS 380 : Best Pocket Pistol

Seecamp LWS 380

A pocket rocket that’s incredibly well-built and snag-free.

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  • Shootabilty B
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy C+
  • Value A

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B+

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Seecamp LWS 380 Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 10.5 oz
  • Length 4.25″
  • Height 3.25″

The Seecamp LWS 380 ACP is the smallest semi-automatic 380 ACP pistol on the market. This teeny-tiny pistol is an all-metal design that still weighs a mere 10.5 ounces.

Reigning as the king of pocket pistols isn’t easy, but the LWS 380 does it well. Seecamp’s unique design is .91 inches wide at its thickest point and is only 4.25 inches long overall. At this size, the Seecamp LWS 380 is a living, shooting billboard of what a pocket pistol should be.

The little tiny gun will squeeze into your pocket with little effort, or heck, go total cell phone case carry with it. It doesn’t get smaller than this in the 380 ACP world, and the slim design is genuinely brilliant.

My favorite part about the LWS 380 ACP is its manual double-action-only (DAO) trigger. Basically, when you pull the trigger on the LWS 380 ACP, it both cocks the hammer and fires the gun. I like it because it’s simple to operate, especially in the case of self-defense.

The drawbacks of this pistol are mostly in its size; a small pistol, the LWS 380 ACP, is limited in its potential uses. Outside of being small, the gun lacks conventional sights. A lack of sights makes it easier to draw, primarily when the weapon is carried in the pocket. A lack of sights also means this is a true close-range only weapon. It’s a point-and-shoot design. The small size also makes it rather snappy.

If you’re a fan of FMJ rounds, it’s worth keeping in mind that the LWS 380 ACP might not work for you because FMJ rounds don’t fit in this handgun. That might be a bummer to some but the LWS 380 ACP accepts hollow point ammo that has a lot of stopping power without over-penetration: the ideal ammunition for self-defense, in my opinion.  

One unique feature that appeals to me as a gun nerd is the chamber-ring delayed blowback system. I won’t go into details here, but this delayed blowback system is rarely used but does allow the Seecamp to stay nice and small. It’s also a reliable system that does an awesome job of ensuring the gun goes bang with every trigger pull.

Seecamp LWS 380 Pros and Cons

  • Superbly small
  • Extremely well-made
  • Snag-free pocket carry
  • Sight-free
  • Long trigger pull

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#3 Browning 1911-380 : Best for Home Defense and CCW

Browning 1911-380

Not only is this 380 easy to shoot, but it’s fitted perfectly for a pistol light.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value B

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B+

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A+

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Browning 1911-380 Specs

  • Capacity 8
  • Weight 18 oz
  • Length 7.5″
  • Height 4.5″

Choosing one gun to be both your concealed carry firearm and your home defense gun is possible. Not optimal, but completely possible. The Browning 1911-380 Railed is the perfect choice if you need something light and small to carry, but also something suitable for home defense.

The railed design allows the attachment of a white light, which I think is a home defense must-have. The Browning 1911-380 also has low profile combat sights which is good for two things: reducing the risk of snagging when drawing the pistol and giving rapid sight acquisition, both of which are handy for home defense. 

The Browning 1911-380 uses a much lighter recoil spring than your usual 380 pistol, meaning this pistol is smoother in your hand when operating. There’s also an extended thumb safety which I liked especially because it’s ambidextrous. It’s a nice touch and shows that Browning knows what they are doing. 

As a 1911, the single stack design makes the grip naturally svelte, and this pistol is not a miniature subcompact gun. Instead, it’s a slightly smaller than normal Commander-sized 1911. The grip is full and fills the hand for complete control. The 3 5/8ths inch barrel ensures complete control of the little 380 and makes follow-up shots fast and easy. It’s larger than most 380s, and I think that helps the Browning 1911-380 fit the home defense role as well as the concealed carry role.

The Browning 1911-380 gives shooters the famed 1911 ergonomics, single action only triggers, and outstanding and well-proven design. At only 18 ounces and less than an inch thick, the little gun is still easy to carry IWB or OWB, and performs admirably for a 380 ACP in numerous roles. The Browning 1911-380 is 85% the size of a 1911, and the reduced 380 design ensures it makes the most of that size.

Browning 1911-380 Pros and Cons

  • Easy to shoot
  • It fills the hand well.
  • Railed for easy light attachment
  • A bit larger than most 380s

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#4 S&W EZ Shield 380 : Easiest Handling

S&W EZ Shield 380

This 380 ACP is specifically designed for those with weaker hands or arthritic conditions.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability C+
  • Accuracy C+
  • Ergonomics B
  • Value B

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S&W EZ Shield 380 Specs

  • Capacity 8
  • Weight 18.5 oz
  • Length 6.7″
  • Height 4.98″

Have you got arthritis? Weak hands? Or are you scared of recoil? Well, then the S&W EZ Shield 380 ACP is for you. The EZ in the title means something, and with the Shield EZ 380, it means the gun is easy to load, easy to rack, and easy to shoot and even easy to clean.

The S&W EZ Shield 380 is a striker-fired 380 ACP designed for a space of shooters that’s oft-ignored. Racking and loading is almost second nature to us regular shooters, but those with low grip strength sometimes find it challenging to load the magazine and rack the slide. But low hand strength or dexterity issues don’t mean you have to go without self-defense, and the EZ Shield 380 is a great option in those cases because of how easy it is to handle.

Thumbing in rounds after round into the magazine is easy on this 380 pistol. A small bar allows you to pull down the spring and follower as you load the gun. Racking is also quite easy, and the integrated grip safety helps reduce spring tensions as the weapon is racked.

I’m also a big fan of how downright pleasant it is to shoot: the recoil on the EZ Shield 380 is a slow roll that’s in no way snappy or uncomfortable. The gun’s large size and full-length grip make it easy to control and shoot. S&W designed the EZ 380 to be as easy to handle as possible. Double taps, follow-up shots, and accurate shooting at ranges beyond bad breath are all accomplishable.

The pistol comes with an adjustable white-dot sight, a Picatinny rail, and an ambidextrous safety–so basically, a 380 ACP can’t get cooler than this. The Shield EZ 380 is not a pocket pistol but is easy to conceal and very easy to carry. It hides away without complaint and gives shooters a gun that’s easy to control with both hands or even with a single hand. The EZ very much lives up to its name, and S&W is wise to make the gun so easy to shoot.

If you like the idea of the Shield EZ but think 9mm might be a better option, read our full review on the S&W Shield 9 EZ.

S&W EZ Shield 380 Pros and Cons

  • Light Recoil
  • Easy to load and operate
  • Immensely shootable
  • Somewhat large

#5 Kahr CW380

Kahr CW380

A smaller 380 fit with a superb DAO trigger.

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  • Shootabilty A-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy B-
  • Value B

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B+

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Kahr CW380 Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 10.2 oz
  • Length 4.94″
  • Height 3.9″

Impressively small is a great way to describe the Kahr CW380. The CW380 is a polymer frame, striker-fired design outfitted to be teeny tiny, with an excellent double-action trigger.

Kahr pistol uses an interesting trigger design that’s akin to a well-tuned double-action revolver trigger. The DAO trigger is naturally simple to operate, and Kahr’s long trigger pull often inspires confidence in pistols without manual safeties. A long trigger pull will most certainly give the end-user a good bit of confidence, although I don’t mean to say you could pocket carry without a holster. 

I also really like the build on the CW380 because Kahr’s stainless slide and polymer frame keep the rust away with little effort. Pocket carry guns are often more exposed to sweat than others, and this combination of slide and frame keeps things nice and clean. The CW380’s small size makes it an excellent pocket pistol.

The sights are impressive for a pistol that’s less than 5-inches long. There’s a drift adjustable white bar dot combat rear sight and a pinned-in manual front sight. While I do admit there’s some work to be done to adjust them, once you get them sighted in, your aim will be on point. 

The 10.2-ounce pistol isn’t nearly as snappy as you’d expect. Kahr’s grip is a little wider than it needs to be, but that allows recoil to displace a bit more effectively than most. Instead of a high-five-worthy slap, you get a quick push, and that’s it. It’s not uncomfortable to fire and won’t beat you up too bad. 

Kahr’s aggressive grip texture makes keeping hold of the pistol nice and easy. The gun doesn’t try too hard to climb out of your hand as you engage. I can follow-up with the next shots in quick succession, meaning the recoil is very mild and follow-up shots are both quick and accurate.

Kahr CW380 Pros and Cons

  • Stainless slide keeps rust away.
  • Excellent DAO trigger
  • Aggressive grip texture
  • Too small for big hands

#6 Bersa Thunder Plus

Bersa Thunder Plus

A double stacked PPK wannabe that makes for a decent 380 CCW choice.

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  • Shootability B
  • Realiability C+
  • Ergonomics C
  • Accuracy A
  • Value B-

Our Grade

B-

Reader’s Grade

A+

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Bersa Thunder Plus Specs

  • Capacity 15
  • Weight 20.5 oz
  • Length 6.6″
  • Height 4.9″

380 ACPs seem to be Bersa’s bread and butter. It’s at least the caliber they are most known for. That’s a shame because some of their 9mms are rather nice too. However, when I say Bersa Thunder, you are probably picturing a quasi Walther clone.

Indeed they take a lot of inspiration from those pesky Germans but market their guns at a much lower price. The Bersa Thunder Plus is certainly inspired by the Walther PPK series, but it also takes a massive right turn.

The Thunder Plus packs a double-stack magazine that fits 15 rounds of 380 ACP. That’s the highest capacity magazine on this list by far. The Thunder Plus and its massive magazine make it a bit of an interesting option as far as the 380s go. Rarely do you ever see one designed with something beyond a single stack magazine.

Short 380 ACPs still allow you to keep the gun rather small, thin, and light. With 15 rounds, the Bersa Thunder Plus makes one helluva good hybrid concealed carry and home defense firearm. Fifteen rounds are a lot of options, and it allows for plenty of options when something goes bump in the night.

Carrying a massive magazine means adding a lot of weight, and I love how Bersa has worked around it. At around 20 ounces, the Thunder Plus is made of alloy material, so it’s got the strength and balance while remaining lightweight enough for a comfortable pocket carry.

The safeties are not too bad; I like the firing pin safety and the integral locking system which help prevent accidental firing when holstered. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating–safeties on a self-defense or an EDC is super important because it’s a gun you have on your person literally all the time. To its credit, the Bersa Thunder Plus definitely  doesn’t slack off on safety and reliability. 

With the Bersa Thunder Plus, you also get a competent DA/SA gun that uses a proven blowback design with a fixed barrel for enhanced accuracy. This pistol is adorned with a low MSRP that makes the price of entry surprisingly low.

Bersa Thunder Plus Pros and Cons

  • High capacity
  • Lightweight design
  • Snappy recoil

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#7 Walther PPK

Walther PPK

Walther PPK

An iconic classic that’s good enough for super-spy James Bond–enough said.

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  • Shootability C
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value C

Our Grade

B-

Reader’s Grade

B+

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Walther PPK Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 19 oz
  • Length 6.1″
  • Height 3.8″

Do you expect me to create a list of 380 ACP pistols and not include the Walther PPK? It’s James Bond’s favorite pistol, and I would not dare leave it off the list. I mean, not only is it James Bond’s gun, but it’s also one helluva good 380 ACP pistol.

The PPK was designed in 1931 and remained a very popular firearm. I’d even say Walther inspired conceal carry because they designed the PPK to get the maximum performance out of a concealable package and here it is, still in use (and in movies!) 90 years later.

Walther is now building them in the United States to skirt those silly ‘Sporting purpose’ laws that prevent the gun’s importation.

The Walther PPK is an all-metal pistol that uses a simple blowback system. Blowback systems like this have lots of pros and cons, and potential owners should be well aware of them. Downsides include a heavy bit of recoil, as well as a rather strong spring that makes racking the slide difficult. On the positive side, the fixed barrel makes the gun very accurate, and blowback systems are extremely reliable.

The Walther PPK has some snap to it, so proper shooting technique is important. The DA/SA action allows for a little trigger pull on command and combined with the fixed barrel, the gun is quite accurate. Slide-mounted safeties typically suck, but those feisty Teutonic engineers made the PPK’s easy to utilize with the firing hand.

The ergonomics on this pistol are top notch. The grip frame has checkered grip panels so I have a strong hold on the gun, and there’s an extended beavertail so I don’t have to worry about hammer bite. The slide is serrated with wave cuts, so my hand doesn’t slip on it while loading or clearing the gun. There’s an internal slide too, which helps avoid snagging. The fixed sights are low-profile as well and they are designed to not snag anywhere when drawing out the pistol. Just listing all this makes it clear to me that Walther has thought of everything when it comes to concealed carry.  

Since the gun is now 90 years old, you can expect plenty of holsters and accessories, as well as spare parts, to be available on demand.

Walther PPK Pros and Cons

  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Very accurate
  • Well-proven
  • Snappy recoil

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#8 Sig P238

SIG P238

Sig P238

Sig’s shrunken 1911 that’s easy to use, comfy to carry, and as accurate as any 380 ACP.

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  • Shootability A+
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics C
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value D

Our Grade

B+

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B+

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SIG P238 Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 15.2 oz
  • Length 5.5″
  • Height 3.9″

The 1911 is a well-proven design that is seemingly beloved by the gun-buying public. SIG saw the potential for a shrunken 1911 and turned it up, or I guess down, to 11 with the SIG P238.

The SIG P238 is a micro-sized 380 ACP that will squeeze in near any pocket or disappear in any waistline. The width is listed at 1.1 inches, but that’s not entirely accurate. Most of my SIG P238 is thinner than an inch, but the manual safety adds a tiny bit of bulk. I don’t see it as an issue; I like my safeties on self-defense guns so I have no complaints. 

The SIG P328 is incredibly concealable and rather easy to shoot. Is it Swiss magic combined with American engineering? Somehow the little gun is not only pocket-sized but downright comfortable to shoot. A gun this small, with a grip, this thing should not be so dang easy shooting. The light recoil and minimal snap make for a very comfortable and easy shooting handgun.

I think the angle of the grip helps as well. Some 380’s have a weird angle that can be a bit uncomfortable to hold for too long, but the SIG P328 doesn’t strain my wrist. I see how it can be tough on shooters with large hands though. Given its compact size, someone with large hands might not be able to get a satisfying grip on the pistol.

The SIG P238 is topped with full-sized iron sights for easy and accurate shooting beyond belly gun ranges. A short and sweet single action only trigger makes the P238 a sweet shooter by any means. When combined with the full-sized sights, the P238 can be quite accurate.

If your 380 ACP dreams involve something easy to carry, easy to shoot, and easy to shoot accurately, then the P238 is the way to go. SIG made a real winner that’s often overlooked in 380 ACP discussions. Four our full sig P238 review, check it out here.

SIG P238 Pros and Cons

  • Easy to shoot
  • Accurate
  • Easy to carry
  • Expensive

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#9 Ruger LCP 2

Ruger LCP 2

A solid budget choice for anyone looking for a lightweight 380 option.

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  • Shootability C
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A+

Our Grade

B+

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A+

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Ruger LCP 2 Specs

  • Capacity 6
  • Weight 10.6 oz
  • Length 5.17″
  • Height 3.6″

The Ruger LCP 2 is the descendant of the original LCP, one of the first pocket pistols to reach mass appeal. The LCP 2 takes the original LCP and improves it greatly.

This little 380 ACP holds 6 rounds of ammunition in a 10.6-ounce gun. Small, light, and made with an uber small polymer frame, the LCP 2 is most certainly a pocket pistol, or an IWB/OWB conceal carry if you want it to be. The original LCP had some sharp edges that snagged, and all of those are gone on the LCP 2. Ruger basically improved the frame and texture to reduce the wear on clothing; I can swear by it because the holster I got for the LCP 2 has almost no scratches, six months in. 

The trigger is much improved from the original LCP. The original LCP trigger was a horrendous DAO design that was long and heavy and I feel that the newer design is much lighter and shorter with a very positive reset.

Ruger implemented a more aggressive grip texture with glass-filled nylon and a last-round bolt hold open. Ruger made the slide much easier to manipulate and added some serious serrations to the slide. The sights are slightly larger than the LCPs and much easier to use. The recoil is a bit rough but the LCP 2 operates on a locked-breech system that somewhat reduces the shock. Overall, the LCP 2 is a vastly superior gun to the original and the improvements bring it to the top of the pile.

The LCP 2 retained its small size, and small price tag. It’s a budget-minded 380 that’s quite reliable and refined. As far as budget pocket pistols go this is one of the few I’d trust my life to. Admittedly, accuracy is limited to close-range encounters and training is a must-have. The LCP 2 is a perfect deep concealment or backup gun. Read our article on the LCP 2 in 22 LR to learn more about the LCP 2.

Ruger LCP 2 Pros and Cons

  • Good trigger
  • Extremely small and light
  • Budget-friendly
  • Snappy recoil

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380s That Did Not Make The Grade

Of course, not every 380 handgun we have reviewed can make the best of list. While the Ruger LCP II made the list, the original Ruger LCP did not. But you would expect the new version to be better.

Another handgun that did not make the list was the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard. Much like the LCP, a newer, offering came out from S&W that is superior in the EZ line.

The Many Names For 380 ACP

380 ACP is the American name and the most common you’ll see when shopping for arms and ammunition. However, the 380 ACP is also known as the 9mm Kurz. Kurz means short, and the 380 ACP is a 9x17mm cartridge. Speaking of, it’s also occasionally known as 9×17, 9mm Short, 9mm Browning, and .380 Auto.

There is no difference between these various names, but time, language barriers, and a lack of standardization between metric and imperial systems lead to interesting naming conventions.

Picking a .380 ACP for self-defense

Any firearm you choose has to be reliable, but a self-defense gun has to be more so because you’ll be carrying it on your person all the time and it has to shoot effectively with enough power. So when you’re picking a handgun for self-defense, a .380 is an excellent choice; it has deep concealment because you can literally carry it in your pocket and it has enough stopping power to slow down or maim a target at close range. 

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when checking out 380 ACP pistols.

Features

These 380 ACPs are compact and lightweight which is awesome for a CCW, but with that comes a couple of things you need to watch out for. Small handguns are usually difficult to shoot with, so if you get a 380, you’ve got a few hours of training ahead of you. The other issue is the recoil which can be snappy and uncomfortable because the pistol is lightweight. If you feel that the recoil will affect your follow-up shots, I suggest going for a 9mm because it generally has less recoil. 

Performance

Many new concealed carriers consider the 380 ACP because the guns are so small and easy to carry. Oftentimes they buy an S&W Bodyguard or a Ruger LCP and quickly develop a distaste for it. If you ever need a pocket pistol, check the used market. You’ll find plenty of them.

These pistols are exceptionally hard to shoot and are not for beginners. They have excessive, often painful, and snappy recoil as well as long DAO triggers and small nubs for sites. Pocket pistols require a lot of practice to master, and that practice is often painful to obtain.

Keep this in mind when you start shopping for a 380 ACP pistol.

Ammunition

The capacity of your usual 380 is around 6 rounds, so if you want to be carrying more, you might have to look out for more magazine capacity like Bersa Thunder Plus has, or look for another handgun altogether. 

Using 380 ACP for self-defense does give you an ever-so-slight handicap when it comes to ballistic performance. The primary means a firearm stops an attacker is shot placement, but you also need a round capable of suitable penetration. The FBI maintains a set of standards the industry has also adopted. These standards call for a round that can penetrate at least 12 inches of ballistic gel and no more than 18 inches.

Projectiles that can penetrate 12 inches are capable of penetrating deep enough to strike something vital. Oftentimes the 380 ACP will have a hard time reaching that 12 inches with some defensive JHPs. The expansion slows them down too fast and they can’t reach that golden number. Other times the barrels of certain pistols are so short they fail to provide enough velocity to allow the projectile to penetrate.

When choosing a self-defense ammo search out gel tests, and pay attention to the weapon used. A Seecamp will not produce the same results as a PPK. In my experience, Federal 90 grain Hydra Shok rounds do well from pocket pistols as do CorBon 90-grain JHPs.

Caliber

When choosing a caliber to carry, there are lots of considerations to make. One is weapon size, and 380 ACP guns can be nice and small, much smaller than 9mm. The difference in case size and PSI potential makes it possible to make ultra-light and easily concealable guns. Recoil can be another issue. Ultra-small and ultralight 9mm guns tend to be hand smackers, making 380 more appropriate.

When you place a 380 ACP in a package designed for a 9mm, like the LC380 or upcoming 380 SIG P365, the recoil is cut substantially, making the gun often much easier to shoot and handle.

With all that said, 9mm is the better round ballistically. It tends to penetrate more, as well as expand more with its defensive options. 9mm outperforms 380 ACP, and when it comes to FMJ, loads even tend to be cheaper.

If you can handle a 9mm, then I would suggest a 9mm. If you need the smallest gun possible or are recoil sensitive, then the 380 ACP is the way to go.

Conclusion

The 380 ACP is not new; it just made a massive comeback in the last decade and some change. The 380 ACP now reigns supreme when you want the perfect compromise between ballistic performance and gun size. The little cartridge that could is seemingly incredibly popular and remains one of the better options for deep carry—knowing which gun to choose and why is only half the equation.

Keep in mind your purpose and limitations when choosing a 380 ACP. If you combine purpose with firearms knowledge, you’ll find the right pistol for you.

FAQs

Is a .380 a good gun for self-defense?

Yes, a .380 gun can help maim or slow down a threat if you’re using it for self-defense, but it’s best to keep in mind that it doesn’t have a lot of penetrating power like a 9mm has. 

How far can a 380 shoot accurately? 

A .380 pocket pistol can shoot accurately around 25 yards and has an effective range up to around 50 yards. Keep in mind that the accuracy and range depends on the barrel length and the sights on the pistols as well. 

How fast does a 380 pistol shoot? 

A .380 pistol can shoot between 950 FPS (Feet Per Second) to 1100 FPS; this depends on the type of bullet and grain weight.  

What is the best caliber for self-defense?

380 ACP works effectively for nearby targets, but if you need more power, it’s best to go for 9mm caliber. 

What is stronger, a .22 or a 380?

A 380 has higher stopping power than a .22 but it needs more hand strength to fire and has a slight recoil. A .22 is quieter and has barely noticeable muzzle jump, but its impact energy is lesser than the 380’s.  

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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