The size of a .380 pistol allows it to be hidden easily. This makes it an enticing caliber for concealed carriers. In this article we discuss the .380 as an effective firearm, what to look for in a .380, and which ones are our choices for concealed carry.
Is a .380 Pistol Enough to Stop an Attacker?
A .380 pistol can effectively stop an attacker. However, larger calibers such as 9mm and .45 ACP will be more effective and more forgiving with accuracy. Shot placement and closer range will help with using a .380, but those two conditions are not always a choice with self defense.
Simply put, the .380 ACP cartridge isn’t as powerful compared to the standard 9 mm cartridge, which is the gold standard for self-defense in our eyes. However, it provides about as much stopping power as a .38 Special cartridge, though this is somewhat dependent on the barrel length, ammunition load, and so on.
All this is to say that a .380 ACP cartridge is definitely enough to stop an attacker, especially if you know how to shoot for center mass. Regardless, a gun you can comfortably wear on your hip or in a concealed carry holster is always better than a gun you have to leave at home.
Is a .380 Pistol Good for Concealed Carry
A .380 pistol is a good choice for a self-defense and concealed carry if its size helps you to keep it on your person almost all the time. However, if you are comfortable enough to carry a larger caliber, then we would recommend 9mm or .45 ACP.
It all comes down to having the firearm on you at all times. We don’t get to choose when we are attacked.
Is a .380 Pistol Good for Home Defense
We strongly recommend a larger caliber for home defense. When size is not necessary for concealment, then a larger handgun will have more benefits. For home defense you should go with 9mm or .45 ACP.
What to Look for in a .380 Pistol
As you try to find the best .380 pistol around, keep these 3 major factors in mind. These will help you narrow down your search, and help you understand the firearm better.
Single or Double Action Trigger
There are two types of triggers on the market: single or double action. Single action triggers only do one thing when you pull them: fire a cartridge. Double action triggers both draw back the hammer and fire a cartridge in the same motion.
Double-action cartridges, therefore, are more convenient. But they’re also a little less safe. Both can work, but consider your trigger discipline and the shape of your holster (i.e. is there a chance that the trigger could snag on the holster material?) before buying so you know which trigger type is best for your needs.
Weight and Barrel Size
Many .380 pistols are small enough to fit in concealed carry holsters, but some concealed carry holsters are especially tight. Always make sure that a given pistol can fit in the holster you intend to use it with before proverbially pulling the trigger.
The heavier a gun is in the longer barrel it has, the larger holster you need to secure it safely. While longer barrels generally translate to better accuracy at a distance, concealed carry pistols are normally used in close-quarters engagements when you are trying to protect yourself from one or more attackers.
Therefore, long barrels are not usually needed for firearms of this type.
Some .380 pistols come with ambidextrous controls, like safeties or slide mechanisms. These can be great if you are ambidextrous yourself or if you happen to be a lefty. Either way, ambidextrous controls may let you turn the safety of your pistol off in a tight situation faster than you could with a standard safety.
Best .380 Pistols
Now that you know what to look for in a great .380 pistol, let’s break down some top models you should consider purchasing for your concealed carry needs.
Ruger LCP II .380
|Barrel Length||2.75 inches|
The LCP II from Ruger is a quality firearm through and through, featuring a polymer frame and a reasonably long 2.75-inch barrel. This grants the weapon reasonable accuracy while still keeping it small enough to be used with the majority of concealed carry holsters.
It’s also incredibly affordable, typically found at prices around $299. Mag capacity is middling and the LCP II is well known for its durability and reliability, although the trigger pull tends to be long and heavy compared to other .380 pistols.
However, it does facilitate a snag-free draw since it lacks sharp edges along its profile or by the grip. Thus, this pistol could be a great choice if you want something you can quickly draw in a tense situation without worrying about losing your grip on the gun.
Sig Sauger P238
|Barrel Length||2.7 inches|
Sig Sauer is known for its quality pistols, and the P238 is no exception. This fantastic pistol looks great with engrained plates on the grip. These come with stylish texturing to ensure a smooth and consistent draw each time you reach for the weapon.
More importantly, this pistol is also very functional, especially over the long term. It’s made of all metal parts, which improves recoil control, including a stainless steel slide and an aluminum alloy frame. This resulting handgun is easy to take apart for maintenance purposes, and it fires consistently without mechanical problems, even after hundreds of rounds.
Note, however, that there are a couple of downsides. The most notable of these is the thumb safety, which juts out from the side of the weapon a little more dramatically than other safeties for concealed carry weapons. Be sure to measure the capacity of your concealed carry holster before buying this gun to make sure that it won’t be an issue.
Just by looking at the weapon, you’ll notice its inspiration from the 1911 line of pistols. The P238 is even available on Sig’s website in a few different skins or colors. If that sounds aesthetically appealing to you, and you want a functional self-defense firearm for any scenario, the P238 could be just the ticket. Keep in mind that it’s a little pricier than many of the other options you can find, however.
|Barrel Length||2.7 inches|
You can’t forget the Springfield 911 on any breakdown of the best .380 pistols. This aesthetically unique firearm closely resembles the Sig Sauer P238, but it’s a little lighter, weighing just 12.6 ounces, and has better optics overall. The optics are Pro Glo day and night sights, allowing you to set your eye on your target much more easily no matter the ambient light level.
It also features excellent grips, plus an aluminum frame to keep the weight down. The trigger could certainly be a little better, as the pull and break feel a little less crisp compared to the trigger pull feels of some of the other models on this list.
Still, the weapon provides excellent performance, the grip is textured for added control and user consistency, and it’s affordable. It’ll suit a wide variety of concealed carry holsters.
|Barrel Length||3.3 inches|
The Walther PPK/S is one of the most coveted firearms in the world, in large part because of its resemblance to a James Bond-style sidearm. But it really can make the difference when it comes to your defense in the real world. The PPK/S is a little larger than the original PPK, but it’s much easier to shoot and is perfectly accurate for the entirety of the .380 ACP cartridge’s effective range.
It is a little heavier than the other concealed carry pistols we’ve looked over so far, measuring in at 19 ounces in total. Still, it can fit in some larger concealed carry holsters, but it can pull double duty if you have a regular holster as well.
The pistol features a fixed barrel that provides great accuracy without much barrel wiggle. It also has a straight blowback action, however, which means that the recoil will be a little stronger than that of many other .380 pistol and you’ll need to compensate. Fortunately, you can choose between either a double or single action trigger depending on your preferences and experience. No matter what, the trigger has a relatively high pull requirement at 13 pounds.
|Barrel Length||3.25 inches|
The Glock 42 is one of the latest iterations of the primary Glock firearm we all know and love. It’s also the smallest Glock to ever be produced, which means that it’s a great choice for combining with a concealed carry holster.
Chambered for .380 ACP cartridges, the Glock 42 has a reasonably short barrel and middling weight. More importantly, the frame is made of a durable polymer that provides fantastic recoil control and edge-free functionality, making it less likely to snag on a quick draw.
Also nice is the crisp trigger, which comes with a short reset to facilitate faster follow-up shots on your target. The more you practice with this gun, the deadlier you’ll be with it. Granted, Glock also makes relatively small 9 mm pistols. But they can’t quite beat the light weight and compact size of the G42.
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380
|Barrel Length||2.75 inches|
Smith & Wesson makes the list of the best .380 pistols for concealed carrying thanks to this very small and polymer-frame handgun. It weighs just a little under 13 ounces and features a double strike trigger (with an admittedly long and heavy trigger pull requirement).
In a nutshell, this means that the trigger can be pulled a second time if your cartridge’s primer doesn’t ignite with the first pin strike. Thus, it can theoretically take care of certain malfunctions by itself, which is sometimes an issue with .380 ACP ammunition. Also nice is the grip, which comes with mild shaping near the bottom to help your hand to settle steadily during your draw.
Even better, the firearm comes with a special Crimson Trace laser integrated into the body right out of the box. This can significantly assist with your accuracy, particularly in close quarters and low light environments. On the downside, disengaging the Bodyguard’s safety is a little harder than most would like. You’ll get the most mileage out of this weapon if you practice with it frequently.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 ACP
|Barrel Length||3.675 inches|
Smith & Wesson isn’t done yet – the Shield EZ 380 ACP is another quality concealed carrying firearm, featuring specially designed springs that require barely any force to rack the slide. Naturally, this could make it a great choice for those without a lot of finger strength. It also leverages an internal hammer rather than a striker fire design to accomplish this difference.
The gun is also excellent for its additional features, such as aggressive yet slight serrations and a distinctive flared section near the end of the slide, which contributes to a menacing silhouette and which allows you to grip the slide more easily.
Unfortunately, it does feature a slightly oversized grip safety, which could make the pistol harder to fit into certain concealed carry holsters. However, the polymer frame, overall excellent design, and general consistency make it a great pick for concealed carry self-defense overall.
Kahr CW 380
|Barrel Length||2.5 inches|
The Kahr CW 380 is one of the smallest .380 ACP pistols you find on the market, and that’s saying something! While the brand isn’t the most well-known compared to the other options on the market, it’s a fantastic little piece that weighs just over 10 ounces and that features a fantastic trigger pull with a very clean break.
Accuracy is also prioritized with this weapon, as it features smooth sights even for its relatively affordable price tag. The weapon comes in a 9 mm variant as well, so you might consider looking at its close cousin if you want a general service or self-defense pistol that doesn’t necessarily need to be small enough to carry concealed.
Naturally, this tiny firearm has very smooth surfaces to prevent it from snagging on the draw. Shooters will also really appreciate the texture on the grip. While minimal, the texturing will ensure that you can draw this .380 pistol safely and securely without worrying about a sweaty palm getting in the way of your self-defense.
All in all, any of the above .380 pistols could be a great choice for concealed carry and self-defense. Consider each firearm in turn along with the type of holster you have in your personal experience level to determine which pistol is ideal.
If you are interested in a 9mm or .45 ACP handgun for self defense, be sure to check out our article Best Concealed Carry Guns. We cover what you will need in a carry gun, and list our top choices on the market today.