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Best .380 Auto Pistols: Ultimate Pocket Pistols? [2024]



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BEST .380 AUTO PISTOLS

  • SIG Sauer P365-380
  • Bersa Firestorm
  • Glock 42 
  • Ruger LCP II
  • Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380

9mm and .45 ACP are probably the most popular concealed carry rounds out there, but there are definitely other cartridges that are worth considering. 

Among those, one of my favorites is .380 ACP, also called .380 Auto. 

This round may not get as much attention as others, but it, along with the pocket pistols it goes in, is an excellent option for concealed carry.

Whether you’re already familiar with .380 ACP and are looking for a gun to put it in or are trying to decide whether or not .380 is right for you, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll talk a little bit about .380 ACP and why it’s used, then go over some of the best .380 pistols currently on the market.

Let’s get started.

About .380 ACP

.380 ACP was first developed by the venerable John Moses Browing more than a century ago in 1908. At the time, it was fairly popular and was even adopted by several European militaries before World War II. In the post-War period, however, .380 was broadly replaced by more powerful rounds, like 9mm. 

In the civilian market, however, .380 ACP is still going strong. It’s mostly used for pocket pistols, which are little sub-compacts that are great for concealed carry. Some people also call them “pocket rockets” but I cannot stand that term, so I won’t be using it again. 

The reason that .380 ACP does so well with pocket pistols but is basically unheard of in full-size pistols is because of the cartridge’s low recoil. 

(left to right) SIG Sauer V-Crown .380 Auto, CCI Bronze 9mm, Wolf .45 ACP

Without going into physics too much, the smaller the gun, the more felt recoil. Since .380 isn’t as powerful as, say, 9mm or .45 ACP, it’s easier to manage a sub-compact or micro-compact chambered for .380. 

I’m not exactly bulky, so I love this about .380 ACP. Even with my small frame and preference for relatively fitted clothes, it’s not hard for me to conceal a pocket pistol, and .380 ensures that I can easily handle that pistol, even under stress. 

Of course, you don’t have to be small like me to appreciate the ease of concealment and operation that comes with a .380 pocket pistol. Those are great features for anyone!

And now that you know why you might want to use .380, let’s talk about the guns!

BEST .380 AUTO PISTOLS

SIG Sauer P365-380

Really this is the same pistol as the SIG P365 in 9mm, except it's in the slightly smaller .380 ACP. What does that mean for you? Less recoil and an easier slide to rack. And it's about 2-ounces lighter. But that's really the only difference.

SIG Rose 9mm and 380 and SIG P365-380
(top to bottom) SIG P365-XL Comp Rose in 9mm, SIG P365-380 Rainbow, and SIG Rose in .380 ACP

While .380 ACP is a little shorter in case length and bullet length than 9mm is, the dimension is practically the same — only 0.4mm smaller. A difference that small means the ammo capacity for the 9mm P365 and the P365-380 is the same. 10 rounds are flush-fitting, but extensions for 12 and even 15 rounds are available.

But the numbers belittle the differences between these two guns. The fact is, the P365-380 has a LOT less recoil and a much easier slide to rack. While the slide is something only people with compromised hand strength might be interested in, the less recoil is flat-out nice for everyone.

While most .380 ACP pistols can be very snappy, the P365-380 is almost glass smooth. It's honestly a shock at how easy to control and how comfortable it is to shoot!

The P365-380 also comes in a few flavors, like the Rainbow version that… stands out in the crowd to the much more practical P365-380 RomeoZero Elite. This model features a RomeoZero MRDS on top plus suppressor height X-Ray night sights.

Bersa Firestorm

Second in line comes the Bersa Firestorm

If you’re not familiar with smaller caliber rounds, you may not already be aware of Bersa. This firearm manufacturer is based out of Argentina, where there are caliber limits on ammo. As such, Bersa primarily makes smaller caliber weapons, and they do so incredibly well.

The Firestorm looks a lot like the famous Walther PPK, but it’s far from a PPK clone. It has a simple blow-back design without any unnecessary bells and whistles, but it also adds features missing from the PPK, like a decocker/thumb safety and slide hold open. 

Bersa FireStorm

The Firestorm is on the larger end for a .380 pocket pistol, measuring 6.6 inches in overall length and weighing 20 ounces. That makes the pistol easier to manage for large hands (especially with the thumb rest magazine) and helps with recoil management. Plus, with a 7 round capacity, you get an extra shot per magazine compared to most other .380s.

It’s still small enough for easy concealed carry, but if you’re looking for the smallest possible pistol, you’ll want to skip the Firestorm.

The Firestorm is very similar to another gun made by Bersa, the Thunder. In fact, they’re basically the same just slightly different models of the same gun, so if the Firestorm sounds appealing to you, you may want to take a look at the higher-capacity Bersa Thunder as well. 

Glock 42 

Glock is probably the single most popular pistol manufacturer, and for good reason. Whatever else you think about them, Glocks are reliable as death and taxes. There’s a reason so many law enforcement agencies opt for Glocks. The Glock 42 is Glock’s .380 subcompact.

The world's largest and smallest Glock pistols: G40 and G42

Like all Glocks, it features Glock’s Safe Action System, which integrates three independent mechanical safeties, including a trigger safety, firing pin safety, and drop safety. This prevents accidental discharge without slowing you down when you’re ready to fire. 

Another cool feature of the Safe Action System is that you don’t have to fully release the trigger to fire a follow up shot. You just have to release the trigger until you feel and hear the reset, then you can immediately fire again.

Glock 42

Also, like other Glocks, the G42 is very easy to manage even with its small size. It is a little bit bigger than most other .380 pocket pistols, measuring almost six inches and weighing 14 ounces, but that’s still plenty small for concealment.

Ruger LCP II

Ruger is another company that’s known for making incredibly reliable, incredibly safe firearms, and the Ruger LCP II is no exception. 

As you can probably guess from the name, the LCP II upgrades on the original LCP, fixing a lot of its major issues. The main change is the trigger. The original LCP’s trigger left a lot to be desired, with a long pull and sluggish feel. The trigger on the LCP II is lighter, shorter, and crisper. The new trigger also incorporates a Glock-style trigger safety.

With the LCP II, Ruger also upgraded the slide, adding some serations and making it overall easier to operate. They also integrated last-round bolt hold open. 

Other improvements include upgraded sights and a more aggressive grip texture. 

Like the original LCP, the LCP II is still very small. It weighs just 10.6 ounces and has an overall length that’s a touch over 5 inches. 

Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380

Like the Ruger LCP II, the S&W M&P Bodyguard is on the petite side. In fact, it’s one of the smallest guns of the entire M&P line, with an overall length of 5.3 inches and a weight of 12 ounces. 

The Bodyguard is hammer fired, so you do have a long trigger pull, but you also get double-strike capability. 

The grip has an aggressive texture, which is great, but I don’t love the finger grooves. That’s a matter of preference though, not an inherent flaw in the design. 

And speaking of preference, the Bodyguard has a manual thumb safety, for those who prefer the more traditional safety. 

Bodyguard 380 by Gunworx

It has adjustable sights, which is pretty unusual among .380 pocket pistols, but it’s also available with an integrated Crimson Trace laser sight

It comes with two magazines, one with a flat butt plate and another with a finger rest to help with larger hands. Either way, you get a six-round capacity. 

LOOSE ROUNDS

.380 may not be as powerful as some other rounds, but it’s still mighty enough to do the job and it’s a great option for pocket pistols. 

If you decide that you want to go with .380 ACP, any of the pistols that I’ve recommended above will be an excellent choice. Just go with the one that you like best.

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4 Comments

  • Parnell says:

    “The Best .380 pocket pistols”? You completely missed the LCP Max which carries 10 rounds in a pistol no bigger than the LCP II with better sights and a bettter trigger.

  • SuperG says:

    The LCP hurts to shoot after 50 rounds at the range. The Taurus Specter does not. And that’s all I have to say about that 🙂

  • Al Liguori says:

    While I prefer the .32ACP version, the absence of the Seecamp LWS .380 is conspicuous.

  • Billy Q says:

    Have had a Bersa Thunder for over 10 years and love it. Owned a LCP and was one of the worst guns I ever owned. Traded it in for a Taurus Spectrum and never been happier.

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View Comments

  • "The Best .380 pocket pistols"? You completely missed the LCP Max which carries 10 rounds in a pistol no bigger than the LCP II with better sights and a bettter trigger.

  • The LCP hurts to shoot after 50 rounds at the range. The Taurus Specter does not. And that's all I have to say about that :)

  • Have had a Bersa Thunder for over 10 years and love it. Owned a LCP and was one of the worst guns I ever owned. Traded it in for a Taurus Spectrum and never been happier.

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