Ruger LCP and holster

Best .380 ACP Pistols [2020 Hands-On]

Here’s a conversation from a gun shop:

“What’s that in your pocket?”

“A .380 in a pocket holster”.

“Don’t you know you might as well throw rocks as shoot somebody with a .380?”

“Well, if it’s so ineffective, will you volunteer to hold the target at the far end of the pistol range? HA! Didn’t think so!”

A lot of shooters think a .380 is not nearly enough gun to carry on a regular basis. And let’s face it, the .380 is meant to be a deep-concealment “get-off-me” self-protection round, given current tactical practices and training. But, it can be so much more. Here’s a look at the .380, where it came from and what some of the best pistols are out there that are chambered for it.

Allow me to fudge just a bit in terms of gun size – I say “pocket” pistol, but some of these are pushing that. If you are old enough to remember Captain Kangaroo, we’re talking pockets like his coat had – big enough to carry his lunch in, and he was not a skinny fellow. So, “pocket” is an approximate term in terms of gun size.

Colt Model 1908 Hammerless .380 ACP
Colt Model 1908 Hammerless .380 ACP

A Little History

Introduced in 1908 by Colt for use in its Colt Model 1908 pocket hammerless semi-automatic, the .380 ACP round has been a popular self-defense cartridge ever since. Seeing worldwide use in numerous handguns (typically smaller, pocketable weapons), another popular name for it is the 9mm Kurz…(if you’re not up on your German, that means 9mm Short). It uses the same bullet diameter of the 9mm – .355, just in a lighter format (95-105 grains). Another moniker for this round is the 9X17, (not to be confused with the 9X18 Makarov or the 9X19 Luger). Some pistols for this cartridge are of blow-back design, not unlike a .22 LR. Usually, it does not generate enough pressure to require a locked-breech (1911-style) action, although many newer .380s utilize just such an action.

In case you think the .380 is a totally anemic cartridge, think again…it started WWI. Anarchist Gavrilo Princip used a .380 to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austria-Hungary Empire. That got the ball rolling in 1914. Considered a fairly powerful cartridge at that time, and replacing the .32 Auto, the rise of the 9mm Luger eventually knocked the .380 into the pocket-pistol category.

Fast-forward to today…the advent of modern self-defense rounds brings the lowly .380 out of obscurity. With modern defensive ammo, the .380 proves to be a viable self-defense cartridge. Some experts equate its stopping power with that of a 158-grain .38 Special lead round-nose cartridge. To be sure, it is not as lethal as a 9mm (even out of a short barrel), but with modern ammo, a lot of people carry it as their main CCW.

The Guns

Most .380s are, (at least in the U.S.A.) considered pocket pistols. If you lived in Central America or other areas of the globe, your .380 would most likely be a pistol the size of our 9mms, since some Central American (and other) countries outlaw the possession of a pistol that fires a military round (removing the 9mm, .40 S&W and .45ACP from consideration. Since we are able to carry a full-size pistol in mostly whatever caliber we want in (most of) the good ol’ U.S.A., the .380 pistol here can be made smaller. Some folks will carry a compact- or duty-size pistol for their primary CCW and have a small .380 in deep concealment if something goes wrong with the larger gun. Most .380 pistols will fit in a pocket holster.

Let’s look at some of the more popular .380s out there.

Taurus Spectrum

Specs
Height 3.82”
Length 5.4”
Width .89”
Weight 10 oz. unloaded
Barrel 2.8”
Capacity One 6-round magazine; one 7-round extended magazine
MSRP $224 (house colors; other combinations are $305)

Taurus Spectrum right side

The Taurus Spectrum is my personal carry .380. There are several features that make it the one I don’t leave home without. Announced at the 2017 SHOT Show, delivery was delayed for almost a year as bugs were worked out. As is the case with most new guns, the Spectrum suffered its share of troubles. The resulting reputation it earned was mixed, as there are shooters who regularly carry them and others who won’t own one. My Spectrum runs like a top, so its initial “new-modelitis” problems seem to have been resolved. As for finishes, the gun is available in two models: an all-black version, or one that uses a naturally-finished stainless slide with a black frame. My gun is an older model – it consists of gray frame with black slide and dark gray panels. (At one time, Taurus offered the gun in several different color schemes – the frame one color, slide another color and rubber panels yet another color). I would imagine that managing an inventory of rainbow-colored guns became a nightmare, so they evidently cut it back to two. This does not bother me at all…it isn’t what a gun looks like that counts, it’s how it shoots and mine shoots great.

Why I Carry The Spectrum

OK… why do I carry the Spectrum? Very simply, mine works. It is very reliable, no matter what I feed it, including my cast reloads. It fires Critical Defense and other similar rounds with no problem. I’d earlier had a .380 that would not hold the slide open after the last round was fired…the Spectrum will do that. It’s got a (small) slide lock lever that does not protrude much. It really isn’t a slide release…it holds the slide back, not letting it go forward. Another plus is capacity – I carry it with the flush 6-round magazine in place with one in chamber plus the included extended-floorplate 7-rounder in a pocket. That’s 14 rounds in a gun of a caliber that’s a whole lot more potent now than it was 30 years ago. Would I trust my life with it? You bet. As the old saying goes, derisive detractors decline to be shot by one, no matter how underpowered they claim it is.

Taurus Spectrum left side

If you are looking for an inexpensive (real-world price around $200) .380 that rides unnoticed in a pocket holster until needed, give the Spectrum a look. This is not a “carry-much-shoot-seldom” type of gun…there are many ruptured 2-liter bottles and lead-spattered steel targets that will testify otherwise at my backyard range!

Kel Tec P3AT

Specs
Height 3.5”
Length 5.2”
Width .77”
Weight 8.3 oz. unloaded
Barrel 2.7”
Capacity One 6-round magazine
MSRP $250
Kel Tec P3AT Right Side
Source: Joe Salter

The P3AT is a bare-bones pocket pistol. Manufactured in Florida, Kel Tecs are very popular with shooters. In addition to .380, Kel Tec also makes a nice .32 ACP and two small 9mm pistols worth checking out. I owned a PF9 9mm and the P3AT .380 for a while and carried both of them. I was impressed with the quality of the gun, considering the price. Kel Tec’s customer service is very good, as I discovered when I had a problem with my .380 and had to send it back. They basically replaced most of the parts and sent the gun back to me. It worked fine after the return. I kept it a while then sold it.

Kel Tec P3AT Top
Source: Joe Salter

Why did I sell it? One of my criteria for any semiauto pistol is that the slide locks back on an empty magazine. The P3AT’s slide doesn’t do that. I would fire 6 rounds from the magazine (or 6+1 if you put one in the chamber first), and then pull the trigger the next time, with the slide forward in battery.

Nothing. Click. Of course, I didn’t count my shots. That’s why all my semiautos lock the slide back when they run dry. Did I know that the P3AT wouldn’t lock back on an empty magazine? Yep, I ignored my own criteria. I thought I could overlook that due to the miniscule size of the piece and the attendant ease of carry. The small size initially won over the non-locking-slide, in essence. But, after shooting it a lot, I just couldn’t get used to it. So, I sold it.

Kel Tec P3AT grip
Source: Joe Salter

Was it reliable? You bet…it would run no matter what I put through it, factory loads or my handloads. (I am one of those strange people who is left-handed AND who reloads .380). It digested my loads, factory ball, defense loads, whatever I fed it. The extractor is external, attached with a Torx-type screw. This makes it easy to replace the extractor if you break one. There is no thumb safety, which I appreciate on pocket-type pistols – they are sometimes swiped off accidentally as the gun goes in or out of your pocket. The trigger pull is fairly long and stiff, which is in itself a form of a safety. Mine was around nine pounds. If you are looking for an inexpensive (real world price around $230) pocket .380 that’s made in the U.S., the P3AT is one to look at.

Ruger LCP/LCP II

Specs
Height 3.6”
Length 5.16”
Width .82”
Weight 9.6 oz. unloaded
Barrel 2.75”
Capacity One 6-round magazine
MSRP LCP, $259; LCP II, $349

Ruger LCP and holster

The Ruger LCP is a pocket-type pistol that reminds me (and a lot of other shooters) of the Kel Tec in the way it looks and handles. It is very close in size to the P3AT but feels a bit different in the hand. The grip is molded with a different type of texturing than the Kel Tec. It sits in my hand very comfortably. As with most small .380s, the LCP’s sights are wart-like protuberances milled into the slide…definitely not adjustable. But, given the purpose of the gun, they suffice. Another shared feature with the P3AT is that the slide will not lock open after the last round is fired. But…it’s a Ruger, and Ruger has a reputation for building guns that last. Making available models with a specially-sculpted or roll-engraved slide, plus a burnished bronze slide variation, Ruger has shown some artistic initiative in its design of the LCP.
Ruger LCP Stainless

All In The Family – The LCP II

If you like the LCP but wish it was just a bit more ergonomic, look at its first cousin, LCP II. Ruger, as it is known to do, listened to its customers and dealers and brought out the LCP II. This gun is very similar to the LCP, but it has some significant differences:

  • It is just slightly wider (some folks complained the LCP was too skinny for a good grip);
  • The slide is a bit longer with forward and rear serrations;
  • The trigger is much improved and utilizes a Glock-style bladed safety;
  • The grip has new, textured areas that resemble those of the American and Security 9 pistols;
  • The sights are easier to pick up;
  • The front of the trigger guard is textured;
  • The slide locks open after the last round is fired.
A note about triggers… the LCP II’s trigger is partially pre-cocked by racking the slide; pulling the trigger finished cycling it and fires the gun. Consequently, the pull weight is lighter than the LCP’s which is more like a double-action-only revolver’s (it is long and slightly heavier on purpose). For those who pocket-carry, this is an important point as it takes a dedicated pull of the trigger to get the gun to fire. Unless you carry change or other objects in the same pocket as your holster (a no-no), you really needn’t worry about a negligent discharge with a nine-pound trigger. As of this writing, Ruger has no intention of stopping production of the original LCP because this little gun has garnered its fair share of enthusiasts. You really can’t go wrong with either… the LCP started it and the LCP II is its more refined cousin, but both are excellent choices for concealed carry. Expect to find the LCP for around $220-$250 and the LCP II about $40 more.

Kahr CW380

Specs
Height 3.9”
Length 4.96”
Width .75”
Weight 10.2 oz.
Capacity 6+1
Sights White bar/dot; rear drift-adjustable
Finish Black polymer frame, matte stainless slide
MSRP $433
Kahr CW380
Photo: thefirearmblog.com

I’ve owned two Kahrs so far. Both of them were the lesser-expensive “CW” series. (For an explanation of the differences between Kahr’s CW and P series guns, go here). I owned the CW9 and CW45. I really liked the guns, for the most part. What I liked was how small, light and easily-carried they were. They didn’t weigh much at all. Kahrs are single-stack, so they weren’t very wide, either. Both slipped into a front pocket, but the 9 was more comfortable there. Being small, they had some snappy recoil depending upon the ammo you shot but I got used to it. About the only thing I didn’t like was the take-down procedure, but that is strictly my opinion.

My guns were reliable and accurate. With my handloads, they were fun to shoot. Defensive ammo was a bit stronger in the recoil department. I know of at least one internet gun expert who carries a Kahr. If you carried the CW380, I think you might be carrying the thinnest, lightest .380 you could find. I can’t swear to it (never know what may be coming out) but at under an inch wide and weighing about 10 ounces, this is one gun that would go with you pretty much wherever you went. If you can find one at a dealer’s, check it. It’s a nice gun for the money.

Remington RM380

Specs
Height 3.86”
Length 5.27”
Width 95.”
Weight 12.2 oz. unloaded
Barrel 2.9”
Capacity Two 6-round magazines, one with finger extension
MSRP $405

Remington RM380

Rohrbaugh. There’s a name that means a lot to die-hard pocket pistol devotees. Rohrbaugh was a player in the high-end pocket pistol niche market until 2014, when Remington Outdoor bought them out. Remington immediately stopped production of Rohrbaugh’s $1200 R9 pocket pistol and appropriated its design, which had been named Shooting Illustrated’s 2005 Gun Of The Year. Remington then introduced their own version of the R9, the RM380 which is almost identical to the Rohrbaugh but with a few differences. The goal was to take a fairly expensive pocket pistol and model a lesser-expensive version of it to be sold in the mass market. They have evidently succeeded in that endeavor.

Remington RM380 in action
Source: Remington

One of the first thing Remington changed was the magazine release – on the R9, it was in the European position, at the heel of the grip. Remington put it where (as the saying goes) God and John Browning intended, behind the trigger guard in the grip. It is ambidextrous, as well. Some checkering was added to the grip and a slide stop was fitted – the R9 would not lock back on an empty magazine but the RM380 does. Add in the nested recoil springs which takes the place of the infamous Rohrbaugh spring you had to replace about every 200 rounds and you get an improved version that could be sold for less.

While I don’t have a lot of experience with the RM380, I do know that it sits very nicely in my average-size hand. Obviously, the attention to ergonomic details that the R9 employed were maintained. Given its two six-round magazines (one with a finger extension) and the slide stop/release, the RM380 occupies a place in the pocket .380 world a notch above the Kel Tec P3AT and the Ruger LCP, neither of which supply an extra magazine or a slide stop. It is marginally larger than either of those two guns, but not so much that you couldn’t carry it in a pocket holster. I do recommend you take a look at one – the real-world price hovers around the $300-330 mark. If you want something fancier, check out the Executive model. It uses a two-tone slide and frame with very fancy hardwood grips. It cost a bit more than the regular model but sure is nice to look at.

As of this date, Remington as a company has pretty much ceased to exist. I did not delete the RM 380 from this list because they are still out there, for sale. It was a decent gun, so if you like Rohrbaugh’s design, go for it. The gun seems well-built and should give you years of service.

Bersa Thunder

Specs
Height 4.7″
Length 6.6″
Width 1.3″
Weight 20.00 oz. (.380), 18.90 oz. (.22)
Barrel 3.5″
Capacity 7+1 or 8+1 (.380), 10+1 (.22)
MSRP $480

bersa thunder

At least Bersa doesn’t hide the price…

(Pocket-carry disclaimer…this round-up is of pocket-sized .380s. The Bersa, like the S&W below, pushes that size limitation but is still pocketable in pants with larger pockets. Or, worst case, put it on or inside your belt).

The Versa Thunder series is very popular. I know one former county deputy who carries one regularly. Built in Argentina, Bersa’s guns tend to be reliable and affordable.

The gun incorporates several design features that help to make it a safe bet for concealed carry. First of all, it is not striker-fired…the gun is built on the traditional double/single action pattern. One long pull with the hammer down fires the gun before the slide is racked, or after using the decocker lever. (A note about that decocker – it does not automatically pop back up to “Fire” after you decock the hammer. You need to manually push it up or it will stay on “Safe”. That could be embarrassing, or worse, if you need the gun in a hurry). Once the slide is back, the trigger moves towards the rear of the trigger guard and subsequent shots are fired single action until the slide locks back, empty. Many great gun manufacturers use this system for at least part of their production including CZ and Beretta. One advantage that I always appreciated in a hammer-fired gun is that you can see precisely if the gun is cocked or not. Of course, this would come into play more with a single-action pistol like the 1911 as opposed to a DA/SA gun but the same principle applies. The sights are dovetailed into the slide, which makes them replaceable. Meprolight and others make sights for Bersas. The slide release and safety are easy to use (even if the safety is mounted on the slide). About the only change I’d make is to move the magazine release button to its “normal” position at the lower end of the trigger guard, not the upper where it is now. But, like all things, this higher position can be gotten used to. One thing that I really like is that Bersa puts a takedown lever on its guns, not a pin that you have to remove in order to separate the slide from the frame. There are no parts to lose with the swinging lever. Also, if you are one of those shooters who like gun locks integrated into the gun itself, you’re in luck – there’s a keyed lock just above the trigger. I, for one, do not care for such an item but everyone is different. One other thing – since the grips are separate and screw on, you can replace them. If you are handy with tools, I could see making a set of nicely-figured walnut grips for these guns. Sort of old-school, you know, like me.

What if you wanted to have more than 8+1 .380 rounds available in your magazine? Go with the Thunder Pro. That gun carries 15 in its double-stack magazine, all while not giving up a lot in terms of bulkiness. It’s exactly .5 ounces more, and it is .2 inches wider than the single-stack Thunder. Length and height are the same. Kind of a no-brainer, for about $67 more MSRP. At any rate, give the Bersas a look. One model that got my attention was what they call a “Combat” Thunder. For a few dollars over the base $303 MSRP, you get a single-stack gun with sharp edges removed and a rear fixed “U-notch” sight. The “Combat Plus” gives you the 15+1 capacity of the Thunder Pro. Bersa makes ten different models of pistols, with many variations of each model…something for everyone. Those of you into striker-fired guns with Glock- and Sig-compatible sights, check out the BPCC series. You can check them all out here.

Glock 42 Gen 4

Specs
Height 4.13”
Length 5.94”
Width .98”
Weight 13.76 oz. unloaded
Barrel 3.25”
Capacity Two 6-round magazines, one with finger extension
MSRP $459
Glock 42 Gen 4 in .380 ACP
Source: Guns, Gear & On Target Training

Glock was a little late to the single-stack.380 game, but once involved, they produced a very popular gun among concealed weapon carriers and law enforcement. Police tend to carry it as a back-up (along with its more-powerful stablemate, the 9mm G43), while a lot of concealed weapon carriers use it as their primary weapon. It is small – some even pocket-carry it – but most put it in a belt or ankle holster.

Glock 42 right side

One of the main reasons this little guy is so popular is – you guessed it – it’s a Glock. Consequently:

  • All controls are in the “right” places;
  • Takedown is the same;
  • Trigger is pretty much the same so no having to adjust to a new system;
  • Sights are standard Glock outline/dot

The G42 holds a single-stack 6-round magazine and comes with two of them. As with its bigger brothers, there are aftermarket parts available if you want to spruce yours up a bit. The stock Glock (sorry) is enough gun in its shipped state for most users. One concern, if you can call it that, is that the G42 is larger than other 6-round .380s. but not by much. Some shooters like the fact that it’s a bit larger…it gives them more to hang on to, especially with the included finger extension magazine.

How Does It Shoot?

With the standard Glock “cup-and-ball” sights (very visible on this gun, I might add), it shoots like most any other Glock. No surprises here. The gun’s weight is enough to control all but the wildest .380 rounds and will allow you to settle back on the target quickly. The ergonomics are familiar to Glock owners, so again, nothing new there. It’s just your standard Glock but with a skinnier frame and fewer rounds at your fingertips. So – if you are a Glock lover, this is for you! For the rest of us who only own one or two Glocks, this would certainly work for its intended purpose and deserves a look. The larger size seems to be a mini-trend in the .380 game – see below for the Smith & Wesson 380EZ and you’ll see what I mean.

Expect a real-world price of around $400-$430.

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    Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380

    Specs
    Height 3.78”
    Length 5.23”
    Width .77”
    Weight 12.3 oz. unloaded
    Barrel 2.75”
    Capacity Two 6-round magazines, one with finger extension
    MSRP $379; $449 with Crimson Trace laser

    Smith & Wesson Bodyguard in .380

    The S&W M&P Bodyguard 380 started out life in 2011 without the “M&P” in its moniker. It was just the plain Bodyguard 380. You could get one with an Insight laser. In 2014, S&W upgraded the gun by:

    • Ditching the Insight laser and going with Crimson Trace for those guns so equipped;
    • Roughing up the texturing on the grip;
    • Refining the trigger;
    • Etching “M&P” on the slide.

    Otherwise, it is pretty much the same gun as the pre-M&P version.

    S&W Bodyguard Grip
    Source: S&W

    It’s All About Controls

    The controls on the M&P Bodyguard 380 are pretty much like those you’d find on any M&P semiauto pistol: thumb safety (very small), slide lock (that actually works as a slide release), magazine release behind the trigger guard. The control that is missing is the take-down lever; the Bodyguard uses a rotating push-through pin that you line up with the slot to release. The push-through pin take-down system is fairly common on a lot of 380s and even some 9mm pistols, but it isn’t a captive take-down lever…so don’t lose it!

    Shooting The Bodyguard

    This gun shoots pretty much like other small, two-fingers-on-the-grip .380s. The grip texturing is OK, although I prefer grips that feel like somebody glued 100-grit sandpaper to the gun. I use stairstep no-slip tape from the hardware store, or stipple my plastic grips, if that gives you any idea of the traction I prefer. The Bodyguard isn’t quite there, but it’s not bad. The laser is a bit hard to use much past about five yards due to the bounce it gets from the recoil, but at least it’s included. Once sighted in, it is useful; you just have to basically gorilla-grip the little gun to hold the red dot on target. As is the case with lasers on any handgun, your sight picture “jumpiness” is exposed more so than if you were using iron sights, so practice is the key. Regardless, the gun works and is backed by the S&W warranty, one of the best in the industry. Another M&P feature is that you can get one with or without a thumb safety. Expect a real-world price of around $340 without the laser and $400 with it.

    The S&W Shield 380EZ

    Specs
    Height 4.98”
    Length 6.7”
    Width 1.15” (1.45” including slide “wings”)
    Weight 18.5 oz. unloaded
    Barrel 3.7”
    Capacity Two 8-round magazines
    MSRP $416

    MP Shield EZ

    I saved the newest for last. The new Shield 380EZ is a true paradigm shift in gun design. We “seasoned” shooters who have been around the block a time or two tend not to get excited about a gun clearly made for newbies, folks who may not have shot a handgun before. But…this gun is different. i can see long-time shooters buying this because of the easy-rack slide. The “wings” at the rear of the slide also really help in racking that slide. The grip safety and loaded chamber indicator may or may not be useful to some shooters, but I would appreciate having them.

    Here is a gun manufactured to be easily-controlled and operated by new shooters. Hence the “EZ” in its name.

    MP Shield EZ Infographic

    What’s So “EZ” About It?

    The single-stack Shield family of autoloaders comes in 9mm, .40 S&W and even .45ACP. Recently, the second generation of M&Ps hit the market with many improvements. Suffice it to say that the EZ is definitely one of the M&P family. Now… the EZ part…

    The Shield 380 EZ has most of the controls of the regular Shield line (including a take-down lever and optional thumb safety), but has some new features:

    • The slide is WAY easier to rack. A lot of first-time shooters are older folks (don’t make fun of us) who may not have the strength to pull back a slide pushing against a 20-pound recoil spring. I couldn’t find specifics on the weight of spring used in the EZ, but it is “soft” – I racked the slide and was literally shocked at how easy it was to do that.
    • Loaded chamber indicator – a lever-type chamber indicator is standard, and slightly larger than similar levers.
    • “Wings” on the rear of the slide – sprouting from the rear edge of the slide serrations are a pair of protruding “wings” that allow the user to grab the slide with wet hands and not have it slip. S&W didn’t originate the idea – the Taurus TCP 738 and the H&K VP9 both utilize the same type of feature. But…they DO help with slide traction!
    • Grip safety – the EZ uses a grip safety similar to that of a 1911, except that it is hinged at the bottom. This feature alone distinguishes the EZ, at a glance, from other Shields.
    • The EZ is slightly larger than the other .380s listed here – more fit for a belt holster – but by being so, it allows newbies to have more fingers on the grip which increases likelihood of hitting the target and hence more confidence. It also helps better control the (soft) recoil. Expect to pay around $300-$350 on the street.
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      Honorable Mention

      The guns above are ones that I have had experience with and are solid buys. The .380 is considered a marginal self-defense round to begin with, so the gun you choose to carry it in had better be reliable and accurate – these guns fulfill those criteria. But, here are a few others that are also capable concealed-carry weapons…

      Sig Sauer P 238
      Kahr P 380
      Beretta Pico
      Colt Mustang

      No matter which gun you choose, get some decent ammo and practice a LOT before you take the gun with you to town. The .380 may not be a .44 Magnum in stopping power, but as our two friends in the gun shop above would both agree with, a .380ACP in your hand is most assuredly better than the 1911 in your nightstand. With modern ammunition, you will not be under-gunned for most purposes.

      Have fun, and go out and shoot!

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      40 comments
      1. I feared I was a loner in the wilderness; I chose the RM 380 after carefully weeding out the chaff from the hate spewers. While nearly indistinguishable at a glance, from Rugers et al, its aluminum body give it a serious feel, not a bar of soap. It’s design greatly reduces slide pull and recoil, ambidextrous mag release for us lefties, and it fired the first of over 200 rounds just fine. Total of one jam, misfeeding a Hydro-Shok with the steep front edge hanging up; same shell fed later in the session. Only a couple incomplete seatings of rounds, fixed by rapping the slide into place. The DAO trigger I cleaned up with a lighter spring kit, and polished rough spots that made the pull drag unevenly. Long, hence safe pull around 7 lb. and the hammer sits flush when not moving to fire. No misfires, with lighter pin spring either. Sights are typical steel, dabbed with bright paint helps a lot, to realize they aren’t aligned that great, but shot consistent 5″ groups at ten yards. What the gun does is just feed bullets reliably, no major issues at all. Lehigh Xtreme Defenders or Federal HST fed perfectly, unlike other touted guns, and the only flaw is the tight trigger area and rubbing on the lower outside of my trigger finger, with the long pull, after 200 rounds. Clean, concealable, reliable. Don’t care for gimmicks or trade-offs.

        1. Old Goose (great handle!), my friend Duane has one in his gun case. I’ve handled the RM 380 and was torn between it and the Spectrum – it could’ve gone either way, except that the Spectrum just fit my pocket a bit easier. That Rohrbaugh design is really a good one. I’m glad you are enjoying owning one. Sounds like you’ve gotten the reliability issue down pat. Thanks for writing! (Also – have you seen the Executive version of the RM 380? Fancy grips, stainless slide. Very nice!)

        2. Count me in as a fellow traveler wandering the wilderness. I as well own the RM 380 and carry it daily in a DeSantis Apache Rig on my left ankle. It’s my backup for one of my EDCs which is currently the R51. I have about 500 rounds of range ammo through it and have experienced zero malfunctions. I carry it with Hornady 90gr Critical Defense loads which it digests easily.

          The sights on this gun are of little importance to me. This is a point and shoot weapon at close range but, as you point out, it does group very respectably for me at 25 feet.

          Very comfortable gun to shoot and carry and I have complete confidence in it if I ever need it to save my skin.

          1. Wetdog, glad yours is working out for you. I agree about the ammo – Critical Defense is good stuff and feeds in most guns. Thanks for writing!

        1. James, the Seecamp was a great little gun…I just haven’t seen it anywhere around here for several years. It was well-built, for sure. Thanks for the comment.

        1. Glenn, here’s a quote from the owner’s manual:
          “Plus-P” (+P) ammunition generates pressures in excess of the pressures associated with standard ammunition. Such pressures may affect the wear characteristics and may result in the need for more frequent service.”
          The problem is that the EZ already employs a lighter recoil spring to aid in racking the slide with ease. If you are going to shoot a steady diet of +P ammo, I’d put a slightly stouter spring in to keep the pistol from battering itself. I’m not sure how much you’d gain by going with +P stuff…the .380 is not going to be a 9mm. I have a .380 and I usually carry standard-pressure FMJ rounds, as I haven’t seen any good evidence of reliable expansion with the caliber. Check out my article elsewhere on this site that compares different types of .380 ammo.

          Hope you figure it out…just bear in mind that most any smaller pistol will wear more quickly with the use of +P ammo and might need a tune-up sooner rather than later, and that S&W says to not use +P+ ammo at all in the EZ. At least look into a stiffer recoil spring. Thanks for writing!

      2. You didn’t mention the Browning 1911 .380 auto. This is the best small pistol I have owned and what I carry now. My wife has even started carrying one as she prefers it over Colt, Ruger and the other pistols she has fired.

        1. Dr. Bill, Yep, the Browning is a great gun, no doubt. I just had to draw the line somewhere. I just don’t see those pistols around here as much as I do some others, but it’s out there and is a great buy. Thanks for writing!

          1. I will agree with Bill and Mike. As a retired police chief, I own a number of fine handguns, but the Browning 1911 Black Label is my daily concealed carry favorite. Its size fits my hand better than any other 380 I have ever held, shoots great, and is a fine looking gun. Maybe not the pocket gun the smaller ones are, I use a inside the pants holster which works very well. If I were headed into a situation that I thought would likely involve gun play, I likely would grab something in a larger caliber, but for daily self defense carry the Browning is a great weapon.

            1. Eddie, first, thanks for your service – I’ve never been employed in law enforcement but I have several close friends who are and I have great respect for you. Now, the Black Label 1911 – that IS a really nice gun! I’ve not shot the .380 but have handled the .22 version. It is 85% the size of a full-size 1911 and felt really good in the hand. I can see why you carry it – it’s a quality piece. Thanks for writing, and stay safe!

      3. Hey Mike- Very informative, excellent writing & pictures. Thanks! Any thoughts on a much older model- Walther PPK.
        Jeff, in not gun friendly upstate NY.

        1. Jeff, the PPK is one of the original CCW pistols – Walther’s current ad brings that out. I would love to have one, if for no other reason than it is such an iconic pistol, instantly recognizable by gun folks and also by non-gun folks as the gun James Bond carried early on. A great gun. Thanks for writing!

      4. I really like the Taurus Spectrum but, the non captive guide rod and and spring are too difficult to re install.. Arthritis is a partial culprit here..Followed the manual finally got back together. Now i wonder if it will shoot. Wish there was a Aftermarket Captive Guide Rod Spring assy available…This is a very
        ergonomic nice to shoot Tool..But only if you can get it back together Properly without bending the Spring….

        1. Brian, I feel your pain, literally. I had my Spectrum spring jump out, hit something hard and then be lost (until after I’d sent the gun back to the mothership for a new spring/rod, after which I promptly found it. Now I have an extra). A captive spring would be great. All I could find, 3rd party, is a stainless guide rod: https://lakelinellc.com/shop/stainless-steel-guide-rod-for-the-taurus-spectrum/.
          Too bad nobody makes a captive spring. It IS a royal pain to get back in place. Thanks for writing!

          1. Hey Mike, thanks for the feedback. I am developing a three sided channel type Guide Rod and Spring installation tool. I came up with the idea realizing that the spring wants to bow out when compressed. This tool will keep the assembly in place as it is compressed.
            Love this gun and i know the M&P 380EZ would be a great option, but i love this Taurus
            Spectrum….

            1. Brian, great idea! Once you get it, patent it and then approach companies like Brownells to sell it (provided you get it produced). I’d buy one! Thanks again.

      5. Another really good .380 not mentioned is the Micro Desert Eagle which I own and is extremely reliable and shoots anything and everything I put through it -there are no safeties however it has a very strong trigger pull for such a small gun which is a sort of safety. I could fit in a pair shorts front pocket or uncle Mike’s tiny #10 holster. It’s all steel (14 oz) and probably smaller than all the rest. I like it. Whenever I read about .380s it’s never mentioned and I believe it to be better than most.

        1. John, I agree with you that’s it’s a quality gun. I have to go with either what companies will send me to test or guns that I’ve had experience with. The Desert Eagle family is highly regarded, and I’m glad you like your Micro – it’s a solid gun that should last for many years. Thanks for writing!

      6. I’m wearing a Ruger LCP .380 as we speak. Unlike a HiPoint, I can’t use this in hand to hand… lol

        1. John, yeah, the LCP’s just not as big or heavy. That IS one advantage of the blow-back .380 Hi=Point. It also helps with recoil. Thanks for the comment – it was funny!

      7. My wife and I bought a Glock 42 for her to use. The decision was based primarily on the Glock reputation for reliability. However, during a couple of months of near weekly trips to the range, she could rarely get through a magazine without experiencing a stoppage, due mostly to failures to eject. It was obviously a “limp wrist” problem, as we didn’t experience the issue when I or one of my friends shot it.

        After she grew frustrated with the situation, she started looking for a replacement. I encouraged her to go with a 9mm, but she was concerned the recoil would be too much. She eventually choose a Sig P238. She has since put many rounds through it, and it has worked flawlessly.

        1. Chris, it’s good that she found one that works for her. It can be frustrating, trying to shoot a gun that malfunctions a lot for whatever reason. The Sig is a great choice, one I’d guess she’ll be happy with. Thanks for writing!

        1. Matt, the Kimber Micro would work. I had no specific reason for not including it – it’s a well-built gun – other than I had to draw the line somewhere. As in my comment above, if I do an update, hopefully it will go in then. I appreciate your comment!

      8. Although it’s not on your list, I carried a Walther PPK/S in .380 ACP as my CCW for 25 years. The only reason it was retired to range baby status, was entirely due to my aging eyes. The last several years I couldn’t see the sights in low light conditions, so I changed to a SIG P365.
        The Walther PP series was the first marketed DA/SA to make it back in the dirty 30’s. It’s still the most accurate gun I own (the pinned barrel is why). At rest, across the bench, it’s capable of <1" groups at 30 feet.
        The biggest drawback to the PPK is price, they're $200 or more over most of the guns on the list. They are heavier than other pocket .380's, but that's due to an all steel construction.
        Way back, Crimson Trace made Laser grips for the PPK, I waited too long on getting a set, and now the grips (when you can find them) sell for 3 – 4 times their original price. One of those "why didn't I" moments.

        1. Bemused, yeah, the PPK/S should’ve been on my list but I didn’t include it because of cost and availability. I’d love to have one but can’t swing it. The gun has a great history (James Bond, etc.) and would make a great carry piece. Maybe if I do another update I’ll include it. Thanks for writing!

          1. I figured your review probably oriented around price point and availability, both of which are issues with the PPK/S, so I fully understand its absence from the list From a readership perspective, that’s a positive. The PPK, like the higher end .380 1911’s, has a big difference in price over the pistols in your review, and for most people, that’s a big factor in their selection. I bought mine at a time when cost wasn’t a big factor for me, but now (as a retiree on a limited budget), it would be an issue.
            The .380 ACP caliber is often overlooked by many reviewers, for different reasons, but the general assumption that if a gun isn’t 9mm or bigger it isn’t worth reviewing is a mistake on their part, and one you’ve fully avoided. With the technological advances in bullets and propellants, .380 is a very viable self defense cartridge. I certainly wouldn’t want to be shot by one.
            Walter’s discontinuing of the pistol, and recent reintroduction effects its availability. As of yet, I’ve not seen one on display at any of the gun stores I frequent. Online yes, but I’ve yet to buy a gun that way. I prefer purchasing in person from a local dealer. 99% of the guns I own come from the same LGS. They’ve always treated me good, and that’s becoming rare these days.

            1. Bemused, I’m with you. I really like the PPK/S. It’s just that it’s so expensive and not available (but what is available now, eh?). I wish I owned one. For all who missed the PPK/s on my list, I only omitted it because it is very expensive and really hard to find. I do like the gun. Thanks, Bemused, for your comments again – I really appreciate them. (Did you get the “Berserker” part of your handle from Vlad Tspes? Just curious!)

      9. I inherited my father’s 1908 Colt .380 Hammerless, manufactured in 1942 and issued to him by the Navy (marked Property US Govt). He carried it throughout his career with ONI and in retirement with NIS (later NCIS). Due to its age and value, it seldom leaves the house; however, my daily carry has become a RIA “Baby Rock” .380 1911, which I would put on your list!!

        1. Max, yeah, the Rock Islands are good guns – I’ve owned a couple. I just had to draw the line somewhere. Interesting about the Colt! Thanks for writing.

      10. My wife attended a womens-only gun safety course and once-a-month shoot and was having trouble “racking” my SR9c. I started looking for an alternative home defense weapon for her. Since I had past experience with S&W (586 duty pistol), I tested the EZ and then had my wife go with me to the store to test if she could rack it with less effort. Needless to say, she had a BIG smile on her face and is now a happy EZ owner/shooter.

      11. One I’d like to get my hands on is the Beretta Pico, small in stature but has a da trigger, lr-ho and real sights…..

        1. Bobo, I’ve handled the Pico and thought about getting one but two things kept me away – it is SO skinny that it would jump around as you shot it, and the first version had almost no slide serrations to grab. I passed, but it is still a good choice for a deep-cover gun. Thanks for your comment!

      12. My ccw .380 is a Makarov in .380. A little heavy, but it always goes bang and I shoot it better than any other. Many of your mentions are rather nasty, snappy things to practice much with. With the FAB Defense Makarov grip, I can shoot all day comfortably.

        1. CWW, you are right – the heavier guns are more pleasant to shoot. I included guns that are “pocketable”, so some of the heavier guns like the Mak didn;t make it. It’s a great gun, though and I’m glad you shoot yours well. Thanks for writing!

        1. fatdaddy, I explained below why I didn’t include it. I have absolutely nothing against it – I’d love to have one – it’s just the cost and availability that have kept from my gun safe. It’s a great gun! Thanks for writing.

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