Best .380 Pistols [2022 Guide]

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Glock 42 .380 Auto ACP
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Glock 42 .380 Auto ACPOur Top Pick – Glock 42 .380 ACPCheck Price
Kahr CW380 Pistol Runner-Up – Kahr CW380 Check Price
S_W EZ Shield .380 ACP Easiest Takedown – Smith & Wesson M&P EZ Shield .380 Check Price
Walther PPK S 380 Auto (ACP) Best Premium Choice – Walther PPK/S .380 ACP Check Price
Ruger LCP II 380 Auto (ACP) Best Lightweight – Ruger LCP II .380 ACPCheck Price

Nothing beats the 9mm caliber when it comes to self-defense.

The stopping power, recoil management, and availability make it a more popular pistol caliber than the .380 ACP, and rightfully so.

However, the .380 ACP pistol (or the “pocket rocket”) has been gaining traction on the US market over the decade as a solid alternative to the 9mm Luger.

Both calibers are 9mm in diameter, only the 9mm Luger is 19mm high, while the .380 is 17mm high. The 9mm is arguably more powerful and cheaper than the .380, which has always been more popular in Europe than in the US.

Amusingly enough, the 9mm was designed by Georg Luger, an Austrian, while the .380 ACP was designed by none other than John Browning himself.

Although it’s less powerful, the .380 (or 9mm short) is a clear winner when it comes to picking a smaller, lightweight pocket pistol for self-defense, namely subcompact pistols that are practically a godsend for IWB holsters.

If you want to find the best .380 pistols on the market today, we’ll provide a quick buyer’s guide that will help you browse your options more clearly.

I rounded up the most viable .380 pistols, and I added some lightweight, budget, premium, and alternative options so that everyone can find their preference.

Let’s check them out.

Top 5 .380 Pistols

Our Top Pick – Glock 42 .380 ACP

Glock 42 .380 Auto ACP

Specifications and Details

  • Magazine capacity: 6+1
  • Barrel length: 3.25 inches
  • Overall length: 5.9 inches
  • Height: 4.1 inches
  • Weight: 13.7 ounces (unloaded)
  • Finish: Black polymer
  • Grips: Rough textured
  • Sights: White dot with outline
Pros
  • Glock reliability
  • Aftermarket abundance
  • Excellent trigger pull
  • One of the best pocket pistols for concealed carry
  • Great accuracy for a .380 ACP pistol
Cons
  • Glock factory sights are bad

I don’t care if you’re a Glock fan or not—the Glock G42 is a perfectly-sized subcompact pistol that dominated the .380 market since its inception, and you won’t find a .380 that’s more reliable.

The G42 is undoubtedly one of the smaller Glocks you can find. The 6+1 round capacity with a flush-fit mag can’t go any higher, but hey, it’s a subcompact built for concealed carry.

Many will appreciate the Goldilocks size—not too small, not too large. You can also find countless holster options for it.

Moreover, it can eat anything you feed it from regular FMJs to JHPs for a more serious self-defense power, given the fact that the right .380 ammo can be scarce and expensive.

Additionally, the Glock 42 has a simple concealed carry design that’s easy to disassemble, not to mention how many aftermarket parts you can find for it.

For starters, it’s a great idea to invest in some good Glock sights.

What got this striker-fired pocket pistol to the number one spot is its unmatched reliability, crisp trigger with a short reset, 3.2-inch barrel accuracy, and moderate recoil, thanks to the mid-sized build.

Runner-Up – Kahr CW380

Kahr CW380 Pistol

Specifications and Details

  • Magazine capacity: 6+1
  • Barrel length: 2.58 inches
  • Overall length: 4.96 inches
  • Height: 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Finish: Matte; Stainless steel slide
  • Grips: Black polymer
  • Sights: White Bar-Dot
Pros
  • Lightweight and easily concealable
  • Smooth DAO trigger
  • Stable and comfortable grip texture
  • Durable construction with stainless steel slide
Cons
  • Might be too small for some
  • Snappy recoil
  • Takedown can be difficult

Want something even smaller? Check out the Kahr CW.

The Kahr CW380 is a great semi-automatic .380 ACP pistol with a very smooth, double-action-only trigger pull that reminds me of revolvers. The slide locks when you shoot the last round.

Although the recoil is very snappy, it’s small enough to go unnoticed, so it’s perfect for concealed carry with the right holster. The smooth surfaces prevent snagging, and it doesn’t print.

Taking it down requires some tools and a helping hand. Once you get the hang of the disassembly process, there are loads of great recoil springs, triggers, grips, and aftermarket parts available on the market to make it sing.

If you ask me, I wouldn’t replace the trigger. The overall accuracy around the 10-yard range is decent for a 2.58-inch barrel.

Overall, the textured grip, slide lock mechanism, and smooth DAO trigger work together perfectly to skyrocket this small .380 on the handgun market. If you feel that the .380 ACP caliber is not enough, there’s also a 9mm model.

Check out our best handguns for beginners if you’re looking for pistols with smooth recoil and easy take-down.

Easiest Takedown – Smith & Wesson M&P EZ Shield .380

S_W EZ Shield .380 ACP

Specifications and Details

  • Magazine capacity: 8+1
  • Barrel length: 3.8 inches
  • Overall length: 6.7 inches
  • Height: 4.98 inches
  • Weight: 18.5 ounces
  • Finish: Black polymer
  • Grips: Black polymer
  • Sights: Hi-VIZ Litewave H3 Sights
Pros
  • Easy takedown
  • S&W reliability and smooth operation
  • Brilliant accuracy with a 3.8-inch barrel
  • Highly visible stock sights
  • 8+1 capacity
  • Low recoil for a .380 ACP
Cons
  • Might be too large and heavy for some

Here’s another established name in the pistol business.

The Smith & Wesson M&P EZ Shield with an 8+1 round capacity is a latecomer to the .380 game, but S&W really brings a lot to the table with this one.

The .380 EZ Shield is designed to be easy to rack with the integrated grip safety, load rounds, and take-down, so it’s a perfect low-recoil choice for people with arthritis or weak hands.

There’s a model without the manual safety as well.

You can pull the spring and follower with the small bar as you load. The trigger has a nice squeeze, the size soaks up all the recoil, and the high-quality Hi-VIZ Litewave H3 sights are very visible for better target acquisition.

Additionally, it gives you a much-needed accuracy with a longer barrel, which is something that most .380 pistols lack. I recommend you install a Crimson Trace Red Laser for long-range applications.

Check out the new S&W M&P Shield Plus—a single-stack 9mm that offers more round capacity but still retains its small, subcompact frame.

Best Premium Choice – Walther PPK/S .380 ACP

Walther PPK S 380 Auto (ACP)

Specifications and Details

  • Magazine capacity: 7+1 rounds
  • Barrel length: 3.3 inches
  • Overall length: 6.1 inches
  • Height: 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 19 ounces
  • Finish: Stainless steel
  • Grips: Black polymer
  • Sights: Fixed
Pros
  • High-quality stainless steel construction
  • Walther reliability
  • Low recoil
  • Smooth DA/SA trigger
  • Good accuracy for a .380 ACP
  • Great for concealed carry
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Heavy (19 ounces)
  • Heavy trigger pull (13 pounds)

The Walther PPK/S is an absolute .380 classic. It’s a heavier, high-capacity rendition of the original PPK, and it’s much easier to shoot and operate.

The fixed, 3.3-inch barrel ensures it won’t wiggle and is surprisingly accurate for short to mid-range applications.

Though the recoil is moderately snappy, the straight blowback action and the stainless steel construction both work together to lower the .380 recoil as much as possible.

For that reason, the Walther PPK/S has a DA/SA trigger, which you can choose the mode to suit your shooting style. The trigger pull is heavy, so you’ll need a little practice and getting used to it.

This James Bond-style sidearm can fit most duty or concealed carry holsters with ease. I recommend a hip holster-style carry, like a pocket holster.

The Walther PPK/S is an expensive legacy that still carries a torch for modern concealed carry pistols.

If you’re looking for a similar pistol with a much lower price, check out the Bersa Thunder .380, an Argentinian-made clone that works surprisingly well.

Best Lightweight – Ruger LCP II .380 ACP

Ruger LCP II 380 Auto (ACP)

Specifications and Details:

  • Magazine capacity: 6+1
  • Barrel length: 2.75 inches
  • Overall length: 5.17 inches
  • Height: 3.7 inches
  • Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Finish: Black oxide
  • Grips: Glass-filled nylon
  • Sights: Integral
Pros
  • One of the smallest and most lightweight pistols available
  • Crisp, single-action trigger
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy slide racking (holds open after last round)
  • Enhanced grips with floorplate
  • Aftermarket availability
Cons
  • Snappy recoil
  • Integrated sights

Last but definitely not least, the Ruger LCP II might be one of the best pocket pistols that ever reached the pistol market heights.

It boasts a reworked design with better grips and a vastly improved trigger with a positive reset compared to the original LCP that had a seriously terrible DAO trigger.

The Ruger LCP II has a very durable polymer frame that’s lightweight, small, and made for concealed carry. The grips are very comfortable and enhance your shooting experience, so you won’t even bother with the recoil.

It holds only six rounds, and the recoil is really snappy, but the blued, alloy steel barrel, snag-free design, and excellent single-action trigger offer a new standard for EDC applications.

The integrated trigger safety is similar to a Glock, and the trigger is very easy to pull. It’s practically made to be as user-friendly as possible, and you won’t even feel it when you’re walking.

I really like how this gun works, but it really bothers me that you can’t swap the sights since they’re integrated. Everything else runs like butter.

Check out our list of best snub-nosed revolvers if you’re looking for something more classic.

Buyer’s Guide for .380 ACP Pistols

It’s a common misconception that pistols chambered in .380 ACP are suitable for rookies.

Given that .380 pistols have short barrels that are exclusively for close-range purposes and self-defense, “the smaller it is, the better” is a catastrophic myth that still circles among newcomers.

Just because they’re small, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a snappy, tough-to-control recoil.

For a proper CCW, every pistol must be easy to handle, operate, take down, and shoot, not to mention it also depends on your hand size and preferred carrying style.

I always advise folks to first try it before you buy it, but before you do anything else, here are the most important aspects to consider when browsing .380 pocket pistols.

Ergonomics and Construction

The .380 ACP cartridge is shorter than the 9mm, and this makes .380 pistols lighter and more suitable for EDC.

They’re deliberately constructed with a low round capacity with a snag-free design that doesn’t print on your clothing.

When felt recoil is in question, you must consider the pistol’s size and what it’s made of. Stainless steel pistols like the Bersa Thunder or the Walther PPK/S are durable and can soak up recoil. Polymer pistols are lighter but have a very snappy recoil.

I suggest you look for pocket rockets that are perfectly balanced both in size, concealability, and ease of use. Additionally, a pistol with a higher grip is much easier to control.

How you consider the trade-off is all up to you, but I would definitely recommend the Glock 42 or the Ruger LCP II.

Most importantly, practicing your drawing speed and accuracy at the ranges is paramount.

Ammo Considerations

Proper ammo selection is just as important as the size of the .380 pistol.

When comparing ballistics, .380 ACP ammo has a bit of handicap over the 9mm cartridge, judging by the countless tests people have put the two cartridges through.

Everything suggests that they’re still up there, and since the .380 ACP is slightly less powerful than the 9mm, you should look into hollow point ammunition and FMJs.

Hollow points are expensive, but their stopping power is unmatched. Full metal jacket bullets can penetrate further, but they’re much easier to find, per my experience.

Because the prices for .380 ACP ammo boxes fluctuate wildly, I suggest you check all your local gun shops and online retailers for cheaper options. The price tag differences may surprise you.

Check out our .380 ammo buyer’s guide for more info.

Customization

Finally, if you’re eyeballing a certain .380 model, it’s also a good idea to scour the web for aftermarket parts and holsters.

If you’ve found a suitable and comfortable holster, you should definitely try the pistol at the ranges and see if it fits your style. Additionally, look for suitable sights, grips, and mag extensions while you’re at it.

Most handguns have a massive aftermarket window for their respective internal parts.

You can find lots of short or long triggers to customize them with. It’s very important that you make it as comfortable and convenient as you can.

Here’s a great little buyer’s guide on pistol red dot sights.

Conclusion

Though they’re small and built for a lighter concealed carry purpose, .380 pocket pistols should be taken seriously. They’re definitely not for beginners, and operation takes practice.

The most important thing to do is try out different ammo types, and you should try FMJs or hollow points to see which one suits your shooting style.

That being said, the Glock 42 is a .380 standard that can cycle anything, and it fits perfectly for most hands. The moderate recoil, impeccable operation and cycling, and the aftermarket abundance are factors that put it on the .380 ACP pistol pedestal.

You can also try the light-as-a-feather Ruger LCP II or the S&W EZ Shield if you’re having trouble racking the slide.

The California-compliant SIG Sauer P238 that I didn’t mention is also a great 1911-style .380 pistol with excellent durability and reliability that ticks like a Swiss timepiece.

Remember, just because a 9mm is more powerful, it doesn’t mean the .380 ACP isn’t a viable caliber for EDC.

Don’t let any misinformation influence your shooting preference, especially when self-defense is in question.

Stay safe, shoot straight.

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Brady

Hi there, I'm Brady and I'm the owner of GunMade.com. I have been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since I moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's my passion to share my knowledge and expertise to help you find the best guns in your price range.

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