The 5 Best 380 ACP Pistols

Gun Tests readers ask all the time "What gun should I buy?" We answer that question in every issue of the magazine, but many concealed carry shooters want more specific advice, and many CCW shooters have asked me about 380 Auto recently. So here are my "Top 5 380 Auto Pistols" based on previous tests in the magazine, plus my own personal experience with these models.


What many concealed carry consumers do is use Gun Tests grades and write-ups to identify problems and things to look for when purchasing a firearm. But the final decision has to be made by the buyer, because a gun should fit the shooter like a pair of well-worn shoes. That requires very personal decision-making for the CCW licensee. With that said, here are five handguns I believe stand out above the others if you’re looking for a handgun with modest recoil.

Top 5 380 ACP Pistols

No. 5: CZ Model 83 380 Auto

You’ll have to find this one used, because it was discontinued in 2012. This 380 caliber test gun was slightly used, had modest bluing wear on the sides of the slide near the muzzle, and a few other signs of light wear. The all-steel frame gave this gun somewhat more weight than most 380s, a factor for concealed carry concerns. We got accuracy groups on the order of 2.5 to 3 inches at 15 yards. We were impressed by the intricacy of this design. It wasn’t beautifully finished inside, but the work was well done and extremely sturdy looking. There were no problems at all with the gun. It fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. Again, we had fun shooting it fast, so if you buy one of these, be sure to stock up on ammo because we think CCW shooters will like shooting it, too.

CZ Model 83 380 Auto

No. 4: Glock 42 380 Auto Subcompact Slimline

The function of the firearms in this test were as portable, concealed carry self-defense guns, and their sights weren’t made to win matches. How much aiming does a concealed-carrier with a 380 caliber handgun have to do with a bad guy 15 feet away? Lasers made us able to shoot them on par with much bigger guns. When we added a Viridian Green Laser R5-G42 Reactor to the G42, it unquestionably helped our shooters’ accuracy. This laser model automatically ignites instantly when drawn from a supplied leather and polymer holster. Additional holster options are available from many holster manufacturers.

Glock 42 380 Auto Subcompact Slimline

No. 3: Kimber Micro Carry Advocate Brown 380 Auto

The Kimber, tested in September 2015, featured three-dot sights with tritium inserts, a big advantage on a 380 caliber concealed carry pistol. The Kimber uses the internal extractor common to other 1911 handguns. However, the Kimber does not use a grip safety. In this design, with a pistol bordering on tiny, a grip safety would have been difficult to incorporate into the design. The frame of the Kimber extended in a generous beavertail tang that aided in comfortable firing. The pistol disassembled much the same as any other 1911, except that the pistol featured a metal one-piece guide rod and wound recoil spring. The Kimber also uses the angled camming surfaces of the Browning type instead of the 1911 swinging link. When the pistol is disassembled, there is a loaded spring under the slide stop to maintain pressure on the stop. Reassembly isn’t difficult, but attention must be paid to the small wire ejector, which must be depressed. The Advocate showed superior fit and finish, had tritium sights, and a spare magazine. It would have earned an A grade except for its too-heavy trigger.

Kimber Micro Carry Advocate Brown 380 Auto

No. 2: Ruger LCP-C Custom No. 3740 380 Auto

In the October 2016 issue, “380 ACP Shoot Out: Ruger LCP Takes On Remington, Rock Island,” we noted we have tested several iterations of the LCP 380 in the past. In the June 2008 issue, the inaugural version of the 380 caliber graded an A-. In the July 2013 issue, the #3701 model ranked a B+, the same grade as a Ruger LCP-LM No. 3718 with laser earned five months earlier. Then in the January 2014 issue, we tested a laser-equipped LCP-CT, fitted with a Crimson Trace red laser. It earned an A- grade. In the Custom version recommended here, the sights and trigger action are the primary improvements concealed carry consumers will want that earn it a slightly higher grade than previous versions.

Ruger LCP-C Custom No. 3740 380 Auto

No. 1: Rock Island Armory Baby Rock No. 51912 380 Auto

Tested in the August 2016 issue, this got a Grade A ranking from our testers. It is not a pocket pistol by any means, but in benchrest accuracy testing, the Rock shot a best group of 2.0 inches effort with the blistering hot Black Hills Ammunition 60-grain Xtreme Defense at 1250 fps. The Baby Rock is by far the most comfortable pistol in this list to fire from a bench. The 380 caliber Baby Rock is a true miniature 1911. The pistol features a plunger tube on the frame and also uses a grip safety, something the other small 1911 handguns do not. The slide is machined from steel. The extractor is an external type. The ejection port is generous. There are two sets of cocking serrations front and rear. The forward set is smaller but effective. The sights are excellent for a small pistol suitable for concealed carry.

Rock Island Armory Baby Rock No. 51912 380 Auto

Gun Tests Reader 380 ACP Favorites

Colt Mustang Pocketlite

The Colt Mustang Pocketlite .380 Auto was available in blued or stainless finish while it was made. The all-steel Mustang was available in three finishes: blued, stainless, and nickel. The Pocketlite was introduced in 1987, and its all-steel brother a year later. Colt’s made the guns for a little over ten years. They were discontinued when the Colt company decided to concentrate on military contracts a few years ago.

Because of their usefulness as being among the smallest pocket-carry weapons in a meaningful caliber, both types of Mustang remain very popular. Prices for good samples of the Colt Mustang and Mustang Pocketlite may be expected to continue to escalate, and these Colts ought to be good collectibles in the long haul, in our opinion.

colt mustang pocketlite

More Colt Mustang coverage here:

A Quartet of Pocket Pistols from SIG Sauer, Glock, Kahr, and Colt
Pocket Pistol Pair-Off: We Test A Set of .380 Surplus Handguns
Colt Mustang Pocketlite 380 Auto
Colt Mustang XSP Pocketlite Polymer O6790 380 ACP

Walther PPK/S

The PPK/S is a double-action-first-shot pistol. A long press of the trigger both cocks and drops the hammer. The slide then cocks the hammer for subsequent single-action shots. A slide-mounted decocker safely lowers the hammer from the cocked position. This lever also acts as a safety. When manipulating the safety, it wasn’t difficult to reach the lever to move it to the Safe position, and it wasn’t difficult to use the decocker to lower the hammer. The grips gave adequate purchase. Earlier PPK pistols had a reputation for the slide cutting into the palm of the hand. We did not experience this. The double-action first shot of the pistol was heavy at 16 pounds, normal for the Walther PPK series. The single-action press was crisp enough at 6 pounds. The sights are smaller than the other pistols, which is a drawback. Walther lists an XS replacement sight set on its website, which would likely improve this pistol’s overall grade a full notch if installed.


walther ppk/s


More Walther PPK/S coverage here:

Walther Announces Relaunch of the Classic PPK and PPK/S Pistols
380 ACP Pistols: Ruger’s New LCP Wins Against PPK, Taurus
Revisiting the Walther PPK
A Trio of Pocket .380 ACPs: Steer Clear of NAA’s Guardian
.380 Autoloaders: FireStorm Beats Walther PPK, Hi-Point CF
Walther PPK .380 ACP


  1. How do I access the list of a particular type and caliber you have tested over the years, e.g., .380 micro pistols, and then go to those reviews?

  2. I’m interested in a new or used 380 caliber or 9 mm to purchase in the next week. I want it to fit small female hand and small enough to be able to be in noticed in front pocket of pants & need it to hold at least 5 bullets in clip, preferably 6 to 10 bullets. Let me know what you recommend and where to go to purchase it for the best lowest price, as I’m just on SSDI.

    Thank You,

    TJ Lott

  3. A bit lighter than the CZ83, but higher mag capacity, I would favor the Beretta 84 or the Browning BDA 380. Like the CZ, not “pocket” pistols, but accurate, very reliable, 13 +1 capacity.

  4. Astra A60 should be in that list. It is a Double Stack PPK/S AND FUNCTIONS BETTER THAN A WALTHER( NO JAMS) AND IS 13+1 MADE IF GERMAN KRUPP STEEL AND COMES FROM THE FACTORY WITH BUILT IN HOGUE STYLE GRIPS. This gun was in production from about 1990 – 95 when Astra after 100 years of production went out of business. Good thing is you can pick a good one up for about $300- $350 bad thing is ,although very durable , parts are scarce. I have two only a few serial numbers apart. Adjustable fixed sights. Very accurate Gun. Most authors are not Familiar with them. I would prefer the ASTRA A60 OVER MOST 38Os.

  5. The Astra A 60 is the updated version of the Astra Constible which was a 7round PPK/ S clone. Which ASTRA made for many years in 22/32 and 380 caliber

  6. Does anybody know of a holster that is a good fit for the Astra A60 3.5 inch barrel? I am struggling to find one shopping online. Thanks.

  7. I know this is an older article, but I have been carrying a Browning 1911-380 for YEARS. It is my Concealed carry weapon, there are 2 models, I actually have both, but carry the 3.625″ model concealed. It is REALLY accurate and at 45 feet, I have a 2″ shot group easily. Doesn’t jam, eats whatever I feed it.

  8. I have a Sig 230, it never jams or miss fires. My only complaint is I wish I had bought the stainless version as I sweat a lot in the summer and it will rust if not cleaned after use. Also has the europe style mag release on the bottom of the grip. I guess that is why it was never really popular.

  9. didn’t they make a Makarov in 380 at one time. I have the 9mm makarov and it is a very fine pistol.
    Very small “G.I. type sights” but still very accurate even with old eyes.

  10. S&W 380 EZ the softest shooting of my 380 collections: Beretta 84, LCP Max, Bersa Thunder, Browning 1911 380, The Beretta is my favorite and the new Cheetah 80X would be the best of all, but too pricey.

  11. Personally for a 380 I like the Bersa thunder Plus. 15 plus 1 round capacity, easy too shoot, i don’t understand why it does not get more likes

    • I bought one for my wife. About every 5th shot, the empty cartridge would spin around and the next live shell would jam in to the spent shell. Sent it out to Bersa, they sent it back and said that they didn’t find anything with it, The second time shooting it after getting it back, the spent shell turned and lodged the new cartridge again. Sold it the next week.

  12. I bought a Colt Series 80 Mustang back around 1987-88. I still have it to this day. I haven’t shot or carried it for years, but now that there’s a better selection of personal defense ammo out there, I may get it out of the safe and work with it some. I recently had purchased the Girsan clone of a Beretta 84 with tip up barrel. Nice and solid gun to shoot!


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