June 2008

380 ACP Pistols: Ruger’s New LCP Wins Against PPK, Taurus

The Light Compact Pistol shone when compared to two other guns we didnít like much: The uncomfortable Walther USA PPK and the unreliable Taurus PT138BP-12 hot rod.

In our recent test of three small semi-automatic pistols chambered for 32 Auto, we learned that they could be fired quickly with little recoil. In this test we upped the power to 380 ACP and tried again with three more guns that were nearly identical to our 32s in size, action, and mechanical operation. In two of three cases, we repeated our tests with guns made by the same manufacturer. These were the $573 Walther USA PPK 380 and the $419 Taurus PT138BP-12. Our third 380 was the $330 Ruger LCP. This was a very close copy of the Kel-Tec P3AT last tested in our March 2004 issue, and which we test head to head with the LCP later in this issue to see just how similar they are.

The 380 ACP is also referred to as 9mm Kurz or 9mm Short. The length of a 380 Auto cartridge case is about 2mm shorter than the popular 9mm Parabellum case. Bullet diameter is the same. In fact, this same bullet diameter can be shared with more powerful ammunition such as 38 Super. By moving up to 380 ACP we hoped to gain an advantage over the 32 Auto pistols by delivering greater stopping power without significantly increasing recoil. The advantage of chambering ammunition with a short overall length kept these guns small and concealable.

We had been surprised how well our 32-caliber pistols performed in our accuracy tests, so we tested our 380s from the same distance of 15 yards. Test ammunition was MagTech 95-grain FMC, Federal Premium 90-grain Hydra-Shok JHP, and Hornady 90-grain JHP/XTP rounds. We also performed the same action tests with our 380s as we did with our thirty two caliber pistols. But this time we limited all strings of fire to six rounds, shooting each gun until empty. We didnít think emptying the 12-round magazine of the Taurus pistol was necessary. However, we wanted to make sure we experienced any change in handling or reliability as each gun ran dry.

The MagTech ammunition was used exclusively during the action tests. We fired at an IDPA-style target from a distance of 3 yards and the drill was completed three times. After recording total elapsed time, we subtracted the time it took to break the first shot to arrive at the split time (elapsed time between shots). We wanted to know how quickly each gun could be fired. We also checked accuracy on the cardboard targets to see how well we could group 18 shots in relation to the 8-inch circle embossed on the target, which served as our point of aim. In an effort to replicate a close-quarter situation, all shots were fired strong hand only. Aiming was achieved with a mix of sighted and point-shooting technique. Tests were performed outdoors at the Impact Zone (theimpactzonerange.com) in Monaville, Texas. Letís see how our three guns performed.

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