August 2018

380 ACP Shootout: New Models Versus a Time-Tested Veteran

Tested: Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ, Springfield Armory 911 Bi-Tone, and a Walther Arms PPK/S. Outcome: Two models get Grade A ratings, and the third disappoints our team.

380 ACP Shootout: New Models Versus a Time-Tested Veteran

Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ 180023, $384, a nice-sized 380 ACP. The “EZ” refers to an easy cocking system which we found could make the pistol better for those with limited hand strength.

As our ammunition-selling retail sources tell us, 380 ACP pistols are increasingly popular, and because of that interest, new handguns for the chambering are being introduced at a steady pace. While we have serious reservations concerning the stopping potential of the 380 ACP round, there are some loads that are better than others, and we included these in the test program that follows. Regarding the handguns themselves, here we test three, two that are new variants by respected makers and a third that is a veteran name in the 380 ACP field, despite its being marketed for slim guys who often wear tuxedos.

The first of these handguns is the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ 180023, $384, an important step toward offering a handgun that is well suited to those with lowered hand strength and dexterity. The new Shield isn’t a micro-compact pistol but is instead a nice-sized 380 that is all about easy shooting. The “EZ” part of the name refers to an easy cocking system Smith & Wesson claims will make the pistol better for those with limited hand strength to fire and use. If it works as advertised, Smith & Wesson will have provided a handgun that fills a real need. In initial handling, we found the Shield is easier to use than a revolver and most double-action-first-shot pistols because the other types may stress the trigger finger of elderly or female shooters. Likewise, double-action-only or striker-fired safe-action pistols may also present a problem with trigger strength with some shooters. For perspective, we also touched upon the Colt 1903, which, surprisingly, has much in common with the Smith & Wesson Military & Police 380 EZ.

Next up is the Springfield Armory 911 Bi-Tone PG9109S, $516. The Springfield 911 (nine-one-one) is a small 380 ACP that is adorned from the factory with night sights and a set of custom-grade grips. The 911 name was chosen for those who may have to be their own first responder. If you get in a tussle, the thinking goes, police are minutes away if you call 9-1-1, while danger is only seconds away. So, carry the Springfield 911 and be ready at the ready. There are four different 911 models. The PG9109 has a black nitride slide and lists for $599 (see page 16). Two models come with Viridian Green Grip Lasers, the PG9109VG with a black nitride, $789; and the PG9109SVG with a brushed stainless-steel slide, also $789. Our test gun, the PG9109S, has a brushed stainless-steel slide and lists for $599.

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