January 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Rock Island Armory Baby Rock No. 51912 380 Auto

Comments (27)

I disagree but for the first time with evaluations from this source
The Sig is best
and no mention of top rated Springfield Armory's new contribution
LCR always a joke but not the Ruger name, tops in other departments like LCR357

Posted by: Islands7 | August 29, 2018 3:17 PM    Report this comment

Check out the new S&W shield EZ.

Posted by: Cliffdropover1 | August 29, 2018 6:37 AM    Report this comment

I carried a Walther PPKS as a backup gun and off duty gun for years. I then carried it as a CCW gun, eventually replacing it and giving it to my son, who carries it still. As a LEO I has to qualify with it just like my duty pistol, which I did at the Expert level every year, including from the 25 yard line.
The only problem I ever had was that I have very meaty hands and the slide sliced my hand open the first time I shot it. I honed the rear edges of the slide and that problem went away.
As for accuracy, reliability, and trigger pull, all were excellent. I carried a round in the chamber all the time using the DA/SA as it is designed. It should be on the list!

Posted by: GrandpaHalfdime | August 28, 2018 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I own a Walther PPK/S in 380 and I do not think it would be suitable as a carry pistol. The slide is a total bear to rack. Due to that, I have had misfeeds on the first round. I think the slide spring is stiff because it is a blowback piston. A locked breech pistol with a lighter spring might be the way to go.

Posted by: Uncle_vito | August 28, 2018 12:00 PM    Report this comment

No one ever mentions the SIG P238, an excellent 1911 style pistol in .380.
I believe it received an A or A- in a Gun Tests review.
Though they are not inexpensive they cost less than the Kimber and make a great pocket carry pistol.

Posted by: skot | August 28, 2018 11:29 AM    Report this comment

I generally carry a Glock 43 and also have an LCP for times when the 43 just won't do. However my favorite is my Glock 19 Gen 3 which I am able to carry about 10% of the time.

Posted by: Corpsman1 | August 28, 2018 10:07 AM    Report this comment

I have a FEG 380, and it shoots excellently,

Posted by: Python09 | August 28, 2018 9:56 AM    Report this comment

The Sig 938 (with Viridian green laser sight) was my daily pocket CCW for over two years without any complaints whatsoever until I made the mistake of letting my adult daughter with two teenagers take it to the range . . . which was the last time it saw the inside of my pocket ...ever ... again, as it quite suddenly became "her" daily CCW . . . Her street confidence and range results both improved most rapidly (i.e. - immediately) !!!

Posted by: TejanoViejo | August 28, 2018 9:51 AM    Report this comment

A few, brief comments:

As has been noted, the LCP II is much improved over the original version. Kimbers are great guns, but they are simply too finicky in terms of ammunition for me. I have owned several Sig P238s, and they would probably be my first choice had I not purchased a P938 for just a little more. My reason: 9 mm ammo is too cheap to pass up and more effective than .380.

And finally, my favorite carry gun is the .22 magnum Smith & Wesson 351PD revolver. Lighter in weigh than all but maybe one of your five choices, at least as many round capacity and more than most of your five, and just a great little shooter. To my way of thinking, if you feel comfortable with a less potent round than a 9 mm or a 38 special revolver, I personally feel just as comfortable carrying a .22 magnum revolver than I would a .380 semi-auto. It's also way less expensive.

Posted by: KeithWM | August 28, 2018 8:55 AM    Report this comment

I like the CZ83. I have one in 9 Makarov and I find it rugged, reliable, and pretty darned accurate.

Posted by: Whiskey Bill | August 28, 2018 8:35 AM    Report this comment

I have for years had the perfect pocket-carry -- Taurus PT 788 .380 with an extended mag. It offers complete concealment and easy access.

Posted by: WesTexan | August 28, 2018 8:33 AM    Report this comment

I agree with most of the selections in this article, and am vey partial to the Baby Rock, but was very surprised to not see listed, my personal choice for first place...the ageless and dependable Walther PPK. I Castries on as a backup weapon for 30+ years and have yet to find a weapon that is superior.

Posted by: Charles Lane | January 31, 2018 6:58 PM    Report this comment

I have a Browning Black Label with a 4.25" barrel. Flat and light, great for summer carry. It launches a 90 gr. Underwood at 1280 fps.

Posted by: jwash111 | January 11, 2018 8:23 AM    Report this comment

Meh . . . a very lackluster article based on what?

Posted by: blackgunsmatter | January 10, 2018 9:46 PM    Report this comment

I own the Kimber in 9mm and I really like it.. I also own the Sig 238 and have never had one, not one hiccup out of it. I LOVE that gun. It has night sights and I believe its still in production . I hope to buy the 938 once I'm convinced Sig has all the bugs out of it. It's about the same size as the P238 but in 9mm.

Posted by: Menace | January 10, 2018 2:35 PM    Report this comment

I usually AGREE with preferences from this site, as well as Hickok45 presentations. This one, however has me scratching my head ... perhaps the longer barrels = more tiny 380 "punch" was the factor that deviated these choices away from others that better fill the bill using this theme in the title? When shopping for gals, with them & at range, this criteria seems more foolproof when they are self protecting:
1. CT green laser (w/light optional), no other laser that stays on or is red (for night only)
2. Night sights
3. Will not fail to feed 90 Grain FTX - Hornady Critical Defense = best expansion + penetration ref. lucky gunner labs self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests #380ACP
4. Most friendly to handle & conceal was ...... SAUER P238 Night Sights, Tan finish
5. Best fit holster or purse & automobile carry - all must cover trigger

Posted by: Islands7 | January 10, 2018 7:00 AM    Report this comment

An often overlooked .380 is the FEG Mark II, deep blue black, steel, well made 380 that is smooth, doesn't need 'dehorning', great finish all around and shoots like a dream due to the ergonomics,thumb rest on the left grip and weight. Several 380ties are not a lot of fun to shoot. a Hungarian-made FEG Mark II AP semi-automatic pistol, double-action (DA/SA) pistol is patterned after the world famous Walther PP. It features a 3.9" barrel, and fixed sights. Like the Walther, the hammer is exposed, and there is a slide-mounted safety/decocker. Bottom line you won't find a better shooter and it is affordable, I like steel guns. Imported until 1998 but available on GB or Private Sales.

Posted by: CitizenJohn | January 9, 2018 6:43 PM    Report this comment

I have an original, made in Germany, Walther PPK purchased in 1966. I bought the piece when I was being readied to ship out from Fort Polk, LA. The ship out never happened but I have had the pistol ever since. It has always behaved 100%, but does not like cheap-ass ammo. I usually carried Hi-Vel ammo but it does bite a bit with that load. I later obtained a PPK in .22LR. That is sweet to shoot but less powerful than some prefer.

The Ruger LCPs has a REALLY nice trigger and is so affordable now it's hard to believe. I actually now carry a Glock 43 with a CT laser. Its a 9mm and not a lot larger than these .380s.

Posted by: GreyFox 73 | January 9, 2018 5:02 PM    Report this comment

The newer Ruger LCP II should be on this list also as well as the Beretta 380.

Posted by: cimarron68 | January 9, 2018 3:53 PM    Report this comment

The LCP II is much improved over the original LCP, and is very reasonably priced and widely available.

Posted by: gnw | January 9, 2018 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I have had two Sig P230's and never had a problem with either.

Posted by: nursesteve | January 9, 2018 2:03 PM    Report this comment

I have to agree that my Sig 232 stn stl w/ factory nite sights probably should be counted among the best. I bought one for myself and one for my daughter some years ago when the $$ cost was reasonable;
My post ( or should I say my vent) has to do with Gun Reviews: Some years ago I purchased a Bersa Thunder based on a "Glowing Review" that I read in a magazine that I trusted. This gun had been De-Horned and since My Sig 232 was ever increasing in value I wanted something less valuable for every day carry. This Bersa could not fire two rounds without stove piping or jamming. additionally it would only chamber ball ammo, any hollow points wouldn't even load in the Mag. I sent it back for factory repair twice with no change in performance. They finally told me that I must be limp wristing the gun. Keep in mind that I have never had any problem firing the other (5) hand guns that I have chambered for .380...I now carry the Ruger LCP .380 and have for the last two years with no problems. Bottom Line "lessons learned" : Like buying shoes..."Never buy it until you try it" Thanks

Posted by: Firebird | January 9, 2018 11:09 AM    Report this comment

At the range that a little pistol like these would be used I would think that the .380 that held fifteen or more rounds would be more important than the .380 that is accurate but only holds five rounds!

Posted by: skylinefirepest | January 9, 2018 10:48 AM    Report this comment

If you are left handed - substitute the Sig p238 for the Kimber Micro Carry - You can get Sigs with an ambi safety on some P238 configurations or buy the parts and do it yourself on the others. I own three and am very happy wit them.

Posted by: TominCA | January 9, 2018 10:10 AM    Report this comment

You forgot the Sig which scores high on any list.

Posted by: Cliffdropover1 | January 9, 2018 9:23 AM    Report this comment

Whatever happened to the Browning 380 semi auto and the Beretta 380 semi auto? Both quality made firearms with a proven and lengthy track record. Both are still available in both new and used condition. They are not cheap but you get what you pay for. The Browning is an older design from the 1910 version and it came in a target version to get around the 1968 Gun Law about imported small firearms. The Beretta both in the 1934 WW2 version as well as the new hicap version make superb pistols. Look them up. Also how about the Mauser HSC 380 semi auto made by both Mauser and the Italian version? Also WW2 versions are still out there

Posted by: Douglas DiToro | January 9, 2018 9:22 AM    Report this comment

I my not so humble opinion you missed two of the best:

The venerable Walther PPK or PPK/S the one that could easily be said is the one that started it all, that is still in production since 1929!

My personal favorite the SigP230/232. A little heavy in all stainless but there is an aluminum alloy frame model. A gorgeous rock solid performer.Every time I find one in reasonable condition I buy it. Not brought to this country since 2014 so there are occasional safe queens found.

Posted by: oldsetter | January 9, 2018 8:48 AM    Report this comment

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