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Photo Credit: Judah Torres

Is the .380 Pocket Pistol Dead?

Judah Torres explains why the .380 pocket pistol doesn’t stack up to modern 9mm handguns.

E

ver had a deal you can’t pass up? You know, the gun you don’t really need or want, but it’s such a good price, and it would be for a good cause, and who doesn’t want more guns, and… Yep, that deal. The good news for me is I’m extremely single (hey, at least my phone battery lasts longer when you’re this ugly), so when one of my friends needed some extra cash and asked if I wanted to buy his Taurus TCP from him, I couldn’t refuse. And boom! I was the owner of my first .380 pocket pistol.

The only downside, it was pink. Yep, the frame of my brand-new pistol was pink. Apparently it had been bought for my friend’s wife (suuuuure), and now I was the proud owner of a pink .380 pocket pistol. The shame.

I didn’t think this would be a big deal, as it would be nothing more than a backup gun to my trusty ol’ Glock 17, that I can somehow conceal carry fairly well. Until one day, at my favorite gun store, one of the counter guys asked me if I had gotten any new guns. Without thinking, and with an air of confidence ("Oh yeah?? I’m carrying TWO guns!"), I pulled out my pink pocket pistol….

….And everyone in the store started giving me awkward glances. So that day I decided I needed to Cerakote my new gun to be all tactical black, and took it apart. So now, my pink gun is black, and I feel much more tactical- which is all that matters, right?

Great story- why is the .380 pocket pistol dead?

So the little TCP, now a Tactically Cool Pistol, comes back from the shop. Super excited because I have another gun, I take it to the range, load up some Hornaday Critical Defense rounds, grip that baby pistol uncomfortably in my hands, present towards the target like a boss, and evenly press the trigger… and then it hit me. No, not the gun (although it almost did). The realization, "This gun sucks."

To be clear, it wasn’t the Taurus TCP that sucked. It was exactly like the Ruger LCP, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard, and the Glock 42. And by no fault of the gun itself. Uncomfortable, snappy, tough to be accurate with, and "not what I have come to expect from a conceal-carry pistol I would bet my life on" are all things that come to mind.

Let’s break that down:
  • Uncomfortable

– The abnormally small grip on a tiny .380 is tough to get a proper grip on. I had two fingers off of the gun when holding the gun, and my left thumb was pretty close to the muzzle. While some .380 pocket pistols are more comfortable than others, far too many of them rely on magazine pinky-extensions to meet the bare minimum requirements for grip. What do you do when you don’t have a mag with a pinky extension? I’m just going to say what everyone thinks: these guns suck to hold

  • Snappy

– The .380 is a weak round, generally speaking (commence internet hate brigades). But somehow out of every .380 pocket pistol, it feels like shooting a .357 magnum to my delicate wrists and velvety soft hands. I’d like to think I have decent recoil management, but the 90-grain hollow points seemed a little excessive… all for a round that many have deemed inadequate for an all-around self-defense round (keep reading, I have a link to sciency stuff coming up to prove my point).

  • Tough to be accurate with

– Modern science has told us that there is no such thing as "handgun stopping power." Ultimately, shot placement is key. To that end, a shooter should strive to be accurate and moderately fast under stress. But on the .380 pocket pistol, the ultra-short sight radius and less-than-optimal sights make a good sight picture fairly tough to acquire quickly. Additionally, most .380 pocket pistols have notoriously difficult triggers, and if our vision determines our speed and our trigger press determines our accuracy, the majority of .380 pocket pistols are just that much more difficult to shoot quickly and accurately. The Glock 42 performs a little bit better than other .380 pocket pistols in my opinion, with a factory Glock trigger and sights, but doesn’t match it’s far more capable big brother, the Glock 43.

  • "Not what I have come to expect from a conceal-carry pistol I would bet my life on"

– Today, in our ever-changing and shifting world, where responsible and well-trained concealed carry is becoming more and more critical, there is no shortage of excellent, and I really do mean excellent, conceal carry pistols. For people wanting more discreet carry, the M&P Shield and Glock 43 come to mind, and for people wanting more firepower in a still-concealable firearm, the Glock 19, Sig Sauer P320, and M&P 9c, among others, have all proven themselves as superb choices for concealed carry. Sadly, none of the .380 pocket pistols I have used have come close to this standard of excellence, for the reasons listed above. For an excellent dissertation on the .380 as a defensive round, check out this excellent article by Active Response Training: www.activeresponsetraining.net/-is-the-380-acp-an-adequate-caliber-for-defensive-use

– Capacity is another factor. Since handgun bullets only damage what they touch, having more rounds on hand to put into a threat is essentially more quarters to play the life-and-death game of a gunfight. More holes, more blood drained from the target (exsanguination- there’s your big word for the day), and more chances in a fight. And most of the .380 pocket pistols carry 6 rounds or so. That isn’t very many rounds of an already-weak caliber. Especially not when you can get 8 rounds of 9mm in an M&P Shield or Glock 43.

Pocket carry is slow and inconvenient at best, and downright dangerous at worst. And when the conceal carry pistol of your choice happens to be a snappy, uncomfortable, hard-to-be-accurate-with pistol firing what could be an inadequate round… I think it might be time to read the writing on the wall. With so many excellent choices for conceal carry available on the market these days. the current offerings of .380 pocket pistols simply don’t make the cut anymore. Modern holsters make carrying slightly larger and far more effective guns extremely comfortable, concealable, and accessible.

And so, in our ever changing world, I think that the .380 pocket pistol has finally been killed. The emergence of several exceptional slim 9mm handguns was the final nail in the coffin. The days of getting a .380 mousegun for pocket carry or for a member of the fairer sex to carry (because it’s cute and matches her nails) are over. The .380 pocket pistol is dead.

Honestly, I’m going to put that Taurus TCP in my safe, and there it will stay. Until maybe one day I decide I want to be reminded why I really, really dislike the .380 pocket pistol for a primary conceal carry gun, and then I might get it out to shoot.

And then I’ll probably write another article just like this one. Yep, the .380 pocket pistol is dead.

Photo Credit: Judah Torres

* The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Guns & Tactics Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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