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Who makes a good, little .380?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by viking499, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. viking499

    viking499 Well-Known Member

    Trying to find something small and compact for the wife to shoot and possible carry. Looking into the 380's since her arthritis and my 642 didn't mesh.

    Never had a 380 before. Anything I need to know or be aware of?

  2. Hometeached1

    Hometeached1 Well-Known Member

    SIG P232? It's about as long as a j-frame nice and thin, good sights and you can change the grips. Can be about $500 or so. They have very nice triggers too. Have heard good thing about Bersa thunders. As far as things to look out for can't help to much, just let your wife try a lot of different ones.
  3. Shipwreck

    Shipwreck Well-Known Member

    Be aware that many 380s are blowback in their design - which means the felt recoil can be as much as a locked breech 9mm, or even more. Plus, the blowback designs tend to have a recoil spring that makes them hard to work the slide (an issue for a woman)
  4. wgp

    wgp Well-Known Member

    From reading posts it seems the Beretta 84 or 85 (I think I'm right about model numbers here) are considered extremely high quality .380s but a bit scarce due to cost. I have an 84 and it is a fine gun, I'm just not thrilled by the caliber. It looks just like a scaled-down 92 and fits my hand perfectly.
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Just be forewarned.
    The really small .380's like the Kel-Tec P3AT and Ruger LCP are a real handful.
    Like a two finger grip, hard recoil, and hard to rack slides for loading and unloading.

    Even the larger blow-back guns like the Walther PPK and SIG P-232 are hard for some people to rack the slide.

    Ruger has just came out with a slightly larger locked-breech .380, and it is supposed to address some of those issues.


    But I haven't handled one yet.

    At any rate, I would judge most all of them to be harder to operate & shoot then a J-Frame S&W with light .38 Spl loads.

  6. guyfromohio

    guyfromohio Well-Known Member

    I can be a gun snob. I admit it. I have Walther PPKs, beretta 84s (fantastic gun), Sigs, and the list of once-hads goes on and on. I actually really like .380s. That bring said, my wife's little S&W Bodyguard is one of the best shooting, smoothest, most accurate .380s I've had the pleasure of shooting. Check one out and see if it works.
  7. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Well-Known Member

    The best .32acp self-defense pistol that I've seen that can be used by folks that can't rack larger guns is the Le Francais (which has been out of production since the '50's). It's DAO, striker-fired, the barrel flips up for loading, and the slide never gets pulled back. A simple and sturdy pistol. It's a pity that no one has made an updated version in .380.
  8. Vodoun da Vinci

    Vodoun da Vinci Well-Known Member

    I'm a .32 aficionado who has had his go with a number of .380's over the years. I'd second the suggestion of the S&W Bodyguard as a modern .380 pistol for SD. I like the Sig P238 as well.

    I like the Walthers and the Berettas as well but recoil springs and the amount of recoil for the amount of performance is pushing the limit....my wife has the same issues and has fallen in love with our Beretta Px4 sub compact in 9mm as it is easier on her hands and the recoil is not much different than a typical .380 pistol.

    If you can find a Colt 1903 Model M in .380 that would be a good choice as well but they are getting spendy and rare.

  9. viking499

    viking499 Well-Known Member

    Would a small 9mm be better than a .380?
  10. Hokkmike

    Hokkmike Well-Known Member

    Just picked up a S&W .380 BG after my own research was concluded. Also liked the Ruger LCP.

    I preferred the S&W primarily because it incorporates a manual safety which is not found on any other pocket .380.

    Some people would say that a manual safety is either redundant and/or unnecessary. Not so for something that goes in my pocket.

    Have not given it a thorough range test yet.
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    Nothing truly small is going to be easy to operate.

    And a small 9mm will kick harder then a small .380.

  12. C0untZer0

    C0untZer0 Well-Known Member

    Glock will be coming out with a little something or other soon...:D
  13. decoy562

    decoy562 Well-Known Member

    I like my little LCP but not sure if your wife would like it. The Sig P238 has an easy slide to rack.
  14. rskent

    rskent Well-Known Member

    The Sig 238 is about the sweetest little 380 I have ever shot.
  15. JERRY

    JERRY Well-Known Member

    BTW, small 380s and arthritis don't go well together. if it must be a small gun id recommend the .32acp instead. if the size of the gun isn't as restricted, the .380 will work if its a locked breach design. stay away from blowbacks....
  16. 2wheels

    2wheels Well-Known Member

    Sig P238 or Colt Mustang, very little recoil compared to most other pocket .380s.
  17. VA27

    VA27 Well-Known Member

    Didn't mesh how, recoil or trigger pull?

    If it's recoil, either load the current gun with factory 148gr wadcutters or go with an all steel J-frame and that load.

    If it's trigger pull (hand strength) there's going to be a problem manipulating the slide on a semiauto without knowing a trick or two, and a lot of DA 380's have J-frame-like trigger pulls to boot.

    Beretta made a DA 380 with the pop-up barrel like the Jetfire (I don't recall the model number) and a nice pull that might work, but it's about PPK/SIG 230 sized. If the size (and price) isn't a problem this would be my first choice.

    Another alternative would be a single action like the Colt Mustang or SIG P238. The trigger pull would be easier, though there is still the problem with slide manipulation.

    The same goes for the Kahr P/CM 380. Nice trigger, but tough slide and the need for a firm grip to ensure reliable functioning could be a problem.

    If it's small you want, the Magnum Research Micro Desert Eagle is smaller than everything but the Seecamp, it's all metal (if that matters to you) and the gas-retarded blow back action means the slide will be a little easier to work, but again the trigger is J-frame like.

    Good luck with your Quest.
  18. snooperman

    snooperman Well-Known Member

    You are fortunate because we are in the age of the .380 "carry" gun , because of the conceal carry laws that have swept the country. Any one of the locked breech guns will do fine for your wife: Ruger LCP, Taurus TCP, S&W has one, SIG P238, Walther PK380[ not PPK], and others I probably can not think of. Which ever you choose , get a grip sleeve from Hogue or Pachmayr to put on it, as it will enhance the grip and make it much more comfortable for her to shoot. Best of luck in your search and be sure to let your wife have a say in the gun she is to carry.
  19. snooperman

    snooperman Well-Known Member

    By the way, My wife also has Arthritis and she picked the SIG P238, which is very easy to rack and easy to shoot as well. It has a higher price tag but worth the extra money.
  20. Vodoun da Vinci

    Vodoun da Vinci Well-Known Member

    My wife and I feel that our Beretta Px4 subcompact 9mm shoots "about the same" as a Walther PPK/s in .380 with 115 gr. Fiocchi hardball. The Beretta is also heavier and quite a bit larger.

    The only reason I mention it is that my Wife's favorite pistol was her Colt Officers ACP in .45 but now that she is older and arthritic to some degree and a cancer survivor she has less hand strength and tolerance to recoil. Stiff slides, hard to actuate mag releases, slide releases, and stiff magazine springs almost ruined shooting for her.

    We have shot an awful lot of pistols this summer...pretty much everything out there in fact either as a purchase, a rental, or a Gun Buddys gun. In general we have found that automatics are much more difficult for her to deal with and her main squeeze seems to be her (it was mine...) Beretta Px4 sc in 9mm. She can manipulate the slide and load the mags using the tool and the recoil is virtually the same as the blowback .380s we tried. She is also partial to her new Ruger LCR .38 Special but factory loads have too much recoil with it.

    So, I am building hand loads and that helped a lot.

    A hot .380 for SD in a tiny blow back operated pistol bucks as much as a heavier 9mm with 115 gr. ammunition in some pistols. You might look at some .32 acp guns as well unless you subscribe to the idea that .32 is simply too small to be used for SD. My Wife's bedside gun and pocket gun is her Colt 1903 model M in 32 ACP with handloads or Buffalo Bore 75 gr. hardcast lead.

    In very small pistols I doubt the .380 outperforms the .32 but let's not start that argument again. My input is based on the similarity of my Wifes situation to your dilemma and I'd open the field to more choices than just .380 for a good solution. There is nothing wrong with a .380 caliber pistol. She'll need to shoot anything anyone might suggest to see if it works for her. My Wife did not think a 9mm would be feasible for her but now when she is frustrated or challenged at the range she reaches for the 9mm as this has turned out to be her Soul Mate despite skepticism that the recoil would be too snappy.

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013

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