Home Defense in Mexico: you pick... .38 spl. or .380?

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Jun 1, 2004
Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Assume you need to select a handgun for home defense (not for range use, nor for carry use). You have two calibers to choose from: .38 spl. or .380 auto. (Well, if you *really* want to, you can choose .32 auto, .25, or even .22.)

What gun model(s) would you choose to defend your home with, in your choice of caliber, and why?

Some people (residents of Mexico, for example) are restricted to pistols of .38 cal and smaller (NOT including .357, nor 9mm!!!) and are allowed in-home only... so what handguns would you choose to defend your home in Mexico?

I think I'd pick a S&W Model 64 with 4" heavy barrel (.38 cal.) and perhaps the largest, highest capacity .380 available like the Beretta Cheeta (10+1), Bersa Thunder 380 (9+1), or SIG P232 (7+1). I'd also choose a Browning BuckMark .22 semi-auto and practice like heck to make rapid-fire eye-shots while on the move! :eek:

(Seriously, we've got it so good here in the USA when it come to being able to arm and defend ourselves!)
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I would go with a Model 64 or a Model 10, as long as I could pick the ammo. :)

If I was limited to RNL or FMJ I would select the "bottomfeeder" because no matter what, it will probably take a lot of rounds to stop an attack and I would want the capacity. Usually I favor the Revolver, but not in every case.

The 38 SPL, with Hollow Point rounds is far better than the .380 with Hollow Point rounds, IMHO. I would also want a second Revolver for a faster reload, which is what I do now. I'm an LEO and I carry a Revolver off duty and a second Revolver as a BUG/Reload. The real reason I carry a second revolver is so that I can have a gun accessable to either hand, but it also is my first reload.

The Model 10/64 is a great gun, IMO. I favor fixed sights on my "fighting guns" and the old K-Frame has served well in Police Holsters for years. I also favor the Revolver in this case, if you can load it with HP rounds, because it can be completely "at rest" lying loaded in a drawer until needed. No springs to worry about. Load it, place it in a drawer and take it out when you need to shoot it. My Mother had a gun, loaded, in her dresser drawer for over twenty years before it was shot.

Interesting post, you don't hear much about Mexican gun ownership, except for the Drug Cartels shooting each other and the Border Patrol up.

I would definitely choose a .38 revolver with a 4" or greater length barrel.

A longer barrel equals greater velocity and a longer sight radius, which should equal more power and better accuracy.
And a revolver is more reliable than an auto-loader.
.38 Super. I would pick a good 1911 platform (maybe the Rock Island?) and keep it cocked & locked.

There's a very good reason why it's so popular south of the border. It's got near .357 magnum performance...and out of an autoloader to boot! And, it's legal!!!

S&W Model 10 4".

Cheap, reliable, simple to operate and in the most effective caliber allowed to you, .38 Special. Stick with the most powerful 158gr. bullet weight loads you can find. They'll shoot at or close to point of aim, and they have good penetration, which is what you want.
IANAl or a expert in Mexican firearms law but from internet reading the .38 super in a 1911 is indeed legal in Mexico and would be My #1 choice
the .38 super or even a berretta 84 I think- the 14 shot .380 although any smith 6 shot 38 would work in a pinch...
Smith Model 10 with 158 LSWCHP +P, backed up with whatever else I could bribe for a permit for, andfind ammo at the army store. If I had to live en mehico, I would also be trying to find every legal way to emigrate to America!
Glock 25. Does mexico have magazine capacity limitations? If not, then throw in a 15 round mag with that Glock 25.
As for having a shotgun... yes, OF COURSE! But Mexican law, IIRC, disallows barrels shorter than 23", so my favorite Mossberg 500 Persuader (18.5" barrel) would be too short.

I would be surprised if Mexico currently allows 1911's in .38 Super, but that would be my choice if they did allow.

If I lived there, it would be as an expatriot (would not give up my American citizenship). Not sure how Mexican gun laws apply to expats. Anyone here know?
Eish. Difficult. 6 shots 38 special (which is the superior round) vs 12-ish shots 380 ACP (I'm reading this as your government restricts caliber but not capacity?). I really think the 38 hits harder, but I'd get a CZ83. Total firepower is higher.

You'll find that in Mexico even in justified self defense cases, you'll have a hard time proving your innocence and it's very likely you'll spend time in jail until things are sorted out, so avoid shooting or killing anyone. The authorities are corrupt and seldom have the decent citizen's best interest in mind. Thug's are allowed to cruise the streets with loaded AK's, while the average citizen has no legal way to defend himself against a kidnapper (in many cases the police themselves) in broad day light.

The best self defense in Mexico is not necessarily a gun but a more comprehensive approach to personal safety that you have to apply 24/7. It's a constant mental state of awareness. Don't talk to anyone about your finances, don't give your number or address to telemarketers, pretty much try to be as invisible as possible. It's a mental state that you'll develop after a few weeks in Mexico (big cities like Mexico, Guadalajara, Monterrey). Your house needs to have bars on windows, even second story windows. If you can live in a gated community it's better. Always drive with your doors and windows locked. Cabs are a great risk as they often cooperate with kidnappers, so only use reputable Cab companies, preferably like the ones servicing 4 and 5 star hotels. At night don't wait for the red light to turn green on desolate streets. If a cop pulls you over, especially at night, drive to a lighted, public place before stopping. Bribe the cop if possible. If a cop ever asks you to get in his car on account of a traffic violation, do not comply. Cops are not your friend like in the US. It's likely that you may get mugged with a knife or maybe a gun. Don't be a hero. Always carry a few hundreds pesos with you ($20 - $30 USD) and just throw them on the floor and run. Most robbers are dirt poor and they rather pickup the cash than chase after you.

I believe there are some loopholes for the .38 Super, but I'm almost sure that the .45 is for military use exclusively. If you want to get more information on Mexico gun laws and permits, go to www.mexicoarmado.com. It's a forum very similar to this one but in Spanish.

Good luck as an expat. Mexico is beatiful, despite it's violene, and I think you'll enjoy the experience very much but you have to be careful. If you have kids and wife start getting them in the mind frame that in a big city in Mexico you have to be vigilant all the time.
(Seriously, we've got it so good here in the USA when it come to being able to arm and defend ourselves!)

Unless you are a Mexican drug dealer of course. If you are an American with a round of 9mm ammo in your trunk, well, I hope you brought a hell of a lot of bribe money.

I was curious about the expat thing too. If I wanted to live in Mexico, can you have a .38 special or .380 auto? Does anyone know?
4" K-frame .38spl, CZ83 or Beretta M84. I'm a big fan of the 4" .38 and would try my hardest to find a good one, but if I could not I'd go for the CZ83 or Beretta84 ( try to snag up several speed loaders or spare mags & as much ammo as legal, one never knows the future) also due to more rounds between reloads and less manipulation of weapon while reloading under duress, when, as many of you know, simple acts become difficult.
I keep myself from being robbed or otherwise harmed or threatened in Mexico by staying on this side of the border. So do a lot of people around here, these days. I used to enjoy going down there to surf, but the more I know, the less I want to go.

There's good hunting down there, but it's a real PITA to go and do it, any more. I believe you now must go with a guide, too, whether or not you want to.

Getting a gun into and out of Mexico requires a fee of a few hundred bucks, paperwork, etc., and even if you do everything, and do it perfectly, you can expect to be extorted by someone who claims your paperwork isn't in order. It's safest to have connections high up in the food chain, so you can metaphorically bludgeon your would-be extorter with them. Otherwise, you may lose your gun and be happy that's all you lost.

You are only allowed to bring a limited amount of ammo (50 rounds, I believe, which is of course a joke if you're going dove/duck/quail/pheasant hunting for a week). Ammo in Mexico is expensive and can be a PITA to find. Some enterprising hunters reload down there, but I'm not sure whether bringing a bunch of gunpowder is really kosher, either, if you get caught.

And don't forget to clean our your car before you do. A spent .22LR case under the floor mat is enough to land you in jail.

The place might be next door to the US, but it's a world away. Expect the worst B-movie stereotype of a 3rd-world Latin American kleptocracy, and at best you might be pleasantly surprised that it's only half that bad. Most likely, though, this expectation will keep you safer and prevent extreme disappointment.

Good luck. You'll need it.
I'd go with .38 super in a M1911 configuration, they are very popular in Mexico for SD and security purposes.

Then again, my first choice would be a shotgun.

Thanks for posting the link to Mexicoarmada it's a useful resource.

+1 on the link to Mexicoarmado.

Surfing on that forum, there are several active threads about the advantages and disadvantages of registering your handgun (you can only have one at a time--legally). The biggest risk that most posters see to failing to register or of having a military-calibre handgun is that if caught, you might have to pay a fine or spend up to 36 hours in jail. Some posters grouse that having a registered handgun makes it impossible for you to buy another legal firearm.

On the other hand, if you register your gun and fail to properly record a subsequent transfer (in case of a sale) or theft, posters write that the government will then hold you responsible for the crimes committed with that firearm.

During my time in Mexico as an expat, I remember seeing a news story about a retired military officer in our small town who used an unregistered military-calibre handgun to shoot an intruder in his home. He was in do-do for failing to register a handgun, and for using a gun in a calibre that is reserved for military use. Although never reported, I'm sure that the incident was ruled to have occurred in self-defense (for $200-500 reasons), and that he paid his administrative fines and went home shortly thereafter.

Two additional notes about Mexico: 1) In my experience, the further south and further outside of big cities you get, the more civilized and charming Mexico becomes, and 2) Mexico's constitution guarantees the right to keep arms, like ours. Just like in the US, that guarantee is worthless without a citizenry that is willing to fight to maintain their natural rights.

Getting back on topic, posters on Mexicoarmado prefer .357 SIG hands down for home defense! For a time, handguns in .357 SIG were legal to register to civilians. It may be tougher (but not impossible) now.
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