The mystery of large .380 ACP pistols

The mystery of large .380 ACP pistols

This is a discussion on The mystery of large .380 ACP pistols within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; This one has me scratching my head a little. The .380 ACP round is generally more anaemic than 9mm or other mainstream rounds. People who ...

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Thread: The mystery of large .380 ACP pistols

  1. #1
    Ex Member Array DetChris's Avatar
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    The mystery of large .380 ACP pistols

    This one has me scratching my head a little. The .380 ACP round is generally more anaemic than 9mm or other mainstream rounds. People who choose .380 make a conscious decision to give up some stopping power in return for a more compact package. The Ruger LCP, Taurus TCP, Beretta Pico, S&W bodyguard .380 are all great examples of ultra concealable guns. They melt into any pocket and vanish when hid anywhere else.

    Then there's the Walter PPK and Bersa Thunder type guns. They're almost as big and sometimes heavier than sub compact 9mm pistols like the Glock 26, Ruger LC9 or Shield. They offer no real concealment advantage and at the same time penalize you on stopping power. With the diameter of the cartridge being the same as a 9mm, there's no capacity advantage either.

    So begs the question: why choose a Bersa Thunder, Walter PPK or similar "big .380's"? Or even a Makarov with it's less powerful (but slightly better than .380 ACP) 9x18 round?


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    A larger gun is easier to shoot but still concealable. Also, I know one lady that went with a .380 because it was much easier for her to rack the slide. I believe this is because most of these .380's are blowback designs.
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    Senior Member Array patri0t's Avatar
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    I think much of the .380 usage (9x17) is a carry-over from its 'European Standard' for so many years.

    Now, it is just a minimal caliber, that can be optimized with modern propellents & bullet technology.
    Also, the Taurus TCP .380acp is the only pistol my wife can handle due to its recoil and 4 lb trigger with her severe arthritis.
    However, with 7 rounds of Critical Defense ammo, it is going to leave an awful mess as she 'will' dump the mag at close range.

    At home, she keeps a 9mm with a wide, cushy, grip, nearby.
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    Don't let the small projectile fool you. The .380 ACP round has killed more people than Cecil B. Demille.
    What we've got here is failure to communicate.

  5. #5
    Distinguished Member Array onacoma's Avatar
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    If I remember the ballistic correctly, the 380 ACP out of a 3.5" + barrel gets close to the energy and velocity of a 38 +P out of a 4" barrel (at least in Winchester LE ammo). It was adopted in Europe by LE community as a defensive round. So while the 380 ACP has a disadvantage out of a 2" barrel, it is better than rocks as my back up! I do hate to carry a pocket of rocks and I can't hit anything with a slingshot!
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    Used to have a Beretta 85F. It was a sweet gun, looked sharp with the Beretta wood grips.

    But it was as big as most 9s. It turned into a 1911.

    They shoot nice, but if I'm going to carry a 380, it'll be a pocket gun. And my pockets are reserved for j frames.
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    In some nations around the world, civilians are not allowed to have 9mm, as it is considered "too powerful" or a "military" round. Thus, the .380 in a large frame.

    Some folks just like the lower felt recoil - hence the Ruger LC380, a lower recoil alternative to the otherwise similar LC9. And as mentioned, the recoil springs tend to be less stout, which can help those with weaker hand strength.
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    VIP Member Array Stevew's Avatar
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    If you are in the shot placement camp a large 380 might be the ticket.

    If you are looking for fast follow up shots a large 380 might be the gun for you.

    If you want low recoil a large 380 might fill the bill.

    If you need an easy racking slide check out one of the larger 380s.

    If there wasn't a viable market they would just fade away.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DetChris View Post
    This one has me scratching my head a little. The .380 ACP round is generally more anaemic than 9mm or other mainstream rounds. People who choose .380 make a conscious decision to give up some stopping power in return for a more compact package. The Ruger LCP, Taurus TCP, Beretta Pico, S&W bodyguard .380 are all great examples of ultra concealable guns. They melt into any pocket and vanish when hid anywhere else.

    Then there's the Walter PPK and Bersa Thunder type guns. They're almost as big and sometimes heavier than sub compact 9mm pistols like the Glock 26, Ruger LC9 or Shield. They offer no real concealment advantage and at the same time penalize you on stopping power. With the diameter of the cartridge being the same as a 9mm, there's no capacity advantage either.

    So begs the question: why choose a Bersa Thunder, Walter PPK or similar "big .380's"? Or even a Makarov with it's less powerful (but slightly better than .380 ACP) 9x18 round?


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    Most of us probably would consider the a PPK or a Bersa Thunder a small gun. Besides, the PPK and PPK/S are just cool, and there is certainly a place is this world for cool things...
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    Small guys and females shoot mid size framed .380s as well I as .22. IMO based on what I have seen.

    If you can handle the .380 well and the 9mm and up are problematic it's a nice choice. IMO caliber is secondary to ability to fire accurate 2 and 3 shots.


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    I bought my first handgun, a Sig P238 simply because it fit my hand, I could rack the slide easily and it's a joy to shoot. At my size any thing else is just too big. That saying I do have a S&W 357 revolver as a nightstand gun and a 20 gauge shotgun to go along with it.

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    I have and carry the Bersa thunder 380. It's a great gun. It's reliable. It's accurate. I carry it in a shoulder holster by Security Gunner. The gun conceals very well. I have no issue with the gun or the caliber. Keep in mind the caliber is over 100 years old. It must be doing something right. good luck
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    Senior Member Array NickBurkhardt's Avatar
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    Ruger LCP - too snappy
    Taurus TCP - some have FTF problems
    Beretta Pico - not released yet
    S&W bodyguard .380 - Damn laser keeps breaking

    I am currently pocket or IWB carrying a heavier Bersa Thunder 380CC which is smaller and lighter than the standard Thunder 380. It is my first CC gun and I do not recommend the blowback design as the recoil is harsher, thus negating the advantage of having a heavier pistol. Out of the box it had FTE problems, but I think the spring was too strong since it is more reliable now after the 200 round brake-in. Having 8+1 and a larger grip works for me until I can get ahold of a 9mm M&P Shield.

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    For many years, the .38 special and the .380 AP were the go to guns for self-defense. The .380 AP (9mm Browning or 9mm Kurtz), .38 special, the various 9mm, .38 super, .357 Sig, and .357 magnum all shoot basically the same bullet, just at different grains and muzzle velocities. They range from a 125 grain .38 special at under 800 fps to a 125 grain .357 magnum at 1700 fps. Some of the current .380 AP +P ammo has a decent amount of muzzle energy from a longer barreled pistol for someone who can't rack the slide on other larger caliber pistols. I prefer to go a silly millimeter larger to the 10mm.
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    I bought a Bersa 383A a long time ago. It is still my all time favorite pistol to shoot. It's my wife's favorite HG as well. It is the most out of the box accurate & reliable pistol I've ever owned or shot. (After years of use & thousands of rounds, it still performs flawlessly.)


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