The Firearms Manifesto Part Three- A Comparison of .380acp Pocket Pistols

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Articles, Firearm Reviews

  • SumoMe

Written by Greg Ellifritz


I wrote the article below in May of 2012, shortly after starting this blog.  It has been the single most-read article on my site and continues to get approximately 5000 pageviews a month three years after I published it.  You guys like your .380s!  Technology has changed significantly in the last few years.  I updated the article to add a new gun and change some of the rankings based on seeing countless additional .380 auto pistols come through my courses.  Enjoy the new information.





Now that almost every state allows its citizens to legally carry a concealed handgun, there has been an explosion of interest in .380 acp pocket pistols.  Many people who are new to carrying guns haven’t yet made the transition to “dressing around the gun”.  They want to wear the same style clothes that they have always worn.  Sometimes that isn’t amenable to carrying a larger pistol.


These  folks sacrifice by carrying a smaller pistol that is both lighter and easier to conceal.  The micro .380 automatics fit the bill.


They aren’t perfect.  None of them are exceptionally easy to shoot. They don’t have great stopping power.  Most are not nearly as reliable as their average full size counterparts.  But some people refuse to carry a full sized gun.  That’s OK.  It’s your life and your choice.  I’d rather have you packing a small .380 than nothing at all.  If you want some more information about the ballistics and stopping power of the cartridge, check out mt article Is the .380 auto an adequate caliber for defensive use?


The problem starts when you begin to decide WHICH .380 is best for you.  Unfortunately, most people who carry these weapons don’t shoot them a lot.  They don’t compare the various models by shooting them on the range before making a purchase decision.   They are forced to rely on sleazy gun salesmen and paid-off gun writers for information.  That’s not acceptable. If you are going to carry a sub-optimal pistol, you should at least do your homework and choose the best of the bunch!


I’ve owned, carried, and shot the majority of the available .380 autos.  I see others in the hands of the police officers I train.  On top of that, teaching classes at TDI exposes me to seeing even more of these pistols.  I’ve developed some pretty strong opinions about which work the best over the long term and which have problems.  I haven’t shot everything.  there’s always something new coming out.  The list I’ve created below are guns with which I have had extensive experience.  There may be other good ones that I just don’t feel confident enough to recommend.


Don’t trust my information.  Do your homework and try these things out for yourself!


I’m going to list these guns from best to worst.  Worst on my list doesn’t really mean worst overall.  There are lots of guns that I would never even consider carrying that are considerably less reliable than even the worst gun on my list.  And don’t write to complain about how I slammed your CCW pistol.  Don’t tell me about how your gun is the exception.  I’m sure it is.  In your mind.  I’m basing my experience on seeing dozens of examples of each of these guns.  I bet if anyone actually shoots their guns extensively, they’ll come to the same conclusions as I did.  Here is my ranking of the best .380 pistols:




First Choice- Glock 42

index       Specifications from Glock’s website:

Caliber: .380 ACP

Capacity: 6 +1

 Barrel Length: 3.25 ”

Overall Length: 5.94″

Height: 4.13″

                                                                                          Slide Width: .94″

                                                                                         Weight (unloaded): 13.76 ounces


The Glock 42 is the only new addition to the list, having not been released when I first wrote the article.  I now own two Glock 42s and I love them.  The older one has more than 600 rounds through it with no malfunctions.  The Glock is the gentlest recoiling of all the .380 pistols on the list and is amazingly accurate.  Its primary downside is the fact that it is one of the larger .380s.  I can’t carry mine in a back pocket like I can my Kahr or Ruger.  It’s just too big.  This one conceals just fine in a cargo pocket or in an ankle holster.  When I grab a .380 out of my gun safe, I find myself choosing this one more frequently than any of the others I own.



Second Choice- Kahr P-380

Specifications from Kahr’s website:

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 2.53″, Premium Lothar Walther Match Grade Barrel
Length O/A: 4.9″
Height: 3.9″
Slide Width: .75″
Weight: Pistol 9.97 ounces (w/o magazine)
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Magazines: 2 – 6 rd, Stainless


While not the absolute smallest of the .380 micro pistols, this one gets my vote for it’s combination of best reliability, adequate sights, and one of the better triggers.  If I was forced to carry only a .380 pocket pistol, this would be a top choice.  It’s accurate, reliable, and easy to shoot.


The downsides are cost (more than twice the price of its competitors) and the fact that the slide is fairly difficult for many people to rack due to the stiff recoil spring.



Third Choice- Ruger LCP


                Specifications from Ruger’s website:

 Caliber: .380 Auto
Capacity: 6+1
Length: 5.16″
Width: 0.82″
Height: 3.60″
Barrel Material: Alloy Steel
Barrel Finish Blued
Slide Material Alloy Steel
Slide Finish Blued
Grip Frame Black, High Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon



This one could arguably be placed higher.  I own one and carry it quite a bit.  I’ve never had a single malfunction with it.  Some others I’ve seen have performed horribly.  The quality control seems somewhat spotty.  Some guns work great.  Other guns barely work at all.


This is one of the smaller feeling guns available, which may be good or bad depending on your needs.  It is inexpensive, reasonably reliable and easy to carry.  The downsides are the stout recoil as compared to other .380s and the virtually non-existent sights.  The newer version with the larger sights and the skeletonized aluminum trigger fixes many of the faults inherent in the stock gun.  If given the option, I would go with the newer version.  This is quite possibly the best “fits in a back pocket” .380 auto currently available.



Fourth Choice- Smith and Wesson Bodyguard

Specifications from Smith and Wesson’s website:

            • Caliber: .380 Auto
            • Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
            • Barrel Length: 2.75″ / 7.0 cm
            • Frame Size: Compact
            • Action: Double Action Only (Hammer Fired)
            • Front Sight: Stainless Steel
            • Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable
            • Grip: Polymer
            • Overall Length: 5.25″ / 13.3 cm
            • Weight: 11.85 oz / 335.9 g
            • Frame Material: Polymer
            • Material: Stainless Steel w/Melonite® Finish
            • Finish: Matte Black


The Bodyguard is one of the more reliable .380 autos, but I don’t think it is nearly as shootable as the Kahr.  It is very flat and small.  It also has a manual safety that some find desirable.  It comes standard with a laser sight.


Negatives for the Bodyguard are the horrible trigger (probably the worst of all the micro .380s) and the fact that the slide will “bite” meaty hands.  I can’t shoot it without bleeding.  One other potential issue is the location of the switch to activate the laser sight.  It almost can’t be activated in a firing grip.  Smoothly integrating the laser activation into your draw stroke isn’t realistic.  If you want to use the laser, you’ll need some forewarning to turn it on.



Fifth Choice- Diamondback Tactical DB380

  Specifications from Diamondback’s website:

Capacity: 6+1 Rounds

  •            Weight: 8.8 Ounces
  •            Width: .750″
  •            Barrel Length: 2.80″
  •            Firing Mechanism: Striker Fire
  •            Trigger Pull: DAO 5 lbs



This is a relatively new entry to the micro .380 auto market.  When you take it apart, the upper half (slide and barrel) looks identical to a Glock.  The lower half looks just like a Kahr.  Those are two great guns to emulate!  I like this one better than most of the .380s on the market because of the good trigger and excellent sights.  The long term reliability is a little questionable since it is a new gun.  One of my friends has had tremendous problems with his DB380.  Several other friends shoot them regularly and report no issues.  As I’ve seen these in my classes over the years, the Diamondback has been a varied performer.  Some are fine.  Others are not.  Unfortunately, it seems that the quality control in the Diamondback has been declining since they originally came out.



Sixth Choice- KelTec P3AT


Specifications from KelTec’s website:

Calibers: .380 AUTO
Weight unloaded: 8.3 oz. 235g
Loaded magazine: 2.8 oz. 81g
Length: 5.2″ 132mm
Height: 3.5″ 89mm
Width: .77″ 20mm
Barrel Length: 2.7″ 68mm
Sight radius: 3.8″ 97mm
Muzzle Energy Max: 250ft-lbs 340J
Capacity: 6 + 1 rounds
Trigger Pull: 5 lbs


This gun just looks and feels cheap.  In my experience, about half of them stop working after firing a relatively small number of rounds.  If you send them back to the factory when they start to malfunction, they’ll usually return a working gun back to you.  I just don’t think you should buy a gun with the plans of having to get it overhauled by the factory in order to work right.  It’s cheap, but not that much cheaper than the Ruger or Diamondback.  Interestingly the .32 acp version of the same gun runs a lot better.



Last Choice Walther PPK (currently distributed by Smith and Wesson)

   Specifications from Smith and Wesson’s website:

Caliber: .380ACP
Barrel Length: 3.35″
Dimensions, L/H/W: 6.1″/3.8″/.98″
Weight (without Mag): 20.8 oz.
Sights: Fixed
Magazine Capacity: 6 Rounds
Trigger: DA/SA
Trigger Weight: 13.4 lbs./6 lbs.


At more than twice the weight of the other choices, this one is stretching the “pocket pistol” definition.  But since so many people have one, I had to include it.  If it was what James Bond used, it has to be good!  Not really.  This gun should stay on the silver screen and not be used for self protection!


The double action trigger is horrible.  Slide bite is atrocious and I’ve never seen a single PPK that functions reliably with hollowpoint ammunition without extensive gunsmithing.  Leave this one to Her Majesty’s Secret Service and choose one of the other models instead!



There’s no doubt I criticized some of your self defense pieces here.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  If you are in the market for a micro .380, please choose carefully.  Not all of them work well.  Pick a reliable one…or better yet, upgrade to 9mm!







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50 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Unkle Phred says:

    You pretty much listed them in the order we sell them. I have turned several customers away from the Walther “Jam-o-Matic”, based on what we saw during training.

    • Steve says:

      I have two forty y.o. Walthers, PPK/S in both .380 and .22. They are beautifully fit and finished but I wouldn’t trust either of them to actually feed, despite many dozens of range trips. And varied ammo. “There must be something it will shoot reliably!”…nope. The two most attractive and expensive paperweights I own. That’s what happens when you trust fiction writers. When they replace Bond’s .25 Beretta, a much more reliable gun I also own, in an early book, they say the .380 PPK has a punch “like a brick through a window”, never forgot that sentence because in any gunfight, I’d rather have a brick than the Walther. I carry a G30 which I trust to aLways function and always feel very uncomfortable with its square shape.

      • frank says:

        Try the REM gun grease . My picky P22 even had FTE and FTL with CCI ammo. After tossing the gun oil and slathering the whole pistol with REM it worked pretty flawless, even with dirty bulk ammo. But, after all that early disappointment with it I would never trust it for defense.

      • David says:

        The replacement for Bond’s Beretta is a .32 PPK, not a .380.

        • Mark says:

          Actually it was supposed to be a Walther ppk in 380 but they used a Walther PP instead (for the first and I think part of the second movie). There is a Walther pp (bigger gun), ppk (smaller gun), and a ppk/s (ppk slide on pp frame). Fleming gave bond the gun after he received a letter stating that a .25 was a girls gun. The guy who wrote the letter became the adviser of sorts on the weapons used by bond. Man now I feel like a dork lol.

  2. Scott Strauss says:

    I am not a pocket pistol fan. I had to buy one last week for a situation. I bought the db380 so far
    it works.

  3. Peter Bossley says:

    Do you have part 1 and 2 somewhere? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on primary concealed carry and home defense suggestions. I wouldn’t consider a pocket pistol a primary defensive weapon, more like better than nothing. Of course if we could pick our weapons when we had unavoidable violence thrust upon us I would want a long gun.

  4. Unkle Phred says:

    The Sig .380 P238, seems to be a fairly decent alternative. Operates like a 1911, and feels bigger than it is. Kinda pricey, like most Sigs, but definately nicer than a Kel-tec or a LCP.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      I’ve heard good things about them Fred, but I just haven’t shot enough of them to form a legitimate opinion.

      I do worry a little bit about carrying cocked and locked in a pocket. If it’s in a good holster, I’m cool with it. But most people carrying these kind of guns toss it into a pocket. I’m worried that the safety could disengage in that mode of carry.

      • Jason says:

        I could have used this review about 2 months ago. 😉 I was looking for a long time for a 380 pocket gun that was the most glock-like that I would only carry when dress requirements don’t permit carry of my XD 9 subcompact. I was tempted by the Kahr, DB380 and Bodyguard. I didnt like the trigger on the Kahr. After reading about a lot of reliability issues on the DB380, I ruled that out (but it seemed to be most glock-like as you allude to). The Bodyguard seemed cheap to me, noticed the trigger pull was bad, and didnt really want the thumb safety.

        So I was back to square one and still waiting for something better. But then I decided to try the Sig P238. I liked the trigger, the quality, the weight, the sights, the size, and everything else EXCEPT … the thumb safety. Since I dont regularly carry a gun with a thumb safety, I was concerned about only occasionally carrying a gun with one. I was planning on carrying it in a pocket holster so I had no concerns with carrying cocked and locked in a holster. I talked to friends that had them and an instructor that uses one (among other guns) in his classes. No one had negative comments about the P238.

        So … I bought one. Then my wife tried it. We bought another one. Then some relatives tried it. Two more purchased. I have probably put around 300 or more rounds so far through mine and not a single issue. I’ve put through a box of Hornady Critical Defense and a box of Winchester PDX. No problems there.

        So now I feel like I have the almost-perfect-pocket-gun with one issue. I need to train more with the thumb safety. More dry firing drills, which is a good thing. I bought some more mags to just use for dry firing and now I just need to DO IT. That’s sometimes the hardest part …. actually doing it. But my life or the life of my loved ones could be on the line. So its worth it.

      • wayne morris says:

        I have been carrying mine locked and cocked. Maybe I should not. Unlike the 1911 series it does not have a backstrap disengage. Perhaps Israel style would be better. Although I have not done any tests, the spring tension on the slide (Sig) appears less and is easily cycled. This may be a reason why it fails to jam less. I wonder sometimes if the pressure available with the 380 is sufficient to consistently overcome the recoil spring energy required by some gun manufacturers.

  5. Cold Shooter says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t Kahr owned by the Rev. Sung Moon, of the Moonies fame back in the ’70s? Kind of a cult if I remember. (Not to mention expensive!) Speaking of cult, isn’t Colt coming out with a new version of it’s Mustang this year? Love my Mustang(s)!
    Bersa has always made a kick-ass .380, probably a tiny bit bigger than “micro” but dependable and accurate as all get out and not too expensive either.
    I myself am a Kel Tec family while a buddy of mine is a Ruger family. The Ruger trigger pull and sights are two royal pains in the butt. Not that it matters all that much since the trigger hurts my finger so badly after fireing 15-20 rounds that I really don’t want to shoot more anyhow. I bought my first Kel Tec when it was only made in .32 acp. I fell in love at first fight. Functioning was flawless and I carried it until they came out with the .380. It too has a much better trigger pull than the Ruger. And unlike my buddy’s Ruger, nothing breaks on my two Kel Tecs. I have, in the past, managed to loose a part here or there and customer service has always treated me right, Always! The Kel Tec is a few bucks less expensive than the Ruger but I don’t hold it against Kel Tec. I believe that I bought another magazine with the savings. The newest K.T.s do not have sights as good as my older K.T.s, pitty On the other hand, the Diamondback is a bunch more expensive than my Kel Tecs. The Diamondback does not feel nearly as natural in my hand as does the Kel Tec. Even the Ruger design (stolen from Kel Tec, by the way) feels better than the Diamondback. But hey, that’s just me. If you want an eye opening experience, Google the Diamondback .380 and read the experiences of gun owners. Ouch!
    I have shot my PPK/S some and find that the Bersa, of approximately the same size and a lot less expensive, feels and shoots better in my hand. The sights leave much to be desired on both pistols.
    I do not own the Sig .380 or the S&W Body Guard but would surely like some experience with them both.
    So, Mr. Ellifritz, the truth may hurt some but the truth will also set you free!

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      Kahr is actually owned by one of the Moons. It isn’t the good reverend, it’s his son Justin. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times at the SHOT show and he doesn’t seem crazy like his father.

      I think you are right about the Bersa. It’s certainly underappreciated. It’s very popular in South America where I often travel. I just didn’t include it here because of its size. It’s even a little bigger than the PPK.

  6. wayne morris says:

    dont write to complain. i am seething in my chair. as someone who decide years ago to carry the 380 because if it is too big i won’t carry anything, i owned 2 of the “top” five pistols in the tally, so i can speak of them. I patiently scrolled down to see my choice, Sig SauerP238 and behold it was not listed. my decision was based on firing boxes of rounds through each. 200 for starters. the keltec failed miserably. i had hopes for the Diamondback as it ocassionally fed a full clip,i stress ocassionally. the 380 lacking in punch needs to deliver all it is capable of. the Sig has not failed one time in over 200 rounds. cant speak for the others but “come on” Kel tec !!!

    • frank says:

      I have shot many rounds through my kel-tec. I can count the ftf and fte on one hand. My friend loved it so much he bought one and had more than a few fte. I then realized I didn’t tell him I learned to skip the gun oil and only use RIG gun grease on all my weapons. His next range visit with the grease gave him a flawless shooting day. An old timer at a range saw I was having problems with my brand new walther P22 and the cheap federal ammo I had. He had CCI ammo which my P22 loved. He also carried the grease in his gun bag, a few swabs of grease in the barrel and on the feed mechanism made that cheap federal ammo fly out of the walther.

  7. Harvey Meltzer says:

    What about the S&W Shield??

  8. Amber W says:

    Thank you for your article. My current EDC is a S&W M&P Shield in 9mm. I practice with an M&P 22 for economic reasons and because I prefer the familiarity of the M&P platform. I’ve considered a 380 for awhile on occasions when I’m wearing a dress (about once a week at church) because the Shield can become a little cumbersome to conceal and I don’t feel comfortable purse carrying a firearm. Would I be better served going with the Bodyguard 380 because of the similar platform to my current firearms or do you think shoot ability (the Kahr) should trump that when making my decision. Thank you for any advice!

  9. AzCCL4Everyone says:

    I have been a long supporter of the 2nd, but only getting around to ownership now. I am preparing to buy 2 guns, one for hd and the other for cc. I have been set on 9mm for hd. l know the are a ton of opinions on the best caliber but both my wife and I need to be comfortable with it. For cc I want to pocket carry, so I looked at the slim 9’s to try and keep my guns the same caliber, but I have found that with the pocket holster, most of these 9’s are just bulkier than I want to worry about. The more i thought about them though, the more they didn’t make sense for me. They don’t reach the smallness of the 380s, but they are small enough to only give you half of the capacity of a twin stack compact. If i am going to carry iwb, it will be an m&p c or xd c with 13 rds and a 17 rd extra mag. Pocket carrying has left me with the 380, which are skinny enough to fit in any of my pockets. I don’t see the benefit of these slim 9s. Outside of the smallest 3, they are too similar to the regular compacts to make any sense.

  10. Scott says:

    I’ve carried a nickel-plated Bersa Thunder .380 CC for many years now. While heavier and larger than those listed, it’s a nice DA/SA piece that shoots reliably with everything I’ve ever fed it.

    Granted, the sights suck, but I once used it to put four out of four shots through a moving armadillo at 10 feet in the middle of the night, and I’m no marksman. That also made me feel a lot better about the potency of the caliber: all four shots went all the way through that shell and dense body, nearly cutting it in two. I’d have felt bad for it, but it would have been like feeling bad about having to flush a toilet.

    This is why I don’t feel bad about carrying a .380. That, and I keep a high-cap .45 in the car at all times.

  11. Kathy S. says:

    I enjoyed the article. I’m 5’4″ and although my waist makes me think that I was a main battle tank in another life during hot summers in SoCal and especially if you’re dressing nicely to go out I definitely have to go with a small pistol. I’m sure that a lot of women have that issue. I am familiar with only two of the pistols on the list and agree with your descriptions of the two I’m familiar with 100%. When I was in college and hadn’t yet sought professional training and was not in contact with anyone credible about such things I had the chance to get a West German made PPK/S. I regret selling it, but only because it’s a terrific collector’s piece. Shooting it nearly discouraged me from trying any other centerfire pistol. I’ve always had a pretty good grip but that first double action felt like I was doing some kind of strength test – that and a scrunchy feel. Being an old simple blowback, the recoil was atrocious despite the fact that since those early days I’m naturally recoil tolerant. It has the same kind of narrow force impulse (equals pain) as a K-Frame with the .357 Mag 125SJHPs (not the same peak force but a similar feel). It was difficult to place shots accurately and the old feed ramp style was very picky about ammunition. So far everything you said simply brought back a lot of memories. Between you and Claude, I really would like to get an Airweight style snub nose. My favorite revolver is my Model 13 which was customized by a genius and I dearly wish that it were small enough to be that kind of concealable.

    The Kahr P380 – top of my list. It is a quality pistol. Because I started training with the Model 13 and BHP, I’m very used to good double actions. To me the P380’s DAO is smoother than my Model 13 which floored me. The sights are easy to pick up in low light, but even when it is really dark, it is very pointable. The only small downside of it is that because it is small enough even for me to almost be able to palm, there’s a tendency for it to shift between shots but I think a few hundred more rounds and I’ll have no problems.

    Also, the friend who recommended it to me (nearly insisted) was then a still active SOTIC (now SFSC) instructor and he said that a LOT of serious folks in his circles were using it.

    Since I would definitely be taking aimed shots unless total chaos was the order of the day, I wanted to test my Gold Dots on some tough bone since sternum and forehead or nose would be big on my list. I got one of those totally dessicated steer thigh bones from a pet store and used one half of the femur as a target. Because those pet bones are baked dry, they’re like rock and the thickness of the bone (not the full diameter) is more than a lot of skulls. The Speer .380 90 gr Gold Dot sailed through with energy to spare so I’m comforted.

  12. Rockbase says:

    I wanted to post a comment about the PPKS. Around 1993 I was teaching my wife how to shoot and carry a handgun. Keeping the story short, my wife was uncomfortable with my 1911’s and 357’s. My stepfather who is a retired N.Y. police officer showed her a small walther PPKS that he carried. She fell in love with it and we purchased 2. This is just one of many guns we own and shoot. I can not even guess how much ammo we have put through these guns without any type of jams (or blood). Recently I recommended the PPKS to a friend who was looking for a small concealable gun. We have a local range that rents out guns so you can try a gun type, before you buy. Great Idea. We went and he rented the new S&W PPKS. Horrible gun, constant jams. Told the gents at the desk and they pointed out that ever since S&W started making the PPKS for the U.S. that the guns have suffered constant jams.
    Needless to say my friend did not buy a S&W PPKS, and I have decided to steer away from recommending any S&W firearm. It would seem to me that the S&W version of the PPKS most likely fails because poor machining tolerances or workmanship. Note that I own a few S&W revolvers, however, they do not require the tolerances that make or break todays semi automatic pistols.
    Until we find the next summer-time concealable, reliable handgun, we will continue to carry the “Walther-made” PPKS.

    Just to set the record straight…

  13. Charles IRwin says:

    I carry a Bersa Thunder 380 – easily concealed in IWB holster (I’m in Texas,it’s hot and I don’t wear a lot of clothing.) I have big hands, a lot of the micros are too small for me to comfortable hold. I also have a CZ-83 in 380. Same general size as the Bersa with a slightly larger grip, since it has a double stack 12 round magazine capacity. I really like it.

  14. Kevin says:

    Just in case anyone out there is looking at the Taurus TCP, don’t. I’ve had nothing but FTE problems from day one… I actually have to remove the barrel to get the round out.

    • dick says:

      You barrel breech is too small.
      Your spent casing probably have a bulge to them.
      Tell taurus to send you a barrel with the proper breech opening.

    • ArmedAmerican says:

      I’ve got two E series TCPS that have been flawless so far. I know earlier models had a couple problems but they have been worked out

  15. Jack says:

    I have owned a .380 Bersa thunder that has been the perfect pistol. It is super accurate,
    Reliable and eats anything I feed it. It loves hollow points. I have had it over 15 years so
    It has been around a bit and lot of use. It is the only .380 I would trust based on what
    I have read about others. Just my take.

  16. Randy says:

    I agree about .380 Bersa, 600 rounds and has never failed. Eats any ammo I feed it. I keep it loaded with Cor Bon Self Defensive ammo. Fits good in my jacket pocket and inside my pants in the small of my back. Best thing is the barrel is long enough to be accurate 25yds. Anything with a barrel less than 3″, you’d better be 6 to 7 feet away for a well placed shot.

  17. Sopwith says:

    The review on the Walther PPK/S is incomplete and based on faulty information.

    Only a novice would expect a 1929 design to function perfectly with modern ammunition. Experienced handgunners should know better. The PPK/S was designed in another era for different ammo. When properly prepared for modern ammo, it is as reliable as sunrise and offers considerably better feel and balance than the other micro-guns reviewed here (which are subcompacts, while the PPK/S is a compact).

    I had a modest, inexpensive ramp polish job done one my Interarms Walther PPK/S .380. Since then it has become a daily carry weapon and among the most reliable pistols I’ve ever held.

    The Walther PPK/S is incredibly accurate, has the perfect weight and balance to offset felt recoil, and is slim enough to easily disappear with an IWB holster.

    If you’re going to compare a 1929 design to 21st century designs, please do so with a properly prepared weapon. Doing so will provide vastly different results and – like the 1911 – will show the excellence of the original design.

  18. Sopwith says:

    One other small note – the photo with the “PPK” review is not of a PPK, but rather a PPK/S model which carries 7 rounds, not 6 as listed. The PPK/S model also has a slightly longer grip which was built into the basic PPK design to meet the (unconstitutional and illegal) 1968 handgun regulations.

    The PPK is not currently available in the US and can only be purchased on the used collector’s market, primarily as collector’s items rather than self defense weapons. They do make fine pocket pistols, though, and usually come in .32 caliber.

    The PPK/S was designed for the US market, built under license by Interarms and then S&W, and is usually found in .380. It is slightly larger than the PPK and is a compact gun, not a sub compact. With minor and inexpensive ramp polish, the PPK/S is an excellent and reliable weapon although it really doesn’t belong in a sub compact article.

  19. Bob says:

    I carry a Bersa Thunder as well. It’s relatively inexpensive and very accurate. I have had it jam when using ball practice ammo. I only carry Hornady Critical Defense ammo for this reason.

  20. James L says:

    Skip the Diamondback. My buddy had one. It misfired about every 3rd or 4th round regardless of the ammo fired. Complete garbage.

    I have the S&W Bodyguard as a backup/off duty. And while I have had zero issues with the slide, the author is right about the sights. They are a bit small and that makes them a bit more difficult to see.

    Also, the laser sight is almost invisible in daylight.

    Still, I have put hundreds of rounds through this gun and it goes BANG every single time, never an issue. Well worth the $350 I paid for it.

  21. Randy says:

    I shot the new Glock 42 last Saturday. It was accurate, small, light and had great sights.

  22. Mike H says:

    Strayed into this thread researching .380 pockets after reading about the Sig P238.. hoping to find out about it here. This post was written a while ago, but the author was forthcoming with what he was familiar with and not. I don’t own any of these. Recently the Glock 42 came out. I’ll bet that will end up on this list one day. I recently got an XDS. In .45. While not exactly a pocket pistol It does open up some CCW options. I hear good things about the 9mm version.Based on what the author has written, it sounds like there are very few of these popular choices I’d be interested in.

  23. Dcsouthgw says:

    I am currently in the market for a pocket 380 and my research has mirrored most of the comments here. Pocket 9s are great for potency but just too big and heavy for my pockets. Mousy of the reviews online and on YouTube place the p380/cw380 high on the 380 list. As much as I would love night sites, do I need to spend 2x the cost for them?…no. Cw380 seems to have the perfect blend of size and build quality, with the sig p238 as a 2nd due to size and manual safety.

    • dick says:

      I have a CW380 and it’s great. Not only do you not need fancy night sites but you really don’t need any sites on a pocket pistol as they are intended for shots from zero to a few feet away from the assailant.

  24. Peter Gutierrez says:

    This is addressed mainly to Greg who wrote a pretty good article and I would defer to him on overall experience and expertise. However, I would like to point out a few shortcomings.

    There may be many lists compiled by gun guys & gals but to say ” I bet if anyone actually shoots their guns extensively, they’ll come to the SAME conclusions as I did.” I find this a bit arrogant ..that your conclusions ( good as they might be ) are not the only way of seeing the world and experts often vary on opinion stuff.

    Second, you say these guns are not “exceptionally” easy to shoot.

    Respectfully I differ. They are very hard to shoot even with a reasonable degree of practice.

    Third, you might have given some space to what I will call compact guns or intermediate size firearms like my 380 P232 Sig ( see I did get than in despite your admonition ) As a CCW guy I did give a lot of measured thought to the main thrust of your article, micro sized pistols, before I chose and was tested on my carry guns ( California ) .

    While I think my P232 is an excellent pistol there are many other co-equal choices that are also easy to shoot, for example “J” frame revolvers as only one example. They are only a bit bigger, a bit heavier, but still very concealable if you dress around the gun. And what good is a gun if the shooter can’t hit a deadly threat with any consistency unless really close where we point not aim ?

    Last, after all is said and done I agree with your contention that a .380 is marginal for defense … and as some writers say, if you are not using a caliber equal to or harder hitting than what the police or military uses your choice ( 380 ) is inadequate.

    Conversely, I have seen numerous test results published in reputable and trustworthy gun magazines that present data on caliber / number of hits / required to immediately terminate the threat … one reason why police prefer large capacity magazines. Studies demonstrate that one shot or even a “double tap” is inadequate to immediately terminate the threat … EVEN WITH THE LARGER CALIBERS … that differences in stopping power were surprising close for 38s , 380’s and even larger calibers. My carry guns are the P232, Ruger .357, SP101 ( same size as a J frame S&W, and a 357 S&W 19. But my favorite is my ( I know you & readers will cringe ) S&W eight-shot model 63 .22 kit gun is not the recoil / flinch thing or muzzle flip / re-acquiring the target of the larger calibers but I just like that # 63 gun ( and as you say ) I carry it most of the time and I can hit what I am aiming or pointing at.

    That might be a digression but the pivotal point is there are choices, intermediates, larger than micros, smaller than a full size 1911, and given practice and training will hit while many folks that shoot micros will miss more often …they might be better prepared to stop an attack by throwing bricks.

    So, I was not seeking to change the central theme of your article but advocating a brief mention of what I call “intermediates” …like a revolver or Sig P232 ..bad Peter, I got that P232 plug in twice. But, I concede overall, again, nice work.

    Peter G
    Elk Grove, CA

    PS To defend the indefensible I don’t know of anyone who would like to get shot with a .22 mini-mag long rifle bullet

  25. DLG says:

    never mentioned is the Beretta 84/85 model series or Browning BB series
    these guns are the same size as a compact wonder nine, hold more rounds shoot with less recoil, can handle corbon +P rounds, have excellent sights
    i have fired thousands of rounds through my 84F,
    i bought it after being accosted and robbed at knife point, just before Xmas 20+ years ago
    i joined a private gun club, and practiced defensive shooting
    i can hit what i need too and to it often with accurate at speed,
    the most important part of defensive shooting, is hitting the bad guy
    and knowing you can do it, the more powerful the round the better, but most important is having a weapon you can and will learn to shoot comfortably and accurately, i’ll take my Beretta, over any of the smaller slim 380’s and many of the compact 9mm’s,
    i know i wont flinch, and i will most likely hit what i need to
    come confidence comes from preparation and practice , and that comes from NOT being scared of pulling the trigger
    but i digress, why is the the Beretta and Browning are never mentioned when talking about 380’s ?

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      I think it’s because of their size. Most people want a small gun in .380 and those aren’t quite “pocket gun” material. They are nice, however. I have a Browning BDA .380 and it’s a nice piece.

  26. Lloyd Reese says:

    Purchased a Glock 42 on May 31st based partly on the reviews I’d seen here. It was a disaster. A friend and I took it to the range. It did double feeds, stove pipes, failed to chamber, and failed to rack back when empty. We had three different types of ammo and it did best with USA. I tried the next day with three more types of ammo. Got similar reasults. My friend took it to the range today with 3 mags from other G 42s. Still had problems. It’s going back to Glock for repair or replacement. I’ve owned several Glocks over the years from a G20 to a G27. Never had a problem with any of them. With one exception, all were purchased new. This experience is far from Glock Perfection!

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      That’s no good. I have two that run like tops. In all my classes, I’ve only seen a single one that had problems. You definitely got a lemon. Glock will take care of you.

  27. Livefreeordie says:

    I’m sure the Glock 42 is a fine gun but I don’t really understand the appeal when you can get 9mm power in the same footprint, i.e. Kahr CM/PM9.

  28. LJ says:

    After looking for months and attending gun show after gun show as a female the Sig .380 P238 was perfection. Tried out all the above listed except the newest Glock and with small hands the Sig was perfect. Some of the above listed I could not even pull the trigger comfortably. Good article.

  29. Elenor says:

    Love the Kimber Micro! Heaven in a holster! Was carrying a S&W 9mm (not comfortably) and then the Micro appeared! Fantastic to shoot (even guys who love the P238, when they try my Kimber, prefer the trigger and love the feel of the gun). Expensive? Sure — but all metal, no plastic and still light enough for pocket carry. I am SO happy with the Micro!

  30. jim says:

    Why wasn’t the sig p238 mentioned? I beieve it’s in the same class as these other guns as it is a bit shorter in length and height compared to a Glock 42 and only a tad wider. It’s all metal, shoots fantastic, has little recoil and is a well built gun. PS not asking because I own one (I don’t) just that all the reviews I have read rank it as one of the best 380’s.

  31. Lance says:

    The review here on the PPK is suspect as far as I’m concerned for the following reasons: First, I’ve had a PPK for years and it has been reliable-even when I’ve tried holow points. Second, why would anyone be overly concerned with HPs in a .380 anyway? Save for a few exceptions, HPs don’t perform consistently when you get “below” 9mm Para. Third, I can’t remember getting slide bite. Unless you have big bands, and/or you don’t grip the pistol correctly you should be okay here. What I have found is that it’s exceptionally accurate, reliable, and easy to take down.

  32. ArmedAmerican says:

    I just got into 380 just under a year ago. we bought a Bersa thunder 380 and two Taurus TCP380’s.
    All 3 guns have functioned flawlessly so far.
    the 380 is not what I was led to believe about it by haters for most of my adult life. It’s actually a good little round, you just gave to know, like every other cartridge, what is good at and what is not. It absolutely is capable of being a good self defense round with the right ammo

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