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Is a .380 Good Enough for Concealed Carry?

When it comes to choosing the right concealed self-defense weapon, a pocket-sized .380 ACP pistol is often brought up. They are relatively easy to carry around, don’t cost too much money, and generally deter attackers. But is it good enough for everyday concealed carry?
.380 ACP

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A .380 is good enough for concealed carry as long as you understand the capabilities of the gun. This round will be good for stopping most attackers in most situations without the bulk of a larger caliber, but you should be aware of the limitations of the round.

We will be going over what you need to know about .380 ammo and firearms so you can make the best decision for yourself. If you would like to know more, read on.

The Debate on .380 ACP 

What do people generally look for in a concealed carry firearm? First, it has to be compact enough to conceal by the said person. When you are looking for something super compact, it is generally recommended to carry a firearm with a barrel length of no more than 4’’, which is referred to as a compact firearm. 

Can you conceal carry a full-sized gun? Absolutely, and many people do. However, it has some distinct caveats, depending on body type, carry method, climate, etc. A smaller person will have a very hard time concealing a 5’’ barrel 9mm firearm while someone larger can pull this off much more comfortably. 

The sweet spot for many people is to carry a compact 9mm, which is the most popular handgun round overall due to its blend of stopping power while not being too unwieldy. However, like all calibers, it still requires a decent amount of practice to be proficient. 

Recoil is inevitable, and anyone new to shooting will need to manage it, especially in self-defense applications. But there is a group of people who just want something effective, having less recoil, requiring less practice, and can be easily carried by smaller people, and for that, a “pocket-pistol” is often brought up. 

Is There Some Truth to Opinions on .380?

There are certainly a lot of opinions surrounding .380 firearms, but they aren’t all fiction. For one, there is a lack of stopping power compared to other ammunition types.  

In the worst-case scenario where your shots aren’t on point, a .380 will have a harder time taking someone down vs. a 9mm. This is probably where a lot of people get the idea that .380 is useless. In most self-defense situations where the shooter has good shot placement, this round will be effective, but things don’t always go according to plan and shots don’t always hit their mark. 

Secondly, there is a point that can be made that people these days don’t have to settle for a .380 in order to get a compact firearm due to sub-compact 9mm pistols and how available they are on the market. 

However, there is more to the story than raw power. Sure you can get a more standard caliber in guns that fit in the palm of your hand these days, but you also have to consider things such as increased recoil which isn’t something that everyone wants.

But at what point does bullet caliber get too ineffective? In short, if it is designed to be an effective self-defense firearm, it will be “good enough” if you understand the limitations. 

What Is a Pocket Pistol? 

When it comes to concealing a firearm on a person easily, it’s hard to beat a compact pistol. As the name suggests and due to the size, you can literally fit it in the average-sized jean pocket without much issue, in a pocket holster, of course. 

This becomes apparent when you look at them, especially in person. They can fit in the palm of your hand, are relatively lightweight, and are easy to manage overall. They have a very short barrel length of less than 3’’, usually sitting around 2.5’’, which is ideal for portability and concealment.

However, there is a debate on if pocket pistols are actually effective for protecting yourself. The rounds are tiny, especially .380 rounds. Thus, it is perceived that they can’t do any real damage. 

There is also the issue with the use of pocket holsters themselves, especially as it relates to access, draw stroke, etc.

How Effective Are Pocket Pistols?

ComfortTac The Protector

First, it is important to understand that we aren’t talking about “tactical-military-combat” here. This is about EDC options to protect yourself against an aggressor with no body armor and likely no combat training (we hope). Compact pistols are meant for close-range encounters and not meant for engagements at extended ranges. 

Unless your attacker is under the influence of some sort of stimulant, and you aren’t landing shots accurately, a .380 will likely do an adequate job in its role. That’s one of the reasons training is vital. It is important to get practice with any firearm before making it part of your daily carry, so you are able to perform when it counts.

Ensure you are able to draw without fumbling around and aim and fire accurately. This is where pocket pistols suffer. Keep in mind, even though the phrase pocket pistol is often used, there are a large variety of alternate carry methods you can consider. Be sure to explore these options as well.

But this is talking about pocket pistols in general. They come in multiple rounds with their pros and cons based on recoil vs. provided stopping power, specifically for semi-automatics:

  • .22 LR
  • .25 ACF
  • .32 ACF
  • .380 ACP

You also have newer innovations in pocket pistols that can hold:

  • 9mm Luger
  • .40 Smith & Wesson
  • .45 ACP

As you can see, you can either get a pocket pistol in a variety of ammunition types for your specific needs. If you need one with better ballistics, etc., go with a better performing round. 

But today, we will focus specifically on .380 rounds, which have two sides fighting over if they are worth it or not. 

Will a .380 Really Protect You?

.380 ACP caliber ammunition is very small (9x17mm), not the smallest, but small compared to other popular ammunition types such as the 9mm. With this in mind, what is it capable of? 

Rather than give specific stats on velocity, energy, etc., we will explain why smaller rounds such as .380 ACP can be practical.

For one, there are many real-world examples of this caliber being effective. If it wasn’t, then nobody would feel safe having it as their self-defense firearm of choice. Of course, we can’t always depend on the actions of others as to what we should do.

People tend to underestimate smaller guns because they get wrapped up in comparing the capabilities of different rounds. Are you more likely to stop an attacker with a more powerful round, assuming your aim is on point? Yes, but in most situations, a smaller caliber, like the .380, will be effective as well when you are placing accurate shots.

This isn’t always the case, and when adrenaline is pumping and drugs are in the system, it can be easy to shrug off gunshot injuries that aren’t fatal yet.

Concealed carry is about being prepared and having the right tools for the job at hand. Your job is to use whatever gear you have available to mitigate any threats that may present themselves. We are always striving to have the right tool for the right job.

It’s true that an argument can be made for choosing a more powerful caliber. Sub-compact 9mm pistols such as the Glock 43 or Sig P365 blur the lines between stopping power and weapon size. They are perfect for concealed carry and have the advantage of more stopping power. You’ll have to deal with slightly higher recoil, but this can be managed with enough training. 

However, there is still a case for .380’s. They can be even smaller than a sub-compact 9mm. They are called pocket pistols for a reason, and for many, carrying a small firearm in a pocket holster may the most comfortable and convenient way to conceal carry them. This leads us to the next section.

The Pistol You Have With You Is Better Than the One at Home

Buying a larger caliber gun that you opt to keep at home a lot of the time because it is too unwieldy leaves you without your self-defense tool, which defeats the purpose of having something to carry. Stopping power is meaningless if you don’t have the gun on you in a situation when you need it. 

You are infinitely better off having a small-caliber gun that you can keep on you in this case.  A .380 pocket pistol will be very easy to carry around in an average-pocket, jacket, coat, and pants. You will always have this protection which is what you want in everyday carry. 

A mistake to not make when choosing a concealed carry firearm is buying something you hate lugging around with you. You should be comfortable with your firearm, otherwise, every day is going to be awkward with it getting in the way all of the time and having it be obvious that you have a weapon on you. 

Make sure you are comfortable carrying whatever handgun you buy.

Carry Methods

There are multiple ways to conceal carry and it is up to you to choose what works best for the inteded purpose.

The reality of concealed carry is that it is not comfortable, but it is worth it.

But it is comfortable to know that you always have a firearm on you for the protection of your family, yourself, and others. That peace of mind, knowing that I can do those things, far outweighs the physical discomfort caused by carrying a concealed firearm.

Option gray

With that being said, for a .380, take advantage of its size and use a carry method that works best for you. The gun can comfortably fit in places that others can’t and stay out of the way for the most part. Make informed decisions and make sure you are proficient with whatever you use.

Pocket Holster 

DeSantis Nemesis Pocket Holster

Arguably, one of the best methods when talking about on-body concealment. That’s not saying it is the best method by any stretch. All I’m saying is that it conceals well and is comfortable.

Make sure you practice drawing the weapon as this is going to be the biggest downfall. Not to be alarming, but there are cases where people have shot themselves by carrying and drawing with this method. This is the main reason I don’t carry using this method and why I don’t recommend it either.

However, the reason why enough accidents have occurred to spark attention is that many people carry this method improperly.

One major thing that you shouldn’t do is have anything else in the pocket but the gun and holster. A negligent discharge caused by foreign objects is possible and has happened. Also, take care that your pockets don’t have loose fabric that the trigger can snag on.

Furthermore, if you have the habit of fiddling around in your pocket with your dominant hand, now would be the time to get used to not doing that. There have been cases of people subconsciously messing around with their guns and accidentally pulling the trigger. 

Don’t stuff the weapon in your pocket without a holster. This is very dangerous. Just buy a quality holster and carry it appropriately.

Inside of the Waistband

This is the most popular way to conceal carry. It makes sense. Regular-sized handguns can be hidden this way, making it a versatile method. It’s also a good option for a .380 as well since it will be more concealed than a full-size 9mm, for example.

Concealing the weapon with this carry method is very easy with the right clothing. A simple t-shirt can conceal a .380, effectively making it pretty much invisible with no bulging. Furthermore, it is comfortable for the user. With a weapon this small, it won’t be in your way or feel like you have a heavy piece of metal bulging out of your waist.

Another reason this carry method is popular is that it is very easy and fast to draw. It’s right there within reach, and it only takes a short amount of time to become competent with this technique.

Purse or Bag Carry

People who already carry around some sort of bag everywhere they go might think that sticking a small gun in there is a great way to hide a gun without overburdening yourself. It sounds like a good idea at first, but it is something you may want to avoid if speed is something you are going for. 

The first argument against this is that this is possibly the slowest possible draw you could be doing, which could cost you. Consider a situation where the attacker is making a full sprint towards you within 8 feet. You are very unlikely to be able to open the bag, find the handgun, draw it, accurately aim, and make your shots, within that amount of time. Remember, the point of carrying in the first place is to be ready for unexpected situations. 

Furthermore, you telegraph your draw (or that you are doing something) when reaching into your bag. Chances are the aggressor knows you are definitely up to something and will react accordingly. Being able to draw your firearm quickly is an important component of being able to appropriately react and respond to threats. The less time you take on the draw, the less time the attacker has to carry out their plan, and the more time you have to take appropriate action. 

Next, there is the issue of losing your bag, forgetting your bag, or having it stolen. Not only your bag is gone, but now your loaded firearm is also and in the hands of someone who may be a criminal if your gear was stolen. 

Furthermore, if there are nosy children around, you don’t want them having easy access to your firearm. 

Overall, it’s much safer for everyone involved to carry on your person. You’ll be able to draw faster, significantly reduce the risk of losing your firearm, and prevent innocent people from hurting themselves.  

Shooting Tips for .380

Depending on the firearm itself, a .380 can hold as little as 5 rounds or as much as 13, with the high capacity side of the scale being a larger weapon overall. Most folks opt for the smaller end of the spectrum for concealability sake, and the average magazine size holds approximately 8 rounds. 

So, you have less ammo than a full-size 9mm pistol and less stopping power to boot. For this reason, it is very important to make each shot count. You might initially think that if the round is smaller, you can hammer on the trigger all day and get near-perfect accuracy, but this isn’t the case.

These factors include:

Increased Recoil

Recoil increases as the gun gets smaller with the same caliber type. Larger guns have more mass, resulting in less recoil, while smaller ones will feel like a wild cat at times. 

Less Grip Surface

Being able to grip a firearm comfortably is part of achieving good accuracy. The more comfortable it is and the better it fits your body can make all the difference. Small handguns have less grip, which can make them less comfortable to hold overall. You can get used to this, but it is a challenge that regular-sized handguns do not have.

Stiff Trigger

A smaller firearm doesn’t automatically mean a lighter trigger, and in most cases, it doesn’t. The weight of the trigger will be the same or can even stiffer than a larger gun, which makes it more difficult to keep the barrel straight as you are pressing it.

All of these factors can make for a more difficult shooting situation overall. The increased recoil, stiff trigger, and less area for gripping the firearm can make it easy for shots to go all over the place. But don’t worry, you can learn how to shoot a small gun competently with this simple but key tip that will make all of the difference.

Getting a Good Grip

It’s important to make use of all of the grip space you have available. You’ll want to rest your hand as high up the grip as possible. What will this do is direct the recoil energy right into your arm, which helps mitigate the recoil causing the gun to want to jump right out of your hands. 

Next, you’ll want to hold on firmly. Remember, we are trying to regain control of the gun, and a firm grip is one of the key ways you can stay on your target. A challenge people have with small grips is that their pinky ends up dangling off the bottom of the magazine, creating an awkward feel.

If this is the case for your .380, get a pinky extender on your magazines. It can make all the difference in comfort and may even help your accuracy.

Slowing Down

Typically, when someone is carrying a concealed small firearm, they expect close range encounters where they can pretty much point in the general direction and pull the trigger. If this is you and you are not using your sights, you are wrong!

You may land shots at a very close distance, but you have to plan for longer ranges as well, where this method will not work. You also have to account for misses and your are responsible for those rounds.

When it comes to small handguns, making your shots deliberate when the target is at a distance is important. Mistakes are easy to make with these weapons, as we went over above. The shorter sight radius definitely contributes to this. Small mistakes are compounded. Thus, you’ll have to keep things steady.

Should You Buy a .380?

The answer is that it depends. What works for one person may not work for another. If you are a smaller person, you will have a relatively easy time carrying around firearms shooting this caliber, but even if you are larger framed, you’ll appreciate the weight and size if that is what you are after.  

One thing that a .380 typically beats other firearms is the price. You can regularly find models ranging anywhere from under $300 – $500, making them accessible for those who have limited funds, but want peace of mind when they head out. And for a lot of people, that’s what they are looking for. 

In the end, people have their own reasons for picking up particular firearms. Some people value stopping power while others value portability and carry comfort. There isn’t any wrong answer because, as we previously stated, the gun you have on you is better than the one at home. If you are uncomfortable with your selection due to peer pressure, what good will it do in a real life-threatening situation?

The weapon you are proficient with and the one you are carrying offers you the best opportunity at surviving a life-threatening situation.

Conclusion

A .380 is good enough for concealed carry. They have been proven to be effective, and many people purchase them to have an EDC weapon that doesn’t get in the way or is uncomfortable while going about day-to-day life.

The reason to carry in the first place is to know that you are protected should someone try to harm you or someone else. Thus, having full trust in your gun is important. You need to know that what you are carrying is effective and that you are proficient with it.

If you think a .380 will meet your needs, go for it. If not, there are plenty of great options out there for concealed carry.

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