.380 ACP for Self-Defense ?


There are many people out there who argue that the .380 auto cartridge is not enough “man stopping” power for self-defense. There are others who say it’s on the bottom rung for what is acceptable for self-defense, but more is recommended.

I thought I’d dive into the facts about this little cartridge and share them with you.


It was originally made in 1908 by John Browning. There are other names for this round including the 9mm short, 9mm Browning, 9mm Court.

German officers made the round famous during WWII using it in the Walther PPK. James Bond made it famous on the big screen with the same pistol.

Velocity and Mass

The .380 travels at around 1000 ft/second (which is below the sound barrier) and has a bullet weight of around 90 grains. When compared with other modern self-defense rounds, the .380 is slow and light. These two factors paired together result in less energy and penetration through the target.


But usually the .380 with full metal jacket can get at least 10 inches of penetration. Some can get quite a bit more. This enough to penetrate through most chest cavities. A friend in law enforcement told me that he personally sat in on an autopsy where the victim was shot in the head with a .380, though and through.

Granted those numbers are for hardball (not hollow point), but that’s enough to get the job done.


The lower energy output of the .380 provides for a more manageable recoil, which helps with follow-up shots. This can be attractive to those who aren’t used to the more powerful calibers.


Lower energy output also allows for smaller housing, which translates into a more concealable pistol. Most pocket .380s are just over 3/4 of an inch thick. That keeps you from broadcasting to the world , “Hey, I’m printing!” Even with the minimalistic summer outfit (I’m not referring to nudists), One can hide a pocket .380 easily.


The smaller housing also has another benefit. Less material equals less cost. Usually a good .380 pocket pistol will run around $250. I got mine for under $200.


Getting back to the original question. “Is it enough power to stop someone in self defense?” I give a resounding……..”Probably.”

Convincing huh? But I look at other factors else as well. There’s the ideal, and the real. As a civilian, I’m more likely to take a weapon to the supermarket with me if I can just throw it in my pocket. A larger caliber pistol designed for concealed carry is going to be a little heavier and bulkier.

I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of convenience. Some of you may not be willing to do that.


What do you think of the .380 round?


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  1. Ah, the caliber debate.

    As my uncle once said to me as we were discussing the pros and cons of 9mm vs. .45 ACP, “Who cares? I have yet to find anyone that will let me shoot them in the chest with a .22.”

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