Cartridge of the Week, the .380 Auto, .380 ACP, 9mm Browning, 9mm Short, 9×17, 9mm Kurz

By CTD Allen published on in Ammunition

The best gun ever made is the one you have on you when you need it. It may not be your first choice but as long as it goes bang in the right direction, to you there will never be a better gun made. The key to having that gun is that you will keep it with you; always…

.380 ACP, 9mm Browning Short, 9×17

Years ago as a young police officer, I remember my first chance to carry concealed, my choice was a 4 inch full-sized Smith & Wesson 686 in a shoulder holster. That lasted two weeks. Then I discovered my first pocket pistol, a Model 60 Smith and Wesson. The lesson is if it is too big or awkward to carry, then you will not likely carry it. It will be in the glove box of your car when you are in between the car and the store. While I carry a sub-compact .45 ACP religiously, there are times when even this is too big and I need another more compact option.

Now we have many choices in pocket pistols, or Get- Off-Me-Guns as I call them. The most popular come in a caliber once again designed by his Excellency John Moses Browning, the 9mm Browning or, as we now know it, the .380 ACP. Here is the absolute perfect pocket caliber. For those that are screaming foul, I did not say the best caliber, just the best pocket caliber.

Sig Sauer P238 .380 ACP

Let’s look at our choices. The .22 Long Rifle (.22LR) is a great little bullet and light. A full magazine of .22 LR is not going to weigh a gun down and you can get a gun that will fit a pocket. However, when we speak of ballistics there are much better calibers. Do not get me wrong, the Deuce Deuce can get the job done. The next step would be the .32 ACP. However, decent guns and ammo in this caliber are harder to come by. The .25 ACP is not even worth talking about. I got physically ill just thinking of some of the guns it is chambered for.

Smith and Wesson 642 .38 Special. Little gun, big kick, only five shots.

If we move just above the .380 ACP we get to the .38 Special. This is a great caliber for pocket pistols, good ballistics and good punch but usually only available in wheel guns and only five shots at best. Of course, now we have to talk about kick or recoil. Pocket pistols are a handful in most any caliber but .22 LR. Yes, .38 Special is a good pocket round as well as 9mm but the recoil in these small packages is a handful. Small gun equals big kick.

This brings us back to our .380 ACP, the best of all worlds, a 9mm bullet but in a smaller package. Designed by J.M.B. in 1908 for the Colt Pocket Automatic and subsequently introduced to Fabrique National (FN) in 1912 as the 9mm Browning Short. This became a standard for police calibers in Europe. It is the smallest caliber acceptable for police use. Some countries still use it as a military caliber cartridge.

The .380 ACP in both the Cartridges of The World and the Ammunition Encyclopedia recommend this as the very smallest caliber for personal defense. I would have to agree with that statement. The smaller calibers, .22, .25, and .32, are still better than nothing, but if you are looking for the best pocket pistol cartridge then the .380 ACP has no rivals. A simple comparison of ballistic capabilities should resolve that argument.

Walther PPK .380 ACP

One point of note is if you choose the small .380 cartridge and a pocket pistol, this is not the gun you take to range and shoot all day. They kick and at times are uncomfortable to shoot. I once shot a Colt Mustang in this caliber. It was the best in quality worst shooting experience with a gun I can remember. It is a great pocket gun with lousy recoil. Larger .380 pistols are much more pleasant to shoot. The best of these are usually in the Walther PPK packages or medium size Berettas. However, these are not true pocket pistols.

I recently took a first time shooter out to the range. I had him start with a medium-size 1970s Beretta .380 Garcia. He really enjoyed it and shot it quite well. So if you are looking for that small gun for a family member who is really gun shy to recoil, the medium framed gun chambered in the .380 ACP is a great choice. Lets be real, James Bond carried one what more do you need.

James Bond Sporting a Walther PPK .380 ACP

9mm Luger, 9mm Mac, .380 ACP

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Comments (22)

  • Charles


    I’ve had a Desert Eagle Micro since they were released in the U.S. ,
    All stainless Croat? air force survival pistol that passes BuffaloBore non-+P high velocity Gold Dots like they are hardball practice cartridges.
    A Remora keeps it stuck where I place it, and it is a nice alternative or back-up to my short XDS.45.


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