SHOT 2015—Browning 1911-380

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms

Review any serious list of combat handguns and you will find John Moses Browning’s fingerprints all over the design. That is common knowledge. However, Browning did not stop at designing many of the world’s greatest handguns. For instance, did you know he also designed the .380 ACP cartridge?

Browning Black Label 1911-380

Browning Black Label 1911-380

Long debated, some consider the .380 ACP too small. In addition, their criticism is well founded. Correction, it was well founded at one time. Advancements in bullet design, powder performance and ballistics have made the .380 a viable self-defense choice. The smaller size platforms are easier to conceal and lighter to carry. This adds up to additional comfort. After all, the biggest handgun in the world is useless if you do not have it when you need it or you are constantly fidgeting with it to find a comfortable carry position. Why not just get a business card that reads, “Have Gun, Will Travel.” Fans of Old Westerns will get the Paladin reference.

This article started out by extolling John Browning for his creation of the .380 ACP cartridge and many of the world’s top handguns including the venerable 1911 pistol. After over a century of use and several of the world’s worst conflicts, the 1911 still stands tall and remains on the battlefield today. Back at the home front, saying a disparaging word about the 1911 at will earn you a bloody nose, at least not in the literal sense, but you may find yourself a social outcast.

Taking all of this into account, is it any wonder that the innovative minds at Browning would be the ones to bring together these two innovations over a century later and offer the 1911-380? This is peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese—the perfect combination we always knew existed, but never truly put together on the same plate. Browning’s 1911-380 offers the reliability and feel of a larger 1911 with size and comfort of a .380.

Browning Black Label 1911-380 in action at Media Day at the Range 2015

The author with the Browning Black Label 1911-380 in action at Media Day at the Range 2015

The lines were long at the Winchester booth that actually housed the 1911-380 at Media Day 2015, which is a good indicator of the popularity amongst gun writers. The 1911-380 is 85 percent of the size of the original 1911 45 ACP model. It’s ideal for concealed carry duty, and for fitting a wider variety of shooters. To 1911 enthusiasts, authenticity matters. That fact is indisputable and was not lost on Browning’s engineers in the creation of the 1911-380. 

The 1911-380 is the only authentically designed, full-featured 1911-style handgun currently available and chambered in .380 ACP. Browning did not compromise on size either. The 1911-380 is not the smallest .380. In fact, picking it up at the range, I quickly noted it is not even as small as many of the .380s. While still compact, the slide and barrel are longer than many offerings in the .380 ACP class to enhance accuracy and function—and it worked. Those considering the 1911-380 for concealed carry need not worry. Browning kept the weight down to a scant three to five ounces more than competing subcompact models on the market today.

From the grave and more than a century after John Browning initially designed the platform and the cartridge, jaw dropping designs are still being crafted from his innovation.Click Here to Start Shopping Online at Cheaper Than Dirt

Tell us what you think about Browning’s Black Label 1911-380 in the comment section.

SLRule

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (19)

  • EDWARD G HOFFMANN

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    I carry an upgraded Colt Government .380 Pocketlite and I doubt I’ll be trading it for a Browning just yet, but I do like that the Browning is a true scaled down 1911 platform. Compared to blowback .380s, the 1911 mechanicals make these really sweet shooting pistols.

    Reply

  • Jeff AZ

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    What a shame, I was excited about this until I saw the sights. Like others here I have the old Llama 380 small frame 1911. It’s the perfect size and caliber for my girlfriend. It’s also a fun little gun to shoot but it is shot out. It needs a recoil spring that cannot seem to be found so the spring cap gouges the frame when it is fired.

    This would make a great replacement for her except for the sights. The front sight is black and not replaceable. It is part of the slide. It’s hard to see if the rear sight can be replaced either. Point it against a black target, like a guy in a black tee shirt and the sight picture disappears. Why did Browning choose to not put modern sights on a 2014 weapon?

    I want to have a personal defense weapon that has at least the ability to install night sights for her as she is not an experienced shooter like I am. She needs quick sight picture acquisition even more than I do. Sadly, it looks like this one fails to meet that requirement.

    For now I guess I will keep the PK380 for her. No night sights but at least there are white markings to get a good sight picture against black targets.

    Reply

    • EFR

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      I just bought a couple of NIB Browning 1911’s for my wife for Christmas…a 1911-380 and a 1911A1-22. I am replying regarding the sights on the 380. They are replaceable….at least I hope they are because an the initial cleaning in preparation for our first trip to the range with her pistols…the front sight fell off. After poking around I found an article that indicated they are plastic snap in sight blades.

      So, I will be placing a call to Browning on Monday and asking them to send me about a half dozen or so sight blades.

      This sort of shines a bad light on their Black Label spec ops theme…really Lego sights on a pistol I bought to save my wife’s life…love the gun and I have wished colt or somebody would have built these 40 or 50 years ago… Closest I could get were the old Llama small frame

      I also have a colt 1903 that as of now is 100 years old shoots to point of aim very reliable and the front sight won’t fall off and it isn’t plastic…still have high hopes for the 380

      Reply

  • Zoot

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    This is just a rehash of the Colt Mustang plus 2 a fine looking and reliable weapon. The Bersa 380 CC is awesome too and a lot less expensive. Both are better concealed than the “1911 Browning”. The current 1911 380 is a Johnny come lately that isn’t really that impressive in price or concealed carry.

    Reply

    • PatrickGarrison

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      No…No…No. My personal carry firearm was a Beretta 85 Cheetah. I bought the Browning. I love 1911’s. Not a Johnny Come Lately. It’s a Johnny comes marching home again. Hurrah. Ex-Cavalry Armorer. I Love this thing.

      Reply

  • Joe

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    I have own a Llama .380 and a Llama.22 till I wised up and bought a Kimber .45 that I carry on a regular basis but find the Llama .380 is no longer in Production and good luck finding parts for them as did I when the Hammer broke on the 380 .Browning is known for it’s Manufacturing of well built firearms that is why I have ordered one, since the are not in the system yet I have found those who talk about Ksi are showing lack of gun Knowage .As anyone knows nothing beat a well placed shot

    Reply

  • Willy

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    I think it is very cool! But check out the video on youtube, “Llama’s Especial 380 mini 1911″ This idea is nothing new. What concerns me with the Browning 380 is it has a mag disconnect which is a deal killer for me. While some view that as a safety feature, if your in a gun fight, have dropped an empty mag and get a round in the chamber the gun won’t fire without the mag, that could cost you your life. Granted that’s not likely to happen but crap does happen and I like to stack the odds in my favor. Yeah it was Hollywood but remember the scene from Breaking Bad when Hank was about to get his head chopped off and found that one bullet?

    Reply

  • Dragonrider

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    Carry both a LLama .380 and an Ithaca 1911, .45 ACP. Would not trade either one. Carry the LLama .380 in the summer months (live in Arizona) and the Ithaca .45 in the winter months (yes we have winters (live in the “high country”).

    Reply

  • Glenn

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    There might of been other gun manufacturers out there that made a small 1911. But what quality manufacture – BROWNING ~ I want one !

    Reply

  • Mike

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    Why is this such a loose overview, or even basic preview, as far as the article is concerned? Even the imbedded video reveals nothing about the pistol.
    The information pertinent to anyone interested in this article would be specific weight, magazine capacity, sights, frame material, price.
    Come on CTD.

    Reply

  • Adam

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    Sig P238 and Colt Mustang both come to mind in this discussion as well.

    Reply

  • Calvin Grimalkin

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    Gosh, who would have thought of making a scaled down quality 1911 in .380, except for Browning?

    Geeze, I wonder if the folks over at Star, LLama, or Astra would have ever have thought of doing such a thing.???

    Wait, I believe that they had already been there, done that, many decades ago.

    Just goes to show, here is nothing new under the sun.

    Reply

    • MacII

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      Calvin,

      Correct in your comment. I bought a Yama (Oops, Llama) in 1966 in Barcelona, Spain, direct from the factory and it as about a 1/2 sized 1911. Horrid plastic grips but otherwise a nice appearing, deeply blued pistol. Cute as a bug’s ear. It would disappear in the front pocket of my trousers. I loved the gun until —
      One day, we were shooting at cans off the liberty boat, waiting to load the boat and take a boat load of sailors to Fleet Landing. My compatriot was shooting a .45 ACP, 1911 and I had my diminutive .380. Of course, we were nearly 4 miles off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and had permission of the OOD to shoot while we were waiting.
      When he hit a can with the .45, it sunk in pretty short order. When I hit a can, it dented the can and pushed it around in the water but only penetrated sometimes. I could shoot and hit a can two, three or four times with the .380 before it sank. My friend hit the can once and it was gone for good. At the time, I wondered if our leather flight jackets would turn the bullet from a .380.
      Shortly after, I sold the .380 with commentary about my concerns about its failure to sink floating cans beside the ship.
      Now we are asked to believe that, due to new powders and new bullets that the .380 will sink a floating can every time, just like a ,.45? Maybe, but I am very skeptical. If my memory is correct, the .380 has less energy than some of the pellet rifles out there. Probably easier to shoot and a lot more accurate, too, wouldn’t you say?

      Reply

    • Alan

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      .380 ACP & .40 S&W are “high pressure” rounds. They certainly serve a purpose, but they have never appealed to me.

      9 MM performance is just so repeatable, dependable & predictable..

      My personal preference.. Good article…

      Reply

    • rabrooks

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      I couldn’t mention 40SW and 380 in the same breath.
      However, it is interesting that 380acp and 32acp were really used as defensive calibers. JHP’s won’t give much penetration. It seems that the heaviest fmj’s are about the only practicle cartrige for them? I used to think that lighter would increase it’s fps/lethality.
      OK, I might get one just ot have. Just don’t trust that small.

      Funny, but I’ve also learned to never underestimate the 22lr……

      Reply

    • Jeff

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      I keep seeing people talk about “high pressure” calibers…sounds like someone’s been watching a little too much James Yeager…and while I greatly respect his opinion, anyone who brings up the “high pressure” aspect of any handgun cartridge really needs to check their rhetoric. 9mm is a 35Ksi round look it up; according SAAMI spec. Throw in that many people buy or even load +P rounds, and that argument falls flat on its face or dare I say it, even trips backward down the stairs. CIP specs are only 34Ksi, and that’s how the Euros loaded it up for decades before the 9mm craze really took off in the states.

      The disdain about .40S&W and it’s “high pressure” stature is a retarded argument…it’s like arguing about ford vs chevy vs mopar or target vs k mart vs walmart vs costco…everyone has their preferences and there are always arguments for or against, but to use a worn out and cliched discussion with only circumstantial and fouled (e.g., Ka-booms) evidence against the caliber’s intrinsic capabilities. I’m not one much for hypothetical situations, but what if Georg Luger had successfully upgraded his design to use a straightwall pistol cartridge of 10mm, say a 10x20mm…this whole discussion wouldn’t be happening…

      In a nutshell, quit using the high pressure argument to defend 9mm Luger…it’s a capable, available, and cheap caliber, and it’s personal choice, leave it at that.

      Reply

    • Jeff

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      Oh-and .380 isn’t a high pressure round either…it’s actually only a 21Ksi round…to say that’s high pressure displays some verifiable ignorance of handgun cartridge attributes…

      Reply

    • WuzNtMe

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      Good to know if you think you might be attacked by a six pack.

      Reply

    • josh

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      Ok so stand in front of me and let’s see how bullet proof you are against any .380 or for that matter any .22!

      Reply

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