Ladies Love .380s: 2023 Subcompact Pistol Roundup

Nines are fine, but there's no denying that the .380 is enjoying a new round of popularity.

by posted on February 6, 2023
380 Roundup 2023 Lede

The .380 ACP caliber pistol (created in 1908 by Colt) goes in and out of vogue every few years, withstanding an equal amount of  criticism and acclaim. In 2020 we published “6 Top Notch .380 ACP Pistols for Concealed Carry,”  which still serves as a popular reference for those in the market for such pistols.

Relatively recent introductions like Smith & Wesson’s M&P380 EZ (2018), which took top honors in our Ladies Pistol Project 3, turned the conceal-carry world upside down for those who had difficulty racking the slide of a semi-automatic pistol. That pistol’s incalculable success in giving many women who had previously shied away from semi-autos the confidence to carry has renewed a competitive spirit among gun makers, with many attempting to inject their own secret sauce to build a gun that women like to shoot. And while it’s fair to allow critics to dissect individual characteristics of pistols and the cartridge as a viable self-defense tool, especially with the volume of micro compact 9 mms flooding the market, what’s clear is that .380 micro or subcompact pistols, thanks to engineering allowing for magazine capacities of up to 15, are enjoying a new round of popularity.

In late 2022 and at SHOT Show/NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits 2023, more new and noteworthy .380s appeared on the scene. Here are a few worthy of a look, along with a handful of some of our favorite existing models that have earned their status as go-to carry guns.

EAA Girsan MC 14 T
We can now add one more prominent firearm maker—European American Armory—that is addressing the essential firearm fundamental of racking the slide, this time with an idea borrowed from the past and brought into the 21st century on its new Girsan MC 14 T pistol.

Thanks to the Tip-Up design (no slide racking required) loading and firing the MC 14 T is simple and quick, using very minimal moving parts to go from loading to firing. “With the MC 14T we wanted a handgun that was not only small and compact but also allowed people that may have issues with racking a slide the ability to carry,” said Chase Duffey, national sales & import manager at EAA Corp Available in .380 ACP with a 13+1 capacity, the Girsan MC 14 T is ideal for concealed carry, especially for those who may have issues operating a standard pistol. And with an MSRP starting at $498, everyone can afford to be safe. Eaacorp.com

Beretta 80X Cheetah
Yes, it’s back! But it’s not the same cat you remember from its multiple variations over several decades before being discontinued in 2017. The 80X is designed with an enhanced fit and style, and Beretta tells us this new model has an easier-to-rack slide, lightened recoil from a combination of tuned slide weight, spring rates, and a .380 chambering. The gun features a single action/double action trigger pull, with an overtravel that is adjustable to shorten the reset to 1 mm. The new Cheetah comes optics-ready, and sports a Picatinny rail for accessories if you so choose. In addition to a black finish, the 13-round capacity pistol is also available in a head-turning bronze tone. We will be doing a full evaluation of this pistol in coming months. For now, visit BerettaUSA.com. MSRP: $799

Rock Island Armory (ArmscorUSA) Li380
As contributor B. Gil Horman pointed out in his “New Guns for 2023” report, Armscor is expanding its Baby Rock .380 ACP pistol line up with a pocket-sized single-stack Rock Island Armory (RIA) Li380. The pistol has some interesting features, including a DA/SA trigger and a bobbed hammer. A carbon-steel slide boasts a dovetailed rear sight, along with front and rear cocking serrations. Read more in B. Gil’s “New Guns” story, or visit armscor.com. MSRP: $299

Ruger Security 380 Lite Rack
If you already own a Ruger in .380 ACP (there are several), congratulations. You have own a well-respected concealed-carry subcompact with standout features, regardless of model. Just a year shy of its 75th birthday, Ruger has never rested on its laurels. It continues to evolve and improve on its success, evidenced by its 2023 introduction in late 2022 of what promises to be another winning platform for those who struggle with racking a slide. The Security-380 boasts an impressive list of features, including many that it inherited from its big brother, the Security-9. The most important notable difference is Ruger’s trademark Lite Rack system, which includes refined slide serrations, pronounced cocking ears and a lighter recoil spring, designed for easy slide manipulation. The double-stack pistol is perfect for concealment, yet accommodates 10 or 15 rounds. We will be conducting a full test and evaluation of this pistol, so check back here for more later. Meantime, learn more in our “New Guns” story, or visit Ruger.com. MSRP: $369

SIG P365-380 ACP and Rose by SIG Sauer
In 2022 SIG Sauer announced that it had added the .380 chambering to its micro-compact P365 pistol. The concealed-carry pistol had been previously available only in 9 mm. The P365-380 uses the same grip module and fire control unit as the legacy P365 with a lightened slide, a .380 barrel, and a lighter recoil spring. SIG says the pistol is ideal for those with smaller hands, or those who find the manipulation and recoil management of larger caliber pistols challenging. The striker-fired pistol boasts a 10+1 magazine capacity. This pistol usually sells for under $500. Early in 2023 SIG Sauer announced the all-new P365 Rose brand, teaming up with world champion shooter Lena Miculek to help encourage and inspire women to take on the responsibility of their own personal safety through education, training and community. Learn more at sigsauer.com.

21st Century Classics
S&W M&P380 EZ: Since 2018, this is the modern .380 to which all others aspire. Although round capacity for many .380s has increased substantially over the EZ's 8-round magazine, it's hard to argue that it's easy-to rack slide has changed the lives of many—especially women—who wanted to shoot or carry a semi-auto buthad been challenged in performing that function due to hand-dexterity issues. Smith & Wesson later added a 9 mm model, offering a more potent self-defense tool. The pistol typically sells for under $400. Smith-Wesson.com

Walther CCP M2 380
Walther's Concealed Carry Pistol M2 380 realized that an easy-to-rack pistol was the logical addition to its initial 9mm CCP announced some years earlier. Walther's designers also figured out a way to reduce recoil with its patented Softcoil system, and integrated a toolless takedown system for easy cleaning and maintenance. The gun contains other features like an external safety, front and rear slide serrations and a reversible magazine release. It also is offered in a variety of attractive two-tone finishes. You can usually find this pistol for under $400. waltherarms.com 

Glock 42
It's impossible to read any list of pistols without seeing the Glock brand somewhere in the mix. The 42 is the company's smallest model, and earned its way onto this list thanks to ease of use continues to fare well in all of our Ladies Pistol Project handgun surveys. Beyond ergonomics, Glock's Safe Action system, with its multiple integrated safety features, contribute the iconic brand's durability. You can usually pick up a new Glock 42 for about $500. Glock.com

SIG Sauer P238
SIG's 1911-style .380, the P238, has enjoyed considerable popularity over the years among men and women alike. In fact, it took the top spot in our inaugural Ladies Pistol Project in 2016. Women cited the smooth single-action trigger pull, along with its bright sights as features they loved about this pistol. Despite the seemingly never-ending appetite for lightweight striker-fired concealed-carry pistols, this all-metal pistol remains one of our favorites. Although SIG recently removed this from their catalog, there are still plenty of them out there. You'll likely pay in the mid $600s for a SIG P238. sigsauer.com

Kimber Micro 
Kimber
's Micro Raptor .380 (stainless model shown) is now 10 years old, and joins the P238 as the only other 1911 platform on this list. As our friends at NRA's American Rifleman blogged  after its introduction, "The Kimber is about as nice as a single-action .380 ACP is going to get." Standard features include a lowered and flared ejection port, and a beveled magazine well. Sights are steel, mounted in machined dovetails for additional integrity. Each Micro includes an extended 7-round magazine. While capacity, again, now seems outdated by comparison to newer introductions, nothing handles and shoots quite like a 1911. Kimber quality is reflected in its price tag, which hovers in the $900 range. kimberamerica.com

 

—Ann Y. Smith, Editor in Chief

 

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