As far as concealed carry is concerned, you’ll hardly find something more compact than .380 pistols. A small-sized and lightweight .380 ACP cartridge allows pistols chambered for it to easily fit into the pocket. Developed by J. M. Browning back in 1908 for blowback pistols having a simpler design and, thus, lower production costs, the .380 ACP cartridge was never officially adopted by the U.S. law enforcement agencies, and today shooters mostly refer to it as a self-defense round.
The compact, palm-sized design of a .380 handgun allows you to carry it in the inside-the-waistband holster, in a pocket, or with a purse. But what about the capabilities of the .380 ACP cartridge?
Actually, when compared to other handgun cartridges like .45 ACP or 9mm, the .380 ACP can be described as underpowered. The bullet travels at a smaller velocity and lacks impact energy to penetrate deep enough to create a large permanent wound cavity that will certainly incapacitate. Especially taking into account that the bullet should go through several layers of fabric.
To make your .380 pistol more effective against humans, it’s recommended to use FMJ ammo that doesn’t expand in the flesh, yet penetrates deeper. Hollow-point bullets, on the other hand, are less effective with the .380 ACP as when it passes through clothes, the nose cavity gets plugged with fibers and does not expand. A fluted-nose bullet makes somewhat in between ensuring better penetration than a hollow-point bullet and more damage than an FMJ.
Though the .380 ACP lacks stopping power, it still can be deadly, especially at short ranges.
A few words about the recoil. There is a belief that smaller cartridges give lighter recoil. That’s not exactly true. Besides the cartridge size, the felt recoil depends on the size and design of a handgun. Small handguns don’t weigh a lot, that’s why they dampen recoil less effectively than heavy ones. As far as handgun design is concerned, the larger grip also helps to reduce recoil.
To conclude, a .380 ACP pistol can be quite capable in the hands of a person who knows its downsides, handles it confidently, and can draw it quickly. After all, keeping a pistol right near you is better than having it somewhere in your house or not having it at all. Before buying a .380 handgun, go to a range and shoot it to see if it’s comfortable enough. Especially, if you have big hands.