.38 or .380

When we’re talking about .38 or .380, you’d think that would mean the same thing… but we’re not talking math, we’re talking gun calibers, and .38 Special and .380 ACP are two different things. However, they tend to come up a fair lot in conversation when people talk about “small guns” for concealed carry.

A friend of mine has been looking to get a gun for defensive purposes, he’s been asking me many questions and I’ve been answering the best I can. Recently the discussion turned to small guns, including things like .380 semi-autos like your Ruger LCR and Kel-Tec’s and I brought up things like a .38 Special snub revolver.

While looking up some other things, I came across this article by Jim Williamson discussing the .38 snub vs. the .380 semi-auto. It’s a decent read if you’re researching into such things.

Over at hipowersandhandguns.com there’s an article on the same topic.

Both authors come down on the side of a good .38 revolver. Basically, the ballistics of the .38 round offer a bit more than the .380 round. The revolver is going to be less prone to malfunctions, which some .380 semi-autos can be notorious for. As well, some of the .380 semi-autos can be very small and very hard to shoot, which could lead to not practicing with them; larger .380’s such as the Bersa Thunder may not have the same issue. But in the end, both are considered “merely adequate” in light of other options available. Still, something is better than nothing, and both are squarely in the “something” column.

One thought on “.38 or .380

  1. .38 for two reasons;

    1) Heavier bullets, better terminal ballistics, better terminal performance.
    2) .38 Snub = Bigger Gun = Easier to shoot.

    I had an LCP for a while, I found the gun impossible to shoot accurately or quickly. Meanwhile, I could shoot my 642 twice as fast and be three or four times as accurate at longer distances. The extra two rounds the LCP carried of a slightly smaller and much lighter bullet was not enough difference to excuse my inability to shoot the gun well. I was also not the only person to suffer from this issue a couple of friends and decent shooters couldn’t shoot the gun well either.

    There is one new .380 out there that I like, the Sig P238. The reason I like the gun is because it includes HUGE 3-dot sights on it. While I know some don’t like the 3-dot platform, my thing is, it includes decent sights. In fact the sights are above decent for that size and class of handgun, they are stellar. I also find the gun points well, but that is probably almost completely based on the fact that is a miniature 1911.

    To be honest though, I still don’t care much for the caliber and will pass on the gun, until it goes to a 9×19 chamber instead of 9×17. But, I think the gun might be much better than the other tiny .380 pocket guns out there, simply because it has a better trigger and better sights on it. Carrying it with 6+1 or something like Corbon Pow’R’ball might make it almost the equivalent of a .38 J-Frame loaded with 158-grain +P LHPs…almost.


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