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.
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.