What’s your thoughts on the .380 ACP cartridge?

This little cartridge has been around as a defense cartridge for quite awhile.

Here is all about the .380 ACP cartridge and what it can really do.


The little .380 ACP cartridge came into being way back in 1908. John Browning’s design and Colt Manufacturing Company’s 1908 Pistol hearkened into an era where the .380 ACP would be loved and scorned all in the same breath. The little full metal jacket projectile was the rule and what was available. Stopping power was not the word for that FMJ projectile. The cartridge however was much better than the lowly .32 ACP cartridge but was overshadowed by it’s bigger cousin the 9mm Luger cartridge.

Guns International

The .380 ACP cartridge has many names overseas mostly. If you see the following names on a box of foreign made ammunition it is most likely the same creature.

  • .380 Auto
  • 9mm Browning
  • 9mm Corto
  • 9mm Court
  • 9mm Kratak
  • 9mm Kurz
  • 9mm Scurt
  • 9mm Short
  • 9 × 17mm

Back in 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand and also his wife were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip with a .380 ACP caliber pistol. Yes it appears the .380 ACP was the cartridge that may have ignited World War One.


Small pistols chambered for the .380 ACP were easily concealed compared to a full size service pistol. Pocket carry was now a possibility especially in a coat or vest pocket. It would take many decades later, better expanding ammunition and concealed carry permits allowed here in the U.S. to take the .380 ACP to the next level.

In my estimation the biggest jump in popularity for the .380 ACP cartridge was in 2003 when Kel-Tec released to the public their “P3AT” pistol. This pistol was a slightly up sized version of their popular .32 ACP cartridge pistol. With six rounds in the detachable magazine and one in the chamber this very small pistol was a pocket carrier’s dream concealed carry pistol. At 7.7 ounces unloaded and not much heavier loaded you may forget it is even in your pocket. Make sure not to wash it in your pants!


Shortly after many other gun manufacturers began making similar sized and appearance versions of that popular pistol. Imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery right? Of all of these handy pistols the Ruger LCP pistol took the lead in popularity.


Ammunition at this time took a better turn for this under appreciated cartridge. Up until this point the few available hollow point loads had a shaky track record of expansion. Many users of the .380 ACP cartridge just bought the cheaper full metal jacket ammunition citing penetration was more important than non-expansion of the less reliable hollow points of the time. Now ammunition makers were offering loads that actually performed as they should for expansion. The loads just kept getting better offering users of the now legal concealed carry states an option for better self defense ammunition. The load options began to multiple at an exponential rate to what we are offered today.

Some rifle makers did make a few different models of .380 ACP eating long guns. These got luke warm responses but for shooters with already .380 ACP chambered handguns these rifles gained some fans. I cannot say I am one of them though.

Sportsman’s Guide

The .380 ACP cartridge is more popular now than ever. In the foreseeable future as 9mm Luger chambered pistols get smaller the smaller .380 ACP cartridge may loose some ground. While it is not a full sized knock down power cartridge like the .357 Magnum or other such hard hitter it has it’s place. When stoked with hot modern expanding hollow points or other such defense load sitting in your pocket it’s there when the larger .45 ACP pistol was left at home.  Just remember to always use a pocket holster or you might just test the stopping power on yourself.

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