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Thread: Selecting a .380 auto

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    Hello all, i was hoping to get some good advice on selecting a good pistol for my fiancee.

    She has shot .22's, 40cal's. & 9mm's, but we feel she may be better suited for a .380 auto. The 40 was too much power for her and even a 9mm may be a bit much. Plus, most are pretty large/heavy and she needs something smaller/lighter.

    I know that Ruger's new .380 pocket pistol has gotten great reviews and Ruger, in my opinion, has a great reputation for quality.

    I also know that the Bersa Thunder .380 is said to be a decent gun for the money.

    Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance

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    Regular Member CRF250rider1000's Avatar
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    For a CC self defense pistol in .380 you can't beat the Kel Tec for the price

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    You might have her try the new Ruger for 50 or 100 rounds before buying it, though. The same for the KelTec P3AT.

    They're snappy little rascals. They're suchsmall,lightweight guns, even the dimunuitive .380 cartridge makes them kick. Also, the stippledgrip texture and thelines/grooves on the backstrap are great for keeping a grip, but they do nothing for comfort.

    I mention this because the 9mm "may be a bit much". The KelTec P3AT I tried definitely had more felt recoil than my old 9mm.

    Maybe the Bersa's. There are a number of .380's out there.
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    Regular Member CRF250rider1000's Avatar
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    The kel Tec is not exactly for comfort, but is for the person that needs to 100% conceal their weapon easily I liked the Kel Tec when I shot it. It actually kicked less than I thought it would. The OP stated that he wanted a small pistol for her to easily conceal and this is the perfect one for the job.

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    A close relative of mine has a Berreta Cheetah .380. It's a nice pistol, nickel plate and wooden stocks, and I enjoyed shooting it, but I can't speak for its reliability as I have not put it through the wringer at the range. I'm not normally a fan of Berreta pistols, either, but I kind of like it.

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    My wife carries the Beretta 84 .380. Its a 13 shot pistol, designed in the 92F mold. Its rather pricey ($600-700), but it is a good shooting gun, and very solid. I recommend it.

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    I have a Bersa Thunder .380. It is a great small framed pistol. I put the optional rubber grips on it for a better feel and it digests any ammo I feed it. It is not a bad pistol for the price.

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    What about PPK? Great little gun. And talk about great reviews, they still compare new guns to it as a bench mark.

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    Well, first, make sure she can't handle a 9mm. A .40S&W has a LOT of snap to it; it's basically a REALLY hot 9mm. You shouldn't base her ability to handle any other round based on her experience with just one, especially the .40Smith.

    Second, remember Newton's laws; the lighter the gun, the stronger it will kick because the same energy that sends the bullet out at many hundreds of feet per second is imparted the other way to the gun and the shooter. That means that a Kel-Tec is going to kick harder than a Beretta or CZ.

    That brings us to the next point; what is this gun's primary purpose? Will it be a range toy for her to learn marksmanship, or will this be a carry weapon? If it will be carried, will she conceal or OC it? There are plenty of good guns with slimmer grips that have enough mass to make the recoil easily manageable. A pocket pistol is NOT a gun she will have fun with at the range. Conversely, if she's going to carry this weapon everyday, it's less about being comfortable firing 100 rounds than it is about being comfortable having it handy; a CZ does not conceal on the female frame very well.

    I would make every effort to find her a 9mm she can shoot comfortably. 9mm is the cheapest defense round (.380 and .38Sp are in fact more expensive even though they're less powerful) and in a full-frame compact or full-size pistol it will be the softest recoil you'll find in a round that you'd trust her life to.

    For the money, yes, the Bersa Thunder .380 is an excellent little pocket pistol. They make em in two flavors; single-stack and double-stack ("Plus"). If she can comfortably hold and/or conceal the double-stack, get that; she'll have an extra 4 or 5 rounds available. If not, the single-stack's still a 6+1, very easy topocket,and less expensive.

    Ruger's LCP is a great "belly gun" (point and shoot at point-blank range), but like I said, small gun = large kick; she won't like it on the firing line.

    The Walther PP series are excellent guns. The factor here will be cost; Walther's got a name and they sell it.

    There is a U.S. maker named Kahr that makes striker-fired weapons similar in some ways to a Glock, but far slimmer. You might have her try one of those in 9mm or even .45 (.45 has more energy, but the impulse is longer so the recoil feels more like a push than a flip)

    Now, if this is going to be solely a range toy, forgeteverything I just saidand get her a .22LR target pistol like a Buckmark, Beretta NEOSor Ruger MkII/III. Ammo's three or four cents a shot, and she'll have a blast with it at the range. I have a Buckmark whose main job so far has been to indoctrinate new shooters. It's a gun that shows you what you're doing wrong without making it unsafe to do things wrong. Hold a .22 incorrectly and you retain control; hold a 9mm incorrectly and it can fly out of your hands behind your head.

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    Wow, thank you all for your quick responses. You all have great recommendations, thats for sure.

    To answer some questions, the gun she needs now will be mostly for target practice. I was hoping to get the best of both worlds though and get her a good target gun that also makes a good defense gun.

    She has shot her brothers Ruger .22 (Mark I i believe) and had no problems handling it what-so-ever. I was going to stay away from .22's (not for any certain reason), but that may be her best bet. Once shes real comfortable, we'll see how she does on a 9mm again.

    After reading all of your replies, i think i may start her on a .22, this way shes comfortable and she can shoot rather inexpensively. Then i may find her a nice 9mm, that works for her in terms of comfort, control and concealment.

    I just thought that a .380 may be a better gun for her.

    Liko81, you brought up some great points, thank you. She was under the impression that a smaller frame gun would be better for her. But as you pointed out (Newtons Laws), the smaller guns canpack a mean punch with the force coming out of them. I explained that to her, which sheunderstands, so maybe a 9mm is still in order. You had mentioned that Karh Arms may be something to look at. They're actually based not far from me. My cousin is police officer (worked in the Bronx for 8 years before transferring "upstate") and he was carrying a Kahr 9mm as his off-duty. He liked it, but i was unsure of their reputation and reliability. I may have to take a second look now though.

    Thanks again all!

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    Mark II are very nice. Also have one. IMO everyone should have one.

    Kahr was my last purchase. A CW9. and for the price I am in love it is my new CC gun. My GF(5'2") and here friend shoot it. And so thin. and small.



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    I have a FIE Titan II .380 which is about as heavy as a Sig P228 (9 mm) even though a smaller frame sidearm, but it has more of a snap on recoil than does the P228. My fiancee is pretty good with the 9mm but doesn't like to shoot the .380 because of the snappy recoil. It isn't a matter of controllability as much as comfort.

    I'm not intending to discourage your buying a .380 but rather write the above simply to make the point that a smaller caliber does not necessarily mean a lesser or more comfortable recoil. If you can, I would suggest she shoot several different guns of different calibers to get an idea of which caliber and models she prefers.

    I have said before that choosing a firearm is like choosing a pair of shoes. It is more than just a matter of size. It is also a matter of purpose, individual fit, style, performance, durability, and any number of personal preferences.
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    M16a2 wrote:
    What about PPK? Great little gun. And talk about great reviews, they still compare new guns to it as a bench mark.
    I write as a PPK/s owner, and I love my lil' popper but IT MUST BE BROKEN IN PROPERLY to be considered reliable in a life or death scenario. Great reviews??? go to www.gundirectory.com and look up the reviews on the thread for the PPK/s (mine are posted under SPOI74). Don't get me wrong, it can be a great weapon once broken in but new, well, you're probably gonna be carrying in practical terms a single-shot pistol. Which is better than nothing, but just.




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    A word about .380 caliber recoil, since a number of posters here have mentioned how 'whippy' or 'snappy' the recoil is on a lot of .380 pistols (and also for .25s and .32s): the reason many smaller-caliber pistols have snappy recoil is that most of them are direct-blowback designs, versus locked-breech designs found on larger-caliber pistols. Here's a good explanation of this: http://yarchive.net/gun/pistol/blowback_vs_locked.html

    Why don't all smaller pistols have a locked breech, you ask? Because blowback actions are easier to design and machine.

    There are a few designs that have a locked breech, like the Star Model S (sorry to tease y'all like this, the manufacturer went out of business in 1979 and they're not easy to find): http://www.star-firearms.com/firearm.../s/index.shtml

    Anyway, is there any reason why she wouldn't consider a revolver? They're great for beginners.

    Also, since I brought it up, here's a link to a discussion of which .380s have locked breeches: http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/i.../t-212934.html

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    I find the Bersa .380 with rubber grips to be quite managable recoil wise. Absolutely the tiny Rugers and Keltecs have a snap. No frame to hold onto so to speak. Remember, if you are that recoil adverse, you can get loads for the .380 all the way down to 60gr range with lightens the kick compared to 95gr loads.

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    Can't believe no one has mentioned the 9x18 CZ82 for under $200.00!

    Hot little shell, concealable, dependable and not that much recoil. It is the pistol my 100 pound grown daughter carries (thanks to dad).

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    I have a stainless North American Arms .380. Its a double action only piece and as it is all steel ithandles very well even with hotter rounds. I'm reasonably accurate with it, but it isn't worth much past several yards; it fires quickly and [for close range] is a good "little"pocket carry piece. I usually carry it as a backup because I prefer to carry my 10mm 1911 primarily. The North American Arms .380 is around $400 and is a quality machine, 6+1 and dependable with hollowpoints and other rounds.


    Check it out:

    http://www.naaminis.com/380.html

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    I the Person wrote:
    A word about .380 caliber recoil, since a number of posters here have mentioned how 'whippy' or 'snappy' the recoils is on a lot of .380 pistols (and also for .25s and .32s): the reason many smaller-caliber pistols have snappy recoil is that most of them are direct-blowback designs, versus locked-breech designs found on larger-caliber pistols. Here's a good explanation of this: http://yarchive.net/gun/pistol/blowback_vs_locked.html
    Nice article. Thanks for posting it!
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    I the Person: good of you to mention the Star S .380. Those were standard issue for Luftwaffe pilots in the war, and I use one as a backup sometimes.

    As for the Kel-Tec, they are fine "pocket" type pistols, but the supply is very tight. We have considerable trouble getting them from wholesalers even. Likewise the new Ruger variation on that same theme. The Beretta 84 is excellent and higher-capacity, but it may be cost-prohibitive. Taurus makes a clone that is rather more affordable (mod PT 58 S). The Bersa .380 would be a good choice as well - it's both concealeable and affordable.

    -ljp

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    +1 on the Bersa. I've had one for about a year now and love it.

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    deepdiver wrote:
    I the Person wrote:
    A word about .380 caliber recoil, since a number of posters here have mentioned how 'whippy' or 'snappy' the recoils is on a lot of .380 pistols (and also for .25s and .32s): the reason many smaller-caliber pistols have snappy recoil is that most of them are direct-blowback designs, versus locked-breech designs found on larger-caliber pistols. Here's a good explanation of this: http://yarchive.net/gun/pistol/blowback_vs_locked.html
    Nice article. Thanks for posting it!
    You're welcome! I've always preferred locked-breech pistols over blowback ones. I didn't always know the reason why.

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    Legba wrote:
    I the Person: good of you to mention the Star S .380. Those were standard issue for Luftwaffe pilots in the war, and I use one as a backup sometimes.

    As for the Kel-Tec, they are fine "pocket" type pistols, but the supply is very tight. We have considerable trouble getting them from wholesalers even. Likewise the new Ruger variation on that same theme. The Beretta 84 is excellent and higher-capacity, but it may be cost-prohibitive. Taurus makes a clone that is rather more affordable (mod PT 58 S). The Bersa .380 would be a good choice as well - it's both concealeable and affordable.

    -ljp
    Yes, the Star S .380s really rock. Eight-round magazine with a full-length grip, feels very comfortable. It's basically a scaled-down 1911 minus the grip safety.

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    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    I the Person wrote:
    deepdiver wrote:
    I the Person wrote:
    A word about .380 caliber recoil, since a number of posters here have mentioned how 'whippy' or 'snappy' the recoils is on a lot of .380 pistols (and also for .25s and .32s): the reason many smaller-caliber pistols have snappy recoil is that most of them are direct-blowback designs, versus locked-breech designs found on larger-caliber pistols. Here's a good explanation of this: http://yarchive.net/gun/pistol/blowback_vs_locked.html
    Nice article. Thanks for posting it!
    You're welcome! I've always preferred locked-breech pistols over blowback ones. I didn't always know the reason why.
    I obviously knew that my FIE Titan II .380 is a blowback design, however, until reading that article I had never thought about how that design contributed to the less comfortable recoil in what is a heavy pistol for it's size. Very informative. Hope you enjoy the forum and stick around.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    Very interesting...thanks. If one has seen, held and/or fired a Hi Point, one willsee what a massive slideit usesto handle blowback recoil.

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    TheMrMitch wrote:
    Very interesting...thanks. If one has seen, held and/or fired a Hi Point, one will¬*see what a massive slide¬*it uses¬*to handle blowback recoil.¬*
    Yes, the embodiment of 'clunky'. Apologies to anyone who owns one.

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