One of the most popular self-protection cartridges available on the market today, the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is a powerful self-defense cartridge that can be used in a light compact pistol with mild recoil – making it a popular choice among those who carry concealed and police officers looking for a capable back-up gun. However, gun writers either hate the .380 ACP or love it – there has not been much middle ground since its inception.
John Moses Browning designed the cartridge, and the .380 ACP was first introduced by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in 1908, for the Colt Model 1908 Pocket Pistol. The .380 established and maintained a presence in the world of firearms over the next century as an excellent choice for concealed carry and even as a primary sidearm.
During World War II, German forces used the Walther PPK and Italian forces used the Beretta M1934 – both pistols chambered for the .380 ACP. The .380 was also used in other military pistols until being replaced by the 9mm. European law enforcement agencies also issued .380 pistols as duty sidearms for their officers during the first decades of the 1900s.
The .380 ACP is not a high-energy round, but its accuracy is suitable for self protection, and recoil and muzzle blast are moderate. The bullets feed well and are as dependable as most other semi-automatic pistol rounds. The range of ammunition available today from practice ammo to personal protection and target shooting is abundant – with all major manufacturers of pistol ammunition in the U.S. producing .380 ACP. Self-defense ammo that is available today is high quality, and light years ahead of the basic round nose or simple hollow point bullets. These advances have made the .380 a viable choice for self defense for those who criticized past stopping power.
.380 ACP interest in the U.S. market was renewed in the early 2000s with the release of the Kel-Tec P-3 AT pistol – which is ultra-lightweight, easily concealable, reliable and inexpensive. The latter two factors had not previously been common features of .380 caliber pistols. Other lightweight, concealed carry pistols have been developed to meet the increased demand, including offerings from Diamondback, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and SIG SAUER. The .380 ACP has grown in popularity, and manufacturers of firearms and ammunition have been responsive, increasing the availability and use of this cartridge for handguns carried in self defense.