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Is .380 Good For Women’s Concealed Carry?

Concealing a pistol in a purse

Is .380 good for women’s concealed carry? There’s a lot of people and certainly a lot of magazine and internet articles saying .380 and the tiny pistols chambered for this handgun round are good for women. 

Are they? Is it? 

The short answer is…

If it’s all you can stand to use, if it’s all you have to work with, it can work…but you might be better off with something else.

Why .380 For Women's Concealed Carry?

There are a couple of reasons why some people – and often erroneously – think that .380 ACP is good for women’s concealed carry. 

First is that .380 ACP often has softer felt recoil, meaning the kick you get from the gun is less than from more powerful calibers…for the most part. 

Second is that .380 ACP is more commonly the caliber in small guns. Given that women tend to have smaller hands, it’s presumed that a smaller gun is a better fit and is going to be more controllable by female shooters. 

Is that true? Well…it’s not really that simple. 

Ballistics And Personal Protection

One thing that you should be aware of for women’s concealed carry – or indeed, concealed carry for anyone – is the ballistic performance of the caliber that you will carry. 

9mm, aka 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger, 9x19mm, is more or less the baseline when it comes to the terminal performance. The typical loading is a 115-, 124- or 147-grain bullet at 1150 to 950 (give or take) feet per second and around 350 foot-pounds of impact energy.

9mm is known for being a little anemic compared to larger bullets, but with very effective with good ammunition and good shot placement. Combined with moderate recoil and affordable cost, it’s the standard for personal protection because it’s the perfect medium.

.380 typical loads are an 90-grain to 100-grain bullet traveling at 1,000 to 1,100 feet per second but carrying only 200 to 250 foot-pounds of energy. 

Also, that’s typical of a gun with a 3.5-inch barrel. Most pistols in .380 have a 2.5-inch barrel, meaning the bullet is even slower and has even less energy. 

What this means is .380 is a smaller, weaker bullet to begin with. From a short barrel, it’s about half as powerful as 9mm or less…and 9mm is the standard personal protection caliber for more or less the entire world. 

Bear in mind also that placement (where the bullet hits) matters more than anything else, but the bullet has to be able to penetrate vital structures in the body. The slower, the weaker the bullet, the less able it is to do that.

A Small Pistol Is Easier To Carry...But At A Cost

It’s also the case that a small .380 pistol is easier to put in a women’s concealed carry holster. This is just as true for men as well, of course; a large gun means more holster, more gun and – of course – more weight. 

That makes carrying more convenient. 

There’s a saying when it comes to concealed carry that “a little gun in a holster is better than a big one at home.” That much is true; a gun that you don’t have on you means nothing during an emergency. 

This is why picking a concealed carry method that’s comfortable for you is important. If you buy an IWB holster that you hate wearing, you’ll find reasons not to. 

So make no mistake, it is important to equip yourself to carry every day without issue, which is one of the major reasons why some people – including many women – carry a .380 pistol every day. 

But…

The thing is that convenience doesn’t come free. Often enough, there’s a compromise in there somewhere, and there is a compromise when it comes to .380. 

Again, the virtues of .380 and .380 pistols are supposed to be that the caliber produces less recoil and that the smaller pistols are better for smaller hands. 

It’s true that a pistol chambered in .380 will kick less compared to the exact same gun chambered for 9mm. 

However, it’s also true that it is actually harder to shoot a tiny gun really well. The shorter sight radius means sight alignment on the target is more difficult, and especially with the low-profile sights on micro pistols. 

It’s also true that there’s a link between barrel length and ammunition performance. The longer the barrel, the more reliably a hollow point bullet will expand and do its job.

Since many “pocket pistols” are also double-action-only, the trigger is also harder to pull, which also makes a gun harder to shoot. 

Larger .380 pistols, such as the S&W M&P380 Shield EZ or Walther CCP 380, are much easier to shoot well but aren’t tiny pistols; both are almost as big as a Glock 19. 

So yes, a .380 can make it easier for you to carry every day…but many .380 pistols are also harder to shoot well. And make no mistake: if you ever have to use a gun in self-defense, marksmanship matters. In fact, it’s what will matter the most.  

Good Guns For Women's Concealed Carry Don't Exist; There's Only Good Guns For You

Woman practicing at firing range

The real bottom line here is that there isn’t actually a good gun for women’s concealed carry. In fact, there’s no good gun for…any group of people, specifically. 

There are, however, good guns for you, based on a number of factors like your hand size, experience level, and what you want to do with it. 

Put it this way: if you’re a total newbie, and you want a gun you can easily carry every day…a 1911 in 10mm is probably not a good gun for you and neither is a compact .44 Magnum revolver. 

Is a .380 pistol a good choice for you? If you can shoot it well, then it is. 

Then again, the same thing applies to a slim subcompact 9mm like a Smith and Wesson Shield, Sig Sauer P365, Springfield Hellcat or a Glock 43, and those are wildly popular with women as well as men as EDC guns. 

While we could rattle off a laundry list of pistols that might be good for concealed carry, what really matters in the end is whether or not a gun is good for you. If it helps you to practice good marksmanship and if you can handle and operate it safely and confidently. 

What you really should do, when looking at a gun to concealed carry, is get to a range that rents different pistols. Try as many of them as you can. The smallest guns that you can shoot very accurately are what you’re looking for. 

If you’re going to carry a gun, you have to be able to stand to carry it in your women’s concealed carry holster of course. However, it’s also the case that you should pick a gun that you can shoot well off the bat, rather than having to work up to being able to shoot it very well. 

If that’s a .380…awesome. If it’s not, it’s not. 

So is a .380 good for women’s concealed carry? Only if you can run one really well. If you can’t, it isn’t. 

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