.380 ACP vs. .38 Special: Which is Better for Concealed Carry?

There are other alternatives available. If one wants to hide handguns discreetly and comfortably, there are various options to choose from. It is often said that it can be challenging to find a handgun that can be easily concealed on a day-to-day basis throughout the year. I am not suggesting that a Glock 17 or SIG P320 is a poor choice. However, it is common for people to overlook the concealed part when selecting a handgun for concealed carry purposes.

It may be challenging to shoot a larger gun with the same efficiency as shooting a small handgun. You might find a big handgun uncomfortable to carry, as it may not be suitable for concealment. There is a delicate balance of concerns that must be struck. As handguns get smaller and easier to conceal, they become more difficult to shoot effectively.

The key to shooting these ultra-compact handguns effectively is determined by their effectiveness in feeding you ammunition and placement of shots. Though many consider a heavier and larger gun better for personal protection, they are left at home. The lightest and smallest revolvers and semi-automatics are generally chambered for the special .38 and ACP .380, which are suitable for concealed carry.

.380 ACP.

Fortunately, due to the rise in popularity of handguns like this, manufacturers have answered the call for ammunition. So, even if you use ammunition that is too light and small, you can still reliably get good hits on the range. You may even forget that you’re carrying it because it is so light and small, like the ultra-compact .380s. This gun can be easily concealed in a lot of places on your person because it weighs less than 9 ounces and is shorter than 6 inches. The Diamondback DB380 is a very compact and easy-to-conceal handgun with a capacity of 6+1 rounds.

Federal has significantly improved the effectiveness of this small cartridge by optimizing the bullets and velocities for these latest loads. Out of all the .380 Auto loads I’ve come across, only two, the 99-grain Hydra-Shok Deep and the affordable 85-grain Punch load, meet the FBI’s requirement of a minimum penetration depth of 12 inches. The 85-grain Punch load can expand to approximately 1.4 times its original diameter and penetrate about 10 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin. While these new loads do offer a substantial improvement in terminal performance compared to current ones for this cartridge, they still fall short of delivering the same level of terminal performance as a 9 mm. Federal has recently introduced two new loads specifically designed for the .380.

.38 Special.

It may not be a good idea for law enforcement to consider personal protection as less important than having the right ammunition for a fight. The Special .38 cartridge has fallen from grace, even though it was once considered darling. Even with the Special .38 +P ammunition, the Ruger LCR 5-round revolver weighs only 13.5 ounces and is 6.5 inches long, making it a light and small option. When it comes to revolvers, some shooters feel more comfortable with a revolver than with a semi-automatic .380, even if they can’t find one that is as light or compact.

The load penetration may be slightly lower, but with expansion similar to the delivery of Remington’s great 125-grain Saber Golden load +P, another excellent option would be the load Barrel Short +P Special .38 Dot Gold from Speer, which consistently penetrates more than 1/2-inch deeper than that with a frontal diameter of 13 inches while expanding, even at a velocity of less than 1,000 fps, making it the best choice for these compact revolvers in defiance of their lumbering velocity.

Which One to Choose?

When it comes to the ultra-compact .380s, revolvers tend to be a bit more reliable and less finicky. However, they do require you to reload a bit slower and feed them ammo. On the other hand, learning to shoot the miniature .380 ACPs accurately, like this, means spending more time at the range to establish proficiency. Compact revolvers, like the LCR, typically have stiff double-action trigger pulls.

What is the best option for concealed carry? The choice should be driven by comfort and concealability, allowing you to operate and shoot the handgun most comfortably and be able to conceal it easily. In the end, the best gun for you will be the one that serves you best, as it is not often a choice between a revolver or a semi-automatic, but rather between two cartridges. The capacity will be slightly less, but a .38 snub-nose revolver will deliver slightly better terminal performance. I don’t think there is enough difference to argue about which is the best load for both cartridges.