The Ruger LC380 is Ruger’s answer to an age-old new shooter problem. I’ve seen several examples of I myself, most frequently in this form: boyfriend takes girlfriend to shoot. She has little – if any – experience or training with firearms, and may be more than a bit nervous. Boyfriend shows off, shooting a large caliber handgun, and then pops it into her small, timorous hands without instruction. She struggles to rack the slide. When she finally pops off a round, the blast and the recoil of the round firing are startling and uncomfortable, so she stops shooting. That’s the last time she ever visits the range, boyfriend or no. Had she had a positive experience, for example, familiarity with firearm operation, and a gun better suited to newer shooters, she may have become an enthusiast in her own right. The Ruger LC380 is that better “newer shooter gun.”
Ruger already has a sub compact .380 on the market – the tiny LCP (which measures 5.15in long and 3.6in tall, and only .82in wide). Instead of building off this smaller platform, the LC380 is built upon the frame of Ruger’s larger sub compact pistol, the 9mm LC9 (measuring 6” long by 4.5” tall, and .9in wide). The light weight of the LCP (only 9.4oz), combined with its two-finger grip makes the LCP a snappy shooter, despite the fact that it fires a relatively low-recoiling caliber cartridge. Building the LC380 off of the larger LC9’s frame makes the LC380 heavier (17.2oz) and provides a larger grip space, and higher capacity (both the LC380 and the LC9 carry 7+1 to the LCP’s 6+1).
The Ruger LC380 is remarkable in how comfortable it is to shoot. For a slim, light, short-barreled pistol, its recoil experience is more alike to shooting a .22 LR than to shooting a .380 ACP “mouse gun.” The larger frame offers nearly a full grip, and Ruger includes a pinky extender baseplate for the LC380’s magazine. That modification increases grip size, which increases the shooter’s ability to control the gun while firing. The .380 is a lower recoil round, but the LC380’s dual recoil spring system also abets recoil management. It has another benefit, too, though; it makes racking the slide easier (an especially nice feature for shooters with lower upper body strength, such as petite females or youth shooters). Despite having a short barrel (3.12in) and a light frame (which can be somewhat more difficult to keep steady than heavier frame firearms), the Ruger LC380 is plenty accurate within self defense distances (0-10yds). Its only drawbacks at the range are in the sights – tiny white 3 dots – and its long, crunchy trigger.
The 3 dot sights are an improvement upon the LCP’s nearly nonexistent sights, but they offer little aid in low light conditions. For a self defense firearm, the LC380’s trigger is unremarkable. A Lyman trigger gauge measures it to be a 7lbs 12oz pull, so it’s notably heavier than the famous Glock 6.5lb, but not as weighty as the Beretta Nano’s 9lb. This Ruger is a DAO firearm, so each pull cocks the hammer and fires the round. The LC380’s trigger doesn’t accomplish that quickly; the travel is lengthy and less than smooth until it breaks nearly at the end of the trigger guard. Even with the sub-ideal trigger and sights, the Ruger LC380 is still a good shooter. For a little .380 pistol, it’s accurate and the recoil is gentle. The model reviewed in this article has about 600 rounds of .380 (largely Federal Lawman) though it without any error (although, the LC380 does have a tendency to not lock back the slide on an empty chamber if the shooter limp wrists while firing).
The Ruger LC380 may not be as diminutive as the LCP, but the LC9 frame upon which it’s based is still small and slim – a good carry option. The LC380 doesn’t match the LCP’s 9.4oz weight, but at 17.2oz, it’s still a lightweight. The small sights may not be ideal for low light shooting, but the low profile of the sights are suited to concealed carry, as is the rounded profile of the slide (both these elements help to ensure a snag-free draw). The Ruger LC380 design includes a number of safety features. It has a manual safety that, when engaged, prevents the slide from actioning. Also, to the dismay of some, the LC380 has a magazine disconnect and will not fire without a magazine in the well. The LC380 also has a visually and physically detectable loaded chamber indicator.
Something to evaluate when considering the LC380 is the round itself. The LC380 carries 7+1 rounds of .380 ACP – not a round regarded for its penetration. Regardless, it is still a caliber of some popularity for self defense handguns, and as such, there are several manufacturers that make self defense ammo in .380. The limitation of small single stack pistols, like the LC380, is that, in order to achieve small dimensions, they concede capacity. The LC380’s 7 round magazine falls short of wider double stack capacity, such as the Glock 26’s standard 10 round magazine.
The LC380’s strong points for concealed carry are in how easy it is to fire well, that it fires reliably, and that, although it isn’t as petite as its .380 predecessor, it is still a narrow frame overall and is not difficult to conceal. And, as the LC380 is identical in dimension to the LC9, finding holsters and other accessories for it are not a challenge.
The Ruger LC380’s gentle felt recoil, reliable and easy operation, and balance between size and enjoyable shooting experience combine to make the Ruger LC380 an option that recommends itself well to newer shooters. Even its price point (less than $500) makes it appealing as a possible “first gun.” To those looking for a pocket-sized concealed carry pistol, the LC380’s small, slim footprint and snag-free slide make this Ruger a viable option for CCW. The Ruger LC380’s unintimidating recoil and manageable size could mean the difference between that girlfriend’s distaste for her boyfriend’s shooting hobby, and instilling a lifelong fondness for the shooting sports.
Caliber: .380 ACP
Frame material: Glass filled nylon
Barrel length: 3.12in
Overall length: 6.0in
Overall height: 4.5in