A .380 auto-loader such as Ruger's LCP can be an effective backup gun for an officer.
With the recent surge in concealed carry legislation in many of our nation's states, smaller pistols chambered in the proven .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) caliber are becoming more popular with civilians and law enforcement.
The .380 ACP cartridge was developed by John Browning and introduced in 1908 by Colt, which chambered this round in small pocket pistols that quickly gained popularity in undercover police work.
The Germans followed with the introduction of the iconic Walther PP/PPK series of pistols (beginning in 1929) chambered in the same round and given the metric designation 9mm Kutz (German for 9mm Short). The metric designation is 9x17mm as opposed to the 9x19mm (German 9mm Luger—the standard 9mm we know today).
It is important to note that both the .380 ACP and the 9mm Luger have the same bullet diameter of .355 inch, so the .380 ACP is really a misnomer. The only difference dimensionally is the case length of the cartridge; also .380 ACP bullets are a bit lighter. Most range in weight from 70-90 grain compared with 9mm Luger bullets that range in weight from 90-147 grain.
Since the .380 case has less powder capacity than the 9mm Luger, this makes perfect sense. A .380 bullet will exit the muzzle ranging from 700-900 fps as opposed to 950-1,200 fps for their 9mm Luger cousins. The round's shorter case and lower powder capacity reduces velocity, as does the fact that most .380 pistols are smaller and have a barrel that's less than 3 inches in length.
Even with the reduced velocity, the .380 shines in several areas, and should be given consideration by officers as a backup gun.
The first area is the size of the pistol and the ability to deeply conceal it with an exceptionally low profile that will not print through clothing.
Unlike a small J-clone, five-shot revolver—no matter how small the profile, it still has a bulky cylinder—small auto pistols stack the ammunition vertically. The .380 ACP round is much shorter than either the 9mm Luger or the .38 Special, creating the ultimate deep concealment package with six to eight rounds of ammunition. This exceeds the average five-shot, deep-concealment revolver by a few potentially life-saving rounds.
Many officers have also chosen the .380, because of its pleasant recoil characteristics as compared with the 9mm Luger and its bigger cousins. The .380 can be snappy when shot out of a small-frame pistol and is still much more of a pleasure to shoot than its larger cousins.