Today's modern expanding ammunition also elevates the .380 to a respectable defensive round. Ball ammunition (Full Metal Jacket) of the past was responsible for typecasting this round as ineffective. This is a thing of the past. Ammo manufacturers such as CorBon, Speer and Hornady, now offer load choices with near 100 percent bullet-weight retention and virtually no bullet deformation as the bullet penetrates media such as clothing. Of particular interest is Hornady's new line of Critical Defense ammunition, which claims zero bullet deformation and 100 percent weight retention. The bullet also contains a red polymer tip that helps ensure reliable feeding.
It must be pointed out that small semi-automatics are obviously less reliable than revolvers and need consistent cleaning and maintenance after each use. I would also recommend extensive practice to become proficient as these are pistols designed for close-quarters use and not for target practice.
Unlike larger semi-automatics with safety features such as thumb safety levers, trigger safeties, loaded chamber indicators and grip safeties, these smaller pistols require far more vigilance, visual observation and tactile inspection. Most employ double-action triggers that perform two tasks—cocking the hammer and/or striker and releasing it. Most have no external hammers, and have either an internal low-profile hammer or an internal striker. Most have no exterior safeties.
This is done to keep a low and snag free profile, especially in a deep-concealment pocket holster or ankle rig.
Those considering a .380 ACP chambered semi-auto should consider the Kel-Tec P3AT, Ruger LCP (Light Compact Pistol), North American Arms Guardian .380, Walther PPK, Walther PK380 (Walther P22 clone), Bersa Thunder (Walther PPK clone) or CZ-USA .380 (Walther PPK clone).
Capacity will range from six to 12 rounds depending on the model selected. Please also remember that as a general rule, the smaller the gun, the fewer the safety features, but also the lighter the package and the more concealable it is.
If you are someone who can live with more visual and tactile inspection, then go for the smallest. That is the point of the .380—to pack as much firepower into the smallest package. The Kel Tec, Ruger, and NAA mentioned above are great options, because if you go any larger, you can chamber the 9mm Luger or the .40 S&W in the same frame size as the Walthers or the CZ, which would defeat the purpose of the .380.
Whatever you decide, practice with your firearm and make sure the ammunition selected feeds reliably into the gun as these pistols are very ammo selective.