Top 4 Budget Minded .380s and One that Isn’t

PPK fixed barrel

Smith & Wesson Shield EZ .380

The Shield EZ puts the lighter .380 cartridge into a larger package. The result is a gun that is easy to hold, exceptionally easy to control, and still an effective round for concealed carry. Street price for the EZ is $350. And check out the available mags.

M&P Shield 380 EZ. .380

The Shield EZ.

Ruger LCP2

This is the second major iteration of Ruger’s pocket pistol. The LCP is tiny, just about as small as I’m comfortable with for self defense. The reputation of this gun is well established, and there are many in the pockets and on the ankles of LEOs around the country.

Because it is small, it will kick. Effective? Yes. Fun to shoot? Nope. A Ruger LCP2 sells for $250 or so. Mags aren’t expensive, either.

Kel-Tec P3AT

The tiny Kel-Tec was one of the pioneers in the reliable polymer pocket rocket market. I’ve had one in my pocket (and on the range) for well over 7 years (if my math is right), and I rarely leave home without it.


My ancient P3AT.

The P3AT is an ideal back-up. It fits perfectly in the pocket, and spare mags (even the 9 rounders) are easy to take along, too. A new P3AT will run you $140. Deal of the century.


GLOCK’s .380 was a big deal when it came out. Shortly after the 42 came the 43, and the 42 (which is almost exactly the same size) faded into the sunset. Or so you’d think if you were to try to find many 42 fans.

The .380 GLOCK 42 is lager than many of the other .380s on the market. This size, though, makes the gun very easy to control. It won’t disappear in the pocket, but is ideal for those who prefer IWB carry. You can pick up a 42 for $399, all day long.

Walther PPK/S

Walther’s PPK/S, and soon the PPK, will appeal to fans of the old-school .380s. This design, almost 90 years old now, has been made for decades. Now, though, it is being made in the US.

ppk ppk/s mags

The stainless mags on the Walther PPK are solid single stacks.

If you are looking for a heavy .380, one that is actually easy to shoot, check out the PPK/S. The extended grips make it easy to hold. The weight, on the other hand, will be noticeable after a long day of concealed carry. The new PPK/S is selling for… well, that’s complicated. The new guns are flying off the shelves. FFLs can actually demand a premium, if they so desire. I’d expect somewhere in the mid $600s.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. He was a college professor for 20 years before leaving behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry.

  • Glenn Jodopeg

    I had an American made Walther PPK,, IT FUKIN SUCKED… !,, The safety would fall down, there’s no slide lock so clearing a jam is an adventure unto itself,,,The sights suck, shitty sight picture, the action spring is so stiff you could get a hernia from cocking it… IT IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST 380 I’VE EVER SHOT… !,, PIECE OF SHIT… !

    If you want a really great 380 pistol, the Glock 42 is awesome,, and if you want a really great 38 caliber budget gun,,, go to a Gun Show and find a Chinese or East German Makarov in 9X18 Russian,, the ammo is seriously cheap and the guns are all steel and the Makarov ,,, like the Bersa Thunder,,, is based on the Walther PPK-S design.
    If you find a Bulgarian Makarov, they’re a good buy also, but the Chinese make the best ones.


    • purplecandles

      So, you’re not recommending it?

    • Vidarson

      If you want a Cadillac .380…..Sig 230/232.

      • Glenn Jodopeg

        I looked at the the Sig P232 it’s just a copy of the Walther PPK, even worse, has a bottom lever mag release, the mags don’t drop , also has no slide lock, ,, The Sig 380s are a more useless piece of shit than the Walther, in my opinion…

        • Christof Harper

          slide locks open on empty mag on my 232. mags can’t drop on a high reliability bottom retention mag scheme. I’ve lost mags biking, hiking, tractoring, and mechanicking, but NEVER with a heel release.

          night sights, reliable, accurate- crazy accurate, in fact. good environmental resistant finish, weighs less and more reliable than the walther.

          there’s a *reason* it’s used as a deep conceal pistol by some european special forces groups (including sas)

          Something to think about, there.

          • Glenn Jodopeg

            it’s a good little back up gun then, but pricey. I feel that Ruger got it right with the LCP2,, $260 or so, light weight, very small and that amazing Glock style trigger that has the gun ready to go in a pinch

      • Glenn Jodopeg

        Personally,,,I like the new Ruger LCP2,not good for hitting anything past 10 yards, but a superior seld defence action pistol,, It’s affordable, reliable, simple and easy to operate, and really easy to conceal…..
        If you like your Walther, or Sig 380 , then good for you, but I would not waste my money on such a defective design.
        The upgrades needed on the Walther PPK and the Sig P232 can be found on the Bersa Thunder.
        I’m not touting Bersa guns as they are rather cheaply made, but if you get a good working Bersa 380 then you’ve got a very well designed copy of the PPK or P232.

    • Mastro63

      Love my .380 Makarov, Russian – only negative is the “adjustable sights”.

      My dad has a US made PPK- yup- totally overrated. Looks cool- shoots lousy.

      Love my FEG SMC- no slide open lever- but lighter and feels better (slightly larger than the PPK)

  • ec

    No M&P Bodyguard 380? Small, DAO, under $300 (got mine plus a $75 gift card for $279 total during Black Friday week).