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

Some say the .380 round isn’t their first-choice for a defensive round. Plenty of others, however, say it’s a viable option. If you’re looking at budget pistols that are easily concealable, here are four solid budget handguns in the .380 caliber to check out. And check out the bonus we’ve included at the end. 

This article is from January 2019.

Five Budget Handguns Chambered in .380

1. Smith & Wesson Shield EZ .380

Up first in our list of budget handguns, 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. It’s got features that are especially appealing to people with less hand strength, with an easy-to-rack slide and easy-to-load magazine. It’s also reportedly easy-to-clean. The street price for the EZ is $350. And check out the available mags.

.380 EZ Shield budget handgun, budget pistol

2. 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.

Ruger LCP2 .380 budget pistol

Because it is small, it will kick. Is it effective? Yes. Is it fun to shoot? Nope.

A Ruger LCP2 sells for $250 or so. The Ruger LCP2 magazines aren’t that expensive either.

3. 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 as far as budget pistols go.

4. GLOCK 42

Last in our list of budget handguns, 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 trying to find many 42 fans.

Glock 42 budget pistol in .380

The .380 GLOCK 42 is larger 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. This one makes our list of budget pistols because you can pick up a 42 for $399, all day long.

Walther PPK/S 

Though these might not quite qualify in the budget pistols category, the 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 budget pistols budget 9mm
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 Walther 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.

More Budget Handguns in .380?

What else can we add to this list? Leave a comment below if you have a suggestion.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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24 thoughts on “Top 4 Budget Minded .380s and One that Isn’t

  1. 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.


      1. 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…

        1. 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.

          1. 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

        2. The P232 is a dramatically improved design over the PPK – more streamlined, lighter, great feel, tritium sights, round in chamber indicator, no funky slide mounted safety, much nicer grips, slide DOES lock after last round – yes it uses a bottom mounted mag release, takes no time to get used to it

          Thousands of rounds through it without a single malfunction or misfire – far more reliable than the PPK

      2. 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.

        1. I have read many reviews of pocket pistols… not accurate, picky with ammo, jams, misfires, stovepipes… and after shooting 2 380s and 2 9mms, I have come to the conclusion that it is the shooter. Look at hickok45 youtube video of db9 at 100 yds. Yes, a lightweight pocket 9mm at 100 yds! He reviews other pockets also. So, if you learn to shoot the thing, you should be able to be accurate at 25 yds and eventually even 50 yds.

          1. true, I can hit a bullseye at 100 yards with my S&W 38 snubby, not with 100% constantly, but about half the time in the black.
            But, some 380s will not function with flat nose ammo, and some must use rounded ball ammo only to be reliable.
            Either way a small auto’s best friend is a little oil.

          2. YUP,,, I’ve found that a 158 grain jacketed ball 38 special round is very stable… I only shoot 158gr 38 special in my Ruger Black Hawk, the lighter rounds are more flighty , especially at 100 yards, the 158gr is in the black, while the lesser weight bullets are much more spread out.

            Same with 44 special over 44 magnum in a revolver, easier to manage means better accuracy.

            The last time I was at the outdoor range here in South Miami, I had several by standers watching me shoot my Ruger 357 Black Hawk on my Foamation X-Block rest.
            I was nailing Bulls Eyes 2 out of 3 shots at 100 yards.
            People there that are not skilled shooters did not believe a pistol could do that, most of them can’t even shoot that well with their scoped up rifles.

    1. 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)

    1. Cute. Small good for pocket. Lightweight, though not lightest. Accurate, but needs a bit of time to learn control with smaller size. Laser OK but more gimmick [opinion]. And can find used quality for $200 +/- .

  2. I have been carrying an Interarms PPK/s for about 25 years as a super-concealable option. With Lehigh Defense Extreme Penetrators, in ballistic gel, the cavity appears to be equivalent to a decent 9mm. My primary EDCs are 9mm, 40 or 357 Sig, however.

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