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The 5 Absolute Best ‘Pocket Rocket’ Pistols You Can Buy

Colt Mustang XSP. Image source:

Colt Mustang XSP. Image source:

Some people say there’s no place for a little .380 pocket pistol, but over the course of the last decade, the .380 pocket pistol has been one of the top-selling pistols on the market.

They are useful either as a backup weapon or even as a concealed weapon when you head into town. Granted, the .380 ACP is considered by some to be underpowered, but it’s still the most popular caliber for this type of weapon.

Here are the five best .380 “pocket rocket” on the market:

1. Beretta Pico

The “Italian Stallion” of the gun world, Beretta produces a wide range of firearms, and the Pico is their entry into the .380 pocket pistol market. It is an exceptionally thin .380 with superior fit and finishing over other pocket pistols. Specifications of the Pico include a weight of 11.5 ounces, a capacity of 6+1 rounds, and three dot sights. MSRP is currently around $390.

2. Colt Mustang XSP/SIG Sauer P238

The reason why we are including two guns in one here is because the P238 is considered to be a Mustang clone. Nonetheless, Colt and SIG Sauer are both known for producing high-end, high-quality products, so both come equally recommended. The Mustang is available in its original form called the Pocketlite, or in a more modernized version called the XSP. Since the XSP (being produced on a polymer frame) is lighter than its Pocketlite counterpart, we’ll recommend it, although both are still great carry guns.

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That being said, the Mustang and P238 are single-action pistols. The original Mustang was essentially a 1911 re-chambered for six rounds of .380 and drastically scaled down to fit in someone’s pocket. The P238 weighs 15.2 ounces and holds 6+1 or 7+1 rounds (depending on the magazine). The Mustang XSP weighs 11.8 ounces and holds 6+1. All in all, the Mustang or the P238 will be the favored .380 pocket rockets for 1911 fans out there, although other gun owners may dislike the single action only on these pistols and opt for something else. If there’s a universally accepted downside to the Mustang and the P238, it’s that they are incredibly expensive for a .380 pistol. MSRP on each gun stands at roughly $650 (ouch!).

3. Ruger LCP/Kel-Tec P-3AT

This is another entry where we’re going to include two guns in one, since Ruger’s LCP and Kel-Tec’s P-3AT look and feel almost identical, even though the LCP (which came out later) is not considered by all to be a true clone of the P-3AT. Cool features on the LCP include an external slide stop and a Glock-style extractor, which are both improvements over the Kel-Tec, but the P-3AT is still an ounce lighter at a miniscule eight ounces and currently holds the distinction of being the lightest .380 pistol in the world.

In fact, it was actually the P-3AT that ushered in the era of these polymer .380 pocket pistols in the first place and proved there was a place for them, so if you want to go traditional, the Kel-Tec P-3AT is the obvious choice. Both the LCP and the P-3AT hold six rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, but seven round extended magazines exist for the LCP. MSRP on the Ruger LCP is around $390; the Kel-Tec P3-AT is around $320.

4. Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard

mpThe smallest entry in Smith & Wesson’s highly regarded M&P line of pistols, the M&P Bodyguard .380 weighs 11.8 ounces, carries 6+1 rounds, and is built on a polymer frame. The neatest feature of the M&P Bodyguard is the fact that it sells with a built-in laser sight, eliminating the need to add a laser on your own if you were planning on doing so. MSRP on the M&P Bodyguard is $420; the built-in laser sight accounts for the slight bump in price over other .380s. If you’re a fan of the popular, full-size Smith & Wesson M&Ps, this little .380 will serve as an excellent backup.

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5. Taurus 738 TCP

If you’re on a budget, the Taurus TCP should definitely be the first .380 pocket pistol you look at on of this list. Taurus has recently undergone a “renovation” period and has come a long way from simply producing Smith & Wesson and Beretta clones as they did before; they are now known for producing quality and innovative guns at affordable prices, and their customer service has become notable for its efficiency. Weighing only 10.2 ounces and holding 6+1 rounds, and available in blued or stainless steel, the Taurus 738 TCP will deliver you the most for your money out of the other options on this list, with MSRP being only $225.

What is your favorite “pocket rocket”? Share your suggestion in the section below:

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  1. The Shield 9mm IS indeed far superior to any of the pistols listed above. Glad the photo shows it is….
    Having fired the Taurus, that trigger is absolute MUSH. Wouldn’t choose to stake MY life on that pistol at all.
    Of the SIX listed, the Ruger LCP and the Kel-Tec are the mainstays most people will/should choose, unless of course, one opts for the pictured Shield in 9mm, it’s outstanding.

  2. This list in incomplete without the Kahr…

  3. Yes, people now a days likes to carry a small pistol because it is favorable. And these guns are favorites for some people like me. Well shared.

  4. Ruger 380 is the bomb!

    • AJ,I Like mine so well that I added a Crimson Trace laser, had it cerokoted and magnaported, put in a locking takedown pin, and added a Hogue Handall slipon grip. Yes, I have a fortune invested, but it’s been worth every cent. BTW, after much research I carry it full of Magsafe rounds (see utube for a great video on this ammo). Good shootin’ and may God bless you and yours!

      • Why would you Magnaport a .380? Just wondering. .380s don’t have much perceived recoil. Special circumstances? BTW, I have never had a bad Ruger. Top quality guns from a top quality American company! I think I own about 5 Rugers, give or take, maybe more.

  5. LW Seekamp LWS380

    • I have an LWS 32. AWESOME!

      • I’ve put box after box of .32 round nose through my kel tec with no problem. At 6.6 ounces it hides in any pocket. I’ve shot it through a 2×4. Screw all those you tube penetration videos, that wood test is all I needed to see. That gun has zero kick, at ten yards I can rapidly shoot 8 rounds into a 12″ paper plate. That’s good enough for me since 99% of thugs run at the 1st sight of a gun anyhow. A retired detective said “the longer one carries a gun, the smaller it gets”

        • LOVE the weight, but it is hard to hit anything over 5ft away, and it is not reliable enough when your life is on the line. Belly gun only.

  6. Caution regarding Taurus handguns. The are in the midst of administrating a massive recall of up to one million pistols that could fire if dropped. Their customer service is dismal. Reliability is key when choosing a weapon…choose somewhere else…leave Taurus alone.

    • I don’t know if Parchman read the recall but it had nothing to do with the TCP380. I own one and it has worked flawlessly. I like a trigger that has a longer pull. Feels safer in my pocket.

    • The recall doesn’t apply to the 738 TCP, which is a fine gun. I love mine!

    • Your mileage may vary, but I have owned several Tauruii (plural of Taurus) and never experienced even a single issue. I JUST TODAY recommended a Taurus 738 to my nephew and his wife, without reservation.

    • My TCP has never had a failure.. it is more accurate than the Sig P238 and the trigger is xlnt. Try to find some Magsafe, next choice is the Underwood Cavitator… next is the Glaser or DRT.

  7. I would not consider the Shield as a pocket rocket. I do pocket carry most times and own the XSP, P238, Glock 42 and several snub nose guns. I also own the Shield and although I can fit it into my pocket, as well as I can do with my Glock 43, the fact that I can get them in my pocket does not make them pocket rockets. I can get a lot of guns into my pocket and even belt knives but that does not make them pocket knives 🙂

    Out of all of the above, I like the Colt XSP the best. I am putting on a set of XSP sights. It does feel lighter than the Sig P238. I think the specs some have on the weight of the XSP are wrong. It is about 11 ounces and that is 3 ounces lighter than the Sig P238. I like the trigger better and how it feels in my hand. Many of the guys I know that buy the Sig P238, buy them for their looks, like man jewelry. I do not show my guns to anyone and no one even sees them so why would I want to carry a fancy looking gun concealed? Some call the XSP butt ugly and I remember when Glocks were called ugly and would never sell well in the US.

  8. I like my Walther PPK stainless. Heavy but dead on accurate.

    • I, too, own a Bersa Thunder 380. It is an excellent hand gun that actually fits in my hand. It is light, low recoil, and is a delight to fire. I’m 62 and have been shooting nearly my entire life, but only within the last 4 years have I really gotten into pistols. I do have other pistols, but for carry purposes, I love my Bersa.

  9. The .380 has plenty of deadly power and penetration if you load it with Buffalo Bore hard cast flat points.

  10. Kel Tec PF-9

  11. LCP recoil is uncomfortable even for a .380. Love the Colt pocketlite and Sig P238 as both are steel frame and less felt recoil, comfortable to shoot. Prefer the sughts on the sig over the Colt. No experince with the other ones mentioned so no comment on those

  12. Ruger LCP and Glock 43 are my favs

  13. How in the world do you not include the Kahr P380 on a list of best or most popular 380s? Sort of makes this whole article lose credibility.

    I’ve shot or owned them all except for the Kel Tec and the Beretta. My favorite, no surprise, is the Kahr P380 followed closely by the Sig.

  14. I like all the picks on your list. I have recently concluded thorough tests of my own on the Ruger LCP, Remington RM 380 and the Taurus 738 TCP.

    Of the three, The LCP is the lightest but too skinny to hold properly with normal to large hands. The RM380 feels best but is not very accurate with most ammo I have tried.

    The Taurus TCP is of 2016 vintage and has undergone some refinements. It is easily the m, by far, now has the best trigger of the 3 and is in between size and weight of the other two.

    I have carried it as an EDC pistol in a pocket holster, a Desantis Nemesis and it is comfortable and always at the ready.

  15. I like all the picks on your list. I have recently concluded thorough tests of my own on the Ruger LCP, Remington RM 380 and the Taurus 738 TCP.

    Of the three, The LCP is the lightest but too skinny to hold properly with normal to large hands. The RM380 feels best but is not very accurate with most ammo I have tried.

    The Taurus TCP is of 2016 vintage and has undergone some refinements. It is easily the most accurate, by far, now has the best trigger of the 3 and is in between size and weight of the other two.

    I have carried it as an EDC pistol in a pocket holster, a Desantis Nemesis and it is comfortable and always at the ready.

  16. I am 63 with severe arthritis in my hands. I live alone and am looking for something small enough and light enough for my hand. I am left handed. I just need something so if someone comes thru my door they are not getting any farther. Anyone have any suggestions. I have small hands.

    • Glock 42 would probably be perfect for you
      reliable, accurate, very light recoil or kick or bite
      not quite small enough to be true pocket gun, but still small enough for small hands

    • . . . and . . . the Glock 42 is one of my favorite all-time guns of any caliber . . . and I have many from tiny Kel-Tec .32 to large Glocks and Colts in 9mm and .45

    • Hi Karen,
      Stay away from the Smith &Wesson Bodyguard 380 semi-auto. Gun has a light hammer strike which causes many failure to fires. That is something that you don’t want. I also don’t recommend the Ruger LCP 380. The slide on the gun doesn’t come back and lock in the open position after the last round is fired. Stay away from the Berretta Nano. It has no slide lock or safety on it at all. I would never consider that gun for those reasons. I would recommend going to your local gun store that has a gun range. I would recommend that you explain what you are looking for to them. I would very strongly recommend that you test fire any gun that you are considering buying. Some guns feel good in the hand but are uncomfortable to shoot. You will also find that you will shoot better with some brands and styles of guns better than others. Having said all of this, I would highly the Glock G43 single stack 9mm, Glock G42 single stack 380, Smith & Wesson 9 mm Shield (they make the Shield in .40 caliber too – stay away from that version – gun frame is too small for it to handle the high powered .40 cal rounds – gun is to hard to shoot accurately in .40 cal) and the Springfield XDS single stack 9 mm. These are all great reliable guns. 380’s are great for concealability but 380 ammunition is about 50% more expensive than 9mm. You will need to run no less than 500 to 1,000 rounds thru any gun that you purchase in order to become competent with it. Until you did that, you have not developed the muscle memory that makes shooting safely instinctual. Until a person fires at least 500 or a 1,000 rounds I would consider them to be unsafe and untrained. You should go thru an NRA sanctioned gun safety training course before you even buy a gun so that you learn the safe way to handle and shoot a gun. Having said all of this, none of these guns may work for you due to your arthritis. That is why you need to go to your local gun store with a gun range to try these for yourself.

    • Karen,
      A few things that I forgot to include earlier. Any gun that you purchase cannot and should not be considered “broken in” until a minimum of at least 500 rounds have been fired thru it. 1,000 rounds is preferred but 500 will do. Until a gun is broken in, I would not depend on it. Single action guns will have lighter trigger pulls than double action guns. Since you have arthritis, single actions will be easier for you to shoot. Also, the heavier the trigger pull the harder that it will be to shoot accurately. If you go to the gun manufacturers websites, they should have all of that information and more for each model listed. My Bodyguard 380 has a 12# trigger pull and is double action only. It also came with a very long trigger pull. All of this combines to make the gun much harder to shoot accurately. My Ruger SRC9 has a 5.5# trigger pull. My Bride’s Glock G43 also has a 5.5# trigger pull. Both of these guns are single action only. I am a superior shot with the Ruger and the Glock over the S&W. Regardless of what you buy, you must paractice, practice practice with it at the gun range. Once you have fired at least 1,000 rounds at the range, you should feel confident in your abilities. The problem with many, if not most people who buy a gun for home/self defense, is that they don’t practice. They will buy a gun and never shoot it. Or, they shoot 50 or 100 rounds when they first get it and then never fire it again. These people are untrained and are unsafe. These people will likely shoot themselves when drawing their gun in an emergency due to the adrenaline rush and lack of muscle memory due to lack of training. You should get a concealed carry permit so that you can have the gun on you at any time. This is known as a CCW – Concealed Carry Weopn. Buy a GOOD holster made specifically for whatever specific model of gun that you buy. This means only looking at leather or formed Kydex holsters. Stay away from the cloth or fabric holsters unless you are only going to be carrying your gun in your pocket. IWB – inside the waistband is the preferred way to carry a handgun. You will need a holster designed for that purpose. Stay away from carrying your gun in your purse. You need to have control of your weapon at all times which means carrying it on your person. If your gun is kept in your purse and someone steals it, you have multiple problems. They have your address because of your ID, your keys to where you live and your weapon. Which means they can come back at any time they want and use your weapon against you.

    • Get a Kahr P9 Black Diamond with night sights. (not the PM9)

      Try Serrapeptase for your arthritis.

  17. I’ve been shooting single action 1911 type guns for over 50 years so the sig sauer p238 and p938 just feel right to me. The only problem I have with the sig is the safety takes two hands to engage. I have many single and double action pistols but I can shoot the 2 little sig’s faster and more accurate than any of the others.
    The only modern pistol that I dislike is my new gen 4 G-19 mos I like the gen 3 and early guns but the gen 4 suck I’ve bought my last gen 4 it’s like glock took a crap and named it gen 4 .

  18. Not sure about the Taurus but def should add the Bersa Thunder 380 or Ruger LC380 affordable with high end quality n reliability

  19. My first gun purchase was a Ruger SR9c 9mm double stack mag single action only semi-auto. Have put over 2,200 rounds thru it with NO failure to fire or failure to eject, etc. Absolutely incredible gun! Later, my Bride and I both bought a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 semi-auto. I fell in love with the extreme concealability of it. I have put over 1,100 thru mine and my Bride has put about the same thru hers. If I could go back in time, we never would have bought the Bodyguards nor would I recommend that gun to anyone. The main reason is that the gun has an unusually light hammer strike. On many different brands of ammo, I have had many failure to fires. On some rounds, I have had to pull the trigger 3 or 4 or even 5 times before the bullet would fire. That is totally unacceptable in a gun that is designed as a self defense weapon. Both of ours came with the built in red Insight laser. The laser on my gun stopped working after 2-3 months. Hers stopped after about a year. We bought these brand new from our local gun store. Also, this gun comes with a very heavy 12# double action only trigger pull. The travel of the trigger pull is very long. Both of these factors make the gun much harder to shoot more accurately. I had an aftermarket short travel trigger kit installed on my gun. It improved my accuracy a little bit over the stock trigger.. Had I known about the light hammer strike before we bought these Bodyguards, I never would have considered them at all. We bought a Glock G43 single stack 9mm for my Bride. Her accuracy improved tremendously over the BG 380. I am debating between getting a Colt Mustang XSP or a S&W 9mm Shield to replace my BG 380.

  20. The Kimber .380 Micro was not on the list?

  21. Brand new Ruger LCPII. Sweet carry, fantastic upgrade from classic LCP. Trigger now tight, light 5lb, single action, locks open after last round. Getting one for me and one for Babe!

  22. After mom passed, we discovered in her home a Beretta 950BS 25 cal pocket pistol in her possessions. I have carried it frequently since then. It is small enough to slip into the vest pocket of a shirt without leaving a tell tale outline. I feel a lot safer with it. I know it lacks stopping power, but it’s better than nothing and the price was right. I do not want to kill anyone. If I can avert an attack by displaying a pistol, any size of pistol, I would prefer to do that instead of pulling the trigger. And if the display alone is insufficient or the attack is without opportunity to “talk my way out of it”, I would prefer that the bullet stop the attack without the lethal damage that a larger caliber pistol would create.I believe 25 cal. hollow points would have sufficient stopping power and I have 8 shots available. I would like to hear other thoughts on my reasoning. Is it bone headed or compassionate?

    • Boneheaded. The hollow point will destroy the ability for the .25 to penetrate the body. Also, if you are looking for that kind of size, the Kel-Tec P32 weighs 6.6 ozs. It fires a .32acp cartridge which is lethal as a fmj. Even more lethal would be the Underwood .32acp cartridge. Practice with the inexpensive ammo, car the Underwood.

  23. Just wondering what the best first cc gun would be.

  24. I also plan on buying a scoped revolver for hunting.suggestions would be more then welcome!

  25. Now I am convinced most comments are based on bias and not actual use. For the record, I own 3 Taurus TCP’s including the no longer made 732, a versa thunder and have shot, extensively the LCP and PA3T and LCP gen 1. The TCP’s smoke everything but thee Bersa. They are Uber concealable and reliable. Get the Pearce pinky extension. It’s a must. I wear it routinely in a cheap uncle Mike’s IWB holster. Draws and points beautifully. I also highly recommend the kel technology PF9 which is slightly larger.

    Also, while I do NoT recommend you do it, I’ve shot 20 rounds of .380 perfecta fmj out of my keltec 9. Guess what, it functioned fine and no problem shooting 9mm immediately afterwards. It’s not a practice I would recommend but, in an emergency I will work and nooooooo one got hurt and no elmer keith fudd lovers can debate it. To say the TCP trigger is mush tells me you don’t know what you are talking about. It’s a smooth and consistent trigger the whole way. It’s so good the LCP gen 2 now had the same features. They finally lock to the rear on the last round, have improved sights and yeah no hurculean effort to pull their triggers. The TCP is the most underrated 380 on the market today. Period. Buy one on sale for $179 and get the Pearce extension. Break it i and grease the rails ever so slightly afterwards. They are phenomenally good if you shoot at all. Weighs 10.2 oz empty and has a slightly longer barrel than most. Good to 15-20 yards as designed. Easy and consistent trigger. Goes boom with every pull and made in Miami. Grow up, read, try for yourself. They are excellent and are the least expensive out there. The new Ruger LCP now has the same features. Forget the LCP gen 1.

  26. My bersa thunder will beat all of these any day

  27. Owned 2 Taurus TCPs. Both were junk. Neither would fire a full mag. Cleaned, lubed, polished the ramp with the same results. Would lock open after 2 or 3 rounds a lot.

    Now have a Remington RM380 and love it. It’s a redesigned Rorbaugh.

  28. This is crazy. Thete is no bettet .380 than the bersa thunder.

  29. my Bodyguard 380 has been flawless with 1,100 rounds. sorry that people are having light strikes. Shouls end the guns back. S&W lhas a lifetime service policy

  30. I own or have owned all you listed. The Seecamp is small, really reliable, and the easiest to conceal. I like the Bodyguard, although the trigger is long. The best of these, in my mind, is the Kahr p380. Small, accurate, good trigger, reliable, just everything you could want in a pocket pistol.

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