May 12, 2023
By Jeremy Stafford
When SIG Sauer introduced the P365 in the May 2018 issue of Guns & Ammo, it created a new trend for 1-inch-wide compact pistols in that it popularized the stack-and-a-half magazine that offered a standard capacity of 10 rounds, and optional extended magazines that could carry 12 or 13 rounds. The magazine received a design patent, which delayed other manufacturers from introducing competing models. In 2014, the launch of the Glock 42 in .380 ACP reignited interest in that cartridge, which was overshadowed in 2015 with the introduction of the Glock 43. With a few notable exceptions, the majority of new pistols introduced since have been chambered in 9mm.
The popularity of the 9x19mm carries on with multiple brands introducing higher capacity “XL” variants, and some hybrid models have blurred the lines between the definition of “micro” versus “compact.”
Still, SIG Sauer’s P365 series has lived up to its initial hype, in my opinion. In hindsight, that May 2018 issue changed the concealed carry landscape for the industry. Yes, other compact stack-and-a-half 9mm pistols existed prior to the P365 — look back to the Makarov in 9x18mm, for example — but the reception for SIG Sauer’s design, marketing, launch and subsequent line extensions were achievements quietly envied by other pistol manufacturers.
Again, though pistols already existed in this category, it was the P365 that established the term “micro-compact.” Micro-compacts generally measure less than 6 inches in length, 4 inches in height, and are about 1-inch wide. When chambered in 9mm, the capacity of stack-and-a-half, tapered or double-stack magazines starts at 10 rounds. With pistols such as the P365, they must conceal as comfortably as a single-stack of the same size.
What? A .380?
Given the success of the P365 series, and the documented capabilities of its 9mm chambering, many of us were taken back by the annoucement that SIG Sauer was introducing the P365-380 in February 2022. This new model was almost overlooked due to the surprise-launch of the P322 rimfire, which was reviewed in the June 2022 issue.
For some conceal-carry practicioners, John Browning’s .380 ACP has long been considered the absolute “hard deck” for defensive handgun performance against an assaulting bad guy. That still remains true for most arguments, but public perceptions about defensive ammunition have changed. Based on my experience responding to calls as a police officer, I believe that all handgun rounds struggle to be effective at immediately stopping a human threat. It is widely accepted among the gunfighting community that more than one hit will likely be required to make that person a threat no more. If you go out into the world recognizing this, then emphasis must be placed on a fast, accurate second shot.
For many shooters, especially older or smaller shooters, the felt recoil of the 9mm is disruptive and sometimes prohibitive to follow with an effective second shot. It also can problematic for practice sessions, as well. Without adequate practice, people who struggle to manage the recoil of a 9mm pistol may not hit the target at all, rendering the “use the more effective caliber” argument moot.
There is another reason that SIG Sauer developed a .380 version of the P365: It’s good business. Pistols chambered in military cartridges such as 9x19mm are prohibited in certain countries. Until December 2021, Italy had banned the 9mm Luger, for example. The cartridge is still restricted in Mexico, France and Belgium, to my knowledge, which also prevent citizens from possessing certain firearms and semiautomatics that chamber a cartridge in use by the military or NATO countries. With the P365-380, SIG Sauer opens those markets with minimal investment required for new tooling and overhead costs.
The Same, but different.
Externally, the P365-380 is identical to the 9mm version. The frame is still 1-inch wide and it features the same controls in the same locations. They both have the same texture, grip angle, and undercut at the triggerguard, too. SIG Sauer’s engineers did an excellent job in making the diminutive frame fit most hands. The polymer frame of the P365-380 will even accept the same magazine as the 9mm version, but there is a block along the inside rear flat that pushes the shorter .380 round forward to ensure smooth feeding. As some of us recall with some older attempts at making a 9mm pistol accept .380 rounds, reliability issues became a concern. Not here. Guns & Ammo’s staff has experienced no issues with reliability (or accuracy) when testing the P365-380. The magazine presents the round centered to the chamber, which means that it doesn’t have to jump to the feedway and scrape the nose of a defensive hollowpoint. There were two failures of the slide going into battery in the first 50 rounds, but I put more than 400 rounds of various makes and grains of .380 through the pistol without incident. Perhaps my sample required a so-called “break-in” period. Pistols usually don’t, but that problem never manifested again.
An Optic-Ready .380
The 5.8-inch slide wears a set of SIG Sauer’s SIGLITE night sights. These are a three-dot tritium system that offers glowing illumination in twilight or no-light scenarios, and a brightly emphasized dot at the front. However, almost every new pistol introduced lately seems to be optic ready — and so is this. The P365-380 features a factory machined cut that’s compatible with the Shield RMSc footprint for mini red-dots. When it was time to accuracy test this pistol, I used the opportunity to evaluate Bushnell’s new-for-2022 RXC-200, which features a 6 MOA red dot. The .380 ACP is not a cartridge associated with shooting matches, and neither are micro-compacts. The P365-380 uses a 3.1-inch barrel, but with a red dot mounted it’s a 3-MOA handgun at 25 yards. (Who, besides G&A’s editors shoots a .380 at 25 yards?)
At the Range
Before testing the P365-380 for its accuracy potential, I shot the little pistol on steel and at multiple distances to get a feel for it in the new chambering. The pistol shot softer than the 9mm original, and I would say even less than the compensated P365 XL Spectre. Yep, I shot them one after the other and the felt recoil is not even close; the .380 recoils softer.
The lighter felt recoil also allowed less-experienced pistol-shooting friends to stack rounds on top of each other out to 10 yards. That’s about the average distance that the gun or cartridge would likely be used, according to statistics.
The lighter recoil also allowed the new-ish shooters transition more quickly from target to target during multi-threat drills. Transitions are a skill that many of us neglect training to develop, but to the new shooter deciding to arm themselves in the wake of the current crime spike, transitioning effectively is a comforting ability.
When I wanted to stretch the distance, the P365-380 was up to the task, albeit with a couple of caveats. From the bench at 25 yards, the Bushnell red dot helped the tiny pistol maintain an average group size of a little more than 3 inches. That’s nothing to mock, given the small proportions of the gun. Pistols with 3.1-inch barrels are not necessarily less accurate than longer-tubed models, but being consistent in aiming, gripping and pressing the trigger can be the limiting factors with a small gun. Reduced grip profiles and the short sight radius usually leave micros with the an undeserved reputation for poor accuracy.
The curved trigger of the P365-380 is best described as “decent,” in my opinion. The 5-pound, 3-ounce, pull weight is light enough for good results at the bench, but the long, rolling break, and accompanying “thunk” that the striker-fired P365 series has been known for, require some trigger discipline from the user when shooting offhand at anything beyond 12 to 15 yards.
The second caveat is that the P365-380, like many pistols, displayed a marked preference for high-quality ammunition. (Cha-ching, cha-ching.) While the pistol easily managed the sub-4-inch groups I referenced earlier, budget ammunition produces budget results, so don’t act surprised if you opt to buy the bucket of range ammo. Groups shot with generic ball ammunition opened my five-shot holes to nearly 7 inches at 25 yards. If you want premium results, be prepared to feed it premium ammunition.
The .380 chambering of the P365 is not for everyone. I don’t struggle with the 9mm, but I know those who do. I keep .380s around because I often break in new shooters with easy-to-shoot guns. If you don’t have issues with the 9mm, then SIG Sauer’s downsizing of the P365 might not make sense. If you’re looking for a capable, quality, defensive option that presents less recoil, then the P365-380 is worth considering.
SIG Sauer P365-380
- Type: Striker fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: .380 ACP
- Capacity: 10+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.1 in.
- Overall Length: 5.8 in.
- Weight: 15.7 oz.
- Sights: SIGLITE Day/Night; optic ready
- Finish: Nitron (steel)
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 3 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $500
- Manufactuerer: SIG Sauer, 603-610-3000, sigsauer.com
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