I have long accepted there is a place for the “Mouse Gun” as both an extreme hide gun and backup to a primary handgun. And of the “Mouse Gun” calibers most prefer the .380 auto over the .25 or .32. To put this bluntly, though there have been lot’s of great .380 “Mouse Guns” out there, there has always been something that ground me wrong about putting an expensive gun in a pocket of change, if you get my drift. I was pretty excited with the introduction of the Keltec PAT3 and its glowing reviews. I bought one, and I love it.
Keeping in mind that a “Mouse Gun” is not a main service or a range weapon but the “Solution of Last Resort”, my expectations of what the gun is capable of was not that high. Still my initial perception was very favorable. The gun, especially with the mag extension, is very comfortable in my hand, has a natural aiming point, a very nice finish, and surprisingly big gun look and feel when its in my hand (as compared to the P3AT). That part was the easy part for getting to know the little gun was much harder.
Due to the popularity of the Keltec PAT3 and the new Ruger LCP, .380 ammunition is almost nowhere to be had right now, with shortages as bad as .223 last fall. Being in the gun culture, I was able to find a few boxes at a local gun show.
Out of the Box Firing
Needless to say, this is not my first gun by a long shot. I had read it takes about 200 rounds to break the little Ruger in. However, the gun was amazingly tight out of the box, especially the mag which felt so dry and stiff like a 1911 surplus WWII mag. Still, I have a habit of, other than checking for a light coat of lube, firing my new guns right out of the box looking for any potential future problem or what I think of as watch for areas. As expected, the gun jammed the first two rounds but then cycled after that. Indicative (as I expected) of a stiff mag, I simply tore the little mag down and gave it a light coat of oil. Two boxes of ammunition later, not a single jam or misfire. For an old school guy like me, I found that pretty surprising for such a little gun. The gun loosened up amazingly quick and seemed to steady right up after less than one box of ammunition.
I found the recoil to be very manageable and accuracy way more than expected for basically a point and shoot size gun. The sights are typical “Mouse Gun” anemic but actually functional. Personally, it could have been without sights and still fill the role its intended for. After all a “Mouse Gun” is not a gun most of us are going to spend many hours with at the range trying to thread a needle.
Still, I was encouraged by my first firing, so bought a ProMag 10 round extended mag to take it to the next level. The little LCP rapid-fired flawlessly with the higher cap mag. I was able to send round after round downrange on target in fairly fast fashion. (Yes, I wanted the brass so I could get my load down.)
Tear down and cleaning is amazingly simple. You simply push the slide back with one finger while prying the retaining pin out with either a knife tip or screw driver. Close examination of the feed ramp showed it to be as well done as say a Glock out of the box but a crack in the pavement is the Grand Canyon to an ant, and the .380 auto isn’t a giant of calibers. Despite the gun now running flawlessly with Prvi FMJ and Gold Dot HPs, I went ahead and polished the ramp up.
Initial Carry Impressions
Like the Keltec, there’s a number of pocket holsters on the market for the LCP designed to protect the gun while still providing easy draw and most importantly not coming out with the gun.
The newer guns are the 372 series which come with a mag extension. I will note here; if you have bigger hands you may want to look at the Pierce mag extension which is just a tad larger than the factory extension.
The strength of the LCP is in one area, its size. This gun is small enoug that you can carry it in a back-pants pocket, front pocket, and even a flap-down shirt pocket. Even loaded, its weight is so light one has to remember it’s in the pocket. Its definitely a can-take-anywhere gun; Even the beach. After all, that’s what a “Mouse Gun” is all about. Because you can have the best gun in the world that does you absolutely no good at all if its home in the safe.
Ballistics and Loading
Of the small calibers, there are many things that endeared me to the .380 over say the .32 or .25. I guess the first is its a caliber, with a proven track record. The favorite of the Europeans, especially German, officer corps in WWII, its seen its fair share of action. Of course, one can not forget James Bond and the Walther PPK. Still it was a police officer ex-ranger friend of mine years back who insisted on his duty weapon being a .380 that I think formed my real opinion. Though we gave this guy constant flak over his gun choice, we also got to see and experience what the round can do.
The .380 in general is a 95 grain bullet that is shot at approximately 850 fps at a case pressure or around 13,500 psi. To put that into perspective, if you ranked the small calibers they would be .22lr, .25, .32, .380, then 9mm. From a terminal ballistics standpoint its about double a .22lr, just below the 9mm, and about half the vaunted .45 acp. To visualize that , a .22lr would be like sticking a target with an ice pick; a 9mm like your middle finger being made of steel then sticking it into the target; a .380 FMJ, as if your index finger were stuck into that target.
Once one gets into the ballistics of the .380, it doesn’t take long to find one of those gun culture Catch-22’s which is will it shoot +Ps or not. It’s all quite amusing really. Ketec says yes, Ruger says no. The problem is SAAMI does not have a standard for +P in .380 so a claim either way means absolutely nothing. If one bothers to research, the LCP has been tested with about every premium out there including Cor Bon and Buffalo Bore.
Right now with ammunition availability as it is, reloading is a very good option. Dies and bullets are still available. It makes one believe all those people embracing the .380 right now are not us typical gun culture folks but those looking for a small self-defense gun. They certainly are selling well. The small round feels a little awkward in the press but actually loads no more difficult than any other pistol round.
The Ruger LCP is a nice addition to the moderate cost “Mouse Gun” line up. Its basically a Keltec P3AT with some improvements like much better finish, more ergonomic hand grip, and a slide lock. Though no Walther PP, its a sharp gun.
It is a “Mouse Gun” though, not a main service weapon or even a replacement for you sub-compact but a gun to carry when carrying anything else doesn’t seem to fit. In that role, its hard to beat, since it can be carried and hidden almost anywhere and its .380 caliber, though not a cannon, it’s also not a slouch.
Both the P3AT and the LCP are fine carry weapons. Yes, they both jam – they are mouse guns! if I had to choose, I would probably stick wih the kel-tec. it seems to have fewer jams and has had much fewer recall problems. I would choose functionality over pretty in this case.