Those who need an easily managed carry pistol without sacrificing ergonomics and performance should give this Ruger compact .380 Auto a go
by Bob Campbell
For many years, the market for concealed carry handguns centered on snub-nosed .38 revolvers and small semi-autos. Neither is ideal for beginning shooters or those plagued with injury, arthritis, or other limiting factors. Sights on these guns were nothing to brag about, either, and caliber selection was too much or too little.
Today, we have a wide range of small-frame 9mm handguns, including very slim pistols such as the GLOCK 43 and those with improved capacity such as the SIG P365 XL. For many shooters, what is needed is a reliable, accurate, and easy to use and maintain handgun that is also affordable. Many shooters are as excited about learning pistol craft as we were high school fire drills. Just the same, they realize a quality handgun is good to have. That is quite an order and one not fully met by existing pistols until recently.
The Ruger Security-380 is a great, all-around recreational target and defense handgun with many advantages and few limiting factors — the key limiting factor being the caliber. I am not enthusiastic concerning the .380 ACP for defense. Quite a few writers with little to no real-world experience like to recommend the .380 ACP as it is trendy. The .380 ACP is a superior choice to the .22 and .32 pistols based on reliability and performance. If you can control the 9mm and use it well, you should. If not, the Security-380 may be your huckleberry. For the young, inexperienced, and senior shooters on a budget, the Security-380 is a great choice. I have quite a bit of experience with it and must admit I have enjoyed firing and evaluating this pistol. A friendly shooting gun that invites practice is an advantage in personal defense.
The Security-380 is a modification of the Security 9 9mm pistol. By converting the pistol to blowback operation rather than the Security 9’s locked breech, the pistol has been successfully converted to .380 ACP caliber. The Security 9 is proven but nothing is a given in reliability when you change the design to such an extent.
The pistol is a sub-compact advertised as a “Lite Rack” design. This is important for those with limited hand strength. Force required to pull back the slide isn’t always directly in proportion to recoil spring strength. I have rigged a fixture with a fishing weight gauge and clamps that I use to test slide pull effort. Many pistols run from 14 to 18 pounds, and 10mm and .45 Super types are even more. The Lite Rack Ruger .380 runs about 10 pounds. This isn’t a difficulty for most shooters. The slide is nicely finished with generous rear cocking serrations and small but useful forward cocking serrations.
The sights are excellent by any standard for personal defense. The rear sight is adjustable for windage. The front sight is a bright fiber optic. The slide is beveled at the front to allow easy holstering. Lightening cuts in the slide make for a lighter slide. The pistol features an aluminum inner chassis with a full length rail set into a glass-filled nylon frame. Grip texture is excellent — not too raspy but allowing a firm purchase on the handgun. The trigger action breaks clean at 6.2 pounds of compression. This is ideal for defense use.
The Security-380 uses the Secure Action system developed by Ruger. The hammer is internal and shrouded as opposed to the more common striker-fired action. This makes for a simple double-action-only system — the hammer is prepped slightly as the slide is pulled back, which also makes it easier to pull. A blade-type safety sets in the trigger face. and the pistol features a manual safety. The manual safety is hinged on the front rather than the rear, as is the case with a 1911-style handgun. It is positive in operation and easily manipulated as you get the pistol on target. The slide lock and magazine catch operate as they should with no “mush” in their operation.
I purchased the pistol at retail for just over three hundred dollars, and I certainly have my money’s worth. The pistol comes boxed in cardboard and supplied with a gun lock, instruction manual, chamber flag, and spare magazine. The magazines include a flush-fit ten-round and an extended fifteen-round magazine in free states. The People’s Republics get two ten-round magazines.
Overall, the Security-380 is well-finished. Disassembly did not reveal tool marks or defects. I am not especially fond of the take down as it requires a tool to remove the takedown pin; however, after a time or two, it isn’t that bad. A pistol should be cleaned and lubricated every three hundred rounds, so learn the manual. I had on-hand a good supply of .380 ACP full metal jacketed ammunition from Federal, PMC, and Winchester. I loaded the magazine with ball ammunition to begin the evaluation. Unlike some pistols I have tested lately, the magazines are not difficult to load, so I did not resort to the magazine loader.
The Security-380 never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I had set aside less than 100 cartridges for the first range trip. Within a week I had expended 240 cartridges — about all I had put up — not due to stoppages or shooting errors but due to the depth of the test and the sheer fun involved. This is a fun gun to use. The magazines are not difficult to load, the slide is easy to retract, recoil is modest, the trigger is controllable, and the sights are well designed. I focused on the kind of shooting most of us should concentrate our efforts on. I drew and fired quickly at the 7-yard line, the goal being to get a hit in the X as soon as possible. I achieved that goal with the first shot and the gun continued to deliver — fire, allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and fire again as soon as the sights are re-aligned. Double taps and hammers were no problem. Moving to ten yards, I did practically as well as at seven yards, punishing the target with withering fire. Recoil is inconsequential and much lighter than a GLOCK 19 9mm as an example. You SHOULD deploy a 9mm if you can. If you cannot, this is the pistol for you.
I progressed to firing the Ruger Security-380 at known and unknown distances from 20 to 35 yards. That is a long shot and bears little correlation to personal defense, but it teaches a bit about marksmanship. I connected with clay birds on the berm often as not. I finally settled down to fire the pistol for accuracy. The Ruger shoots where the sights look. Properly regulated sights are good to have! I benchrest tested the .380 ACP pistol from a solid benchrest and fired five-shot groups for accuracy at 50 feet. The results are tabulated below.
- Hornady Critical Defense 90-gr., 980 fps, 2.0 in.
- Remington Golden Saber, 102-gr., 903 fps, 2.5 in.
- Buffalo Bore 100-gr., 952 fps, 2.35 in.
- Remington Golden Saber 102-grain, 890 fps, 2.1 in.
This is a credible pistol, not simply a good choice but the best choice for many shooters. Accuracy may make up for power and the Ruger Security-380 is both accurate and reliable.
What We Like
- I might say, “What’s not to like?” The pistol is reliable, accurate, easy to handle, and a fun gun to shoot. The trigger action, sights, and controls are well designed.
What We Would Change
- The takedown isn’t my favorite but considering the compact size of the pistol and its other good features, I cannot think of anything to change.
- Compared to similar size .380 ACP pistols such as the Beretta 84 or Bersa Thunder, the Ruger is simpler to operate, completely reliable, accurate, and more affordable. There is really no contest.
Among the best choices for concealed carry is the newly introduced DeSantis Vanquisher. This holster is ambidextrous yet offers a good fit for many handguns (available in two sizes). The material used is padded ballistic nylon. The holster is adjustable for drop and cant. It is useful as a tuckable. I use mine as an inside the waistband holster.
For many years, there have been limited choices in .380 ACP defense ammunition. FMJ offers adequate penetration — the single most important component in a defense load. Wound potential with these non-expanding loads, though, is poor. There are hollow point loads that open much too quickly and there are ridiculous trick loads that open quickly or burst into shards with little penetration. There are still others that clock as much as 200 fps below the maker’s claimed velocity.
Remington’s Golden Saber and Federal’s HST along with the Hornady Critical Defense are among a few acceptable defense loads. Recently, I was able to test SIG’s new P365 JHP and add it to the list. I have always sought out the single most effective load in a caliber based not necessarily on expansion, penetration, or velocity but a balance of penetration and expansion. It is more difficult today to obtain and test diverse loads. Choose a load from a maker with a good reputation for reliability and remember that marksmanship is the essential element of wound potential. Shot placement may take the place of wound potential more likely than the reverse.