Taurus Spectrum .380 ACP, by Pat Cascio

While the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) round  might have been a good choice for the fictional James Bond in some of his earlier movies, it still isn’t the first choice for me, or most other shooters. In later movies, Bond was shown carrying some 9mm handguns, which was a smart move. However, for my use, anything chambered in .380 ACP isn’t my first choice in a concealed carry handgun. Now, that’s not to say that in the past I didn’t actually did carry some .380 ACP handguns. I can only say I was young and naive. Keep in mind that the following are my opinions, and mine alone – and we are all entitled to opinions. They are just that, and opinion. So, save the hate mail, if you like your gun in .380 ACP. I’m not going to try and change your mine. I must also mention that my own wife often carries some kind of .380 ACP concealed – for many different reasons.

Needless to say, the .380 ACP is a lot better than throwing rocks and sticks at someone who is trying to harm you. And, with today’s ammo, there are great choices in self-defense loads, too. In the past, you were pretty much limited to a Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) round, if you wanted your pistol to feed reliably. Many .380 ACP JHP rounds simply wouldn’t feed. Today’s handguns are designed to feed just about any kind of ammo, including JHP rounds.

In the not too distant past, anything in .380 ACP was pretty much a “compact” or mid-sized handgun, and “compact” had a different meaning back then, than it does today. Many of the compact guns in the past are now considered mid-sized by many users. With better technology and better designs, we have more tiny handguns chambered in .380 ACP than ever before. In the past 10 years, many gun makers have been turning out “itty-bitty” handguns chambered in .380 ACP – and they work, with just about any type of ammo. I personally carry a Ruger LCP .380 ACP in an ankle holster, as a back-up to my main gun – whatever it may be, that I’m carrying or testing at the time. The Ruger LCP is tiny, no doubt about it. But it is intended or up-close and personal self-defense. And needless to say, because of it’s size, it is a bit hard to shoot accurately – you need lots of practice with it.

I’m not big on two-shot derringers, for self-defense, either. They are “okay” at best, as a back-up to your main gun, but two shots?  Nope, that is just not going to cut it, not in today’s world, where you are very likely to face multiple attackers at the same time. And those little two-shot derringers are very hard to shoot, especially at anything more than conversational distances. Furthermore, they are very slow to reload.

Taurus SpectrumWe’re looking at the very recently introduced Taurus Spectrum, and it is quite the little .380 ACP handgun. Over the past dozen years or so, maybe less or maybe more years, Taurus has had a real hit or miss with many of their guns – they either worked right out of the box, or they had malfunctions – lots of them. This is why, you always test your firearms, before you decide to carry them for self-defense, and you test them with the same ammo that you intend to use in those guns, for carry. Some guns need a bit of a break-in period, some don’t. However, it’s a good idea to run at least 200 rounds of ammo through a self-defense handgun, before calling it “good to go.” If there are an problems, they are sure to show-up within a couple hundred rounds.

Something New

Taurus SpectrumI happened to be at my local gun shop, Fast Cash, in Lebanon, Oregon one afternoon, when UPS had just brought them several packages with handguns in them. One of the owners put a new Taurus Spectrum in my hand, and I immediately decided that I wanted one. They came in several different colors, I selected one with a stainless steel slide, and the polymer frame is gray with blue accents – more about this, shortly. Plus, the Spectrum comes with two magazines, one has a flat base pad on it, and the other has a slightly extended base pad, that I like to call a “pinky catcher” because it gives your pinky finger some place to go, instead of dangling with no place for it to go. The flat mag base mag holds 6 rounds and the extended mag holds 7 rounds, plus one in the chamber, of course.

Taurus SpectrumThe Spectrum only weighs in at 10 ounces, so it is a lightweight, sub-compact handgun – not a compact, but a true sub-compact shooter. It is striker-fired, but unlike many other similar pistols, this one has second strike abilities – so if your gun goes “click” instead of “bang” you can pull the trigger again, without having to chamber a new round in the chamber. Quite often, a second strike on a primer will make the round fire. The Double Action Only trigger pull is long, and about 7 pounds. However it is smooth, and under stress, you won’t notice the long and slightly heavy trigger pull. And a lot of people, especially new shooters, seem to shoot a DAO trigger better than a single action trigger pull. The trigger is wide, too–so that helps make the pull feel lighter than it is.


Barrel length on the Spectrum is 2.80-inches, so it’s short, and that means you lose some velocity from the .380 ACP round – not a lot, but some loss – not enough to make a difference if you ask me. The gun is only 0.90-inches wide – so its slim and trim. Overall length is 5.40-inches, and height depends on which magazine you have installed in the gun. I much prefer the extended 7-round mag, with the pinky catcher bottom on it. My wife, on the other hand, shoots the gun well with either mag. BTW, when my wife shot my Spectrum, she wanted it – nope – not happening. You’d think, after more than a quarter century of testing guns and writing about them, I’d know better than to let her shoot any of my guns, I’ve lost more than one gun to her this way. So, I took her to the local gun shop, so she could get her own Spectrum, but she wanted one that was the same colors as mine – luck was on my side, they just got one in, in the same color scheme.

Taurus SpectrumThe magazine release is larger than you’d think, on a sub-compact gun, like the Spectrum, but it isn’t overly large or sticking out, so changing mags is a piece of cake. Now, a word on the “Soft Touch” panels on the sides of the frame, the sides of the slide and the rear of the frame…nice, if you ask me. However, my wife has sweaty hands – a lot of the time – and she couldn’t get a good grip on the slide so she could chamber a round. A quick fix with some skateboard friction tape and Gorilla super glue, and we had the soft-touch panels covered and my wife was able to chamber a round – even with sweaty hands.  The recoil spring weight in the Spectrum – but like a lot of other small .380 pistols, it is heavy. I don’t know how heavy, but it is heavy, so it takes a little bit of strength to chamber a round.

Small Sights

The sights on the gun, for me, they are totally useless – I can’t see them with my aged eyes. Then again, not a problem for me, as this gun was designed for up-close and personal use, and I’ve been trained in Point Shooting, so anything 25 feet or closer, I can easily hit without using the sights, with most pistols and revolvers. Thankfully, my wife could see the sights! There is a very small slide lock on the left side of the gun – many itty-bitty guns like these, don’t have a slide lock/release, and you can only release the slide by removing the magazine, then pull back on the slide, or insert a new loaded mag, and pulling back – not so with the Spectrum, you can release the slide by pressing down on the slide lock.

No doubt, you have already looked at the pics of this gun that I submitted with the article, and if you’re like me, the first thought to come to mind is that, the Spectrum, looks like a sci-fi “space gun” of sorts, it is sleek and very modern looking. And, there just isn’t anything on the gun that sticks out that would snag when drawing the gun.

My biggest complaint with the Spectrum is taking the gun down for cleaning and reassembling it. It is easy to take apart, very easy, however, the recoil spring is heavy, and it is very long, and I mean it is very long! It takes three hands to get the recoil spring back in the gun for reassembly. I think Taurus over-did the poundage and length of the recoil spring.

Hefty Recoil

And then there is recoil. Of course, there is some recoil, because the gun is so small and lightweight, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. My one serious complaint is that the trigger guard is too small, to fit a gloved hand into it – something to think about, that’s for sure. My hands are large, but not overly large, and I put on a pair of rather thin gloves, and I couldn’t get my trigger finger inside the trigger guard.

Of course, we needed to test the Spectrum, and I put about 300 rounds through my sample, and my wife put about 100 rounds through it – as well as 100 rounds through her own Spectrum. There was not a single malfunction in either gun. That’s saying a lot.

Accuracy Tests

Accuracy testing was done standing, two-handed, at 10-yards. I only had Black Hills Ammunition on-hand. From them, I had their HoneyBadger 60-gr all-copper bullet, that is fluted – love this stuff. And, I also had their 90-gr JHP and 100-gr FMJ loads – once again, no malfunctions of any sort, in either gun. The 100-gr FMJ load was the most accurate, coming in at one inch groups – again, at 10-yards, and the 90-gr JHP and 60-gr HoneyBadger were hot on the heels of the FMJ. Recoil wasn’t anything to be concerned with, with the HoneyBadger load, and the other two loads, they really weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be in this little gun. My entire family only carries Black Hills .380 ACP HoneyBadger in our guns that are chambered for .380 ACP. We have a lot of faith in it, as a self-defense load.

As this is being written, my wife is now carrying her Taurus Spectrum as her main concealed carry gun. She does so while at work, because it is easy to conceal. Outside of work, she carries a Taurus G2 9mm – she can carry anything she likes, but these are her choices these days for self-defense.

Pick-up a Spectrum, and you’ll be hard-pressed to put it down without buying it. For many folks, they feel great in the hand.


  1. Some say that the .380 is not a viable round for personal protection. This is because there is a thought running through the community that bigger is always better.

    Prior to WW1, a lone gunman (part of a larger plot) killed the archduke [Ferdinand] and his wife, Sophie with one shot each from an FN Browning .380 starting the first world War.

    Now I personally believe that the .380 ACP will be as good as the person using it. There is an argument against rounds that can be too under powered. The .25 ACP half the time can’t even work the actions of the guns designed for it. I think I would choose a .22 LR pistol over a .25ACP.

    1. I carry a .25, in my experience it is very susceptible to ammunition differences. Mine handles Remington well but can’t tolerate Fiochi, even though on paper it’s the better ammo.

      I have met many men who claim that small calibers are less than useless, but I have yet to meet the man who is willing to take a bullet from one to prove how harmless they are.

      1. Of course, Vagus, you have never met a man who is willing to take a bullet from a .25, or any other small caliber round. Do you wish to be stung by a bee?…most men do not. Has nothing to do with “manliness”.

        1. I spend a lot of time fighting what I see as faulty logic.

          To run with the analogy though, you would have to insist that bees weren’t venomous and couldn’t sting.

  2. I find it interesting to see positive reviews about Taurus products. Mention that name in most of the “tacticool” crowds and you get a great deal of derision, but if you politely engage them you will find almost nobody that holds that opinion from firsthand experience but rather from hearsay. Personally, I have found the Taurus G2 9mm, the gun mentioned as one of Pat’s wife’s carry guns, to be a dandy pistol that’s easy to shoot accurately, has second strike capability, and a very good “in between” size and capacity that’s useful for both holster and conceal carry. In addition, I have picked up several of them on the local market for between $200 and $250. I’m not personally a big 9mm fan, but a cheap, accurate, and (for me, anyway) reliable pistol is a nice thing to have hidden about the house in various places, and also a “stock” of for those grasshoppers I know that will need weapons when they inevitably show up at my door, hat in hand, should something really bad happen. I also have a PT-709 slim 9mm, which is closely related to the G2 but makes a nice purse gun and that’s what my wife uses it for. I don’t have any problems with either model of pistol.

  3. I thought it was Ferdinand, but I wasn’t going to check in the middle of writing this post.

    Incidentally, the Ruger LCP .380 is a very nice gun that works well. I would own one if my hands weren’t so darn big. A Bersa Thunder .380 is much more manageable.

  4. I regularly carry a SIG P238 mini 1911 steel frame pistol with extended mag for 8 rounds of 95 grain JHP. It’s an easy small framed firearm, has a little more weight than most pocket pistols and is incredibly reliable. I’ve put close to a thousand rounds through it over the years and am very comfortable with it. My open carry pistol is a Kimber 3” 1911 in .45 but not many pistols conceal better than the little SIG. I’ve replaced all the springs twice and have no concerns over its performance. I’m convinced that the “right” self defense pistol is the one you shoot well.

  5. I have a difficult time even considering purchasing a Taurus product. I have owned 2 and had big problems with both. Having said that, maybe their quality is improving? I lean towards glock and daily carry a Ruget LCP II in the summer but maybe I’ll do some research.

  6. For 380 carry try either the Lehigh Defense 65 gr Xtreme Defense load at 1150 fps or the same bullet loaded by Underwood Ammo at 1450 fps which is a Plus P load. I carry a Ruger LCP when even my EDC Glock 26 is too much to conceal, or headed where a backup is a good idea. Works very well in the Ruger and the bullet has a profile almost matching a FMJ. Watch some of the videos on this round available on the net and I would go with it rather than depending on a hollow point to expand.

  7. I bought a Taurus Judge had it professionally Dura- Coated. Lost a spring when it was reassembled sent it back to Taurus and received a call saying the gun needed to have the “paint removed” before Taurus would replace the spring ( factory item ) I tried several gunsmiths to see if spring could be ordered and also LE gunsmith since I’m a LE officer NO LUCK. After sending to Dura-Coat the coating was removed and tried to send back to factory. Taurus said the gun had be modified and suggested I sell it for parts and Taurus would be nice enough to give a 10% discount if I wanted to purchase another. I was fortune enough to go to Shot Show and also NRA and talk with the head of service NO LUCK either. I called several times after I was given a business card from service manager finally gave up after 5 plus calls. GUESS what several local departments were looking at Taurus for LE and I had told them forget it.. I even offered to buy spring and pay for installing it still NO LUCK. I won’t by anything from Taurus again also you couldn’t give me any Taurus product either I consider them hunks of metal or boat anchors….. Guess I just stick to Colt-Canik-Smith-Wesson-Ruger and a few other companies for handguns

  8. i have a glock .380…sweet shooting little pistol…would i carry it for protection, yes…it’s about shot placement…and i’ve seen my share of suicides and 90% were with a .380 and they are all dead…also have a little tank of a .380, the bersa thunder i bought for the wife to carry…it’s easy to use and has a safety and for $150 you can’t beat it…personally i prefer my G17

  9. The Springfield 911 with night sights is an excellent (and all metal) pistol. After considering just about every other .380 out there (including the SIG, which is almost the exact same form factor as the Springfield) I didn’t want to settle for something tiny with worhless sights (yes, one can shoot a small .380 accurately, and at extended ranges, as long as the sights are quality.). The 911 was the clear choice for me. Quite concealable, very accurate, and reliable. Highly recommended.

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