Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in .380

By M. Ashley Evans

Many Gun Options

When it comes to concealed-carry gun choices, every gun owner has his own opinion – and usually an enthusiastic one at that.

When I began researching for my concealed-carry gun, the lack of reviews by women was frustrating. I wanted to know what it was like to shoot these guns with a smaller hand and body frame than the male reviewers had.

Having smaller hands does not negate the larger guns – I’ve shot a .50cal Desert Eagle while having a fractured wrist without any problems – simple physics demonstrates that it does make a difference in the felt recoil. It all boils down to the direction of energy through the body. This article explains a little about that: (Here)

Remember, training is vital. Your body stance and grip all come into play with how well you shoot and how the gun feels to shoot. We will go over all of that in a future article.

Most .380 guns are considered pocket pistols – small framed guns that are very easily concealable. Frankly, being a woman makes conceal carrying a lot harder – our clothing typically is cut to a more snug fit and the material is often thinner than is marketed for men. So it’s important to make wise clothing choices when concealed-carrying.

These are not guns that I would recommend for a woman who has never shot a gun before, or who is uncomfortable with the idea of concealed-carrying. I would recommend that woman get a revolver and training. The reason is, these pistols are all semi-automatic. The slide has to be pulled to chamber a round and to clear a jam. That takes a considerable amount of practice for it to be second nature while your adrenaline is skyrocketing – and when a threat is coming after you or your family, you have to be able to clear the jam in time. But with a revolver – you point and shoot. If that round doesn’t work, you pull the trigger again to cycle to the next round. It isn’t as much to think about, which is what makes it ideal for someone who is new to shooting.

Gun Choices

1. Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard with Crimson Trace Laser

smith and wesson bodyguard

The Bodyguard is a very common handgun choice for concealed carry. I owned a second generation for quite a while, and I plan to buy one again eventually. The Bodyguard is lightweight, at barely over 12 oz, which makes it very easy to carry. It’s smooth and rounded – very snag free.

It will hold 6+1 in the chamber. The overall length is 5.3″ – it fits into my back jeans pocket without any trouble and wasn’t too heavy for a jacket pocket. It has a steel slide and a polymer frame – which is what makes it so lightweight.

Shooting the Bodyguard is one of the reasons why I liked it so much. The felt recoil is much more manageable than other guns of the same size, for example, the Ruger LCP which is extremely front-end snappy. The Bodyguard has a little snap to it, but mostly the felt recoil is straight back into the center of the hand.

The slide is very easy to pull back, a common struggle for women shooters. The sights are not great – but a built-in laser is a nice tool for low light situations. The Bodyguard has a 6+1 capacity and is double action only. The DAO trigger pull is a little long, which can be comforting knowing that it is very unlikely that it will be pulled by mistake. Like most .380’s this gun requires a bit of break-in time at the range to polish it up.

2. Sig P238 – Alloy Stainless Elite

Sig p238 This beautiful 1911 style .380 features an alloy stainless frame. The weight is 15.2 oz unloaded, which is a little heavier than the previous gun discussed. This tiny bit of weight makes a big difference in the amount of felt recoil. I love the sturdy feeling the steel frame gives.

Even with my smaller hands, I don’t have any trouble with maintaining a good grip. The slide isn’t difficult to pull back and the magazine spring isn’t so tight that I have to use a reloading tool.

Its a clone of the Colt Mustang – which we will be discussing below. My favorite aspect is that it is virtually a 1911 sized down. Its missing a few parts the true 1911’s have, like the grip safety, so there is some debate as to whether or not it can be truly classified as a genuine 1911. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on – there is no denying the ease of shooting any gun that has that 1911 shaped frame.

The sights on it are definitely better than most pocket pistols – but you’re not going to be relying on them for protecting yourself against a close proximity threat anyways.

Early in manufacturing, there was some failure to feed issues – but don’t worry, these have been resolved! This gun is extremely smooth to shoot. I have read some reviews about it being finicky about ammo, but I have not had that experience. The trigger pull is 7.5-8.5 lbs. The Sig P238 has a height of 3.9″ and a total length of 5.5″. The P238 has a 6+1 capacity.

3. Micro Desert Eagle

micro desert eagle At 14 oz unloaded, this tiny pocket pistol feels extremely sturdy. And when I say tiny, it really is. 3.72″ tall and 4.5″ long. This is a gun that I deeply regret selling – and am itching to find another! It fits into both my back jean pocket as well as the front. The edges have all been nicely rounded. There was not any problem concealed carrying this gun!

It’s basically an American-produced copy of the Czech ZVI Kevin. This is an extremely unique gun. It has a delayed blowback system that utilizes two tiny ports. It does not have a single recoil spring surrounded by the barrel. The barrel isn’t attached to the frame, and the frame rail holds the recoil spring and two guide rods. The guide rods reciprocate with the slide during recoil – all of this makes for a great little gun that is extremely smooth to shoot. It is still a bit more felt recoil than the 1911 style guns mentioned in this article – but it is straight back into the hand so that it isn’t painful or snappy.

Magnum Research doesn’t produce the Micro Desert Eagle anymore, so you’ll have to search the used gun shops for this gem.  This gun is such an ideal women’s carry gun that I could not leave it off the list. My hands are small even for a woman’s, and I had no trouble at all pulling back the slide or maintaining proper grip technique. My husband has large hands for a man, and he really had a lot of trouble properly holding this gun – and keeping the slide from eating some meat off of his hand.

It feeds extremely well and was not finicky with cheap ammo. There are several reviews I read before purchasing the MDE of people TRYING to make this gun malfunction – and not succeeding. If you remove the magazine, it will still shoot the round in the chamber. The MDE has a 6+1 capacity. The trigger pull is smooth as butter – with a slightly noticeable stack just at the end.

4. Colt Mustang / Pony

colt pony

My favorite .380 for conceal carry has to be the Colt Pony 90 series. It also is a 1911 style frame. It like the Sig does not have a grip safety, and the trigger revolves around a pin instead of being pulled straight back – so it isn’t exactly like a 1911 mechanically.

The Colt Pony is no longer in production, but you can still find them used pretty easily. Colt still makes a Mustang – which is almost identical. The solid stainless ones are a little harder to come by – but the Mustang Pocketlight is in most gun stores that I frequent.

The Pocketlight has a steel slide and an alloy frame and only weighs 12 ounces. The length is 5.5″, so very easy to conceal carry and it has a 6 + 1 capacity.  Colt Mustang also for a while made an XSP version, made with black polymer, which is an ounce lighter than the Pocketlight. The XSP also has a small accessory rail right under the barrel and upgraded dovetail sights. But, personally, I’m not a huge fan of polymer guns. Maybe it is just aesthetics.

When I was researching for my ideal carry gun I knew that I preferred a 1911 style frame, double action, and a solid steel frame – and the Colt Pony fit all of my requirements.  Colt Mustang is very similar to the Pony, but there are differences. The Mustang has a rondell-hammer and is single action only.

Both boast a trigger pull of a little over 5 lbs with a very clean break. The magazine fits flush, overall the Pony and Mustang are very smooth and rounded which makes them comfortable to carry.

The Pony weighs about an ounce more than the Mustang, which boasts a solid 18 ounces unloaded. That plus the 1911 style frame means felt recoil is extremely minimal. I have yet to find a .380 with less felt recoil! The Colt Pony / Mustang is truly a joy to shoot on the range.

Choosing the Firearm that Fits – for Women

When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.

“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand.  Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.  

“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no.  I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.

I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life.  That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family.  During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.

Most avid shooters say  “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent.  This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness.  But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.

This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved.  The physics of gun recoil,  and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating!  All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.


When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry.  For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.

Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions.  Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward.  The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction.  Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction.  If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body.  I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.

The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.  A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction.  If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil.  We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.



In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380.  The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm.  Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand.  So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.

So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm.  This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.

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