Is the .32 the New .380?

taurus_732Just a couple of years ago, the .380 ACP was a secondary cartridge: largely ignored by professional gun toters, eschewed in the press by gun experts, and not a big seller for dealers.  Now, it is the exact opposite thanks, in large part, to the Ruger LCP.  Since then, nearly every manufacturer introduced a .380 pistol trying to cash in on this invigorated market.

The question asked at many gun manufacturers’ marketing and design meetings has undoubtedly been “What’s the next big trend?”

Some are looking at the .32 ACP.

On the surface, the state of the .32 ACP is similar to that of the .380 ACP from three years ago.  Guns and ammo can be found in the caliber, but nothing really new, and nothing really hot.  The “old” .380 and the current .32 are considered to be underpowered for “serious” self-defense, and no one will readily admit they have one for protection.  But, one good gun could change that.

Develop a sexy gun in .32 ACP, and you might start reading articles about how the .32 makes perfect sense.  Articles that talk about the caliber/gun being a perfect combination of power and compact size with the benefits of being soft shooting for the recoil sensitive among us.  Sound familiar?

This week, MasterPiece Arms announced a .32 ACP pistol called the MPA32.  At the 2010 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Taurus showed us the PT732, a .32 ACP version of the TCP.  Are these the first attempts to get in front of a new trend?  Maybe.

Here’s the problem as I see it.  The .32 ACP pistols don’t offer (at least yet) any real advantage over their .380 ACP counterparts.  For the most part they run the same size with the same or similar weights, with the same magazine capacity.  And, where .380 ACP ammo was considered to be “almost there” for self-defense, no one really tries to claim the .32 is nearly that effective.  So, right now, I just don’t see it.

Want to make a .32 ACP trend work?  I think you’ve got to get the gun smaller than a LCP without it getting lost in your hand, plus offer more capacity.  Without the capacity advantage, the 9mm vs. .45 debate would have been a short argument at best.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

14 replies on “Is the .32 the New .380?”

In my CCW classes, I keep getting little old ladies that have lost their grip strength. Combine that with small hands and you have a real issue. Simply handing her some small-gripped wonder-gun does not help, because without grip strength, she cannot control the recoil.

I have seen this happen over and over again in my classes. The 380 has too much recoil for a pocket gun. That is where the 32 comes in. Low recoil means they can focus on accuracy and get some meaninful practice without beating up their hands.

For these students, I usually recomend a CZ83 in 32 auto (a bit heavy, but nice grip and high capacity) or the KelTec p32 and NAA Guardian 32, both with extended grips and magazines. The extended mags on the KelTec and NAA are nice because when you have grip strength issues, getting that pinky on the grip can be the difference between shooting and not shooting.

I am looking forward to more 32 autos.


Thanks for posting. I agree the .32 has a place, and for those with significant hand strength issues, the .32 may be a good choice. And, you are definitely right that a slightly heavier gun combined with the .32 makes for an easy shooting pistol.


How about the Beretta .32 with the tip up barrel? You don’t need to rack the slide ~ should be great for those with arthritis or poor grip strength. Wish they made it in .380.

Whatever happened to the .32NAA? This seems like a pretty good compromise between the .380 and the standard .32ACP. But it never seemed to really catch on and so far only Corbon is making ammo for it.

I liked the potential of the .32 NAA, but it never caught on. To my knowledge, only CorBon is making ammo for it. I think someone was making a conversion kit for the P3AT, but I can’t seem to find the info now.

Correction. Kel-Tec reinvigorated the pocket .380 market. Ruger introduced their LCP, copying the design of the Kel-Tec P3AT, 5 years after Kel-Tec’s offering. Since then, nearly every manufacturer introduced a .380 pistol trying to cash in on this market that Kel-Tec reinvigorated.

Hi Kirk,

I like Kel-Tec and the products they make. No doubt the P3AT influenced or even inspired the LCP, however, in my opinion the LCP is what has caused the .380 market to catch on fire. In the years prior to the LCP, the .380 market was pretty stagnant. In the two years since the LCP was announced, all sorts of new pistols and ammo have been introduced due to overwhelming customer demand. I can’t imagine year six of the P3AT caused that. Influenced it? Sure.


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