By Russ Thurman
U.S. firearm production has increased significantly in recent years. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but mostly there has been growth, much of it impressive.
What firearm caliber has seen the most growth? Within handguns, there is an unlikely champion: the .380 ACP. While other calibers, most notably the 9mm, have posted impressive numbers, none are as remarkable as this middle-of-the-pack cartridge.
Since 2007, there has been a 531 percent increase in handguns chambered in the .380. The dramatic growth started with the introduction of the Ruger LCP in 2008. Ruger didn’t develop the .380 cartridge, but it took the caliber to new heights and drove increased market value.
Introduced at the 2008 SHOT Show, the Ruger .380 Light Compact Pistol rose above the traditional show “buzz,” reaching roar status. Distributors, dealers and competitors rushed to the Ruger booth.
By the end of the second day of the show, rumors surged through the show that Ruger was backordered tens of thousands of LCPs. More dealers, distributors and competitors converged on the Ruger booth.
Beyond being a palm-sized pistol with the Ruger name on it, the LCP had real innovative features and, just as important, an MSRP of $330. This placed Ruger on solid footing in a segment of the market the company had ignored, and at a price-point that made the gun affordable.
According to the ATF’s 2008 Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report, Ruger manufactured 83,161 firearms in the “TO .380” category. Since Ruger had not previously made a .380, these were LCPs.
In one swift move, Ruger bypassed all other U.S.
manufacturers in the .380 category. If Ruger had produced no other pistols in 2008, they still would have been ranked as the sixth-largest U.S. pistol manufacturer and the 15th U.S. firearms manufacturer in the nation.
Beyond Ruger, the LCP’s roar was heard throughout the industry. Not surprisingly, manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and SIG SAUER ramped up their .380 production. Other companies introduced models in the caliber. The result? There was a 101.4 percent increase in 2008 U.S. firearm production over 2007 in the “TO .380” category, the largest increase of any caliber in the industry for the year.
The GLOCK 42, in .380 ACP, is the smallest GLOCK ever introduced.
In 2014, the company was the top maker of .380 pistols in the U.S.
Capturing The Moment
The growth of the .380 continues. From 2008 through 2014 (latest ATF data available), Ruger made 1,394,180 pistols in .380; these include the LCP and the LC380 introduced in 2013. Smith & Wesson has dramatically increased its .380 offerings with the Bodyguard line. Colt increased its production of .380s and there are numerous newcomers to the caliber, including Taurus and Kimber.
GLOCK didn’t jump on the .380 fast train, waiting until 2013 to introduce the G42. That year, at its U.S. facility in Georgia, GLOCK made 15,011 G42s, a modest number in the .380 category. However, in 2014, the company manufactured 227,090 G42s to become the top producer of .380 pistols in the U.S. for the year.
GLOCK wisely produced a .380 that is distinctly GLOCK, capturing sales of GLOCK devotees. The company also listened to consumers, noting the G42 was the result of “years of requests across all market groups for a super-concealable .380 GLOCK pistol.”
“This slim-line subcompact pistol is able to withstand the rigors of any situation. It’s safe, simple and fast. The G42 is a GLOCK in every sense,” said Josh Dorsey, GLOCK VP, in announcing the pistol.
So, what’s next for the .380 ACP? For a caliber that was, and sometimes still, maligned, there appears to be a lot of consumers willing to purchase a palm-size firearm chambered in .380. Success, however, lies in capturing the moment. That’s what Ruger did with the LCP. And now GLOCK with the G42.
When the ATF releases its data of firearms built in 2015, one of the first categories we’ll check is the mighty .380.
By The Numbers
For a look at the latest available production data, see “U.S. Firearms Industry Today” in the July issue. Online readers, visit www.shootingindustry.com/digital-version.