As I begin this post, let me say that my foray into the wonderful world of firearms came mostly after the demise of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. I do not remember the “Dark Times” because I was 13 when they started and didn’t know what I’d been missing because they ended when I was 22. Since that time, however, it seems that the market for “Tacticool” gear and weapons has taken a very strong market presence. True, it’s only been four years but a very strong market presence is seen.
Before the AWB the only plastic, commonly called polymer, framed semi-automatic pistols were made by Glock and old-time gunnies despised the foreign made Tupperware. By the time I came on to the gun scene polymer framed guns were everywhere. Glock, Springfield, Smith & Wesson, and Walther all had polymer framed guns, not to mention Heckler and Koch and SigSauer. Today every major arms manufacturer, and even some of the smaller ones, have at least one handgun with a polymer frame and polymer has expanded to rifles and shotguns. What is the appeal of plastic? Well, it’s durable, lightweight, creates a uniform product that is less expensive to manufacture, thus firearms can be less expensive to produce.
Along with the “plastic” craze came the “high-capacity” craze. The AWB had only fanned the flames fort his market. The government hadn’t anticipated what would happen when the AWB expired. Within just a few years we are seeing semi-automatic pistols with unheard of capacity.
To gunnies, it’s exciting. My Springfield XD will hold 13 rounds of .45ACP in its full-sized magazine, and their latest offering holds 19 rounds of 9mm. But I’m getting a little off track. The point of this post is not to discuss the pro’s and con’s of high-capacity semi-automatic pistols, but rather what the market appears to be doing.
For the last few years Americans have gorged themselves on “high-capacity.” A funny cartoon illustrated the zeal with which many of those new to the world of firearms and concealed carry approached the situation. A man, wearing cycling gear, walks into a gun store, approaches the clerk and says, “I’d like a compact firearm that holds 16 rounds of .45 ACP that won’t print in my bike shorts.” The clerk just stares back in wonder.
This is funny because more than one gun store clerk can tell you that they’ve had this exact conversation. As firearm manufacturers, marketers, and gun magazines all pushed the hi-cap craze, Americans gobbled it up faster than Thanksgiving dinner. Americans are however becoming more wise about concealed carry and what can and cannot be reasonably and comfortably worn all day, and recently a caliber which has been overlooked during the high-capacity craze is coming back into the light.
The .380 ACP was developed by John Moses Browning in 1908. It is a 9mm bullet, with less power however than the 9mm Parabellum (the most commonly thought of 9mm round). According to Federal’s loading page, their 95 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP travels 1,000 ft/s and delivers 200 ft*lb of force at the muzzle. That is enough energy to move a 200 lbs object 1 foot and since there are no magic one-stop calibers, it is a suitable self-defense round.
Most firearms that shoot .380 auto are smaller in size. The most recognizable is the Walther PPK/S, James Bond’s gun. Popular copies of this pistol are the Bersa Thunder .380, the SigSauer 230 & 232, and other european copies such as the CZ 50/70 and the Russian Makarov. Other recognizable firearms of this size are the FN1910, and its copies the Browning 1955 and CZ 83, and the Beretta Cheetah with its copies by Taurus.
Smaller pistols are commonly referred to as “Mouse Guns.” Don’t let their size fool you, there is quite a bit of variety as many different companies produce at least some form of “mouse gun.” This chart gives some examples. Most of these small pocket pistols have been chided as being “too small” for self defense, but that trend is changing. For years, companies like North American Arms, Cobra (both housed in Utah, btw), and Seecamp made pocket pistols in .380 ACP that never got much media play. Then, Kel-Tec introduced their P-3AT with a lot of success. Last year, Ruger introduced their LCP with a ton of fanfare. The 2009 SHOT show saw even more mouse guns introduced into the buyers market. Magnum Research, Kahr, Walther and SigSauer have introduced new .380 auto pistols this year.
What was that? Mouse Guns are too small and shoot an anemic caliber? Not according to what the market is producing.
Another new trend is for companies to offer “slim frame” polymer pistols. Glock, Taurus, Walther, Kahr and SigSauer are just a few companies who have combined the latest polymer technology with the “slimmer, more easy to carry” single stack magazine pistol. Is America done with its “gotta be hi-cap” mentality? No, and it will probably never go away. I’m not saying it should. But as many health conscious Americans try to slim down their waste sizes, more and more carry conscious citizens are slimming down carry pieces. And more guns being carreid by responsible citizens is a good thing.