Revolvers are passé

At least to the general public…

The 2017 BATF production statistics, Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report (AFMER), have been released. There are some interesting facts about market trends in it. The snub nose .38, which was a long time standard for Personal Protection, has clearly been replaced in popularity by compact .380 ACP autoloaders. This continues a trend that has been building for a decade.

All manufacturers

Total .38 revolver – 177,956

Total .380 autoloader – 848,425

Americans blithely continued to disregard the cognoscenti who say .380s will get them ‘kilt in da streetz.’ The last year in which .38/.357 revolver production was close to .380 production was 2008.

In fact, .380 production exceeds the combined total of both .22 revolvers and .22 autoloaders. That surprised me. The .380 is the second most popular caliber in the Nation, after 9mm.

Ruger’s production statistics are interesting. It produced 12 times as many .380s as LCRs. In fact, .380 production for 2017, 376,304 units, was 80 percent greater than all their other centerfire autoloaders combined. Over the past ten years, Ruger’s production of the LCP has averaged 227,220 units annually. Production of the LCP as of Year End 2017 has been 2,272,204 pistols, making it one of the most popular pistols in America.

Other notable (>10,000 units) manufacturers of .380s were:

  • Taurus – 60,172 units
  • Glock (US manufacture) – 73,646 units
  • Smith & Wesson – 113,246 units
  • Remington – 15,045 units
  • Sig Sauer – 66,586 units
  • Jimenez Arms – 11,586 units
  • Kimber – 27,608 units
  • Hi Point – 14,805 units
  • Beretta – 20,810 units
  • Browning – 19,472 units
  • Cobra – 11,475 units
  • Walther – 13,604 units

S&W produced over 7 times as many 9/40/45 autoloaders as they did .38s. They produced nearly as many .380 Bodyguards as they did J Frame revolvers. Its 2017 production of 9mm autoloaders alone was 606,732 units, in contrast to 207,384 total revolvers produced.

Aficionados might be experiencing a ‘revolver resurgence,’ but the general public just isn’t interested.

For those who are interested in improving their skills with a handgun, I have created several publications.

Concealed Carry Skills and Drills downloadable eBook.

Indoor Range Practice Sessions downloadable eBook.

Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make, downloadable audio recording.

18 responses

  1. Cost is part of the decision. Revolvers are expensive compared to striker fire polymer pistols

  2. I had to unload (pun intended) my J frames- hand issues. I can shoot my Glock 42 acceptably, and I am competent with my K and L frame S&W’s. I am looking to try an LCR in 327 or another sub-357 caliber, for general use by anyone in the household, so I can have a pocket revolver for woods walks and stuff.

  3. […] got me started on all this is Claude Werner’s latest post on the far greater popularity of the .380 over the .38 snubby.  Claude: “.380 production for […]

  4. Guess I’m in the minority…picked up a new 642 last month to compliment a 442. I enjoy practicing with the j-frame as well! Nothing more pleasing than improving one’s skill with a snub. Thankfully there’s some good resources for training which remain! (Yes, the author of this blog included!)

  5. Tried the Ruger LCR in .327, expecting great things. Couldn’t put it down fast enough. Recoil was nasty. Little n light not good especially with .327 Federal Mag. As bad as .44 mag in light S&W 69. Great cartridge in the SS, heavy Ruger 100(?) 101 with 3” barrel. That’s a great combination, Light weight .38 Spec easy to carry but don’t think you’re going to shoot +P without suffering. Stay within your comfort and skill zone.

    1. Did you try any 32 H&R Magnum, 32 S&W Long, or a Hail Mary of 32 S&W? Asks a person unapologetically running Ruger’s eight-shot .22 LCR as a carry wheelgun. And finds 327 Fed. Mag. to still be a bear in Ruger’s 3″ SP101.

      1. Forgot to clarify in my post, I was considering using 32 H&R or similar based on a previous post by Claude.

      2. I did try the 32 mag but didn’t go farther down the line in power. Figured I’d rather a .38 Special stubby or even a .22. The little Ruger revolver is just too light n nasty for me. The .327 Fed mag in their heavier 101 doesn’t bother me. I’ve never had a chance to try the S&W .327 revolver. The barrel cut out must be alarming at night.

  6. I’m somewhat surprised that Cobra and Jimenez made the list, but it makes sense.

  7. […] Revolvers are passé, says one commentator – Interesting article, but isn’t he 20 or 30 years late to the party? […]

  8. I love my LCR .22, LCR .38 with wadcutters, 3 inch SP101, and 3 and 6 inch GP 100s.
    They just feel better than my autoloaders.

  9. If Sig can keep the P250 .22LR in production, they ought to keep the p250 .380 in production, too. It’s a great .380.

  10. Cost of a revolver is (generally) higher than cost of an autoloader. And cost of .38SPL ammunition is (generally) higher than cost of .380 ammo, or 9mm ammo, for that matter.
    It was not always thus. Since practice makes perfect, and cost is a primary limiting factor in how much I can practice, .380 wins, these days.

    The same thing happened 15 years ago, when I was deciding between a Glock 19 and a 1911 for a carry gun. I could buy two G19s for the price of one 1911, and shoot two or three 9mm for every .45ACP bullet I could buy. So I got the G19 and practiced a lot more than I would have with a 1911.

  11. I really love my Ruger LCR .22 and .38 but for really deep concealment the Ruger LCP is hard to beat. The long trigger put of my original LCP is similar to a revolver’s and the trigger and the price has really come down. The LCP snappy recoil does take some getting used to but it can be controlled with practice.

  12. Why isn’t Bersa on the list? Surely they make more 380 pistols than Bond does.

  13. Interesting that Bersa is not on the list or in the report. I’m pretty sure they sell more 380s than Bond Arms which was in the referenced report, though not on the above list.

    Anyone have any idea why Bersa was not included?

    1. AFMER only lists guns made in the US. Since Bersa is an import, it only shows up in the aggregate numbers imported. Same thing as Taurus revolvers.

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