This is the backup gun I am going to buy. It is the Ruger LCP (Lightweight Compact Pistol). It weighs next to nothing, is less than an inch wide, and fits in the palm of my hand. As small and light as it is, it still shoots a .380 Auto round.
Alright, some better specs are in order. It is 5.16 inches long, 3.60 inches high, and .82 inches wide. Unloaded weight (with magazine inserted) is 9.4 ounces. It is made from a combination of blued alloy steel for the slide, and glass-filled nylon (plastic) for the frame. The barrel is 6-grooved, 2.75 inches long with a 1:16" RH twist. I've made the point that the gun is small and lightweight. I don't know how much more I can beat that dead horse. Needless to say it is perfect for deep concealment.
So, what about the .380 Auto? .380 is a small, 38 caliber cartridge that is often mistaken for smaller mousegun cartridges, such as the .32 or even the .25 cartridge. .380 gets a reputation of being an underpowered cartridge that will likely make an attacker angry rather than drop him. However, good ammunition makes up for any shortfalls that .380 Auto may have had in the past. Federal Hydra Shok rounds are available that have nearly the same muzzle energy as the venerable .38 Special. Yes, the .380 drops off faster, but at 7 yards or less, they are equally matched. Comparing hydra shok for hydra shok, the .380 Auto has 200 ft lbs of energy at 1000 fps, whereas the .38 Special has 235 ft lbs of energy at 980 fps. At 25 yards, however, the muzzle energy drops off by 18 ft lbs to 182 vs the .38 Special's 217 ft lbs.
Okay, so if the .38 is so much better at 25 yards, why not use it instead? Well, you have to first understand what the Ruger LCP is intended for. It is going to be a backup gun. In simple terms, if I run out of ammo in my main carry weapon, or it malfunctions (which does happen sometimes to some people), then the LCP comes into play. It is extra insurance. Additionally, the LCP has a distinct advantage over the .38 Special. Most guns that shoot .38's are revolvers. They are, by their nature, bulkier and more difficult to reload under stress. In particular, my revolver (which is a .357 magnum) is limited to 5 rounds in the cylinder. In the real world, 5 rounds isn't a whole lot. The Ruger LCP has a 6+1 capacity, for a total of 7 rounds comparable to the .38 Special. Additionally, another 6 rounds can quickly be inserted via an extra magazine.
Are there more powerful guns out there? Sure. Are they as compact? Not likely. I have two other carry guns that I use: A Ruger SP101, .357 magnum which fires a round that hits with 539 ft lbs of energy at over 1200 fps. I also have a Beretta 92 FS, a 9mm gun that hits with 345 ft lbs of energy at over 1100 fps. The Ruger is compact and hides well. The Beretta is much bulkier. Both guns are powerful enough to do the job extremely well. Both guns are a much better option for concealed carry than a Ruger LCP. But you can't compare apples to oranges.
You have to look at a backup gun for what it is: backup. It's not a primary defense weapon. Well, in some cases it can be, but for primary defense you'd better have some hot loaded catridges! In my case, pulling a smaller handgun out is faster than reloading a revolver using speed strips or loose rounds. Speedloaders are fast, but they are wider than the Ruger LCP! For the same weight, I can have 6 additional .380 rounds waiting... that is after I've dumped 5 rounds from my magnum and 7 rounds from the LCP. For the average attack, that's a lot of lead going down range. Remember, my philosophy is simple: When in doubt, empty the magazine. That means shooting them until they are on the ground twitching. If there are multiple attackers, you have a whole new problem. Pulling a second gun out is much faster and easier than reloading one. An attacker can cover 7 yards (21 feet) in less than 3 seconds. Can you reload a revolver (or automatic) that fast?