The new Taurus 380 Mini Ultra-Lite is one of the smallest and lightest centerfire revolvers available for law enforcement and self-defense. Chambering it for the .380 ACP cartridge allows the cylinder to be shorter, making for a shorter overall length.
At a recent trade show, I was looking at a display of Taurus revolvers when in the row of small, snub-nose revolvers I saw something out of place: one of the revolvers looked shorter than the others. I picked it up and examined it. The hole in the barrel disclosed the gun was not a .22 LR. Then I noticed “.380 ACP” stamped on the barrel’s right side. Wow! A five-shot, 2-inch (actually 1.75-inch, I learned later), lightweight-alloy-framed wheelgun. It was in a caliber that allowed for a shorter cylinder and frame than comparable small-frame revolvers. I also recognized the little gun had no hammer spur, which increased its potential as a concealed carry weapon. I had a feeling in the back of my mind that I had seen something very similar to this in the past.
In 1936, Smith & Wesson came out with a 2-inch-barrel version of the Regulation Police revolver in .38 S&W. Before S&W employed its model-numbering system to differentiate its weapons, the little revolver was dubbed the .38/32 Terrier. It was initially built on the short I-frame and then changed to the J-frame in 1960: the cylinder length went from 1.25 to 1.38 inches, and rounded front sights gave way to serrated ramp-style blades. I own an I-frame model (labeled the “Model 32” in 1957) made in the early 1950s. Comparing it side-by-side with the Taurus seems to present a case of grandpa and grandson. The Taurus cylinder, by the way, is 1.30 inches in length, allowing an overall length of just 5.95 inches, whereas the cylinders on today’s small-frame .38 Special revolvers are each 1.60 inches long with a correspondingly longer 6.94-inch frame.
My interest piqued, I contacted the Taurus marketing representative to place an order for what turned out to be appropriately enough, the Taurus Mini Ultra-Lite. I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this is aware that the .380 ACP was created for use in smaller-sized semi-automatic pistols. But revolvers chambering what are normally pistol cartridges have been around since 1917. S&W and Colt made large-frame revolvers in .45 ACP to supplement the military handgun supply in WWI due to the shortage of Colt Model 1911 pistols. In order for the revolver to eject the empty cases of the rebated-rim, semi-automatic pistol rounds, they designed a clip that fastened into the extractor groove of the cartridge case just above the rim, so the extractor would have a surface to engage when the ejector rod was pushed. This worked out quite well, and today there are revolvers chambered in pistol cartridges such as 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, 10mm and, of course, .45 ACP. Now, thanks to Taurus, we have a .380 ACP revolver.
With a short 1.75-inch barrel the Taurus has a correspondingly short ejector rod that pushes out only 0.45 inches, yet proved to be fully capable.
Many holsters that work with a J-frame will also fit the Taurus 380 Mini revolver, such as these (left to right) Safariland, Galco and BlackHawk.