Taurus 380 Mini Ultra-Lite .380 ACP Snub Nose Revolver Review

The Taurus 380 Mini Ultra-Lite revolver, a lightweight .380 ACP snubbie, is a top choice for concealed carry!

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.

Long-Lost Relative

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.

The Taurus 380 Mini Ultra-Lite is ideal for those seeking reliable performance in a short-barreled revolver without punishing recoil.

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.

Load Comments
  • Mario Distasio

    In Jan 2013 purchased the 380 Mini, in part, because of this review. It was the worst firearms purchase of my life! The trigger is horrible. But more than that, the cylinder would jam at least 3-4 times out of every 50 rounds. To free the jam the cylinder had to be rotated manually, as the trigger could not be depressed once the cylinder jammed. This is a terrible situation for a firearm intended for concealed carry! Since that time I tried cleaning, polishing and working in the revolver. After running several hundred rounds through the revolver, the jamming (and trigger) never improved so this year I sent the revolver back to Taurus for a warranty repair.

    Taurus customer service is horrendous. First, I had to ship the revolver back to them at my expense. Next, while their on-line tracking system acknowledged receipt of the revolver, the status never progressed past under review. So after 3 months, I called Taurus. I was informed that the revolver was unrepairable because the frame had been improperly drilled with some of the holes (including the one for the firing pin) misaligned. Taurus offered to ship a replacement revolver to an FFL but the catch is that I’d be responsible for the FFL fees. This presented a problem for me as the FFL fees for handguns is expensive in my home state of Maryland as a result of legislative changes that went into effect in Oct 2013. Without going into all of the details, it would cost me about $200 to receive the handgun from an FFL because I do not have the Maryland handgun purchasing license. I tried explaining this to Taurus and asked if they could either send the replacement revolver directly to me (which is permitted under Maryland law; I even gave them a link to the state police website) that their or provide a refund. Taurus refused and referred me to their policy on their website.

    Two points are noteworthy: 1) It is unknown how wide-spread this the problem is. All I know is that my revolver was manufactured incorrectly and Taurus’ quality control did not detect the problem. Taurus is returning my revolver with a letter saying that it is “unsafe”. I do not know how many other “unsafe” Taurus revolvers are out there but Taurus seems to be in no hurry to warn its customers. 2) Taurus is hiding behind its company policy (posted on the website) to explain the fact that their remedy for the unsafe revolver would result in extensive charges to their customer. The fact that Taurus’ sloppy manufacturing and poor quality control resulted in a unsafe firearm being delivered to their customer and the fact that the customer had this unsafe firearm for 2 years does not seem to bother the company.

    As a result, I cannot recommend the 380 mini revolver and advise against having any dealings with Taurus.

  • LaVista Bill

    Too bad the whole article can’t be in here, I think you’d better understand why I liked it and ended up buying from Taurus for my wife.

  • babyangel katie

    .380 ammo is knda hard to find and .380 is a odd calibre for a revolver , a revolver usually comes in .22, .32, .38, .357, and .45 calitres

  • Leigh Rich

    They have been out a while however hard to find. Production must be limited. Also IMHO it is not that much smaller than a M-85.

  • nice gun

    anybody who laughs at a .380 like it is a joke weapon is just plaing stupid.

    a .380 is a deadly firearm same as a .22

    revolvers don’t jam and are you gonna pocket carry a glock 22 around?

    i don’t think so.

  • CrusaderKnight

    It’s so funny that little 380 pistols can even be mentioned near the words Combat Handguns.LOL!!!!!!

  • Nice, surprised to see the velocity on this one

  • Jorge Aquino

    Hope we can find it for sale in Brazil someday….

  • Wayne

    Now there’s a thought for a backup ankle gun.