For four days out of seven for almost an entire decade, I carried a pocket .380 as my primary concealed carry gun. I never felt particularly under-armed when I carried around a little .380, as I knew what they could do and I knew what I could do with them. The fact of the matter is, the inter-ocular cavity or the left ventricle isn’t going to refuse entry to “wimpy” cartridges like the .380ACp: If you get your hits on-target and in a timely matter, chances are, you’re going to win the encounter, no matter how “wimpy” your gun might be.
If we take two guns of roughly the same size and weight, one in .380 and one in 9mm, the 9mm will recoil more than the .380. This is to be expected. A markedly heavier bullet, fired at a higher velocity, will produce substantially more recoil and will more obviously affect your balance of speed and precision. It’s also going to be painful to practice with, which means people might not do so.
I would much rather have my students make a ragged hole in the target with a .380 than have them scatter 9mm (or .40, or .45) holes all over the paper. I’d also rather see them make quick, precise follow-up shots with a .380 than sit and wait for them them to bring that big boomer of a handgun under control and get their sights re-aligned on the target. Much like golf, confidence in your ability to use your equipment is a big, big part of the concealed carry game. If you can’t hit crap with a pocket rocket .45 (or .40, or 9mm), maybe it’s time to take it down a notch, and go with a “wimpy” caliber you can actually shoot well.