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MasterPiece Arms Protector Pistol (A Review)

All Posts  February 19 2011
 — By CJ Grisham
MasterPiece Arms Protector Pistol (A Review)

This is my first gun review. I’m not going to do this review like you read in the gun magazines or most websites. Sure, I’ll give all the technical specs at the end, but in my gun reviews, I’m going to focus on what I think people really want to know.

Is it easy to shoot?
Is it expensive to shoot?
Is it fun to shoot?
Is it comfortable?
Does it clash with my shoes?

The first review is of MasterPiece Arms’ new MPA380 Protector Series pistol.

For my review, I tested only the best ammo out there, in my opinion: Hornady 380 Auto 90 Grain Critical Defense ammo.

Being a small .380 pistol, the first thing I wanted to do was test its concealability. The MPA380 is small enough to fit in just about any pocket or ankle holster undetected. I carried mine in my front pants pocket and even when sitting down, it only appeared to be a cell phone or set of keys. If you wear a suit jacket, the pistol fits conveniently in there too. For the ladies, the MPA380 would easily find a place in most purses with it’s 4.4 inch length and barely 3″ height.

Easily concealable? YES. I actually don’t think I’ve seen a pistol much smaller than this one, even though my wife has a Taurus TCP. Which leads me to the one real downside I found. Because of the size of the pistol, big hands would find it difficult to shoot. My uncle has large hands and could barely fit his finger into the trigger guard. Additionally, the rear grip, right at the base of the pistol, has a sharp lip to it. After firing off about 20 rounds, I noticed that it was eating into my thumb.

Masterpiece Arms seems to have noticed this in the time it took to ship me the gun for testing. They’ve already modified newer versions of the pistol for greater grip confidence and trigger feel. The new Protector Grip Extension is an American made magazine floorplate made from durable composite that provides the shooter with a more comfortable grip. The Grip Extension will now be standard on all Protector models, as well as, the traditional flat magazine floorplate. With the new Grip Extension, MPA has also designed the magazine catch to manage the additional downward force required by the new grip extension. Another enhancement to the incredibly small and accurate Protector series is the Rev B Trigger made from stainless steel. The improved profile affords the shooter a smoother, more comfortable and controlled trigger pull.

So, in the end, it seems like they already knew what I was going to write.

The MPA does not have traditional sights, with a front sight post and dual rear sight posts which line up with the front. Instead, the MPA380 has a groove that runs down the length of the pistol. If all you see is the “u” shape of the site and no part of the barrel while aiming, the bullet will go where you point it. Of course, this pistol isn’t exactly a pistol you’re going to be shooting at long distances. Pistols like this are made for shooting at closer distances in self defense. However, I was still fairly accurate at 30 feet away, at least hitting my human-sized target. Using the right ammo, that’s all you need to do in order to stop an attack.

The MPA380 IS fun to shoot. In the hands of a trained shooter, there isn’t a lot of jumping around with each squeeze of the trigger, which is substantial. The trigger squeeze is both a positive and negative in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever shot a pistol with such a long trigger squeeze. It may just be that I’m not used to it. It threw me off as I expected the firing pin to spring earlier than it did. This is really only important for target shooting since shooters won’t need to worry much about trigger squeeze when used in self defense. The plus side of a long trigger squeeze is that you won’t accidentally shoot your junk off while its in your pocket. You pretty much have to WANT to shoot the pistol to fire it. I can’t imagine what an accidental discharge would take.

Taking slow, well-aimed shots proves that the MPA380 is very accurate. I also squeezed out five rounds in quick succession (the pistol holds six rounds plus one in the chamber) and didn’t have trouble keeping it on target. While not as accurate, I would definitely feel sorry for anyone on the receiving end.


Test Firing the MPA380 from You Served Radio & Blog on Vimeo.


SRP for the MPA380 in black is $322.90. MSRP for both with a stainless steel upper is $345.90. The gun is heavier than most of its peers, but also more inexpensive at slightly more than 11 ounces. Without the new modifications mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t take this pistol very often to the range. The rear guard digging into my hand is uncomfortable. However, for customers that have previously purchased Protector pistols and would like to receive the newest pistol enhancements, MasterPiece Arms is offering an Upgrade Kit for $20 that includes a new trigger, grip extension, the newly designed magazine catch and includes shipping. So, there you go. Problem solved.

Fun: Yes. Any gun you carry around and no one is the wiser is always fun. Shooting something that looks like a squirt gun only adds to it.
Concealable: The only thing more concealable would be one of those belt buckle guns.
Expensive: The gun itself is quite affordable, but .380 ammo has been rising quite a bit recently. One box of 25 rounds of Hornady 380 Auto 90 Grain Critical Defense ammo cost me $26.95 at a gun show. A box of cheaper Winchester ball ammo costs about $18. So, yes, it’s expensive to shoot.
Comfortable: Not if you have big hands and not without the modifications mentioned above. Otherwise, the ergonomics of the grip fit perfectly in the hand.
Clash: Offered in both all black or stainless steel, there’s an option available for all occasions. Yes, I know this is a stupid category.

(18) Readers Comments

  1. You really did have that clash category… You sir have just put a big ass smile on my face!

  2. Good review. Just about covered it all. Any malfs yet? TW

    • None at all. As a matter of fact, MPA has sent me an upgrade kit that I will test when I get out of the field that is supposed to address some of the issues I brought up. Shoots just fine without issue, but I’ve only put about 120 rounds through it.

  3. Great review! I have been wanting to purchase one of these but was uncomfortable with some of the 1st reviews. It seems MPA really addressed the few issues and made this a great firearm.

  4. i have a pistol with no suppessor and want to order 1 but i do not know the tread size the seriel number is F7198 it has a left side cock and a stub of a barrel how can i find the correct tread.

  5. I recently bought a Masterpiece Arms 380 and took it to the range yesterday. The mag came out 80% of the time after the shot was fired, and subsequently I had constant failure to feeds, stovepipes, ejected rounds that weren’t fired, etc.

    I think I have a defective gun. Has anyone else had a problem? I thought maybe my fingers are hitting the mag release but I looked at it at home and my fingers can’t reach around to activate the button. I am thinking it’s the recoil that’s doing it. Looking at it, there is a leaf spring metal piece that keeps tension on the mag catch. I can see severe recoil causing it to move backwards and release the mag.

    I am not using the extended mag piece. I like a flush bottom to the gun and have experienced mags being pulled out because of force applied by the last finger to the mag.

    • Keith, I didn’t have this issue. I have put over 300 rounds through mine since this article and still none of those issues. You may have a defective gun.

    • Please call or email MPA. It sounds like the issue is the mag catch. The fix is very easy. MPA could either send you a replacement mag catch or you could send in the weapon. It has a lifetime warranty. 866-803-0000 x100 or darah@masterpiecearms.com

  6. Just received the 380B through dealer. Ordered 250 rounds today, more than enough for break in. As with all new guns, I disassembled to get familiarised with the pistol, only taking the slide off as far as MPA instructions say. If you do not have good manual dexterity, leave this to your gunsmith,
    The barrel is fixed to the frame, I like that and the gun feels solid.
    Have been wanting a 380 for awhile, have the range guns but needed something for summertime carry that did not cost $800.
    When the ammo comes I will do a break in session, am looking forward to this, who wouldn’t? I will come back and comment about the performance.
    Hopefully it will be a matter only a matter of time before a company makes some custom grips for these models.

    • Hey Steve,

      I create custom grips in various forms of carbon fiber and Kevlar. Recently purchased some factory grips as a guide but really need someone who can send me some close-up photos of the frame of the gun (without grips) to see where I can fill in the thin hollow areas of the grips. It would be a big help if you or anyone else could shoot some detailed photos my way. My site is: http://www.designergrips.com


  7. CJ.

    Appreciate your comments on the MPA 380 and look forward to getting mine. I came into the game right after MPA decided to ‘revamp’ the MPA 380 Protector to the MPA 380 Protector II. The “II” will have the added ‘beaver tail’ for additional slide blow back protection. I’ve put in my order for version “II” and hopefully will have by year end.

    My big question: why haven’t we heard anything from MPA i.e., new pictures on their website, etc? Not sure I follow the reasoning on this. On top of that, I haven’t seen any new MPA 380 email streams from the talk forums for quite some time. Most of the information is old (except for you write up – thank you very much). Anyway, not sure if I’m the only one wondering about this but we (the public) have literally heard nothing.


  8. Unfortunately I can confirm that Masterpiece doesn’t communicate with it’s customers well.

    I gave my review over at The High Road, post #24 and #27.


    The 22 pistol grips came out great and it feels just like the 380.

    The 380 came back from Masterpiece with the hole in the ramp welded up and I think that they rounded the bottom of the slide off which appears important because this guy had an out of battery discharge before my pistol went back.


    I tried to join GlockPost but they never confirmed my account so I wasn’t able to contact the fella with the blowup to see what the rounded slide looks like. At this point I don’t have enough confidence in the pistol to carry it.

  9. I picked up my new stainless MPA 380 yesterday. I immediately put about 70 rounds through it before even cleaning it. First of all, the little gun was exactly what I was expecting….very small but built very well! I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the mag release but didn’t find it to be an issue and pretty easy to use.
    I was expecting at least a few FTF’s, but instead it perfectly fired off about 70 rounds including new winchester ammo, reloads, and Corbon hollow points.
    I’ve also read comments about how tough it is on your hand. I don’t get that. Granted, it is a tiny .380 and has some kick, but I shot 70 rounds with no problems and no abrasions on my hand.
    I got my MPA 380 for $283 and couldn’t be more pleased with it. I can’t wait to put another 100+ rounds thru it to break it in good.
    I would recommend this little pistol to anyone wanting an affordable, small, well-built .380 pistol.

  10. does the mpa, have the porting on the barrel or not and how does it affect the kick, also the website says and shows a 1911 type beaver tail. which i have not seen anywhere. i have sent email to their company with no response from the girl mentioned above


    • No, it doesn’t have a ported barrel. The beaver tail is a recent addition to correct the sharp angles of the original MPA.

      • i am sorry my friend, the new mpa protector 2 does have a ported barrel, a beaver tail, and will be available with some aluminum new style grips. why do i know this, I HAVE ONE, and used it in my chl class last sunday, all of my shots except 5 were evenly dispersed center mass the size of a paper plate. 2 lower left abdomen, 3 just out at right shoulder joint. accuracy would have been better but the instructor liked rapid fire for some reason more than we needed

        This is one sweet little SA 380, it is not snappy and is pleasing to shoot from 3, 10, and 15 yards

        @ between 10 and 15 yards i put all five shots within the head boundaries, i am sixty with bad eyes, if i can do it you can.

        the people at mpa, phil, darah, and brandon, are very gracious and helpful, this is a new and progressive company, THEY ARE GOOD PEOPLE
        w e burk

  11. I picked up this MPA 380 protector 2 last week at a gun show. I thought I did enough research on it before buying, but I was wrong. My experience went from bad to worse.

    First, when I got it home I found that the trigger and slide were locked up. I fixed this after finding a youtube video with similar problem. Apparently the pistol was dry fired with the clip out at the gun show. When this is done some internal pieces disengage with each other. Easy fix, but annoying to know this happens. Take grip apart and reconnect the pieces. After fixing issue, went to the range to test fire. It was a short visit. 20 rounds later the clip ejected and the mag lock would not work. This was very disappointing since out of the 20 rounds I had 3 stove pipes and one ftf. I’ve read about issues relating to weak grip, but assure you this was not the case. When I took the grip apart I found that the flat spring for the mag lock had slid out of position making the lock inoperative. I think this will be a reoccurring problem since the spring is just wedged behind a pin. I think the kick of the gun loosens up the spring and if turned sideways after use the spring will move out of position.

    My final take on the Mpa protector 2 is that it is made with quality materials and feels sturdy and reliable. It still has issues that need to be fixed. I’m hopeful because of the lifetime warranty and recent improvements that it will be addressed. I just wish this was resolved with the latest release. The materials are excellent quality but as with a new caddi or benz you would expect the door to open and the car to start.

  12. Pingback: Saw my first Masterpiece Protector .380--tiny little thing

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