I thought it would never happen, but right now, one of my regular carry guns is a .380 ACP.
It’s not a bad Idea, really. When you consider that my usual back-up piece is Ruger LCP (another .380 ACP), I think you’ll agree it makes sense to carry two guns that share the same ammunition.
Limited Magazine Capacity
Admittedly, though, my Norinco PPN doesn’t get as much use as its larger, more powerful counterparts, because of its much smaller magazine capacity (7+1 shots) and its weight-versus-capacity ratio (another way of saying that it’s heavy, when you consider the number of shots it can deliver).
It is, on the other hand, one of the slimmer handguns in my collection, because it uses old-fashioned single-stack magazines. This means that, tucked into an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, it will lie almost flush with my body, making for very discreet concealed carry. (As an aside, this will probably help you understand why the famous 007 carries a 6+1 shot Walther PPK.)
Norinco’s PPN is essentially a copy of the Walther PP. This gun is actually the predecessor and bigger brother of the PPK popularized in numerous Bond movies. Because of its slightly larger size, both the Walther PP and the Norinco copy have somewhat longer snouts, and more graceful lines than the PPK. Both of the bigger guns also hold an extra cartridge in their magazines. Nonetheless, they all operate in the same way.
Carrying under Special Circumstances
Going back to the question of applications, my PPN is the carry piece that comes out when I have to wear a closely-tailored suit, which might betray the presence of a larger handgun. Likewise, the PPN practically disappears when secreted behind the waistband of a tuxedo.
.380 ACP versus 9mm Parabellum
The Norinco PPN fires the .380 ACP cartridge, which is significantly less powerful than the longer 9mm Parabellum round. What a .380 ACP pistol loses in terms of power, however, it makes up for in terms of simplicity.
Because of its power, a 9mm cartridge usually needs to be fired from a locked breech. Handguns using the less powerful .380 ACP, on the other hand, can operate using a simple blowback arrangement.
This means that handguns firing .380 ACP cartridges can have fixed barrels, which contribute greatly towards accuracy.
With it’s fixed, 4-inch barrel, the Norinco PPN delivers what can definitely be called a satisfying degree of accuracy.
Another factor that contributes to accuracy is that the gun’s essential components appear to be hand-fitted and very snug. The slide and barrel lock up tight, exhibiting no movement at all even when the gun is shaken violently.
My example of the PPN appears to have been precisely zeroed at the factory. The gun shoots exactly to the point of aim. Its 3-dot sights are diminutive by current standards, but are proportionate to the gun and serve their intended purpose adequately.
This is a handgun that fires both double- and single-action, and can be very safely carried with a chambered cartridge.
Instead of a safety switch, the PPN provides a decocking lever on the left side of the slide. Swinging the lever down, raises a metal barrier that shrouds the firing pin. This allows the hammer to drop without igniting the chambered round. (Just to be on the safe side, of course, you never decock any type of firearm without first making sure that the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction.)
Heavy DA Trigger Pull
The only complaint I have against this gun, is the amount of effort required to actuate the trigger in double-action mode. The PPN has the heaviest double-action pull among the guns I have ever owned. I estimate it to be in the 15-pound range.
This heavy double-action trigger pull, however, appears to be a characteristic common to the Walther PP (after which the Norinco PPN was modeled), the Walther PPK, and most of their clones. It is a design issue, which no amount of judicious gun smithing can completely rectify.
It may be that the heavy trigger pull was deliberately incorporated into the gun’s design as a safety measure. It was probably intended to prevent accidental discharges, while these guns were being carried in coat or trouser pockets.
I learned that you could make the trigger pull feel lighter by smoothing out the contact surfaces of the trigger components. Most gunsmiths I’ve spoken to, however, confided that it was impossible to take the trigger pull below 12 pounds without adversely weakening the gun’s springs, and compromising the gun’s ability to consistently ignite cartridges. Such being the case, it seems that the best course to take would be to simply accept the gun’s idiosyncrasy, and learn to manage its heavy double-action trigger pull.
If and when the time comes that I actually have to draw the PPN and fire it double-action to defend myself or someone I care about, I believe that the accompanying adrenaline rush will be more than sufficient to get the trigger moving, and deliver that critical first shot. (The gun fires in single-action mode after that, so there should be no further issues.)
The only other issue (which may or may not put a potential PPN user off) is the lack of an external slide stop/slide release lever on the gun.
In the course of discharging cartridges, the PPN’s slide automatically returns to its closed position until the magazine follower (which pushes the cartridges upward) engages the internal slide stop. This happens after the last bullet in the magazine is fired, at which point the slide will lock in the open position.
To get the gun back into action, you simply release the empty magazine, insert a loaded mag, pull the slide as far back as it will go, and release it. This disengages the internal slide lock and allows the slide to return to the closed (firing) position, stripping a cartridge from the fresh magazine and chambering a round in the process.
The gun is ready to fire in single-action mode after that. To make it safe, point the gun in a safe direction and push the decocking lever downward before letting it go. The gun’s hammer will drop, the decocking lever will return to its horizontal position, and your first shot will be available in double-action mode.
The lack of an external slide release can be very disconcerting if you’re used to semi-automatic pistols that have them. Once you assure yourself that a gun can actually function without an external slide release, however, you’ll be on your way to confidently carrying pistols like the Walther PP, the Walther PPK, and the Norinco PPN.