By Dennis Adler, Personal Defense World
There’s an adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. As the old dog in this story, I have to admit to certain traditional features I still prefer when it comes to smaller-caliber, concealed-carry handguns. I grew up in an era when the top guns in that category were the Colt Detective Special, the S&W Chief’s Special and, in semi-automatics, the Walther PPK. Only the Walther models remain much the same as in my youth, with the Colt relegated to collector status and the S&W Model 36 regarded as a “classic” version of the old .38 Special revolver.
For the venerable .380 pistol, most of the traditional designs faded from the scene at the end of the 1990s, with the exception of the Walther PPK and PPK/S. But in the early 2000s, semi-auto .380 ACP pistol designs were resurrected in a new and decidedly different form: smaller, lighter and with as few features as possible.
Pistols chambered in .380 ACP have become the most popular and prolific concealed-carry pistols in use today. However, in achieving “smallness,” many of the old and desirable features were sacrificed, features that .380s once shared with larger-caliber pistols, such as single-action (SA) and double-action (DA) triggers, an exposed hammer and a manual thumb safety. Most modern day .380s have eschewed one or more of these features for the sake of a slimmer profile, a lighter weight and more efficient construction. Nearly all have standard capacities limited to six or seven rounds, a few have less than adequate front and rear sights, and others have slides that do not lock back after the last round is fired. We have come to accept these compromises in the name of small, lightweight, concealed-carry pistols.
New CCW Standard
In 2008 I retired my PPK/S, which I had carried for more than a decade, replacing it with a new subcompact Ruger LCP. Most recently, the slightly larger Glock 42 has taken up residence in my holster. With the G42 I was at last satisfied with contemporary trends and all seemed right with the world—until the new Chiappa MC 14 arrived. With this pistol I am thrown back to a time when guns like my old PPK had features common to almost all semi-autos, only the Chiappa has an even higher 13+1 cartridge capacity.
The Chiappa MC 14 has a strong resemblance to another classic .380, the Beretta Model 84F. Beretta discontinued its classic 13+1 capacity Model 84 series in 2013 after more than three decades of production. This new .380 from Chiappa is actually a Turkish transplant being produced for Chiappa by the Girsan Machine & Light Weapon Industry Company in Giresun, Turkey. Girsan, which was established 21 years ago, produces a complete line of semi-autos ranging in caliber from .32 to .45, with the MC 14 being the latest .380 model for Chiappa (which also sells Girsan’s 9mm M 9).
Producing a full-capacity .380 ACP pistol requires a double-stack magazine, and the Chiappa’s mag holds 13 rounds. That is almost double the capacity of the majority of .380 ACP semi-autos on the market today. The big tradeoff, of course, is size. The MC 14 uses an aluminum alloy frame and a profiled, extruded steel slide, and it weighs in at a hefty 24 ounces unloaded. The Chiappa is by no means a “big gun,” but by modern .380 standards it is larger than most at 6.8 inches in length, 5.17 inches in height and 1.34 inches in width.
Easily the size of many subcompact 9mm pistols, the MC 14 has heft, fills the hand and points naturally. The 24-ounce carry weight in itself helps reduce felt recoil and speeds up sight reacquisition. The dovetailed white-dot rear and front sights are easy to pick up, and the DA/SA trigger is full figured for easy control, with a long 1.187-inch DA stroke and short, 0.31-inch SA pull. The SA trigger pull exhibits moderate stacking and has 0.125 inches of overtravel. Not bad.
The MC 14’s triggerguard is squared off like later versions of the Beretta 84, the thumb safety is ambidextrous and the rounded, serrated hammer spur, though small, is easy to thumb cock. And for left-handed shooters, the MC 14’s magazine release is reversible.
The gun’s short-recoil, locked-breech design is simple and reliable, and field stripping is quick via a disassembly release button on the left side of the frame and a rotating disassembly latch on the right. After rotating the lever 90 degrees clockwise, the slide, barrel and recoil assembly pull forward off the frame. That’s it. No tools or loose parts. The MC 14 uses a single, heavily tensioned recoil spring around the guide rod to further reduce recoil, but it does add to the slide manipulation effort when chambering a round or clearing the gun.
The cold-hammer-forged, 3.82-inch barrel is polished and hard-chrome plated for appearance and durability. Overall, the MC 14 is well built with a precise frame-to-slide fit. Turkish armsmakers on the whole do fine work, and the MC 14 in its basic matte black finish is a well-built pistol that is easy to operate and quickly get into action.
The trigger pull on the test sample averaged 8.2 pounds in DA (for the first shot), which is considerably less than a Walther PPK/S and many other DA/SA semi-autos. SA trigger pull averaged a very smooth 4.5 pounds. It can be carried decocked with the safety on or cocked and locked; in either condition the trigger is disengaged and the firing pin blocked when the thumb safety is engaged.
The magazine release is easy to hit and the empty mag drops cleanly. On the reload, the slide release, which is oversized (by .380 standards), makes it easier to thumb down and chamber the first round. It is also in closer proximity to the grips and thumb safety than most, so there is less of a reach. Overall, the Chiappa has a very clean exterior, nicely melded slide and frame contours and a man-sized, whole-hand grip with the little finger supported by the magazine’s floorplate extension.
Ammunition choices for the range test were a mix of traditional Sellier & Bellot 92-grain FMJ, one of the most commonly used brands of .380 (9mm Browning Court) hardball ammo in the world, and two modern brands of defensive ammunition, Liberty’s unique 50-grain, lead-free, reduced-recoil Civil Defense, which are almost weightless in the magazine, and Barnes Bullets’ heavy-hitting 80-grain TAC-XPD all-copper, low-recoil hollow points (HP). The latter two are newer tactical self-defense rounds and low-recoil ammo can be problematic in some semi-autos. Not so with the MC 14, however, which seems to shoot anything you put through it. At the range, there were no failures to feed, no jams, and every shot was in the 10 or X-ring from a combat distance of 10 yards.
The test target was a Law Enforcement Targets B-27 cardboard silhouette set up in front of a Target Shooting Solutions 36-inch-diameter bullet trap. Temperature was a sunny but frosty 33 degrees with a 15 mph crosswind. All shots were fired off-hand using a Weaver stance. The lightweight, high-velocity Liberty DCP clocked an impressive 1,570 feet per second (fps) average from the 3.75-inch barrel. The Barnes 80-grain TAC-XPD flew at 908 fps and the 92-grain Sellier & Bellot cleared the ProChrono traps at 918 fps.
Every round fired was a 5-point hit, with the closest group from Barnes TAC-EXP measuring 1.27 inches in the 10 and X. Sellier & Bellot printed a 1.95-inch group in the 10 and X, and Liberty produced a slightly wider arc over the 10- and X-ring at 2.2 inches from center to center. There were seven X bullseyes out of 15 shots, with the remaining rounds in the 10-ring.
The MC 14 handles remarkably well, the safety is quick to set or release, the slide drops with light pressure on the release and the white-dot sights are easy to acquire. Recoil with standard Sellier & Bellot 92-grain FMJs was modest compared to .380s with lighter carry weights. With a suggested retail of $449, it isn’t even a big investment for a semi-auto that is built to offer significantly greater capacity, a DA/SA trigger, durable finish and respectable accuracy. In every respect the Chiappa MC 14 hits the mark on features that make this older, heavier, feature-laden semi-auto something an old dog can rejoice in shooting.