Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vintage Llama .380 ACP

I've got a lot to try and squeeze in here so sit back, relax, and scroll slowly.

The right shoulder is still in recovery mode and I am despondent over the reality that the complete rehabilitation will take almost a year.  I am starting over in terms of gaining range of motion and strength back in the arm.  Everything that I can do with the arm has to be retrained.  The surgery was 90 days ago and my penmanship is terrible.  I have written some notes that I cannot later decipher.  I am also told that when I am able to pick up a pistol again I will find that my shooting skills will have deteriorated greatly as well. 

I am trying to find the silver lining in this dark cloud and figure it is two thing:

1. I will have the opportunity to retrain and perhaps lose any bad habits developed over the years.
2. It has forced me to really concentrate on shooting with my weak hand.  At this point shooting with only the left hand is literally all I can do.

When I finally accepted that left handed shooting was going to be all I could do for a year I realized that I was going to have to leave the .45s and .40s in the safe for the time being.  I needed to focus on fundamentals with smaller calibers and work my way up to my cherished .45 ACP.

Llama .380 ACP

Rummaging around in the deep recesses of my safe I found two long forgotten pistols that are perfect for this challenge and this article focuses on the first one which is the Llama .380 ACP.  I purchased this pistol in a small shop when I was in college in 1977.  It was on consignment for $79.00 if I remember correctly.  At the time I was drawn to it because of its resemblance to a 1911 which was not affordable at that time in my life.  I also thought the completely unnecessary ventilated rib across the top of the frame lent a Colt Python coolness to it.  I was able to negotiate it down a few dollars more and briefly cherished it until I took it to the range.  This was my first semi-automatic pistol having only owned two revolvers prior to this purchase.  I was a novice shooter at that time and I blamed the poor accuracy on the pistol.  I was sure it was the pistol and not the lack of practice (my training schedule was to shoot about half a box of ammo twice a year at that point).  Also the Llama would not feed hollowpoint ammunition and, quite frankly, in 1977 there was not a plethora of .380 JHP ammo to be found.

Fast forward to today when I needed to build up my weak handed shooting skills and I realized that the neglected Llama would be the perfect platform to begin with.  It is large enough to fit my hand well and handle the recoil (what recoil there is) of the .380 cartridge.  I also suspected two other things:

1. I would probably find that the past 34 years of retirement  in the safe would actually have improved the accuracy of the Llama.  (It might also have something to do with the fact that I had matured as a shooter.)
2. While it would not feed hollowpoint ammo in 1977 it just might be completely reliable with Hornady's Critical Defense load.

I must be psychic as I was correct on both points.

Back to the Llama

Llama was established in 1904 in Spain and manufactured firearms up until 2005.  In 1992 they went bankrupt and eventually 60 employees reorganized the structure, arranged new financing and operated Llama as a cooperative.  For many years Stoeger was their exclusive importer into the US  and this pistol bears the Stoeger imprint.  

There were several firearms manufacturers in Spain however Llama was at the lower end of scale in terms of fit and finish.  

This 1911 Government Model clone takes down just like a John Browning original with the exception that the barrel does not require a movable link and the slide release lever stakes the barrel in place.

The fit and finish on this specimen is not bad on the exterior but the interior is, in a word, rough.  Hopefully this photo will allow you to see all the tool marks on the interior of the slide.

The slide to frame fit is very gritty and trying to clean the inside of the slide is a frustrating process.  Anything you use to wipe across the interior will catch and leave fiber strands.  Cotton clothes, flannel clothes, silicon cloths, gun swabbing patches, and Mil-Spec oil soaked towelettes all get shredded by the sharp edges left inside the slide.

I also think that the frame mounted safety needs some work.  As this is at least a forty year old pistol it is quite possible that the spring needs to be replaced.  I remember quite well that the safety used to snap into place with a very positive "click" and stayed there until you very intentionally pushed it down.  Now my confidence in it is not as sharp and I began carrying it with the hammer down. If needed I figured that thumbing back the hammer was not going to be that much slowed than releasing the safety (as long as I remembered to do it).

All in all that is about the only negative to this little long forgotten pistol.  The trigger has some minor, light take-up before breaking cleanly at 4.8 pounds.  The sights are all black and small but completely usable with the rear sight being adjustable for lateral point of impact.

Let's take a look at the targets.  Now I will remind you that these are all shot using the left hand only and I was quite pleased that they weren't any worse than they what you see

Here's 36 rounds of PMC 90 grain FMJ ammo fired at 21 feet:

Here's 50 round of Sellier and Bellot 90 grain FMJ fired at 21 feet

And last but certainly not least 8 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense Ammo

I am really happy how well I was able to shoot the Critical Defense load.  While a .380 is the bare minimum of defensive calibers it is good to know that I can leverage the accuracy and expansion that the Critical Defense load offers.

So, what have we learned by all of this!  Well I can think of two things:

1. We should put more practice into shooting weak-handed before something happens that makes it mandatory.
2. If you have old handguns tucked away in the dark recesses of your safe because you weren't happy with them you just might want to go back, clean them up, and see if something has changed in your shooting style that improves their performance.


Al said...

Old gun new tricks we all live and learn! I have been thinking about checking out getting "online ammo" for awhile did not cause- well not sure- it is nice to support your local gunshop- but they don't always have what you're looking for will check luckygunner out and and tell them uhmmm Heidi- that you sent me -best of luck in your slow but sure recovery

Anonymous said...

Average Joe, good luck on your continued recovery. Perhaps you may end up being a purdy good shot left handed with all the practice you gonna get. That would sure give you more carry options.

Also I want to pass on a site I blundered into called Ammoseek. It is not a retailer but kinda like a clearing house. You plug in the type of gun (handgun, rifle, shotgun) and caliber and it will list retailers who supply that ammo and their price in most cases. You can also narrow it down to manufacturer if you only want a certain brand.

I plugged in .45 acp, all brands and Lucky Gunner came up as one of the retailers along with about 20 more. The various retailers, brands, and bullet combinations came out to listing of around 500 on .45 acp. You can click on the retailer listing that you want and it goes right to that retailers page listing of the specific caliber and brand.

Matt L. DeTectre

Anonymous said...
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Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


Great call out on


Thanks for the info on Luckygunner. I'll give them a try. The prices seem good.

I've always wanted one of the Llama's like you have. In the 70's, when I'd seen them in stores like Gibson's Discount Centers, I was too young to buy one and couldn't convince my dad to get me one.

I've always wanted one of the Llama mini-1911's in .22 LR, and perhaps one day my gun and pawn shop stumbling and trolling will bring me across one. I'd even take one in .32 or .380, but .22 LR would be the prize.

Good luck on the rehab. I'm having some right shoulder issues and like you, shoot right handed and I know I'm gonna have to go see the orthopod soon because the shoulder problem isn't going away. I hope your recovery is speedier than expected and is trouble free.

Larry said...

Sorry my comment got tacked on to The Fishing Musician .my bad!

Anonymous said...

Hey Musician, the 22 llama's are pretty regularly available on and go for about $400.00 for a an almost new in box one. Mine does not have the rib. It fills a spot in the marketplace even today as it is a truly nice 1911 in 22lr and is small in size.

I also have a 380 and 32 llamas similar to Average Joe's but again no rib. I also have a couple of STAR 380's that are similar to the llamas. None of these are made anymore so nobody makes a sub Officer's Model size 1911. The Colt Government 380 and Mustangs are no longer made so the closest today would be the Sig P238 but it really is not a 1911 clone like the llama or Stars.

I prefer the small size 1911s and they are great for conceal carry but you are limited to 380, 22, or 32 for calibers.

Nice write up Joe and best wishes for recovery. I've got some health problems that landed me in hospital 4 months in coma. When I woke up I could not even lift my arm let alone stand or shoot for that matter. I essentially had to re-learn every body movement possible but it can be done so hang in there.

Sagacious Sam said...

Picked up this thread now in 2014. I have the same .380 as Average Joe. Found the gun in a truck I bought and nobody knows who owned it. The local PD says its not reported stolen!!!
For me the gun has been a great collection to my safe. As for operation I could not ask for a greater back up wepon, It is reliable and accurate for the distance designed.
Need to dig into the history more but I would estimate mid 70's age.
I would not tell anyone to pass one of these if they have to chance to pick one up.

Anonymous said...

One time someone stuck a llama 380 into my chest and I could see them pulling on the trigger however due to their unfamiliarity with the safeties I am here 33 yrs later to write about it.
The bad guy is NOT!

Juanito Ibanez said...

The pistol in the photo has the "pinned" barrel.

I had one of these many years ago, and it had the barrel with the Browning-design "swinging link" like the full size Browning/Colt .45 ACP pistols.

Guess it was easier and cheaper to eliminate the "linked" barrel system. :|

Anonymous said...

Was reading a previous comment and it took me way back. I saw my first one at Gibson Discount store also and was to young to buy one but I talked my dad into getting it for me. Always like it and wanted to replace it and yesterday I was in Cabela's sporting goods and when I looked in the used case I saw one and it had a price of $139.00. Didn't think twice bought it in a heart beat.... Smiled all the way home.....

Enjoy and be safe,

woodyking said...

I picked up one like yours last week on a golf cart trade, had some ammo with it. I liked the feel and looks, took it to the woods and put 50 through it with no troubles at all. With a paper plate for a target, at about 30 feet, with me bracing my arm across the cart bed, it surprised me how accurate it was. I had to take the whole front sight above the rear, but would put the holes in a tight group about 2 inch across outsides. I was very happy. I read some negative reviews, but the one I got really shoots well.
Thanks for the above comments, glad to see they are not all bad. It looks heavy made enough to try some +P loads... I've bought some Magtech that I later learned was not a good idea for a Ruger LCP.