Sterling Mark II: .380 Automatic Pistol

Sterling Mark II Auto pistol
Sterling Mark II Auto (Photo: Sterling)

The Sterling Mark II Auto was introduced in 1980 as a successor of the Sterling Arms Model 400. It was chambered in .380 Auto. The .380 Auto, or 9 mm Short as it is known in Europe, is a somewhat under-rated cartridge. It has served as a police cartridge throughout Europe for several decades and as a military cartridge too.

The bullet will deliver something in the order of 165 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, which is sufficient to make most people stop and think, and it is also less likely to ricochet than higher-powered cartridges such as the 9 mm Parabellum. For many years it was just about the most powerful cartridge which could be managed in a blowback action without going to extremes, another point which counted in its favor.


The Sterling is one of the few .380 automatic pistols made in the United States; it is an inexpensive pistol and the standard of finish reflects its price, but there is nothing wrong with its quality of construction and it is surprisingly accurate. The action is a straightforward blowback with an external hammer, and with a double-action trigger. There is a slide-mounted safety which, when operated, moves a steel barrier behind the firing pin, so that should the hammer fall it cannot discharge a cartridge.

Sterling Mark II is pistol chambered in .380 Auto (9 mm Short) caliber
Sterling Mark II is pistol chambered in .380 Auto (9 mm Short) caliber (Photo: Sterling)

Once the safety is on, the hammer may be lowered by controlling it with the thumb while pressing the trigger; thereafter the pistol can be fired by releasing the safety and pulling the trigger to cock and drop the hammer. Once the first shot has been fired, subsequent shots are in single-action mode, their recoiling slide cocking the hammer.

The foresight is a fixed blade, the rear-sight, a square notch adjustable for elevation and windage. The sterling is comfortable to fire and can deliver consistent three to four-inch groups at 25 yards range.

Technical specifications: Sterling Mark II

Manufacturer: Sterling Arms Corp., Lockport, NY 14094, United States
Type: blowback, double-action, semi-automatic pistol
Caliber: .380 Auto / 9 mm Short
Barrel: 3.56 in (90.5 mm)
Weight (empty): 25.5 oz (723 grams)
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds
  1. I briefly owned one of these. “Briefly” because unfortunately, mine was nowhere as near as reliable as the one(s) the author must have test fired. I could barely fire an entire magazine of FMJ ammo.

  2. I owned one back in the 80s and wish I still had it. I carried it on many desert ventures.

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