Interesting .380 ballistics

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by delta13soultaker, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. This is just food for thought; not anything meant to say with much certainty what any specific bullet/caliber will do.

    I read a post where "winter clothing" was mentioned a few times in regards to choosing caliber size, so I looked into it some.

    These examples were from gelatin tests, which are not meant to show exactly what a bullet will do to a live attacker, or even predict what effect a bullet will have on a live attacker, and they do not confirm wounding effectiveness of ammunition. The results do give a close idea of the capability of a specific ammo type to penetrate deep enough (under specific variables) to strike vital organs/halt blood flow when placed well. Note that expansion is important, but directly related to how much penetration occurs. Over expansion may = under penetration, regardless of mass x velocity, vice versa etc etc, so penetration is the focus. Some people dismiss these tests. Some don't. There's 40 ways to skin a bobcat, this is just 1.

    Why are these results interesting?
    Because a .45 ACP 185gr Silvertip outperformed a .380 90gr XTP on bare gelatin, but on denim covered gelatin the .380 XTP fared much better. ((With the .380 maintaining nearly the same expansion while keeping the same mass.))
    .380 ACP Hornady 90gr XTP JHP
    Product Number: 9010, Lot Number: 35ND01 015 Test Date: See Remarks
    Test Weapon: Beretta 85, 3.8" bbl

    Gelatin Calibration: 10.2cm @ 622 fps Gelatin Calibration: 9.3cm @ 602 fps
    Shot # Velocity
    Inches Expansion Shot # Velocity
    Feet/Sec Penetration Penetration Inches Expansion
    Bare Gelatin Denim Covered Gelatin
    1 993 12.4 .42 1 1013 14.1 .45
    2 1024 10.2 .47 2 1024 12.6 .47
    3 1015 11.1 .47 3 1039 14.3 .46
    4 1018 11.1 .45 4 1024 13.9 .43
    5 998 11.3 .44 5 975 18+ NR
    Avg. 1010 11.2 .45 Avg. 1015 See Remarks See Remarks
    Corrected 10.9 Corrected N/A
    Test date: 9/99.
    Gelatin calibration corrected to 9.6cm in accordance with: "Figure 5-2, Velocity Variation Correction to Measured BB Penetration Depth." Bullet Penetration, MacPherson, Duncan, Ballistic Publications, El Segundo, CA, 1994, p. 84.

    Five shot average penetration depth corrected to 10.9 inches in accordance with: MacPherson, Duncan: "A Simplified Penetration Depth Correction for Data Taken in Non-standard Gelatin." Wound Ballistics Review 2(2); pp. 41-45, 1995.

    Bare gelatin. All bullets fragmented. Average recovered bullet weight: 79.8grs.
    Test Date: 10/99.
    Gelatin calibration corrected to 9.1cm in accordance with: "Figure 5-2, Velocity Variation Correction to Measured BB Penetration Depth." Bullet Penetration, MacPherson, Duncan, Ballistic Publications, El Segundo, CA, 1994, p. 84.

    Denim covered. Five shot average penetration depth and expanded diameter cannot be determined because bullet #5 penetrated entire length of 18 inch gelatin block, exited, and was not recovered. All recovered bullets remained intact.

    Note the .380 expanded to around .45 dia in every firing.
    The .45 Silvertips (avg 11.5 inches) and the .380 XTP (avg 11.2 inches) both scored MARGINAL on bare gelatin. The .45 Silvertips scored SATISFACTORY on denim covered; the .380 XTP scored highest with an OPTIMAL rating on denim covered gelatin. So the .380 XTP may have more potential for busting through more vitals under different circumstances than some .45 ACP loads. This becomes important in a fight because perfect shots are not plentiful; things like arms and hands get in the way.

    Most of this is not new news to lots of people. If there were a point here it's that (aside from shot placement etc etc) bullet design, not just the size of your caliber, plays a big role in the effectiveness of your weapon.

    Why are we so quick to say, "Mines a forty-five"? Depending on what's in your .45, a guy with a .380 could be walking around with more firepower....

    My .02

    Sources from Tactical Firearms Institute.

    Attached Files:

  2. PS. I got this from more than one test. I just posted the .380 cause it's so much info. Data overload, so I summarized.

  3. ponycar17

    ponycar17 Active Member

    Feb 17, 2005
    South Carolina
    I'm a .380 fan, but... Bigger hole = more blood loss, and more trauma, so I choose the .45. There's also some physics that I'd like to go over... but I'll do that when I return... Wife is calling... ;)
  4. Yeah I'm with ya. A .45 is where it's at.

    Just thought it'd be interesting to some that might not be highly familiar with how bullet design interacts with actual performance. It's also good to see data on top rated ammo in any caliber...
  5. yoric

    yoric Former Guest

    Nov 5, 2005
    Depending upon the load, a 380 can beat the .45 all to hell. For instance, .45 ball, from a short barrel, wastes about 1/3rd of its 270 ft lbs on overpenetration of the man. From a locked breech Star or Colt 380, the 85 gr Silvertip can be handloaded to reach 1250 fps, no problem, for 300 ft lbs, and it will expand and not exit the man.
  6. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    I'm sure Yoric knows about that on which he speaks; still, what military force in the civilized world uses a .380 acp, except for a 'general officer's gun'?
    If we are going to handload, let us talk about handloading the .45, as well, in which case the .380 remains an adequate, but underpowered, stepchild, to ALL the martial calibers.
    Fact is, a .22 LR is perfectly up to the defensive chore, given PERFECT shot placement, anything larger is simply increased assurance.
    France, and Germany, til very recently, used the 7.62 Browning, called, here, the .32 acp, and had no issues; whassup with that???
    I carry, on occasion, a Walther PPK-S, in .380, and feel adequately armed, but if season, weather, dress, allow, always the primary will be a 1911 pattern pistol, for the horsepower advantage!!!
  7. There's a couple countries on the other side of the world using .380 in their inventory, but yeah 9x19 is by far the most common and otherwise smallest service round.

    .45 ACP is by far more capable inherently than the .380 ACP. But modern premium defense loads have made the .380 (and other pocket pistol cals) a heck of a lot more capable than they were. Old rounds like the Silvertip in the small calibers are honestly bottom of the barrel now; never that much better than ball because although ball doesn't expand it at least penetrates real deep most times, and some of the newer defense rounds like XTP's parallel or better a few larger calibers with certain ammo.

    Look at the Strassburg tests. Some .380 ammo outperformed certain loads (ones you might not suspect) in every cartridge but .44/.357 mag and I think .40 cal. (look if ya want, i'm going off memory). .45, .357, and .40 all still held the fastest kill times in the end, so nobody should lose sleep. Take from it what you will.

    I used to swear by Silvertips. But technology marches on and now there's better stuff for my dollars.
  8. yoric

    yoric Former Guest

    Nov 5, 2005
    The Stasboug tests were a hoax, they never happened. The all male goats supposedly used are from an endangered species, among other obvious details.

    Reload a .45 all you want, it will never be a pocket gun. Having your hand ON the gun (in a front pants pocket holster) is a tremendous tactical advantage, you know. Blowback actions will never permit the use of an adequately powerful rd. Many people "think" that they are "well-protected" with a .25, too you know. That fact that many (similarly ignorant) people feel the same about a 380, Makarov, or .45 ball ammo means exactly nothing. Shoot some critters with .45 ball, and you will be really unimpressed with its "horsepower". It won't reliably stop a jackrabbit or a woodchuck with a chest hit (as Elmer Keith and Charley Askins both said, over 40 years ago.)

    There's no better bullet avaiable for the 380 than the Silvertip, but it's not much at sub 1000 fps (neither is any other bullet or load). The advantage of the 380 is basically gone, now that there exists pocketable 9mm's, like the Rorbaugh and the Kahr.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2005
  9. I've no info that the tests were a hoax, nor can I find any. Many organizations and agencies consider the tests' data credible at this time. Alpine goats are not endangered. They are domestic like sheep.

    You are right. A .45 ACP ain't no pocket gun, even though some are pretty small. Yes having your hand on a pocket pistol is indeed a great tactical advantage in lots of circumstances. An M4 in the hands is too for that matter. There's 140 ways to cook a chicken, we all have our own long as the doctrine is the same.

    You are right, 9mm comes in very good pocket guns. I think I'd just get a .40 though, cause they come in exactly the same platforms as 9's with most makes, minus a couple shots.

    The smallest pocket gun I been hearing good things about is from Kel-tec. Supposedly smaller than any 9mm by a noticeable amount, holds 7 or 8 .380's. Some cops been carrying them as back-up for several years; after a couple thousand rounds they still like 'em.
  10. Bill

    Bill New Member

    Mar 31, 2003
    The Keltec P-3 in 380 holds 7 rounds and weighs in loaded at about 11 oz if my memory serves me.
    It's very thin and when carried in a front pocket it's almost unnoticable and one forgets about it. Because its DAO with a long trigger pull its a very safe gun for concealed carry. Haven't had a hang up or misfire on mine after a hundred shots or so.
  11. yoric

    yoric Former Guest

    Nov 5, 2005
    They are still endangered, supposedly (if one can believe the animal-lovers about ANYTHING0. The burden of proof is on he who asserts the POSITIVE. There is no proof whatsoever that such tests ever took place, and they were stupid in the extreme. The fastest "incapacitation" was 1.8 seconds, the fastest average incapacitation (for 5 goats with the same load) was 4.5 seconds. When a man is stabbing, clubbing or shooting you 4x per second, and his buddy is doing the same, 1.8 seconds is entirely too long for your pistol to make any difference in the outcome. You need one chest hit to deliver an INSTANTANEOUS staggering of your attacker, with his arms falling to his sides, or your load sucks.

    The issue can be resolved with the shooting of 10 animals with each of 2 types of handgun ammo. Light, fast, and expanding, slow, heavy, and non expanding. However, the animals have to be strung up, and shot thru one lung, the way men get shot. A hit that holes both lungs is a lot more likely to suffice than one that hits only one lung.

    The .38 snub has been pocket carried by many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of men, in the past 60 years. The Kahr 9mm is thinner, lighter, and smaller than the .38 snub. Ergo, the Kahr is adequately concealable enough to always be with you. So why settle for having 1/3rd to 1/2 of the power you could have in your pocket? Absolutely nobody (who knows anything) considers a pocket 9mm to be a reliable manstopper, but it's way ahead of a 2" barreled 380.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2005
  12. I tend to agree with Delta in that I think the .380 is a rather underrated caliber by many today, and it certainly should not be either discounted or ignored as a self-defense arm. Granted, there are many arguably more effective calibers out there, including the .45 ACP, that punch bigger holes and impart greater energy transfer than the .380. Yet, if loaded with high performance modern ammunition (I prefer the Federal Hydra-Shok), the .380 gives a damn good account of itself. We must not overlook what John M. Browning was trying to do when he designed the round; i.e., create a reasonably effective caliber that could be chambered in a very small pistol. In appropriate circumstances, I much prefer to carry a .380 Sig P230 than to lug around a two-pound hunk of steel in the form of a 1911 Colt, or the only marginally lighter and smaller, Glock 30, both of which I own.

    It is certainly true that many very small "pocket" pistols are available today which chamber the larger 9mm Para round (Kel-Tec, for example), but personally, I find these hard to shoot accurately and quickly, mostly due to their usual DAO systems. With my P230 Sig, however, I can dump 8 rounds of .380 Hyra-Shok into a six inch circle at 30 feet a hell of a lot faster than it takes to tell about it. If that fails to discourage an attack, it's time to call in the Marines! :D
  13. Bill

    Bill New Member

    Mar 31, 2003
    While I like the DAO for safety reasons on the Kel-Tec, it's true that it's difficult to shoot accurately, rapid fire, due to its long trigger travel. My Colt .380 Govm't model is much easier to shoot accurately rapid fire. However this doesn't trouble me much as I think if I ever need to use a pocket gun it will likely be a close encounter under 15 feet. With practice just about anyone can easily place centered torso shots at short range even with the DAO.
  14. bambihunter

    bambihunter New Member

    Dec 29, 2003
    Oklahoma City, OK
    I prefer the 10mm auto over any other auto cartridge. That said, the caliber I carry to work EVERY DAY is a Kel-tec P3AT (.380). I think I'm covered fairly well should something happen. Would I feel better with my trusty 10mm, heck yeah, but the gun is heavier and bigger. I am sure others could see it where my Kel-tec P3AT easily slides into a pocket holster...
  15. excop

    excop New Member

    Nov 24, 2005
    I usually don't care for anything under a .40 for defense, mainly carry a .40 AMT Back Up as a pocket gun but it's a bit heavy in Dockers pants. I've recently found myself carrying my Walther .22 just slipped into a pocket of my jeans when I'm not going into Oak Cliff in south Dallas or somewhere, then I carry something a little more serious than a .22...But a sharp stick in the pocket is better than fingernails. I have been considering the Kel-Tec .380 as a replacement for the .22. It will be there day in and day out no matter what the clothing you are wearing.

    That said...when the balloon goes up it goes up...your in deep do-do when it happens whatever you are carrying.

    Gee...this is kinda like picking out a shirt of a morning...what am I going to wear today? :D
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