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Posted:  7/24/2013 10:30 AM #38533
CTD Blogger

Joined: 7/14/2009
Posts: 10828
Last Post: 8/20/2014
Subject: Is .380 JHP or FMJ better for defense and how does it compare to 9mm?
From The Old Gunhand:  was very interested in the Ballistic Gel tests done with both Speer Gold Dots and ball ammo. Many of us senior citizens carry pocket .380′s. The LCP is very popular in my area although most say they are hard to shoot. I have seen ballistic tests with the .380 Gold Dots before which is why I do not carry it any more. However, I do carry Hornady Critical Defense .380 and that only penetrates 10″ but does expand. I also carry.380 DPX but it probably is not much better.  After looking at a lot of gel test with JHP .380 ammo. I am seeing a consistent result; they all penetrate about 9-10 inches. That may seem ample to many but imagine taking a side shot or a shot through an arm. Now put some clothes in the way with those pesky bones that seem to protect our vital organs, add a car door or wooden door, even sheet rock and you have a round that is good most of the time but not all of the time.


For comparison, the Military Arms Channel shot a 9mm out of a short barrel Shield to show the difference. Kind of makes me glad that I bought a Sig P938 in 9mm to replace my P238 .380. I still carry a .380 at times but it is mostly at times that I do not think I need a gun like getting a haircut in the middle of a retirement community with no one under 55 around. Lately I have been carrying my 11 oz. Airlite snubnose instead of my .380 though. It is lighter than any of my .380′s and I can get 12″ or more of penetration with the right .38 spl ammo.  More if I use .357 mag. but at the expense of quick follow-up shots. 

Having said this, if a .380 is all you can handle, it will be enough more times than not since penetration is half of the equation. The other half, never taken into account because there is not test for it, is the psychological effect of being shot, which from my military experience seems to play a big part unless the person is extremely dedicated to completing their goal. I do not think most criminals will keep on absorbing rounds just to see how much money is in your wallet. However, a 9mm pocket or belt pistol is not all that much bigger or heavier these days. Sometimes it is good to actually see the difference between types of ammo and calibers in the same test. Take a look at this well made video:

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