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Choosing a Good .380acp Load

Well here it is August already, before long the coats will be coming back out and it will be cold again here in Michigan. Which brings me to my topic today. Carry ammo choices, specifically for the 380acp. I have extensively fired 2 Ruger LCP’s, 3 Keltec 380’s and 2 Smith Bodyguards. This is what I like for carry ammo.

A lot of the people I know draw the line at the 380acp for carry/self defense rounds. Aside from my morning jog with the 22 mag I am also one of them. As a general rule it’s the smallest I want to go with. When you choose a tiny little round like the 380acp I feel it’s imperative we choose our ammo wisely. You don’t have much to work with there, it’s a small cartridge without much “wallop” behind it but a lot of people still rely on it due to the size and convenience of the guns themselves.

So let’s break this down: Packing a 45acp or 10mm, it just doesn’t really matter much, most any hollow-point from a reputable manufacturer will cure the lead deficiency in some bad-guys blood stream. Most any 357 or 40 cal will too. Getting down to the 9mm and 38 special I think bullet design, weight, speed and barrel length begin to become more important, while not common it has been known to happen that those 2 rounds from time to time won’t penetrate enough clothing to do the job or deflect after hitting something hard first. Rare? Yes but it does happen. Here we are going a step further down the power ladder with the 380acp. I think here we really need to pick the right round from the right maker to help insure proper penetration and terminal performance.

I have 2 choices for the 380, a summer time and a winter time round. There are quite a few good choices for the summer time load. Worrying about penetration through say a thick leather jacket and a sweatshirt underneath isn’t a concern that time of year. I prefer the Hornady Critical defense round for summer use. I like Hornady ammo for pistols pretty much across the board. It’s reliable, low muzzle flash, extremely accurate, consistent and the Critical Defense bullet with its red rubber plug is supposed to help it expand every time and it really seems to work. They use nickel cases which I like, they are slick and feed beautifully in any and all guns I have ever fired. They don’t cost an arm and a leg either. All in all an awesome, accurate load pushing a 90 grain bullet at 1000 fps with 200lbs of muzzle energy. It generally has 11-12 inches of penetration in gel and expands to roughly 44 caliber. I feel that is just fine, it will do the job if I need it in warmer weather.

The winter is a different story though. Will the 380acp hollow-points make it through a lot of thick winter clothing and still have enough thump?? I would suspect most of the time probably they will. Most of the time. Every time? I have concerns about that. I would rather carry ball ammo over a hollow-point in cold weather because the ball stuff that you train with because it’s cheaper can often have twice the penetration of a hollow-point round. That assures enough penetration through clothing.

What’s the problems with ball ammo though? Well it generally does not expand and it has a tendency to deflect badly after hitting something hard. Like walls and ribs for instance. If a bullet is going to hit a rib, deflect and go flying off in a direction that’s not into the vitals you aimed for then that is bad. I have seen a number of real world examples of that with military 9mm ball ammo and the 380 is just as prone to it.

So what do we do? I suggest a flat point for winter carry. The flat point tends to “cut” through bone and harder stuff without the deflection ball ammo can have. You’re not going to get expansion this way either but your chances of the round going straight into the vitals you aimed at are much better. You’ve got all the penetration straight in you’ll need. The Winchester white box flat-points are cheap and work well with 15-18 inches of penetration in gel but I’ve got what I think is a better choice.

I suggest you get online and order BuffaloBore +P 100 grain hard-cast flat-points for the 380. That’s my favorite load for cold weather 380acp carry rounds. You’ve got a 100 grain bullet which is heavier than most 380 ammo moving out 150 fps or so FASTER than other factory loads. This round is cruising at 1150fps and generating 294lbs of muzzle energy give or take a little bit for your individual gun! That’s better than a lot of 38 special ammo and they make that point in Buffalo Bores ad for this ammo. This stuff hits like a tank as far as 380’s go at least. You can expect at least 20 inches of penetration! That’s quite a bit for that little baby. After 2-4 layers of heavy winter clothing that should still make for 14-16 inches in the body. That’s straight into the vitals you aimed at, that hard-cast flat-point won’t deviate like ball ammo can/will. I don’t have a single worry this round won’t have the terminal performance you’ll need regardless of the clothing factor. I love this round, again obviously it’s accurate, low flash and reliable or I wouldn’t be recommending it.

Summary: Summertime you’ve got some latitude, just choose a good hollow-point from a good company. I like Hornady but Corbon and Federal turn out some really good looking loads as well. When it comes to cold weather I say DON’T take the chance of under penetration. Get those hot and heavy flat-points in Buffalo Bores +P line and rest easy knowing that you’ve got the most “thump” you can get from your pocket rocket. At under 25$ a box it is certainly worth the money, that’s a bargain for knowing you’ve got the terminal performance you need. Order some soon, winter’s coming.

As always thanks for reading and train often.

By: Cary Kieffer

 

 

 

 

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Cary Kieffer

USMC Infantry/Combat Veteran - Med Retired LEO/8yrs.

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2 Responses to Choosing a Good .380acp Load

  1. Alex says:

    I carry RBCD ammo in my carry guns, including the LCP. Have never had trouble with this ammo feeding in my gun whereasI have had problems with flat tip ammo feeding

    I would love to see a review on RBCD ammo sometime.

    • Cary Kieffer says:

      Alex, I’m pretty well booked right now with a red jacket review and an Isreali Tavor review coming up, so I don’t see myself getting around to something like what you asked for. I did find this guy and he tested several calibers all with the same performance. It turned out to be a bit less than impressive in my opinion. Check it out, here is the link. http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot38.htm

      As far as your flat point FTF’s, I had that on like day 1 with a couple different 380 auto’s. I polished my feed ramps with some light polishing compound and a Dremel till they were mirror finished and never had the issue again. Try that out. Thanks for stopping by TGR.

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