.380 FMJ over .38 FMJ?

.380 FMJ over .38 FMJ?

This is a discussion on .380 FMJ over .38 FMJ? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Disclaimer; I will admit that my information concerning ammo velocity's and such is almost null. I'm changing that slowly. I read recently that a FMJ ...

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Thread: .380 FMJ over .38 FMJ?

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    Member Array Sevrenth's Avatar
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    .380 FMJ over .38 FMJ?

    Disclaimer; I will admit that my information concerning ammo velocity's and such is almost null. I'm changing that slowly.


    I read recently that a FMJ .380 would have more velocity out of a barrel, such as the one in the Bersa Thunder, than a .38 FMJ out of a 2 inch snub.

    Is there any truth to this at all? I kind of doubted it, but...well. Refer to my disclaimer.


  2. #2
    Senior Member Array IAm_Not_Lost's Avatar
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    It depends on numerous things, but yes a standard pressure 90gr 380 out of 3.5 inch barrel like the Bersa Thunder will be traveling around 950fps (depending on whether this is self defense FMJ or just normal target FMJ), which will be a bit faster than say a standard pressure 130gr .38 special that clocks in around 850fps.

    What is the overall goal of your question? Self defense related?
    "Brilliant. So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory. Top notch. What's your name?" - Paul Smecker

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    Absolutely true that a .380 round can develop a higher velocity than a .38 Special fired from a snub.

    Since you state this is new to you, I'll try to keep it fairly simple. First off, look at a .380 Auto cartridge and a .38 Special cartridge side by side. Notice the differences? The .38 case dwarfs the .380's. Then look at the general size and shape of the bullets - the .38's appears larger, and generally speaking, it is.

    The .380 is a far more "efficient" cartridge in terms of the energy with which it can launch its bullet. It operates at a max pressure of 21,500 psi (by SAMMI industry spec). The .38 Special was originally designed for black powder, hence it has a larger case volume and operates at a lower max pressure (17,000 psi).

    On top of that, the typical .380 bullet is around 90 grains in weight, whereas the traditional .38 Special bullet is 158 grains. If you think about physics and allow the same amount of energy to be applied toward launching each bullet, the lighter bullet will have a higher velocity, right?

    Add to that the short-barrel effect: in short-barrelled guns, the complete powder charge may not burn completely before the bullet exits the barrel, effectively "wasting" part of the powder charge. At the other end of the spectrum, a long-barrelled gun may be so long that the entire powder charge is burned long before the bullet leaves the barrel and the bullet actually starts slowing down due to friction,. For example, the optimum barrel length for a .22 LR is around 18 inches, and much longer barrels will show lower velocities.

    Lastly, revolvers have a gap between the cylinder and the barrel which allows some fraction of the propelling gases to escape. Autoloading pistols don't have this gap. So the exact same round fired from a 4" autopistol will have a higher velocity than the same round fired from a revolver.

    Trying to circle the wagons and bring this back to basics, the ,380 auto is a higher-pressure round shooting a lighter bullet, whereas the .38 Special is a lower-pressure round shooting a heavier bullet. The .38 bullets are generally heavier than the .380's, and then there is the cylinder gap in the revolver to contend with.

    Does that make sense? Feel free to ask more questions. That's how we learn!
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    Member Array Sevrenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IAm_Not_Lost View Post
    It depends on numerous things, but yes a standard pressure 90gr 380 out of 3.5 inch barrel like the Bersa Thunder will be traveling around 950fps (depending on whether this is self defense FMJ or just normal target FMJ), which will be a bit faster than say a standard pressure 130gr .38 special that clocks in around 850fps.

    What is the overall goal of your question? Self defense related?
    Self Defense. I'm not large framed, most of my height comes from a longer torso. I can conceal a nice 9mm, such as the Ruger SR9C, but it is not fun. At least for me. I've done research into the Bersa Thunder and also love the ergonomics of the firearm. I shot my brothers LCP .380 and the recoil is to much for that gun. I believe in shot placement. I'd rather get shot in the arm or non-vital area of the abdomen with a .40 than in the eye from a .22LR. So thus I chose FMJ for penetration over expansion. I've also read too many stories about the .380 not being consistent with expansion.

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    Member Array Sevrenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    Absolutely true that a .380 round can develop a higher velocity than a .38 Special fired from a snub.

    Since you state this is new to you, I'll try to keep it fairly simple....(Insert information)

    Does that make sense? Feel free to ask more questions. That's how we learn!
    It makes plenty of sense. In your opinion, would you rather arm yourself with eight rounds of .380 ACP or five rounds of .38 SPCL? Both rounds being optimal loads and FMJ. I realize the recoil on the Bersa will be less than the recoil of a snub-nose +p .38 which would in turn, in theory, allow for quicker and easier follow up shots.

    I appreciate the information you've given me and I may have questions shortly if I think of them.

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    Senior Member Array IAm_Not_Lost's Avatar
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    That's something for you to decide based on what YOU shoot best and what YOU prefer. If I am carrying my LCP I use FMJ's or Golden Saber. If I am carrying my SP101 I use Corbon 110gr DPX HP's, the .38 special caliber shoots a heavy enough load fast enough that you should carry HP's with it IMO.

    If I had to choose between a 5 shot revolver or a 7 shot .380 I would probably choose the revolver (assuming I found them comfortable for daily concealed carry, which unfortunately I generally don't). Happy shooting, hope you get your dilemma figured out!
    "Brilliant. So now we got a huge guy theory, and a serial crusher theory. Top notch. What's your name?" - Paul Smecker

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sevrenth View Post
    It makes plenty of sense. In your opinion, would you rather arm yourself with eight rounds of .380 ACP or five rounds of .38 SPCL? Both rounds being optimal loads and FMJ. I realize the recoil on the Bersa will be less than the recoil of a snub-nose +p .38 which would in turn, in theory, allow for quicker and easier follow up shots.

    I appreciate the information you've given me and I may have questions shortly if I think of them.
    That's a "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" question! However, my personal preference is for the heavier bullet of the .38 over the .380. Speed of followup shots comes down to how well the individual handles the specific gun and round being fired.

    But, ask away... we were all newbies once. Coming to this forum with an open mind is appreciated!
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    I have both a .380 and .38 Special handguns. Since arm myself with the .38 Special my choice is clear. I mostly employ Smith & Wesson K-Frame revolvers or the Colt Detective Special and these revolvers hold six shots. The number of repeat shots never really concerned me as long as I have some available. I'm not interested in any .38 Special ammunition featuring full metal jacketed bullets but carry +P 158 grain lead semi-wadcutters. While the Remington version of the favored load that I carry gives slightly less velocity when fired from a snub than most (but not all) .380 FMJ, the Buffalo Bore version will give higher velocities than any .380 ammunition I've tested over the chronograph. They offer significantly heavier bullets and significantly more striking energy. Even the +P 158 grain loadings from Remington, Winchester, and Federal are a distinct step up from any .380 ammunition available.

    I don't see the .380 pistol as being any quicker or easier for delivering follow-up shots than a .38 Special snub.
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    I'd also fall into the camp of preferring a .38 over a .380...but I most certainly wouldn't handicap myself by carrying a FMJ round in it; one will get excellent penetration, likely just as deep as a FMJ, and likely a wider wound channel with a SWC or WC bullet.

    If it were a .380...then, yes, a FMJ would likely be my choice. But that's because I can't get a 158gr semiwadcutter in a .380...
    There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.--RAH

    ...man fights with his mind; the weapons are incidental.--Jeff Cooper


    There is a reason they try and make small bullets act like big bullets--Glockmann10mm

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    gasmitty made it as clear as a bell. In fact, I'm in the market for a quality 380 pocket pistol to carry around the house or short sorties around the hood.
    “Monsters are real and so are ghosts. They live inside of us, and sometimes they win.”
    ~ Stephen King

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