The .380 ACP caliber has been rising in popularity in recent years, and many new guns chambered in .380 have come onto the market. I believe this is due to the increase in CCW permits around the US, combined with the small size and ease of carry of guns in this caliber. The .380 is also a lower recoiling caliber than 9mm, which appeals to many people.
I have owned a .380 for about 14 years, a Walther PPK. I never carried it much and only shot it occasionally at the range. I tended to use larger calibers for defense, like 9mm, .40, .357 magnum and .45. But recently I took the PPK by itself on a plane trip to Houston for several days, and carried it the whole time in a belt slide holster. It was amazingly small and concealable, compared to my larger guns, and got me thinking about small guns. Iíve gone so far as to order a Sig P238 which I havenít received yet, because it is even smaller and lighter weight than the PPK. Iím thinking about pocket carry for this P238.
So I have been thinking and reading about .380 defensive ammo choices. In the past I used Federal Hydra Shoks in the PPK. This fed well, but only delivered a 90 grain bullet at about 900 fps for barely 200 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. This would penetrate maybe 12 inches in gelatin through denim, and expand to about 0.5 inches. This always seemed marginal to me, and deterred me from using this caliber.
Pocket Guns and Gear: Denim and Gel Testing 380 Ammo
So in my recent reading on hotter .380 ammo with better ballistics, I have learned about the Buffalo Bore ammo company and its several offerings of .380 defensive ammo. I have focused in on their 80 grain +P copper bullet offering, which uses the Barnes copper bullet. The material I have found indicates these ballistics in a PPK:
Muzzle velocity = 1235 fps
Muzzle energy = 270 ft-lb
Gel penetration = 11.25 inches
Gel expansion = 0.75 inches
.380 Buffalo Bore 80 gr Barnes versus Critical Defense, and Federal 140gr Barnes .357 - YouTube
This seemed very good to me, as the muzzle energy is 35% greater than the Hydra Shok, the penetration is an acceptable 11.25 inches, and the expansion is an excellent 0.75 inches, over twice the original bullet diameter. I have read that this large expansion results from the design of the bullet, which allows it to ďpetalĒ rather than mushroom, giving less frontal area, lower friction passing through the gel, and more expansion. Here is a photo of an expanded Barnes copper bullet:
Other advantages of this ammo are that it does not break into pieces like some lead hollowpoints, thereby retaining 100% of its initial weight and penetrating better.
The disadvantage of the ammo is that it is expensive, costing $26 per 20 rounds on Midway USA and even more on the BB website. So buying enough to test in your gun would not be cheap.
Nevertheless I am going to buy some and give it a try. The ballistics look good enough to justify it, and would make me feel better about sometimes carrying a .380 as a primary. But I would probably use it mainly as backup.
Does anybody know more about this ammo, or other .380 defensive ammo types?