Anyone else use RN/FN FMJ or Hardcast .380acp exclusively in their carry gun?

This is a discussion on Anyone else use RN/FN FMJ or Hardcast .380acp exclusively in their carry gun? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I've spent much time reading and studying up on the .380acp and watching videos of various ballistics tests of this underestimated round, and I've come ...

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Thread: Anyone else use RN/FN FMJ or Hardcast .380acp exclusively in their carry gun?

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    Anyone else use RN/FN FMJ or Hardcast .380acp exclusively in their carry gun?

    I've spent much time reading and studying up on the .380acp and watching videos of various ballistics tests of this underestimated round, and I've come to the conclusion that much of the negativity surrounding it is due to it's lack of penetration in JHPs. Indeed, this does seem to be the case. Even with the advances in ammo technology, most of the JHP's I've seen sim tests on seldom exceed more then 11" in penetration, and that's on a good day. The average is more like 8" to 10", falling well short of the FBI standard of 12". Not only that, but it appears the .380 simply doesn't have the oomph to always reliably expand well either, especially in heavier bullet grain weights. To use an analogy: Putting a JHP bullet on a .380acp is like putting a parachute on a Ford Focus!

    Flip over to the FMJ/Hardcast side of the coin, and we have a very different story. Here your're pretty much guaranteed to get anywhere from 17" to 20" on a properly conducted sim test, which is well over the FBI standard of 12", but not exceeding their maximum of 20". I've seen these penetrate clear through car doors. I don't know about you, but as a civilian that kind of performance is good enough for me! A hardcast bullet may penetrate even more. The Buffalo Bore .380+P Hardcast FN was clocked in a 31" on one sim test, made it all the way through one block and half way into another! This particular round is an exception and is excessive in over-penetration, and I wouldn't recommend carrying it unless your gun could handle it and you were going someplace where you might run into wild animals. However, FBI studies have shown that over-penetration has not been as big of a factor or threat during real world shootings as one might be led to believe.

    The question then arises which is better, Round-nose or Flat-nose FMJ? The flat-nose produces a slightly better wound cavity, and it tends to smash it's way through bone, tissue or organs rather then push them aside like a RN might, but the draw backs are these types of bullets can be unreliable and have feeding issues in certain smaller .380 pistols, where as a good RN is about as reliable in a semi-auto as you can get. If you have a .380 pistol of sufficient size and quality, like a Walther PPK or the CZ-83 that I carry, you may not have any issues with either one. Also, on top of being more reliable and much better in penetration, .380 FMJ ammo tends to be much cheaper to quantity ratio and easier to find as well. And that's also good news for those of us wishing to avoid the high costs and lack of availability of quality JHP .380 ammo.

    So for me, the watchwords for the .380 are penetration uber alles. The only way I might go with a JHP in .380 is if I was in a hot area where thin T-shirts and shorts are worn year round, or if I lived in a populated apartment with thin walls. Even then, I wouldn't feel totally confident in them. With training and proper shot placement, a .380 FMJ can get the job done no matter who the perp or the weather.

    If you insist on carrying JHPs in your .380, two of the best ones in this caliber are Speer Gold-Dots and Federal Hydra-shocks. These expand reliably well, and can achieve around 11" somewhat consistently, sometimes even 12". Both have 90gr. bullets, and you need a higher velocity bullet with the .380 to insure expansion.

    Be wary of marketing hype, advertisements and magazine reviews of the lastest and greatest magical such and such .380 JHP. Even in larger calibers, they can sometimes fail to expand and/or penetrate, although they are generally more effective and reliable in JHP then smaller calibers. There are some good reasons why much of the worlds military's have used hardball in their pistols for so long.
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    I will concede that a FMJ .380 will penetrate a lot more than the 10 inches that a JHP does but 10 inches with expansion such as you get from Hornady FTX, is more preferable to me than a FMJ that can slip and slide around bone rather than smash through them. I learned all about FMJ bullets in both rifle and handgun calibers in Vietnam and prefer JHP. If I think I need more than 10 inches of penetration I will carry one of my 9mm or .45 cal. guns. In fact, I tell new shooters that I train that if they are concerned enough about penetration to want to use FMJ .380 bullets, they should seriously consider a 9mm. There is absolutely no reason why a healthy adult can not shoot a 9mm well with a minimum of training. Our armed forces and police train people every day. Sure a lot of gun owners make fun of the LEO that need 40 shots to stop a bad guy but they tend to be people who never fired a shot in anger. With a little training an abled bodied person can learn to shoot a 9mm.

    There are a few small 9mm guns that carry very well in a pocket. The Kahr PM9/CM9 and Sig P938 are two stellar examples of small lightweight 9mm guns that do not have a lot of recoil. Remember that the .380 is a round that you more than likely will need to fire several times to stop a threat. You have 3 seconds or less before a bad guy at 7 yards away can reach you. How many rounds can you put into center com starting from not being prepared to draw to recognizing the need to draw, clearing your cover garment(s) and putting a few rounds into center COM? When I have my new students under a timer and most cannot even draw their guns in that time unless they are prepared in advance to draw, they understand why a larger caliber gun might be a better choice even with a .380 loaded with FMJ rounds. Your life to do with as you please. Just giving out some info that took me a lot of years to realize is valuable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old_Dog View Post
    I will concede that a FMJ .380 will penetrate a lot more than the 10 inches that a JHP does but 10 inches with expansion such as you get from Hornady FTX, is more preferable to me than a FMJ that can slip and slide around bone rather than smash through them. I learned all about FMJ bullets in both rifle and handgun calibers in Vietnam and prefer JHP. If I think I need more than 10 inches of penetration I will carry one of my 9mm or .45 cal. guns. In fact, I tell new shooters that I train that if they are concerned enough about penetration to want to use FMJ .380 bullets, they should seriously consider a 9mm. There is absolutely no reason why a healthy adult can not shoot a 9mm well with a minimum of training. Our armed forces and police train people every day. Sure a lot of gun owners make fun of the LEO that need 40 shots to stop a bad guy but they tend to be people who never fired a shot in anger. With a little training an abled bodied person can learn to shoot a 9mm.

    There are a few small 9mm guns that carry very well in a pocket. The Kahr PM9/CM9 and Sig P938 are two stellar examples of small lightweight 9mm guns that do not have a lot of recoil. Remember that the .380 is a round that you more than likely will need to fire several times to stop a threat. You have 3 seconds or less before a bad guy at 7 yards away can reach you. How many rounds can you put into center com starting from not being prepared to draw to recognizing the need to draw, clearing your cover garment(s) and putting a few rounds into center COM? When I have my new students under a timer and most cannot even draw their guns in that time unless they are prepared in advance to draw, they understand why a larger caliber gun might be a better choice even with a .380 loaded with FMJ rounds. Your life to do with as you please. Just giving out some info that took me a lot of years to realize is valuable.
    Hello Old_ Dog, thanks for the input.

    I've no doubt you are far more experienced then I in these matters, but not everyone owns or carries a 9mm/.45acp or may have no plans or the ability to get one anytime soon. I'm just stating my opinions and experiences on getting the most out of the caliber one does have, in this case the .380acp. I'm not suggesting that people should use FMJ for SD in any larger calibers, but for this and smaller ones it seems to be the way to go to maximize effectiveness.

    Many of the so-called pocket 9mm's really aren't true pocket guns in my opinion. I've found most to be too bulky and heavy despite all the hoopla suggesting otherwise. This is were the .380acp excels, and is why it's so popular with the emergence of widespread CCW today. I shot a Kahr PM9 once and hated it. The grip was uncomfortable with it's aggressive stippling and the gun kept wanting to twist and turn in my hand while shooting it, making it hard to bring back to target. It was certainly too blocky and heavy for and average sized guy like me who doesn't wear cargo pants to want to pocket carry it. I'm not saying all small 9mm's are like this, but most are similar in size with the same chunkiness. A true 9mm pocket gun sized like a Ruger LCP would have unacceptable amounts of recoil for me. Unless somebody figures out a way to change physics, a small "pocket" 9mm is always going to recoil more then a small .380.

    Some .380 JHPs do offer reliable and beautiful expansion, but penetrate very poorly. The Winchester PDX-1 is an example. On the sim test that I saw, they all expanded into huge flowerly looking things but none of the 5 shots fired penetrated more the 9 inches, the worst being 8.3" That's pathetic! Sure, you could blow a nice chunk out of an attackers face or head with one of these but if it can't penetrate it may not stop them in the heat of the moment. Get a solid hit on a perps face or head with a FN FMJ or Hardcast and they are going to stop what they're doing, I don't care who they are.

    Your right of course in that an expanded bullet will have more energy and cause more tissue damage, assuming it expands at all that is, in which case it may be worse then an FMJ. I've seen too many tests where 5 or 6 rounds of .380 JHP were shot into a sim test block and only three or four fully expanded. Also, a flat-nose hardcast bullet can act similar to a wadcutter, smashing it's way through rather then slip and slide like a RN as you've said. They also provide a greater wound channel. This is what I will be carrying assuming my CZ-83 can handle them, and I have no reason to think it couldn't. I just bought a few boxes of this 100gr. FN Hardcast .380 ammo from Buffalo Bore, and will be testing them out at the range soon.

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    Anyone else use RN/FN FMJ or Hardcast .380acp exclusively in their carry gun?

    No. It will over penetrate. Do you take a chance of going through your target and hitting someone behind? FMJ will most definitely penetrate deep enough over and over; which IMO is not acceptable. There are some good rounds that will give you good penetration and expansion. These are the ones I use in my bodyguard:

    Buffalo Bore +p 90 grain (JHP)
    Federal hydra Shok
    Underwood +p loads. ( JHP)
    Critical defense is so-so

    I also have an LCP I carry and it's loaded with the PDX1
    If your gun can't handle the + p than I'd use the federal or Hornady loads.

    I think part of the confusion with the .380 is the 12" standard for SERVICE HANDGUNS
    The FBI standard for off duty CC and back up is 6-9".

    If you feel the need for more carry a bigger gun. My 2 .380s I carry a 100% of the time. They are light and very concealed. I only wear a size 30 pants. Even the XDs , Glock 26 looked liked I had a shoe box in my pants unless I wear baggy clothes. It's not my style, I like to dress in clothes that help me look my best.

    I am not a member of the " dress around the gun" idea. The gun has to fit the way I dress.

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    Try the .380 Hornady XTP bullet. Not the Critical Defense FTX flex tip. They peel back tight over the bullet base leading to over 12" of penetration in bare gel. In heavy denim if there is a failure to expand properly, the low energy of the .380 keeps the bullets from penetrating over 18". The XTP bullet can be found in Hornady Custom, HPR and Fiocchi Extrema.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    No. It will over penetrate. Do you take a chance of going through your target and hitting someone behind? FMJ will most definitely penetrate deep enough over and over; which IMO is not acceptable. There are some good rounds that will give you good penetration and expansion. These are the ones I use in my bodyguard:
    If your not sure of your target or what's behind it, you shouldn't take the shot, regardless of what type of round your carrying. One should never assume his/or her JHP round will not over penetrate. Some fail to expand, and behave like FMJ's.

    I think part of the confusion with the .380 is the 12" standard for SERVICE HANDGUNS
    The FBI standard for off duty CC and back up is 6-9".
    I've checked into this, and I can't find that info anywhere. The FBI standard appears to be 12" period, whether BUG or not. If you have a reputable link stating that 6-9" is OK, please post it here.

    If you feel the need for more carry a bigger gun.
    I don't have a bigger handgun at the moment and won't be getting one for at least several months from now. MY OP was about the .380acp, and making the most of it. The "just carry a bigger stick" advice isn't always feasible for some people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NickBurkhardt View Post
    Try the .380 Hornady XTP bullet. Not the Critical Defense FTX flex tip. They peel back tight over the bullet base leading to over 12" of penetration in bare gel. In heavy denim if there is a failure to expand properly, the low energy of the .380 keeps the bullets from penetrating over 18". The XTP bullet can be found in Hornady Custom, HPR and Fiocchi Extrema.
    Nice, but is there a video I can see of this test? I've looked at a lot of sim test videos, and I haven't seen a single .380 JHP from any manufacturer that penetrated more then 12", and those were the rare exceptions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    No. It will over penetrate. Do you take a chance of going through your target and hitting someone behind? FMJ will most definitely penetrate deep enough over and over; which IMO is not acceptable. There are some good rounds that will give you good penetration and expansion. These are the ones I use in my bodyguard:

    Buffalo Bore +p 90 grain (JHP)
    Federal hydra Shok
    Underwood +p loads. ( JHP)
    Critical defense is so-so

    I also have an LCP I carry and it's loaded with the PDX1
    If your gun can't handle the + p than I'd use the federal or Hornady loads.

    I think part of the confusion with the .380 is the 12" standard for SERVICE HANDGUNS
    The FBI standard for off duty CC and back up is 6-9".

    If you feel the need for more carry a bigger gun. My 2 .380s I carry a 100% of the time. They are light and very concealed. I only wear a size 30 pants. Even the XDs , Glock 26 looked liked I had a shoe box in my pants unless I wear baggy clothes. It's not my style, I like to dress in clothes that help me look my best.

    I am not a member of the " dress around the gun" idea. The gun has to fit the way I dress.

    SLOW MOTION 380ACP Buffalo Bore +P 90gr JHP impacting ballistic gelatin - YouTube

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    No, .380 ACP FMJ won't overpenetrate; usually it hits 16-18", which is the same as several of the premium JHP's in service calibers get. And quite bluntly, I fail to understand why one wouldn't want the duty standard at all times.

    I do not currently have a .380, but one is on my short list (Colt Mustang Pocketlite or Sig 239); that being said, however, unless there is some type of quantum leap in bullet performance, I doubt I'll ever buy JHP's for it; a FMJ-FN or LFN will be my choice, provided it feeds reliably; if it doesn't, FMJ-RN.

    I also agree with the OP when people say "move up to a 9mm"--I find that they are not as covert-carry friendly as the .380's. I was quite excited about the Sig 938...until I tried putting one in my pocket at the gun shop (with the owner's permission, of course!). Some folks must just have bigger pockets than I do, because it just did not seem comfortable to me at the time, and I was wearing loose fit jeans.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NRA1945 View Post
    If your not sure of your target or what's behind it, you shouldn't take the shot, regardless of what type of round your carrying. One should never assume his/or her JHP round will not over penetrate. Some fail to expand, and behave like FMJ's.


    Of course I agree. But I don't want a round that will almost alway over penetrate. A HP may over penetrate, but in .380 it would be fairly rare.

    I've checked into this, and I can't find that info anywhere. The FBI standard appears to be 12" period, whether BUG or not. If you have a reputable link stating that 6-9" is OK, please post it here.


    It was published in a supplement. I will look around for it. The best real data from FBI , WBI is from Firearms tactical. Here is the critical defense 380 round passing the tests page. http://www.firearmstactical.com/test...-90xtp-b85.htm

    I don't have a bigger handgun at the moment and won't be getting one for at least several months from now. MY OP was about the .380acp, and making the most of it. The "just carry a bigger stick" advice isn't always feasible for some people.



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    Yes. Because of information I picked up on this forum.

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    Yes. Buffalo Bore +P exclusively in the heavy weight. Same with the 9mm Mak.

    See this piece:

    https://www.buffalobore.com/index.ph...duct_list&c=60

    And this:

    https://www.buffalobore.com/index.ph...t_detail&p=127
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    I watched the video from the Military Arms Channel on Youtube, and the ballistics results were interesting. I carry Golden Saber .380 in my LCP, and am debating going to a quality FMJ round in it. Ive been debating about this for a while, Ill definitely stay in this thread. Its a hard decision to make, as I can see the arguments from both the 1st and 2nd post being logical and reasonable.

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    I carry both/either types of ammo when I carry my 3.5" Remington 51 .380. Here in Louisiana, the weather is typically very hot, mid-70's to about 100 degrees and humid, but is also liable to drop into the 20's-40's on short notice from Nov-Feb. When it does the latter, it's often accompanied by a brisk breeze that is perfect for hypothermia.

    Much of the year I carry 90g XTP in the mid-900's, assuming the BG is wearing only a t-shirt or shirt, and shorts/slacks/jeans. Colder weather brings out hunting coats and pants, multiple layers of T-shirts and hoodies, etc. If I carry a .380 then, I'll usually load up with a Ranch Dog 100g LFP @ 925+, and a meplat of .30"+. According to Beartooth Bullets's calculator, that should create a hefty permanent wound channel of .70-.80"

    A while back, I loaded up some 102g Golden Saber JHPs, which function great and shoot well. I often carry them in cool weather, which will see some folks in T-shirts, and others more heavily clad.

    With all of that said, I can well imagine scenarios in which bullets will expand, and situations where they won't, even in the same shooting. So I really feel I'm armed about the same, regardless,
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    As usual, I gotta agree with Cuda and LM.
    And I actually prefer a 380 to the miniature 9mm variety for pocket carry.
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    I love ammo discussions and have instigated my share, but often feel like we're a bunch of medieval theologians trying to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Everything we read points to the same range of variables: location, penetration, target's resilience & commitment (read: punk kid looking for easy score vs. raging 300-pound biker on meth, PCP, even bath salts, for Chrissake).

    I haven't read up on the matter, but suspect that John Browning knew that pocket pistols lacked penetration, so he designed his .25. .32, and .380 ACP cartridges with easy-to-shoot FMJ's to "ice-pick" an assailant without having to grapple with him. His .45 ACP was also RN-FMJ, perhaps driven by the Army's requirement for a horse-killing pistol. I recall he'd originally intended the .45 to shoot a 200 @ 900, but don't know its configuration. The .38 ACP is a head-scratcher for me; I suspect his original low-powered pre-Super Auto round also reflected a feeling that a .36@ 1100 was best-served by a penetrator, or perhaps it was primarily a function of the military market, which in many areas was forging ahead with various 9mm's in RN-FMJ.

    I suspect Browning could have designed a LFN or even LHP or JHP with a short enough COL to feed in his guns, but figured the deep-seated bullet would be limited by blowback pressures to lower vels, inconsistent expansion & a likelihood of underpenetration in case of expansion--and perhaps merely equivalent penetration at best--to the FMJ's.

    Pure speculation on my part.

    Personally, I want a .380 bullet to be flat-nosed or blunt-nosed, whether HP or not. When it comes to .32 and .25 ACP, I'd personally stick with Browning's original designs.

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