Subsonic rounds

Subsonic rounds

This is a discussion on Subsonic rounds within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I have 9mm, .45acp, and .380acp handguns. I have read that .380 defensive rounds should not use JHP due to limited penetration, especially if the ...

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Thread: Subsonic rounds

  1. #1
    Ex Member Array Jackster's Avatar
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    Subsonic rounds

    I have 9mm, .45acp, and .380acp handguns. I have read that .380 defensive rounds should not use JHP due to limited penetration, especially if the bullet has to travel through outerwear before reaching vitals. The reasoning behind this was said because they are subsonic. 9mm is okay to use JHP...but what about .45acp? That is subsonic, too?


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    HPs in .380 aren't recommended by some due to its chance of mediocre penetration. Penetration "can" be a problem with both lower velocity and lighter weight bullets. It's really nothing to do with being "sub-sonic," more with lower velocity, which may preclude proper expansion. In larger calibers such as the .45 ACP it's already expanded on impact--in comparison to .380s and 9mms. The wearing of denim doesn't make one .380 proof. The denim plugs up the hollow point, thud making the bullet act like a FMJ--and that can happen with any caliber, regardless of velocity. If anything, it may increase penetration.

    In reality, I see many reports of successful SD with the .380, far fewer fails, so I wouldn't discount it entirely. Some of the newer SD rounds have adequate potential.
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    I think most people shoot subsonic for silencer shooting ..I am sure there are other uses but ... The speed of sound is 340.29 m / s and a 380 goes to about 1,000 ft/s (300 m/s) so ...

    But the thing is some ammo is sub some is not .. Most 45 esp aroudn 230 grain is subsonic ( why it is a populare silencer host ) but some of the +P stuff is not and will break the sound barrier .. Same with 380 I would think most is sub but +P+ might get up there ..


    Really the reason to carry JHP is for stopping over penetration or at least lessening it .. Also more stopping power if you will with hp rounds ( they expaned and do damged verus going straight though) ..
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    I had experimented with starfire .380 worked good enough for me went through couple layers of denim an couple of water jugs but I am not against fmj as long as you can hit what you are aiming at in all calibers to me its shot placement practice practice practice.

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    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GNtPHYwcDts

    This guy did good tests.

    In summary, some .380 defensive ammo performs terribly, never reaching adequate penetration. Some doesn't expand and will overpenetrate. A small number of offerings provide reliable expansion AND 12-18" of penetration, even through layers of denim, and those are the rounds to use, IMHO.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WrongRecroom View Post
    Really the reason to carry JHP is for stopping over penetration or at least lessening it ..
    I never consider over/under penetration in in a SD round as a determining factor. IMO, hollow point are designed to increase a bullet's energy effectiveness, the reduction in penetration a mere byproduct.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    I never consider over/under penetration in in a SD round as a determining factor. IMO, hollow point are designed to increase a bullet's energy effectiveness, the reduction in penetration a mere byproduct.
    This ^ is my thoughts on the subject as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackster View Post
    I have 9mm, .45acp, and .380acp handguns. I have read that .380 defensive rounds should not use JHP due to limited penetration, especially if the bullet has to travel through outerwear before reaching vitals. The reasoning behind this was said because they are subsonic. 9mm is okay to use JHP...but what about .45acp? That is subsonic, too?
    I've done extensive testing on the .380 and 9mm, so I may be able to contribute something here.

    1. Subsonic has nothing to do with it, so don't worry about that.

    2. Most .380 hollowpoints either fail to expand, or fail to penetrate deep enough. It depends very much on your pistol's barrel length, which is a large determiner of how much velocity will be achieved. Bigger is not always better, and faster is not always better.

    3. Regarding a .380 through outerwear -- this is an extremely common misconception. In professional bullet testing, 4 layers of denim are used, and the results are that bullets nearly invariably penetrate *deeper* after passing through denim, than they do when no denim is used. The reasoning is because the denim frequently interferes with the bullet's ability to expand, leading to either a) deformed bullets, or b) plugged-up hollowpoint cavities. In both cases, the bullet either doesn't expand, or expands smaller than it otherwise would have in bare gel or flesh. And the smaller size lets it penetrate deeper.

    The reason for .380's challenges with expanding have to do with it being a cartridge of marginal power. There just isn't enough "oomph" in the cartridge to push a large-expanding bullet, deep into a perpetrator. As such, you're really left with two choices -- either use FMJ's, which will always penetrate deep enough (although they're a lousy wounder and they will nearly always overpenetrate), or use a limited-expansion bullet like a Hornady XTP. In my testing, I found that XTP rounds were excellent choices for .380 pistols with a 2.8" barrel, delivering mild expansion nearly every time, and penetration that nearly always well exceeded the FBI's 12" minimum requirement.

    Blog link to my .380 testing results and findings (including video links to each round tested): Final Results of the .380 ACP Ammo Quest | Shooting The Bull

    4. 9mm and .45 ACP should most definitely be using quality hollowpoints for the most effective manstopping potential. FMJs will guaranteed seriously overpenetrate in either of those calibers.

    Again, it being subsonic has nothing to do with it.

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    Senior Member Array Happypuppy's Avatar
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    Thank you for doing the 380 and 9mm tests. One thing I find troubling with the tests is the wide discrepancy on YouTube of other testers with the same loads. I would like to see some of the revolvers tested with the 38 and 357 loads. We often hear or read that there is little difference between the two loads in short barrels. True or false?

    just 'bout the action boss...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    Thank you for doing the 380 and 9mm tests. One thing I find troubling with the tests is the wide discrepancy on YouTube of other testers with the same loads. I would like to see some of the revolvers tested with the 38 and 357 loads. We often hear or read that there is little difference between the two loads in short barrels. True or false?

    just 'bout the action boss...
    I will go with "false", but qualify it with it can be a case of diminishing returns.

    The .357, shooting the same weight bullet as the .38 will be faster...period. However, the added recoil and flash may slow down some shooters' subsequent shots.

    It's up to each individual to determine if the added velocity is worth it.
    Last edited by Cuda66; March 25th, 2014 at 08:36 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    We often hear or read that there is little difference between the two loads in short barrels. True or false?

    just 'bout the action boss...
    Little difference is a relative term. A 100 fps difference in a .357 going @1500fps is not as big of a potential problem as a 100' difference in a much slower .380 going 900 fps.
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    Senior Member Array USM1976's Avatar
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    Speed of sound is about 1125 fps at sea level...none of my ammunition is at or above that and have no desire to discontinue using such. Currently, I carry Remington Golden Saber 230 gr JHP which are rated at 875fps...when I burn these I will purchase the Speer Gold Dot 230 gr bonded .45 ACP...


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    Senior Member Array USM1976's Avatar
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    I couldn't post both videos in the same comment, so, here's the video on the Gold Dot...


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    Member Array ShootingTheBull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    Thank you for doing the 380 and 9mm tests. One thing I find troubling with the tests is the wide discrepancy on YouTube of other testers with the same loads.
    Different testers may use different media, or different barrel lengths, or they may just fire one shot at a time -- and sometimes you'll get a case where a round performs brilliantly one out of five times, and terribly four out of five times. If the test you're watching happened to be that one brilliant shot, what does that really tell you? You don't have an overall picture of how the ammo performs in that case. I try five shots, ideally 10 shots (five through bare, five through denim-covered gel) to get a large enough sample size so that, hopefully, we will have a somewhat comprehensive picture of what the ammo really does.

    And barrel length makes a difference. I had 2 out of five Buffalo Bores fail to expand from the 2.8" barrel, whereas five out of five expanded properly from the 3.25" barrel of the Glock 42. Yet the 3 that did expand from the 2.8" barrel, penetrated deeper than the five that expanded properly from the G42 (which makes sense; higher velocities usually translate into larger expansion, which in turn means shorter penetration).


    I would like to see some of the revolvers tested with the 38 and 357 loads. We often hear or read that there is little difference between the two loads in short barrels. True or false?
    Whenever you have a big debate like that with heated discussions on both sides, it's usually a case of there being truth in both sides of the argument. Simple answer is: there is a substantial difference. Longer answer is: but it's not as much as the difference that it would be from a longer barrel. .357 needs a long barrel to really get up to speed.

    A great site for comparing loads like this is BBTI - Ballistics by the Inch :: Home. They've tested a ton of loads, and they get a long barrel and test it, then slice an inch off the barrel and test again, and do it again and again, so they get readings from 18" on down to 2". But, you have to understand how barrel lengths are measured -- they're using the pistol/shotgun/rifle method of measuring, which includes the chamber; revolvers don't include the chamber. So if you want to really compare them, you have to find out how long the chamber is and add that to the barrel length -- example, a .22LR is 1" long, so if you had a 2" snubby revolver, and wanted to see the relative performance from BBTI, you'd have to use the 3" barrel column. Same thing with a Judge, it has a huge 2.5" cylinder, and that needs to be added in, so the performance from a 2" Judge is found by looking up what would be a 4.5" barrel.

    A .357 has an overall length of 1.6", and typical barrel length is 1.875", so if you add it all together you end up with about 3.5" worth of total expansion chamber, and so that's the line you'd want to check on ballisticsbytheinch. Of course, they don't do half-inches, so I'll use the 4" line.

    In any case, spot-checking, a snubby .357 vs. a snubby .38 special, there are a few cases we can directly compare.

    The Hydra Shok, for example, is 125 grain in .38 Special, and 130 grain "low recoil" in .357 magnum.
    .38 Special: 954 fps.
    .357 Mag: 1453 fps

    Another that's the same weight is the CorBon 125gr JHP.
    .38 Special: 996 fps
    .357 Mag: 1496 fps

    So, no doubt, just on these two examples, the .357 even in a snubby barrel can deliver way, way more devastation than the .38 special. You'll probably get a lot of additional noise and flash, but you'll also get a big boost in performance.

    As far as longer barrels mattering more in .357, let's take as an example a 6" barrel pistol. Adding in the chamber gives us 7.6", so we'll use the 8" line. That Hydra Shok that went 1453 fps out of the snubbie, will now go 1810 fps out of the 6" barrel. Whereas for the .38 special, it delivered 954 fps out of the snubbie, and would do 1119 fps out of the longer barrel. The .357 picks up an additional 25% velocity, whereas the .38 picked up 17%. And the longer the barrel goes, up until about 16", the .357 just keeps getting faster and faster -- 2,044 fps out of a 16" barrel, for example, whereas the .38 special is only 1252 fps.

    No matter how you slice it, from just about any barrel length, the .357 holds a significant edge over the .38 special. It's true that a lot of it may be wasted on the smaller barrel, but what's left is still significantly more powerful than what the .38 Special has left.
    Happypuppy likes this.

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