Impromptu .380 ammo test

This is a discussion on Impromptu .380 ammo test within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I was killing (no pun intended!) some time this afternoon and decided to test some .380 ammo I had on hand. My carry gun is ...

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Thread: Impromptu .380 ammo test

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    Member Array Ruark's Avatar
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    Impromptu .380 ammo test

    I was killing (no pun intended!) some time this afternoon and decided to test some .380 ammo I had on hand. My carry gun is a SIG P238. I've often mentioned that my carry ammo is Buffalo Bore 100 gr. hardcast flat nose.

    The BB 27A/20 is pretty powerful ammo. It will penetrate 32" of ballistic gelatin, and will go through just about anybody, bones and all. It works for me. I carry 7+1 in an OWB holster @ 3 o'clock, and two more 7 rnd. mags at 8 o'clock. Overpenetration could be an issue with this ammo, depending on where you used it.

    Earlier, I had carried Hornady CD. Some people simply advise to carry FMJ in a .380, because of its marginal power, especially if the target is wearing heavy clothes or the aiming point is blocked by an arm or something. Others advise against this because the hard round nose tends to "slip" through tissue without causing much damage or impact, short of a head shot.

    So, I wanted to just see how they compared, when shooting into something really solid, sort of bone-like: solid wood. The "test" was firing each round into a stack of 2 x 4's. The boards were tacked together, and resting on solid concrete, to eliminate "give" or "bounce" of any kind. Range was 3 feet. Here are the results:

    PMC Bronze, 90 gr. round nose FMJ: almost all the way through 1st board, slightly dented 2nd board. You could see the nose of the bullet just flush with the bottom of the 1st board.

    Speer Lawman, 95 gr. round nose FMJ: through 1st board, 1/3" into 2nd board. You could see the base of the bullet about even with the surface.

    Hornady Critical Defense, 90 gr. HP, cone shaped with elastic "filler" in the HP: came about 1/8" short of going all the way through the 1st board.

    Buffalo Bore 27A/20, 100 gr. hardcast flat-nose: completely through first 2 boards, 3/4" into 3rd board.

    This wasn't a professional laboratory test or anything, but it was fun. Conclusion: I think I'll stay with the Buffalo Bore.

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    Senior Member Array Okemo's Avatar
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    That Buffalo Bore is a fun round.
    And you know I could have me a million more friends, and all I'd have to lose is my point of view. -- John Prine (A Good Time)

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    Senior Member Array VBVAGUY's Avatar
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    Nice testing thanks for sharing. God Bless

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    VIP Member Array multistage's Avatar
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    If you like it, run it.

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    Not a fan of the .380 as a defensive round, but if it works for you, go for it.
    Freedom doesn't come free. It is bought and paid for by the lives and blood of our men and women in uniform.

    USAF Retired
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    VIP Member Array sixgun's Avatar
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    I did a teast of 32 auto ammo a while back in wet newsprint. and hornady xtp did just as well as the fmj. as far as carry goes ill carry my 32 or 380 bersa thunder when I need deeper comcealment. Like in the summer months. But then I switch to my xd 9mm for cooler weather. But like everyone else says use what works for you best. And at least you have a gun with you. The first rule of a gunfight. Stay safe.

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    VIP Member Array gottabkiddin's Avatar
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    Yep, just as I have always touted... In .380, the Buffalo Bore stuff is the way to go.
    "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." – Luke 22:36

    "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." – Thomas Jefferson

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    Senior Member Array zamboni's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info always nice to get another perspective like stacking 2x4's, nice touch! Always hear about the standard targets like jello, liquid milk jugs, wet news print, and phone books.

    If it will penetrate a 2x4 then I'm guessing it will do the same, to some degree, on a BG. Did their path's continue to travel straight-on, or did any of them curve slightly? Also was there any expansion, deformation, or did they stay intact? Would like to see some pix of the recovered rounds.

    The BB 27A/20's being +P's, how will my Elsey Pea react to running a few to get a feel for them and then CCW'ing them?

    Very Good Report

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    Member Array Ruark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zamboni View Post
    Thanks for the info always nice to get another perspective like stacking 2x4's, nice touch! Always hear about the standard targets like jello, liquid milk jugs, wet news print, and phone books.

    If it will penetrate a 2x4 then I'm guessing it will do the same, to some degree, on a BG. Did their path's continue to travel straight-on, or did any of them curve slightly? Also was there any expansion, deformation, or did they stay intact? Would like to see some pix of the recovered rounds.

    The BB 27A/20's being +P's, how will my Elsey Pea react to running a few to get a feel for them and then CCW'ing them?

    Very Good Report
    Well, they didn't curve. The round nose FMJs didn't distort. The Hornay CD was peeled straight back. The nose of the BB was slightly flattened. I will try to get pictures of it.

    The LCP manual says to NOT use +P ammo. However, there is no "+P" SAAMI rating for the .380. Google around - experiences are mixed. Some have no problems whatsoever, others report blown barrels, cracked frames, etc. I would advise against it, of course - I don't want any liability for recommending it.

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    Senior Member Array zamboni's Avatar
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    Ruark
    Thanks again!! Some say they use +P in their LCP's but I think I'll pass, there's plenty of other SD ammo options to choose from. And BB has a HC-FN and a FMJ-FN in standard pressure too. They might not produce the FPS/FTLBS of the +P but I'm guessing they would do the job in a SD situation as long as you do yours.

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    Distinguished Member Array Fitch's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post. Very interesting reading. It gave me data I wouldn't otherwise get. i was wishing you'd had some standard pressure Buffalo Bore ammo to test.

    That said, the results of the test were a bit scary to this engineer.

    The +P Buffalo Bore ammo definitely outperforms the other ammo in your test, but what I can't figure out is how they manage to do that with out exceeding the pressures the gun was supposedly designed for, and they don't. Period.

    They say it is .380+P but since, as they admit, there is no definition for that there is no chance the gun was designed for it, and no statement of what the pressures are so the consumer can make an informed decision or assess how much risk they are taking when using the over pressure Buffalo Bore ammo. They are saying in effect, trust me, it's OK, you don't need to know the pressures our ammo generates - just don't shoot very much of it, and oh by the way, don't pay any attention to the gun manufacturers, we know their product better than they do. Well, unless they have done the engineering analysis on the guns in question, how do they know it's OK? Their "testing"? I've done a lot of engineering testing in my career and didn't see a test program outlined on their WEB page that I'd have any confidence in at all.

    Shooting over pressure ammo in some guns and saying "hey, they didn't blow up or break so it's OK if you don't do it too much", is just plain bad engineering.

    Physics is physics. There is no magic. The ammo exceeds SAAMI standards. They say it does. Therefore there is no gun that was designed in accordance with industry standards to be safe with that ammo in mind. Doesn't mean they will break, but the risk is higher that they will than if ammo is fired that is in spec.

    Howeer, I like the performance you saw so I did some experimenting in QuickLoad (been using it for 5 years now) based on the data on their website to see if I wanted to give their ammo a try anyway, and to be sure I was right about it being significantly over pressure before issuing a minority report on the forum. To get their published velocities with the best powder (Rottaweil P803 what ever that is, which I probably can't buy) requires something on the order of 22,000 to 23,000 psi in a gun designed for 19,580 psi. That's something like 12% to 17% over pressure.

    On that basis, it's my opinion their ammo takes the gun into it's safety margin in terms of stress.

    What's safety margin? Safety margin is the extra strength designers build into something to prevent failure if everything isn't perfect. How much margin they build in depends on their confidence in their analysis and the sorts of abnormalities they would expect the gun to absorb and keep on operating as designed.

    The gun designers allow margin between design operating pressures, proof pressures (to demonstrate the margin exists), and the pressure at which failure happens. This isn't because they can't do the math more accurately with computerized finite element stress analysis, they can. It's because they know there are variations in the manufacturing process and metallurgy that might allow the gun to fail if it were designed with out margin. The margin isn't built in for people like Buffalo Bore or hot rodding handloaders to take advantage of, it's built in to make the gun safe inspite of the real world reality of invisible metallurgical defects, tolerance stackup, the effects of fatigue, and variations in ammo that occurr due to ammo manufacturing tolerances and temperature of the cartridge when it's fired. Encroaching on that margin by knowingly shooting out of spec ammo for the gun is personally taking responsibility for any failures that occurr and their consequences.

    With that understanding, there is no way I'd shoot their .380 +P ammo in an LCP or P3At. I have a P238, well my wife does and she's very possessive about it, and while it's a really sturdy little gun, I wouldn't shoot that ammo in it either.

    The Buffalo Bore standard pressure loads? You bet I'd shoot them. My modeling in QuickLoad based on their web page data says they push the envelope pretty much right to the edge but don't exceed it. I'm OK with that. That's exactly what I want in a defense gun. The best ammo I can get with out compromising reliability or safety. I may buy some of it to see how it works.

    I've been loading the .380's with Hornady Critical Defense ammo. I may modify that to load them with the Standard Pressure Buffalo Bore 100g hardcast ammo in the winter. Their discussion of that ammo makes sense to me. They claim both the +P and standard pressure ammo will have 20+ inches of penetration. That's enough for me.

    Fitch
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety), by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” by H. L. Mencken

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