380 ACP vs 38 Special

This is a discussion on 380 ACP vs 38 Special within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; While reviewing the post I noticed we again had a man ask about what pistol for his lady. He ask about what handgun to get ...

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Thread: 380 ACP vs 38 Special

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    Distinguished Member Array onacoma's Avatar
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    380 ACP vs 38 Special

    While reviewing the post I noticed we again had a man ask about what pistol for his lady. He ask about what handgun to get his bitter half and what caliber, a 380ACP or a 9mm. Of course most replies poop-pooped the 380 ACP and the thread slowed turned to 4 or more pages of caliber war discussion. I doubt this help the guy with his original question.

    Since I'm starting to carry a LCR as back up, or on quick trips to the store, etc. I wanted to get the reloading data on the 38 Special for range ammo and what I noticed was a close Ballistic comparison between the 38 Special and the 380 ACP. So I went farther and looked at manufacturers data. I posted my research as a jpeg below.

    Conclusion: While most would not disparage the 38 Special as a carry round, we all to fast jump on the 380 ACP as "Not Good Enough"? As I always say what every you can put on target, round after round!

    380ACP vs 38Special.jpg


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    "External ballistics" such as the chart you referenced are worthwhile, but they are somewhat one-dimensional and don't relate the actual effectiveness of the ammo on the street. Sort of like looking at a sports team's statistics, but those numbers not translating into a winning team. There is a lot more to effectiveness than just velocity of kinetic energy numbers on paper.

    The .38 Special - especially in +P flavor - has been putting bad guys down with a pretty good track record for probably close to 40 years now. The .380 in any shape or form has yet to achieve that kind of record, probably because it was a European round that didn't gain popularity here until long after the .38 Special was well-established. Nonetheless, a lot of the .38's effectiveness is due to its much heavier bullet compared to the .380, with a far greater likelihood of penetrating more deeply and punching through bone.
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    Member Array Jesters Dead's Avatar
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    The lowly .380 doesn't meet the FBI standard for penetration. The .38 Spl does.

    That is all.

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    VIP Member Array multistage's Avatar
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    Fortunately, I am not in the FBI, and am not a bit afraid to carry my 380.

    38+p does trump it, however.
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    VIP Member Array SmokinFool's Avatar
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    As members here are fond of saying, I wouldn't want to get shot with either caliber. However, if I find myself in a defensive situation and I have a choice between a .380and a .38+P, I'll take the .38. In fact I did just that. I sometimes carry my LCR. There's not necessarily anything grossly wrong with the .380, it's just that the .38, especially in +P, is a better round, and a proven round.

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    I've had both and in their sub compact sizes, I held preference to .380. I find the firearm design easier to conceal in a broader range of situations, and I am more accurate with that caliber. (again in the pocket sized platforms of the two). The caliber debate is rather pointless, especially between those two calibers in sub 3 inch barrels.
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    Senior Member Array VBVAGUY's Avatar
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    Problem is that most people still have the one shot stop mentality. So 1 shot of either 38 or 380 may or may not stop the threat. However the 5 or 6 shots of 38 or 6 or 7shots of 380 should stop most of the threats that most people will encounter. Just my humble opinion. God Bless
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    The problem that I have isn't the cartridge, but it's the small pocket autos that are usually chambered for .380

    They are hard to manipulate, and mine wasn't reliable. So for pocket duty I have a 442.

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    Distinguished Member Array svgheartland's Avatar
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    I recently divested myself of the 380 and now pocket carry the 38. It doesn't conceal as well but it works. I've never been comfortable with the 380 but that's my own view. To each his own, no worries. I'll take a 380 over a rock any day of the week.

    Without bringing on flames I will say that I believe the snubbie to be more reliable than most 380's. But we should all have confidence in our decisions, and that's mine.
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    An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power

    I have a LCR in .38 SPL (load it with 158 gr standard pressure SWCs) and two LCPs (load with 95 gr FMJ-FP).

    I do not really feel there is a difference in the terminal effectiveness between them. The LCR has the edge in absolute reliability, and fires heavier bullets. The LCP has the edge in size and weight, capacity, and speed and ease of reloading.

    The size of my pockets decides the issue for me. The LCP will fit in any men's pockets. The LCR will not (nor will my now-retired PM9) - I have to have some of my pockets tailored to fit them without the grips peeking out at the top of the pocket.

    Choose the right tool for the job - that determines the caliber. If you want the ultimate in small size and weight - hard to beat a .380. If you want the ultimate in reliability and are willing to sacrifice some capacity, size, weight, and reload-ability - then get a revolver.

    Better yet - get both! Most days, I carry a LCR on my right and a LCP on my left. Done.
    The more good folks carry guns, the fewer shots the crazies can get off.
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    VIP Member Array xXxplosive's Avatar
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    I believe the reliabilty issue with .380 calibers guns is more important than whether the round will put a hurtin' on you or not. More gangbangers have been stopped with .22cal and .380 rounds I believe than most others.....it works at close range but the mouse gun issue is important....no one wants to get off 1 shot and have his weapon jamb.....that is why I like my S&W model 36 as a BUG.

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    Of the two I perfer the .38spl, that's what I choose to carry. I don't have any problems with the .380 and I will carry it if the needs dictate. But for most of my EDC I can slip my snubnose .38 in my pants pocket
    “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”

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    The beauty of .380 to me is that it can be carried in an LCP-sized firearm. It's the biggest round that can still fit in the .32/.22 size mouse gun. There are some occasions where that is the best option for me.

    Other than that, I'll always prefer to carry something more potent.
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    Distinguished Member Array onacoma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by multistage View Post
    Fortunately, I am not in the FBI, and am not a bit afraid to carry my 380.

    38+p does trump it, however.
    I believe and you may correct me if I'm wrong! The 38 Special does meet the FBI test out of a 4" Barrel, however out of a 2" or less barrel it does not. The Winchester 38 Sp in +P+ out of a 2" barrel only get 7.3" in bare butt jello!


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    Distinguished Member Array Arborigine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesters Dead View Post
    The lowly .380 doesn't meet the FBI standard for penetration. The .38 Spl does.

    That is all.
    Not even close to being all. If I need to fire I am going to fire a lot. While i wouldn't bet on two rounds in the same hole, 4-7 shots will make a mess out of the target. I only shoot singles when adjusting sights.
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