.380ACP vs 9x18Mak for carry round


March 2, 2007, 05:25 PM
Can you school me on the differences and therefore your preferences between .380ACP and 9x18Makarov as a defensive round?

I realize that "the best caliber is the one you can shoot the best".

Both of these calibers are new to me and I really don't know much about their ballistics and other carry-worthy attributes.

Thanks very much.

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March 2, 2007, 05:57 PM
THR member JE223 has done the only ballistic gel testing on 9x18 that I know of. He also has .380 Auto test results on his website; www.brassfetcher.com.

March 2, 2007, 07:43 PM
From all that I've read, most good 9x18 rounds perform a bit better than good .380 rounds. Not by a huge amount but better. 9x18 is a bit larger than .380. Don't shoot .380 in a 9x18 Makarov though & vice versa.

From Makarov.com:


Can I fire .380 ACP ammo in my 9x18M Makarov?

NO NO NO NO NO !!! There are those that disagree with me including an author of an article in Handguns magazine and gun dealers who wants to sell you a Makarov. The 9x18M cartridge is not a "true" 9mm because it's really 9.2mm. Therefore the bullets are sized .364" and .365" (barrel sizes vary...slugging yours is best to find out your bore size). Yes, you can probably get away with it a few times, but accuracy will suffer, you'll get gas blow-by, your barrel will wear out faster and for what? Save a few pennies? Hardly. 9x18M ammo is usually cheaper since you can get it surplus. If you absolutely want to shoot .380 ACP ammo from your Makarov, then buy a .380 Makarov or a .380 replacement barrel.

For a car analogy, have you ever seen or owned a car that burned oil? How long did the engine last after it started blowing blue smoke? Probably not long. The reason is that the pistons and rings are now smaller than the cylinders and each explosion sends gasses by-passing the piston ("blow-by"). You're literally burning the sides of your pistons now and engine death is imminent. That's basically what you're doing by shooting undersized bullets.


I have a .380 ACP pistol and want a little more power. Can I shoot 9x18M in it?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! This is even worse than the other way around. The bullet is too big (.364") to fit into the barrel (.356"), the cartridge will probably not even chamber, and even if it does, you may blow the gun and yourself up. Really, 9x18M Makarovs are not that expensive...just get one if you want to fire 9x18M. You can also change the barrel and you gun will now fire 9x18M. And if you want more power, get a .454 Casull.

March 2, 2007, 08:56 PM
The original 9mm Makarov round was loaded to 1050 fps. Most domestic .380 and Makarov loads are set at 1000fps. The Mak bullet is a tad bit larger. There's not much difference.
The Makarovs appeal was it was way cheap to buy and the surplus ammo for it was plentiful and also cheap. This is not the case any more. The supplies of Makarovs have dried up thanks in part to Clinton's importation ban from Russia and China. The supply of cheap ammo was also banned, at least from China. I remember getting my first Makarov for $89!! Ammo was $99/ 1000rd case!! You don't see that any more!!

I finally found a round that, according to JE223 is pretty decent, but alas, it too has gone out of production: the 115gr Silverbear.

I fear the glory days of Pistolet Makarova are gone forever!!

March 2, 2007, 09:38 PM
For all practical purposes the 9x18mm Makarov loads available in the U.S. are only *slightly* more powerful than the .380 ACP loads. I'd just pick the pistol you like and not really worry if it's 9x18mm or .380 ACP. There just isn't that much difference between them. Not as much as the difference between .380 ACP and 9mm Luger (9x19mm).

March 2, 2007, 10:07 PM
The Mak round does perfectly what it was designed to do: maximize the performance of the straight blow-back Walther action pistol. Some of the better .380 loads are about as powerful, but generally Mak ammo has an edge.

March 3, 2007, 02:34 PM
Thanks for the replies guys. My wife is looking for her carry gun. She's shot quite a few but hasn't decided what she wants as her own. In the winter she'll carry one of our fuller sized handguns. However, we're still young enough that she wants to be fashionable and I know she won't change her summer wardrobe enough for a belt gun.

Therefore we need something small. BUT it can't have any recoil!:rolleyes:

She shot a friend's Bulg Mak and like it.... so we're deciding between picking up one of those or a PPK.

March 3, 2007, 06:05 PM
Actually, I have both and I prefer the PPK due to it's size (it's smaller) and what I consider to be superior ergonomics (it fits my hand better).

March 3, 2007, 09:18 PM
The Kel-Tec P3AT (http://www.kel-tec.com/p3at.html) is smaller than either one (Makarov and PPK). ;)

March 3, 2007, 09:33 PM
Running 380 in a 9x18 would be like running .40sw in 10mm. Head space anyone? :eek:

March 3, 2007, 10:03 PM
The Kel-Tec P3AT is smaller than either one (Makarov and PPK).
Very true. However, I've shot a P3AT and I know there's no way she'd like the recoil. She couldn't shoot more than a couple shots with my KelTec PF-9. And she was wearing a glove!

She shot a Mak and didn't mind the recoil... So we're definitely looking at something with more metal than plastic to increase weight.

P. Plainsman
March 3, 2007, 10:21 PM
Other than the Mak platform itself (an affordable, tough little pistol), the days when 9x18 Mak held any advantages over .380 ACP for American defensive shooters are dwindling.

With the dissipation of Mak surplus sources, ball ammo in both calibers is now about the same -- indeed, .380 is generally cheaper.

More importantly, if you shoot factory ammo, the .380 has it all over 9x18 Mak when it comes to optimized hollowpoint options. The only surviving commercial Mak loads from major ammo companies that might be good expanding defense rounds are Hornady's (with XTP) and Cor-Bon makes a Mak Pow-R-Ball load.

EDIT TO ADD: Georgia Arms (a good smaller ammo maker) also advertises a 9x18 Mak load with Speer Gold Dots. However, there's some uncertainty about whether Speer has, or will, cut off the supply of Gold Dot bullets to Georgia Arms -- they have apparently cut off the supply to Black Hills. You'd have to ask Georgia Arms whether it's still available.

Contrast this with the huge range of high-quality, widely available defensive loads in .380 ACP -- Speer Gold Dot, Cor-Bon DPX [very promising], Cor-Bon [Sierra] JHP, Rem Golden Saber, etc., etc. You can drive to your local gun shop or big-box sporting goods store and expect to find a variety of good .380 ACP carry fodder. 9x18 Mak, not so much.

I'm talking commercial ammo here. If you handload your defense ammo, you can load Gold Dots for the 9x18 Makarov.

There's a school of thought holding that with these two smaller, blowback pistol cartridges, it's better to go with the increased penetration of full metal jacketed (FMJ) ammo and forego hollowpoint expansion altogether. If you subscribe to that school, then the slightly hotter 9x18 Mak round does retain a potential advantage. (And of course the Mak pistol has its own charms and strengths; worth acquiring for its own sake.)

But unless you handload defense ammo or carry FMJ, you might as well go with a .380 ACP from Bersa, CZ, or Beretta, or upgrade to 9mm Luger. Or so it seems to me.

March 3, 2007, 10:55 PM
I owned a 9mm Mak and shot a friend's .380 Russian Mak.
The recoil on the .380 was much less even with the stock grips on his compared to Pearce grips on mine.
If your wife isn't real experienced I would go with the .380. Ammo is a little more common in some places too.

North Bender
March 3, 2007, 11:16 PM
Georgia Arms is now making their 9x18 with the XTP bullet, loaded to about the same velocity as does Hornady. They can't get Gold Dots from Speer.

There are a couple of small manufacturer's that make 9x18 HPs but they can be expensive. Kinematics Research ($19.27/50, ammodirect.com) uses the XTP and pushes it to 1,000 fps (average of 20 rounds I chronyed). Quality Cartridge (http://www.qual-cart.com/9maknew.htm) sells cartridges loaded with XTP or Speer, your choice, but they charge $26/50 and I haven't tested any. Stars and Stripes (http://www.starsandstripesammo.com/index2.html) pushes the Gold Dot to 1088 fps at a cost of $22.99/50.

It's too bad we couldn't have gotten the current 94-grain HP from Silver Bear over the brassfetcher to test to see what it does. It's widely available (e.g., http://www.aimsurplus.com/cgi-bin/ss000001.pl?PR=-1&TB=A&SS=9x18) at around $7.50/50. My chrony measured it at 963 fps. The Silver Bear 9x18 is now coming out of the Barnaul factory, which has historically made the best 9x18.

March 3, 2007, 11:42 PM
Get a 380. Think about a Bersa thunder.

March 3, 2007, 11:48 PM
Btw, if you decide on a Mak, get a set of Pearce grips for the gun. Your hands will thank you. They really make a difference with the felt recoil over the stock plastic grips.

March 4, 2007, 10:08 AM
The only thing that a .380 ACP or 9x18mm is good for is to demonstrate the poinlessness of straight blowback semi auto systems. Less power and more recoil are hardly and advantage over anything.

Go shoot a Kahr P9 and a Mak at the same time. The 9mm Kahr has much more power with much less recoil than the Mak will. Same with any blowback .380.

If your wife is afraid of recoil a straight blowback lightweight pistol is not what she should be looking at.

Have you considered a .22 magnum revolver?

March 4, 2007, 10:24 AM
Meanstreaker, The mak is going to be less expensive than a PPK. The .380 is going to be a bit more available in gunshops. Also if you really like the .380 you can find Maks in .380 or buy a new barrel from mak.com and switch them out. The 9x18 is a slightly better round, but the difference will not be noticed by most BG's.

March 4, 2007, 08:08 PM
It’s is one of those confusing bullet thangs.
The 9mm saga…
9 Lugar is 9x19mm. .380 Browning or Kurtz is 9x17
The same diameter (.355) different length.
9 Mak is 9x18mm BUT the 9mm in Makarov is .365 inches in diameter.
I don’t make these rules, I just get confused by them.

News at eleven.

March 4, 2007, 08:41 PM
I recommend a CZ-82 in 9MM Makarov. Great, inexpensive gun with 12 rounds of 9MM Makarov.

It's taken the Makarov design to the fullest extent possible so far.

Buck Nekkid
March 5, 2007, 02:09 AM
+1 on the CZ 82. You might even be able to find a CZ 83 in 9 x 18 in factory satin nickel...way cool!!

March 5, 2007, 06:52 AM
Forgot to add.
I think the average 9mm round is a 115 grain bullet whereas .380 (9 Browning) has a 95 grain bullet.
I have loaded up to 124 grain bullet in my .380.
As far as ballistics… I dunno. Being old and feeble I load em light but don’t want to get shot by any of them.

March 5, 2007, 10:20 AM
Therefore we need something small. BUT it can't have any recoil!

I could be wrong about this, but doesen't the blowback design usually found in .380's make it seem like theres more recoil than there actually is? I know that your comparing a mak to a .380 but maybe a 9X19 might work to. And i'm sure ammo will be cheaper. Just a thought.

March 5, 2007, 03:46 PM
That's a good point, MikePGS.

We will be looking at smaller, steel guns like the Kahr K9. She just hasn't shot one yet. She didn't mind the recoil of the Makarov. The only handguns I have smaller than service-sized are my 642 and PF-9.

She definitely doesn't like either of those. :)

March 6, 2007, 04:38 AM
If she wears a medium sized glove get her a CZ 83 in 380. It is by far the easiest 380 class pistol to hit with. The Bersa will fit a smaller hand but has a heavier trigger pull. I had my wife shooting the Bersa on Sunday and she didn't like the trigger pull but did like the feel of the pistol. She will stay with her G19 for now. The Bersa is clearly less accurate than the CZ. I think the surplus ammo for the 9x18 Mak has dried up. The only reason to own that caliber was the cheap ammo. The pistol has a lot of history and I like it but would buy one only in 380.

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