.380 Defense Questions...


January 17, 2004, 12:12 PM
I just got a Firestorm .380 as a carry gun and I'm interested in what the best self defense ammo is and whether or not I'd need to put in a heavier spring for it. If so, would a walther spring work? Thanks.

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January 17, 2004, 12:30 PM
This topic has come up before. Some folks really like Corbons, although there is some concern that the Bersa/Firestorms may not be strong enough for them. A few people carry their guns stoked with RBCD frangibles and have used them with success to defend themselves from wild animals etc. I'll probably be buying a Bersa shortly but I'm not looking into this seriously yet.

Of course someone on this thread will probably tell you that you should sell it and get a real 9mm... :rolleyes:

January 17, 2004, 01:46 PM
If you accept that 12" gel penetration is minimum, then you have to go with FMJ.
A .380 JHP will expand OR penetrate 12", but not both reliably.

"We want expansion, we NEED penetration."
Just one man's opinion.

January 17, 2004, 04:19 PM
I use Speer GoldDot for possible socializing.

I carry my Firestorm because of its size, and then mostly in the daytime or at work. I don't want no stinking 9. If I need more than the .380, I carry my 1911 Commander.

January 17, 2004, 04:29 PM
Hey Ron.

Have you had a chance to shoot it yet ? You're gonna love it. Here was my first range report. It was from 30 ft. I quit after this cause I didn't want to mess the target up with a flyer.:D


January 17, 2004, 05:19 PM
Hi, here's a comparison table of various .380 cartridges.

Bersa Thunder Chapterhouse: .380 ACP Cartridges (http://www.geocities.com/bersa_thunder/cartridges.html)

Keep in mind that some of the penetration/expansion figures come from manufacturer's claims, rather than independent testers. Also, the values for penetration are for bare gel, which simulates naked flesh: for the JHP rounds, penetration is significantly greater through a 'clothed' block of gel, as cloth fragments tends to form a seal over the JHP hollow, preventing it from scooping up as much tissue, preventing it from expanding as much (and as a result, preventing it from slowing down as much).

Also keep in mind that your Firestorm/BERSA.380 is an eminently controllable, and thus very rapid-firing weapon. TennTucker's pic above, and many others, should attest to the accuracy you can obtain with the piece.

Where a single .380 bullet seems a mite lacking in power, you can send more of them accurately in less time than you might with a larger, more powerful caliber. So, should the first shot fail to hit critically (as can just as easily happen with more powerful cartridges), the ease and speed of multiple 'followup shots' with a .380 gives you an edge.

If you are using 9-round mags, you will need to master the fine art of avoiding "mag bite" and "mag-snag" when swapping mags under stress. The unnecessarily large rear of the polymer floor (or "bottom") of the 9-rounder touches the stronghand palm. See image below for the 9-rounder mag partially-out.


Oh, cartridges, right....
I like the Remington Golden Sabres and PMC Starfires.
Good weight (especially the Rem), and good specs --according to FBI tests and the online FTI, laid out in the link provided above.

I'm waiting on proper, solid documentation of the performance of high-velocity frangibles. Right now, there's serious strangeness in some manufacturers' claims and descriptions of how their frangible bullets work.

hth, :)

January 17, 2004, 05:39 PM

You're just a wealth of information. Some good stuff there.

From the chart, It would seem that the Gold Dot is ballistically equivalent to the cor bon, and right up there with the tops in performance. They are definitely one of the most expensive, at 10.00 for 25 rounds.


January 17, 2004, 05:44 PM
Whooops, sorry Ron...

Forgot about the spring.
Why would you want to replace it?

You mean to adjust to a more powerfully-loaded .380 cartridge?
I'd imagine the frame of the little blowback would take a beating no matter what, and the BERSA/Firestorm spring is already pretty robust --getting a heavier one might make it too hard to rack in a stressful situation.

I'd rather buy a replacement spring from BERSA for regular comparison.
The factory recoil spring (BERSA) can shorten by about 1/4 to 2/3 inch (YMMV)during initial pistol "break-in", then stabilizes somewhat. You can keep comparing the spring length to your spare every time you field-strip, and when or if ever the discrepancy gets too pronounced, just replace it and buy another spare.

thanks for the compliment, Dennis!


January 17, 2004, 09:21 PM
If you accept that 12" gel penetration is minimum, then you have to go with FMJ.

I'm with ya! Carrying Remington Green box FMJ's in my .380's this winter, and I may stay with FMJ come warmer weather.

I have a mental image of people's eyes glazing over every time the lack of reliable penetration of .380 HP, and the importance of adequate penetration are mentioned.

January 17, 2004, 10:36 PM
The last batch oif Win white box bought had truncated flatpoints.

January 18, 2004, 07:25 PM
Regarding the need for sufficient penetration...
Let's assume 12" is the minimum?

The data I linked to above is (again) for bare gel --which allows an HP bullet to expand freely. Clothing tends to retard expansion, and thus increase the actual penetration. I tend to associate real world COM (or ay other effective) hits with clothing,, so looking at such info is instructive although data with simulated clothing involved can be less available than bare gel performance specs...

Penetration by JHP's through clothing IS generally greater, without crossing the line into great risk of overpenetration. To wit:

Federal's 90gr .380ACP Hydra Shok JHP did
6.70" of penetration 85% expansion in bare gel, and...
12.00" of penetration 38% expansion with simulated clothing involved.

Dennis' Speer/CCI Gold Dot .380ACP 90gr JHP did
9.30" of penetration 66% expansion in bare gel
11.35" of penetration 38% expansion with simulated clothing involved.

(source FBI Ammunition Tests)

If at least 12" of penetration is what warms your heart, there are plenty of effective JHP's in .380 ACP that fit the bill for ya. That they minimize overpenetration risk to innocent bystanders is no small bonus.

There are certainly exceptions among JHP's.
An odd little fishie is my Remington Golden Sabre 102gr BJHP
which acording to the manufacturer did
9.70" of penetration 43% expansion in bare gel, but then did
8.8" penetration and 74% expansion with clothing involved.
The extremely-sharp lip of the Golden Sabre probably shears any cloth fragments quickly, and incorporates them into the large mouth-and-hollow just like tissue --aiding expansion and retarding penetration further.


I do have to wonder how we adopt minimum penetration figures, and on what documentary basis. Does it start as one expert's guarded opinion, repeated by others until it becomes dogma? Not knocking the 11", 12" or deeper penetration crowd. Whatever gives you confidence. I have my preferences, but really don't know if they are the best choices I could make from the many .380 ACP cartridges available.

I'm a brown Filipino, and your U.S. Army, back in the early 1900's --with practical experience and documentary evidence to stand on-- probably would dismiss anything less than .45 ACP or .38 Special for stopping a determined Filipino civilian assailant --typically 5'3" and 110 lbs, in extremely-light clothing-- before he could hack you and a few others to death. I'm praying that sort of perceived toughness works at least as much for me, as against me

Most public places and streets in my country are just teeming with bystanders.
Houses are cheek to jowl, small and yet serving VERY large families.
Overpenetration is possibly a vastly greater concern for me than it is to you.

Train hard. Fight hard. Save Lives.

With respect,

January 20, 2004, 11:53 AM
Some good .380 ACP loads are listed below. The % is the One Shot Stop percentage. The next number, if there is one, is the Strasbourg AIT, in seconds. I would use the Cor-Bon or the Hydrashok.

1. COR-BON 90 gr. SIERRA JHP +P (71%) (11.12) 1050a fps
2. FED 90 gr. HYDRASHOK (P380HS1G) (71%) (10.94) 1000 fps
3. TRITON 90 gr. QUIK-SHOK +P (70%) 1050 fps
4. FED 90 gr. SIERRA JHP (#380BP?) (69%) (11.06) 1000 fps
5. WIN 85 gr. SILVERTIP (68%) (12.88) 1000 fps
6. R-P 88 gr. JHP (new) (67%) 990 fps
7. CCI 90 gr. GD (67%)
8. TRITON 90 gr. JHP +P (65%)
9. FED 90 gr. PD HYDRASHOK (65%)
10. WIN 95 gr. SXT (64%) 955 fps
11. R-P 102 gr. GS (64%) 940 fps
12. PMC 95 gr. STARFIRE (62%)
13. CCI 88 gr. JHP BLAZER (57%) (13.40)
14. HORNADY 90 gr. XTP (a54%) (15.58)

January 20, 2004, 09:27 PM
Hi, critterglitter :)

It seems the "Strasbourg Tests" have been dismissed as a hoax, both for lack of documentary evidence, and the rather glaring lack of data scatter in something as simple as the body weight of the animals purportedly shot. If anyone would like further detail, I'd be happy to provide it :)

Similarly, the "One Shot Stop" percentage figures provided by Marshall and Sanow are also criticized as useless, owing to a grievous flaw in how the authors gathered and analyzed their 'data' (which remain largely unattributed and have even been disowned by some of their few claimed sources). If anyone would like examples and details, I'd be happy to reproduce them :)

Again, this table (http://www.geocities.com/bersa_thunder/cartridges.html) already provides velocity and penetration data for several commercially-available .380 ACP cartridges, including the ones you just provided.

According to the manufacturer's claims and independent test data I've found, Federal's Hydra Shok is king of the hill for expansion in bare gel, while Remington's Golden Saber rules expansion in "clothed" gel. That's just expansion, 'course.

Overall, only
Federal Hydra Shok 90gr JHP and Speer Gold Dot 90gr JHP
meet the FBI 12" penetration requirement (and then, only if we consider gel with simulated clothing), and still produce significant expansion, among the cartridges listed.



Sean Smith
January 20, 2004, 09:43 PM
I'd personally go with flat-point FMJ in any caliber less powerful than 9x19.

The Strasbourg and One Shot Stop "statistics" are pure drivel, incidentally.

Also keep in mind that your Firestorm/BERSA.380 is an eminently controllable, and thus very rapid-firing weapon.

No doubt true. But I find little blowback .380s almost nastier to shoot than a more powerful weapon of comparable size that uses a locked breech. But that's very subjective. Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a little .380.

January 20, 2004, 10:10 PM
Hi, Sean,

FP bullets to try to increase the wounding effects without stunting penetration? Good idea in theory, but I unfortunately don't see too many FP-bullet cartridges for .380, and even less terminal performance data for the type. Maybe they're more easily available on your side of the big ditch, but I'm plain SOL.

You're right about blowback nastiness, if by that you mean snappiness of the recoil. After all, with the barrel fixed, there's only the recoil spring and (scant) weapon weight to reduce the rearwards kick.

However... ;)
the muzzle-flip on the BERSA is next to a non-issue for me and yes, you're absolutely right that it's subjective. I still fully suspect it's the lower bore-axis on a blowback (there's no separate guide rod to raise the barrel's 'height' above the grip, as with common llocked-breech designs). I feel the low bore-axis translates into more rearwards shove and less upward flip. The few 9mm's I've fired had almost less rearwards shove and more flip.

Keeping the barrel pointed at the target (easier with lesser flip on a blowback) would seem to aid ROF and accuracy, but I guess I'll never really know until my number's up --and I'm doing everythig I can to delay/avoid that day.


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