.38sp to .380 like .45 to 9mm?


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TrailWolf
May 15, 2012, 12:15 PM
Hi guys - trying to understand the .380 caliber and how effective it really is.

Would going from a .38 special down to a .380 be akin to going from a .45acp to 9mm with regard to effectiveness?

Or is the difference between a .38 and .380 MUCH more significant?

My intention is to decide if I should replace my LCP with a J Frame as a BUG or for summer carry when dress wont let me get away with my G26.

Thanks!

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Pilot
May 15, 2012, 12:19 PM
It all depends on which .38 Spl, and which .380 you are referencing, and what gun (barrel length) in which they are being fired. Lots more variables than just caliber. Bullet weight, standard velocity, +p, +p+, the gun, etc.

56hawk
May 15, 2012, 12:27 PM
Like Pilot said the barrel length and type of ammo is going to make more of a difference than the caliber. I would say 380 and 38 Special are pretty much the same. The only difference being that 38 Special can fire heavier bullets. So yes, about the same as comparing 45 and 9mm.

robinkevin
May 15, 2012, 12:28 PM
As Pilot said there is a lot of variables but if comparing apples to apples then the .38 is a bit harder hitting (but not huge difference) than the .380. This is not to say that the .380 will not get the job done so long as you do your job. But in your case most sub nose revolvers have a 2" barrel where as the LCP has a 2.75" barrel. Now that doesn't seem like a bunch but in terms of powder burning it's quite a bit and I would dare say (don't have any statistics in front of me) that the .380 vs .38 with those two pistol, if the load is the same such as lowest grade or highest grade that the difference is slight. Also you don't get much out of .38 +p in a short barrel just more muzzle flash and wasted energy.

I think picking of these two pistols for deep concealment or summer carry as you stated you need to pick the one that fits you best. Which carries easiest for you, do you feel you need the extra 2 rounds, which do you shoot best with. Those questions and their answers you come up with should make your decision much more than caliber.

Claude Clay
May 15, 2012, 12:30 PM
don't take these numbers to the bank but.....
a 380 loaded as a SD round out of a 3.5" bbl will approach (the magic floor ) a power level of 200 pounds. about the same a a 38 spl out of a 2" snubby. BUT (its a big consideration) the 38 is going to weigh 158 vs the 380's 95 grains; about the same velocity.

change to a 125 gr 38 and the numbers change

as in most questions of your nature....most important is placement;
and being able to do it quickly and repeatedly as needed till the threat ceases to be.

i carry many different guns and calibers. the 380 has its use as a BUG or as a pocket gun to walk the dog or to mow the lawn.

the 9 & 45 is not close enough to compare, one is very fast and light, the 45 is rather slow and heavy. though both have been known to get the job done.
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i type so slow two got in before me.....with the general drift being that between the 38 and 380, its what fits you and what you are best with thats more important than the caliber.

huntsman
May 15, 2012, 12:44 PM
My intention is to decide if I should replace my LCP with a J Frame as a BUG or for summer carry when dress wont let me get away with my G26.


put that extra cash in .380 ammo and practice, right now you have matching platforms don't make things confusing for no real gain in ballistics.

C0untZer0
May 15, 2012, 03:14 PM
This is like one of these IQ test questions.

I don't think the 38 spl is to the 380 like the .45 is to the 9mm Luger.

38 spl and 380 are very similar in caliber - the 38 spl cartridges come in heavier bullet sizes like 158gr.

But the 9 and 45 are different caliber and they're both auto cartridges / rimless.

Its more like the 38 spl is to the 380 what .357 mag is to 9mm

Thats a better pairing.

But anyway, IMO if you want to see the difference in effectiveness then look at how the different bullets perform in test medium. I think the step down from the best 38spl ammo to the best 380 ACP is significan. I don't think it's comparable to the differences between the best hollowpoint 45 versus the best hollowpoint 9mm.

9mmepiphany
May 15, 2012, 05:11 PM
The step from a .38spl to a .380 is really a lateral step.

Besides bullet weight...I think of the .38spl and the 9mm as pretty comparable...it depends more on the platform than anything else. A .380 will likely come in a thinner package, be easier to reload and have a higher initial capacity

MICHAEL T
May 16, 2012, 10:56 PM
my kelTec is a lot easlier to conceal than my J frame and holds more ammo.

Confederate
May 17, 2012, 12:41 AM
Absolutely not...what many don't realize is how closely the .45 is to the 9mm. Both calibers are relatively ineffective in ball ammo and both are pretty good in hollow point configurations. Not because the .45ACP expands a lot, but because it slows down faster and doesn't overpenetrate. In military applications, both are poor. The military personnel I've talked to overwhelmingly prefer the extra firepower of the 9mm to the marginal increase in stopping power of the .45ACP. The .357 JHPs clobber them both (dig).

Samari Jack
May 17, 2012, 11:22 AM
The following is not gospel but from a gun magazine writer.

Test with ballistic gel seem to indicate the magic number for tissue damage is 800 fps. Lower than that and all you get is what the size of the round does, obviously more if a HP and it expands. Over 800 and you start getting a lot more of the shock wave effect.

So, if it is a .38 spec at 750 fps and a .380 at 950 fps the .380 will do more tissue damage given the same design of bullet (ball, HP, or whatever) even if the .38 weighs more. Carrying one step further a 125 gr .357 moving at 1,400+ fps will do exponentially more damage when compared to a sub-800 fps 158 gr .38 spec.

Most .38 spec exceed this 800 fps threshold. +P rounds are even better. Which brings back to mind another article. Seems early on when .38 spec first hit the market, the loads where closer to what is now +P. At some point, 1950's I think, the factory bullet loads were downsized in power for .38 spec. I don't remember why but speculate it had to do with longevity of the firearm since .38 spec was a LE carry back then. I read all kinds of stuff in magazines, some maybe speculation by the righter.

MachIVshooter
May 17, 2012, 01:34 PM
Test with ballistic gel seem to indicate the magic number for tissue damage is 800 fps.

It's more like 2,000 FPS. That's why we see such a difference between handgun bullet wounds and high velocity rifle bullet wounds.

.380 vs. .38 spl? The .38 is more powerful, no question. And it launches a heavier bullet, which will penetrate better. So why, then, go with a .380? Because the smallest .38 Special revolver is still about twice the weight and width of the micro .380s, holds 2 less rounds and is slower to reload.

If I only had one shot, I'd rather it be a .38 Spl. But choosing between my S&W M37 and Kel Tec P3AT for pocket carry is a no brainer.

easyg
May 17, 2012, 07:32 PM
From Speer's website:

200g .45ACP+P muzzle energy = 518 ft.lbs.
124g 9mm+P Para muzzle energy = 410 ft.lbs.

90g .380 auto muzzle energy = 216 ft.lbs.
125g .38+P muzzle energy = 248 ft.lbs.

Quite a bit of energy difference between the .45 and the 9mm, and the obvious difference in bullet diameter.

Not so much difference between the .380 and the .38 special.

Samari Jack
May 17, 2012, 08:42 PM
It's more like 2,000 FPS. That's why we see such a difference between handgun bullet wounds and high velocity rifle bullet wounds.

.380 vs. .38 spl? The .38 is more powerful, no question. And it launches a heavier bullet, which will penetrate better. So why, then, go with a .380? Because the smallest .38 Special revolver is still about twice the weight and width of the micro .380s, holds 2 less rounds and is slower to reload.

If I only had one shot, I'd rather it be a .38 Spl. But choosing between my S&W M37 and Kel Tec P3AT for pocket carry is a no brainer.
2,000 fps would definitely produce a larger wound cavity than the same bullet at triple digit speeds. But the OP was talking about handguns not rifles. The only handgun I know commonly available to citizens that get to the 2,000 fps category is the FN 57 and I took it that the OP wasn't interested in spending that kind of money.

My post was based on an article in the May/June issue of "American Handgunner" beginning on page 49, written by Dave Emory entitled THE CALIBER MYTH. Seems a reliable source as he is a scientist currently involved in ballistic testing and has shot in excess of 5,000 rounds.

His test for the article were in ballistic gel. Pictures included in the article show wound cavity simulation with heavy FBI clothing using the .32 NAA and 80 gr FTX load. Heavy clothing with .380 ACP-90 gr FTX from a Ruger LCP. .22 Magnum 45 gr FTX from NAA Mini-Revolver. Typical performance for a .45 Auto with premium self-defense ammo & Springfield Micro 3" .45 Auto. While the wound cavity of the former are not as big as the .45 ACP, the do a surprisingly good job.

The only correction in my post was about fps. His opinion is over 825 to 850 fps instead of 800 from a small caliber handgun.

The point I was trying to make is a small caliber handgun, with the right load is more effective than many gunners think. An effective self-defense tool doesn't have to be a .45 ACP. His article re-enforces my belief and is a credible source.

Darn copyright laws. I'd love to post his pictures.

Samari Jack
May 17, 2012, 10:24 PM
From Speer's website:

200g .45ACP+P muzzle energy = 518 ft.lbs.
124g 9mm+P Para muzzle energy = 410 ft.lbs.

90g .380 auto muzzle energy = 216 ft.lbs.
125g .38+P muzzle energy = 248 ft.lbs.

Quite a bit of energy difference between the .45 and the 9mm, and the obvious difference in bullet diameter.

Not so much difference between the .380 and the .38 special.
How much of this energy is given up in the first 8" after hitting you human target and how much of big powerful bullets go through the human wasting energy continues on down range to a tree as wasted energy or another human.

MachIVshooter
May 17, 2012, 11:33 PM
How much of this energy is given up in the first 8" after hitting you human target and how much of big powerful bullets go through the human wasting energy continues on down range to a tree as wasted energy or another human.

Exit wounds are desireable. You have much to learn about terminal ballistics, handgun wounding mechanisms and incapacitiating trauma.

R.W.Dale
May 17, 2012, 11:37 PM
How much of this energy is given up in the first 8" after hitting you human target and how much of big powerful bullets go through the human wasting energy continues on down range to a tree as wasted energy or another human.

Here's a hint

In either case its less energy than the handgun imparts into your hand in the form of recoil.

Think about how little energy that is!

Handguns kill by putting holes in organs. Not by imparting energy

tipoc
May 18, 2012, 12:16 AM
A bit more information is available here...

http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page638.htm

http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page651.htm

http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/HighSpeedVideoSlowMotion.htm

On this last I encourage you to scroll down and look at the slow motion vids of both the loads for the .380 and the .38 Spl.

Keep in mind that a lighter bullet at a faster speed, while it increases the energy available for the bullet to work with, will have less momentum than a heavier round.

You may also want to look at the ammo actually available, a sample of which can be seen here...

http://www.midwayusa.com/find?&sortby=1&itemsperpage=20&newcategorydimensionid=15448

More important is which platform you feel more comfortable with and feel better able to defend yourself with in the applications you are thinking of. Frankly that is more of a deciding conderation than the ballistic differences between a 95 gr. .380 from a 2.5" barrel and a 158 gr. .38 from a 2.5" barrel. Although from the latter you can get a 158 gr. .38Spl. bullet going over 1000 ft per second for an advantage over what a 380 gives you, but not if you do not handle a wheelgun as well as a small semi and not if you want more rounds between reloads.

tipoc

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