.380 vs .38 Special


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38snapcaps
July 6, 2004, 08:07 PM
For the past year and a half I've been carrying a Bersa .380. I have always been impressed with its accuracy and dependability. I shoot it better than any other handgun I have and have felt very confident with it.

I found some steel plates, in a dumpster, about a sixteenth of an inch thick,
I think electricians use them to cover wiring boxes. Fun targets, says me.

I take one out and hang it on a board. First a .22lr-nice dent, no penetration. Then the Nine-yikes! tore right thru it and the board behind it! Last, my faithful friend, the Bersa-about the same dent as the .22 but larger.

I got to thinking maybe I need heavier hitting power so I buy a S&W .38 snub. I go after my steel plate with l58 gr. FMJ expecting better results than the .380.

Well, guess what? It did NOT penetrate any better than the .380. I was quite surprised. Now I can't shoot the revolver worth beans, it hurts my hand, and digs my thumb. But it carries nice and looks just great. But a thug isn't gonna care a whit how cool it looks.

Now, after a couple of days of thinking about it, I'm going back to the .380. In fact, I'm looking realllll hard at a Sig 232.

If the hitting power seems to be the same, shouldn't one carry the gun one shoots the best with?

Your thoughts, please. No .380 bashing, no bragging up nines and .45's, I've looked at all of 'em and I don't care for them.

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Peter M. Eick
July 6, 2004, 08:21 PM
Hey, if you are happy with a 380 over a 38 big deal. What matters is where you hit and how confident you are with the weapon at that time you need it. You can argue 9mm vs 45 vs. 380, but an accurate hit counts in my opinion.

I carry a colt 380 gov sometimes because it is convenient and my risks are small. Lets face it, I am unlikely going to run into a gang of thugs out for a walk in my subdivision. I also carry a 38 sometimes just because it is easier to carry in some clothes.

They key is I am confident with them, I can hit what I want and I shoot them often enough to be consistent.

Your mileage may vary.....

Ex-MA Hole
July 6, 2004, 08:34 PM
...this will open a HUGE can-o-worms, but sometimes I carry my P22 (boo, hiss, etc.)

When I'm out hiking or walking with my Ritalin Child (a.k.a. Border Collie/ Lab/ Sheppard Mix), I usually take the .22, as it fit well in pants and it is light. I have a PPK which is much heavier.

They key is I am confident with them, I can hit what I want

I know, that without a doubt, I can put 11 holes close together in something very quickly. I don't have that level of confidence with the PPK, especially while hiking/ walking and being out of breath. I have 8 shots, and I know that I will probably land 5-6 of them.

I normally carry the PPK cecause of the .380 vs .22 "stopability".

This all said, I'm going to get (or at least planning to get) a 642/442 this week, and solve the problem.

shouldn't one carry the gun one shoots the best with?

Absolutely. Would you rather .45 or a .50 that you are not comfortable with, or a .22 that you can land 11 shots with?

In a "perfect world", we would all have .50's and be able to hit a 2" target 25 yards. That is not realistic for everyone.

M

P.S. In a perfect world, we wouldn't need guns. We would all be at the Playboy mansion...

Dot_mdb
July 6, 2004, 08:39 PM
Couple of things to consider here.

First. The 158gr bullet out of the snubbie was probably only going 700'/sec. The 9mm was going maybe 1100'/sec. Velocity is what gets bullets through steel.

Second. At least some .38 FMJ bullets have a very flat shape. I have a S&B 158gr cartridge sitting in front of me now and the flat portion on the front of that bullet is maybe 1/4" diameter. 9mm have a much pointier shape and will get through steel easier.

Third. BGs aren't usually wearing steel plate.

Fourth. Try the same test using a .357 mag.

Many people consider .380 and .38 special to have about the same effectiveness for defensive use. Both are usually considered marginal but adequate.

I'm surprised your .380 didn't make it through the steel plate. Can you give more info as to bullet weight and manufacturer etc?

Bill

38snapcaps
July 6, 2004, 08:49 PM
The .380 round was either a CCI or a Winchester White Box, both 95 gr.
These are two I shoot the Beresa most with, the CCI is very accurate and seems a little hotter than the WWB. It also likes Remington 88gr. With this caliber I don't believe in hollow points, so I pack it with the most accurate and most penetrating, i.e. FMJ's.

The .38 bullet was a Fiocchi FMJ which felt hotter than the Winchester +P hollow point I have for it.

jc2
July 6, 2004, 08:50 PM
I got to thinking maybe I need heavier hitting power so I buy a S&W .38 snub. I go after my steel plate with l58 gr. FMJ expecting better results than the .380.
Just out of curiosity, was it 158-grain FMJ or W-W (USA Brand) 130-grain FMJ? The 130-grain FMJ (an old mil-spec load) is some of the lamest ammunition availble in any calibre.

BTW, FMJ, whether 130-grain or 158-grain, is not what you should be carrying it a .38 snub for self-defence if you have a choice. You might want to try your experiment again with some of the Speer .38 Special 135-grain +P Gold Dots. It is optimized for snubs (two-inchers)--and besides, I'd like to know how it performs in your "test." If you are really interested in seeing the what the .38 Special CAN do, you might want to try some of Buffalo Bore's 158-grain +P LSWCHP-GC at 1000 fps/351 fpe from a two-inch J-frame. It might change your perspective.

azrael
July 6, 2004, 09:04 PM
Carry what you can shoot the best, that also has 100% reliability...Everything else really is semantics..

I carry a .380 everyday

Felonious Monk
July 6, 2004, 09:17 PM
Anyone know where to find the SAAMI specs on the two calibers?
If so, can you post them?

That, IMO, would say alot, and at least quantify how close they are.

FM

SteelyDan
July 6, 2004, 10:46 PM
Dang! Every time I see a dumpster I feel the familiar packrat's urge to check it out and salvage the cool stuff, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I mean, they're usually in somebody's driveway, I'm usually wearing a suit, and I just don't know what I could possibly say if the owner walked out and asked what I was doing. Still, I'm sorely tempted...

More on point, I don't have a dog in the fight between the .38 snubs and the .380s. Their respective advantages and disadvantages are well known, and in the end there is no obvious winner, it's just a matter of personal choice.

Now, if you could find one in a dumpster...

MICHAEL T
July 7, 2004, 02:11 AM
If your Bersa doing the job why would you want to trade for a sig. I have a PPK/S and my Bersa is every bit as good as my PPK/S at 1/2 the price. The PPK is stainless so it might look a little better but it sure doesn t work any better,and I don t think a Sig will work any better either. I carry one or the other every day and don t feel undergunned. If you can hit were your aiming and pistol works 100% You should be fine. :D

jc2
July 7, 2004, 06:48 AM
The P232 is definitely overrated--at least way, way overpriced for what you get. It will bite your hand (slide bite) just like a PPK, and there is little piece (slide stop) and its spring that tend to fall off and get lost when you fieldstrip/clean it (not a very well thought out design).

Handgunr
July 7, 2004, 09:19 AM
38snapcaps,

In Sierra's data they show a 95gr. FMJ load shot from a PPK. Max listed velocity in the data is 1000fps. @ 211fpe.
Just guessing, but nominally, most .380 loads seem to run around the 900 to 975 fps range, at roughly 185 to 195fpe.

Considering the .38 Spec. in the 2" barrel maybe hits 800 to 900 fps. with the 158gr. bullet, the energy level is only 50 to 100 fpe higher than the .380 load, which apparently wasn't enough from the results that you obtained (considering that both loads were FMJ).

All in all, I agree with the others in carrying what you feel comfortable with. I carried a PPK/S years ago during drug operations, and although it wasn't my first choice, it allowed a great level of concealment, and in close encounters it does the job.

Bob

WT
July 7, 2004, 10:15 AM
We had a local LEO use his .380 PPK to stop a double murderer. One shot to the head. End of story. BG's birth certificate cancelled.

Use what is absolutely reliable and what you can handle well. Hits count and good hits count more.

MrAcheson
July 7, 2004, 11:35 AM
I would stick with the Bersa if you still have it. I shot a 232 at my range this weekend. Nice trigger and accurate, but the tang is too short and one corner of the slide was rubbing the web of my thumb. Luckily I have skinny hands and the 232 has rounded edges so it wasn't too bad, but still turned me off a bit. My brother has meatier hands and it rubbed his raw after only a magazine. The take down lever was also a bit loose which I find disconcerting.

In the end I decided that I like the blowback 380 concept, but I didn't like the 232 so after some reading the Bersa is on my to-buy list.

CherokeeScot
September 1, 2011, 09:48 PM
THERE IS NO COMPARISON.....
The new kid on the block for CC or Deep CC is without a doubt the world's leader in stopping power.
I own the 32 NAA. Totally dependable. About a 2" bbl. Fits your hand and your pocket.
If there was a CC you could carry with ammo from the hard stuff to hollow point, whose velocity was GREATER THAN 1,200 FPS, why would you even consider anything else.
It will become the CC weapon of choice worldwide, that is unless someone else comes up with something better.
For those of you who arent familiar with this little monster, it is a 38 brass necked down to a 32 with velocity and stopping power of a freakin missile. Ammo and weapon system built together from the ground up.
I like the clip with the finger stop but a smooth clip is also available.

Snowdog
September 2, 2011, 12:42 AM
THERE IS NO COMPARISON.....
The new kid on the block for CC or Deep CC is without a doubt the world's leader in stopping power.
I own the 32 NAA. Totally dependable. About a 2" bbl. Fits your hand and your pocket.
If there was a CC you could carry with ammo from the hard stuff to hollow point, whose velocity was GREATER THAN 1,200 FPS, why would you even consider anything else.
It will become the CC weapon of choice worldwide, that is unless someone else comes up with something better.

If the "new kid on the block" you're speaking of is the .32NAA, I beg to differ. If it hasn't made any impact on the market in nearly 10 years, I simply don't think it will.

EDIT: I cannot believe I responded to a 7-year-old post. Thread necromancy, CherokeeScot... for shame!

ArchAngelCD
September 2, 2011, 02:33 AM
I find it hard to believe a FMJ .38 Special didn't penetrate a thin sheet of metal like that. I've seen tests where the FBI Load penetrated that thin a sheet and they fire a lead projectile.

stillkickin
September 2, 2011, 02:56 AM
only hits count. If you hit with it and it you have satisfied yourself that the weapon is reliable (works EVERY time) you are well enough armed for general threat level. if I knew I was going to get into a gun fight I would not choose a 380, but then again I would not choose to get into a gunfight. my experience with the actual use of firearms has shown me that the first duisabling hit usually wins the fight. a 380 is certainly capable of doing the job if you are.

Pyro
September 2, 2011, 05:53 AM
Why 38 Special of course!
I mean...aren't revolvers just better than auto's? :neener:
Just to kid, don't want to start a war here.
Wasn't Taurus making a .380 auto revolver some time ago?

I like 38 Special for it's heavier grain.

Lawdawg45
September 2, 2011, 06:40 AM
I can see how you would be more accurate with the Bersa, it's a combination of the weak round in a weapon that's as heavy as a boat anchor. Was your S&W one of the new Polymer frames? I'll say carry what you're deadly with, but with practice you could be just as deadly with the more powerful .38 +p ;)

LD45

SharpsDressedMan
September 2, 2011, 01:30 PM
Let's change the comparison just a little. Let's make the gun a Makarov. The slightly bigger bullet (.365) and slightly more powerful load ovet the .380 let the 9mm Makarov give the .38 Special a run for the money in similar sized guns (2-2.5" barreled revolvers). Now add 50% more ammo available (9rds vs. 5-6rds) and the Makarov starts to look like a very practical alternative to the .38 Special. And some of the complaints against some more expensive .380 autos, like the Walther or Sig (cost, parts falling off,slide bite, etc), make the Makarov look even better.

Pict
September 2, 2011, 07:30 PM
Let's change the comparison just a little. Let's make the gun a Makarov. The slightly bigger bullet (.365) and slightly more powerful load ovet the .380 let the 9mm Makarov give the .38 Special a run for the money in similar sized guns (2-2.5" barreled revolvers). Now add 50% more ammo available (9rds vs. 5-6rds) and the Makarov starts to look like a very practical alternative to the .38 Special. And some of the complaints against some more expensive .380 autos, like the Walther or Sig (cost, parts falling off,slide bite, etc), make the Makarov look even better.
I like the way you think.

antiquus
September 2, 2011, 08:53 PM
Me too, I like Maks, sold my PA-63 to a good friend for a carry piece, he's delighted, kept the CZ-82 and spent the money on an unissued P-1. The CZ-82 is my nightstand piece. I'm looking around for a P-64 or a PMM but mak bargains are becoming rare.

However, my carry piece atm is a .38, unless concealment is more important then it's my LCP. I rarely carry a 9mm or .357, I don't have a small version of either and I never feel unprepared with a .38 or .380. My .38 is loaded with +P BB heavy or Hornaday Critical Defense, the .380 is loaded with FMJ. The wife's LCR is loaded with Federal Hydra-Shok standard load. That pretty well says what I think about these loads.

klmspider
September 2, 2011, 10:04 PM
Our originator said it all- he's accurate and comfortable with the 380, and not the 38 special.
Most people can make a case for there being more power in your best 38 special loads. Good grief, look at the case size! It had better offer something for taking up all that room, yet, most of that size is wasted with the low pressures of 38's.
We won't get into 357- the are really mean in a small size, and always add some weight to the package, to take those pressures.
I feel Bersa's can be bettered, but they are about the best value there is.
I carry the S & W 380 bodyguard. Love it. Almost as small as my Kel-tec P32, but much easier to hit a specific point with the sights and laser.
My areas of concern are conceal ability, reliability, accuracy, and power, in that order.
1.) what good is a gun if you leave it (comfort, weight & size) home or in the car?
2.) what good is a gun you can't hit anything with it?
3.) reliability- works with sweat and some dirt or lint, also
4.) power- more energy is better, as long as you meet the above criteria

Kliegl
September 2, 2011, 10:20 PM
I guess we're running with the thread despite an obvious ad post by a four post wonder resurrecting a 7 year old thread, but anyway.

38 special has a big case that can be loaded hotter to +p. There is no reason to have a 38 special that can't handle that. Actually, the answer to .380 or 38 Special is .357 Magnum, which, for pistol rounds, the 125 grain hollowpoint IS the "world's leader in stopping power" at least by Ayoob's data.

Maple_City_Woodsman
September 2, 2011, 10:22 PM
For all the Cartridge Vs. Cartridge BS, you have to do what you are comfortable with.

The Sig P232 is an amazing gun. Probably the best single stack 380 ever, though the original Walther 'PP' would give it a hard run for its money.

"Large" 380 Vs. 38 snubby, per BBTI:
*****
cart - 380acp / 38spl
barrel - 3.6" / 2"
Bullet - 85gr / 135
Velcty - 920 / 920
enrgy - 160lb / 250lb

Both of those figure sets are for Speer 'Gold Dot' hollow points. The 38 clearly makes more power thanks to its much heavier bullet ... but when run the figures again with 'hot' ammunition for both pistols, you see a dramatic reversal. The 38 snubby just doesn't have the barrel length to take advantage of the extra powder, and the velocity suffers dramatically in comparison.

In fact, even with a slightly heavier bullet, the 38 looses the power game when stoked with hot ammo. According to the 'real weapon' velocities from BBTI, it would take a revolver with a 4" barrel just to match the energy figures produced from weapons like the Bersa Thunder or the Walther PPK.

Basically, it's a trade off. The two platforms are close enough in overall performance that the one which prevails depends on what ammunition is being used in the gun.

I would keep both platforms, because they are both great platforms. The only think I would do in your shoes OP, it trade the Bersa in towards a Sig 232 - the Bersa is a good gun, but the Sig is a better version of the same thing.

No matter how you slice it, having a S&W snubby AND a Sig compact pistol is a very good think :D

Maple_City_Woodsman
September 2, 2011, 10:35 PM
HARDLY! The sub-compact pistols are lucky to make 800fps with standard 230gr loads. Even with defensive ammunition the can barely get there.

THAT MEANS THAT THE MIGHTY 45 IS MAKING LESS THAN 300 FOOT POUNDS FROM A COMPACT BARREL IN MANY LOADINGS.

Compare to +P 380 that can make 250 foot pounds from a real world gun, and the difference is certainly nothing like double the power - more like +14%. :rolleyes:

I know this is the internet, but shall we stop reading info off of the cartridge box, and start using data that at least approximates reality?

Kliegl
September 2, 2011, 10:37 PM
Also, why is a 3.6 inch barreled .380 being compared against a 2 inch 38 and not a 3 or 4 inch?

Maple_City_Woodsman
September 2, 2011, 10:40 PM
A) I DID compare a 4" 38 to the 380 above - and the 380 can still equal it in some situations.

B) Because the OP is talking about comparing a 3.6" 380 and a 2" 38spl :rolleyes:

Why are people not reading the thread before they post?

ArchAngelCD
September 3, 2011, 01:59 AM
If you are going to talk numbers only:::
Using Remington numbers for both, not the designer stuff. It's all shot from a 4" barrel according to Remington.

Remington Home Defense:
.380 Auto 102gr bullet, MV 940 fps, ME 200 ft/lbs
.38 Special +P 125gr bullet, MV 975 fps, ME 264 ft/lbs

Remington Golden Saber:
.380 Auto 102gr bullet, MV 940 fps, ME 200 ft/lbs
.38 Special +P 125gr bullet, MV 975 fps, ME 264 ft/lbs

Remington Express:
.380 Auto 88gr bullet, MV 990 fps, ME 191 ft/lbs
.380 Auto 95gr bullet, MV 955 fps, ME 190 ft/lbs
.38 Special 110gr bullet, MV 995 fps, ME 242 ft/lbs
.38 Special 125gr bullet, MV 945 fps, ME 248 ft/lbs
.38 Special +P 158gr bullet, MV 890 fps, ME 278 ft/lbs

If you are going only by numbers the .38 Special wins hands down for energy produced. I've always been a fan of heavier bullets because they usually do a better job than lighter ones. When carrying a .38 Special I like a 158gr bullet over a 110gr or 125gr bullet. I do however like the short barrel 135gr GDHP load from Speer in a J frame.

Kliegl
September 3, 2011, 01:48 PM
Maple City, I read the thread, I always do, but I am still entitled to question bad decisions/data.

wnycollector
September 3, 2011, 08:10 PM
Also, why is a 3.6 inch barreled .380 being compared against a 2 inch 38 and not a 3 or 4 inch?

I think because a J frame and a P232 are very similar in length, width and height. When I compared to my aluminum Beretta 84 to my steel S&W M36 I was shocked how close in size and loaded weight both guns were. I really like the 13+1 .380 vs my 5 shot J frame.

SharpsDressedMan
September 3, 2011, 10:19 PM
Frankly, Scarlet, I don't care WHEN a post was started, or who resurrects it, as long as it's still interesting and pertinent. Why does it matter how old it is, as long as the guns in question have not become obsolete?

DBR
September 4, 2011, 01:01 AM
RE the barrel lengths:
The barrel length of a semi auto includes the chamber. The barrel length of a revolver DOES NOT include the cylinder.

A J frame with a 1 7/8" barrel measured the same as a 380 auto would have approx a 3 3/8" barrel.

The 380 was designed for a 4" barrel (as measured for a semi auto) the 38spl was originally designed for about a 6" barrel (as measured for revolvers). The 380 is at least within its design parameters in small guns. The 38spl is not.

This does not mean the 38spl won't work out of short barreled guns. It just means it is not very efficient.

If a heavy bullet is desired then the 38spl is first choice. If best size vs performance is the choice then the 380 has the edge IMO.

ADDED: the velocity and energy figures posted by ArchAngelCD for the 38spl are not from comparable barrel lengths. Remember they are not measured the same way. Take about 100fps off his figures and recalculate the differences. With respect to energy levels they are trivial.

I agree that in short barrels heavier bullets tend to lose less than lighter bullets if only because they have less powder to burn.

Kliegl
September 4, 2011, 01:12 AM
I would call baloney on counting a chamber for one and not the other. Physics doesn't work that way.

DBR
September 4, 2011, 01:19 AM
I am only stating what is. Yes, a revolver has a vented barrel but the venting doesn't change the fact that measured from the breach face you have to include the cylinder length to get comparable barrel lengths between revolver and semi auto.

valnar
September 4, 2011, 10:04 AM
Everybody modern .38sp revolver can handle +P loads. I wouldn't even use a standard .38sp cartridge for self-defense. That should make the disparity even greater.

1911Tuner
September 4, 2011, 11:02 AM
Although long considered to be a pipsqueak barely suitable for killing rats, the .380 ACP isn't a joke, and perfectly capable of ruining your entire day, as is the old standard .38 Special RNL offering. The .38 standard pressure 158 SWC ramps it up a bit, but it may be hard to find.

Due to the lack of bullet mass, penetration is compromised, and the .380 is probably at its best with FMJ ammunition. Energy figures don't mean much if the bullet stops in fat and muscle.

Comparing it to the .38 Special is a little unfair. Advantage goes to the .38 on penetration alone because it can be loaded with much heavier bullets than the .380 cartridge.

Like the ever-popular snub-nosed .38 revolver, the small .380 Auto isn't a sidearm that one would take to a gunfight, but it was never meant to be. As a personal, last-ditch life-saving tool, it has a lot to offer...but it's not a "combat" weapon and it's not a target pistol. Its venue is for one of those frantic "Up to your Kiester in Komodos" moments at breath-sniffin' distances...and in that role, it'll do.

savit260
September 4, 2011, 11:57 AM
I would call baloney on counting a chamber for one and not the other. Physics doesn't work that way.
Call baloney all you like, but that's exactly how the manufacturers measure barrel length.

On a revolver it's measured from the forcing cone to the muzzle, and on a auto loader it's from the back of the chamber to the muzzle.

A 3 1/2" barrel auto loader is in the same size class as a 2" snub.

I'd be willing to bet that a 95 gr bullet loaded in a 2" snub would post very similar results as a factory 95gr .380 load out of a 3 1/2" barrel.

Kliegl
September 4, 2011, 02:05 PM
I don't particularly care how a gun manufacturer measures a barrel. It is what it is.

The only data I would care about is how gun X, with a barrel however you want to measure it, stacks up against gun Y, when cartridges of known powder and bullet grain are shot through it and chronographed. There's data that matters, and there's data that doesn't.

BSA1
September 7, 2011, 10:31 AM
Being a C&R holder my pocket caliber is 9 X 18 as I get good deals on surplus guns. My current line of thought places penetration over expansion so I load them with FMJ. Plus the better feeding relibility of ball ammo. When winter coming heavy outerwear will be common in my area.

Like other posters if your Bersa works 100% why trade it?

antiquus
September 7, 2011, 12:18 PM
BBTI measures and publishes all barrel length data the same way - measured from the back of the chamber. So for a .38 2" snubbie, read BBTI's data for a 3" barrel.

Maple_City_Woodsman
September 7, 2011, 07:42 PM
Maple City, I read the thread, I always do, but I am still entitled to question bad decisions/data.

Yes you are ... and that may have been what you intended to type, but what you actually did type sure looks to be a question which flies in the face of this threads premise. In a typed medium like this, I think you can understand how I reached my conclusion. To make matters worse, drive by posting is a huge problem on internet forums in general. Sorry for the miscommunication.

If you want to talk about bad data, lets pick on ArchAngel in post #30 - comparing only +P 38s to standard pressure 380s. That is classic apples to oranges, and it confuses a lot of people who read these threads expecting good information.

I'm not trying to defame AA's character, I'm sure hes a great guy... but that comparison is just not a valid one. When you compare 38+P to 380+P in the same barrel length, again you see equivalent numbers.


BBTI measures and publishes all barrel length data the same way - measured from the back of the chamber. So for a .38 2" snubbie, read BBTI's data for a 3" barrel.

Not entirely true. BBTI also lists numbers from real weapons. That is the data I have been using to make my comparisons.

Buffalo Bore lists their 380+P 100gr @ 1,160 from a real weapon with a 3.75" tube, not a 4" test barrel. That is closely in line with 38spl +P numbers, and actually exceeds the energy of the 125gr 38 load.

I'm not making the claim that 380 is better. I am making the claim that 380acp and 38spl are functionally equivalent when ammunition of like kind are used. There is a lot of evidence to support that, and it is already present in this thread.

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