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.380 vs .38 Special

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by 38snapcaps, Jul 6, 2004.

  1. 38snapcaps

    38snapcaps Well-Known Member

    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.
  2. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Well-Known Member

    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.....
  3. Ex-MA Hole

    Ex-MA Hole Well-Known Member

    I agree...

    ...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.

    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.

    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.


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

    Dot_mdb Well-Known Member

    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?

  5. 38snapcaps

    38snapcaps Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. jc2

    jc2 member

    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.
  7. azrael

    azrael Well-Known Member

    Carry what you can shoot the best, that also has 100% reliability...Everything else really is semantics..

    I carry a .380 everyday
  8. Felonious Monk

    Felonious Monk Well-Known Member

    Hey Sammy?

    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.

  9. SteelyDan

    SteelyDan Well-Known Member

    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 Well-Known Member

    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
  11. jc2

    jc2 member

    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).
  12. Handgunr

    Handgunr Well-Known Member


    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.

  13. WT

    WT Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. MrAcheson

    MrAcheson Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2004
  15. CherokeeScot

    CherokeeScot Member

    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.
  16. Snowdog

    Snowdog Well-Known Member

    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!
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2011
  17. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. stillkickin

    stillkickin Active Member

    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.
  19. Pyro

    Pyro Well-Known Member

    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.
  20. Lawdawg45

    Lawdawg45 Well-Known Member

    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 ;)


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