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Does the .380 really have enough stopping power?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by SniperStraz, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. SniperStraz

    SniperStraz Active Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    I'm sure this question has been brought up many times, but I can't seem to find any answers that are very straight forward so here we go... I'm thinking about getting a .380 ACP in the form of something like a Kel-Tec P3AT. At that size and weight its like a CC dream come true, but I'm not so confident about the stopping power. What do you guys think? Does it have sufficient power to quickly drop a man?
  2. tanksoldier

    tanksoldier Member

    Sep 3, 2005
    There are trade-offs:

    .380 is better than nothing, and is/ was used along with similar small calibers as a police round in Europe.

    There are many small firearms designed for this round, but many of the modern 9mm's are just as small and pack more punch.

    Many of the small .380 designs are much less expensive than equivelent-sized 9mm designs.

    The general consensus seems to me to be that .380 is acceptable especially if it means that you'll be able to carry more often or at all.

    There seem to be some very good SD rounds in this caliber that have come out lately that make it much more effective than it was just a few years ago.

    I don't own any .380's myself, but Bersa has come out with a new design in which I'm very interested:


    Thunder 380 Concealed Carry
  3. RyanM

    RyanM Senior Member

    Jan 4, 2005
    You'd probably be better off with a P11. 9mm is a huge step up from .380. .380 is okay for a backup, but for primary carry, .38 SPL +P and up is better.
  4. No_Brakes23

    No_Brakes23 Participating Member

    Mar 19, 2005
    Everett, WA Recently escaped from San Diego, PRK
    Well people have been felled with less, and I certainly wouldn't want to be shot with one. But it wouldn't be my first choice as a defensive caliber. Certainly better than nothing, but they sure look tiny sitting next to .45ACP.
  5. FireArmFan

    FireArmFan Member

    Oct 25, 2006
    Twin Cities, Minnesota
    A good alternative you might want to look in to is the Kahr PM9. It's a 9mm so it's a pretty big upgrade from the .380 but it's also very small. would make a good pocket pistol. I have never shot one but if i was in the market for a small pocket pistol that's probably what i would look into. Plus since it's a 9mm you could still practice for cheap.
  6. 19Turkeys

    19Turkeys New Member

    Dec 5, 2006
    SW Oregon
    My wife & I were on a vacation this summer and the required attire made it rather difficult to take my Para C6.45. I stuck the Kel-Tec P3AT in my back pocket behind a handkerchief. The handkerchief was sufficient to hide the print of the pistol.

    While I would have rather had the Para, the P3AT was better than nothing. There are times when having a pistol is better than having nothing, and the Kel-Tec fills that gap nicely.

    For the money, the pistol is very accurate at its intended distance and I have yet to experience a failure to feed/fire. Federal's Low Recoil Personal Defense ammunition takes a lot of the bite out of this pistol.

    Steve W.
  7. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

    Oct 10, 2006
    North Idaho
    .380 Ballistics

    It is my understanding that the energy and ballistics of the .380 are approximately those of the .38 special.

    If that is in fact true, then the punch from a .380 would be very similar to the punch from a J-frame .38 snubby.

    Naturally, I've mislaid the chart that helped me draw that conclusion.

    If it's true that punch(.38) ~= punch(.380), then I'd say .380 will certainly put the bad guy down.

    Trouble is, it may not put him down fast enough.

    Shot placement would probably handle that.
  8. kd7nqb

    kd7nqb Senior Member

    May 1, 2006
    Puyallup Washington
    My father carries his .380 astra as just about the only gun he will carry. He likes his .357 and MY .40 better by the .380 is more comfortable and the only way he will "put up" with carrying.
  9. Waywatcher

    Waywatcher Participating Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    If you really stop to think about it, does even .308 have "enough" stopping power?

    I would feel adequately armed carrying a .380
  10. jrfoxx

    jrfoxx Senior Member

    Sep 23, 2004
    As others have stated, a .380 is not my PERSONAL first choice as a carry gun, but, there are many people whose wardrobes/style of dress are dictated by thier jobs, and may not allow a larger gun to be carried.I that instance, a gun you can (and will) carry all the time, is better than one you carry only part of the time.Also, even though I said .380 is not MY FIRST choice, I personally would NOT feel that it cant do the job if needed and I am undergunned.I personally think it would be of sufficiant power/penetration. Its just that my wardrobe (and the laws of Oregon) allow me to carry my 1911 .45acp whenever I want to, and that is what I prefer, as I shoot that gun the best consistantly, and it has proven itself 100% reliable for me, and I PERSONALLY feel that .45acp Gold Dot HPs are the BEST choice, so...
    The only time I dont carry the 1911 is when I am going somewhere that I want to be SURE my gun stays WELL concealed, or when I need to carry a lighter gun than the 1911 (ie:wearing shorts or sweats, the 1911 will pull my pants down as there is no belt and it doesnt fit in my pocket), so the I carry my S&W m637 Airweight .38spl.
  11. CWL

    CWL Mentor

    Jan 6, 2003
    The answer is "no" because no pistol ammo has "sufficient power to quickly drop a man".

    You must move into rifle & shotgun loads if you want to cause enough damage. Because of this all pistol calibers are a compromise for self-defense, and it is up to you to decide how much you want to balance between caliber, quantity of bullets and size/weight of pistol for a carry piece.

    Since no pistol round is reliable, you must be able to 1) shoot accurately and 2) repeat until target is no longer a threat.
  12. iiibdsiil

    iiibdsiil Active Member

    Sep 20, 2004
    910 / 813 / 561
    A .380 isn't enough. 9mm isn't enough. .40 isn't enough. 10 mm isn't enough. .50 isn't enough. Only a .45 is enough. :rolleyes:

    I think if you do the math on your chances of actually using the thing, and the chances of caliber making a difference, everyone would quit worrying about the caliber war. And let's see how many people jump in and flame me on that one. I bet if the math were done, you'd have a MUCH better chance of winning the lotto. So, my advice, buy a cheap .380, and spend the rest of the money on the lotto.

    HGUNHNTR Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Carry the largest caliber weapon you shoot well, and can conceal. Some people don't like the recoil of even a 9mm, in that case shoot a 380.
    With the proper ammo the 380 will be more of a benefit than a hindrance.
  14. Nortonics

    Nortonics Member

    Mar 8, 2005
    One argument I've made for the .380, like the Bersa above, is that gun is so controllable and accurate it's not a matter of whether a 1-shot stop will happen, because you'll easily be able to drop half of your magazine (if not all) into your target at 15 feet within a second or two. I'd definitely say 5+ rounds of .380 will stop a nominal sized man.
  15. Ryder

    Ryder Senior Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    I like experimenting with guns but I wouldn't deer hunt with a 380 auto. You can put a 12ga slug clean through a deer and they'll still run a good ways, there is no real practical hope of stopping a deer with a 380. I have shot rabbits with one though and those will get an instant stop when hit.

    The average person is significantly larger than a deer. I've seen some gargantuan people walking around. They make the 45acp on my belt feel like a pellet gun. :what: Shooting someone like that with a 380 is just going to make them mad IMO.
  16. 1911Tuner

    1911Tuner Moderator Emeritus

    May 22, 2003
    Lexington,North Carolina...or thereabouts

    No. Then again, neither does the .44 magnum.;)
  17. mete

    mete Senior Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    If you test the various cartridges on live things like 'chucks ,as I have , you will find a distinct difference .I would say that the 9mm is about twice as effective as the 380.Shooting chucks, dogs and even squirrels with the 380 leaves me completely unimpressed !!! It's not without reason that I carry a 40 or 45 !
  18. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

    Dec 24, 2002
    Forestburg, Texas
    General rule: The smaller and/or weaker the caliber (also as delivered from a given platform), the better the shot placement needs to be in order to attain a physical stop.

    Sure, you might have less recoil from a 380 than from a similar size and weight 9mm or larger caliber and hence have the potential to make more shots quicker, but that logic would suggest the ideal caliber would be more of a 22 short than a 380. Besides, what makes you think you will get off more than one shot? What makes you think you will be able to contine shooting well and putting a half or whole mag into a bad guy while he is still shooting you? It is going to be hard to count on dumping a whole mag into a target to effect a physical stop when there are 2 or more bad guys and you have to keep reloading.

    Since the issue is 380, ask yorself if you would rather go up against it or something larger and/or more powerful. You would rather go against the 380, obviously. So get something larger and/or more powerful. With a bit of practice, you will control it jusy fine.
  19. Erich

    Erich Participating Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Every handgun caliber requires precise shot-placement to stop someone - at least in the 150+ handgun killings that I've worked on. Several of those were .380 killings. FMJ .380s work fine when they're placed right - when they're not (just as with a .45), they don't.

    Study Gray's Anatomy, kids. :)
  20. Michael Courtney

    Michael Courtney Active Member

    Apr 20, 2005
    New York
    I'm not a big fan of the .380. It is certainly better than nothing, but I would advise that it's niche be limited to situations where a good citizen honestly cannot find away to dress around a more powerful pistol or where ergonomic considerations honestly so strongly favor a particular .380 in a given citizen's hands that shot placement is much better with the .380 than with more powerful pistols. This really is pretty rare. There are possible exceptions, but I've never seen anyone shoot well with a .380 smaller than a Sig P232.

    Michael Courtney

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