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.380 good enough or 9mm not enough?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by slabuda, Apr 27, 2010.

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  1. slabuda

    slabuda Member

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    Ok this is not meant to be a caliber war, knocking either caliber etc so keep that out of here please.

    My question why is the .380 is considered too weak and the 9mm ok for self defense.

    I can see the ballistics of the two. 9mm is usually 15-25gr heavier and also faster than .380.

    But looking at the cases, 9mm is "maybe" a .5mm wider and not much longer than a .380.

    I cant see it holding "that" much more powder to push a heavier bullet that much faster. Is it the type of powder used? Or is it something else I am missing?

    Maybe this could be better answered in the reloading section, but I am speaking of factory ammo. But I thought more in here may know the answer.

    Thanks...I was just curious
     
  2. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    .380 is loaded to almost 20000 psi. 9mm is loaded from about 35000 to almost 40000 psi. So you have a little more volume loaded to twice the pressure, and a heavier bullet on top of all that.
     
  3. RevolvingGarbage

    RevolvingGarbage Member

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    Case volume hasn't had much to do with the power of a round since the days of blackpowder. Take .38 special, for example. It uses a 29mm long case, 10mm longer than 9x19mm, though when using similar weight bullets, the 9mm has as much as 350 more FPS of velocity. 9x19mm operates at a much higher chamber pressure than a .380 auto, and is much more efficient.

    You could make a .380 match 9mm ballistics, but it would be way over the established levels of pressure and blow up or at least batter to death within a few shots any .380 pistol you fired it from.
     
  4. slabuda

    slabuda Member

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    Yes but why the pressure increase? IS the .380 loaded to half capacity and the 9mm full up?. Is the powder a different burn rate?

    I am talking the technical aspects here.
     
  5. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    The difference is 1/1000th of an inch in diameter.

    The long and short of it is, you want good penetration from a defensive round. Heavier bullets and greater velocity mean more penetration, and more cm3 of tissue damage, and greater likelihood that you will hit something critical and end the fight.

    Both 9mm and .380 have been improved a lot over the last 20 years, to the point where SOME say that the higher end defensive loads for .380 overlap into the 9mm effectiveness scale.

    One thing that limits the .380 is that all (that I can think of) of the guns chambered in .380 are compact or sub-compact. This means lower velocity and less penetrating power. Bottom line, no matter what you do to a .380 to make it better, you can do the same thing to a 9mm and make it better still. Handguns are fundamentally inadequate for self-defense at all, you should give yourself all possible advantages.

    What the heck do I care? I carry a .45.
     
  6. lysol

    lysol Member

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    but i'm pretty sure you wear looser clothes than i do. i like to wear small shirts and will be able to hide an LCP nicely in my attire. I am fully aware that my bullets might not put a hole in someone that will make their intestines fall out through but I do know that anyone looking at the danger end of a pistol instinctively knows that that chunk of metal will hurt when it enters their body. lol. a .45 would be nice to carry though.... hmmm..... i would feel a lot better if confronted with a scenario like that. lol.

    i just learned a lot about the pressure. i didn't know that the .380 and 9 were so simmilar except the pressure of the powder. Are you guys saying that the size of the pistol and barrel are limiting raising the pressure of the .380? like the gun would break? I just wish they could manufacture and LCP in 9mm. lol.
     
  7. wanderinwalker

    wanderinwalker Member

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    Well, they are both technically loaded to full-capacity.

    The difference is, the 9mm is used primarily in locked-breech semi-autos and was created as a high-intensity cartridge around bullets of the 115-125gr range. The .380 was designed as a low-pressure cartridge around bullets in the 90-100gr range.

    Both cases can use the same powders, but 9x19mm can use slower powders, more of them and at higher pressures.

    Think about .38 Special versus .357 Magnum. There isn't THAT much physical capacity difference, but the .357 runs at twice the chamber pressure of the .38, creating far more velocity for any given bullet weight. It's not because the .38 is only loaded to "half capacity" but because the pressure standard of the cartridge is only so high. You wouldn't want to stuff a .357-pressure round into an old S&W 1905 any more than you'd be happy putting a 9x19mm pressure round into an old pre-war Walther PPK.
     
  8. uwspmgc

    uwspmgc Member

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    i wouldn't say .380 is too weak, but it's definitely the least caliber pistol suitable for personal defense. many law enforcement officers use it as a back-up, undercover or off duty caliber. the .380 shares basic rim and head dimensions with the 9x19mm luger cartridge. basicallly, the .380 is a 9mm luger with a 17mm case length and reduced volume. for this reason, the power of the .380 is volume-limited. to compensate, lighter weight 90 grain bullets must be used rathar than the 115 and 124 grain bullets of the 9mm luger(ammo encyclopedia).
    _______
    when guns are outlawed, then i will become an outlaw
     
  9. zxcvbob

    zxcvbob Member

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    No you don't. I have a P3AT (the LCP is a copy of the P3AT with some very minor improvements.) .380 is painful to shoot out of an 8 ounce pistol. You wouldn't be able to hold onto a 9mm from a gun that light. (well, maybe you could, but I couldn't) Now, a 40-something ounce revolver shooting 250 grain bullets at 1000 ft·lbs of energy; that's totally different and is fun. But there's no way you can conceal it. (well, maybe you can... ;))
     
  10. lysol

    lysol Member

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    Yea, you are right. I want to go try out the pm-9 and pm-40 just to see... just a little bigger than the lcp. I'm not going to lie, the pm-40 is appealing to me because I have an M&P .40 full size and keeping the same caliber family would make so much more sense.

    But you are probably right... they would have it out by now if they could make it and it be practical... wonder where guns/pistols will be at 20 years from now...
     
  11. Manco

    Manco Member

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    Various powders can be used in either, and some are denser in energy content than others. With some powders, basically you cannot fill up all the space inside the case or else you'd exceed the maximum allowable pressure (the pressure that the case and firearms chambered in each caliber can withstand). So hypothetically, if you used the same powder in both and the 9mm load can take a fully packed case operating at maximum pressure, then the .380 case, being not all that much smaller and holding a shorter bullet, as well, cannot be completely filled or else obviously it would be more than it and the gun can handle. This might sound kind of sad, but it's true, I think.

    This is an oversimplification, but I hope that it addresses the crux of your question without being overly technical or confusing.
     
  12. m2steven

    m2steven Member

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    I just finished shooting a box of Buffalo Bore 380 thru my Sig P238 and I can say that I am now perfectly comfortable with the 380 as a defensive cartridge. That stuff will kill you :)
     
  13. rbohm

    rbohm Member

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    the .380 is also known as the 9mm kurtz or 9mm short. it is a 9mm round in a 17mm long case. the 9mmx19mm or 9mm parabelum was developed for the german army and is a decent round for self defense also. the kel tec pf9 or p11 is probably the smallest pistol to use a full size 9mm round and still be a decent pistol to handle.
     
  14. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    The .38 vs .357 isn't quite a good analogy as the .357 makes use of less dense powders that burn slower which, in addition to the higher working pressure, gives it it's power and also makes it a better load out of longer barrels. It's not nearly THAT much better loaded with a fast .38 powder like, say Bullseye. .380 and 9x19 burn the same relative burn rate powders. The 9 is just higher pressure.

    You could split the difference and get a 9x18 Makarov, about the hottest round designed for blow back guns that's readily available (9mm Ultra isn't). I have a .380, a little 9x18 Radom P64, and a couple of 9x19s. I've been carrying the little P64 a lot lately, very accurate and very reliable little gun and just neat as hell. I kinda like the DA action, too, very PPKish gun. The caliber is closer to .380 than it is to 9x19, but I can put 'em where it counts. :D
     
  15. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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  16. Old Shooter
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    Old Shooter Member

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    Well, they are both technically loaded to full-capacity.

    The difference is, the 9mm is used primarily in locked-breech semi-autos and was created as a high-intensity cartridge around bullets of the 115-125gr range. The .380 was designed as a low-pressure cartridge around bullets in the 90-100gr range.

    Both cases can use the same powders, but 9x19mm can use slower powders, more of them and at higher pressures.

    Think about .38 Special versus .357 Magnum. There isn't THAT much physical capacity difference, but the .357 runs at twice the chamber pressure of the .38, creating far more velocity for any given bullet weight. It's not because the .38 is only loaded to "half capacity" but because the pressure standard of the cartridge is only so high. You wouldn't want to stuff a .357-pressure round into an old S&W 1905 any more than you'd be happy putting a 9x19mm pressure round into an old pre-war Walther PPK.
    locked breech 9mm vs blowbck .380 is a BIG difference.
     
  17. slabuda

    slabuda Member

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    Ok I sort of get it now. I have the LCP and no its not ideal. If I had my choice and didnt mind sweating my but off in the summer Id carry it all year 'round. Truth is Im in a very low threat area as far as crime. So even though its not the best its good enough vs the comfort I want.

    I see now how/why they load it to such a lower pressure. Yea shooting 9mm in an LCP, forget that Id rather shoot a .44 mag all day long!!! This little thing is a pocket rocket. Its the size of an old .22/.25 auto but shooting a much better round for SD.

    Like I said I was just curious why such the difference in power in such similar sized cartridges. If they could make it hold together though Im sure some people would by a LCP 9mm. I sure wouldnt want to shoot it however.
     
  18. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    To further confuse you, the LCP is a locked breach gun. :D The slide is very light and locked breach allows it to be.
     
  19. Manco

    Manco Member

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    It's an effective defensive caliber against humans, comparable in some respects to the .38 Special. In comparison to 9mm (not trying to start a caliber war here, but some comparison is inevitable), it doesn't have quite enough energy and momentum to get both good penetration and wide expansion at the same time, but with the right loads and shot placement it can be nearly as lethal. A big advantage, of course, is that .380 ACP can work in more compact pistols, which are great for deep concealment and as backup guns, although it's good enough to be a regular service caliber, which it was (and still is?) in Europe.

    9x18 Makarov is MUCH closer to .380 ACP than it is to 9mm. With simple blowback designs, you can't use a caliber much hotter than that without significantly increasing the size and weight of the gun. This quickly gets to the point where larger and more complex operating systems are needed to keep guns as compact as possible, which is the case with 9mm. The Hi-Point C-9 is a good example of what happens when simple blowback is used with a caliber that has the energy and momentum of 9mm--an oversized slide for a pocket gun.
     
  20. searcher451

    searcher451 Member

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  21. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    380 ammo is critical for stopping power...

    Most gun writers and testers do not like the 380 as a primary carry gun because the bullet does not have enough cross-sectional density for proper penetration and expansion. However, there are new bullets and ammo that have been on the market in recently that have negated some of that thinking. Including the Buffalo bore bullets and the Corbon cartridges. I guess one could include the Magsafe as well since it performed quite well in the French alpine goat tests. I carry a 38 special snubby with +P ammo or a 9mm, but would feel safe with a 380 as a backup with the Corbon 90gr load.
     
  22. gofastman

    gofastman Member

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    ^ I didnt know Buffalo Bore made their own bullets.
     
  23. Mad Magyar

    Mad Magyar Member

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    I think this guy would say, "It depends on the shot!" A .380 is quite sufficient....:)
    [​IMG]
     
  24. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

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    If you want a standard sized carry gun, then get a 9mm or something heavier. If you want a very small concealable handgun, then there's nothing wrong with a .380.

    I do not believe there is any advantage whatsoever in buying one of the very small 9mms. The velocity loss out of a short barrel is going to be dramatic, and worse (because most defensive shootings happen at night) that fireball from the short-barreled 9mm is going to blind you at a time when you need every advantage.
     
  25. easyg

    easyg Member

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    The .380 will also suffer dramatic velocity loss from a short barrel, and it's already moving slower than the 9mm.
    So, even from a short barrel handgun the 9mm will easily outperform the .380.

    Personally, I've got no use for the .380.
     
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