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Thread: .380 or 9mm?

  1. #1
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    A female friend of mine is just starting to get into shooting. One range visit (first time shooting EVER) and she's already shopping for a gun lol. She's only had experience withtwo calibers so far: A .380 in a smaller sized handgun (Walther PPK/s and Kel-Tec P3AT), and a .40 full-sized SW99. She preferred shooting the Walther, as the .40 "surprised" her, however she shot well even with the .40.

    I am going to take her to the range again soon and give her some more experience with the .380 and .40, and hopefully introduce her to a 9mm and a .45. I'm expecting her to gravitate around the .380 and 9mm, at least for her first gun. Obviously I'd love for her to want to carry the .45 or .40 right off the bat, but I'd rather she carry/own something she's more comfortable shooting, in the case that she ever has to use it.

    So, I've heard plenty of good and bad about the 9mm, as well as the .380. Mostly what I hear about the .380 is that it's the smallest caliber most people are comfortable with, but they'd prefer something larger. The most common thing I hear about the 9mm is that it over penetrates and makes nice small holes that bad guys don't stop for. Whatever. It kills, and that's what matters.

    So, if it comes down to the .380 or the 9mm, which should I suggested? I personally carry the .380, but almost exclusively as a back-up or concealed. I would be comfortable if she carried a .22 for all I care, as long as she's confident and could place the shots if/when she needed to.

    Anyway, what do you guys think?

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    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    I think one follows the general rule of thumb that one carries the largest caliber one is comfortable shooting (with the normal caveats about concealability as required, practicality, etc).
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    deepdiver wrote:
    I think one follows the general rule of thumb that one carries the largest caliber one is comfortable shooting (with the normal caveats about concealability as required, practicality, etc).
    Ah yes, but perhaps you forget that the .380 and the 9mm are the same "caliber". The 9mm simply has more powder behind it, and therefore travels faster. Some people believe that this increased velocity does little more than contribute to over-penetration.

    So, the question still stands.

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    9mm is cheaper to shoot therfore increasing range time resulting in better shot placement. My wife carries a .380 and it is almost as much to fire as my .45ACP. She is looking for an adequate 9mm replacement for her Bersa. I personally carry a 9mm and feel absolutely confindent that I can incapacitate a bad guy if the unfortunate situation arises. I also shoot very regularly and practice my draws. Training is key. Caliber is less important but still very important.

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    Campaign Veteran deepdiver's Avatar
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    DreQo wrote:
    deepdiver wrote:
    I think one follows the general rule of thumb that one carries the largest caliber one is comfortable shooting (with the normal caveats about concealability as required, practicality, etc).
    Ah yes, but perhaps you forget that the .380 and the 9mm are the same "caliber". The 9mm simply has more powder behind it, and therefore travels faster. Some people believe that this increased velocity does little more than contribute to over-penetration.

    So, the question still stands.
    Good point. In this case substitute largest with heaviest then. The 9mm is a more powerful, heavier load so I would lean that way if she can handle it ok.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    Regular Member VAopencarry's Avatar
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    I'd ask her what she likes.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

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    Most .380s are blowback so they will actually be "snappier" than a 9mm. If she likes the smaller frame you could also suggest a Bersa 9mm - I would try to get her to go with the double stack magin that unless it's really uncomfortable for her to shoot (i.e. she has small hands). My wife really likes the Bersa, it's easier for her to rack the slide and the trigger pull is very comfortable for her.

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    VAopencarry wrote:
    I'd ask her what she likes.
    Well duh!:P If she distinctly prefers a certain caliber/frame style right off the bat, I wont have much to worry about lol. I'm just expecting her to be torn between a few, so I'll need to make some suggestions to get her down to one gun.

    I would tend to agree with the comment that the .380 is snappier than the 9mm, but I don't have any first hand experience with that for one reason: Every .380 I have shot was a small frame, and every 9mm I've shot was a large frame. I would expect any round to be more comfortable in a larger frame.

    You guys have made a lot of good points about the 9mm, and I agree. I think I'm personally leaning towards the .380 a bit simply because I'm thinking if she got a small .380 as her first gun, she could get a full-sized larger caliber (.45, for instance) down the road, and have that .380 as a concealable option. This is essentially what I did, starting out with the PPK/s, and then buying a .40 after I started openly carrying.

    I think I will definitely have to rent a 9mm for her to shoot the next time we're at the range. I'll have to shoot it myself, too!

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    roundroundDreQo wrote:
    Ah yes, but perhaps you forget that the .380 and the 9mm are the same "caliber". The 9mm simply has more powder behind it, and therefore travels faster. Some people believe that this increased velocity does little more than contribute to over-penetration.
    How much of an issue is that with JHP ammunition that expands and fragments? From what I've read on the subject, JHP and HP bullets rarely pass all the way through a torso. As long as the bullet doesn't come out the other side, increased velocity (for the same mass) just means increased energy delivered into the target.

    The main advantage of a .357 magnum over 9mm is increased muzzle velocity, too -- the extra 0.1mm you get from the .357 can't make that much difference. If it did, the full 1mm diameter increase you get from a .40 or 10mm should make that round hugely more powerful than a .357.

    Let's look at the physics a little.

    Assuming no expansion or fragmentation (basically, assuming FMJ), the penetration into a uniform solid should be roughly proportional to the kinetic energy of the slug (1/2mv^2) divided by the cross-section of the slug (pi r^2). Picking some bullets and velocities from the Wikipedia pages (I picked the highest listed energy for each round) for the .380, 9mm, .357 magnum, .40 S&W, .44 magnum, .45 ACP and, just for fun, .50 S&W

    .380: 95gr, 980 fps, 203 ft lb
    9mm: 123gr, 1100 fps, 364 ft lb
    .357: 130gr, 1410 fps, 539 ft lb
    .40: 155gr, 1140 fps, 447 ft lb
    .44: 180gr, 1610 fps, 1036 ft lb
    .45: 230gr, 900 fps, 414 ft lb
    .50: 350gr, 1975 fps, 3031 ft lb

    Using the .380 as a baseline, the relative penetration factors of the cartridges are:

    .380: 1 (duh, baseline)
    9mm: 1.63
    .357: 2.79
    .40: 1.74
    .44: 3.50
    .45: 1.27
    .50: 7.54

    That assumes FMJ, though, and since cross section is proportional to the square of radius, expansion may change things a bit. Assuming that all JHPs get a 2x expansion factor, the numbers become (still using the FMJ 3.80 as baseline):

    .380: .25
    9mm: .41
    .357: .69
    .40: .43
    .44: .88
    .45: .31
    .50: 1.89

    So, the .357 still significantly overpenetrates as compared to 9mm, which has penetration very comparable to the .40. The .44 magnum is, of course, in a class all its own, and the .50 S&W is just nuts.

    The other difference between these rounds, of course, is the size of the wound channel, but does that really matter that much? Even with expansion factored in, the difference in size between a .45 ACP wound and a .380 wound is not that large. Supposing we were talking about drilling a hole through you with a drill bit, would you really care whether the bit was 11/32" or 14/32"?

    I don't think the diameter of the hole makes that miuch difference. What really does the damage isn't so much the actual wound channel, it's the hydrostatic shock delivered by the bullet as it makes that channel. In other words, it's the actual energy delivered to the target. That's what you want to maximize.

    If the bullet passes through the target and comes out the other side, then only a portion of the bullet's K.E. is delivered to the target (and the rest of it gets delivered elsewhere, potentially to someone you don't want damaged). So, clearly, you want a bullet that stays in the target. Also, you need to make sure that the hydrostatic shock is delivered to the vital organs, so you want a bullet that does penetrate far enough. The FBI requirement of 12 inches of penetration seems perfect.

    Based on all of this, it seems clear to me that if you want to maximize the damage your bullets do, you should choose the round with the highest kinetic energy that does not pass completely through a normal-sized target. My impression is that modern JHPs in .380, 9mm, .40 and .45 rarely come out the other side.

    For military use, where full metal jackets are required, I can see a lot of advantage to a bigger, slower round -- a .45 has slightly less K.E. than a 9mm, but significantly less penetration. For civilian and L.E. use, with modern JHPs, I think it's all about energy. Again using the .380 as a baseline, relative energies are:

    .380: 1
    9mm: 1.63
    .357: 2.83
    .40: 2.1
    .44: 5.11
    .45: 2.04
    .50: 6.07

    Maybe more interesting, using the 9mm as the baseline:

    .380: .61
    9mm: 1
    .357: 1.74
    .40: 1.35
    .44: 3.13
    .45: 1.25
    .50: 3.72

    I could buy that a .40 is 35% more effective than a 9mm, and a .45 is 25% more effective. A .357 may not be 74% more effective, though, since I think .357s do tend to push bullets clear through the target, wasting some of the energy.

    And, as always, the effect of shot placement dwarfs any effect achieved by a larger or more powerful cartridge.

    Anyway, getting back to the question at hand... it appears to me that given JHPs that don't usually punch clear through the target, 9mm is a significantly more effective round than a .380. Either will clearly do the job, though, which brings us right back to the oft-repeated recommendation:

    Carry the most powerful gun that is practical for you.

    Practicality considerations include cost, both to buy and to practice with, size, weight, fit, and personal taste.

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    DreQo wrote:
    Ah yes, but perhaps you forget that the .380 and the 9mm are the same 'caliber'. The 9mm simply has more powder behind it, and therefore travels faster.
    It's not quite that simple. If you look at bullet weights, you'll see 9mm Short/.380 ACP typically masses 90-95 grains (there are some exceptions), whereas 9mm Para generally comes in 115, 124 and 147 grains. So the 9mm Para packs more punch not just because it has a higher propellant charge; the bullets are also heavier.

    Presented with that choice, I'd go with 9mm Para every time. Ammo tends to be cheaper, and there's a wider variety of it available. Plus there's the controllability issue; sure, weapons chambered for .380 ACP produce more felt recoil because they're smaller and (especially) lighter, because .380 ACP is generally considered a caliber suitable for CCW/BUGs and not much else, but that doesn't eliminate the problem. Plus there's a number of 9mm Para subcompacts which are part of a bigger line of polymer guns (Glock, XD, M&P, P99) which has the advantage that you can later add a full-size for HD/OC which will be more comfortable to shoot while using the same ammo and the same manual of arms.

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    Your ammo manufacturer is loading a little light.

    Factory ammo
    .357mag= 125gr @1600fps/ 710ft. lbs
    9mm=124gr. @ 1295fps / 462 ft. lbs.
    .380= 95gr. @ 1100fps / 242 ft. lbs. 3.5" bbl
    .40SW= 155gr. @ 1275fps / 560 ft/lbs
    .45acp= 230gr. @ 1010fps/ 521 ft./lbs
    .44mag=240gr. @ 1500fps - 1200 ft./lbs
    .45LC= 250gr @ 1450fps - 1191 ft./lbs


    Spend a few bucks at the range and let her decide.
    Have a range day with a bunch of friends ask them to bring an array of firearms and calibers, then all you have to worry about is ammo.
    You might be surprised by her decision, just be sure to steer her to a quaility firearm.
    If you think like a Statist, act like one, or back some, you've given up on freedom and have gone over to the dark side.
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    I'd also start her with larger calibers, and work downward until she finds something she likes. IMO, people tend to underestimate the largest caliber they can control and that is practical. Sure, after shooting 9mm's and .380's, a big scary .357 magnum might seem too powerful. But start with a few shots from a .44 magnum, and then afterward the .357 will seem like a lightweight, easily controllable caliber.

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    Agent19 wrote:
    Your ammo manufacturer is loading a little light.
    As I said in my post, I just took the numbers from Wikipedia, using the highest-energy load listed for each cartridge. Your numbers are all heavier loads, but they don't change the relative proportions significantly.

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    VAopencarry wrote:
    I'd ask her what she likes.
    Women can drive a car and operate the gas, brakes, steering, signals, lights and radio while at the same time applying make-up and talking on a cell phone...and they are too stupid to pick their own gun, man. I like your idea, though, maybe it might catch on someday.

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    FightingGlock19 wrote:
    VAopencarry wrote:
    I'd ask her what she likes.
    Women can drive a car and operate the gas, brakes, steering, signals, lights and radio while at the same time applying make-up and talking on a cell phone...and they are too stupid to pick their own gun, man. I like your idea, though, maybe it might catch on someday.
    Wow......I mean, I thought you were a jerk before, but you just left no doubt with that post. What a ******.

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    I think FightingGlock may have been being sarcastic there, compmanio. It's that darn "you can't hear intonation" in writing thing again.

    I can see his point to some extent, too. Of course ultimately, the choice of weapon has to fall to the person who's supposed to be using it, so yeah, you should ask her. But that doesn't mean you can't solicit some advice from knowledgable people as well. They could help you eliminate some candidates, or suggest others that you might not have though of yourself.

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    Rent to see what she likes. If she can handle the 40 S&W, then try the HK P2000. It comes in 3 calibers and has interchangable backstraps. That was important to me because of my small hands. Also look at the Walther PPS 9mm, which is suppose to be out in a 40 S&W this spring. Ammo for the 9mm is cheap, like 1000 rounds for 200 bucks. If money is an issue...Glock. Make sure she knows how toclean the gun.

    For further reading try here....

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/ammo_by_anonymous.htm

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/armed_female.htm

    http://www.chuckhawks.com/guns_home_defense.htm

    TAKE SOME CLASSES!! Best thing I ever did!!! I just blew though 300 rounds in my intermediate handgun class alone and he gave me homework!!!

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    Euromutt wrote:
    I think FightingGlock may have been being sarcastic there, compmanio. It's that darn "you can't hear intonation" in writing thing again.

    I can see his point to some extent, too. Of course ultimately, the choice of weapon has to fall to the person who's supposed to be using it, so yeah, you should ask her. But that doesn't mean you can't solicit some advice from knowledgable people as well. They could help you eliminate some candidates, or suggest others that you might not have though of yourself.
    9 times, out of 10, when I see a husband/wife in the local gunstore, it's the husband looking at the guns to pick one for the wife. The wife ends up looking at other things while the husband is asking more questions about the guns he's looking at.

    If I offer my input, the wife, of the husband/wife duo, is the one I speak with. It usually irritates the husband, as he had intentions of buying her a .38 revolver. Remember, women do all that stuff with a car, yet they can't operatethe slide of a semi-auto (in those guys' minds).

    I'll tell anybody selecting a handgun for personal defence the same thing, it doesn't matter what sex they are, if they're receptive to my offerings of real-world experiences.

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    FightingGlock19 wrote:
    Euromutt wrote:
    I think FightingGlock may have been being sarcastic there, compmanio. It's that darn "you can't hear intonation" in writing thing again.

    I can see his point to some extent, too. Of course ultimately, the choice of weapon has to fall to the person who's supposed to be using it, so yeah, you should ask her. But that doesn't mean you can't solicit some advice from knowledgable people as well. They could help you eliminate some candidates, or suggest others that you might not have though of yourself.
    9 times, out of 10, when I see a husband/wife in the local gunstore, it's the husband looking at the guns to pick one for the wife. The wife ends up looking at other things while the husband is asking more questions about the guns he's looking at.

    If I offer my input, the wife, of the husband/wife duo, is the one I speak with. It usually irritates the husband, as he had intentions of buying her a .38 revolver. Remember, women do all that stuff with a car, yet they can't operatethe slide of a semi-auto (in those guys' minds).

    I'll tell anybody selecting a handgun for personal defence the same thing, it doesn't matter what sex they are, if they're receptive to my offerings of real-world experiences.
    Exactly right. We were at the gun shop yesterday and when the salesperson came to discuss things with my wife, I high-tailed it out of there with the kid. Let her do her own decision making- she's leaning toward the Bersa Thunderer Plus .380 with high cap mag. It's what SHE'S Most comfortable with.

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    Going to the gun show Sunday with the fiancee and she is going to see if she finds something she likes. I'm going to take the advice from the last few posts and just shut up unless she asks me a question.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    Generally speaking, you'll find that the more knowledgeable gun writers would tell you that the .380ACP is at the bottom of the ladder in terms of a defensive caliber, even in its hottest loadings. And those of us in the gun culture would tell you the same thing.

    There is a rule of thumb with defensive handguns in this respect. Carry the most powerful defensive caliber that you can bring to battery and deliver effective fire to your target. This encompasses a number of variables and considerations, to be sure. But along with this are the compromises you should be willing to take when viewed in the light of potentially saving your life.

    A good 9mm defensive load is far superior to a good .380ACP load. Just look at the ballistics tables or do some research on the effectiveness of the two calibers in actual shootings. Instead of opting for the P3AT Kel-Tec, or similar item, you might want to consider a Kahr PM9 or MK9, or perhaps a Glock 26. I do own and occasionally carry a P3AT Kel-Tec when the need demands it. It is better than a hammer, but certainly not my first choice.

    One final piece of advice. Listen to what your fellow site members are trying to tell you and don't cop an attitude. They are only trying to help you with your question and decision.

    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

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    We have 4 caliburs at our house: 22LR, 7.62X25(close to 380), 9mm, and 45ACP. My wife prefers the 9mm(G17C), because it offers her better control. The compensation helps but even with a non-compensated barrel in place it still gives her better control. It boils down to which firearm she chooses to purchase. Good Luck. As said previously 9mm cheaper which allows more range time.

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    FightingGlock19 wrote:
    If I offer my input, the wife, of the husband/wife duo, is the one I speak with.
    Makes sense. After all, theoretically, you and he are performing the same function: assisting the wife in making her own decision in choosing a firearm.

    It usually irritates the husband, as he had intentions of buying her a .38 revolver. Remember, women do all that stuff with a car, yet they can't operatethe slide of a semi-auto (in those guys' minds).
    Yeah, I never can understand the mindset that acknowledges that a woman can have sufficient mechanical aptitude to flawlessly operate a car with a manual transmission, and at the same time thinks that a semi-auto is too complex for her to operate. Speaking for myself, it took me a lot more effort to learn to drive stick than it did to learn to operate firearms.

    There have been generations of European conscripts whose first experience handling any kind of firearm has been a service-issue semi-auto, and they've generally done all right. Insofar as I've seen problems with trainees handling firearms, they've been violations of the Four Rules, and that kind of thing can't be fixed just by giving the trainee a mechanically simpler weapon.

    And you have to wonder (with some dcespondency) how many potential gun enthusiasts have been turned off over the years by being pushed toward a weapon they didn't want. The .38 revolver thing resonates with me because I don't personally care for revolvers very much (not least because I'm a southpaw), and if someone had insistently steered me toward a revolver when what would have made me happy was a 9mm semi-auto, I might have been inclined to go "the hell with it."

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    SouthernBoy wrote:
    ...
    One final piece of advice. Listen to what your fellow site members are trying to tell you and don't cop an attitude. They are only trying to help you with your question and decision.
    Who are you talking to?

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    deepdiver wrote:
    Going to the gun show Sunday with the fiancee and she is going to see if she finds something she likes. I'm going to take the advice from the last few posts and just shut up unless she asks me a question.
    Wise man indeed! Hope you let her know that she has your full support in her selection. Let us know what she choose.

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    Old and treacherous will beat young and skilled every time. Yata hey.

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