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Thread: .380 FMJ for personal defense?

  1. #1
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    Any thoughts on using .380 FMJ ammo for personal defense? I just picked up a Kahr P380 (SWEET gun!) and I was talking to a guy at the range about ordering JHPs to carry and he opined that with the inherent weakness of the .380 FMJ might be a better choice for the extra penetration.

    I've read about choosing FMJ over HPs in a .25 or .32 but never really thought about it when itcame to a .380. I'm due to get some Double Tap HP ammo by the end of the week and won't be shooting all of that up for a while so it's not a huge concern but I was intigued by the FMJ suggestion...

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    The rationale you offer makes sense. I would check around on the internet to see if I could find some field testing on penetration of the hollow-points and make my determination after that.

    It seems to me the fellas over at Box O' Truth tested some mouse guns, including .380.

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    CorBon makes some fast JHP's for the .380 (850 fps). But truth be known, .380 hardballs in an SD situation (Close range) 2 or 3 yards, will do the job. As with ANY round, you got to hit in the right places.

    I believe that all to often we are busier looking for the "magic bullet" rather than focus on practice and soild hits and multiple solid center hits. Personally I don't have much faith in the expansion of the slower HP's. IIRC .380 Corbons go out the barrel at 850 fps. Not very fast, about like .45acp's.

    Hardball will give the penetration, I would go with that in the .380.



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    About a year plus ago I did some penetration testing of the ammo I had for my carry guns. I used water filled jugs 6 inches thick.
    The 380 hp bullets DID NOT pass through 2 of them.
    The 9x18 silver bear hp DENTED the back wall of the second jug but DID NOT exit.
    The 9x19 stopped in the fourth and the 38 special exited the fourth but DID NOT enter the fifth.
    I have been told that water is about half the density of human flesh. Also I have been told that you need 12 inches of penetration of flesh to be considered adequate fo self defense.
    Therefore I concluded that the 380 and 9x18 were NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR SELF DEFENSE. The 9x19 is marginal and the 38 special is the absolute minimum for self defense.
    That is why I carry a 40 S&W.
    Below left to right. 380, 9x18, 9x19 and 38 special.


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    In my opinion which goes against many so called experts is that the whole notion of "stopping Power" and "necessary penetration" is vastly overrated.

    There are two rules as far as I am concerned.

    One is your gun must be absolutely reliable and you know how and when to use it.

    Second is that you have the gun with you.

    To me a .25 is much better than a sharp stick or a .50 Desert Eagle sitting in your gun safe. When a BG is shot with a .22 or a .45 it is either going to cause him to at least pause. He may then decide to turn and run or get mad and come after you so you better be ready to follow up on some more shots. Unless you are very lucky one shot from a .22, .40, or .45 isn't going to stop and kill him immediately. There have been cases of where 5-10 shots didn't stop them.

    Will a .380 make a hole? You better believe it will. Will 8 shots from a .380 make a bunch of holes? Yup, they will. Will a .45 sitting in you safe make abunch of holes? Not a single one. The point is carry whatever you feel comfortable carrying, know how to use it and make sure it is reliable. I have a P3AT and a NAA 22 WMR mini revolver that I can comfortably carrybut several other guns that I have to worry about keeping concealed while carrying (In SC we cannot OC). If something happens that I need either one I plan to use them and have faith that either one will do the job.

    I won't argue one bit that a .40 is better than a .380 for putting a hole in a a BG but a .380 JHP or FMJ will both put holes in them and are adequate. If you want to carry a .40 or .45 then by all means do it but don't take the attitude than some seem to have that if they can't carry a .40 they aren't going to carry anything. Remember that 12" of penetration. Measure the average person and see how far 12" would be in them from front to back.

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    I've stopped carrying hollowpoints in my .380 because I've determined that they're just not worth the extra cost compared to FMJs. The water jug tests that jeeper1 did showed that .380 hollowpoints slowed down very very quickly. I've seen those results before.

    Now consider that, god forbid someone attacks you, it's highly unlikely that he's going to be naked. That means that there's going to be at least 1 or 2, if not more layers of cloth to push through before you even GET to flesh. That's what made me decide to stick with FMJs.

    Granted, I only carry a .380 as a BUG or when I need to conceal and I can't hide any of my .40's.

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    I keep Hornady Critical Defense 90gr in my Kahr P380 & Ruger LCP.

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    I no longer carry a .380ACP, but when I didI loaded it with Winchester silver tips.

    I once used that Bersa to kill a nasty rottweiler that wanted to rip my face off. One fast shot to the chest. I pointed the gun rather than aimed. The distance couldn't have been more than four feet. The dog ran ten feet away and died noisily in a few seconds.

    I didn't get the opportunity to dissect to dead dog and check penetration though...

    I reckon I'd prefer hollow points. Ido not want to over penetrate the target should I have to shoot in a crowded area. I prefer that the slug expend all it's energy in the target. If you miss, the hollow point might ricochet less. The 380ACP ain't a thunderbolt anyway, so the ammo choice might not make a big difference soyou might want tosqueeze the trigger a few more times anyway.

    Above all, just make sure whatever ammo you pick functions flawlessly in your sidearm! Not all pocket autoswill feed hollow points reliably.

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    EtdBob wrote:

    I no longer carry a .380ACP, but when I didI loaded it with Winchester silver tips.

    I once used that Bersa to kill a nasty rottweiler that wanted to rip my face off. One fast shot to the chest. I pointed the gun rather than aimed. The distance couldn't have been more than four feet. The dog ran ten feet away and died noisily in a few seconds.

    I didn't get the opportunity to dissect to dead dog and check penetration though...


    Whose dog was it and what happened? Were they charged?

    How did the cops handle it?

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    EtdBob wrote:

    I pointed the gun rather than aimed.
    I'm of the opinion that in most 'attack' instances... this is what is done orshould be done. This is the way I practice. I'm less concerned about punching holes in paper at 25-50 yards with a two-handed aim than I am nearly point blank to six feet distance single handed.

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    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    EtdBob wrote:

    I pointed the gun rather than aimed.
    I'm of the opinion that in most 'attack' instances... this is what is done orshould be done. This is the way I practice. I'm less concerned about punching holes in paper at 25-50 yards with a two-handed aim than I am nearly point blank to six feet distance single handed.
    Exactly, SR.

    That's why laser grips on a SD carry handgun are so....so right.

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    HankT wrote:
    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    EtdBob wrote:

    I pointed the gun rather than aimed.
    I'm of the opinion that in most 'attack' instances... this is what is done orshould be done. This is the way I practice. I'm less concerned about punching holes in paper at 25-50 yards with a two-handed aim than I am nearly point blank to six feet distance single handed.
    Exactly, SR.

    That's why laser grips on a SD carry handgun are so....so right.
    How do you feel about the argument that using a laser can quickly create a dependency on said laser, which can be detrimental when the laser is not available for any number of reasons (bright sunlight, dead battery, broken, not your gun, etc.)?

    After no more than 2 full days of practice with one-handed point shooting, I found myself comfortably accurate out to 7 yards. This shows that the laser is not necessary, however it doesn't argue that it may or may not be helpful.

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    DreQo wrote:
    HankT wrote:
    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    EtdBob wrote:

    I pointed the gun rather than aimed.
    I'm of the opinion that in most 'attack' instances... this is what is done orshould be done. This is the way I practice. I'm less concerned about punching holes in paper at 25-50 yards with a two-handed aim than I am nearly point blank to six feet distance single handed.
    Exactly, SR.

    That's why laser grips on a SD carry handgun are so....so right.
    How do you feel about the argument that using a laser can quickly create a dependency on said laser, which can be detrimental when the laser is not available for any number of reasons (bright sunlight, dead battery, broken, not your gun, etc.)?

    After no more than 2 full days of practice with one-handed point shooting, I found myself comfortably accurate out to 7 yards. This shows that the laser is not necessary, however it doesn't argue that it may or may not be helpful.
    I don't have a Laser on my SD gun... butI do on a Walther CP99 BB pistol I practice with. It's target aquisition enhancing... but I wouldn't depend on it alone. In bright light it's near worthless. As for the 'BB' gun... 'flash 'n bang 'n recoil occur about the same time the bullet leaves the muzzle. The round is already downrange from the aimpoint of you pullin' the trigger. 'Same with a345 fps BB. At fairly close range (as would be expected in a SD scenario) the BB impacts where it was pointed. Much cheaper... quieter and IMHO as effective as a 'range' for the purpose w/o the safety restrictions. Shoot under arm... moving... backwards... from the hip, however you want. Run past 'n shoot too. It's all about pointing.

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    I don't think I even had time to use a laser -
    It was point and shoot.
    The good thing was the dog immediately stopped what it was doing, ran away a short distance and died pretty fast.

    I was impressed with how well the .380 workedthat day! I gather that I did hit it's heart.

    The cops and owner were never involved -
    See the dogs owner was my wife's biological father. He was a true recluse. Lived alone, and had no friends.My wife hadn't seen him since she was three and he divorced her mother.He had made it very clear time and again that he wanted nothing at all to do with anybody.

    The man had been hit by a car and killed a few days before.
    The real sad part was that my wife and he had started corresponding two years prior to his death, andthey had just gotten to the point where maybe we could have talked him into letting us visit some day.

    He'd had a nice secluded home, and had a few burglaries in the past so he got this big dog to guard the place when he was away.
    The home was surrounded by a big chain link fence.
    The man had no friends, no close relations other than his two daughters who hadn't seen him since they were young children.
    And no one could control that dog.
    My sister in law lived not far away, and went to the home first. She'd gotten the keys her biological father had been carrying with him when he was killed.
    In the yard she went.Up to the house. She unlocked the door, and the dog charged from around the back of the home.
    She made it into the house, but the dog pushed in behind her.
    After that, she had quite a frantic time fending off that dog.She made it up on top of the dinning table and with an odd bit of furniture, lamp or chair or something, managed tofed of the beasts lunges.
    She is a petit woman, hardly bigger than the dog and she was quite terrified.

    Anyway, there was a glass sliding door leading to the back yard not three feet from the dinning table, and she eventually escaped out of that.

    Heh, her husband used to carry concealed, and got her both a Beretta .22 and a Rossi .38 snubnose, but that gal to this day wants nothing to do with having the ability to defend herself! You'd think she might have changed her mind...

    My wife and I were already driving over from across the state. Since I didn't know about the dog I was armed with just a Kel Tek .32 and Bersa .380, both loaded with Winchester silver tips.
    Had I known about the dog I would have taken a .22 rimfire rifle...

    Anyway, I gather the dog eventually pushed out the glass slider and into the yard where he had his food, waterer and dog house.
    We talked about what to do about that beast. Honestly, no one even mentioned the cops. It just never occurred to any of us. I guess they could have been called to deal with it but they would have likely called a bloody swat team and sprayed bullets all over the place!
    We did contact various dog pounds and county animal control people. None of them were available for several days, all wanted to charge a fee, and none of them wanted an uncontrollable dog.
    Poisoning the animal was considered.
    In the end I just went in and shot the silly beast. No big deal. I buried it in the woods behind the yard.

    I've got livestock, I hunt, and we raise and butcher all our own meat. I'm always called in to "deal with" all the old, dying, or otherwise unwanted family pets and pests so I've shot plenty of dogs and cats. I've had relatives offer us unwanted dogs to eat! ( Give it to Bob, he eats anything!! )
    I'veput down more goats for meat than I can count, and had to put down a horse once.
    So, shooting one more dog didn't bother me at all. I just cocked the Bersa, held it down by my side in my right handand walked into the back yard like I owned the place. Dogs know it if you fear them. It didn't hear me till I got close and challenged me from about four feet away. Bang! Plop.



    I'm glad I had hollow points in the gun. I want the animal to bleed out as fast as possible, and I think hollow points make a more ragged wound than FMJ.
    No handgun, especially .32s and .380s have much if any "knockdown power." You simply mortally wound the animal and wait for it to bleed out.The hollow point does a better job of turning what little energy is there to tissue damage.
    I would never use FMJ in .32 ACP, .380 ACP or 9x19 for defense! .45 ACP? Well, maybe. Just make real sure the gun digests hollow points 100%.
    My wife has quite the collection of old pocket pistols, and most don't like hollow points.

    Like I said, we raise all our own meat. I've put down lot of goats.I've used .32s, 380s, 9x19, both with FMJ and hollow points, .44 magnums with both heavy jacketed hollow point loads and light cast bullet pop gun loads, and of course the .22 rimfiire. Allhave more than enough power to penetrate the skull of an animal at close range, so that isn't a problem. And goats have thick skulls! If you hit the animal right, it drops instantly no matter what you use. If you hit it wrong, you have a mess on your hands.
    For large animals like horses that I don't want to suffer, of course I use full power .44 mag loads. The bigger the gun the better it is for killing. Duh, we all know that.
    But a pop gun will do the job if ya don't mind the animal kicking for a few seconds....

    Lasers are fun toys, but I think they are just that. I have enough concerns about the reliability of my weapons without having to worry about batteries...
    And when it comes time to do the job I find I just point anyway.
    The idea is to target practice practice practice.
    You need to developed muscle memory, so that you can hit thetarget your looking at even if you ain't lookin', so that you don't have to think about the act of killing at all.
    My "kill" reflex is usually triggered while I'm carrying my rifle or my sidearm is still in it's holster.
    I look over the deer in the woods and figure where I want to shoot it. The kill reflex is triggered, and I have no couscous memory of throwing the rifle up, lining the sights andthe shot, I keep my attention on the animal.
    Same with domestic animals. I see 'em born, play with the cute little fluffy things, give 'em names, take them on walks, and do my best to see 'em raised nice and healthy. Then I lead 'em out to the woodshed one fine brisk autumn day and murder them.
    You decide to do the deed. Walk the animal out, pour a little grain on the ground. When it lowers it's head you draw and shoot. Ain't no sighting the gun or thinking about it involved at that point.



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    I just bought a Kel Tec PF9 and keep it loaded with FMJ 9mm rounds. It is a backup pocket pistol, and therefore it needs to be reliable with the ammo it eats. I believe an SD weapon should have a caliber that starts with a 4, but when it comes to backup ammo, anything down to a .32 will work. The .380 in fmj will definitely penetrate better than the JHP, and I would carry those also because they will more than likely feed more reliably. I would not hesitate to carry .380 fmj... as long as that is not all I carry.

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    Caliber.. caliber... who has the caliber????

    Caliber decisions are way down the list about carry guns.. or should be. There are other, more important, factors to consider.

    Ok.. start up the flamethrowers...

    1. Is the gun reliable? Regardless of how big, or small, the caliber of the bullet... will it go "bang" every time? A gun in a large caliber that has a tendency to jam is... useless.

    2. Are you accurate with the gun? A large caliber gun that the person can't control recoil for follow up shots becomes a liability... not only with possibly missing the bad guy but also the bullets from those misses are going to end up somewhere... somewhere the person is going to be responsible for. Making that gun/caliber choice, at least for practical purposes, almost.... useless.

    3. Is the gun comfortable to carry around all the time? If the gun is too heavy or too awkward (regardless of caliber) there will come a time when it is left at home just because it is too much of a pain to carry around. And a gun left at home is.... useless.

    4. Caliber size. And here is where the real choice is. It becomes a matter of considering the first 3 criteria and choosing which gun/caliber combination that works.......... for YOU. YOU, not your buddy, not what you read on the internet, not what an instructor says... but what will actually work for YOU in the real world.

    Let me use 2 extreme examples for illustration purposes...

    1. A young strong man is fine choosing a .45 full size gun. He has no problem with carrying the weight all day long. He has excellent recoil control so follow up shots are no problem. He is also self defense accurate with that combination.

    2. A woman chooses a .22 revolver. She can carry the light weight revolver all day with no problem. She can control the light recoil so follow up shots are no problem. She is also self defense accurate with that combination.

    Both have chosen wisely... because only bullets that hit count.

    Ok... back to the topic. Will the .380 work? Yes... but only if you carry it all the time so it is there when you need it... and only if you can hit what you need to hit.

    Is FMJ better than JHP? Dunno... is the gun reliable with JHP? Penetration? Dunno.... clothing tends to plug the hollow point of some JHP ammo essentially making it act like a FMJ anyway... some .380 JHP ammo gives acceptable penetration and some doesn't (a net search will help make that decision)...

    There are some advantages to .380 in some gun choices... like Kel-Tec P3AT and Ruger LCP offering ease in concealment... and some disadvantages.. like the P3AT and LCP being hard to control recoil.

    Each of us must research, experiment, try shooting various guns in various calibers, before making that final decision. What works for me may not be the best choice for you... and vice versa.
    Gun control isn't about the gun at all.... for those who want gun control it is all about their own fragile egos, their own lack of self esteem, their own inner fears, and most importantly... their own desire to dominate others. And an openly carried gun is a slap in the face to all of those things.

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    A bit of background...

    The reason I picked up the P380 was to carry when I'm on my bike because I tend to ride fairly long distances (20-50 miles) and occasionally end up in more rural/isolated areas. I tend to dress for the sport (think Lance Armstrong minus the money and talent) and that doesn't leave many options for "accessible" carry so I had to look for something in the LCP/P3AT size range that would fit in a jersey pocket. I have no illusions about the .380 being any kind of death ray when it comes to SD but I figure a .380 in my pocket is worth more than the 9mm or .45GAP that I have no reasonable way to carry. I'll probably drop the (holstered) Kahr in my pocket for a quick run to the car or mailbox but outside of that the minimum I'll be carrying is a 9mm Glock.

    I've heard the saying "a gun should be comforting, not necessarily comfortable" many times and I do understand the reasoning behind that but this is pretty much a "carry what you can, but at least carry" situation. If I can get a hold of a PM9 to try out then I might move to that in the future...

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    DreQo wrote:
    HankT wrote:
    Sonora Rebel wrote:
    EtdBob wrote:

    I pointed the gun rather than aimed.
    I'm of the opinion that in most 'attack' instances... this is what is done orshould be done. This is the way I practice. I'm less concerned about punching holes in paper at 25-50 yards with a two-handed aim than I am nearly point blank to six feet distance single handed.
    Exactly, SR.

    That's why laser grips on a SD carry handgun are so....so right.
    How do you feel about the argument that using a laser can quickly create a dependency on said laser, which can be detrimental when the laser is not available for any number of reasons (bright sunlight, dead battery, broken, not your gun, etc.)?

    After no more than 2 full days of practice with one-handed point shooting, I found myself comfortably accurate out to 7 yards. This shows that the laser is not necessary, however it doesn't argue that it may or may not be helpful.
    I think there is some merit to the argument that relying on the laser primarily will requiring a tradeoff in some area where the laser is not optimal.

    But that tradeoff argument is always present for a multitude of SD questions involving hardware (or software).

    I practice point shooting with the laser exclusively with my carry handgun. Two handed shooting first, then one-handed. All inside 25'. Under intense pressure, things need to be simple. And I can't cover all the bases. So, I pick the hardware and program the software to work with it. That's the best I know how to do until I can learn some more.

    Focus is a good thing...

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    My Bersa is loaded primarily with HP's but I now have a few FMJ's in there since i keep my mags full and .380 ammo has been a problem. Except for some concern about over-penetration in a drywall home, I'm more concerned with gettinghits than withthe round's destructive capability.

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    Do NOT underestimate the 9x18. Below: 95 grain Barnaul JHP into a gallon jug of solid ice. It went 3.25 inches and shattered into nine pieces.





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    Bikenut wrote:
    Is FMJ better than JHP? Dunno... is the gun reliable with JHP? Penetration? Dunno.... clothing tends to plug the hollow point of some JHP ammo essentially making it act like a FMJ anyway... some .380 JHP ammo gives acceptable penetration and some doesn't (a net search will help make that decision)...

    Just happened to be reading the December Guns & Ammo magazine, an article about the new Taurus PT738 TCP .380, and it mentioned the followingabout .380 ammo:

    I also had the opportunity to fire Hornady's new 90-grain .380 Critical Defense ammunition from the TCP into a block of ballisticgelatin fronted with the FBI-standard Heavy Winter Clothing barrier of four-layered cotton T-shirt material, lined denim jacket material and a down-filled parka. The bullet expanded fully and penetrated straight-line to just over 10 inches. That's deep enough to penetrate and disrupt any attacker'svital engine...

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    midnight61 wrote:
    I keep Hornady Critical Defense 90gr in my Kahr P380 & Ruger LCP.

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    My suggestion for you is Hornaday Critical Defense 380 Auto I put the link below for you
    www.hornady.com/shop/ Do an handgun ammunition search for .380Auto and you will see the ballistics on this round. This is a new round for this year. It is a 380 AUTO 90 Grain FTX. In the tip it is filled in the HP to ensure correct expansion. As far as FMJ it really doesnt matter, I would only carry the mouse gun as a backup,(no offense) FYI- a FMJ will be a thru and thru with risk of injuring othersThe ruger LCP is a great product...Glock30

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    :celebrate

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