Best .380 Defense Loads?

Via AP.

Other suggestions?

64 responses to “Best .380 Defense Loads?

  1. If I could carry anything bigger than .380 in the first place, I would.
    Real people are hardier than Bond villains.

    It still ranks above harsh language, but not by too much.
    Like the .25ACP and .32ACP, it’s a great ladies’ version of “BFYTW”, and a step up from a rape whistle, but really leaves a lot to be desired unless you have the strength of a kitten, or you’re shooting it out inside a phone booth.

    • dmv gringo

      And your not knowing the difference between a legitimate journalist, and “playing in the street,” is why you’re the intransigent epitome of cucking worthlessness, inept and unable to contribute even the most basic necessity. Keep riding that California rainbow, you’ll get there someday.

      • “Legitimate journalist” is an oxymoron.

        Walking into a riot like your press pass was a deflector screen is asinine.
        It’s also the textbook definition of playing in the street: dumbass got run over. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. All out of fucks to give for anyone that bag-of-hammers stupid. As you fall into the same tribe, I can understand your concern when stupid hurts. It’s always going to be a problem for you, at least until they perfect brain transplants.

        And .380 has always been a Euro-fuzz wimp round, a fact known to everyone but Ian Fleming and certain idiot screenwriters. It is, in fact, precisely as described above.

        You not knowing any of this is why all you ever bring here is your own diaper spackle, delivered as always, with the considered wit and precision analysis of a toddler, and the marksmanship of a flock of rats with wings.

        Never change, man. The Moron Platoon needs someone to carry their guidon, and the rest of us need the comedy relief your pointless rants provide.

    • dmv gringo

      You’re always right on time with craven defeatism, you cucking gate keeper of controlled opposition.

    • Did you steal that quote from Archduke Ferdinand, or Dirty Harry?

      • hey queerbait

        why don’t ewe crawl back under your slimy rock?

        ewe fucking cuckold why aren’t you working to pay my bills?

        you damn ingrate

        what’s it feel like to pay for my dinner tonight? and every night?

        tfA-t laughs at the peasantry


    • Matt Bracken

      Gotta love the Little Mac!

      • SemperFi, 0321

        One of our Lt’s in 2nd Force Recon had the briefcase model, pretty spiffy.

        I had a .45 MAC-10 for about 8 yrs, fast and pretty accurate and above all, compact, but you already know that.

      • I had a 9mm and 1200 rnds of (Free) Czech ammo. The gun ran funky till I poured 30 WT oil into it, then the magic happened!

    • Jimmy the Saint

      Rounds like the .380 and .32 have punched quite a few tickets, especially in the 30s-50s. Even a “pretty anemic” round delivered to the brain stem at point blank range is a very effiective killer. Hell, Vasily Blokhin killed something along the lines of 7-8,000 with a .25, and that’s an even more anemic round. Jeckeln’s shooters dispatched over 20,000 with .32s at Rumbula.

      Is it an ideal round? Nope, there’s definitely better, but I have yet to meet anyone who will volunteer to take one.

      • i used to carry an Italian model .25 on my ankle

        it’s for bad breath distance use

        can’t seem to remember where that went to…

      • kypartisan

        One .380 round caused the deaths of 250 million people. the Black Hand assassin Gavirlo Princip shot Arch duke franz ferdinand with a .380 FN pistol.

      • Absolutely true, and the same can be said of the humble but ubiquitous .22LR, but “would it hurt” and “might it get lucky and kill someone” is not quite the same question as “would you trust your life to it”, is it, Jimmy?

        Go look at the starring hoodrat in the viral Disney brawl video from last week, and tell me if you’d choose a .380 for that, or something with a bit more authority, all other things being equal.

        I was tempted to buy a Colt Mustang once, because it was cute, pocket-sized, brilliantly simple to put into action, and looked like a 12-yr old’s version of an M1911, until I spoke with three different former owners of them, who all confirmed it was plagued as being a jam-a-matic.
        That, coupled with relatively weak ballistics compared to almost anything else, removed it from the top tier of serious consideration for me, unless the alternative is sticks, rocks, and harsh language.

        If you were hunting small game, confronted by a tribe of angry pygmies, or just executing people with shots behind the ear, it might prove just the thing. The mere sight of one might even dissuade some troll bent on molesting womenfolk or asking for your wallet (but at that point, so would a good airsoft replica without the orange muzzle plug, right?). Anything more sporty, especially calling your bluff and requiring you to open fire, probably not so much. At least not if one has better options available. Never do your enemy a slight injury.

        YMMV, it’s your ass, and still a (nominally) free country.

  2. Yes, get a 9mm

    • [img][/img]
      Best “380 Luger” out there

        • Cocked and locked for a pocket rocket? Surely Sig could have thunk things through a bit better. After all, it is the 21st century and there is that nagging G42 to compete with.

          Is that daylight showing through beneath the front sight blade? The shame.

  3. I wish the article had included the loads with radial energy dispersal e.g. ARX Inceptor, It seems to me that they offer the best compromise dictated by the ballistics of the .380 and I would like more info on them.

  4. Civil defense, 50 gr. bullet at 1500 fps.. Makes the gun lighter, easier to carry. works like the old Aguila IQ ammo. I use it in all my “town guns”.

  5. Masthead, we Just had an old Navy shipmate give us a new
    fire stick, thought is was wonderful for staying away from tv politics. This was perhaps 40 days ago.

    Last night my daughter held up the controller, said ” play YellowStone ” the devise said, ok, and Yellow stone appeared on the tv. Fucking thing talks, AND tells jokes. Wellllll the jokes on them.

    The fire stick and controller went down the road this morning. Can’t have that kind of stuff around here. No smart tv, or other spying equipment. Chalked this one up to life lessons learned.

    Point being, we are often our own worst enemy. I was reluctant to except the gift of the fire stick, just didn’t feel right. I relented via old friendships.

    So far the Feds have heard a metric ton of old blues and Jazz, and some very tasty classical. Not much ideal chit chat around here.


  6. If you absolutely, positively MUST carry a .380, for whatever reason, alternate these with these .

    Buffalo Bore gives superb penetration and the HST has some great expansion with lesser penetration than the Buffalo Bore. I load my wife’s .380 mags so the Buffalo Bore is on the top. Penetrate first, then follow up shots with HST.

  7. My latest student to get her ccw started with a .380 she got from her Dad . Before she finished training I convinced her to step up to .9mm Kahr and she has done quite well . The .380 was perfect to start her on with little if any recoil and little noise and I will use it again for starting girls that have no firearms background coupled with a great deal of firearm phobia such as she had . It is rewarding to watch as they get comfortable with firearms and develop their skills . She lives in the hood and takes care of her ailing older parents but walks around like she owns the place now . And she does !

  8. Kinetic energy is 1/2 the mass of the object times its velocity, squared.

    Look for velocity in the little buggers; Inceptor ARX in the Smith Bodyguard…because it fits.

    I’ll have to try the Civil Defense, per MTHead’s rec.

    • Knocks half the weight off. Which is important if your a fat back no-butt type like me. It don’t be drag’in your pants down so much.
      It’s solid copper cup, pushed into a nose. Our testing showed it would collapse into its self when hitting something solid. punch through. When it hit tissue, it would hydraulic open and rip. Good stuff, if you can find it.

  9. Ruger LCP. Flatter than flat. Better than nothing in the summer time. I have big hands, but it shoots great. I have to hold it with two fingers. But it’s there if I need it. And always have something bigger close by.

  10. If you only have – .380, better feed it well, and make it work for you. Got a couple PPK’s around here. Haven’t seen em in many years now. My wife and daughter’s, carry guns, kept biting them, no matter what I taught them they still got bit, slide to frame issues, grip issues.

    Bitchen guns, just not for my girls.

    Wife went to a 38 hammer- less and three five round round speed loaders, daughter went with the Kel tec. 9mm. With three extra mags. AND they both carry BENCHMADE knives!!!.

    Foolish to have your people carry the gun YOU want then to pack, life’s about choices. Should wife or daughter decide to return to the Walther, no worries, their not going anywhere.

    Great article on feeding the beast.


  11. Berglander

    I can chuck a .380 at someone’s head around 110 fps.

  12. Years ago, when I was messing around with the .380, I had a Keltec P3AT and found the best ammo for that pistol was American Eagle 90 gr. ball.

    When .380 ammo went from $5/box to $20, I gave it to one of my kids and never looked back. Guess they’ve come out with some better ammo since then.

  13. A.B Prosper

    Remington Green and White Box 90 grain hollow points or FMJ perform very well to the specs on the box and are reliable accurate in almost all guns . In any caliber it’s inexpensive that means more ammo practicing with you carry too which is very useful. It’s also easy to get sold everywhere even Cali Walmarts have it

    On pure grounds of utility 9mm parabellum might be a better choice for a compact defensive arm but if you have a .380 you inherited, private transfer or just like run with it.

    hell I’d run with a .32 pocket pistol if that is what I had Low report, low recoil , just adequate penetration and its sent plenty of men to hell over its lifetime.

    All handguns suck at stopping people by kinetic energy. The .380 has the utilitarian function of being compact, easy to carry and conceal and thus ideal for a guerilla gunfighter.

    if you are off the ranch doing anything in many AO’s openly carrying arms is hunting trouble. That little .380 will often be far more useful to you than a big ass Ruger or Glock

    If SHTF often as not you are not going to be soldiering, patrolling or anything where a sidearm will be appropriate, It’s a lot of sneak and peek , such and run , covert ops shit and to a point, smaller is better

    Being virtue of being subsonic and using a small enough powder charge smaller .380 suppressors are possible. The small commercial ones come under 5 inches and can be concealed easily when not in use.

    Homemade ones remember need only last “Your magazines +3” number of shots , 1 for the first shot test (to prevent first shot pop) 1 for the chamber, x for the mags and 1 just in case . For say a PPK thats 23, round up to 25 rounds

    All laws still apply blah blah blah

  14. Check out Fort Scott Munitions. An interesting twist. Literally.

  15. kypartisan

    .380 is barely better than 38S&W. not worth it IMO.

    Also, has anyone noticed how obnoxious a .380 pistol is? when i next to some one shooting one it rattles my teeth.

    • Yes. But it beats the hell out of your fingernails in a fight! And most of the time the show of a gun is what stops the B.S.

  16. Matt Bracken

    Playing to the strength of a pistol that is tiny, that you can carry in the hot summer in dress shorts or a swim suit, or out jogging etc, realize that when you use it it will probably be at point-blank range, used first and by surprise. So get it up fast, put it in his face, and put them between his running lights. Practice with it at 5 to 10 feet, bringing it up fast for a face shot. In that case, which .380 load will not matter as much as your determination, resolution, and cold heart.

    • Indeed, this is why I carry a 10 shot 22LR loaded w/mini-mags. It fits in my pocket w/no ‘print’. makes a heck of a hole in a melon!

    • So are you actually swimming in your swim suit?

    • vigilantcitizen

      Yep, golden truth right there old FRiend. While I would love to carry my good old 1911 .45 acp all the time, there are times like today when I hiked 3 miles in carhartt shorts, backpack, and fishing rod going to my favorite shoal bass creek deep in the woods. I carried my ruger lcr .22. While I could of carried my ruger p95 in 9mm, and had I been heading somewhere different like the city, I would’ve.
      But I have no problem in carrying the .22 LCR. I have complete confidence in the lethality of the .22lr at close range, having slaughtered many a hog with a .22lr….instantly….DRT. I can draw it quicker, conceal it longer in the act of drawing, and put rounds on target quicker than my 9mm.
      Point is this, all the debate about pistol caliber lethality is not as relevant as shot placement, especially in a pocket pistol.

  17. Atlas Shrug

    Jesus H Christ – with all of the tiny, quality 9mm guns available in this day, why would someone intentionally and unnecessarily limit themselves with a .380 ACP?

    Just get a quality pocket 9mm and be done with it. The Sig P365 is excellent, as is its single action brethren the P938, then there is the Glock 43, Springfield XDS, Kahrs, baby Kimbers, etc.

    Training and recoil can be managed with ammo choice.

    Just don’t go .380. Just don’t.

    Keep you powder dry, and avoid any defensive handgun below 9mm level,

    Atlas Shrug

    • Atlas:

      Not everyone can shoot even a 9, and even the Glock 42 can be out of reach financially for many.


      • vigilantcitizen

        I agree Historian, to an extent. And, as an old USN gunners mate that had many a beer with sure nuff combat vet marines and frogmen, shot placement is way more important than caliber.
        However, I’m a small guy. Even though I own and can shoot big bore (45CP, 12 GA) firearms, I carry a ruger p95 in 9mm.
        I paid $250 used for it. It goes bang every time I pull the trigger, and it ain’t fussy about ammo. If I carried professionally, I’d spring for a sig or a glock, but for civilian EDC, it’s fine. So, financially there is no barrier to carry a .380 over a 9mm, especially when you consider that .380 ammo cost more.
        And, IMO, the difference in recoil between a .380 and 9mm is negligible.

  18. Sticking to the request, not going to 2nd-guess the reason. DTG & DSL gave some good potential sources. The HST bullet, from load to load, is a good performer. Even during times of having another firearm on body but layer-buried in severe weather, for whatever reason, a snubbie or little .380 in the Carhartt pocket with your hand on it RFN can be a nice thing.

  19. Old Gray Wolf

    If dropping below 9mm, in which I use a 115 Gold Dot at close to 1250 FPS, I go to the 32 keltec. I never am without the G17, or the keltec that backs it up. The keltec is for use in near contact distance fights where it can be used effectively, and only if the 17 is down or unavailable for some odd reason. I can hit a cranium with the keltec to 15 yards if needed. The first round is a JHP, the rest are ball, for penetration. The “eye socket round” is expanding, and if used at distance, will be followed immediately with the rest of the magazine of ball ammo. All that said, I am going to switch to a hammerless 357/38 snubbie as a backup, due to the extreme likelihood of a jammed up gun when using an autoloader in contact with the target. No such issue with a revolver. The 380 has been used by an uncle and myself for dispatching mortally wounded deer at times, and it works fine at near contact distance on head shots. I never felt comfortable with either it’s power or it’s penetration, so I stuck with the 9mm and the .32. And both are cheaper to feed than the 380.

  20. Hornady Critical Defense. FBI tests years ago got 14 inches of penetration in ballistic gel. Not my first choice in a caliber but I don’t want to get hit with it. Guy at the pool hall got hit 4 times over shit talking a woman. Her man shot him. He moved 3 feet and dropped over dead. No it wasn’t Hornady ammo. Simple ball ammo.

  21. SemperFi, 0321

    Fully agree with MB this time.
    Packing a small .380 or 9mm Makarov in the summer sure beats a sharp stick. Where you going to pack your Glock or 1911 in your swim trunks or shorts?

  22. So, .380 is not my first choice for a defensive pistol.

    That said, I once imposed upon a friend of mine who has personally shot and killed more men in close combat than you could crowd into a large meeting room for his opinion on arms and caliber. He’s spent several tours in the Corps in the sandbox, and subsequently spent 5 years as a PMC overseas, and I asked him based on his experience what rifle and pistol, in what caliber he’d pick to protect himself and his family if TSHTF.

    He shrugged, and said “Most any reliable system that you’ve trained with and can hit with will work. I’ve trained with and used a lot of different weapons, and I’ve shot people with everything from 5.45 Soviet to .308 in rifles, and 9mm to 45 auto. It doesn’t matter so much what caliber you shoot them with, it matters a lot more WHERE you shoot them.” When pressed, he allowed that a 12 gauge shotgun with OO buckshot could fairly reliably put a bad guy down with one center hit, but even that weapon, he said, did not always do the job with one shot; sometimes he needed two good hits to stop a man and put him down for keeps.

    At the time, I was absolutely convinced that the .45 ACP and the .30 caliber gas gun rifles were the best choices, and I was genuinely stunned at this statement. But his experience was undeniable, and I have since gotten much the same reaction from many veterans of the sandbox; shot placement is of most importance.

    This echoes the old time advice- “Shoot the biggest caliber you can reliably hit with!” One married couple I have been coaching in shooting skills decided that since they were a team, they were going to carry the same calibers, not only for carbines, but also pistols. He’s a muscular 6’2″ in excellent shape, likes the .45, carries a short barrelled 1911, and has learned to do reasonably well with it. She, a petite woman with no background in firearms or shooting, was given a similar weapon, but did not like it, was not able to hit with it and eventually refused to participate in pistol training.

    After some time, her husband has now bought her a small DAO 380. It has poor sights, a long mushy/crunchy trigger pull, and is slow to reload. It is, however, reasonably accurate and reliable, and she can hit reliably hit inside the 0 ring at 7 yards; she is now enjoying shooting, and practicing much more with her new gun, which she likes. *I* am thrilled that she can hit the target with her .380, and still more pleased that she’s carrying her new pistol everywhere she can. I would much rather her carry something she can hit with, even if it is ‘only’ a cheap .380, than a snubnose cannon that she can’t, and I am not about to run down her choice of weapon! She HITS with this gun, and that is what counts.

    ONLY HITS COUNT, and when you are talking about defending yourself with a pistol, only CNS, heart and liver hits have the potential to quickly stop a determined assailant. If the biggest caliber you can hit with is a .380, then the question of caliber selection is settled, at least until your skills improve. Obviously, making a bigger hole, deeper, improves the odds of damaging something that will stop your assailant, but a big hole in the air, or the ground, or worse, in some innocent bystander, is not going to stop anything.

    Moreover, a .380 loaded with good ammo, such as the Federal HST, or the Hornady STX, expands reliably to ~.5 inches, and will penetrate to just a tad more than the FBI minimums. If you do the math, this translates to being about a 55-60% one shot stopper, or within rockthrowing distance of the .45 ACP hardball round.

    If the day comes when my arthritis gets bad enough that I can no longer shoot a .45, or a .40, or a 9, I may be looking into getting a .380, or maybe even a .22. I may come to the point that I can’t effectively shoot a .45, but I will always be shooting the biggest caliber I can hit effectively with.

    With regard to all who serve the Light,

    • Thank you for your input; it is received with gratitude by yours truly.

      • PS we all live on the edge of death but it is not the fall we fear but those long years of pain and uselessness that proceed the fall

  23. alphabilly

    You can hand load and get the 90 grain round up above 1000 fps. Check your reloaders manual.

    • Tfat! speaks!!!!
      When I was very young I knew a guy, a cop, detective, that packed an engraved Baby Browning as his GTG; have you ever held a Browning 25ACP? It is impossible for a man to get a grip on said gun, let alone fire it…only small women could do so!

      • more likely than not

        ewe are a typical fat slob fucking murkin

        g’damn pigs all wear size XXXXL

        go die already


  24. Wendy Stringer

    For a .380 pistol (a.k.a. “mouse gun) I would say whatever feeds 100% reliably. These small guns seem to have a narrow range of bullet weight and impulse (powder burn rate) that they function reliably with. In some guns (like the Taurus 738 TCP I had) it was Winchester 95 grain FMJ.

    Also might be a good idea to give some consideration to the circumstances under which the gun may be used in a real life situation. Since it will likely be at near contact or in contact distance with the bad guy trying to shoot you with his gun, stab you with a knife or club you with a pipe and/or trying to grab your gun, you may have to use your non-weapon hand to hold off the attacker while you draw and fire the gun multiple times from a retention hold against or close to your body all the while being amazed that your shots are not having any apparent immediate effect on him while he is still continuing to try to kill you.

    I think this example is interesting (gun the woman was using was most probably a .380)

  25. Sink pisser

    What I got on me 99% of the time ?


    Can’t hit nothing if you’re not packing.

    Hits count, caliber not so much.

  26. TheAlaskan

    “Other suggestions”

    44 magnum, 300 gr. wadcutters.

    Don’t mess around. Get it done right.

    Bears hate ’em. Ask me how I know.

    Don’t be a pussy, be a dirty Harry. Blow his fucking head clean off.

    Walk away satisfied.

  27. my glock 42 likes these:

    also get the special bullet seater made for reloading GDHP. keeps them pretty. works in my dillon 650.

  28. Talk about the adequacy it this round is really off topic
    .380 worked to start world war 1. Archduke never called it puny. This caliber is to escape a fight for most people. Armed resistance is what matters most. Most thugs won’t consider the caliber of gun being used to shoot at them if they are deciding flight not fight. Psychological stops are a real part of the equation. It is not only about ballistics. Consider how a wasp or hornet can clear a room of people pretty fast.
    I am impressed with ARX ammo since the rotation and fins makes a larger than caliber hole and still penetrates. I could even see this bigger hole on a paper target!

  29. Read the first-hand account of the team that was assembled to retaliate for the ’72 Munich massacre. At the outset, they consulted with a USMC professional killer. He trained the team on a Beretta .22 pocket pistol, asserting that with proper technique, it would work fine. It got the job done.

    Echo MB’s comment – hard heart and resolve, without that it’s a crap shoot you’re unlikely to win.

    With an unloaded and fully cleared weapon, practice your fast draw, target engagement, and dry fire. Air is cheap to shoot, and silent. Dry fire daily. Once that becomes a muscle memory, up the game to live fire. Shoot cheap ball initially to get used to the report in order to refine your technique. Then, and only then, move on to your high dollar defense rounds alternating with ball in the same magazine, to ensure you reliably hit what you want to hit.

    Alternating ball with the specialty rounds in the magazine is easy enough to do. Get one for penetration, another for expansion, and practice your double tap technique to where that becomes second nature as well.

    Another variable to remember is barrel length – it might be instructive to test a 9mm 3″ barrel against a .380 with a 5″ barrel.

    The .380, even with a 3″ barrel, will get the job done, as long as you do yours.

  30. Matt Bracken

    True No Shit Sea Story Time:
    This was told to a bunch of tadpoles by a Vietnam vet SEAL long ago.
    He was on an exercise with ROK frogmen, and while cleaning weapons, he noticed one of them cleaning a little Browning .25. The American laughed and said that tiny gun was useless. The ROK frogman said, No, it’s a great gun, and it saved his life. He was captured doing some murky cross border or DMZ excursion, and the hidden .25 caliber escaped detection by his initial captor. When his captor briefly looked away, the ROK frogman shot him in the head, headed for the surf zone, and escaped.