.380 ACP Shells

Best 380 Ammo: Self-Defense & Target Practice

You may be wondering “why do a best-of article on ammo for a marginal carry gun” … it’s because of popularity. The .380 is here, stronger than ever, with many folks carrying them – myself included. Its popularity has surged over the last few years to the point where many claim it to be a viable self-defense caliber.

We’ll take a look at:

  • PMC Bronze FMJ 90-Grain: uses a 90-grain bullet instead of the more common 95, this ammo rates very highly for its reliability, accuracy, and value at 32.0¢ p/r
  • Speer Lawman 95-Grain: is less expensive than the PMC load listed above, it is put together to the highest specs that retail at 29.0¢ p/r.
  • Winchester “White Box” .380 95-Grain: is a great value for money although other people are split with ammo being really good or being just ok with an ok price at 29.0¢.
  • SIG 90-Grain V-Crown: is reliable in whatever firearm it’s shot in. It is probably not the cheapest out there but it goes bang pretty much every time you want it to, this ammo is a good bargain at 0.85¢ p/r.
  • Hornady Critical Defense 90-Grain: is used by many police agencies as a duty round in whatever-caliber-pistol they carry, and thousands of civilian carriers at a reasonable 86.0¢ p/r.
  • Federal Hydra-Shok 90-Grain: is known for its great penetration and expansion and it’s a steal at 69.5¢ p/r.
  • Winchester PDX-1 Supreme 95-Grain: the most popular self-defense round and what sets this round apart from some others is that it uses a bonded bullet which is pretty good for 87.5¢ p/r.
  • Remington Golden Saber 102-Grain: is another favorite by police agencies for duty weapon carry, purchased as the only self-defense round that many people will buy at 52.0¢ p/r.

Feel free to skip to the Our Best 380 Ammo picks section, or read on to see how the .380 ammo has evolved.

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The .380’s History

A shot from a .380 was the catalyst, the final straw, that started WWI. Radical Serbian nationalist and anarchist Gavrilo Princip used an FN Model 1910 .380 to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austria-Hungary Empire and his wife.

FN 1910 & Gavrilo Princip
FN 1910 & Gavrilo Princip

He was a Bosnian Serb member of Young Bosnia, a Yugoslavist group dedicated to ending the Austria/Hungarian rule of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He thought that, by shooting the Archduke, A/H rule would end. One thing led to another, to another, etc. and in 1914 the “War To End All Wars” commenced. (It obviously didn’t end all wars). Considered a fairly powerful cartridge at that time, it replaced the popular (in Europe) .32 Auto as the carry gun of choice. The rise of the 9mm Luger eventually knocked the .380 into the pocket-pistol category.

Introduced in 1908 by Colt for use in its Colt Model 1908 pocket hammerless semi-automatic, the .380 ACP round has been a popular self-defense cartridge ever since. Seeing worldwide use in many handguns, another popular name for it is the 9mm Kurz (9mm Short). It uses the same bullet diameter of the 9mm – .355, just in a lighter format (95-105 grains). Another name for this round is the 9X17. Most pistols for this cartridge are of blow-back design, not unlike a .22 LR. Usually, it does not generate enough pressure to require a locked-breech action, although some newer .380s utilize just such an action. If you want to know more about guns chambered in .380, read my article about them here.

Today’s Ammo

Fast-forward to today…the advent of modern self-defense rounds brings the lowly .380 out of obscurity. With modern defensive ammo, the .380 proves to be a viable self-defense cartridge. Some experts equate its stopping power with that of a 158-grain .38 Special lead round-nose cartridge. It is not as powerful as a 9mm (even out of a short barrel), but with modern ammo, a lot of people carry it as their main CCW gun.

Handgun Caliber Comparison

The ammunition scene is very different from what it was even 30 years ago (read my handgun caliber guide here). There are .380 JHP loads that will penetrate a foot or more of ballistic gel, and FMJ rounds that will go pretty far into the gel block.

Ballistic gel test for 380 Auto - 90 Grain Hydra-Shok JHP

Before the advent of such JHP loads, folks who carried a .380 tended to carry 95-grain FMJ ammo. The reasoning was that, since the .380 is on the lower end of the power spectrum and may not be relied upon to expand, a JHP would at least penetrate far enough to hopefully stop an attacker. There are guys who still carry FMJ bullets in their .380 pistols in lieu of a JHP. There is something to be said about expansion, but I think they figure that at .380 velocities expansion can’t be guaranteed.

I’ve mentioned JHP and FMJ – what are they? Let’s look at a quick explanation…

A full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet is made up of a lead core covered with a copper “jacket”, or gilding layer. This jacket may or may not cover the bullet’s base. The advantage of this type of bullet is that it will not deform, usually, when it hits the target and will drill straight through to its full penetration depth. The exception would be be if it hits bone, at which time it can skew and go at an angle thereby causing more damage. Many military weapons use FMJ bullets, as they tend to feed very reliably in full-auto guns, plus they were mandated by international ruling (below). They usually do not expand, but tend to remain the same diameter all the way through the target.

Full Metal Jacket Bullets
Photo: Thewellman

On the other hand, jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullets are designed to upset and peel back their jacket, exposing the soft lead core in the nose of the bullet in order to aid expansion. Some JHP bullets have weakening scores on their jackets in order to facilitate easy expansion. The ideal form a JHP bullet can exhibit after being fired and expanding in a target is a to look like a flower, with the lead “petals” pulled back which extends the bullet‘s diameter. This is done to create a larger wound channel, hopefully increasing the bullet’s ability to stop an attacker.

Hollow Point Ammo Comparison
Hollow Point Comparison, by ar15.com Molon

The JHP was prohibited for international use during warfare by the 1899 Hague Convention’s “Early Warfare Ruling” against it that banned its use on the battlefield. Even though the U.S. didn’t ratify the agreement, it has followed the guidelines laid down anyway. Our military does seem to be getting away from its voluntary ban on JHP bullets, as the Army has experimented with these JHP loads. Consequently, the Army has considered switching to JHP bullets for its small arms. The thinking is that modern combat participants are not necessarily going to “play by the rules” so let’s keep our soldiers safer by issuing them ammo that tends to have more effect on a hostile target shooting back than a FMJ bullet.

What’s this got to do with what you and I carry in our .380 pistol? Not much. I just wanted to illustrate that JHP bullets are being used more and more in our world. Civilians and police have been carrying them for decades and now it looks like the Army will carry them, too. They tend to be effective, especially in a lesser-powered cartridge like the .380. Let’s look at some different types of .380 ammunition now.

Our Picks for Best 380 Ammo

I’ll list good buys that use both types of bullets – both FMJ and JHP. Most folks tend to use .380 FMJ rounds for practice but carry JHP for defense. As with any defense ammo, you should try a couple or more different types to see what is reliable and accurate in your gun.

When you practice, shoot the lesser-expensive FMJ for the bulk of your session, but end by shooting a magazine or so loaded with your defense ammo of choice. That way, you’ll be familiar with it. If it should hit a different point of impact on the target, you’ll know it and be able to compensate. It may present more recoil than your FMJ load, so you’ll get used to that, too. Another point to consider is that it is usually cheaper to buy ammo in bulk (more than 50 rounds at once). The price-per-round goes down a little, which may make JHP ammo a little easier to come by and you’ll get more practice in with it.

One note for reloaders…all of the loads I mention here use reloadable brass cases. I didn’t list any Berdan-primed or steel-cased ammo on purpose. It’s cheaper, but I believe you get what you pay for.

FMJ Loads

#1 PMC Bronze FMJ 90-Grain

Even though this uses a 90-grain bullet instead of the more-common 95, this ammo rates very highly for its reliability, accuracy and value. Whether you want 50 or 1000, you can get it for a reasonable price. PMC (Precision Made Cartridges) ammo is distributed out of Houston, Texas. They make all their ammo to either SAAMI or military specifications.

The ammo is usually reliable in whatever firearm it’s shot in. It is probably not the cheapest out there (the steel-cased Russian ammo is cheaper), but if you are looking for a solid practice round that goes bang pretty much every time you want it to, this ammo is a good bargain.

 

#2 Speer Lawman 95-Grain

Speer has been in the ammo business for many years. Many police agencies and civilian carriers alike use their Gold Dot JHP load.

Even though it is less expensive than the PMC load listed above, it is put together to the highest specs. Speer manufactures everything that goes together to make up this cartridge. They have total in-house control over the quality of their loaded ammo. Not only do they sell some excellent loaded cartridges, they also sell reloading components. I can’t begin to figure up how much I’ve spent on Speer primers, reloading manuals, etc. over the past 40 years.

My heavy-duty single-stage press is an old RCBS Jr. It has loaded thousands of rounds of .38, .380, 9mm, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP., 223, 8X57, and .45 Colt ammo and shows no signs of needing to be replaced. Why do I mention the reloading stuff that Speer makes? Just to show that they are in it to the hilt in terms of shooting support. If something of theirs breaks or doesn’t work as advertised, they’ll make it right. If you are looking for inexpensive (not cheaply-made) practice ammo for your .380, here you go.

 

#3 Winchester “White Box” .380 95-Grain FMJ

Winchester white box (“WWB” on the forums) ammo has one of two reputations…really good and just plain good. What do I mean by that? Some forum participants seem to want to run this ammo down (though, to be fair, they are usually talking about 9mm, .40, or .45) as being unreliable in some of their guns. Others tend to like it very much. I fall into that last camp. I don’t know how many boxes of WWB I’ve bought for various calibers. Dollar-for-dollar, this is some pretty good ammo.

One thing you’ll notice as you look at the loaded bullets here is that they are not round-nosed. They are flat-nosed. This alone makes me want to try this particular load. The flat point just hits with a little more authority than the round nose. That’s why semi-wadcutters are so popular, especially in the revolver world. From my experience, they sure do a good job on game animals. I can imagine that the flat-nose .380 version would pop a full gallon milk jug with authority.

 

JHP Loads

For practice or just general shooting, the FMJ will do nicely. If you are at the range and you have a round with a bad primer, you simply rack the slide and load a new one. This is OK for range work, but not for self-defense. That ammo has to do four things every time:

Be reliable. There is simply no room in your carry gun’s magazine for any ammo that has shown itself to be unreliable in that gun. Even a few duds out of 100 are too many. There are too many brands and types of other cartridges out there to put up with unreliable ammo. In addition to misfires, you may also have stovepipe jams or failures to feed or extract. Experiment with different loads to see what works best in your gun.

Be accurate. I’m not talking bullseye-at-50-yards-accurate, but it does need to be able to keep its shots on a B-27-type of target. Those are 24X45 inches – at 7 to 15 yards, you should be able to put your shots in the kill zone. This is not the place to talk about training, drills, timings, etc., so just make sure your ammo is at least that accurate out of your gun. If it doesn’t shoot to your gun’s sights, get them adjusted. You want your defense ammo to go where you’re looking.

Have sufficient penetration. The F.B.I. protocol for duty ammunition penetration in ballistic gel is between 12 and 18 inches. Fewer than 12 inches of penetration and the round may not cause an attacker to stop, while more than 18 inches may allow it to exit the intended target and hurt a bystander. Not all .380 ammo will meet this criteria, so some experimentation is in order on your part. Plus, only you can decide if the F.B.I. protocol is important for you to follow. This is your call.

Have sufficient expansion. You don’t pull all .380 ammo out of a soft target perfectly mushroomed. You need to examine your priorities about this. First, decide if the “flower petal” type of expansion of the fired bullet is important to you, and if expansion is important to you, you need to experiment with different loads to find one that does expand consistently. If perfect expansion is not a priority, almost any .380 ammo should satisfy your requirement, even FMJ rounds. Remember, I mentioned above that some guys carry their .380s with FMJ bullets – they are counting on penetration alone to stop the attacker, figuring that a lot of .380 ammo will not expand at the typical velocities it produces. That used to be the case, but not so much with modern bullet technology. Again, your call.
Let’s look at some JHP ammo for the .380 now…

#1 SIG 90-Grain V-Crown JHP

SIG 90-Grain V-Crown JHP Gel Test

Summary of Ballistic Gel Test Stats: 12.4 inches of penetration, .511 inch expansion

The SIG V-Crown has proven itself many times over. You know they’re serious about it when they print ballistics information on the box (below). This round is one of not too many that will pass the F.B.I.’s 12-inch minimum penetration benchmark plus expand reliably while it does so. This round should satisfy the person who carries a .380 and relies on expansion and penetration both.

SIG came out with their V-Crown line of ammo that was supposed to do well in shorter barrels. I think this was spurred when, after its introduction, the 9mm P365 with its short barrel was less than reliable with some brands and types of ammo. SIG fixed the problem by designing a round specifically for short barrels. It evidently worked, as the V-Crown series of ammo generally receives good reviews.

 

#2 Hornady Critical Defense 90-Grain JHP

Hornady Critical Defense 90-Grain JHP Gel Test

Ballistic gel test for this round Summary of Ballistic Gel Test Stats: 13.5 inches of penetration, .482 inch expansion

Hornady always has at least one round in any “best of” ammo roundup. The FTX bullet has proven itself time and again, both in the lab and on the street. Many police agencies use it as a duty round in whatever-caliber-pistol they carry, and thousands of civilian carriers won’t carry anything else.

The Critical Defense brand, in several calibers including revolver rounds, is a top-notch round in terms of reliability and performance. The flex-tip bullet (the “FT” of the “FTX” name) is a soft polymer gel substance that, after striking the target, pushes into the bullet’s nose and then does two things. It helps initiate expansion by literally shoving itself into the soft lead bullet core. It then helps that expansion from being terminated by not allowing debris or other material to plug the hollow point. I have seen many hollow point bullets I’ve shot not expand because they filled with dirt or something else, effectively turning that bullet into a sort-of FMJ solid-nose. The polymer plug prevents that. This is one .380 round that consistently expands. Couple that with the penetration that it achieves and you have a winner.

 

#3 Federal Hydra-Shok 90-Grain JHP

Federal Hydra-Shok 90-Grain JHP Gel Test

Ballistic gel test for this round Summary of Ballistic Gel Test Stats: 25.9 inches of penetration, .355 inch expansion

When you mention the term “hydra-shok” to any handgunner who’s been around a while, it immediately brings to mind the bullet with the post in the middle…

hydra-shok post

This post is there to control expansion. The Hydra-Shok bullet is known for its great penetration and expansion. But…why do the stats above say that basically the bullet didn’t expand in ballistic gel? It pretty much leaves the barrel at .355 inch – so why did it not expand?

Not having been there when they tested it, I don’t know. I have seen other shots of expanded Hydra-Shok bullets that were almost half again their diameter. So why would I include a round that does not show much, if any, expansion in a ballistics gel test? There are two reasons. The first is that the good folks at Lucky Gunner got that result on the day they tested, and it may or may not have the same result on another day. The second is that some folks like their .380s to penetrate. I know that I have, on occasion, carried mine with FMJ bullets for that penetration factor (especially this time of year in the Midwest, when bulky coats are the norm).

Here’s a diagram from Lucky Gunner that shows an unfired bullet at the center of several fired bullets. Notice the nose did expand, just not in the typical “flower-petal” way.

unfired vs fired 90 Grain Hydra-Shok JHP bullets

I would not hesitate to carry this ammo in my .380. With its penetration about double that of the other rounds here, I would feel protected. Also, remember that you might carry this ammo in the winter if you live in a bulky-coat climate and maybe something else in the summer if you’re worried about over-penetration. That’s the beauty of experimenting with different types of ammo … you can find two or three different loads that will meet your requirements.

The final thought is that you should conduct your own tests with whatever ammo you’re thinking about carrying. It doesn’t have to be ballistic gel…it could be wet newspapers, filled gallon jugs, whatever. Just keep the results relevant – compare only what you’ve shot with others you’ve shot into the same media and don’t try to extrapolate results. If you get, say, 14 inches of penetration consistently with this load in packed, wet newspapers, don’t claim that it will perform the same way in ballistic gel or animal tissue. At least you’ll have an idea of how your ammo will do when shot into whatever you test with, and that can at least give you an idea of which load expands/penetrates better than other loads, in your tests. Compare apples to apples and that should help you decide on what to carry.

 

#4 Winchester PDX-1 Supreme 95-Grain JHP

Winchester PDX-1 Supreme 95-Grain JHP Gel Test

So now we look at one of the most popular self-defense rounds out there. There are police agencies that use the PDX-1 in other calibers, and it has a good reputation on the street. If you look at the stats above, you notice that this round’s numbers are almost backwards from the Hydra Shok’s numbers above. The penetration with the PDX-1 was 9.8 inches versus the almost 26 inches of the Federal round, while expansion was .622, greater than the others’ .355. That’s a 57% increase.

If you are looking for a bullet that expands rather violently, this may be your first choice to test. The PDX-1 has a reputation for getting consistently good reviews. It also tends to be low-flash. I tested it at dusk and the flash wasn’t very pronounced. Definitely less flash than some of the other rounds discussed. Since most defensive shootings occur after dark, not blinding yourself before you need a follow-up shot is a good thing.

One thing that sets this round apart from some others is that it uses a bonded bullet. The manufacturer uses a proprietary method to bond the bullet’s jacket to the lead core. This prevents separation upon impact. Holding the core to the jacket increases the retained weight of the bullet, which usually equals deeper penetration and expansion. The PDX-1 has been serving as the F.B.I.’s 9mm duty load for a while now, in its 147-grain form. If the technology in 9mm is good enough for the F.B.I., I’d think the .380 version would be good enough for the rest of us.

 

#5 Remington Golden Saber 102-Grain JHP

Remington Golden Saber 102-Grain JHP Gel Test

Summary of Ballistic Gel Test Stats: 16.5 inches of penetration, .347 inch expansion

The Golden Saber is another storied load. Chosen by police agencies for duty weapon carry, purchased as the only self-defense round that many people will buy, the Golden Saber does a very good job in its intended role. This ammo tends to function in a wide variety of guns, which endears it to those who may have more than one .380 in their safe. It has a good track record.

One thing that separates this round from all the other JHP loads discussed is that this load uses a 102-grain bullet. There are those knowledgeable shooters out there who will always shoot the heaviest bullet for caliber that they can find…the 147-grain 9mm, the 230-grain .45 ACP, etc. This 102-grain bullet isn’t necessarily a big change from those that weigh 95 grains, but every little bit helps. The cast bullet that I load for my .380 weighs 103 grains. According to my energy calculator, a 95-grain bullet at 985 fps yields 205 ft./lbs. of energy with the 102-grain bullet adding 15 more ft./lbs. As I said above, every little bit helps (especially in a lower-powered round like the .380).

102 Grain JHP - Remington Golden Saber fired bullet

Notice the angled score marks on the jacket to aid in starting expansion

The Golden Saber .380 is a good choice for a carry load. Remington has been making ammo for decades and they have it down pretty well by now. Add in the professionals that carry it in one caliber or other and you have a quality solution for your carry needs.

 

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Honorable Mention

There are SO many good .380 loads out there that this article could go on and on. However, I’ll stop now but mention a few other good loads that you may want to look at. Remember what makes a good load…reliability, accuracy, expansion and penetration. If I had to pick just one of those four, I’d go with reliability. Gel tests are nice, but if that certain cartridge that expanded to 5 times its diameter and penetrated through 10 gel blocks won’t function in your gun, what good is it?

So… here are a few others for your consideration…

 
 
 

What Now?

Let’s pretend (or it may be true) that you’ve just taken a new .380 home and are wondering what to shoot in it…what do you buy to start off with? I recommend a FMJ load or two to help break it (and you) – in. Make sure it shoots whatever you put through it reliably, and only then begin your search for carry ammo. Buy two or three different boxes of JHP ammo (if that’s what you want to carry – as I said above, some carry FMJ – that’s your call).

Once you’ve found a load or two that functions well in your gun, narrow it down to one brand and practice with it. Shoot it enough to feel comfortable with its recoil, point of impact, and other characteristics.

Practice, Practice…

At the range, shoot your practice ammo for most of the session but make sure you end up with your defense ammo. It won’t require you to shoot 50 rounds or more each time. A magazine or two through your gun of your chosen self-defense ammo should suffice, if you shoot regularly. It’s like any other skill you’re practicing…doing it once a month probably won’t do much to ingrain the right habits. You need to shoot weekly if possible, or even more. That’s easy for me to say since I have a range in my backyard but still shoot as often as you can.

And, don’t just shoot bullseye-style. There are drills galore on the internet (check YouTube in particular) for defensive-shooting drills that, if practiced regularly, will certainly help your skill development. Should you take a class? Only you can answer that. It sure couldn’t hurt, if it’s the right class. (That’s a whole separate article).

The .380, aside from helping to start WWI, is nowadays a very popular and viable self-defense weapon. Many of us carry a .380 when we go out because it’s easy. I can slip my Taurus Spectrum in its pocket holster and be on my way without fiddling with belt holsters (Best Concealed Carry Holsters). If you have one (or are thinking about one), hopefully this article gives you a place to start in your quest to feed it. Please leave a comment below about your experience with .380 ammo.

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27 comments
  1. The last two boxes of Winchester white box I bought, in two different calibers, neither of them.380, admittedly, were absolutely filthy, dirtiest ammo I’ve ever shot. That was during the great ammo shortage, when some manufacturing standards seem to have slipped, so maybe it’s better now.

    1. Steve, I’ve not noticed that about the WWB stuff, but each lot of ammo could vary a bit. During the shortage, companies were working flat-out to get ammo to dealers, so QC might have slipped a bit – don’t know. Anyway, I’ve had good luck with the .380 and the 9mm. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I too am a fan of the .380 boight on for the so she would go to the range with me and I fell in love with it my self we got the S&W 380 ez great weapon and I do invite anyone who does not believe they are powerful enough to use for self protection to come on over and I will be glad to put a round in their foot just to help them see the light.lol. But all kidding aside the round is surprisingly powerful and a lot of fun to shoot
    I just wish enough people would shoot them to get the price for ammo down
    Thanks for the most informative article

    1. William, Thanks for the kind words. I agree – demand creates supply, and a big supply usually leads to lower prices (I didn’t pay attention too closely in Econ class – I was a music major!). Anyway, the .380 IS a different round than it was even 20 years ago. I, for one, would not volunteer to be the guinea pig on the receiving end of one. As for the EZ380, S&W recently came out with three tricked-out Performance Center versions of that gun (https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-mp-380-shield-ez-m20-black-ported-barrel). You can even get a gold-plated barrel, if that’s your thing. The two things I immediately noticed about the EZ380 when I first picked one up were how incredibly easy the slide is to rack and that the grip safety is “upside-down”. That makes, sense, too – it’s hinged at the bottom. Great gun. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Underwood and doubletap make excellant self defense rounds. Not just in 380. Their 357 and 10mm rounds are awesome. And they have a light load very fast 380. 9mm rounds in+p and +p+ shoot great in my glock 19 and sig fullsize.

    1. Douglas, they both make great stuff. I think that they’re just not as well known as some of the bigger players, plus not a small shops carry a full line of their stuff. They make great ammo, to be sure-very effective in whatever caliber you buy. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Great article! Thank you so much, I learned a lot. I have 2 .380s, a Ruger LC380 and a Bersa Thunder, the first 2 handguns I bought. Love them both, but moved up to the LC9 and a Glock 19 for CC, based on the power factor and less cost. Made sense to me. The LC380 does have a problem with some loads – it has a tough time stripping the final round in the mag into the chamber and stove pipes. Due to this, I’m not at ease carrying this one, and the Bersa is a tad bulkier, so the LC9 is my main carry gun. Don’t love the long notchy trigger but I am used to it. Based on your article, I will try a few more loads in the LC380 to see if I can find one that works well.
    Again, great article, THANK YOU! Brian

    1. Brian, Thanks for the kind words. I own and carry a 380 so I have a dog in this fight. The LC380 is a great gun, but was discontinued when Ruger figured out they could put the 9mm round in the same size gun, so lots of guys quit buying the LC380 in favor of the LC9(s). It’s a great gun though – just keep experimenting and you’ll find something that works. As for your LC9 – is it that one or the LC9S? The hammer-fired one does have trigger issues, but my LC9S has one of the best striker-fired-gun triggers I’ve ever used. You may want to think about swapping it for the S version. Anyway, great comment-thanks!

  5. A great 380 round is the Lehigh Defense by them and Underwood ..better penetration and great wound channels without over penetration. I carry these in the Ruger LCP 2 in the summer. The rest oftheyear it’s Sig Sauer P365 with CorBon DPX or SuperVel

    1. James, you are right about the Lehigh and Underwood rounds. I just had to draw the line somewhere. The defense rounds now being made by who I call the major players (Speer, Hornady, Remington, etc.) are so much better than they used to be and tend to cost a little bit less than the Lehigh, Underwood and Doubletap rounds so I mostly mentioned the mainstream rounds. The other specialty rounds are great. That’s the hard part about writing this type of article – you do have to cut it off at some point. Thanks for your comment!

  6. I routinely carry a .380 this time of year. T shirt and shorts, and my .380. Easy consealability, light weight,stopping power (in my opinion). When I practice, admittedly not often enough,I use FMJ and finish with my carry load,FTX 90 gr. I did exactly what Mike suggested and tried several different types and manufacturers,including several mentioned in this article. For me,the FTX had zero jams,misfires and was consistently on point of aim. Several of the others tended to shoot low to point of aim. Having several .380’s in my safe,I normally carry the Glock 42, which was the pistol used to determine this article’s response.
    Thanks Mike! Keep on writing.

    1. Dave, I appreciate your comments and thank you for your kind words. You are a great example of what happens when you experiment with different loads in order to find the best one for your gun. Glad the FTX works so well for you – it’s one of the best JHP loads. Even if you’re a shooter who carries FMJ rounds for self defense, you should experiment with different types – you’ll find one that shoots close to point of aim, is reliable and functions the gun. Experimenting with different loads works for any type or caliber of ammo. Thanks again, Dave!

  7. I have An MP Bodyguard with the laser built in. I discovered it likes
    AE, WWB, Lawman, .and Blazer brass to name a few fmj loads. These never require a second strike. I was reading someplace (always a good source) that the XTP bullet does quite well in whichever company loads it. I have a few mags worth in the Hornadyle lineup. They also mentioned the Hydrashock faring pretty decent in the 2.75″ barrel. I tend to load 5 WWB with either a XTP or Hydrashock on top of them and another JHP in the chamber. I’ve ran a couple dozen setups like this and they’ve always been a success in my BG. I have a gen 4 Glock 19 which is the main pistol out here but will consider the Bodyguard when its good and hot during the summer when its T-shirt and shorts weather in summer.

    1. Maricica, sounds like you’ve got it figured out. The new 380 loads are great, much better than before. Thanks for writing!

  8. Thanks for the article. Price per round vs. 9mm is unacceptable. I’ll be getting the Taurus G2C in 9mm, TYVM. A gun that small with a superior round =’s no comparison, IMHO.

  9. There is no “best” anything ammo or whatever when it comes to firearms.
    I have had Speer GD FTE in a new S&W Bodyguard for instance. Springs were too new and strong. And not enough power in the Speer to overcome that until it was broken in.
    One you overlook that is very good in 380 is Fiocchi Extreme (not regular but extreme, and a little hard to find). Excellent ballistics and reasonable price.

    1. BgDnTx, you are right. I just have to draw the line somewhere. Not all guns will shoot all loads equally well. You just have to experiment, and what works for you may not work for someone else. At least we have a decent selection in .380 ammo now. Appreciate the comment!

  10. Mike, in your experienced opinion with reloading and understanding of boolets… After looking at bullets and their design offered by different manufactures I noticed that some JHP’s have relief marks on the nose of the bullet to aide in proper expansion. Instead of that, what if manufacturers added a “swirl” style to it?
    Would that help increase bullet velocity at all?

    1. Dominic, I doubt if any “cuts” on the jacket would increase velocity – that would be more a function of bullet weight and powder charge. I’m sure that they’ve looked at all types of variations of bullet jacket scoring and other factors, including jacket thickness. Could be an idea, though. Thanks for writing!

  11. Mike:

    I would appreciate your advice on best choice of .380 ammo for a Colt model 1908 ACP hammerless pocket pistol? I recently inherited a nickel-plated 1936 pistol in excellent condition. I am reluctant to use modern high performance rounds in this gun. What ammo design and grain size are considered safe for older models like this? Is it even wise to fire them regularly?

    1. John, wow…not sure I’m qualified to make that call. If it was a recently-made gun, I could recommend just about any standard-pressure ammo out there, but with it being an older example, I think I’d take it to a gunsmith if I were you and get his opinion. I agree with you that I’d be careful about shooting new, higher-pressure ammo in it. Even though the .380 works at lower pressures, you don’t know what condition the gun’s steel, springs, etc. are in so I’d be careful.I handload the .380, and my loads are target-velocity-range, but even so, I’d want clearance to shoot even that. Without seeing the gun or knowing anything about it, I believe I’d defer to him. Better to be safe than sorry! Thanks for writing – I truly appreciate your asking me about it – I just don’t feel qualified to make this call. Thanks again for writing!

  12. Thanks very much for your reply, Mike! I do intend to take the .380 M1908 ACP to a qualified armorer for spring replacement and ammo advice. Regards, John.

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Hi! I'm Mike, one of the oldest writer of Sniper Country! If you have any feedback or question about my articles, please submit it here, it's always appreciated!

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