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One of the most popular handgun cartridges available on the market today, the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is an easy-to-carry self-defense cartridge. With a variety of small, lightweight compact pistols chambered in this caliber, its mild recoil and minimal muzzle blast make it a popular choice among those who carry concealed, police officers looking for a capable back-up gun, and general backyard plinkers and target shooters.

Typical .380 ammunition, also called .380 Auto ammo, features an 85-95 grain (gr) bullet that measures .355 inch in diameter and 0.984 inch in cartridge length. It's rimless and straight-walled, and is equipped with low-pressure percussion caps.

While .380 ACP ammo has gone up, down and back up in popularity over the last century, there’s still not a general consensus about the cartridge. When asked about their opinion on .380 ACP ammo, shooters either love it or hate it – and there’s not much middle ground for discussion.

Development of .380 ACP Ammo

Designed by John Moses Browning, .380 Auto ammunition was first introduced by Colt’s Manufacturing Company for the Colt Model 1908 Pocket Pistol in 1908. Browning’s design stemmed from his previous .38 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) cartridge, which are made for blowback pistols.

In 1912, .380 ACP ammunition was introduced in Belgium, where it became known as the 9mm Browning short. It remained popular during World War II – German forces used the Walther PPK and Italian forces used the Beretta M1934, both pistols chambered for .380 bullets.

The .380 Auto ammo was also used in other military pistols around the world until many replaced it with the 9mm. European law enforcement agencies also issued pistols chambered for .380 ACP ammunition as duty sidearms for their officers during the first decades of the 1900s.

In Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Sweden, the .380 still remains the official military cartridge.

Uses for .380 Auto Ammunition

The .380 ACP is not a high-energy round, but its accuracy makes it suitable for self protection, especially since recoil and muzzle blast are moderate. The bullets feed well and the firearms chambered for this round are as dependable as most other semi-automatic pistol rounds.

.380 ammunition shows a significant improvement in power and force when compared to the .32 Auto, especially in stopping power. The .380 ACP has become the standard minimum chambering for military, law enforcement, and self-defense rounds.

Outside of self defense, the .380 Auto provides high velocity and sufficient power for hunting small game. Many hunters use the round for rabbits, birds, and vermin like groundhogs and opossum. Using .380 ACP snake shot can come in handy for reptiles and indoor varmint, including rats.

Throughout history, even a few machine guns have been chambered for the .380 Auto, including the Mendoza HM-3 and the PP-19 Bizon.

Types of .380 Ammo

The range of .380 ammunition for sale today – from practice ammo to personal protection and target shooting – is abundant, with all major manufacturers of pistol ammunition in the U.S. producing .380 ACP ammo.

Today’s self-defense ammo is high quality and light years ahead of the basic round nose or simple hollow point bullets that the .380 ACP was originally created for. These advances have made .380 ammo cheap, readily available, and a viable choice of self-defense rounds for those who criticized past stopping power.

While there’s specialty .380 ACP ammo for sale, like Hornady Zombie Max, the cartridge is generally found in traditional ammo types:

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ): The FMJ is a typical range round and consists of a lead bullet nestled into a brass, nickel-plated, steel, or zinc-plated steel casing. The visible part of the bullet is covered with a harder metal, most often copper. When looking for bulk .380 ammo, this is often the cartridge people opt for. It’s a great round for practice, but is not designed for self defense or personal protection.

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP): Designed for self defense and hunting, JHP .380 ACP cartridges feature a lead bullet that, like FMJ, are jacketed in a harder metal. Yet instead of being round, these .380 bullets have a hollow point. This allows the bullet to expand significantly more than FMJ bullets, increasing the .380 ACP bullets’ stopping power and wound size.

Lead Round Nose (LRN): When a shooter’s goal is to buy .380 ammo cheap, they can find it with LRN rounds. These cartridges have the same lead bullet, but these aren’t jacketed, making them less expensive than other options. LRN bulk .380 ammo is used for plinking, target shooting, and training. While they offer an economic option, they’re restricted in some public hunting grounds, certain shooting ranges, and even in some states because of lead exposure. They do not offer the best options for self-defense rounds.

Total Metal Jacket (TMJ): TMJ rounds are similar to FMJ, but even safer when it comes to lead exposure. The lead bullet in TMJ .380 ACP ammunition is completely covered in a harder metal like copper. Buy .380 ammo like this to protect the shooter and environment from accidental lead exposure. TMJ cartridges are mandatory in some shooting ranges.

Continue reading 380 ACP (Auto) Ammo at Ammo.com .


We believe arming our fellow Americans – both physically and philosophically – helps them fulfill our Founding Fathers' intent with the Second Amendment: To serve as a check on state power.
 
Posts: 80 | Registered: January 10, 2020Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Freethinker
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Interesting article; thanks. I get the impression, though, that the author does not have much, if any, personal experience with the cartridge or even shooting in general. It seems to have been cobbled together from a variety of sources that she didn’t really understand, possibly going back to much earlier times. “Backyard plinking” and “low-pressure percussion caps”?

Some of the verbiage is also a little odd, and I wonder if English is a second language for her. But despite those quibbles, it was informative.




“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
— Bertrand Russell
 
Posts: 42625 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
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Interesting article – thanks for posting.

The recoil of blow-back .380 pistols, e.g. my Interarms Walther PPK/S, can be damned sharp. But very mild out of locked-breech pistols, e.g. my P238.



Look about you.
 
Posts: 6020 | Location: San Diego | Registered: July 26, 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Fighting the good fight
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quote:
Originally posted by ammodotcom:
In Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Sweden, the .380 still remains the official military cartridge.


All three of those countries have used 9x19mm standard issue military sidearms since the 1980s.

(Also, Czechoslovakia hasn't existed since 1992... It split on 1/1/1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, two separate countries.)

Sweden - Glock 17
Czech Republic - CZ75
Italy - Beretta 92FS
 
Posts: 26030 | Location: Northwest Arkansas | Registered: January 06, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Plowing straight ahead come what may
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quote:
Originally posted by Pipe Smoker
The recoil of blow-back .380 pistols, e.g. my Interarms Walther PPK/S, can be damned sharp. But very mild out of locked-breech pistols, e.g. my P238.


Same for the Ruger LCP2...pretty sharp recoil but in a pocket holster you don’t know it’s there...it’s a trade off I guess Wink


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Forget that blind ambition and learn to trust your intuition
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Posts: 10155 | Location: Southeast Tennessee...not far above my homestate Georgia | Registered: March 10, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Get Off My Lawn
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And it seems that in every ammo run/shortage through the years, .380 is always one of the more difficult calibers to find.



"I’m not going to read Time Magazine, I’m not going to read Newsweek, I’m not going to read any of these magazines; I mean, because they have too much to lose by printing the truth"- Bob Dylan, 1965
 
Posts: 13553 | Location: Texas | Registered: May 13, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by oddball:
And it seems that in every ammo run/shortage through the years, .380 is always one of the more difficult calibers to find.


I was just talking about this with someone. From where I'm sitting, it's apparent a lot of the recent first-time gun buyers decided on 380 Autos because they wanted low recoil and concealability. That, and I believe ammo manufacturers focus more of their limited resources on the production of more popular calibers during times like these.


We believe arming our fellow Americans – both physically and philosophically – helps them fulfill our Founding Fathers' intent with the Second Amendment: To serve as a check on state power.
 
Posts: 80 | Registered: January 10, 2020Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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