380 VS 9mm: Ammo Comparisons, Guide, And Review

380 vs 9mm Ammo Comparisons

There is a reason why gun enthusiasts keep comparing popular ammunition. While some of them clearly win over the others, there are a few of them that are equally popular and hold the fort equally well for their side.

The long-brewing comparison between the 380, or the .380 ACP, and the 9mm, or the 9x19mm Parabellum, falls in the above category. Both are used for self-defense and have been winning over ammo buyers for years now. However, there are slight differences that make one better over the other, with regards to ballistics performance, recoil, price and more aspects.

Ahead, we’ll see a comprehensive comparison between the .380 ACP and 9mm. Before we begin, let’s look at a quick overview of both the self-defense cartridge.

 

.380 ACP: Overview

380 ACP


Introduced in 1908 by Colt in the U.S, .380 ACP was designed by John Browning, hence it is also called as the 9mm Browning at times. It was built for self-defense purpose, having a rimless case and being straight-walled.

It is known by several names, including 9mm Browning, 9mm Short, 9x17mm, due to the fact that it has the same bullet diameter as that of the original 9x19mm Parabellum, 9mm.

The .380 ACP features 9,5mm base and rim diameter and a case length of 17.3mm and overall length of 25mm. It has a shooting velocity of about 1050 feet per second and primarily used as a self-defense cartridge. It is also used as a backup pistol by police officials and by beginners due to its low recoil.

 

9mm: Overview

9mm


The 9mm or the 9x19 Parabellum features German engineering, designed by Georg Luger and was launched in 1902 by the firearms brand DWM for their Luger semi-automatic pistol. Over time, it went through various iterations and different variants were launched.

It was primarily designed for military use and till date is the standard cartridge used by NATO forces and by other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other countries, along with being highly popular in self-defense domain.

The 9mm features a rimless but tapered case with a bullet diameter of 9mm. The overall length of the cartridge is considerably longer at 29.69mm and case length of 19.15mm. It features a shooting velocity between 950 to 14,500 feet per second, depending on the ammo used.

 

380 VS 9mm: Comparison

While the .380 ACP is often considered interchangeable with the 9mm due to the same diameter, it’s not, really, due to different shell length and structure.

Let’s take a look at their distinct features and how they compare against each other.

Performance

The 9x19mm Parabellum wins when it comes to performance. With a heavier cartridge which has a longer shell length and produces more energy, the 9mm creates a maximum velocity of 1,400 feet per second as opposed to the maximum 1000 feet per second produced by the .380. The longer shell length means the cartridge has more powder capacity and hence the higher velocity and more power.

Consequently, the bullet fire by 9mm does more damage than the one fired by 380. The stopping power of 9mm is higher and it packs a lot more pressure to expand the bullet more than 380 could.

Recoil

man firing a gun in the forest


While the performance of 9mm is better than the 380, the fact that it produces more force and higher velocity also means that is a higher recoil which can be inconvenient to inexperienced shooters and not very handy in case of an emergency.

The .380 ACP, while produces lesser energy and does lesser damage, it has lower recoil than the 9mm and is easy to use by beginners during self-defense situations. Since the gunpowder used is lesser, the force produced is less intense and the recoil gets set off, making it easy to reacquire the target.

Target Penetration

Target

The extent to which the projectile can penetrate is what decides the scope of damage that can be caused to the target. The 9mm has considerably more penetration power than the .380 ACP.

9mm fires with more force and has a sleeker shell which builds more firepower. Therefore, all factors combined, the cartridge is able to over penetrate to 13 inches and cause substantial damage. The .380, on the other hand, packs lesser force and lower velocity shooting power which limits its penetration to 9 inches.

Therefore, 9mm has an edge over the .380 ACP in the sense that the bullet fired through 9mm has more chances and scope of tearing down the target by traversing completely through it.

Shooting Accuracy

When it comes to self-defense, firing with accuracy is one of the most important factors to prevent yourself from harm.

Since the .380 fires with less force and has lower recoil, it fires with more accuracy since there is a steadiness while using it. When you have less power against you, the pistol fires with greater accuracy. However, the .380 ACP is mainly for very short ranges due to the low velocity and pressure and can’t be expected to hit a long-range with equal accuracy.

In the end, though, the accuracy highly depends on the experience and the skill of the shooter.

Size

The .380 ACP rounds, being shorter in size, do a better job at concealing your firearm than the 9mm that is larger and needs a bigger pistol.

The .380 rounds are shorter and fire with lesser force, therefore, they can be used in pistols of subcompact size which can be concealed while carrying easily. This is why the 380 is more used as a backup handgun since it remains hidden and can be drawn out with ease being lightweight.

Pricing

The increasing popularity of the 9mm cartridges has made them widely available and hence, lowered their rates. Currently, you can buy them at a cheaper price than the .380 since the .380 are used lesser and for a very specific purpose. Therefore, the economics of supply and demand come into play and since the 9mm is greater in supply and the demand for .380 is specific.

The rounds for .380 are expensive when compared to the 9mm. On an average, it costs $20 to buy a round of ammo for the .380 as compared to $12 for a 9mm.

Practical Use

Due to shorter size rounds and subcompact guns, the .380 ACP is mainly used as a concealed carry gun for backup. Since the ballistics performance is not up to the mark when compared to the 9mm, it is not usually used as a primary weapon. The smaller size makes it easy to carry, though, and easier to conceal.

The 9mm is used as a standard ammo by the NATO armies and the other non-NATO militia, along with major law enforcement agencies. It is available in compact pistols and has more magazine round capacity, therefore, it is ideal for self-defense as well as military use.

Ammo Used

There are many options available for both, 9mm as well as .380 ACP. Both are used for self-defense and military operations, with 9mm being more dominant in the military end.

The top options of ammunition for the .380 include Liberty Civil Defense 50 grain SCHP, Hornady Custom Ammunition 90 grain, Remington 88 grain HTP and SIG Sauer 90 grain 380 V-Crown JHP. All these bullets are ideal for self-defense and have short rounds, that are suitable for pocket pistols. For a pocket pistol using .380 ACP, a 90-grain projectile will have the best case in terms of defense since it will have more penetration capability and higher velocity.

The best options of ammunition for the 9mm include Federal HST 9mm 124 grain, Federal HST 9mm 147 grain, American Eagle 9mm 115 grain and Blazer Brass 9mm. Notice that the weight of the bullets is a lot more than the ones used for .380 ACP due to more caliber and a case length of 19.5mm. The penetration of these bullets ranges between 12 to 18 inches.

 

Are .380 And 9mm Interchangeable?

While the 380 ACP and the 9x19mm Parabellum are perceived to be used interchangeably due to their same bullet diameter, they are inherently too different to be used in place of the other.

Yes, the diameter for both the cartridges is 9mm. However, the 9mm has a considerably longer shell length than the .380. The longer length means larger powder capacity and more power. The .380 has smaller size and length which makes it unsuitable for firearms suited for the 9mm.

When you use a more powerful ammo in a firearm not suited for that power, it can backfire and damage the firearm. Therefore, using a shorter .380 case in the magazine built for a longer 9mm case is evidently not a wise choice.

PRODUCT

IMAGE

RATING

PRICE

380 ACP

380 ACP

9MM

9mm

 

The Conclusion

9mm wins over the .380 in terms of performance and power, clearly. The German-engineered cartridge packs more power due to a longer shell length and more caliber, with higher shooting velocity. It used heavier bullets that expand more, thereby holding better penetration.

 

The .380 is better in terms of ease of use since it has a lesser recoil due to less force exerted. It is also used with subcompact pocket pistols which are easier to carry and do a much better job at concealability. Also, even the .380 pushes out lesser force, with the right ammo used, it is a solid cartridge for self-defense.

 

While 9mm is a great possession in case of any emergency or self-defense or attack circumstances, as evident by their adoption by the military and the law enforcement agents, the .380 is best suited for close-range self-defense shooting. Take your pick according to your purpose, and you won’t go wrong with either.

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