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Old May 29, 2009, 12:47 PM   #1
Nate1778
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Why is a .380 a .380?

Don't know if this is the right forum for this but can someone explain how this came about. I have Wiki'ed the subject with no answer. If the bullet is .355-.356 where did the .380 come from? Just bugged me since my last order of bullets arrived.
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:24 PM   #2
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Why is a .44 Mag a .44 when the bullets are .429?..........
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:26 PM   #3
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Or a .38 Special a .38 when the bullets are .357 in diameter?
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:34 PM   #4
Nate1778
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Absolutely, I am simply trying to figure out why they do this. Didn't know if there was some ole tradition to it, or it was a thing decided late night at the bar.
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:36 PM   #5
Jim Watson
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Because .380 ACP sounded better to the catalog writer than .355 ACP?
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Old May 29, 2009, 01:37 PM   #6
azredhawk44
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A holdover from measurement standards.

The outside of the case is .380 in diameter.
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Old May 29, 2009, 02:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
The outside of the case is .380 in diameter.
No it's not. It's .374 on one end and .373 on the other. Also, a 32 acp and 32 S&W is closer to .31 than .32 (usually).

It's interesting to note that 380auto, 38special, 357magnum, and 9mm luger all have bullet diameters that only span a couple thousandths in difference.
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Old May 29, 2009, 05:33 PM   #8
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".38 caliber" truly was formerly a .38" bullet because it was a heeled bullet, like a .22LR is these days. (take apart a .22LR if you don't know what I mean)
It was a bullet that was held in the brass by a rounded heel, but the bullet itself that made contact with the bore did not sit inside the case, it was the same outside diameter as the cartridge case.

As the ".38" evolved, the bullet got smaller and it sat fully inside the case and became the .356-.357" projectile that we know now. Still, though, it's called a ".38" even though it doesn't measure that way anymore.

I think the ".380" was just a way of giving folks the idea of a ".38" but a different caliber.

There are many other examples of this kind of twisted logic in cartridge names. Some of it gets lost in translation over the years. Some other calibers are all-out marketing hype with little logic behind it. Think of it as shooter trivia and have fun with it!

PLEASE NOTE: This is the foggy memory that I have of how .38 that we know it evolved from a real .38 in to the .357 that we measure today, but some of my details are MY OWN interpretation of what I remember. And my theory on why .380 is called .380 is my guess only. Don't take ANY of this as gospel. There's a good chance someone who knows this stuff much better will post more accurate information. In the mean time, that's how I remember it.
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Old May 29, 2009, 06:22 PM   #9
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Now if you go over to Europe the .380 becomes the 9mm Kurtz. Kurtz is German for short.
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Old May 29, 2009, 06:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Or a .38 Special a .38 when the bullets are .357 in diameter?
Sevens answered this one right.
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Old May 30, 2009, 08:39 PM   #11
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With all respect, I do not think that Sevens got it right. A heeled bullet like the .22 rimfire or the .310 Cadet Martini fit inside the case with the base of the bullet smaller than that outside the case. The .310 is really a .32 if you slug the bore. This the case with heeled bullets - the heel is less than the bore. So if the 38 were named as a heeled bullet it would be called a .357 - that measured .38 if the bore were slugged. Heeled bullets were more of a European thing and their mindset was different from the Americans hence the difference in designations.

But the .22 is the diameter not of the base but the larger part outside the base. Go figure...

Many .310 Cadet Martinis were re-chambered for the 32-20 which absolutely will not preform. The 32-20 is really a .31. And it is not heeled.

Personally I don't try to make much sense of the designations for more than marketing purposes... As long as the label on the box of ammo matches the barrel, you will be (more or less) ok.
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Old May 30, 2009, 09:08 PM   #12
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And just to add to the confusion, the .38-40 is really a .401.
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Old May 30, 2009, 10:00 PM   #13
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A .38-40 is a 40 caliber bullet ahead of 38 grains of black powder. Backwards in naming from other calibers. 44-40, 45-70, 30-40 KRAG, 30-30 ect ect
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Old May 30, 2009, 10:15 PM   #14
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Or, the .280 Remington, which was renamed 7mm Express Remington in an effort to boost sales. Later, since this was confused with the 7mm Remington Magnum, Remington renamed it again, back to .280 Remington.

Are these two 7mm diameter? Nope, more like 7.2mm. Are they .280" diameter? Nope, .284" is more like it.

There are dozens of examples like this, where cartridge names have little to do with their bullet diameter. As far as I know, there is no universal naming scheme that can be used to predict when the cartridge name is "true" to diameter and when it isn't. It's a mess.
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Old May 30, 2009, 11:08 PM   #15
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Hey folks,

Here's another one: I think the standard cast bullet size for original .36 caliber black powder revolvers is actually .375. I still have a Navy .36 that had slightly larger chambers, and I bought three double cavity moulds from Lyman before I got one that dropped round balls slightly larger than the other two moulds. With a .375 bullet, why would they call it a .36 caliber? And to further muddy the water, consider then that the .36 caliber bullet is actually bigger than the .38 caliber bullet. I know not why; I just go along for the ride.

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