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Old March 19, 2011, 07:54 PM   #1
GregInAtl
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.38 or .380 ACP

I am kind of new to this. What is the difference between a .38 and a .380 ACP ammunition. I am of the impression, maybe wrongly, that they are pretty much the same thing except the .38 is for a revolver and the .380 is for a pistol. Let me know if I am incorrect.

What has the most stopping power .38, .380 or .45. I figure its probably a .45
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Old March 19, 2011, 07:58 PM   #2
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Right on the money; .38's for revolvers (with an auto or 2 thrown in, but rare), .380's for autos.

For defense within your ammo range, unquestionably the .45.
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Old March 19, 2011, 08:12 PM   #3
Kodyo
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I have both a .38 special revolver and a .380 ACP pistol.
The .38 special has way more stopping power compared to the .380 ACP.
Physically, the .38 special is a much longer cartridge compared to the .380 ACP.
I'm sure the .45 is technically better, but the .38 special is more than adequate.

Here is a pic of just what .380 acp and .38 special look like side by side


That being said, I wouldn't feel underpowered with either round for personal carry or self defense. I assume you are comparing these 2 rounds for this purpose since that is usually the two choices offered (see S&W Bodyguard series)

Last edited by Kodyo; March 19, 2011 at 09:44 PM.
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Old March 19, 2011, 11:41 PM   #4
Jeremiah/Az
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The .380 is a 9mm short. The .38 special might be considered a .357 mag short.
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Old March 20, 2011, 12:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremiah/AZ
The .380 is a 9mm short. The .38 special might be considered a .357 mag short.
While one could think of it that way and, I suppose, not technically be wrong, it should be noted for the benefit of any newbies that the .38 Special is the older cartridge by several decades, and in reality the .357 Magnum is ".38 Special Long."
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Old March 20, 2011, 12:31 AM   #6
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If you are serious about getting into firearms, this book will give you a lot of knowledge about ammunition. http://www.amazon.com/Cartridges-Wor.../dp/0896899365
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Old March 20, 2011, 04:18 AM   #7
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Kodyo wrote

Quote:
The .38 special has way more stopping power compared to the .380 ACP.
Physically, the .38 special is a much longer cartridge compared to the .380 ACP.
I'm sure the .45 is technically better, but the .38 special is more than adequate.

Here is a pic of just what .380 acp and .38 special look like side by side

Case size is not the only indicator for the power of a cartridge. The 38 Special was originally designed for black powder, that's why its so large. YEs you can put more powder in it and get to +P or magnum levels even, but then we are talking about a different round.
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Old March 20, 2011, 04:55 AM   #8
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The .38 has more power than a .380. A .45 has more power than a .38.

Both the .38 and .45 are good SD rounds. Neither one has what you can really call "stopping power." With handguns, above all else, if you want to stop someone, you have to have proper shot placement.
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Old March 20, 2011, 05:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
it should be noted for the benefit of any newbies that the .38 Special is the older cartridge by several decades
Only nine years difference
.38 special - 1899
.380 ACP - 1908

Quote:
Case size is not the only indicator for the power of a cartridge
Correct, it's the combination of case size and pressure that determines the total amount of force behind the bullet.

Last edited by spacecoast; March 20, 2011 at 05:21 AM.
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Old March 20, 2011, 07:41 AM   #10
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The 380 and 38 special are both actually 36 caliber bullets.
A 45 acp uses what is actually is a 45 caliber bullet.
A 45 bullet is 20% bigger in diameter (versus "38"), not comparing weight.
In terms of power, KE is a common measurement.
Out of my guns:
Ruger LCP 380: 90 gr. Federal HS @ 878 fps = 154# KE.
S&W 442 (ported) 38 special: 110 gr. Winchester Silvertip @ 821 fps = 165# KE
S&W 442 (ported) 38 special: 130 gr. Winchester +P @ 848 fps = 207# KE
Glock 36 (45 acp): Winchester 230 gr. Ranger T @ 874 fps = 390# KE
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Old March 20, 2011, 09:05 AM   #11
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Great comparison CDW4ME. I think that sums it up well. I use both the .380 and .38 special for my primary carry now leaning to the .380 for flatness and higher round count. Also, ease of fire and accuracy. I think your comparison makes it easy to see that either gun can be loaded heavy or light and are fairly equal if the .380 is loaded with hotter ammo. I'd like to know your readings with Corbon DPX or the Buffalo Bore rounds in the .380. Clearly the 38 can be loaded up hot and have significantly more power but I find them sort of hard to be accurate with. I shoot the SIG p238 and find it to be one of the most accurate handguns for me that I have ever fired, especially in a small gun. I could probably outshoot it with my 4" 581 with lower powered 38 special but I find that it would be a little hard to conceal. The little SIG drops in my front pocket and can go everywhere that its legal to carry. Thanks for the info.
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Old March 20, 2011, 09:44 AM   #12
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Here is 2-10-28 report from John Ervin at Brass Fetcher, http://www.brassfetcher.com/380ACP%2...%20gelatin.pdf
the best out there on .380 ACP, and as indicated, the 90 grain Federal Hydra-Shok is the best hollow point performer going 12" in ballistic gelatin and the 80 grain Cor-Bon goes 10" which would work also. I'd go with the Hydra-Shoks if I used expanding bullets. I use the Winchester "target" ammunition which is low cost and the 95 grain FMJ Flat point goes 20" which is what I want, great straight line penetration. The Buffalo Bore 100 grain Hard Cast Flat Point should go around two feet and their 95 grain FMJ FP around 20" plus. If you have the $$$ the Buffalo Bore is the best if you like the destruction of a flat point getting two feet of straight line penetration. The Winchester is the "Poor Man's" choice and is priced so that you get to practice with what you carry.
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Old March 20, 2011, 10:18 AM   #13
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Quote:
What has the most stopping power .38, .380 or .45. I figure its probably a .45
Dont get to caught up in the stopping power thing, with any of them, if you can put them where they belong, the results are likely to be the same.

To make things worse here too, people want to go down in size with their guns, which often makes them harder to shoot well with, and especially as the caliber goes up, as the size goes down.

On top of that, you often lose power as the barrels get shorter, and some bullets need that power to work properly, and/or to at least make the numbers that people like to throw around as proof of their betterness (new word ).

I think youre better of finding a gun of a "reasonable" caliber, and one you shoot the best with first off, and then go from there. If you can shoot a .38 better than a .45, then no matter how much better the .45 is supposed to be, the .38 is still the better choice.

Same goes for the .380's and .38's.
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Old March 20, 2011, 03:14 PM   #14
GregInAtl
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Quote:
The .380 is a 9mm short. The .38 special might be considered a .357 mag short.
So, would you say that shooting a .380 and a 9mm would be pretty similar. I am thinking of getting a Ruger LCP or LC9. Would the .380 have less recoil and be easier to shoot accurately the the .38 special revolver
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Old March 20, 2011, 03:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Would the .380 have less recoil and be easier to shoot accurately the the .38 special revolver
That depends. You'll find a full-size .38 special revolver quite a bit easier to shoot accurately than a .380 ACP pocket gun, and with a LOT less recoil which is normally felt as sting in your hands. A pocket-size .38 special revolver (S&W J-frame or Ruger LCR) will have more recoil than the full size revolver, more like the .380 but probably still a little easier to shoot. The lighter the gun, typically the more noticeable the recoil, assuming comparable ammo. Some people don't mind, many do.


Quote:
The 380 and 38 special are both actually 36 caliber bullets.
A 45 acp uses what is actually is a 45 caliber bullet.
A 45 bullet is 20% bigger in diameter (versus "38"), not comparing weight.
In the interest of accuracy, most .380 ACP bullets are .356" in diameter and .38 special bullets are .357" or .358" in diameter. .45 ACP bullets are .451" or .452" in diameter. Your numbers are not wrong, just not very precise. The .45 ACP makes a 60% bigger hole. As mentioned, .45 ACP bullets are also significantly heavier on average.
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Old March 20, 2011, 03:56 PM   #16
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First of all, you have to understand that there are actually several different ".38" cartridges including .38 Special, .38 Super Auto, .38 ACP, .38 S&W, .38 Short Colt, .38 Long Colt, and .38-40 Winchester. Most commonly, when people refer to a ".38" they are referring to .38 Special.

Assuming you're talking about .38 Special, you are correct in that .380 Auto is primarily a semi-automatic cartridge and .38 Special is primarily a revolver cartridge. .380 is most commonly found in small "pocket" automatics like the Colt M1908, Walther PPK, Sig P230 and P232, Mauser HsC, Kel-Tec P3AT, Ruger LCP, and Taurus TCP. Traditionally, .380 is the most powerful cartridge commonly chambered in "blowback" semi-autos. "Blowback" means that the barrel and slide are not locked together and that the slide is held closed until gas pressure has dropped sufficiently simply by the mass of the slide and the tension of the recoil spring. More recently, however, several manufacturers have figured out that by using a tilting-barrel, locked breech action such as that found on most larger caliber semi-autos that they can make a .380 semi-auto much smaller and lighter and comparable in size to a blowback .22 Long Rifle or .25 Automatic semi-auto. Examples of this newer type of .380 include the Kel-Tec P3AT, Ruger LCP, and Taurus TCP.

.38 Special, on the other hand, is commonly found in a wider variety of guns. While it is currently most popular in small snubnose revolvers, it is also a quite common chambering for larger service-sized revolvers like the S&W K-Frames, Ruger Security/Speed/Service Six, Ruger GP100, Colt Police Positive Special, and Colt Official Police. There have also been a few semi-automatics made to shoot .38 Special Wadcutter ammunition for competitive target shooting because that particular type of loading is renowned for its accuracy.

When it comes to ballistics, the .38 Special is the more powerful cartridge of the two. A standard .380 ACP loading consists of a 95grn bullet at 900-1000fps while a standard .38 Special loading consists of a 158grn bullet at 700-800fps. JHP loadings in .380 are available with bullets ranging from 70-102grn with 85-90grn being the most popular while .38 Special HP's commonly range in weight from 110-158grn with 125-158grn being the most popular. The biggest ballistic advantage that the .38 Special has over the .380 is its ability to use much heavier bullets as heavy bullets usually penetrate more than lighter ones of similar construction.

Also, there is a very significant difference in the performance of standard pressure .38 Special ammunition and .38 Special +P ammunition (.380 ACP has no official SAAMI +P rating although one or two ammo makers do market .380 +P ammo). In order to achieve enough velocity to ensure reliable expansion, most standard pressure .38 Spl loadings use light 110grn bullets which often do not penetrate as deeply as many people feel is necessary. The standard pressure .38 Special ammo that I would personally trust to both expand reliably and penetrate adequately are Hornady 110grn Critical Defense and Buffalo Bore's Heavy Standard Pressure .38 Special HP's (Buffalo Bore's standard pressure .38 Spl ammo achieves velocities similar to or higher than most other manufacturer's .38 Spl +P). If the above-mentioned ammunition is not available, I would choose a 148grn wadcutter loading as recoil will be light and adequate penetration can be assured although there will be little-to-no expansion. In my opinion, standard pressure .38 Special is equal to or only slightly better ballistically than .380 ACP.

.38 Special +P, however, is a horse of a different color. The extra velocity that can be gained from increasing pressure to +P levels allows a heavier, deeper-penetrating bullet to be driven at velocities that still ensure reliable expansion. The better .38 Special +P loadings deliver performance roughly equal to many of the better standard-pressure 9x19 Parabellum loadings. While there are many good .38 Spl +P loadings available, the two I favor most are Speer 135grn Short Barrel Gold Dots and Remington or Federal 158grn LSWCHP (sometimes referred to as the FBI load).

As far as .380 ACP goes, it suffers from many of the same problems as standard pressure .38 Special in that most of its JHP loadings are either going too slow to reliably expand or they do not penetrate deeply enough. The only .380 ACP JHP loadings that I would trust to both expand reliably and penetrate deeply are Hornady 90grn Critical Defense, Speer 90grn Gold Dots, Federal 90grn Hydra-Shoks (I would only carry this loading in a gun with a 3" or longer barrel), Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure 90grn JHP, Double Tap 90grn JHP, and Buffalo Bore 90grn JHP +P (I would not use this loading in one of the new "micro" .380's like the Ruger LCP). If the afforementioned loadings are not available, I would stick with 95grn FMJ in order to ensure adequate penetration.

Between the two cartridges, I prefer the .38 Special in +P flavor. The biggest reason is that I prefer revolvers over semi-automatics so the .38 Spl fits my chosen platform. Also, while the specific .380 JHP loadings do penetrate adequately in my opinion, they are just barely adequate in penetration. A .38 Spl +P HP, particularly when loaded with a 158grn bullet, typically penetrates much better than even the best .380 Auto JHP. I prefer deeper penetration because my circumstances dictate that my most likely attacker is a very large individual which may require deeper penetration. Your circumstances and preferences may be different though so your choice might not be the same as mine.
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