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Old October 3, 2012, 10:47 PM   #1
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Join Date: December 11, 2001
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,829
.380ACP self-defense ammo- do you go with FMJ or JHP?

For years, I have been a proponent of FMJ in .380. I was of the belief that .380ACP simply doesn't have enough penetration in JHP and if it doesn't penetrate to vital organs than expansion isn't important. Two things recently changed my outlook on .380ACP and has me in the JHP camp.

First, I have always owned my 9mm pistols in full-sized service pistols which were for fun at the range. For self defense I've been more of a fan of .40S&W, .45ACP, or revolver rounds. However, I was recently in the market for a subcompact 9mm (bought the SIG 290 BTW). So, was researching 9mm defensive ammo. Between that, and re-examining my .38spl selections, I stumbled on a ballistic gel test of .380ACP FMJ ammo on YouTube. They tested a FMJ round and a truncated cone, and both over penetrated, exiting the testing media completely. While penetration is quite important, I am also concerned by the possibility of over penetration. With that, I started doing some new research.

The new research led me to the second factor in changing my philosophy. I had always gone by the FBI criteria of 12" minimum penetration in clothed gelatin for service pistols. What I always missed or ignored was that this criteria is for law enforcement service pistols which can sometimes need to be used as offensive weapons. What I always ignored or missed was that they have another standard, 6-9", for law enforcement back up pistols and non-law enforcement CCW pistols which would typically only be used in a defensive situation (i.e. less likely to need to break through barriers).

Well, there are a handful of .380 JHP loadings that exceed or at least come close to the 12" service pistol standard. In most tests I saw, in clothed gelatin, Speer Gold Dot, Hornady XTP, Hornady Critical Defense, Remington Golden Sabre, and Federal HydraShok nearly always penetrated 11" or more. Further, nearly all .380ACP JHP loadings meet or exceed the 6-9" standard.

So, with several .380 JHP loadings penetrating sufficiently, with the advantage of expansion in JHP, and the potential danger of over penetration of FMJ, I have decided to change over to JHP in my LCP. I will be testing Gold Dot (my choice in most calibers), HydraShok, and probably one of the Hornady loadings in my LCP to see what functions best and is most accurate in my pistol.

What is your choice in .380ACP and why?
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