When it comes to defensive Ammunition, you have various options. Many people opt for calibers like 9mm, which are very effective, however, .380 ACP ammo has also gained a lot of popularity as self-defense and especially concealed carry caliber.
The .380 ACP is slightly smaller than a 9mm, but has very similar ballistics, especially at close ranges where you can expect to use a concealed carry weapon. In this post, we will talk about why .380 ACP Ammo is an effective defensive caliber, and we will tell you about the best .380 ACP ammo you can use for self-defense, and target practice.
There are multiple factors that need to be considered when you are choosing a certain type of 380 ammunition for personal defense.
380 Ammo Penetration
One of the first, and most important factors to consider is penetration power. The penetration power of a bullet is its ability to move through a body. Several factors like a bullet’s composition, weight velocity, and projectile type can affect its penetration power.
Ideally, you want a bullet that can penetrate 12- to 18-inches of 10% ballistic gel, however, it shouldn’t have too much penetration power that it passes through a target and puts innocent bystanders in danger. This is called over-penetration, and the great thing about the .380 ACP bullet is that it has enough penetration power to be effective for self-defense, but does not carry too much power that it over penetrates.
380 Ammo Expansion
Apart from penetration power, the expansion of a bullet also makes it more effective. As the bullet expands, it creates a wider wound channel, putting threats down more quickly. Lead bullets have a higher expansion, but low penetration. Jacketed hollow points are a better option. They have a good balance of penetration and expansion for maximum damage. There are also some fragmenting bullets available in the market, which break into smaller fragments on impact and create multiple wound channels for more damage.
Reliability is also a very important factor. The brand of ammo you choose should feed reliably from a magazine, and has a good quality primer that ignites every time. Though most Ammo brands have these qualities, you should consider the reliability of their performance as well. High-quality bullets should have similar and reliable penetration and expansion for all shots.
Velocity, Weight, and Barrel Length
The power delivered by a bullet on a target depends upon its velocity and its weight. The faster the bullet is traveling, and the more mass it has, the better stopping power it delivers.
However, most .380 ACP handguns are made to be compact, and hence have very short barrels, usually under 3 inches. This limits the velocity of the bullet to some extent, however, a heavier projectile could compensate for that, especially at short distances.
If you are looking for ammunition that is both effective for defensive shooting, and affordable, the PMC 90-grain Full Metal Jacket ammunition is a good option. With a 90-grain projectile, this ammo can have a very high muzzle velocity of about 961 feet per second at 25 yards, which is about the range where most defensive engagements occur.
Being a full metal jacket bullet, the rate of expansion for this ammunition is quite low. This means that it will have smaller entry and exit wounds, however, it will retain better velocity, for more penetration.
These bullets are precision made with boxed primers, and they have a solid reputation for reliability. They work great in a wide range of .380 ACP pistols, however, they are perhaps the best bullets for a Ruger LCP.
Federal American Eagle has a reputation for making some of the highest-quality ammunition in the US, and their 95-grain .380 Auto ammunition is no different. This proven .380 ammo offers similar performance to top loads, at a relatively affordable price. It is ideal for both practice shooting and defensive ammunition.
With a heavier projectile, at 95 grain, and a higher muzzle velocity, of about 980 feet per second, this ammo has excellent penetration capabilities, especially since it is Full Metal Jacket ammo. Though it doesn’t offer much expansion and creates relatively small wound channels, it has a lot of penetration power, and will, therefore, create a deeper wound.
This brass-case, box-primed ammo is made with precision, and it is also reloadable. It is an excellent option for any .380 Auto defensive pistol.
With its Italian roots, Fiocchi is another popular ammunition manufacturer known for making good quality ammunition. This is their 95-grain, full metal jacket ammunition, which is a good round for defensive shooting.
This ammunition is quite affordable, and though it doesn’t have the stopping power of some of the other brands on this list, it is still very effective, with a 95-grain projectile, leaving the barrel with a muzzle velocity of 960 feet per second, and muzzle energy of 194 ft lbs.
This ammo is good for practice shooting, however, it does make your pistol quite dirty after you have fired a lot of rounds. Therefore, make sure to clean your pistols after you use Fiocchi ammunition.
The full metal jacket ammo has decent penetration, but almost no expansion. Still, it does deliver a lot of damage on the target. It is brass-cased, box-primed ammo, that is suitable for reloading as well.
Fedral is known to be one of the best Ammunition brands in the United States. American Eagle is one of their subsidiaries and they make a wide range of ammunition, including .380 Auto. Yes we listed this one twice only because Federal 380 Ammo is in such demand. We figured if you didn’t want 1000 rounds we should offer it in a 50 rd option.
This ammunition comes in a 50-round box, it is relatively expensive and some of the other options on this list, but it offers excellent performance for both target shooting and self-defense. This bullet has a 95-grain projectile, which fires with a muzzle velocity of 980 feet per second.
It is a full metal jacket round, and it offers deep penetration into the target. Federal ammunition is well made, and it is great for practice shooting since it doesn’t make your pistol as dirty as some of the other brands. It is a great multi-purpose bullet, which is great for precision target shooting, practice shooting, and self-defense.
If you are looking for the ultimate defensive ammunition, then the 90 Grain FTX critical defense ammunition from Hornady is the way to go.
This ammo may be a little more expensive than some of the other loads on this list, but offers the best performance as a defensive round. These rounds are jacketed hollow points, and unlike most other hollow points, they use Hornady’s patented Flex Tip bullet. This bullet features a soft polymer insert that allows for consistent and reliable expansion on every shot.
This ammunition has a very high muzzle velocity of about 1000 feet per second. The 90-grain bullet expands consistently as it hits the target, and creates a bigger wound channer for more damage on the target. Therefore, if you want to quickly put a target down, this is the ammunition to go with.
This Hornady Critical Defense ammunition is also very reliable in terms of feeding and firing. It works great with all semi-auto .380 Auto defensive pistols.
380 Ammo – Final Thoughts
There are many types of .380 Auto ammunition available on the market, however as you’ve probably noticed, some ammo outclasses others. When it comes to defensive shooting, rounds like the Hornady Critical Defense are unmatched, however, there is no need to use these specific rounds for target shooting and training.
For training, you can choose from any of the other more affordable options on this list, some of which, like the Federal American Eagle ammunition, can be effective for both training and defensive shooting.