9mm vs 380 [2023]

Calibers Different Purposes, Can a 380 beat out a 9mm?

The debate between the .380 and 9mm will always be ongoing among us gun folks. Both calibers have their place within the CCW and Law Enforcement/Military groups. Our approach is to provide you an understanding of how these two calibers fits into personal defense and law enforcement capacity.

When we think of using firearms in a gunfight situation, Hollywood movies have brain washed the public into thinking that bigger gun blast and sounds with bad guys bodies flying violently back after taking a shot. Ammo manufacturers have capitalized on this marketing approach, so naturally in general perspective bigger calibers takes center stage.

Shooting .380 S&W EZ – Kelly Ann
The true reality between the private citizen and law enforcement objectives are entirely different when a gun is in play during an emergency. Ok, here’s the nitty gritty – personal defense for the private citizen is about making the bad guy stop from attacking you and not about taking a life with a double tap. This can be accomplished with the .380, 9mm or even with a sharp stick.

Law Enforcement Officer’s objective (duty) is to stop the attacker and make the arrest. A more difficult job, even though, the main goal is to stop the perpetrator. Naturally, LEO’s are equipped with a higher caliber pistol along with the higher capacity magazines to perform this duty.
So with this out of the way, the following are the basic differences between the .380 and the 9mm calibers. If you want to skip the generic comparisons, just skim to the lower section.

Caliber Comparisons
Both calibers have the same diameter, but the 9mm casing and overall length is longer. Which means there are more gun powder in the 9mm casing which is more powerful. The .380 has less recoil which means you can be really fast when running multiple shots accurately.

Here’s a comparison done by Pew Pew Tactical highlighting the S&W EZ pistols with the .380 and 9mm. This vid went straight to the recoil section to give you an idea of the differences. However, its not like actually shooting it to experience the “felt recoil”.

Cost & Availability
The cost of the .380 has come down since its inception, but the 9mm is still more affordable. The 9’s are more available to come across than a .380.

Terminal Performances
380 ACP

Hornady 90-grain XTP Jacked Hollow Points are a well-rounded .380 round.
Note on the 9mm
We left the 9’s terminal performance out since the 9’s are usually off the charts when compared to the .380.

Common FAQ’s:

Can a .380 stop an attacker?
Here’s a typical answer:
In reality, no ammunition has guaranteed stopping power. Some people believe that . 380 ammo doesn’t have enough stopping power because of the relatively weak ballistics. However, the force of impact doesn’t actually stop your attacker.

What is better .380 or 9mm?
No matter how you look at it. 380 ACP cartridges — both popular choices for self-defense rounds — have the same diameter, but a 9mm round is longer. The . 380 ACP round is cheaper and easier to handle and conceal, while the 9mm is more powerful overall.

Is a .380 good for self-defense?
For personal defense the . 380 Auto is perfectly fine, so long as you’ve selected a quality bullet and can put it where it needs to go.

Can a 380 stop an attacker?
The . 380 Auto is perfectly fine for self-defense, so long as you’ve selected a quality bullet and can put it where it needs to go.

What is the best self defense round for 380?
Depending on which company you ask, here’s one that come to mind.
Based on the numbers provided by Ammo To Go, the Federal Personal Defense loaded with 99-grain HST JHP bullets appears to be the best 380 acp ammo for self-defense. During testing, this round delivered penetration within the FBI’s desired range and had excellent shot diameter at.

What is the effective range of a 380 pistol?
The typical answer is 7 to 10 yards – but thats with a regular full size pistol. So if you were toting a pocket size pistol the effective range may be less. Best thing to do is shoot one and see if it works for you.

Bulk Ammo In-Stock
Courtesy of Pink Gun
Final Shot
As we stated earlier our objective is not to give you the winner between the 2 calibers, but to give you the information and let you decide which is best for you.
Here’s our summary about these two calibers, 9s have more power than the .380s. The 9’s also are more popular due to the great marketing work done by top gun/ammo manufacturers. Magazine capacity only plays a role if the purpose is for law enforcement duties.
When choosing the calibers for personal defense, whether its for the 9s or 380s. Go with hollow points or other expanding ammunition. Keep this in mind about terminal performance – a slow bullet (velocity) expansion is less reliable.
When it comes to penetration depths, follow the FBI standard of 12 to 18 inches. If you’re one of the micro (pocket pistol carrier) crowd, choose an ammo design to function at slow velocity with +P.

A quick word on the costs – the .380 will cost more because there are more 9mm available. Its a supply and demand thing in basic economics. If you’re a prepper, chances are you will be a 9mm fan as well.
So, whether you shoot the 9, .380, full size or pocket size pistol. Train to be highly accurate while under stress. Yes, investment will not just be on ammo but on good training and practice. Within the context of a gunfight, it is better to be more accurate with multiple shots on target than carrying a .44 Magnum and not be accurate. The .380 does beat out the 9 in the recoil department. So just imagine putting 4 rounds to the chest of a bad guy in 1 second is more effective than only getting 2 out of 4 with a heavier caliber under the same time frame. For CCW carry, both calibers will suffice, even for the pocket carrier.

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