Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expansion

Discussion in 'P-3AT' started by oldgranpa, Apr 24, 2010.

  1. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    With lots of new .380 ammo showing up nowadays, especially JHP types, I'd like your opinion on what you think. I lean toward penetration with so many "monsters" showing up these days. Many with 15" thru the COM.
    Used to be 9" thru COM was average but it's changing. Maybe the FBI 12"min. in gelatin is too low anymore (8"min. equiv. in wetpack).
    Or do you think a bigger hole is better?
    After the poll, I'll try to do an ammo rating based on several years of my wetpack tests, and the best gelatin test data available.

    Go ahead and comment on your favorite ammo too.

    Cheers,
    og
     
  2. KelTex78

    KelTex78 New Member

    459
    Jan 10, 2009
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    I carry Hornady Critical Defense or something loaded with the Horndady XTP bullet(TAP or Fiocchi Extrema). I like to go to both extremes when test firing my ammo and shoot both wet paper and water jugs to verify expansion in materials of varying density. The Hornady ammo is the only type I have found that expands consistently in both materials out of the very short barreled guns. The Hornady bullets expand consistently, but not overly much allowing for a good compromise between expansion and penetration.

    I've posted these here before but here they are again:
    Golden Saber into water jugs:
    [​IMG]
    Golden Saber into wet phone books:
    [​IMG]
    My conclusion is that the short barrel is barely providing the velocity needed to allow expansion. This round performs very well in all media when fired in my wife's Bersa Thunder with the longer barrel.

    Both the CD and XTP bullets perform well regardless of medium.
    Critical Defense here on the right:
    [​IMG]
    and Hornady TAP loaded with the XTP bullet here:
    [​IMG]
    The CD's penetrated about ~8.5" in the wet paper test. The TAP bullet was fired into water jugs and completely passed through three 1-gallon jugs and dented the fourth for ~18" in water.

    As always, my tests are not scientific, conclusions drawn are my own, testing was performed to satisfy my own curiosity and to have fun!
     

  3. billjohnso20

    billjohnso20 Active Member

    Dec 7, 2008
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    Golden Sabers will not expand out of the P3AT. Golden Loki's gel tests illustrate this http://www.goldenloki.com/ammo/gel/380acp/gel380acp.htm. His results are why I quit carrying them in my P3AT. I now carry Hornady Critical Defense because of the balance between expansion and penetration.

    I always look to balance expansion and penetration but I lean more toward expansion. The reason for this is the collateral damage risk of over-penetration. I would rather have to fire multiple rounds into an assailant than be responsible for the death of an innocent person.

    Now before someone objects about knowing is behind the "target" and not shooting if the background isn't clear, that only works in the realm of theory. When being attacked by a violent criminal, you are functioning at bad breath distance. There isn't time to check to see what's behind the scum. You're to busy trying to stay alive. That's why I want expansion first and foremost.
     
  4. riverkeeper

    riverkeeper New Member

    210
    Aug 30, 2006
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    When I carried a 44 spl I believed in the bigger hole theory ... course it also had noprob with penetration.

    With the P3at I'm into adequate penetration ...cuz  ya can't hurt what it can't get to.
     
  5. Picatinny_Pete

    Picatinny_Pete New Member

    Sep 2, 2009
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    Hi,

    Neat survey but I have to disagree with it, placement is much more important, that supposes that the round goes off, it has enough penetration to do the job, and then expansion is a nice to have.  The 380 Auto as well as the 32 ACP don't have enough power to put down a bad guy by mechanical means (break bones, such as leg, hip, etc.), that typically goes to calibers that begin with "4".  If you use a smaller caliber placement becomes all so much more important, and shots to the heart, nerve centers (head, spine, etc) become the high percentage shots.   The problem is that these are also the deepest and best protected structures in the body so penetration is very important, and then expansion.

    [​IMG]

    L-R
    - 380 Auto CCI/Speer 90 Gr. Gold Dots (2) out of a P3AT 48-50 caliber, penetration 10-11" Gelatin equivalent
    - 32 ACP Federal 65 Gr. Hydra Shok out of a P32 49 caliber, penetration 10.5" Gelatin equivalent
    - 32 ACP Hand loads 85 Gr. Hornady XTP's (3) out of a P32 46-56 caliber, penetration 12.5-13" Gelatin equivalent
    - 32 ACP CCI/Speer 60 Gr. Gold Dots out of a P3AT 0.312 caliber, penetration 10.5" (bullet tumbled) Gelatin equivalent
    - 380 Auto Magtech 77 Gr. SCHP First Defense out of a P3AT 36 caliber, penetration 10.5" Gelatin equivalent

    Folks, none of the above rounds except the hand loads meet the 12" FBI requirement in my eyes, FMJ will meet this requirement no problems out of either 32 ACP, or 380 Auto with almost identical results.  The FBI specification is an almost military specification born out of the Miami shoot-out where several FBI agents initially used pistols against 2 armed felons, one armed with a rifle.  The perfect shot with a 9mm went through a arm and just stopped short of the heart perfectly expanded.  It was a fatal shot, but not immediately.  Two FBI agent were killed and more wounded from the bad guy after that shot.  The bullet was blamed for the mess
    not bad tactics (it was an FBI 12 Gauge Shotgun that stopped the gun fight.)

    I figured out several things from all of this.  The first thing is  in this sort of situation nor should we be a pocket pistol is a short range proposition no more than 7 yards.  The second thing is if you are going to be dealing with monsters (super high pain tolerance, drugs, etc) use a pistol with "4" as the first digit or be super accurate.  Third less penetration is OK as you aren't taking extreme shots like the FBI so 7 to 10" of penetration is OK.  The last thing is that in some situations quantity is a quality

    I, not dealing with monsters have made the decision use  pocket pistol usually a P-32 because of the increased firepower, faster recovery for follow-on shots. Why don't I usually a P3AT?  My observation from test is that 380 hollow points do not reliably expand, and 380 FMJ over penetrates often not dumping all of its energy into the target so in my eyes 32 ACP using foreign FMJ, and the better JHP's is as good as 380 Auto.  I realize that there are those that will differ in their opinions and I respect that this is sort of a personal choice that you have to be comfortable with.

    Best Regards
     
  6. TxCajun

    TxCajun Administrator Staff Member Supporter

    Sep 7, 2004
    Texas
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    Priorities are...
    1.  Reliability - it has to work.
    2.  Shot Placement - you have to hit COM.
    3.  Penetration - must be adequate although 12 inches is not required.
    4.  Expansion - increases the odds of hitting something vital.

    Having said that, IMHO, unless you are in the frozen north where fat guys are layered up in thermals, denim and heavy parkas, I think all to often, too much is made of penetration.  I am not the FBI.  The 12 inch standard takes into effect shooting through barriers such as car doors, glass, etc, and for the average concealed carrier, that is of little import.  I don't know too many folks who's internal organs are more than 2 or 3 inches inches under their skin.  In 380, I'm still loaded with Corbon DPX.  It runs reliably, readily penetrates 8+ inches in gel and pretty much nothing expands better - most doesn't even come close.  The fact that it was developed by Corbon pretty much exclusively using a pair of P3ATs doesn't hurt.  

    I haven't carried my P32 at all lately but when I did/do, I use Fiocchi ammo with a JHP in the chamber and on top of the mag, followed by FMJ rounds under that.  This loading prevents rim lock and hedges your bet on the penetration/expansion issue.  In larger calibers, 9, 40, 45, etc, beyond reliability and quality, I don't think it makes much difference at all.  There are many choices all of which penetrate and expand well, in standard pressure rounds.  Take your pick and don't worry - be happy.   :)

    Note:  There was no choice in the poll that really summed up my opinion so I went with. "They are equal".
     
  7. Amend2

    Amend2 New Member

    5
    Sep 6, 2006
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    Considering the limited power of any .380 coming out of a KT P3AT, I would have to vote for penetration over expansion. Mine can be finicky with ammo selection, so it is currently loaded with FMJ (Win. 95 gr. JFP), which should result in better penetration compared with JHP loads.
     
  8. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    Thank you all very much for the replies. A basic assumption for this poll was, of course, reliable function of the ammo. And just as important, placement.

    So, with those factors, lots of test data, wetpack, waterjugs, gelatin, etc. and now the excellent info in this poll, I will dare to post ratings of 380 JHP ammo brands.

    I'll make a new thread and hope your comments will continue.

    og
     
  9. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    With the .380acp caliber becoming popular for both backup and sometimes primary carry, most of my test work has been with .380 ammo and pistols. Many new pistols are on the market now. New, improved ammo offerings are also available. After over 6 years of personal wetpack tests and excellent gelatin, waterjug, and other tests by others, (plus a recent poll) I decided to do a rating of JHP ammo. Various opinions exist as to whether penetration is more important or expansion. FMJ ammo is prefered by some but not included in the ratings here.

    I should emphasize that the ratings are basically for pistols with barrel 2.5" and longer. Shorter barrels, like 2" that I've tested, give erratic results, both in penetration and expansion. I'm sure some will disagree, venomously!!

    These ratings are only an opinion based on ammo I have tested and data from other limited sources. Your ratings may vary and not even agree with mine. The lists are in order from best to lowest rating for JHP (hollowpoint) .380 ammo. The difference between 1st and 2nd on the lists is close and could be a tie. In fact, all the penetration ratings are slightly above or close to the 12" min. gelatin requirement. The expansion ratings range from a .650" high to .450" low.

    Best Penetration (with reliable expansion)
    Fed HS 90 gr "PD"
    Speer GD 90 gr
    CorBon DPX 80gr
    Win Ranger 95gr
    Hornady CD 90gr *
    Hornady XTP 90gr
    DoubleTap 90gr
    Win SXT 90gr
    BB Std.Pres. 90gr
    Rem GS 102gr

    Best Expansion
    BB Std.Pres 90gr
    Rem GS 102gr
    CorBon DPX 80gr **
    Win Ranger 95gr
    Win SXT 90gr
    Hornady CD 90gr *
    Speer GD 90gr
    Fed HS 90gr "PD"
    DoubleTap 90gr

    *not tested by me and some reports of FTFire.
    ** some partial expansion noted.

    Not Rated (poor results in my tests)
    CorBon 90gr JHP
    CorBon PowerBall 70gr
    Win SilverTip 85gr

    Your choice of ammo for selfdefense is up to you. Some prefer penetration, some expansion. So, in no way are these lists a recommendation. Reliable functioning in your pistol is a primary requirement and should be understood. And of course, your personal marksmanship and placement is up to you. We all understand that! Since without it, the ammo is wasted!!

    Cheers,
    og

    P.S. +p ammo not included since it's not SAAMI approved!
     
  10. TxCajun

    TxCajun Administrator Staff Member Supporter

    Sep 7, 2004
    Texas
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    Thanks OG, once again you have confirmed my choice (Corbon DPX) and here is my logic:

    Look at the top 3 rounds in both penetration and expansion.  Only DPX is there (#3) in both lists.  In fact, regarding penetration, the top two rounds (Fed HS and Speer GD0 rate very poorly in expansion, among the worst.  Regarding expansion, the top two rounds (Rem GS and BB) are dead last in penetration.  Again only Corbon DPX consistently both penetrates and expands.  The others tend to do one or the other but never both.    
     
  11. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    great observation, TX!! I purposely avoided making any "recommendations" based on the ratings. Thanks for listing your choice. I too am pleased that CorBon has finally produced a .380 round that we can depend on. Their earlier stuff did not do well in my tests. Their 90gr JHP didn't expand at all in my tests and the PowerBall was a dismal failure in penetration. When I discussed this with the CorBon folks several years ago they just argued that wetpack and waterjug tests are "too severe". Well, we all can rationalize about anything.
    My attitude is that if it don't expand in my wetpack tests, something is wrong. I soak my wetpacks 48 hours which breaks down the lingen in the paper making it more like mushy cellulose like it should be. I've never had Rem GoldenSaber fail to expand. And the new Buffalo Bore "Std. Pressure" stuff is impressive.
    So, for those that prefer a big expansion bullet, the GoldenSaber and BuffaloBore "SP" are still good choices. And they will certainly penetrate over 3" below the skin where you've noted, in the poll, vital organs begin to appear!
    However, when we look at the results of the poll with 40 votes so far, equal penetration and expansion got more votes with a leaning to penetration. Odd that 261 have read the thread but only 40 voted.
    So, again, thanks for commenting on the rating lists. The lists are just my opinion based on test data available.

    I hope to read a whole lot more comments.

    Cheers,
    og
     
  12. CJP32

    CJP32 Active Member

    Jul 24, 2008
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    DPX, for the reasons that TX already stated. I do also carry a mag of the Critical defense also, I found it very easy to shoot. I plan to switch completely to DPX when I can find more.

    CJ
     
  13. rhinokrk

    rhinokrk New Member

    186
    Feb 20, 2008
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    I used to use Rem GS, but now I focus on penetration. My favorite round is Santa Barbara (even though it seems to chew up my mags) with Fiocchi FMJ 'old stock' a close second.
     
  14. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    be aware that in some Santa Barbra tests we did several years ago we got heavy setback of the ammo. Not from smilies but just ammo still in the mag after firing several rounds of it. I've no data on what a smiley would do to it, but bet it would be severe. The recoil in our tests was horrible. That was with a SeeCamp LWS 380. I've never fired any in a P3AT and don't plan to.

    og
     
  15. rhinokrk

    rhinokrk New Member

    186
    Feb 20, 2008
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    Noted, but I bought 500 rds in '04, today I'm down to 47 rds with no issues other than about a dozen crumpled brass and 4 mag tube's cracked (knock on wood). I've fixed both my FG ramps and still get minor smiles on most all rounds, but not on the SB. Maybe because of the profile of nose of the round? I don't even know what to call bullet profile :-[ I'm out of Fiocchi, but it seems the newer stuff is made in the USA, and not as potent as the older Euro stuff from what I've read.

    Thanks for all you're hard work over the many years, you're an amazing resource of info.
     
  16. JB

    JB Guest

    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    OG, I have seen your ammo tests on this and other forums.  I, and I am sure many others, appreciate the work that you do.  Yeah, shooting stuff is fun but I'm sure all the set up is a PITA and am glad you continue to do it.

    I have been using the Federal HS.  When I tested it with my original 1st gen P3AT (which was always kind of jam prone - even with FMJ, on occasion) it worked flawlessly.  Unfortunately, I don't have enough onhand to test it with the 2nd gen replacement (built on my old 1st gen frame) that Kel Tec sent me on warranty.  I hope to find enough to test functionality soon and, if so, will probably stick with it.  Other tests I have seen (specifically the tests on Brassfetcher.com) agree with yours that the HS gives good, reliable penetration.  Also, like yours, those tests indicate that the HS does not expand as much as some others.  However, the reported expansion seems to be consistent - almost identical, in fact, from one HS to the next even in rounds fired through denim vs. rounds fired into naked gelatin. I like that consistency. I don't necessarily subscribe to the 'it has to penetrate at least twelve inches' standard but if I can get good penetration with repeatable expansion then I'll take it.

    The DPX might be a second choice for me - again, if I ever find any.  It seems to perform well and I recall reading that it was designed using P3ATs as the test mules.  I just can't seem to get past feeling that the all-copper bullet is 'weird'.
     
  17. JB

    JB Guest

    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    I was going to type pretty much those exact words.  Still, I like the Federal HS as tests indicate that it seems to give deep (but not extreme) penetration with consistent expansion.  My thought is that - as long as there is at least some real expansion as opposed to simply a little 'upset' of the bullet - there really isn't going to be that much practical size difference between the best expanded premium SD bullet and one that doesn't expand quite as well.  Penetration differences of a few inches, therefore, seem more significant to me than expansion differences of a slight fraction of an inch.

    I agree there, too.  I may eventually pick up some premium stuff in 9mm but so far I have been carrying Remington UMC 115 grain JHPs (the stuff Walmart sells in value packs) and don't worry.  Tests I have seen indicate that this economic round performs pretty well.  My bedside .357 is loaded up with UMC SJHPs.  That is a case where I want good expansion to limit overpenetration (hence why I like the exposed lead nose of a SJHP) and at .357 velocities and energy levels, I don't worry about the bullet design having as much responsibility for getting the job done.  A .380 with a short barrel, however, is a different animal.

    Further, I don't think that the balance of expansion to penetration is constant across all calibers.  For instance, with my NAA .22 WMR mini I want ammo that expands only minimally - if at all - and penetrates well.  With the aforementoned .357, regarding a two-legged assailant, the penetration will be there so expansion becomes more of a concern. The .380 has enough oomph to get good penetration even with decent expansion but overpenetration isn't so much of a concern.
     
  18. joje

    joje New Member

    213
    Nov 1, 2007
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    i might be reading your statement wrong, but while i agree that 9mm and up play in a different league than the 380, it is not true that all ammo in these calibers are created equal. yes, there are many quality loadings to be chosen from, but there are also loadings that flat out performs poorly. for example, per marshall & sanow, 45 acp ball has about the same one-shot-stop capacity as premium 380 loadings.

    http://handloads.com/misc/stoppingpower.asp
     
  19. Jag351

    Jag351 New Member

    10
    Feb 10, 2005
    Re: Latest opinion on .380 penetration v.s. expans

    I agree with TxCajun's priority list completely.

    I have use the golden saber exclusively for carry, simply because it shoots and cycles. I never have tested the expansion or penetration though. Those Hornady's look good, so maybe I need to do a little testing of my own.

    Great pics!
     
  20. oldgranpa

    oldgranpa New Member

    628
    Sep 23, 2004
    Re: Opinions on ratings of .380 JHP ammo

    thanks, JB, true doing a wetpack sometimes is a PITA :D I'm fortunate in having a good range not too far and can park right at a bench. So I don't have to carry the box too far. Sometimes I go early, at daybreak before anyone is there and can set the box on the bench table to shoot it right from the car.

    Good ammo is hard to find. I keep a check on Midway, AmmoToGo, SportsmanGuide, etc. and order stuff when it shows up. Like the DPX, ordered 2 boxes and next day it was outofstock. Same for the BB Std.Pressure, out of stock next day after I ordered. Tests I did with Fed HS "PD" is ammo I had before the big ammo shortage. Midway says some coming soon.
    You carry what you have confidence in. Good reliability and fair ballistic reports that appear on various sites. And ammo you can find!!
    Want a laugh? Here's what I'm carrying right now...
    2 rounds Win Ranger 95gr
    2 rounds Rem GS 102 gr
    2 rounds Fed HS "PD" 90gr
    staggered in the mag, Win Ranger in the chamber.
    why? got lots of Win and Rem. But second mag has DPX and BB Std. Pressure.
    Hope I never have to use any of it for SD to find out for sure what's best.

    I really enjoy all comments on this subject, they are great!!

    Cheers,
    og

    Oh, BTW, regarding the copper bullet being "weird". The DPX is a proven Barnes bullet that works pretty darn good, considering it's only 80gr weight.
    I forgot to list another copper bullet round that I tested, MagTech FD 77gr, which was a dismal failure, no expansion at all. That bullet was not a Barnes bullet and had a really small diameter cavity. The wetpack may not be "certified" but it sure will sort out ammo that doesn't do good.