Ammo Test: DRT .380 Frangible 85-Grain

By Barry Green

I’m obsessed with terminal ballistics and personal protection through armed self defense. Thanks to my day job as a producer for Fiercely Independent Films I’ve got access to some fun toys. Put it all together and you get a YouTube channel (ShootingTheBull410) on ammo testing. One of the most recent tests is for Dynamic Research Technologies’ “penetrating frangible” .380 ammo. . . .

This is a totally different type of cartridge; there’s no solid lead slug at all. The “bullet” is made of compressed powder that’s intended to disintegrate into a fine dust when hitting the target.  DRT makes some rather aggressive claims for their ammo, both on their website and in a 19-minute interview with gun guru James Yeager. Claims such as “This technology allows for a one shot kill – you hit something in the body cavity, it will die,” and that DRT ammo acts like “a cluster bomb full of Skil saws” that will “sandblast the insides of the target.”

Needless to say [sic], it didn’t turn out that way.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

50 Responses to Ammo Test: DRT .380 Frangible 85-Grain

  1. avatarJack says:

    This testing aside, is there a danger that frangible ammo like this can disintegrate inside the gun when the bullet strikes the feed ramp?

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      If it blows through 20+ inches of ballistic gelatin at 950+ fps without popping, I’m pretty certain that you will never, ever have a feedramp issue.

    • avatarnatermer says:

      > This testing aside, is there a danger that frangible ammo like this can disintegrate inside the gun when the bullet strikes the feed ramp?

      Traditional ‘Frangible Ammo’, yes. This ammo.. they claim no.

      Until now Frangible Ammo was specifically designed for training situations were you are shooting in a room with hard walls, like concrete. The rounds are designed to disintegrate when they hit any hard surface to prevent ricochets and damage to hard walls.

      Through dry walls and flesh, unfortunately, they behave like a solid ball ammo and will happily pass through your house like any other ball ammo. So even though people would often buy them thinking that they were good for defense in homes due to the danger of over-penetration were deeply mistaken.

      Now those types of frangible ammo do have reliability issues. They can break apart and cause jams in guns, but because they are intended for training simulations only then not having 100% reliability is fine.

      DRT claims their ammo is different. They said it’s frangible ammo that is appropriate for defense.

      They claim that it is still designed for penetration, though, and are designed to pass the FBI penetration tests and replicate the behavior of hollow points.

    • natermer answered the question excellently. I just wanted to post a response here to say — I’m the guy who made the video (and a whole bunch more over on YouTube) so I wanted to say hi, get introduced, and I’ll do what I can to answer questions about it… but I’m wordy, hope you can forgive that! Thanks!

      • avatarJack says:

        It was a well-presented and informative video–nice job. As you were testing those two types of ammo, you probably also noticed that the PMC Bronze is more pleasant to shoot because it has relatively low recoil. I was surprised to see that it provided decent penetration.

  2. avatarMatt in FL says:

    I saw this video in the queue and watched it with great interest, since my EDC is a SIG P238. While I was disappointed by the results, I really can’t say I was surprised. Guess I’ll just stick with my Federal Hydra-Shok.

    I was, however, amused by the extreme amount of complete bullshit in DRT’s marketing claims. They went well beyond anything I would have ever thought I could get away with, if I was trying to market this stuff.

    • avatarLiberty2Alpha says:

      Is Baghdad Bob their company spokesperson?

    • avatarAccur81 says:

      Hydra shoks are decent, but I’d look into Underwood .380+P,
      Critcal Defense or Buffalo Bore. Your gun, your call, and I’m going to shoot some .380s this weekend if I have a chance. As long as they are reliable, I like the extra punch that some of the new +P .380s have.

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3h1Ml5h2ECY

      • avatarMatt in FL says:

        I’ve seen the Buffalo Bore tests, and it looks interesting, but from the videos I’ve seen (because I haven’t been able to do my own testing), I’m going with the Hydra-Shok for now. This is the first time I’ve seen this guy’s ammo test videos, and he appears to have an exhaustive set of reviews of .380 ammo, so I’m gonna plow through that here soon.

        I was carrying Critical Defense in my XDm when I bought the P238, so I bought CD for it as well. However, after watching literally a dozen or more ammo tests on YouTube, I was less than impressed with its performance in .380. It failed to expand at all quite frequently, and when it did, it didn’t open up into nice fat petals, but rather the jacket simply peeled back and slicked against the side of the bullet, like a rolled down turtleneck. The Hydra-Shok tests I saw showed it to be much more consistent in expansion, and the expanded bullet came out looking like a textbook hollowpoint blowout.

        Here’s my playlist of .380 ammo tests: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjSCvOrud227saZRiDpJ_sd3p4ke3T0M_

        and a page where a guy tested five FMJ loadings of .380, with video and photos: http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com/2013/04/380-auto-fmj-heavy-clothing-terminal.html

      • “but I’d look into Underwood .380+P, Critcal Defense or Buffalo Bore”

        I tested the Critical Defense from the 2.8″ barrel (LCP/TCP etc) and it was a notable under-penetrator. Expanded beautifully but didn’t go very far at all.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5TJSUADOwA

        Tested the standard-pressure Underwood .380, and it was pretty impressive. Uses Golden Saber bullets, but much more effectively than Remington does. Didn’t reach 12″, but had massive expansion. I’m planning on putting them through the denim test to see if they reach further.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM_uLhwvM-c

        The only Buffalo Bore .380 I tested is their standard-pressure 90gr JHP load, and it was a mixed bag, the bullets that expanded did great, but two of the five didn’t expand and overpenetrated, so … overall, not that impressed. (Note: would probably perform better from a longer barrel, I’m sure.)
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba-4RcIfJ2Q

        I know that’s not what you were talking about, you were talking about +P rounds. I leave that up to the individual discretion of the shooter, just so long as they are properly informed — there is no SAAMI specification for +P, and I don’t believe any gun manufacturer allows their use (i.e., there are no .380 pistols designed to use +P that I know of, because there is no standard for +P, and therefore using any .380 +P will, at the bare minimum, void your warranty). Doesn’t mean your gun’s guaranteed to blow up, of course, but it’s just info that each shooter should consider before deciding to use any .380 labeled “+P”.

    • “Guess I’ll just stick with my Federal Hydra-Shok.”

      Just wanted to say — in my testing, Hydra Shoks proved to be one of the most effective, deepest-penetrating rounds you can shoot out of a 2.8″-barrel .380. If you want a .380 hollowpoint, Hydra Shoks are definitely one of the best choices. I wasn’t expecting that, I thought the age-old design wouldn’t hold up well now, but it really surprised me with how well they did.

  3. avatarLiberty2Alpha says:

    As a former 911 dispatcher, “DRT” means “Dead Right There.” I get a kick out of an ammo company named DRT.

  4. avatarBillC says:

    Hooray, more ballistics myths, lies, and misunderstandings; this time directly from the company themselves.

  5. avatarEric says:

    Ball for .380. Period.

    • avatarAvid Reader says:

      That’s the conclusion from Tim at the Military Arms Channel. If you’re carrying .380, it’s ball.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soNdX36P-3E

    • avatarBillC says:

      All about the penetration if one chooses to use the 9mm Short.

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        I’d still like to see the penetration of the Underwood 102 grain JHP+P in gel. I think the 90 grain +P went 11 inches in 10% gel with decent expansion (reference my precious vid). That load might be the Goldilocks choice. I hope I get a chance to do my own testing, which pretty much consists of milk jugs or 2 liter bottles filled with water.

        For the record, I currently consider the .380 as a backup gun and not a primary. My current smallest carry load is the Gold Dot 135 grain +P .38 Special. I do like variety and I’m not here to bash .380 carriers.

        • avatarBillC says:

          Each their own as long as people know their capabilities and the pros and cons of their chosen caliber and firearm. I’d truly love to test my carry loads for my firearms, but just need to get that ballistic Hell. Until then, I have to rely on the intertubes.

        • avatarjwm says:

          A81, is that Gold Dot .38 load for snubbies?

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          @jwm

          Yes.

      • “All about the penetration if one chooses to use the 9mm Short.”
        Sufficient penetration should be the primary consideration for any caliber; it’s especially difficult to achieve with the .380. That’s why I started the .380 Ammo Quest, a series on YouTube where I’m trying to find what rounds will actually penetrate 12″.

        Using “ball” or “fmj” for .380 is common advice, but I don’t care for FMJ’s in general because they’re itty bitty bullets with really weak wounding potential. It’s true that .380 FMJ’s can penetrate deep enough to cause a critical hit, and it’s equally true that most .380 JHP’s simply won’t.

        However, through extensive testing, I’ve identified a few rounds that can indeed penetrate a consistent 12″ (through bare gel and also through 4 layers of denim) while giving some expansion, and having a much more effective wounding path. Not many rounds can do this, but some can.

        I would definitely recommend ball over the big-expanding underpenetrators, like PDX1, Critical Defense, and Golden Sabers. Those are just poor choices from a .380 with a 2.8″ barrel, and .380 FMJ’s are definitely superior.

        However, you don’t have to make that tradeoff. There are some rounds that will give 12-15″ of penetration, some expansion (usually to about .41″ or .42″) and some cutting action. Most of those rounds use the Hornady XTP bullet, although the Hydra Shok and the Gold Dot can accomplish it too. I would most definitely choose an XTP hollowpoint over FMJ when using a 2.8″-barrel .380 ACP.

    • avatarDavid says:

      Ditto and I would add alot of handgun calibers to the list. Handguns frequently fail to adequately penetrate – especially when barriers and ranges beyond 2 feet are factored in.

    • avatarjwm says:

      I have the 9 makarov. In my opinion it’s .380 +P. Hollow point loads are few and far between with it. Fortunately, my Mak is a range toy for the most part. But with it or .380 I would go with ball. Light bullet(95 grains) with modest velocity(1000 fps) doesnt inspire me with a great confidence in the effect of HPs in these calibers.

      Penetration and bullet placement is where it’s at with these. IMHO.

      • avatarDJ says:

        Honest question – do you think .380 ball can incapacitate quickly enough at close ranges?

        IMO – .380 is a marginal stopper at the best of times. I would think ball would just go through-and-through without stopping. I 100% agree on placement, but I’d rather the bullet dump all of its’ energy in tissue than carry through the target.

        • avatarBBob says:

          A .380 or smaller gun is there to make the chase or the fistfight afterwards easier for you. They’re not going to give reliable expansion or stopping results, but they sure as hell will make it easier for you after that person has 8 holes in them and you don’t.

        • avatarjwm says:

          DJ, At the distances a handgun is going to be normally used in a DGU I don’t think caliber is near as important as placement.

          Now, will a person hit in the shoulder run out of steam faster if he’s hit with a .45 or a .380? There are so many different variable from person to person. Mental health, alcohol or drug use. Rage level, etc. There’s just no way to call it.

          I saw an FBI report from the late 60s or early 70s that said the 2 most comon calibers used to kill with in the US were the .22 and the .38. What does that signify? If anything.

          The reason I prefer ball in .380/9mak is to get enough penetration to get the vital organs. If the ball goes all the way thru, as long as it’s going thru something important I’m fine with that.

          Anything bigger than those 2 and I want hollowpoints.

        • “Honest question – do you think .380 ball can incapacitate quickly enough at close ranges?”
          Great question. Let me preface the answer by saying “any time you can carry something bigger, you should.”

          But directly to your question — if you can score a critical hit on the body’s vital structures (i.e., brain stem, central nervous system/spinal column, etc) then it doesn’t matter what gun you did it with. A .22 through the eye socket will stop someone just as quickly as a .45 through the eye socket.

          When it comes to hitting the vascular system (heart/arteries), I am of the opinion that a .380 can get the job done, but a bigger bullet can do the job better; the more tissue damaged, the more opportunity for blood to leak out and then incapacitation to happen. But be aware that even if you totally destroyed your attacker’s heart, they would still retain enough oxygen in their brain to be able to move and act for a little while (usually said to be about 10 seconds).

          As far as incapacitating someone through general tissue damage, the best of the .380 hollowpoints would need at least a few rounds to accomplish that. MacPherson calculated that you’d need to damage at least about 40 grams of tissue, in general, to be able to stop someone; the best of the .380′s damage about 23-25 grams, so — if you’re using a .380, you should definitely be prepared to shoot at least twice, and preferably until the threat stops.

          The .380 with ball ammo or with one of the proper-performing hollowpoints can reach deep enough to cause an incapacitating hit, but the burden really is on you to place that shot where it will be most effective.

          “IMO – .380 is a marginal stopper at the best of times. I would think ball would just go through-and-through without stopping.”
          I agree — the .380 is marginal in general, and ball does go through-and-through. I think you can improve the .380′s performance with careful ammo selection, and in fact I think that ammo selection is more critical with the .380 than just about any other caliber. Definitely the “big boys” (9/40/45) have more than enough power to deliver a big expanded hollowpoint deeply. With the .380, you have to walk a tricky tightrope between expansion and penetration to get the most effect from it. It can be done, but it’s not easy.

  6. avatarRandallOfLegend says:

    380 is like that kid in highschool that drives a Honda Civic and is always adding “mods” to make it go faster. When in reality it’s just slow and ineffective.

  7. avatarWilliam Burke says:

    Why would he not try 9mm, .40 and .45 ammo at the same time, so as to have a comparison? Instead, all we have is conjecture about other rounds, and a funny Hades skit.

  8. avatarPatrick says:

    It’s an interesting thing (though somewhat off topic) with .380 and even higher powered defensive handgun ammo. You pull to shoot and to kill in order to prevent a victim’s death, but you also know that the (vast?) majority of assailants who are shot live through it. You want something that will be most likely to let the assailant know he’s been shot, though the official reason for shooting is to kill, in order to decrease the body count, or at least sway it from victim to assailant. Really though, you mostly want to stop the attack, and killing the attacker is not the only factor in the effectiveness of the stop.

    I left this vague, but there are lots of aspects to deadly self defense tools other than the likeliness of the tool to cause death.

    • avatarBillC says:

      I see you’ve never been shot at nor shot at anyone else then.

      • avatarPatrick says:

        BillC: That is a correct assumption. So, what are you trying to say?

        Randall: That is correct. People can be shot and keep fighting.

        People have been shot once with a .22lr and flee, or multiple times with something much more powerful and keep going. That’s part of my point. I think we can all agree that ballistics and related behavior is highly unpredictable.

    • avatarRandallOfLegend says:

      Shoot to stop! With the advent of the internet, you can watch videos of people being shot, and see how amazingly people keep on fighting. I saw a video where a dude barely flinched with 4 in his chest from the police. He kept fighting and died a few minutes later. You can find many examples to confirm or deny your suspicions.

  9. avatarPhilthegardner says:

    I thought the test by tn9outdoors was pretty convincing.

  10. avatarmiserylovescompany says:

    I carry a mousegun because that’s about all my fat arse can conceal without a jacket, BUT….

    Fact of the matter is, ALL handguns are underpowered. This isn’t news to any of us. You want DRT, use a rifle or shotgun. Just remember, you still have to aim and hit your target.

    I don’t have any expectation that one shot,or even several, into an assailant = DRT. But if it helps me to live to fight another day, then that’s about all I can reasonably ask for. What was it someone said in a post elsewhere? There is no such thing as truly safe, only more or less safe? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    Tom

  11. avatarDJ says:

    Until it’s been in use for long enough to have a record in actual defensive shootings, I decline to be a guinea pig for their untested ammo.

    How does it handle denim, thick clothes, obese attackers, skinny/emaciated attackers, attackers on drugs? Guess we’ll see…

  12. avatarC says:

    I’m really liking this guy’s videos.

  13. avatarOut_Fang_Thief says:

    Last time I checked, humans are NOT made out of ballistics gelatin. We have muscle fiber and bone for bullets to run into which are denser than the fat in your ass, ballistics gel. Shoot some of this ammo at a pig carcass then X-ray the pig. You might find that it’s plenty frangible. Of course, there are ballistic dummy torso’s.

  14. avatarVSN says:

    I tried the DRT in .45 ACP and found it to be really dusty, or smoky, or whatever. I also remember finding bits of the bullet behind me after shooting.

    Just found this on slickguns:

    http://www.midwayusa.com/product/951750/copper-only-projectiles-cop-ammunition-380-acp-80-grain-solid-copper-hollow-point-box-of-25

  15. avatarJohn Boch says:

    More crap from Yeager.

    I’m starting to think of Yeager in the same plane as Al Gore when it comes to veracity of his statements.

  16. avatarensitue says:

    As to Ballistic Gel:
    My poor man’s equivalent is to go down to a local restaurant supply grocer and buy a bulk pack of “jello” enough to make 4 gallons of “jello”. Mix the powder w/1 gallon of hot water and pour in a rectangular mold then chill. The result is a dense gel.

  17. avatarZL says:

    I’m seriously considering the Ruger LC380 as a starting/practice gun I can also conceal in hot and very humid weather that doesn’t kick as much because of a wrist injury.
    Would it be considered at least okay to practice with standard loads and just load with +P when carrying for self defense?

  18. avatarJJ says:

    If you look at other tests of this DRT ammo… it DOES work… much like a magsafe or Glaser. Not sure why this .380 was such a fail… I saw some 9mm and .45 tests that looked pretty darn effective. For .380… I would stick to loading the mags with alternating magSafe and Gold Dots… and always shoot at least twice.

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