Someday I’ll move on from testing micro-compact .380 pocket pistols, but every once in a while a round comes along that just warrants taking another look. In this case, DoubleTap sent me some of their new 95 grain Controlled Expansion .380 ammo. What stands out to me is that Mike McNett (owner of DoubleTap) is the designer of this bullet, designed specifically to get the bullet to penetrate deeply from a .380. Yes, this bullet was designed specifically to meet the FBI penetration standards through gel (and, therefore, more likely to be effective against a human attacker). Well, heck, this I gotta test . . .
Backstory: I’ve tested a lot of .380 ammo, from a pocket pistol. Nearly all of it under-penetrates (i.e., won’t reach 12″ through gel, at least not consistently). I found one type of hollow point bullet that would fairly consistently reach that depth, the Hornady XTP, but just about all the others fell short. So if DoubleTap has a bullet specifically engineered to reach that far or further — and especially if it’ll do so from a pocket pistol — well, that’d be big news as far as I’m concerned.
First thing I can say about the DoubleTap round: recoil is stout and the velocity is fast. Considering I was using a 2.8″-barrel pocket pistol, the typical velocity of most defensive ammo on the market seems to be about 800 to 900 fps with a 90-grain bullet. Heavier bullets go slower; the 95-grain PMC Starfire was 788 fps, for example. The previous “recoil king” was the Winchester PDX1, which pushes a 95-grain bullet at 901 fps.
But the DoubleTap is a lot more powerful; it pushes that 95-grain bullet at an average of 1,034 feet per second … from a .380. That’s 225 ft/lbs of energy, far higher than the 144 ft/lbs we see from normal defensive loads from this gun (90 grains at 850 fps). These rounds have a lot of recoil and they hit quite hard.
How is this possible? Is this actually “+P” ammo? No, it isn’t. I contacted DoubleTap directly and was assured that this is standard-pressure, fully SAAMI-compliant. Now, I do know that some other companies deliberately load their defensive ammo a little softer specifically to reduce recoil. HPR says that they made that choice on purpose with their .380 XTP load (which delivers 90 grains at 800 fps, for about 128 ft/lbs from this gun). DoubleTap must be loading this to the absolute limit of the caliber. It’s a heavier bullet traveling over 200 fps faster than some other companies’ offerings, and it shows in the recoil.
It also shows in the penetration. These things were insane for a .380. In the bare gel, the shortest bullet travel was 13.50″, and the furthest was 18.50″. Two came in at 16.50″. And that’s for fully-expanded bullets. .380’s just don’t do this … it’s really hard to find a .380 expanded hollowpoint that’ll even reach 12″. But these were fully-expanded bullets (an average size the same diameter as a .45 ACP) that also penetrated an overall average of 15.90.” That’s rather incredible.
The results through denim weren’t as encouraging. I ended up with six bullets total; four failed to expand and the two that did expand shed their jackets. Not a good sign. However, looking at it in context, two things jumped out at me.
The bullets that did expand still penetrated to a good depth (14″+) even though they shed their jackets, and they still did more damage than an FMJ would have. And one of the bullets that failed to expand looks like it must have tumbled violently because the wound track through the gel was massive, far more destructive than a typical FMJ wound. The other three acted more like FMJs, a smallish wound track and penetration in the 21″ to 23″ range.
So it’s not an ideal performer. But maybe with a revision, it could be. And even as-is, it still is a damaging round.
The bare gel performance was the best I’ve ever seen from a .380 hollowpoint, scoring a comparatively huge 35.9 on the MacPherson Wound Trauma Indicator scale (the next-highest scoring .380 hollowpoint was 28.3. That’s a huge difference). And the denim bullets, while not performing well at all by conventional standards, were no worse than FMJs, and in half the cases were quite a bit better.
I would definitely prefer better and more consistent results from the denim test. I wonder if a Version 2.0 of these bullets could be developed, somehow fine-tuning them for better denim performance, because if so, these could be the “HST” that we’ve always wished for for the .380 pocket pistols.
I still don’t know how they got that much power out of a SAAMI-compliant .380 ACP round. I’m not a reloader, so I don’t have the experience to judge it. But DoubleTap’s president assured me that they were SAAMI-compliant so I guess that there’s some magic going on. Maybe an extremely fast-burning powder, but at this point I’m just guessing.
I can say that I don’t recall there being any powder spray on the gel blocks, as is typical with .380 ammo testing from the short-barrel gun, so maybe the powder is all being burned in the 2.8″ barrel. I don’t know how they do it, but I do know the results are the hardest-hitting .380 hollowpoint I’ve tested, which leads to great penetration in bare gel, but also leads to substantial recoil.
If you can handle the recoil, you might like these rounds a lot. If you want a softer-shooting round, there are several choices that are loaded softer. I think it would be interesting to try these rounds from a GLOCK 42, which is the softest-shooting .380 pocket pistol I’ve used. Maybe it would tame some of the wrath and fury of these DoubleTap Controlled Expansion 95-grain bullets.