When you think of the .380 ACP cartridge, do you think power? Accuracy? How about great bullet performance? If you don’t think those things, you’re not alone as the .380 wasn’t really known for any of the above. But today we are going to be taking a look at a cartridge of particular interest from Buffalo Bore, that being their 90gr +P JHP.
Buffalo Bore is well-known for making some of the most powerful ammo loads available. They really don’t hold back when it comes to wringing performance out of any caliber and the .380 is no exception.
The goal with this ammunition was to provide the shooter with a full-strength load that’s powerful enough to compete with .38 Special in a small carry gun while offering a significant improvement over other commercial .380 options. Buffalo Bore says that these loads can produce a 150-200fps increase over conventional .380 jacketed hollow point options.
The 90gr bullet is said to expand rapidly and deliver a shut-down hit to the central nervous system from any angle, something that most .380 rounds can’t do. Spoiler: Buffalo Bore’s confidence in this product is warranted, as it does exactly as it is supposed to.
Accuracy and Basic Performance
I conducted my testing with this cartridge using a SIG SAUER P238 Emperor Scorpion. This is a fantastic pistol and has proven to be accurate and reliable over the course of several thousand rounds. I consider this gun to be a standard by which all .380 pistols are judged.
The accuracy I was able to get out of this cartridge and gun was very acceptable for self-defense use. I fired five-shot groups at both ten feet and fifteen yards. This pistol can be accurate far beyond those ranges, but I wanted to conduct my testing at likely personal defense ranges. Groups came in at under an inch and 2.5” at those respective ranges from an unsupported standing position.
Buffalo Bore rates this round at 1,200fps, which is significantly faster than its competition. My testing from the P238 revealed that they come out at an average of 1176fps from the 2.7” barrel. This is incredible performance from a .380 ACP round. Recoil is much more noticeable with this load than less powerful alternatives. It is not bad at all, but it is more pronounced.
I used a block of 10% FBI gel from Clear Ballistics for this review. The bullets to be tested were fired in at a distance of six feet to simulate a self-defense situation.
In bare gel, the light weight bullets rapidly and dramatically expanded, delivering a surprisingly deep and wide wound channel. The full penetration depth came in at around 12-13”. I experienced no exits through the 16” block during this testing, so over-penatration isn’t a concern.
Wound channels were large and showed instant expansion on contact. The temporary wound cavities showed that the tissue expanded almost from contact, measuring about 5” in length and 2.5” in general width. This is tremendous for a light bullet weight .380 and is better than some 9mm personal defense ammo tested.
Firing through thin fabric yielded excellent results as well. The bullets didn’t seem to care that they were going through fabric, although I noticed jacket and core separations. Terminal performance was equal to bare gel.
Heavy denim and leather, however, did present a challenge to this load, but not as much as you’d think. Penetration depth was about equal, although expansion was less reliable. Instead, I saw some violent tumbling and yaw accompanied by cutting damage from the jacket material. Expansion did happen, but it sometimes didn’t occur until the bullet straightened out in the gel and opened after several inches of travel.
I tested the round on wood and drywall as well. The bullets were fully able to penetrate 2×4 boards and still expand in the gel. I had a couple that expanded in the wood and entered the gel partially open, which resulted in some very nasty damage. Drywall proved to be a challenge, but the bullets were still able to achieve 8-10 inches of penetration even when damaged or separated from the jacket.
A .380 jacketed hollow point isn’t generally considered a great manstopper, but with modern loads like this it has made the jump. The dramatic expansion and resulting tissue damage upon impact show that this load will do the vast majority of its damage in a vital space.
The most concerning thing for a potential bad guy would be the cavitation and rapid bullet expansion on impact. Since jacket separations were common and the core relatively soft, splintering of bone and bullet fragments is a major possibility.
This is a savage load in an otherwise small defensive caliber. It brings the .380 into the wounding range of .38 SPL and 9mm. Permanent wound channels, although shorter than most 9mm loads, were wide for a .380 at .5” in diameter and about five inches long and started at less than an inch of penetration.
The Buffalo Bore 90gr JHP +P is something that the .380 has been missing for a long time. It brings a level of sufficient power to an otherwise wanting cartridge and does so without being excessive in recoil or blast. I think that the bullets themselves are just the right amount of toughness, as they do incredible damage in a small amount of space. I’d trust this load to do what it’s supposed to do when called upon.
List price is $26.05 for 20 rounds.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
The SIG P238 is an accurate gun, and this is good, accurate ammo. It’s better than most .380 I’ve tested on paper and gives the most accurate stuff I’ve had a run for its money.
Handling: * * * * *
While snappier than standard pressure .380 loads, it isn’t painful to fire. Small guns can be difficult to use, but this wasn’t the case with the P238 and this ammo.
Reliability: * * * * *
Zero malfunctions in the course of my testing. I noted that brass ejected much further away than other .380 I’ve tried.
Terminal Performance: * * * * *
As a .380 there’s always room for more. What this round does is squeeze the performance out of the inherent limits of the .380 ACP round. The bullets expand reliably and penetrate deeply, especially for a .
Overall: * * * * *
This is probably one of the best personal defense rounds you can get today for the .380 ACP. I like it because it brings a level of gusto to the table that makes the .380 a very viable all-year carry cartridge.
Pistol featured in this article’s images is a SIG SAUER P238 Emperor Scorpion. Knife is an ESEE Camp-Lore CR-2.5.