The preponderance of pocket pistols has persuaded some ammo manufacturers to re-evaluate their offerings and tailor their them to be more suitable for today’s guns. That’s a good thing, because as I’m finding in my Ammo Quest series, ammo that works great from a full-sized pistol doesn’t always work as well from a pocket pistol (wow, major revelation there, right?) So we’ve seen Speer offering “Short Barrel” versions of their Gold Dots, and Hornady specifically tailored Critical Defense to perform better from short-barrel pistols. Now Remington is offering an updated version of their venerable Golden Saber bullet, called “Remington Ultimate Defense — Compact Handgun.”  They actually have introduced two revised versions of Golden Saber; there’s “Remington Ultimate Defense” and also “Remington Ultimate Defense — Compact Handgun” . . .

It’s taken me a while, but I finally got ahold of a box of their “Compact Handgun” ammo in .380 ACP — Academy had it on their shelf, so I picked up a box. I’ve tested the Golden Saber before in .380, twice actually — once in Remington’s original loading, and once in a version from Underwood where they really amped up the velocity.  Neither did very well from the tiny 2.8″ barreled pistol that I used.

Now, Remington has apparently reformulated the Golden Saber to make it more appropriate for shorter-barreled pistols.  This bullet weighs the same, looks the same, and the expanded bullet looks the same, but as near as I can tell Remington has redesigned it so that it will open up at slower velocities.  All bullets have a “velocity window” within which they work best; fire the bullet slower than its minimum necessary velocity and it’ll fail to expand.  I have read (but can’t point you to the source) that Remington has reformulated the bullets to open up at around 100 fps slower minimum velocity, and reduced velocity exactly the type of situation one would encounter when using a shorter-barreled pistol.

I fired two rounds into bare gel, and three rounds into denim-covered gel.  Why only two in bare?  Because when I saw the penetration achieved, I knew there was little point in continuing with the bare shots — even if the rest had been perfect, I was going to have to rule this ammo out of contention.  But when I got to the denim, I found that the more things change, the more they stay the same — this new version of the Golden Saber performed exactly the same way that the older version did — it plugged up, failed to expand, and overpenetrated.

Oh well.  It’s too bad, because the Golden Saber (in all its variations) sure does open up into a nasty, sharp bullet, but if it can’t be relied on to penetrate deeply enough, and it can’t handle the denim test, then I think that there’s not really any reason to continue on with this ammo, as there are other brands and types that perform better from the little pocket pistol.

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18 Responses to ShootingTheBull410: Remington Ultimate Defense-Compact Handgun .380

  1. I don’t expect anything from my Sig P238 380 but a good sting if it hits flesh.
    Even so it has its place indoors. As a store carry that I don’t want its bullets going very far or through a body. The 380 has its place and uses.
    Just cant, dont expect major caliber damages from it.

      • Any bullet can inflict lethal damage but smaller rounds have a lower PK. Shot placement is the key variable but good shot placement is a function of caliber. You got a lot more slop in a 50S&W than a 22LR.

    • Let’s always keep in mind that the vast majority of successful DGUs do not involve doing major damage to an assailant, or even discharging the firearm at all. Many do not entail even presenting the firearm. I’ve seen a simple drop back into firing stance and a right hand on the hip, ready to draw a nonexistent IWB firearm, work to dissuade a would-be aggressor against a female. (I certainly don’t recommend that approach, but it has worked at least once.)

      I know, I know, “what if?” I get it. I’m just saying pick what works, in any of the already unlikely scenarios you may face, but don’t beat yourself and others up too much in the process.

    • It’s never really a good idea to make a prediction, so — with that out of the way, let me go ahead and make a prediction…

      Longer barrels on pistols usually result in imparting more velocity to the bullet, which in turn results in the bullet expanding larger, and frequently results in even less penetration. That’s the general state of things. However, there’s a level of velocity at which the bullet’s fully expanded and additional velocity might actually go to helping it penetrate further, rather than just getting bigger.

      In my testing of the conventional Golden Sabers, I tried two loads: Remington’s own, and also one from Underwood. The Underwood loading was a lot “hotter”, and pushed the bullet faster, and resulted in deeper penetration than the Remington load did. Not quite to the desired 12″ depth, but deeper, and the bullet was huge (for a .380). Accordingly, I then tested that Underwood loading through denim, and found that every one of them plugged up and failed to expand.

      So, my prediction is: using this load in a 3.5″ barrel would probably result in a velocity increase somewhere in the neighborhood of what those Underwood bullets were like (from the shorter barrel). Which means that I would guess (and this is only a guess) that we would see somewhat deeper penetration than my testing here reavealed. And I would also guess that they will, once again, clog up on the denim and overpenetrate.

  2. Thanks for the review. I don’t see much point for the .380 – it’s consistently marginal in all but the Precision One and Hydra-Shok loadings. A 9mm subcompact performs better, fits in the same or similar sized guns, and tends to cost less. My next handgun will probably be a 9mm.

    While the .380 is certainly better than a sharp stick, I’m still pretty happy with my .40 that has double the energy and much better performance.

    • Y’know, I can agree and disagree here. I totally agree that the .380 is ballistically challenged and the 9mm is a vastly superior cartridge.


      …Slip a Taurus TCP or a Ruger LCP in your front pocket. Then replace it with a Sig P938. There’s a difference. Don’t just compare measurements, actually drop the actual pistol in your pocket and you’ll see that there’s a substantial tangible difference. Enough of a difference that, every time I pick up that little TCP, I just wish it had just a little more predictable ballistic performance so that I could fully trust it as a full-time main weapon. As it is, I put up with the bigger size and weight of the 938 because it is much more powerful. But the TCP… man, it’s sooooooooo convenient. And the .380 isn’t bad, it’s just not on par with the “major” calibers. That’s one reason I was really happy with the Lehigh XP performance; it delivered consistent excellent penetration with zero prospects for a clogged hollowpoint or a failure-to-expand. It makes the .380, especially from the little pocket pistols, a more viable choice.

      That said, 95% of the time I carry the 938 or the XD-s in .45. Because of the limited performance of the .380 cartridge in general, I usually relegate it to BUG status. But man, if it COULD be relied upon as a primary, it’d be sooo nice… and that’s really what this whole Ammo Quest was started for, was to find out if there was a round out there that would come close enough to justify carrying the pocket .380 as a primary or only weapon. And after seeing the performance of the HST’s, DPX’s, and Critical Defenses in the pocket 9mm, my conclusion has been — not really. It’s okay, and with the right ammo it may serve you well, but the 9mm is just so much more powerful…

      • I just don’t get this weigh issue especially when are talking about ounces. I pocket carry my Nano sometimes and it’s no big deal. Now maybe I don’t think that it is a big deal because I normally carry either a Hi Power or a 1911 so the Nano doesn’t feel particularly heavy. I am not a big guy just 5’9″ 180.

  3. I think he’s full of it whats wrong w/9″ of penetration in a S.D. round especially if its a .380? So 380’s have enuf power to open-up like that and still penetrate 12″ ? Paaleezz, if it didn’t open-up like that it would Im sure. I think he’s asking to much from a 2+” barrel .380 pocket gun, or shooting some real fat bad guys. Going in 9” and not exiting and ripping-up internals from that little .380 is OK w/me.

    • The only problem with that is STB 410 has found a couple of .380 JHP rounds that do meet the FBI minimum penetration standards AND expand beautifully. His goal is to find the ones that work best. The man is giving free information, backed up by scientific facts and repeatable experiments. These are marginal against bare gelatin and don’t expand against denim. Why use them if you have a better option, primarily the Federal Premium Hydra Shoks and Fiocchi Extrema XTP that did so well in the initial test?

    • If you think I’m asking “too much” from a 2.8″ pocket .380, then — I agree with you. I am.

      But that was the whole point of why I started the Ammo Quest — to see if any ammo would make a pocket .380 able to meet the FBI and IWBA ammunition standards.

      Many people immediately dismiss the .380 as not even worthy of discussion, and especially .380 from a pocket pistol. But I wasn’t so willing to dismiss it — I set out to test every round I could get my hands on, to find out IF it was possible, IF a pocket .380 could meet the established standards for bullet performance.

      It’s a tall task. I really didn’t expect it to be able to do it. But I found three different rounds so far that can, and frankly that has me rather happy with the little pocket pistol. With Lehigh XP’s, or Hydra Shoks, or any Hornady XTP bullet, you can get a full 12″+ of penetration, including some expansion, through bare or denim-covered gel. Which is kind of fantastic. Doesn’t do as much damage as a 9mm, doesn’t expand as big as a 9mm, but the most important factor is to achieve sufficient penetration, and the .380 pocket pistols can definitely do that.

      Now, back to this load — if 9″ of penetration with expansion is what you’re looking for, then this round delivers. That is not the standard I was testing to, but I tried to make it clear in this video and every video that I am testing to a particular standard and, since I’ve already found other rounds that will meet and exceed that standard, then any particular ammo test will be graded harshly if it fails to meet that standard.

  4. And as much as it pains me to talk about it a I witnessed a “Wolf Gold” .380 half F.M.J.-half lead tip H.P. put a hole in someones head the size of a golf ball, and needless to say that person died within a few minutes. I wouldn’t sell them to short.

  5. OH man you missed a chance here. You could have opened with:

    “The preponderance of pocket pistols has persuaded some projectile peddlers to polish their presentations and purpose them them to be more pertinent for today’s pew-pews.”

  6. It’s a bit of word-parsing, but that’s the nature of the beast: I take a bit of exception to the term, “over-penetration”. While the context provided by the stated testing parameters in the “Ammo Quest” series do render it “technically correct”, there isn’t really any such thing as “over-penetration” in bullet performance. Not in any handgun cartridge and certainly not in a “mouse gun” cartridge. Given that,
    1. penetration has already been identified and accepted as the PRIMARY wounding factor (the famous FBI study), and
    2. ALL handguns suck compared to long guns in terms of wound-ballistic performance (same study), and
    3. nobody EVER talks about “over-penetration” in long-gun bullet performance (because pass-through is almost a forgone conclusion to the point that use of that adjective would be laughable), and
    4. last but not least, no ballistic-gell and/or denim testing can replicate 100% the final wounding performance of a particular bullet on a particular live target in a particular situation – ergo, hollowpoint “expansion” is NEVER 100% guaranteed,
    it therefore follows that in an immediate life-or-death situation, one would desire all the penetration that their .380 cartridge – or any handgun cartridge, really – can possibly deliver. “Expansion” is ultimately a “nice-to-have”, but it CANNOT be *depended* on, EVER, especially not for the purpose of “reliably” reducing “over-penetration” – any bullet can sometimes pass through – or not – to satisfy the WORST-case, right? If I could, however, somehow transform my .380 into .450 Bushmaster at the instant that I need to pull the trigger, I can’t think of anything but the most hideously-contrived scenario where that wouldn’t be desirable. I bring this up primarily because the term “over-penetration” is too-often used in ANOTHER context: This context has been generated by a select breed of armchair tacticians who perpetuate the fallacious concept that somebody who is a split-second away from somebody being DEAD is actually going to have time to “verify” what lies behind the assailant and actually *further risk life* in taking time to consider the almost-completely unforeseeable consequences of “over-penetration”. This is pure Hollywood histrionics. Statistically, there is FAR more collateral damage from MISSES than from “over-penetration” of hits-on-target – even in police shootings (some would say ‘especially’ in police shootings). The cold, hard real-world adult choice that has to be made when you NEED to take the shot to save a life is that you DO take your *best* shot – period. Or maybe you choke under pressure, and either live or die with “woulda-coulda-shoulda”. I’ve even heard of people who chose not to keep a gun in the home because of concerns about “over-penetration” if they had to shoot somebody. Really? As opposed to relying on the 100% accuracy and discretion of the criminal killing you and everyone else present with one round each? Are you kidding me? The entire concept of “over-penetration” is just absolutely ridiculous when finally exposed to the real world.

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