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I wasn’t sure what to make of the Buffalo Bore .380 ACP +P 100gr Hardcast Flat Nose when I first got my hands on it. I’ve done a large amount of shooting with lead bullets in .38 Special, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt, but never in something like this in .380. I didn’t quite understand it, but I quickly discovered that this load does what it does very well.

General Background:
Buffalo Bore needs no introduction here. They make some of the most powerful ammo that’s commercially available and it is legendary in its performance. This load is very similar to the hardcast Outdoorsman line that Buffalo Bore offers. I’ve tested a variety of bullets in this line (with more to come) and have great respect for what good old-fashioned lead can do.

The idea was to make a .380 that offered superior velocity and penetration, thus making small pocket guns into serious self-defense weapons as opposed to a last-ditch compromise.

The .380 load here features a 100gr hardcast lead bullet with a flat nose. This flat nose is great for creating crushing damage and will also offer straighter penetration through bone and tissue.

Accuracy and Basic Performance:
I fired this load through a SIG SAUER P238, which is one of the best .380 pistols made today. I chronographed ten rounds over my Oehler 35P and gathered that the load travels just under the listed speed of 1150fps, that being 1095fps.

The five-shot groups I achieved on paper at both ten feet and fifteen yards came in at a respective 1.5” and 3” from standing. That’s acceptable for what this round is and is intended for out of a gun as small as the P238.

Recoil is greater than a standard .380 load, but it isn’t bad. An interesting note about this round is that there’s some bullet lube smoke that comes out upon firing. It’s part old west and part badass. Some people who didn’t grow up shooting black powder may be alarmed by it, but it’s not a concern.

Ballistic Performance:
This was an interesting test for several reasons. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I fired my first gel test at a fighting distance of six feet. The bullets penetrated completely and passed through my wood backer. I decided to back off a bit and walk out to 10 yards. Again, complete pass-through. To make the story shorter, I wasn’t able to stop the bullets in bare 10% FBI gel from Clear Ballistics at any distance inside 15 yards.

To make matters more interesting, the bullets passed clean through all the fabric I tested, including leather and heavy denim. The bullets just passed directly through in a straight line with virtually no variance. I expect this from something like a .45 Colt hardcast, but not a .380.

Clean and deep wounds are generated by this load. Note the Buffalo Bore 90gr JHP +P bullet in the lower corner of the gel.

To confound matters even more, I wasn’t able to recover a complete bullet even when shooting through 2×4 boards. I ended up with very small shavings of the bullet in the gel, but nothing complete. Shooting through wood may as well have been shooting through a shirt.

These bullets are exceptionally hard to stop, and when they have been deformed they shred tissue like you wouldn’t believe. The would channels in the gel were ragged and had pieces of wood in them, but no bullets.

Wounding Capacity:
Unlike many other bullet types, this hardcast flat nose crushes the material it comes in contact with instead of just icepicking right through. Wound channels weren’t particularly wide, but they were much more ragged than what a FMJ can produce.

The most shocking damage done was when materials were involved. No other bullets I’ve tested produced the amount of particle and splinter damage as this. The bullets were hard enough to stay complete and force their way through, but soft enough to deform in material and take it in with it. This bullet no doubt would do tremendous damage to bone.

Overall Impressions:
The Buffalo Bore 100gr +P hardcast flat nose is something that you may want to consider carefully for everyday carry. It does exactly what it is supposed to do. The question is, is that something you want? The .380 round has struggled with penetration, but that’s not a problem with these hardcast bullets. The concern here is over-penetration.

A story can be found on the Buffalo Bore website about a man killing a grizzly bear with the 9mm version of this bullet type and getting incredible penetration. Given my tests, I can certainly believe the penetration claim.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * 
While not match accurate, this load produced very acceptable results for self-defense. Jacketed bullets always seem to product better results in modern guns like the P238.

Handling: * * * * 
This load adds some oomph to a .380. Still, it handles well and offers fast follow-up shots considering the power level in such a small gun.

Reliability: * * * * *
I had zero issues to speak of with this load. It left my gun a bit dirtier than usual, but that’s to be expected with lead bullets.

Terminal Performance: * * * * *
For being just 100 grains, this bullet is a freight train at bad breath distance. If you want to have a load that can blitz through a bad guy doing damage as it goes, this is the one.

Overall: * * *
The Buffalo Bore .380 ACP+P 100gr Hardcast Flat Nose is certainly effective as a personal defense load in small carry pistols. It will inflict serious damage on your attacker. You won’t have to worry about carrying an underpowered .380 round. But unlike many .380 rounds, the concern here is its over-penetration. That’s a definite consideration in a round you intend to carry for personal defense, and a risk many carriers won’t want to take.


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    • I think you need to clarify the specific and important difference between lead bullets and BB’s hard cast lead bullets. They are completely different and have few ballistic characteristics that can be generalized. Yet so many gun writers talk about them as if experience with one means something.

      And too bad Buffalo Bore”s performance isn’t matched with reliability. Expect a dud or two in each box.

    • “380 is for girls”
      Maybe so, but my dad, who was JP in small Texas Hill Country Town, had a Colt Mustang Goverment model holstered under his robes while hearing cases before him.
      Inherited it after he passed away, gave it to my nephew, Austin Texas LEO.
      Have already ordered same handgun, should be at my FFL late next week.
      Already picked up Mustang XSP 380 on past Friday
      Small enough to fit locked and loaded in skinny jeans pocket
      Crime is down but crazy is up.

    • This round doesn’t make sense to me for self defense, maybe for wildlife defense (though I wouldn’t want to use a pocket .380 for that).

      There is just way more penetration than needed (and no expansion). If you want to go hard cast, flat nose, then a standard pressure (200ish ft/lbs) .380 round will penetrate plenty and make the same size hole. If you want to go .380(+P) then you should get something offering some expansion.

      Besides that, these rounds are probably too hot for the micro polymer .380s that most people have LCP/P3AT/TCP. If you carry something much bigger, then you might as well go 9mm anyway.

      It really seems like the XTP rounds are the best .380 for CCW (unless you are worried about wild hogs, mountain lions, and black bears). 😁

      • Buffalo Bore claims to have tested this load out of a P3AT… I’m not gonna hold onto that thing though.

    • I’m a girl. I also have some hard cast 95 grain bullets made by American Bullet Specialities, Atlanta, Georgia made in the 1980’s. I’ll reload some. Thanks for reminding me!

  1. I loved the similar offerings in 9×18(115 grain hard cast flat point)and would love to see more of them offered.

    • I was wondering about that, too. Massive overpenetration does no one any good except, maybe, the bad guy you had to shoot. Is this supposed to be a hog load?

      Proper penetration is 12″ to 18″ in ballistic gel. If there is energy left over, it can be used for expansion. Since .380 is a weak cartridge, there likely won’t be much. ShootingTheBull410 found that cartridges with Hornady’s XTP bullet performed well. Federal Hydra-Shok was a second choice.

      • Those standard pressure XTP’s seem like a good choice, until the moment you’re shooting through bone or barriers.

        In .380, +P for me, thanks. I carry this buffalo bore round in my LCP. I KNOW i will get deep through and through penetration regardless of target aspect, and I know i’ll get full diameter holes.

        Works for me.

      • Over penetration is a myth. Remember bone and such can slow a round down.
        Been there done that with rifles at close range on a deployment. Never had a round go through a goatf**ker. They are thinner than the average American. That is real world experience not controlled conditions.

        • “Over penetration is a myth.”

          Tell that to the person directly behind the person shot.

          I’m sure they will be comforted by your beliefs…

        • Exact opposite of my experience. Complete pass throughs were the norm on Afghan males using M855. Ice pick wounds, through and through. I several photos of these types of wounds, some of which I’ve posted on this site.

        • I always saw complete pass through with 5.56. But all we had was green tips and we were never in a tic inside of 100m anyways

        • Over penetration is not a myth by a long shot. It’s ober hyped for sure, but it’s definetly no myth. Your being downright silly.

        • Never saw OP at close range in Fallujah.
          Maybe it’s a myth? Definitely overhyped by those who have never shot a person. I did see a .50 BMG over penetrate once.

        • Tell that to my neighbor who was shot through and through with the same 9mm fmj bullet that killed her uncle. If you want to trade anecdotal evidence, then I personally witnessed over penetration in action right across the street from my own house and family.

        • Even if you aren’t concerned about hitting someone else, overpenetration is an indication of excess energy that isn’t being used to damage the target. Either some of that energy could be used for expansion to create a bigger crush cavity and give a better chance to destroy vital tissue (the only reliable wounding mechanism in a handgun), or the velocity could be reduced so the time to get back on target is less.

    • I was wondering whether to ask Josh how much gel he failed to stop the BB flatnose in, or should I just check to see if STB410 tested it.

      Well, I guess it doesn’t matter how many inches of gel Josh used, for this is what STB said:

      The results: extreme overpenetration. The standard pressure round went 41″ into the gelatin and +P traveled 45″. That’s a lot of overpenetration. Consider that for personal defense against humans, the prevailing standards call for a maximum penetration of 18″. Any further than 18″ is considered overpenetration. These Buffalo Bore rounds went nearly four feet.

      That said, something that goes through 4′ of gel is likely to be more effective than something that goes 6″ in gel or 2-4″ in humans.

  2. Sounds like simple, no-nonsense ammunition that will reliably punch through clothing and put a deep hole in tissue.

    And that’s an official Martha Stewart ‘Good Thing’…

  3. Back in the day we had basically 3 types of handgun ammo. Lead solids. FMJ. And semi jacketed soft points. Hollow points were hens teeth and when you found them they had a rep for not working.

    The lead bullets in all calibers that I tried were penetrators. Even in weak rounds like the .32 S&W, short and long, and the old .38 S&W.

    I still prefer the standard velocity lead semi wad cutter in my j frame.

  4. Average of 4 & a half stars with a rating of THREE?!? Hardcast is supposed to penatrate…

    • The 100grain buffalo bore .380+P hard cast flat nose lead round is so hot it cycles in my 9mm HK VP9 pistol flawlessly.

      It is, in essence, a 9mm parabellum loading that fits in a .380 acp chamber.

  5. Having had 5 close encounters with black bear I started carrying the Buffalo Bore 9mm 124 gr. flat nosed (truncated cone) FMJ bear defense ammo. Then Double Tap came out with what I consider a better round. Their 9mm version is a 147 gr. brass jacketed (brass being 50% harder than copper) truncated cone bullet driven at +P velocities. And while the BB brand comes in a 20 rd. box, the DT brand is sold in a 50 rd. box for little more than the price of BB.

    • You’re going to end up shooting yourself in the head with your last round while that black bear eats your spilled entrails if you regularly and honestly believe that a .380 or a 9mm is in any way a defensive round against an enraged mother black bear. Maybe they are the size of chiawanas down there. Please spare me the stories of “you know a guy” or “once a Park Ranger did this with that”. My own father tells me of killing a black bear in West Virginia after it treed him while he was squirrel hinting with a .22. He got lucky and was safe for a few minutes and every time the bear tried to climb and get at him he shot it in the face/head. A bullet finally went through it’s nose into it’s brain and it died. Far more common are the stories from up here where people who shot bears with small pistols including the new favorite among idiots, the 10mm, and did not survive to claim victory. My hunting partner managed to get one snap shot off with a 35 Whelen loaded hot that, we found during the autopsy, blew her heart away. She made the remaining 20 yards I would guess on pure adrenaline before collapsing at our feet. He only had time for one shot. I was still unslinging my .338. Tim usually carried his rifle clutching the thing in his hand rather than slung. Untill you have experienced the speed, quietness and ferocity of an enraged mother black bear you should just stay inside reading ballistics charts. I don’t care if they stuff those cases with depleted uranium, the minimum for a handgun in Alaska is a 44 magnum. I won’t use BB because of the dud factor the gentleman has already mentioned.

      • .380 has been successfully used to stop bear attacks, and so has 9mm.

        For that matter, on five occasions, .22LR handguns have been used to successfully stop bear attacks.

        In a study of 63 bear attacks against humans who used a handgun in self defense, where they scored at least one hit, handguns -of any caliber- have a 95% success rate in ending the attack.

        You can google that.

      • C’mon that BB load in 9mm has killed grizzlies. Not that I would recommend it but in a pinch it will kill grizzlies. Now a black bear is far less formidable. OBVIOUSLY it will work against a black bear!!!

  6. What’s the intended use for this ammo?

    Anyone who carries a 380 in the woods is not thinking things through. 380 ACP in modern guns is intended for micro guns that are incredibly easy to conceal in urban environments, not for outdoors type applications.

    The massive over penetration is not good for urban carry. Why buy a boutique load from Buffalo Bore that performs the same as other cheaper factory produced FMJ?

    Again, what is the point of this ammo?

    • The point?

      Cuz this M’erica and we do stuff whether it needs doing or not.

      You must be one of them god-hating liberal tree-hugging Prius-driving nickel-plated sissy pistols just out for a Sunday morning troll in the park to ask such a nasty anti2A question.

    • The intended use is to get match grade 9mm parabellum performance from a .380 auto, which this buffalo bore round delivers.

      The 100grain 380+P buffalo bore round perfectly cycles in my HK VP9 pistol, and in STB’s test’s he said it perfectly cycled his Sig 938.

      From a 2.7″ LCP this round achieves 1050fps. This is solidly into 9mm parabellum performance levels.

      The round also delivers 45″ of penetration in gel. It is certainly an outstanding choice for trail or personal defense in the .380 caliber.

      • Yeah. And the second shot put the turret back. A rattle can and some duct tape and it was all good.

    • Creedmoor? Pfft, I’m working on an even higher ballistic coefficient bullet I call the 6.5 long bow. The bullet is 12″ long and requires 1:1 rifling to stabilize it.

  7. If you need penetration, you don’t need a .380. If you need a .380 you don’t need more than that 12-18 inches of penetration.

    • That is your opinion based on your life experiences and carry preferences. It is not universal.

      My wife is a nurse. She cannot carry anything bigger than a .380 pocket pistol. We have black bears in our yard pretty often. She comes home late at night.

      A .380+P round that delivers 45″ of gel penetration and legit 9mm parabellum performance (1050fps from a 2.7″ LCP) is exactly what the doctor ordered for her needs.

      And that’s not hyperbole. The 100gr 380+P round cycles perfectly in my HK VP9 pistol.

  8. I don’t really get the point of .380. Especially if you’re going to hot load it. Then just use 9mm. I’m not a 9 fan boi by anymeans, but I just don’t see it as a good option when there are far better 9mm options.

  9. Shooting the Bull also tested the copper solids from Lehigh in .380 and 9 mm. The 9 overpenetrated substantially, but the .380 was just right. It seems to me that this lead flat nose would be perfectly acceptable for SD purposes without the +P power, and might perform similarly to the Lehigh.

    Someone said hat this round would be too much for a polymer micropistol, and it probably is. But one gun that might benefit and be much more easily controlled is the Browning .380 mini-1911.

  10. Name some .380 firearms that come with a factory blessing to run +P.
    I believe that very few do so.

    • About a year ago I was asking this very question. I had said that the Beretta M84 should not be used with .380 +P (remember, that is not a real designation) because it is a blowback pistol. I then decided that I was wrong for having said that because I could not document it.

      I then wrote to Beretta and asked, “Is the Beretta M84 series safe for .380 +p ammunition?”

      They did reply. This is a copy of the response:
      Thank you for contacting Beretta Customer Support.

      +P ammunition is not conducive to the longevity of many of the components in your firearm, therefore they will require far more frequent replacement and repair. Consistent use should be avoided, and reserved only for self defense ammunition, whereas standard FMJ is recommended. That said, your firearm should be +P rated.

      Best regards,

      Beretta Customer Support

      They seem to be saying that, yes, it is safe to use +p (I still feel compelled to say that .380 +P is not a real designation). However, it shouldn’t be used too much.

  11. Having read the comments I had a chuckle or two. Some of you guys are really funny. I have to mention the cavalier attitude of those that made statements suggesting why use a 380 when you should just go buy a 9mm. That is certainly abject arrogance. Some people cannot afford to run out a spend a pile of cash on a new handgun. I happen to own an FN Model 1910 380. I have had it for about 50 years. It is really fun to shoot. As for self defense I carry a 38″ long cane that I don’t really need to help me walk if you get my drift. If I were to carry it would be a caliber I trust will stop an attacker immediately. I witnessed a man shot at close range with a S&W Chief’s Special. 5 rounds in the chest and that man ripped the revolver away from the shooter and beat him unconscious with it. Stopping power is not an exact science. In the woods I carry a Super Blackhawk 44 mag. with a 7 1/2″ barrel. I feel confident that it will stop a momma black bear. If someone confronts me in fighting distance my solid northern white ash cane will put them down. I practice with every day. I lived in some dangerous neighborhoods in NYC without much physical damage. Now I am almost 70 years old and still pretty tough. Oh yeah I have a 16.25″ barrel 30-30 win with a cut down butt stock. It is a long mare’s leg at 26.5″ but it is an extremely powerful “handgun.” CCW with a 380 is okay if you consider needing a handgun and that’s your only choice. I cast bullets for my 30-30s and my 44 mag. My alloy mix is pretty hard so perhaps my 44 mag will over penetrate but then in my house I use a cylinder bore overunder shotgun with 18″ barrels. 380 acp is better than nothing.

  12. I noticed on Buffalo Bore’s web page, under pistol ammunition, that they also sell a standard velocity hard lead .380 ACP round, which is supposed to generate 12-14 inches of penetration in human tissue. I thought about that and decided that I’ll stick with my Hornady Critical Defense ammo. I was also thinking of getting some standard velocity BB hard lead wadcutter ammo in .38 Spl and .44 Spl to use in my carry revolvers. However, it is expensive and the description also mentions that penetration is extreme (18-24 inches), and that would seem to cancel my desire to use it for self-defense purposes. In my mind, over-penetration is associated with a boatload of post-incident legal issues that my lawyer and I would rather avoid if possible, should it come to that. However, BB handgun and rifle ammo seems admirably suited to defending oneself from large aggressive wildlife, and that’s what I would use it for, should the chance arise.

  13. “this hardcast flat nose crushes the material it comes in contact with instead of just icepicking right through.“ One of the dumbest observsations from a TTAG contributor I’ve ever heard.

    A “good” .380 defensive handgun round that punches a hole with no expansion? Good for what?

    • Exactly as the comment you quoted stated: Flat nose with a wide meplat crushes more tissue than FMJ, while still maintaining FMJ like penetration.

      This is one of the very, very few rounds in .380 that is both barrier blind and obtains the FBI minimum penetration in gel (and then some 3.5x over).

      This round is so hot it cycles in my HK 9mm pistol reliably. It lets you have 9mm performance in a gun that you can conceal in any style of dress, and gives massive penetration, making it a viable trail defense round as well.

      Does it have expansion like a JHP? No. But it has penetration far beyond any JHP in .380, most of which fail miserably in that regard when they expand.

  14. ok, first, chuck Norris would catch the bullet and throw it back at you with enough force to kill. he probably would just kick momma bear. yeah, overpenetration is something serious to think about, as well as all the legal problems after. but BB also has hollow point ammo that they load just as hot. and their standard pressure ammo is like the plus p ammo. yes there is plus p 380s just like plus p 9mms . and their 38 special +p ammo is like 357mags ( as well as DTs by the way) and for people who can’t afford to go out and buy another gun that is for them. and some of us have some of the older over built for caliber type guns that ammo like that would be fine in. US America is beautiful we all have freedom of choice. God Bless America. now about those duds, I have not had any, and sometimes it is the gun with a light hammer spring . and maybe it is the ammo. maybe the primers are hard, and maybe they need to be better at their quality. pull the bullets and check the powder and try the primed case in another gun and see if the primer pops. if they are having dud issues than we need to know. thank you.

  15. This round is so hot it cycles my VP9 9mm handgun.

    And it is tremendously accurate. Like, crazy accurate. Literally a one hole group rested at 15 yards accurate.

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