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Never say never, right? Or is it, “never say die?” Or should it be, “never say that any particular ammo test is your final ammo test for any given caliber”… because even though ShootingTheBull410 wrapped up the .380 Ammo Quest several months ago, there keep being new, interesting, and improved rounds coming on the market (or finally coming available!) to keep testing . . .

In this test, CorBon’s DPX in .380 ACP is put through the pocket pistol.  CorBon’s DPX was a standout performer in 9mm, so optimism runs high that perhaps it’ll prove equally superb from the .380 pocket pistol.

Spoiler alert: the DPX actually did really rather well, with an average penetration through the bare gel of 11.95″, and through the denim-covered gel of 11.70″.  But there was one bullet in each group of five that notably underpenetrated all the others; in each test one bullet went about 10″, whereas all the others averaged around 12″.  The standards being tested to are a minimum of 12″ of penetration for each round and, while we can fudge a bit (because hey, it’s only a .380 pocket pistol after all), it’s quite a stretch to allow for a 10″ bullet when the minimum desired standard is 12″.  Accordingly, the determination reached here is that the DPX is a good round that will probably do quite well from the pocket pistol, but it does have the potential of sometimes coming up short — and because of that, it just misses making it into the winner’s circle.

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  1. Whether it makes it into my winners circle or doesn’t, depends on whether it is consistent in it’s penetration, which by your report it generally is, and whether it actually has the power to STOP a person from doing what you don’t want them doing. I would like to see more in the kinetic energy report before I would pass judgement on that. Unfortunately I have heard stories, (Unfounded or not I don’t know) of .380 bullets hitting a ribcage and not doing enough damage to actually stop someone.

    • Theres at least one documented case of a 40 s&w hitting the breastplate dead on and stopping like it hit a steel plate. I saw the x rays myself.

      • Wow, now that would be an interesting x-ray. Who knows, maybe the powder charge was light, a scary thought though.

    • “and whether it actually has the power to STOP a person from doing what you don’t want them doing. I would like to see more in the kinetic energy report before I would pass judgement on that.

      Kinetic energy is largely unrelated to whether the bullet has the power to stop someone. Any .380 bullet of comparable weight and velocity is going to have identical kinetic energy. Well, for that matter, that applies to any caliber — the formula that determines kinetic energy is based entirely on the bullet’s weight and its velocity. Nothing else is considered — not its diameter, not its construction, not whether it expands or doesn’t. So an FMJ has identical kinetic energy to an expanding hollowpoint, which has identical kinetic energy to a ratshot shell (assuming that the payload of shot weighs the same as the other bullets).

      In order for a bullet to have the power to stop someone, it has to be able to reach through the body to the vital organs, and reach them with enough force that it can damage them. And the bigger and sharper the bullet is at that point, the more damage it does. And the more damage done, the sooner the fight can be brought to a close. That’s why so much of the focus on testing is on penetration depth and expanded size — because when it all gets right down to it, those are the only factors that can be RELIABLY COUNTED ON to stop an attacker.

      I wrote up a blog post explaining the problems with relying on the quoted kinetic energy here:

      “Unfortunately I have heard stories, (Unfounded or not I don’t know) of .380 bullets hitting a ribcage and not doing enough damage to actually stop someone.”

      There are as many varied stories of what may or may not have happened, as there are different shootings. You never really know how a bullet WILL perform; all you can do is find out how it DID perform. And there are all sorts of bizarre cases out there, of bullets that bounced off bones, of bullets that wandered off track, of bullets that failed to expand, of bullets that did all sorts of bizarre things.

      In my testing and in my research, I can say this with a high degree of confidence: in general, heavier bullets seem to stay on track better than lighter bullets do. Heavier bullets have more momentum, and smash through barriers without getting deflected or thrown off track, than lighter bullets do. In general. There’s always the random odd case where any particular bullet may do something unpredictable, but in my testing I can say that I’ve seen FAR more .22LR’s deviate and take wild turns, than .380’s do. And I’ve seen many more .380’s take unexpected turns than 9mm’s do. And I have rarely ever seen a .40 or .45 take an unexpected turn; they usually go in a straight path. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t take a turn or be deflected, of course; anything could happen, but in my observation it’s far more likely to happen with a lightweight little bullet, than it is with a heavier, bigger bullet.

      .380 is not my preferred caliber; it’s a very challenging caliber, and it’s on the low end of what most folks would consider acceptable for self defense. I would always rather have a 9mm than a .380, if all other things were equal. But not all other things are equal all the time; sometimes the gun you want is chambered in .380. Sometimes you can’t carry a gun bigger than a .380. Sometimes someone can shoot a .380 very well, but can’t shoot a 9mm worth beans. When those things happen, the .380 can be a reasonable alternative. The ballistic performance is not in the same league as a 9mm, but sometimes compromises have to be made.

      • Yea that’s pretty much my point. If it isn’t going to do enough damage, then why bother carrying it? Unfortunately I live in an area where over-penetration is a real issue. I live in an apartment complex with apartments in all directions except up/down. So I am pretty much isolated to a .38 .380 or 9mm at most.

  2. If it’s good enough for James Bond. (Just kidding). I carry a pocket .380 as a secondary to my OC 1911. If I go to my back up, duck and cover and run as fast as you can is the order of the day.

  3. Testers, including the FBI, underestimate pain. Bullets going in your body hurt, and they hurt A LOT. – any projectile actually – down to spring loaded BB guns. Adrenalin might get someone over the first hit, but not for long. The key is follow up shots. The brain registers those instantly. Keep firing and making hits.

    • Not always. Lots of documented cases of people getting shot with pistol bullets, even “defense ammo” and not even knowing they were shot until after things were over.

      No absolutes.

      • You’re both right. Pain definitely stops a lot of attackers, and there are definitely cases where the pain doesn’t even register.

        I think most attacks are stopped by people feeling the pain of the attack (or seeing the blood leaking from their body) and choosing to stop. But sometimes, they don’t. Read the story of Jared Reston’s shootout; he didn’t even know what had happened to him after the first shot (that destroyed his jaw and left his teeth canted 45 degrees in his mouth). But that shot didn’t stop him; neither did the next six that he got hit with.

  4. The problem with pain is that it is subjective and dependent on individual physiology. 1 Bullet anywhere of any size might drop most people but only systemic shutdown and shock will guaruntee a fight stopper.

    • So I guess it’s good that this isn’t a caliber war post, nor did you make your comment in response to anyone taking such a shot.

      Seriously though, is this your new shtick now, pasting in that comment anytime caliber is mentioned on any capacity? Because I’ve seen you say that and nothing more at least three times this week, and I’ve only read ~25% of the posts. What a fantastic contribution.

  5. Is there any copper pistol bullet that performs reliably? These look like they yawed and that’s why the expansion was once sided. I certainly haven’t seen tests on more than a few coppers, but them seem to lack the mass to assure proper penetration and expansion. Indeed, the only one that has been eye-opening was that 300 blk Trident round.

    • Have you seen Lehigh 300 BLK rounds? That shit turn a 300 into pretty much a 1.5 inch wide arrow and penetrates about 20 inches.

    • Shootingthebull’s test of the 9mm CorBon DPX produced nice results. So, yes, sometimes solid copper rounds do perform very well.

  6. As you mentioned the “new” ammo coming out, I was wondering if you could either confirm or deny the hype over G2 Research RIP 380 ACP 62 Grain Hollow Point Ammo. It is an interesting new design, but might just be like the cool fishing lures designed to catch fishermen rather than fish…

    • I did extensive research and testing on the 9mm G2 RIP. My conclusions are that a) it’s not really anything that we haven’t seen before, as fragmenting and frangible rounds have been around for decades, and b) their marketing is misleading, and c) it’s not the worst thing ever, but I would definitely not choose it over a conventional good-performing hollowpoint.

      In my testing, the fragmentation results in what would likely be a shallow/superficial wound, and the deep-penetrating base is the only part of the bullet that really delivers proper terminal performance. And it does okay, but with the size and weight of a lightweight .380. I’d much rather rely on a 147-grain HST that’s expanded to three quarters of an inch in diamter, than a 49-grain little chunk of metal that’s only 1/3″ in diameter. To me, the 9mm RIP effectively turns your 9mm into a .380 as far as terminal performance goes (well, a .380 combined with a nasty flesh wound).

      The .380 is claimed to deliver even less penetration. It is not a round I would think would show much promise over conventional ammo. But .380 is a challenging caliber anyway, and it’s hard to find actual good-performing ammo that can reach deep enough. Those rounds exist (primarily, those that use the Hornady XTP bullet or the Hydra Shoks) but most other bullets don’t really deliver deep enough penetration in .380 to reliably reach and destroy the vital organs, and from RIP’s claimed specifications for their .380 round, it definitely wouldn’t be able to meet those standards.

  7. My question is concerning historical trends in calibers increasing, as compared to historical trends in citizen weight averages.

    I’m 29yo, 66″ tall, 130 pounds. According to this site’s calculations on several ratio charts, I’m about 10lb underweight.

    I don’t have ten inches of stomach, and roughly that at chest height… The average weight in America, according to CDC (2006?) is 196lb, at 69″/70″ in height. Someone my same age, with those dimensions would be 40 pounds overweight.

    I could imagine a beer belly adding another three or four inches to the girth of one’s stomach to defeat the reaching and penetration of vital organs.

    All in all, are we demanding bigger calibers due to bigger stomachs?

    • “I don’t have ten inches of stomach, and roughly that at chest height… “

      The penetration standards are not really based on how big the average person’s stomach is. The standard is not implying that a bullet has to penetrate 12″ into a chest cavity to be effective.

      The standard is based on 12″ of penetration in gel to be representative of a bullet that will likely penetrate adequately in a ‘real world shooting,’ where various barriers (such as cover, a hand or forearm) or an oblique shot through the torso (not straight on as in an “ideal” case), etc.

      “I could imagine a beer belly adding another three or four inches to the girth of one’s stomach to defeat the reaching and penetration of vital organs.”

      Fat does not change penetration all that much. Bone and external barriers do. So, no, a beer belly is not adding four inches to the penetration “requirements” for a reliable shot.

      Besides, beer bellies don’t usually really cover the vitals. Target area is higher; belly would be gut shot – not held to be ideal in self defense.

      “All in all, are we demanding bigger calibers due to bigger stomachs?”

      No. Bigger stomaches don’t really matter all THAT much for the reasons mentioned above.

      Besides, who is “demanding” bigger calibers? If anything, as people realize that caliber/terminal ballistics is way down the list on what is needed for firearms based self defense (with the first rule being “Have a gun”), smaller calibers are probably more “accepted” now than ever.

  8. Federal hydra shocks still the best according to him. That’s what I’ve carried in my .380 for years..

    • I’ve not carried as long as you, only a couple years, but that’s what I settled on as well. In the beginning I bought into the Critical Defense because that’s what I carried in my .40 and it performed well there, but that performance didn’t hold up in .380 in the ammo tests I saw.

      Here’s a playlist of videos (mostly from tnoutdoors9) that I collected when I was making that determination:

      I was happy to see StB410 come along and reach basically the same conclusion a year or so later.

  9. I wouldn’t say the indifferent performance of the 380 is a caliber issue. It’s what happens when you use a short barrel. You just are not going to have good ballistics with a pocket pistol.

  10. Dan…Late last night I read your “old” article regarding results of your testing many, many brands/types of .380 ammo. I also watched it’s video.Precision One was selected as the #1 choice of ammo for the .380. Today I read Precision One’s home page re: their .380 ammo and it states that it is RE-manufactured ammo. Maybe an addendum to your article and video would be a good idea. Thank you for your hard work!
    James Harber

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