The .380 is a legitimate defensive handgun round

By: Joshua Gideon

The .380 ACP for years has been considered an underpowered round. I was one of its biggest critics. I affectionately called it a neutered 9mm. However, times change and technology improves. With that said, one must keep an open mind. In the not too distant past, the .38 SPCL wasn’t considered a good defensive round and even the popular 9mm round was considered sub-par to larger diameter bullets (even though we were talking fractions of an inch). As bullet technology improves, we will continue to see breakthroughs in some defensive calibers.

This topic first got my attention when I heard rumors that Glock was releasing a new handgun in .380. I was as disgusted as many were hoping for a single stack 9mm from Glock. I then had a quick discussion on Facebook with Grant Cunningham about getting his thoughts to write an article on this topic. My apprehension of backlash in the community kept me from pulling the trigger on that article. I don’t regret that because not to long later, Grant published this article on the Personal Defense Network website. I am SO glad he wrote this! He nailed it and wrote it much better than I ever would have.

At almost the same time, my Mom purchased a .380 S&W Bodyguard for her daily carry. At that point I gave in and began researching .380 ammo in hopes of finding something halfway decent for her to carry in that “sub-par” handgun. The more I researched, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. So much so that my opinion of the little .380 began to change. Maybe my mom has been reading Grant Cunningham’s blog and knows more than I do? I combed the Internet for current and well conducted test results when I stumbled upon this one:

Based on the linked video, I began testing reliability in a borrowed Glock 42 and then my newly purchased Glock 42 with several 90 grain Hornady XTP JHP loaded rounds. With all of the rounds meeting FBI Protocol of 12”-18” of penetration with expansion, the argument against the .380 is becoming very weak. So far I have tested the Hornady Custom .380 ACP with the XTP JHP, and the Fiocci Extrema XTP in the Glock 42. My tests were 250 rounds of each with no failures in either. At this point I feel comfortable recommending at least these two rounds in the Glock 42. I would still like to test the HPR Hyperclean XTP and the Precision One XTP.  If anyone would like to donate a few boxes, I would be happy to shoot them and give my results!  🙂  Over time I expect other manufacturers will figure out the formula and begin producing similar performing ammunition with their brand. The .380 is all grown up now!

My take away from this is that I need to revisit my convictions from time to time and validate them. There is nothing wrong with taking a stance on something. Just be open-minded and realize that things advance over time. At this point I can say with confidence that a .380 with the right combination of ammunition and firearm can be a reliable defensive handgun. With the default disclaimer that most handguns are poor man stoppers and I would most definitely rather have a rifle (and friends with rifles) if I knew I were going to get into a fight.

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