A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, August 08, 2008

The .380 ACP

"From a few feet away, she shot him in the head with the .380. At that point, he moved quickly, causing her second shot to miss. He then grabbed the gun away from her and went outside and called the police on his cell phone. When police and paramedics arrived, they found that the bullet had entered the skin on his head, and burrowed around a few inches without entering the skull. This left what the officer described as a “mole tunnel” in the skin. The shootee refused to be taken to the hospital, and was treated and released at the scene by the paramedics. At no time did he lose consciousness or the ability to fight back."
Syd explains why I am not a fan of the .380. Every caliber, with the possible exception of the magnums, has anecdotal evidence of failure to penetrate the human skull. Some calibers though, have more failure stories than others. The .380 is one of those.

One of the compromises that many people unwittingly make in a concealed handgun is a shorter barrel for concealability, and a lesser caliber for greater capacity. These decisions often decrease the terminal performance of the person's handgun of choice. The cold dry science of ballistics is lost on many handgunners and others just don't want to be bothered. What must be remembered is the concealed handgun is a last ditch device to preserve one's life from a lethal threat. If it fails to immediately incapacitate the threat, the carrier's life is still at risk.

One does not need to fully understand all the details of terminal ballistics, nor does a person have to conduct their own research. The work has been done. The Firearms Tactical Institute is one unbiased resource to go to. The decision to carry a firearm for self defense is a serious one. The choice of caliber and firearm is integral to that decision. I do not wish to disparage a person's choice of either, but it is incumbent on the person to make a well informed choice. It may be the choice between life or death.

Syd's Thoughts



Blogger Rabbit said...

I've seen the same thing with a .32ACP. Shot from about 5 feet distance, never lost consciousness. Took 5 of us to hold him down when the iodine swab went through the wound channel, though. Had a nasty headache the next day, he said. Could have been from the previous nights' level of intoxication, however.


4:24 PM  
Blogger Mr. Fixit said...

First of all, I agree with you that the .380 is not a very good choice.

Second of all, I have a .380 I carry as a last, last ditch carry gun, when the Glock 26 IWB is just too much.

Knowing that it is not a great caliber, but possibly my only choice except unarmed, I ask thus;

What can be done to improve the .380? I've read where MattG mentions Buffalo Bore ammo. Any others to consider if you "must" carry a .380?

Mr Fixit

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the Box O' Truth. He's gettomg surprising results with some of his tests.


8:19 PM  
Blogger Jerry The Geek said...

Yes, but ....
(1) better a pistol of 'questionable virtue' than no pistol at all;
(2) firearms effectiveness may be increased by a judicious selection of ammunition;
(3) In a defensive position, multiple HITS count more than multiple SHOTS ... pull the trigger until the threat level decreases to zero;
(4) I would rather have a .45 than a .380, but the .380 is the pistol that I WILL carry
(5) notice I've gone full-circle? And I'm still not satisfied.

2:13 AM  
Blogger HokiePundit said...

Out of curiosity, do you prefer .380ACP or .22WMR?

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might be too hard on the .380. Even the mighty .45 ACP has been known to bounce off the heads of some jackasses, leaving them with nothing but a headache and an attitude. The skull, being curved in most spots, resists penetration. Our bodies are purty well designed, by and large.
Shot placement is everything. If you're gonna shoot 'em in the head, put in their eye socket. Even a .22 short with do the job in that location.
I've carried small guns on occasion and most likely will again. We've always thought of them as "nose guns" - screw the muzzle into the goblin's nostril and press the trigger. Repeat PRN until the nose goes away.

9:23 AM  
Blogger The Freeholder said...


If you're carrying a mouse gun, your tactics have to change. Shoot for center of mass and empty the damn thing into the target.

Using ball ammo might also be a good idea. Mouse gun calibers probably don't have what it takes to get good expansion reliably. Penetration might work more in your favor.

My smallest carry piece is a 9mm for just this sort of reason. I will admit to carrying Hydrashocks in it, though.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

FWIW, many years ago I read a letter written in to Guns & Ammo to Jeff Cooper, who was then writing a regular column for them. The writer's wife absolutely refused to use anything larger than a .22 long rifle and he wanted to know what Cooper suggested for shot placement with that caliber. Cooper's advice was for the woman to wait until they were just past arm's reach of her, then empty the gun into their face. I remember thinking at the time "Hot DAMN! I like this guy's attitude!".

9:13 PM  
Blogger Assrot said...

This is exactly why I carry a S&W Chief's Special in .45 ACP and only use Hornady TAP 230 grain FPD +P ammo.

I also carry a little .38 Special snubbie for backup just in case.

I have never thought much of the .380 or any lesser caliber. They are cute little pop guns but I would not bet my life on one.

If you hit a person in the eye, a pellet gun is good enough to kill them but it's not very likely that even the most seasoned and well trained shooter is going to be that accurate in the heat of the moment when you only have less than 2 seconds to fire.

My wife carries a 9mm and I don't even like that but it's all she can comfortably handle. I still get her to put a box of ammo through my .45 at least once a month just in case she ever has need of it, at least she will have fired it enough not to flinch or close her eyes and just shoot blindly.


P.S. - I have a small safe full of cheap .25 ACP, .32 ACP and .380 ACP guns. They are cute little guns that didn't cost much so I added them to my collection. I consider them to be cute conversation pieces not defensive weapons.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Montie said...


It's not just FMJ's and roundnosed bullets or small calibers that can fail to penetrate a human body.

A few years ago, I worked a shooting in which a young female was shot in the right armpit with a .40 caliber Hydrashock round while at a party. She had raised her arm to bring a drink to her mouth when two guys got into a fight nearby. One pulled a gun and fired at the other, missing him and hitting the girl under her raised arm.

When I got to the scene and learned of the nature of the wound, I figured her for dead, but when I got to the hospital a few minutes later, she was awake and could talk to me.

The doctor showed me her xray, and a perfectly expanded Hydrashock round with the center post standing up could be seen on it in the area of the left side of her chest. The doctor was able to remove it by making a small incision on a lump just above her left breast and squeezing it out.

The bullet had tracked around her ribcage, and the track could be seen as a red line across her chest, about an inch wide, from the hole under her right arm to just over her left breast where it stopped.

This was the much vaunted .40 S&W, (we recovered a shell casing) and to top it off, the department I worked for issued Hydrashocks in the same caliber! This reduced the confidence of some of the officers in their duty gun and cartridge.

On the other hand, I worked a shooting where a gangbanger had been caught in a restaurant by some rival gangsters. He was shot several times by one of them with a .380 ACP (according to the shell casings found at the scene), one of the rounds fell out the back of his shirt when he was being moved from the ambulance gurney to an ER bed. The through and through round which was caught by his shirt after a full chest penetration, front to back, was a 95 grain .380 FMJ bullet.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous http://dillimax690.wordpress.com said...

Just a simple question... will a .380 Glaser-safety-slug incapacitate a human being?

3:26 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Just a simple question... will a .380 Glaser-safety-slug incapacitate a human being?

Possibly. Not necessarily. It depends on where he is hit.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I carry a Sig P238 .380 on a daily basis. With proper ammo and shooting center mass it has proven to be a very effective round. as stated it can be more powerful than a snubnose .38 http://www.chuckhawks.com/ammo_by_anonymous.htm Read about the .380 there.

3:18 PM  

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