What's wrong with the .380?

Discussion in 'General Weapons Discussion' started by thardey, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    So how reliable are .380s?

    It sounds like the best pocket pistols still jam. What's the deal?

    Is it the concept of the pocket pistol in general? Is it the .380 specifically?

    I have a chance to pick up a Grendel .380 for pretty cheap, and I have some time to think about it. Out of 100 shells, it jammed 5 times. I thought that was horrible, but then, I normally shoot a Glock, which has never jammed.

    Then with some of the reviews on the "new .380's" out there, it sound like they all have jamming problems, and the 9mm mouse guns don't seem to be all that much better.

    The things I like about the Grendel are the double-stack mag, which makes for a comfortable grip, and the double-action-only, which is always a plus for me in a self-defense situation. But a 5% jam rate? To me, being raised on wheel guns and Glocks, that's nuts.

    What's so hard about a small autoloader?
     
  2. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    It's not so much the reliability, but rather, the recoil you get from firing a .380 pistol.

    Almost all .380 ACP pistols use a straight blow-back mechanism, while almost all 9 mm pistols use a locked breech mechanism.

    A locked-breech mechanism actually soaks up a good bit of the gun's recoil, and it's actually not unusual for a similarly sized 9 mm pistol (compared to the .380) to have *less* felt recoil than its .380 ACP counterpart.

    Just as an example, I've had the fortune of firing a Sig P239 (compact 9 mm, locked breech mechanism) and a Sig P232 (compact .380 ACP, blowback mechanism) one after another. Since I was using the stainless Sig P232, it was a bit heavier than the blued version (weighed about 23 ounces, unloaded).

    The P239 was shooting some fairly hot NATO-spec 9 mm 124 grain FMJ loads (1185 fps, 124 grains).

    The P232 was tested with some subsonic 95 grain .380 ACP FMJ loads (955 fps).

    By all rights, since both guns are similar in terms of weight (25 oz vs 23 oz), the .380 ACP should have generated less recoil, especially since its kinetic energy is measured at 190 ft lbs, while the 9 mm had 387 ft lbs of kinetic energy. Also, momentum of the 9 mm was certainly greater.

    However, due to the P232's use of a blowback mechanism, the felt recoil from the P232 was actually greater than the P239, which used a locked breach mechanism.

    The way I see it, if two guns weigh the same, are about the same dimensions, yet one shoots a more powerful cartridge while generating less *felt* recoil, then there's no real reason to pick the lesser pistol.
     
  3. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Grendel's aren't exactly known for being high quality weapons.

    That isn't to say that .380's can't be reliable; if anything, I had a Sig P230 that would feed anything through it, even if I didn't have a good grip on it. I've also seen Makarovs chambered in the .380 ACP that could digest any number of loads with perfect reliability.
     
  4. searcher

    searcher Senior Master

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    I class the .380 in the same grouping as the .25. It just does not have the stopping power I want. If other people want to carry it, then more power to them. I will be sticking to my 9mm and .40 cal.
     
  5. KenpoTex

    KenpoTex Senior Master

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    I wouldn't go so far as to put the .380 in the same class as a .25 (that's a terrible insult :D) but I will agree that it is not the optimal round.

    That said, if you're operating under size constraints and if you can find one that is RELIABLE, it would be okay.

    I'd pass on the Grendel...I've never heard any positive feedback on them.
     
  6. tshadowchaser

    tshadowchaser Sr. Grandmaster

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    I have had my Russian made .380 for many years now. Bought it durring the last LA riots . I would have gone for a 9mm but money became an issue and I wanted one that day < I did not want to wait 2 weeks so I could afford the 9.
     
  7. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    One plus, and it's the only positive feedback I've consistently heard, is that it does shoot straight! (One guy swore by his.) It is surprisingly accurate for such a short barrel. And it feels good in my hand.

    I'm kind of stuck -- I want a sub-compact, but I don't need one. I've already got a Glock .45 full-size that I can hide under a T-shirt. But it's still a full-size, and sometimes it's just a bit too much for my daily life. But since I only want one I can't justify the price of a higher-end gun like a Beretta or Walther. I would be able to pick up the Grendel for about $120.

    Also, the gun in question belongs to a member of a "domestic dispute" kind of situation, and having one less gun in this particular situation would be a good thing. It's almost worth buying the gun just to get it out of the house and under my control. (I'm holding it for them right now, anyways.)

    Thus the question of the thread -- are there consistently reliable .380's out there, and what's the cost? Are 9mm's more reliable (thanks Grenadier, you helped explain that), and if so, what's the price difference between a .380 or a 9mm? I read somewhere that the .380's are cheaper because of the straight blowback method of autoloading -- but does that make it more prone to jamming?
     
  8. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes. There are many excellent .380 ACP pistols out there.

    Arguably, the most concealable, reliable out of the box .380 ACP pistol is the Seecamp. It's the smallest out there, and tips the scales at under 12 ounces, unloaded. It's reliable with most ammo, but cartridges that have unusually long OAL's might not be too good. The other disadvantage is that it's going to set you back at least 700 bucks.

    I've already mentioned two, the Sig P230 and the P232 (the 232 being the more modern version of the 230). Those babies can feed almost anything, from underpowered handloads, all the way to the hottest available ammo, which, to my knowledge, is the Doubletap 95 grain Gold Dot load (1100 fps, 95 grain projectile). To me, these are some of the most comfortable shooting .380 ACP compact or subcompact pistols.

    The blue version of the gun uses an alloy frame, and weighs only 16 ounces, but can fit in a average sized hand very comfortably. The stainless one weighs about 23 ounces.

    The Bersa Thunder Concealed Carry model is another fine pistol that's easily concealed. It also tips the scales at 23 ounces, but is equally as reliable as the above Sig P232.


    Now, there are some offerings that, with some fluff and buff, work just fine, such as Kel-Tec's P3-AT, and the latest versions of Walther's PPK/S.


    .380 ACP's can be just as reliable as any 9 mm pistol, as long as they're well designed. The thing is, though, that because you're going to get the same, or even more, felt recoil from a .380 ACP pistol, there comes a point where you have to ask yourself if it's really worth going to the lesser caliber.

    There are plenty of really small, high quality 9 mm pistols, out there, such as the Kahr PM series, along with the Rohrbaugh R-9, which are truly pocket pistols, but can handle 9 mm ammo just fine, while being exceptionally reliable. With that in mind, it simply makes no sense to go to a gun that would have more felt recoil, and have fewer ammunition choices than the 9 mm.

    The only people who would go for the .380 version of a similarly sized 9 mm pistol, would be those living in countries that restrict ownership of various calibers, such as Brazil, where 9 mm is forbidden.
     
  9. searcher

    searcher Senior Master

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  10. KenpoTex

    KenpoTex Senior Master

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    IIRC, the 25 and 28 can't be imported into the U.S.A. (not enough ATF points or some such...)
     
  11. KenpoTex

    KenpoTex Senior Master

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    don't know why I didn't think of it 'till now...

    I've heard pretty good things about the Bersa .380's. I can't provide a good opinion personally as I've only run one mag through one (FWIW, it was a pretty accurate little gun). Probably cheaper than the SIG.
     
  12. Drac

    Drac Sr. Grandmaster

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    Nothing wrong with .380's as far as I'm concerned..Carried a Sig P-230 for years and LOVED it..Never a jam or a problem..
     
  13. jamz

    jamz Orange Belt

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    I can only comment on the one .380 I've owned, which was a Colt pony pockeltlite. (They make a Colt Mustang too, sort of a mini 1911 looking thing) It was very reliable, I can't ever remember a malfunction. It was also a blowback, slim, very pocketable. I sold it to pay for a S&W 340PD, which to my mind represented a better combination of concealability and firepower.

    I've heard decent things about kel-tec's P3AT, in that if it was good out of the box, it would stay good, but a large percentage are bad out of the box, and require a "fluff and buff" in order to become good.

    To me, .380 is pretty marginal. I'd carry it if I for some reason could not get away with a J-frame, and it would be loaded with JHP for better penetration.
     
  14. paulee

    paulee White Belt

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    If you're serious about carrying the weapon for self defense, then the smallest I would go would be a 9mm. With the excellent choices in small, flat, easily concealable 9s (Kahr, and the new SA EMP), I'd say that you'd be crazy to pass on them for a .380. If cost is an issue, ask yourself this: How much is your life worth?
     
  15. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Yup. Exact details are here:

    http://www.glockfaq.com/models.htm#points

    The bottom of that page also shows you the differences between locked breech and blowback operations.

    The Glock 26, therefore, barely qualifies with a 75 exactly. The Glock 28, being a .380, would lose 7 points due to caliber, and another 5 for the blowback mechanism, maybe another point due to the slight weight difference.

    The 25 comes up similarly short.

    Silly rules indeed, but they are the rules.
     
  16. Drac

    Drac Sr. Grandmaster

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    I did have a Walther once that was the worst POS I ever owned..It jammed constantly even after taking all the necessary steps to fix the problem..
     
  17. cstanley

    cstanley Blue Belt

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    I have a Berretta .380 with a 13 rnd magazine. I practice by taking it plinking, almost like a 22. cal. Under 40 feet, it is highly accurate but does lack the punch of the larger calibers. After talking to some friends who are policemen and carry it as a backup, I fire FMJ's in it because there are many who feel that there is not sufficient penetration with hollow points.

    My regular carry weapon is a 1911A, but the Berretta is nice when I am dressed up and wearing a jacket and need a shoulder holster. It is also good to carry when I am cycling or jogging in the woods or on old roads.

    Smooth action, nice trigger even on DA, and easy to field strip and clean.
     
  18. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    You might like the 102 grain Remington Golden Saber, then. This is probably going to have the deepest penetration out of all of the .380 ACP hollowpoints, and it's one of the heaviest bullets used in this caliber.
     
  19. LawDog

    LawDog Master Black Belt

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    A 380 is really a 9mm short much like the 40 is a 10mm short. A 380 silver tip or it's equiveilent, is not a bad round for simple self defense. This round is not a man stopper but it is good at delivering pain into a armed attacker. Most people who are initally shot do not know what type of round that has hit them and how much damage it has done. Because of the severe trama many who are hit by a potentional man stopper do not feel it's effects untill later on.
    If you use a 380 silvertip or its equiveilent for S.D. it should deliver enough pain into an armed attacker to allow you enought time to regroup and evaluate.
    There is little chance that this little round will over penetrate and come out the other side. This is a plus in a croweded area. It is a very loud round, it will scare the hell out of people. It is a good pocket gun.
    For a pocket gun I prefer the S&W Chief Special Airweight,(alloy), 38 sp. plus P.
    A 25 cal tends to pencil hole into a substance with very little shock and / or pain.
     
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  20. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    Well, if cost was no object, then I would skip this conversation entirely and buy a Glock 27 in a .40, or the G33 in .357 sig, and be done with it. Like I said before -- most of the time I have my Glock 21 (full-sized .45) on me. Sometimes a pocket gun is more appropriate. By definition, since it's a "mouse gun" I've already decided to pass on the "man-stoppers."

    I didn't realize until I did some research last week that, like LawDog said, the .380, the .38 special, the .357, and the 9mm are all the same caliber. The difference is in the length of the bullet itself, which affects overall weight, and the amount of powder behind it. If I read the statistics right, the .380 is faster than the .38, but the .38 is heavier. The .38 was used for how long in law enforcement? My grandfather swore by his.

    But I'm used to deliberating between a .45 or a 9mm. The difference between a .380 and a 9mm is almost nothing to me. An inch or two penetration, (which varies widely depending on the bullet) and about 20 grains more weight. A 9mm is still a small round to me. A .380 runs about 95 grains, the 9mm Parabellum is what, 115-130? I'm used to thinking in terms of 230 grains. A 20-35 grain difference is barely anything -- I would have already sacrificed 100 grains!

    The only real difference I see is what Grenadier said: felt recoil is more in a .380 than a 9mm. But for me, I grew up with .357s -- recoil doesn't bother me. :)

    If it was a 9mm sitting in my house, waiting for an offer to be made on it, the issue would still come down to reliability. Can I empty the mag with assurance?

    BTW, since everything is relative, So far it only jams after the 6-11th shot. (I've identified the problem - it's a combination of too heavy a recoil spring, and too light of a mag. spring) The first 6 always cycle just fine. Since many of the .380's only carry 6 shots anyway, well, is some ways, I'm still breaking even. So I guess "empty the mag" isn't entirely accurate.123
     

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