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380 Pros & Cons

Discussion in 'Caliber Corner' started by steven07, May 3, 2013.

  1. Clusterfrack


    Apr 26, 2012
    Pacific NW
    There is good evidence that:
    -One shot stops aren't any rarer with modern JHP 9mm loads (e.g P9HST3) than with other common calibers (.40, 45).

    -KE is not currently considered a good indicator of effectiveness and can be misleading

    -The effectiveness of modern 9mm loads is not significantly lower than other pistol calibers.
  2. You have made an inductive argument based on anecdotal evidence and no data. I assume you're familiar with David Hume's argument about inductive reasoning. Is it possible that the 9mm is as effective than the .40S&W or 357SIG? Is there a point where additional velocity, diameter, weight produce no appreciable gain in stopping an attack? Notice that very few people use a 44 Magnum for personal defense.

    The data I've seen is too flawed to draw a reliable conclusion. It fails to consider too many variables. For example, it fails to consider distance. Were the shots taken at arm's length, 10 feet, 25 feet, 50 feet, or longer? Is a 380 as effective at arm's length as a 9mm at 25 feet? The data also leaves out shot placement. Is a 380 to the heart at arm's length as effective as a 9mm to the heart at the same range? Does that effectiveness decrease with range? Without considering these factors, a good guess isn't possible so we're back to personal opinion.

    The hydrodynamic pressure idea was popular years ago, but the latest I've seen indicates that the stretch cavity it forms has little effect on stopping an attack. The stretch cavity simply snaps back after the bullet passes.

    I'm not familiar with Courtney. Do you have a link?

  3. English


    Dec 24, 2005
    I agree with a lot of that. The 9mm and the .45 in particular are much the same. The .40 is perhaps a little better but not enough to produce one shot stops in its ordinary configuration. Only the better 9mm +p and +p+ get into the lower reach probability of one shot stops. That is, probably 5% of 9mm loadings and probably a lot fewer than that as a percentage of shootings. The better .40S&W get slightly higher percentages and as a percentage of loadings they are also greater, but not many people shoot them. The .45ACPs also do better on both counts but even fewer people use the hot .45s. And so, of commonly used "service" calibers, there is not much difference. To get a worthwhile probability of one shot stops you need to be using 357SIG, hot 10mm or hot .45ACP loads. The hot 10s and 45s are well ahead of the 357SIG.

    K.E. alone is indeed misleading, but how many conditions and explanations can I put in one post. What matters is a combination of velocity, penetration and diameter. Those things combine to produce a ballistic pressure wave in front of and to the side of the bullet track. That destroys, damages or disables tissue to the side of the bullet track. As well as that effect, obvious to some and not to others, the compression of the tissue to the side of the track pumps blood very vigorously from there to further away along blood vessels. It is almost certainly this which produces remote brain trauma which can produce rapid collapse.

    The pressure of the ballistic pressure wave in front of the bullet at any point along its track is directly related to the speed with which it pushes tissue aside to make room for it to pass, and the greater will be the local damage and contribution to the pumping effect.

    The greater the frontal area and the greater the bullet speed, the greater will the bullet's K.E. be used at any point along its track and hence the faster the tissue will be pushed aside. The inertia of this movement will produce both the compression and stretching of tissue and the temporary cavity. You can't have one without the other!

    A lighter bullet, for the same diameter and instantaneous speed, will release the same rate of energy to tissue disruption of various kinds, but because it is lighter it will have less energy and will loose speed faster. A lighter bullet with the same K.E. will have a higher initial speed and will loose energy at a higher initial rate because drag is proportional to the square of the speed and proportional to frontal area.

    It is thus clear that for a combination of adequate penetration and a wide zone of tissue damage we need higher rather than lower K.E. For a given K.E. if the bullet is too heavy, the penetration will be greater than needed and the width of the damage zone will be too small. Hence the pumping effect will be too low. For a given K.E., if the bullet is too light it will have insufficient penetration to contain the pressure and produce a good pumping effect. There is obviously an optimum penetration to place the pumping effect at an appropriate depth. Given that, the width of the damage zone is then a function of K.E. and the greater K.E., given that constraint, then feeds into the probability of a rapid collapse. That is, K.E. is significant if other criteria are met.

    So, like Goldilocks, there are two ways for a loading to fail to be just right for a given K.E., provided the K.E. is great enough in the first place. Too heavy or too light a bullet will fail to produce a good result. But without enough K.E. the bullet cannot get enough penetration or width of the zone of damage to produce the pumping effect needed for a significant probability of rapid collapse.

    Although the above is off topic for .380s, which cannot achieve such pumping pressures, the same argument applies for the volume of wounding effect relative to the 9mm, for instance. The .380 necessarily produces a lower wounding effect than a 9mm because it has less K.E. If the bullet hits the brain or the heart, there will be little difference but for general thorax hits the difference will inevitably be significant.

  4. English


    Dec 24, 2005
    Tomorrow if possible!

  5. uz2bUSMC

    uz2bUSMC 10mm defender

    Oct 21, 2005
    J-Ville NC
    If no one has given you a link by time I get home I'll post it for you.
  6. Thanks.
  7. cowboywannabe

    cowboywannabe you savvy?

    Jan 26, 2001
    after 18 pages i would think the reasonable person would have enough here to see the pros and cons of the .380 acp.

    i recommend this be closed as it has turned into a tit for tat among some posters.
  8. countrygun


    Mar 9, 2012
    I can introduce you to an 84 year old neighbor of mine. I have seen the newspaper clipping in the museum about him at age 12 killing a large black bear with a single .22 rd in the eye.

    it doesn't mean I would choose to hunt bear with a .22 or expect it to provide me with satisfying results.

    I used the word "confident" for a reason.
  9. Clusterfrack


    Apr 26, 2012
    Pacific NW
    Thanks for those references. I hadn't seen them either, and withdraw my concerns with English's claims until I have time to study the research in more detail.
  10. Clusterfrack


    Apr 26, 2012
    Pacific NW
    Thanks English. This seems reasonable. My take is that like 5.56mm NATO, 9mm requires a good load to be a reliably effective man stopper.

  11. plp


    Feb 11, 2013
    Redneck Riveria
    Agreed, and hope never to be in that situation again. I just wanted to interject a bit of real world first hand experience into all the hypothetical jargon. Given that I was carrying a lot of equipment, the .380 was light enough (compared to the only other handgun I owned at the time, a Rossi .357 revolver) to carry, glad I did.
  12. countrygun


    Mar 9, 2012
    Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I once deliberately hunted wild pigs with a 25-20. Didn't make it a great idea but certainly an experience.
  13. English


    Dec 24, 2005
    David Hume's argument about inductive reasoning is related to the unknowability of nature. That is, although, in all our experience, A follows B, we cannot be sure that A will always follow B in the future. He points out that this is not saying that there can be a effect without an cause. We can see that this formulation implies that the causal connection or mechanism between A and B is unknown and that we are considering no more than a relationship in time between A and B.

    Another way of putting this is that inductive reasoning links what we know and observe of the behavior of objects in the past persists in the behavior of those objects in the future and in the unobserved present. As we cannot be certain that nature will remain the same in the future as it has in the past, such reasoning must be open to doubt.

    As such it might well be said that I am making a multifaceted
    inductive argument about the behavior of different loadings of different cartridges. The argument against that view is that I am relying on an underlying explanation about how bullets damage tissue. If we ignore that explanation or theory for now then the remaining multifaceted argument shows that several different aspect of the observed behavior of bullet wounding all point in the same direction relative to the expected effects of the .380 relative to other cartridges.

    The difference between science and philosophy is that science looks for the underlying principles that provide causal links between apparently causal behavior observed as a relationship in time. When dealing with those principles discovered by scientific process we move into a different realm of understanding. That is, we must always be aware that any given principle is false, but our uncertainty otherwise about the consistency of nature is very much reduced. Although there might be parts of the universe where some particular principle is false though it is true here, we can have a very high certainty that it will remain true in this region of the universe.

    So, relative to the ability of a bullet wound to act towards preventing further aggressive activity I am claiming that
    A) Simple physics tells us how moving solids interact with fluids.
    B) Wounding effects are produced by the dynamic pressure wave of (A).
    C) Those wounding effects can be enumerated and explained in terms of dynamic pressure waves in a way that relates the kinetic energy and the speed and mass of the bullet to the nature and severity of the wounds produced.
    D) Greater wounding effects can be expected to have a greater contribution towards the prevention of further aggressive activity.

    It is clear that the variability of individuals in terms of fitness size, thickness of fat and muscle layers at least will produce considerable variation with respect to the end result of a bullet fired along a particular track. Further to that, in the real world the variations of the wound track, the variations of clothing, cartridge loading and bullet design will produce much extra variability. The practice of continuing to shoot until the assailant is clearly unable to continue the fight will introduce still more variability since the last few shot can be fired when the assailant is actually incapacitated but that this is no sufficiently obvious to the defender. The combination of these factors will make it extremely difficult to extract meaningful data from real world shooting events.

    With regard to (A) we can say that any solid moving through a fluid medium must create a dynamic pressure wave which is approximately proportional to its frontal area and the square of its speed. In other words, if we, for example halve the speed and quadruple the frontal area, the pressure wave configuration remains much the same. Quite simple, the moving body or projectile has to do work against the fluid to move it out of its path. In doing so there is a necessary transfer of energy from projectile to fluid produced by the product of the retarding force on the front of the projectile and the distance it moves per brief interval.

    This retarding force is the sum of the pressures across the front of the projectile in the direction of its movement. It is worth noting that for a streamlined or semi streamlined shape, such as a spire point or round nose bullet, much of the pressure is at an angle to the direction of movement and so only a component of those various pressures provides a retarding force. As a result, such bullets transfer their energy more slowly and so produce a less intense pressure wave than flat fronted bullets.

    This pressure wave is a matter of simple physics and not uninformed conjecture. It is strongest in the middle of the front of the bullet but as we are dealing with hydrodynamic pressure it will decrease with distance from the source as it pushes the fluid medium ahead and to the sides. We can think of the main part of the pressure field as isopressure surfaces rather like as series of partial spherical surfaces extending and widening in front of the bullet as their pressure becomes less.

    It is easy to see the effect of this on cellular tissue. Along directions perpendicular to the isopressure surfaces cells are compressed and flattened. As cell membranes have limited elasticity, those that exceed their elasticity burst. This happens, in general, before the bullet makes contact with them. Only in the earliest depth after impact before the pressure has grown does the bullet contact intact cells. As this dynamic pressure forces tissue to the side of track it is stretched along circles about the axis of the bullet track. A little simple mathematics shows that the stretching is greatest closest to the bullet track and decreases with increasing distance from it.

    Depending on the pressures this results in pureed cells in front of and to some distance to the side of track when the bullet has enough speed so that the permanent cavity is slightly or considerably greater than expanded bullet diameter. Only when the speed falls low enough will the bullet again contact whole cells and will then stretch and tear tissue as it passes through. This section of track will have a diameter less than expanded bullet diameter.

    Immediately outside the pureed zone the stretching will be enough to produce approximately radial tears. Beyond that it will produce damage to capilliaries and small nerves which will be seen as bloodshot flesh. Beyond that there will be temporary damage to small nerves which will result in temporary paralysis or numbing. There is a frequently repeated claim that tissue is elastic but in fact its elasticity varies and also varies with rapidity of stretching. The connective tissue along the direction of a muscle is necessarily non stretchy because otherwise it would waste energy. Across the muscle the connective tissue is weak because that is not the direction in which it applies load. Nerve and blood vessel have enough stretch to withstand normal activities, but, as many of us know from experience, a punch on the arm can make it unusable to some extent for more than a few seconds. A sufficiently powerful bullet passing close to the heart but not structurally damaging it could stop it functioning for long enough to end the fight or kill the individual before associated blood loss could do so.

    What we can see from this is that the zones of damage around a bullet track, apart from it last two or three inches, result in permanent loss of function, loss of function which will heal to recover only partial function, loss of function which will heal completely and temporary loss of function. All of this will reduce the ability to fight as damage is done to skeletal muscles, vital organs and blood pressure.

    We can also see that outside the pureed zone large blood vessels will be squashed and stretched but often not ruptured. This will inevitably produce a high pressure pulse of blood through those vessels into zones which have not been squashed. The larger the blood vessel the less the pulse will be dissipated and so blood vessels to the heart and brain will carry significant energy. From consistent findings of bleding in, if I remember correctly, the medulla oblongata of suicide victims who had shot themselves in the chest it seems that this is the mechanism behind the Courtneys' findings on rapid collapse.

    It is obvious that even with a bullet of sufficient speed and optimum penetration its position relative to blood vessels which will achieve this effect is effectively random so that small differences in placement can have a big difference in outcome. Also clear from the Courtneys' work is that more powerful pressure waves reduce the randomness of the outcome.

    If you are firing an appropriate cartridge you will have some probability of such a rapid collapse. Without that good fortune, your effectiveness will go up in much the same way that the probability of rapid collapse goes up. The larger the zone of damage the greater the fighting ability or the attacker is likely to be degraded. With each hit that ability is further degraded, provided you are not good enough to shoot through the same hole. Each hit will cause physical and mental disturbance which will delay the next controlled shot. The one who produces enough degradation fastest will be the winner.

    It has long been said by famous authorities that death from gunshot wounds comes in only from two causes - blood pressure loss and a direct hit to the brain or upper spine. For the purpose of self defense that is irrelevant. Death might be a desirable result but our principle concern is not being shot before the attacker is incapacitated. That can be achieved with a shot to the brain or upper spine but that is too difficult a target to be a good strategy. It can also be achieved by remote damage to the brain as demonstrated by the Courtneys' work on deer, but that is not certain. What is left is the physical and mental disturbance caused by good powerful hits slowing the opponent's rate of controlled fire to the extent, if possible and fortunate, that you can make the next hit before he can recover control. In that respect bear in mind also that with part of his musculature out of action his body will not work as his mind anticipates and so that too will delay his return to aim.

    All of this, short of a brain or spine shot, depends either on a bullet producing a wide temporary cavity and moderate or optimum penetration or that power being compensated for by multiple bullets in the same time interval. Since the time to the first shot is very little influenced by the cartridge fired, the less powerful rounds suffer an immediate disadvantage. After that the more powerful rounds will usually have longer delays between shots but that difference is much less than the difference in damage produced.

    None of this is reason not to use a .380, but it is reason not to use one unless you have no other reasonable choice. If you have that choice, part of which is the ability to shoot it competently, then shoot a 357SIG, hot 10mm or hot 45ACP.

    To answer specific questions, there is probably little difference between a shot to the heart at close range from a .380 relative to a 9mm unless the individual is very fat or has on very obstructive clothing.

    From the arguments above a .40S&W or 357SIG is always more effective, on average, than a 9mm. Relative to the Courtney effect there is little point going above the hot 10mms and and .45ACP, but they both do better than the 357SIG.

    The .44 Magnum with light fast self defense bullets will better the 10 and 45 but the gains become marginal. Most loads for the .44 Magnum are intended for hunting and are engineered for greater penetration than is optimum for self defense and so are unsuitable for this purpose. When the weight and bulk of the pistol are brought into the equation, I think the .44 Magnum is not a serious contender.

    A 90 or 100gn .380 bullet at arms length will be as effective as a 9mm of the same weight at the distance when its speed has fallen to the same level. Ballistic tables will tell you when that is, but it is a long way.

    It is unfortunate that there is not and is unlikely to be data that will substantiate all these issues, but I think the arguments above are a long way from simple opinion. They are science based and are open to counter argument and examples.

    By the way, the hydrodynamic idea of some decades ago was called hydrostatic shock. Just the fact that the originators did not understand enough to know the difference between hydrodynamic and hydrostatic effect is enough to make you doubt its validity. The fact that it came, as far as I know, with no further explanation but the mystery of its scientific sounding name should really finish it off. It should not be confused with my explanation of hydrodynamics or ballistic pressure wave or with the Courtneys' work.

    Incidentally the Courtneys did not set out to show how the rapid collapse came about but simply to compare its probability to the peak pressure of the ballistic pressure wave. Since such rapid collapse can come into effect only via the brain, the only reasonable explanations are some effect coming from nerve damage or an effect on the brain via a pressure pulse. Later work in the Czech Republic makes it very likely that the pressure pulse is the mechanism, but we have to remember that relatively light slaps and punches to areas away from the head can produce rapid collapse.

    Sincere thanks to uz2bUSMC for the Courtney references.

  14. Thanks for the well thought out reply. I realize that hydrodynamic shock is a significant factor with regard to rifle rounds. My question is, do any handgun rounds have enough velocity to produce significant hydrodynamic shock? Is there any data that would support a conclusion one way or the other? I haven't seen any. A 357 Magnum or a 44 Magnum with light bullets might?

    The data I have seen on handgun "stopping power" (for lack of a better term) has been too unbalanced to draw any kind of reliable conclusion. For example, 85 people shot with a 380 vs. 400 shot with the 9x19. Most of this kind of data shows the 380 at least as effective as the 9x19. As I alluded to earlier, I suspect most people shot with the 380 are shot at close range because the 380 is not the primary round in any military or police department I know about. However, that's all conjecture because there's no data to back it up.

    So the questions are, 1) Is there a range where the 380 is as effective as other rounds? Incompaciated is incapacitated. 2) If so, what might that range be? At this point there's no way to know. From what I understand, most handgun fights take place at less than 7 feet and nearly all of them take place at less than 10 feet. That being the case, is the 380 significantly less effective at 10 feet than the 9x19? Again, no data. Ergo no conclusion.
  15. Tiro Fijo

    Tiro Fijo

    May 31, 2011

  16. fastbolt


    Jun 9, 2002
    CA Central Coast
    Depends what you mean.

    There's certainly been enough LE experience to keep the 9mm around as a service caliber, but generally relegate the .380 ACP to secondary/backup or authorized off-duty roles.

    Now, if you're talking about peer-reviewed scientific papers, and enough of them create wide spread agreement? Dream on ...

    Sometimes it's helpful to remember the user has to have the training, experience, mindset & skillset to " run the gun you brung". ;)

    Not all of us necessarily feel like lugging around the "Full-size Fighting Handguns" we carried for work. At least not all the time.

    That's still one of the reasons the venerable 5-shot .38 S&W Spl sells as well as it does.

    The .380 ACP has earned itself a niche in that regard, as well. Trying to argue otherwise is a waste of good range time.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013