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Thread: 38 cal. vs the 9MM vs 380 cal.

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    38 cal. vs the 9MM vs 380 cal.

    I wonder will the 38 125 gr. gold dot HP have more down down power compared to the 9MM or 380 cal.?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


    fecmech's Avatar
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    The 9MM would be the winner of that race. A full size 9 could run a 125 about 1200 fps safely, a full size .38 spl with a 4" bbl between 1000-1100 fps ( a snubby less than 1000 fps) and a .380 can't really run a 125 gr much over 700 fps if at all.
    "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools."
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  3. #3
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    Pressure wise you are comparing a locked auto loader, a case held to low pressure due to to break top actions and a blow back action. Modern wins every time.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by MT Gianni View Post
    Pressure wise you are comparing a locked auto loader, a case held to low pressure due to to break top actions and a blow back action. Modern wins every time.
    Well.........., Since the YOUNGEST round of the three is the .380 (introduced in 1908), and since the "Old Timer" of the group (.38 Special) only pre-dates the 9mm Parabellum by three years, I don't think that you can claim "Modern Design" as the deciding factor here!

    ....It's more a case of "What kind of performance did the designer have in mind when he designed the round?"


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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    You are comparing apples with oranges with your caliber choices. The 38 spl has some advantages in that you can get heavier bullets than either of the other two and with some +P lloads it will outdo a 9mm but with others Not so much. Actually the 9mm and 38 spl are in my opinion about a wash power wise. I have killed game with both and have not noticed any real difference dead was dead and just about as quick with either caliber. A 380 is a weak sister when compaired to either the 38 or 9mm no mater what it is loaded with. However that does not mean it is useless as it will do a fairly good job for what it was intened for which was very short range social situations. At 0 to 15 feet it will serve to save your life but at the same ranges the other two have moor power.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Bullwolf's Avatar
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    I only have a few .380 autos to compare with the 9mm and the 38 special.

    But I do have a Smith J-frame revolver chambered in 9mm, and a few in 38 special as well.

    9mm has quite a bit more velocity than even your standard, or +p loaded 38 special when fired out of a snub nose revolver barrel.

    I have ran a few simple 1 gallon milk jugs filled with water tests using standard .380 hollow points, vs 38 special hollow points, vs 9mm hollow points.

    The 9mm was the only one of the 3 likely to splash me with water. The 38 special, and the 380 just made neat holes in the milk jugs.

    I still wouldn't want to be shot with any of the 3, and this is far from a scientific test.

    If you care to cheat a bit, just repeat the same milk jug test using frangible ammunition. The lighter weight, but higher velocity frangible rounds like the Glaser Saftey Slugs, or Magsafe ammunition will make quite a big splash in even .380 or .38 special. But I am not sure I would want to bet my life on a 68 grain copper jacket filled with epoxy and lead shot.

    If your backstop is not an issue, I prefer a round that will penetrate enough to get to vitals every time.

    Lots of people have been shot and killed with the venerable old 38 special cartridge, but in the end shot placement is more important than caliber selection.

    Look how many poachers use a 22rimfire effectively. A well placed 22 bullet in the central nervous system will always be more effective than a miss, or a limb shot in a much larger caliber.

    Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Effective shot placement under pressure, is far more important than picking the correct caliber.

    The 9mm just operates at a higher pressure level than the other 2 cartridges and that makes the comparison pretty unfair, even more so if you are comparing an 9mm auto, to a 38 special revolver. I personally place the .380 lower than the other 2 cartridges, but it would be a darn sight better than a rock, or a pointy stick in a pinch.


    - Bullwolf

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Matthew 25's Avatar
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    What he said ^^^.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    What Bullwolf said.

    FWIW, NONE of these calibers is loaded to its full potential in most North American loadings. All three can be enhanced through use of full-value powder charges in platforms in good condition and by use of good controlled-expansion bullet designs. This does not change their relative power rankings, though--9mm 1st, 38 Special 2nd, 380 3rd. Even locked-breech 380s like the Colt Government Model can't be boosted past the 38 Special. Not safely, anyway.
    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."--Winston Churchill

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check