Best Self Defense Ammo:
9MM vs. 380 ACP
By Dan S.
9mm ammo is very popular and so is 380 ACP ammo. While
380 ACP pocket handguns are beating sales records every
day, 9mm handguns have been popular for many years. With
both 380 ACP handguns and 9mm handguns being so popular,
it's clear that both 380 ACP ammo sales and 9mm ammo
sales are doing exceedingly well.
From a self defense perspective, 9mm ammo is considered
major caliber ammo (albeit the low end of it), while 380
ACP ammo is considered minor ammo. An interesting fact
is that 380 ACP ammo is also known as 9mm Kurtz or 9mm
kurz which means short in German. The ACP in 380 ACP
stands for Automatic Colt Pistol because it was
developed for Colt by John Browning.
While 9mm ammo and 9mm Kurtz /380 ACP ammo appear to be
similar in name, they are quite different in reality. In
this article we'll take a close look at 9mm ammo and 380
ACP ammo and see which is better for your self defense.
Keep in mind that the power factor of a self defense
cartridge is important, being able to hit the target you
are shooting is critical. Thus, the title of best self
defense ammo, between the 9mm ammo and 380 ACP ammo, is
not as obvious as you may suspect.
In this article we'll look at both 9mm ammo and 380 ACP
in three main areas: stopping power, recoil and
accuracy. We'll first look at 9mm ammo and then look at
The 9mm, which is also known as 9mm Parabellum is a
popular self defense bullet. From Glocks to SIG SAUERs
to 1911 handgun, the 9mm abounds. Self defense 9mm ammo
ranges in weight from 115gr. (about 7.5 grams) to 147gr.
(about 9.5 grams). And muzzle velocity for standard
pressure can range from about 1300 fps for the lighter
9mm ammo, to 980 fps for the heaver bullet.
Keep in mind that these are examples and that velocity
will vary depending on vendor and ammo type. Heavier
bullets and higher velocity will translate to more
recoil. As far as accuracy, again this will vary by ammo
type and vendor, but you can expect a typical drop of
about an 1" to 1.5" at 25 yards. With good self defense
bullets, you can easy get excellent groups and accuracy
will be excellent as well.
The 380 ACP, which is also known as 9mm Kurtz, is
getting more popular by the day. Just try to find some
380 ACP ammo for self defense at your favorite ammo
store. Since demand is high and supply isn't catching
up, the price of good 380 ACP self defense ammo is high
too. From a weight perspective, 380 ACP ammo ranges from
80gr. (about 5 grams) to 95gr. (just over 6 grams).
Muzzle velocity for a 90gr. self defense bullet will be
somewhere around 1000 fps. This will translate to lower
recoil but lower stopping power.
It's this power factor that labels 380 ACP ammo as
minor. As for bullet drop, you can expect a drop of
about 1.5" at 25 yards. With good self defense bullets,
you can easy get excellent groups and accuracy will be
excellent as well.
Comparing 9mm to 380 ACP Ammo in Our Three Main
Stopping power: When
you combine the weight and velocity, the stopping power
of 9mm ammo, in similar configuration (i.e. light vs.
heavy and standard pressure ammo), is greater than the
one offered by 380 ACP ammo. Thus the 9mm wins in the
stopping power department.
bullets and lower velocity translates to lower recoil in
380 ACP ammo. While you can get +P ammo and heavier
ammo, making the same choice in 9mm ammo, will maintain
this ratio. Thus the 380 ACP wins in the recoil
Accuracy: Most self
defense shootings happen at short ranges. Shorter than
25 yards and in fact a popular number is 7 yards (a
topic for a future article). Regardless, for self
defense distance, I think it's fair to say that in
accuracy, the 9mm ammo and 380 ACP are tied. I'm
disregarding the weapon because again, matching quality,
both ought to do well.
So who wins? Which ammo is best for self defense?
Because self defense is all about stopping a threat
that's trying to kill or seriously harm you, two factors
come into play-stopping power and hitting the target.
Because of this, I think that the winner will depend on
A more experienced shooter, or someone who's willing to
put in the range time and practice, will find the 9mm
superior. A shooter that is very sensitive to recoil, or
a shooter that must have a smaller weapon for
concealment will most likely benefit from the 380 ACP.
Ideally, the shooter will have a primary handgun in 9mm
and a backup handgun in 380 ACP. In that way, the law
abiding person will have the best of both worlds. I hope
this article was interesting and helpful in getting you
to look at both. Feedback is always welcome.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!
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© Rational Self Defense, 2010