Three loads stood out as good performers. All three shared some basic characteristics. All three demonstrated moderate expansion and good penetration. There just isn't enough mass or speed behind the 380 AUTO to allow a large expanded round to push through a dense gel block to what I think is the minimum penetration depth of 10".
This test is a retest of one of the three rounds I determined to be a good performer, but this time it was tested in the Clear Ballistics gel media. I really wanted to see what was happening inside the block as the bullet progressed down through the media.
Last week, I was goofing around with with my 2013 Wish List and commented that I would love to see Federal come out with a 380 load in their HST line of ammunition. Reflecting on the results of this test, I'm not so sure that would be a good idea. If the HST expanded much more than the Hydra-Shok tested here, I don't think we would get the penetration required. That may be why we will never see a box of ammo like the one I mocked up in the photo below.
Pistol Specs:Kahr P380 2.53" Barrel
My testing process is pretty simple. I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block. I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block. Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density. I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets. I forgot to take a 5 round velocity average prior to this test, but the test shot was right in line with previous velocities captured with this load and pistol combination.
The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.
Federal publishes a velocity of 1000 feet per second for this load. I've never had any shot register more than 930 feet per second from the 2.5" short barrel of the Kahr P380. The load will average about 970 feet per second from a 3.5" barrel. I don't fault the ammunition. I think Federal develops their velocity numbers using longer test barrels. Weight retention and penetration depth were both in line with results seen in previous tests. The new data from this test was seeing the wound channel left by the bullet as it expanded and penetrated through the block.
In the first paragraph of this article, I mentioned doing quite a bit of 380 Auto terminal testing this year. I did a little digging in the archives and found three other recovered bullets from previous tests of this load. In the photo below from left to right, bullet number 3 is from this test. The rest were recovered from previous tests. I really appreciate the consistent performance of this load as it inspires confidence that it will consistently preform as expected. For that reason, it remains on my short list of good terminal performers in the caliber.
Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested. All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media. Terminal performance in all other media will show different results. It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs. It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.
Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.