Thursday, June 13, 2013

Buffalo Barnes and Corbon DPX 380 Auto Comparison Test

A big Thanks! to blog reader Ben S. for donating the Buffalo Barnes ammunition used in this test.  I had the Corbon DPX left over from this previous test.  After receiving the Buffalo Barnes, I thought it might be interesting to run a head to head comparison test between the two loads into the same gel block just to see if there was a significant performance difference between the two.  Both of these super-premium priced rounds are loaded with a solid copper hollow point bullet originating from Barnes Bullets.  The bullet weight is 80 grains.  Blog readers win because you get two tests in one.  =)

Also different for this test, was the introduction of a plain heavy cotton t-shirt clothing barrier.  The shirt was purchased new for the test and had been run through the laundry one time, just like a normal t-shirt.  In the video set-up, I predicted the t-shirt barrier wouldn't have a significant impact on terminal performance.  The test results will show you how wrong that prediction was when dealing with 380 Auto ammunition.

Test Pistol:
Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 3 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 2 layers of heavy cotton T-shirt material.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.
Note - Velocity Average  for this test was reduced to 3 shots due to quantity of ammunition available.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:

My Thoughts on this Test:
I'll be the first to call myself out on how wrong I was that 2 layers of cotton t-shirt material wouldn't significantly impact penetration or expansion.  I really expected very similar results from both the bare gel and light clothing barrier shots.  It's always good to learn something from these tests and this test taught me quite a bit about how significant even a light clothing barrier can be to a light-weight 380 bullet.

I also learned that I can have muzzle blast issues with my chronograph, even with testing 380 ammunition.  I couldn't figure out why I was getting so many false readings with this test when I typically have very few.  As I was editing the high-speed footage, I got my first glimpse of the gel block getting showed with unburned powder from both loads.  I apologize for the chronograph issues with this test, but at least now I know what was causing them.

I think the test results speak for themselves.  I really tried to keep as many things constant between the two tests as I possibly could.  I have no bias for or against either ammunition brand or these specific loads.  If your 380 pistol can stand the +P pressure of the Buffalo Barnes, it appears to be the more reliably expanding load.  I have to assume that both loads use the same Barnes solid copper hollow point bullet so the difference comes down to the 100 feet per second velocity difference between the two loads.

Neither load will deliver the 12" of penetration that many people believe to be the minimum requirement for a self defense load.  This is typical penetration performance for 380 Auto expanding hollow point ammunition.  From testing we have learned that only non-expanding loads can reliably penetrate 12" or more in ballistics test media.

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for best in caliber expansion, at the cost of deep penetration, the Buffalo Barnes may be the load you are looking for.  Buffalo Bore has designated this load as 380 +P.  380 +P is not an industry standard ammunition pressure classification and is forbidden for use in many small 380 Auto pistols (check your owner's manual).  It does generate higher pressures, and velocities, so please make certain it is safe for use in your pistol before trying some.

The standard pressure Corbon loading didn't demonstrate exceptional expansion or penetration and does not appear to justify the premium price it commands if used in a short barrel pistol such as the Kahr that was used in this test.  I found it interesting that the clothing barrier test shot demonstrated greater expansion than the bare gel shot, but I have no reasonable explanation as to why that happened. 


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.


  1. I got 1216 avg in a Sig 230 with the BB load and it was very accurate. The Barnes bullets penetrate deeper as velocity increases so I suspect over 11inches out of a 3.5 or longer barrel. I read many years ago that chrono tests of a bullet just prior to a t shirt and just after exit show a 50fps loss

  2. Hey Bruce 0

    How did you find the recoil with this load/pistol combo?

    1. Hey Brad. I really don't remember at this point. I don't remember either being awful, but it's been several months since I ran the test. Sorry bud.