Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hornady Critical Defense 380 Auto 90 Grain FTX Denim and Clear Gel Test

The Critical Defense line from Hornady was created for concealed carry pistols that typically have barrels that are shorter than service length pistols.  The entire line has been optimized for short barrel pistols and features nickel plated brass for corrosion resistance and slick feeding.  Propellent powder is low flash to protect night vision and also generates lower felt recoil.  The FTX bullet has a red polymer plug inserted into the hollow point cavity during production that aids in expansion when the bullet is fired into heavy clothing barriers like denim or leather. 

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 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 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  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.

Test Results:

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

My Thoughts on This Load:
All of the Hornady 380 Auto loadings specify a muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second.  A quick check of their website confirms that their velocity measurements are done with a 4" test barrel.  It's understandable that our velocity was much lower since our barrel was 1.5'" shorter than the Hornady test barrel.  As a rule of thumb you can expect to lose about 100 feet per second for every 1" reduction in barrel length.

The FTX bullet performed exceptionally well in this test.  This is the first 380 Auto load that I have tested, though the 2.5" barreled Kahr, that expanded and penetrated to 12 inches or more in bare gel and also heavy denim and gel testing.  I was genuinely surprised to see how well the FTX bullet performed in the denim test.         

Pick or Pan:
One test doesn't represent a statistically significant sample set, but I am still very impressed with the performance of this load.  It is one of the very few 380 Auto loads that can expand and penetrate to 12 inches from a short barrel pocket pistol.  The heavy denim clothing barrier presented no significant challenge to terminal expansion performance.  I will definitely be adding this loading to my ammo shopping list and may do a follow up test at a later time with additional test shots.

Recovered bullets photo series with bare gel on the left and heavy denim on the right.

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. Thanks for another great review. I load Critical Defense in my Kahr PM40 , my both of my S&W .357 and my Ruger 380 LCP. It's good to know I've chosen wisely. The velocity of the 357 loads is high at (per their site) 1500fps from an 8'' vented barrel. Both (mod 586 and a mod 27)of my 357's have 8 3/8'' barrels. It would be interesting to see a comparison of say a 2'' barrel and 8 3/8'' barrel though clear gel and gel covered with 2-4 layers of denim. Thanks for all of the great tests.

  2. The Hornady CD bullets are quite amazing. I've been loading the 90grn CD's into 9mm cases with a minimum charge. Water filled detergent jugs explode as if shot by a rifle. The recovered slugs look very similar to these with the petals peeled back even with base of the bullet with no hollow point cavity left. Don't know if they make a good Self defense round but they're great for dispatching wild water bottles.

  3. Hoooo-kay...

    Time to review the Doubletap, Herr MausGewehrAdikt. If that *is* your real name.

    Get on it.

    1. Been there, done that. Yawn....

    2. Not the ammo...
      ...the GUN!!!!

      DoubleTap Defense! In .45 ACP!!!

    3. As soon as Doubletap sends me one, I'll review it.

  4. Have you asked? So far the have only been a couple reviews, mostly negative. I'd suspect they'd be interested in a little more independent coverage, regardless.

    Go ahead and google "double tap defense" and see what you find. Not much.

    If there ever was such a thing as a "pocket pistol", this thing is it! I guarantee your traffic will double (NPI).


    1. When Doubletap was still Heizer, their PR firm contacted me about doing a review. The last time I checked with them I was "still on the list" for a review gun, but interest had grown so they couldn't tell me where I was on the list or when I they would contact me about doing a review. With so little review content floating around the web, it does make you wonder how many review guns have been sent out to writers. Perhaps they are waiting on the ported barrels and/or titanium frames before sending out to the field reviewers. Maybe they decided to take care of their large quantity of distributor pre-orders first.

      I agree that having an early review done in Pocket Guns and Gear style would have been a huge boost for blog traffic. I may have purchased one weeks ago if I saw one available in a store, but so far I have not seen them locally. Ideally, a two barrel set with ported and non-ported would be best for the review and I've just starting seeing the first of the ported barrel DoubleTaps on the auction sites.

      Trust me that lack of review is not due to lack of interest on my part.

    2. Glad to hear it, and I look forward to the review. Just returned from a local gun show where they're available (~$480 out the door). My LGS also has them, but no ported barrels yet. Tempted to GA and buy the non-ported 45, but I know it'll be a beast to shoot. My only take-away so far is that it's larger & heavier than I initially presumed, but still very concealable.

      Guess I'll keep my powder dry until the ported versions make an appearance. I'm surprised they haven't offered one to Hickok yet.


  5. Hey, thanks so much for doing all these ammo reviews. Your videos are very detailed and informative. My "summer gun" is the LCP and I've been carrying the Hornady CD for quite a while now. It looks like I've chosen wisely. I know a lot of people will knock the .380, but going by your test results, I would not want to take 7 of these to the chest. Keep up the good work!