Back in Spring 2012 I did a series to terminal tests comparing 380 and 9mm terminal performance. The series proved to be quite popular on the blog and also on YouTube. With all the updates to my testing protocols over the last year and a half, I wanted to revisit these tests. I'm starting with the most popular test of the series and may revisit all three of the previous tests if reader/viewer response is positive. I may even expand the series if folks find value in the results.
A key point to remember as you read through the results and view the video is that this isn't a perfect comparison test. Ideally, I'd have identical barrel lengths for both 380 and 9mm. I can't justify purchasing a pair of Ruger LC9/LC380 pistols to run these comparison tests, but that would be ideal. Also, this isn't a test to determine if 380 or 9mm is "better". It's a test to discover the terminal performance differences between the two calibers in small pocket pistols.
If anyone reading this is a personal friend of Eric Galloway over at Galloway Precision, please let him know that I would gladly review his full house LC9 and LC380 conversions. I may even sneak in a few of these 380 Auto vs 9mm tests while reviewing the pistols. [wink]
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 test shots through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim 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 shots through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim and 1/2" red oak hardwood block suspended 1/4" deep in a Clear Ballistics gel block placed in front of main test block. Shot distance is 8feet.
Step 5) Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.
Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:
My Thoughts on This Test:
From my perspective, the most frustrating part of terminal testing is when new test results don't jive with previous test results. Last month I tested Critical Defense 380, from this same lot number, through 4 layers of denim and observed expansion in the same Clear Ballistics gel. As a viewer of my test results, I'm sure it's frustrating for you too. Unfortunately, I think that's just the nature of the beast so to put this in a positive light we now know how the 380 will perform when it does and doesn't expand. The denim and simulated bone test results were really interesting for the 380 with all tested rounds being crushed rather than expanding. This turned them into a bullet profile similar to a flat nose full metal jacket. Penetration and weight retention from all 380 test shots was very good.
The 9mm test results were right in line with what I expected to see from this load. Critical Defense has always displayed limited expansion and deep penetration. Both test shots expanded and exceeded 16" of penetration. The denim and simulated bone test shot was really outstanding with expansion, limited bullet crushing, and an average expansion diameter exceeding half an inch.
Since this was the first test of this series, I can't comment on how this test compares with others. I will say that I place importance on shot placement and penetration over expansion. With those criteria in mind, these mild recoiling and deep penetrating rounds seem to be a reasonably good match for the pistols used and my defensive needs.
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.