Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another Realistic 380 ACP vs. 9mm Test with Federal Hydra-Shok

This is the second installment of a new series of ballistics tests that compares 380 ACP with 9mm ammo from the same manufacturer with similar pistols and testing conditions.  I really believe that 9mm is quickly becoming the new 380 ACP and we have really started to see a big increase in the Pocket 9mm pistol category.  Rather than do stand alone 9mm tests, as I did with my 380 tests, I've decided to run them both head to head and see what can be learned.  This series should help people decide if the performance trade off between 380 ACP and 9mm is justified by the slightly smaller size of the 380 pistol vs. the 9mm pistol.  Alternately, it may help you decide if the increase in terminal performance is worth the extra recoil and size of the 9mm.

Then you have to consider that 9mm ammo is usually cheaper than .380 ACP, so you can practice more shooting for less money with the 9mm.  So many things to consider.  =)

Test Pistol Specs:
Diamondback DB9 9mm with 3" barrel
Diamondback DB380 380 ACP with 2.8" barrel

Ammo Specs:
Federal Hydra-Shok 124 grain JHP 9mm
Federal Hydra-Shok 90 grain JHP 380 ACP

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is simple.  I take one shot with each pistol at alternate ends of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 5 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to ballistics gel density.

A full video accounting of the testing from range to final bullet recovery is available below.

Recap of Test Results and My Thoughts:

The Federal Hydra-Shok has been around for a long time.  During it's lifetime, we can only guess how Federal has changed the design from it's original configuration.  I was really pleased with the performance of the 380 and it closely matched my previous testing results.  I was disappointed with the 9mm performance.  It really didn't sink in when doing my initial recovery, but later as I was measuring the recovered bullet I realized the huge stretch cavity I had observed was probably caused by the bullet spinning 180 degrees after entry into the block.  After the spin, the bullet settled into a rearward travel path with the bullet base leading the way.   This would explain the deep penetration and lack of expansion.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for the great comparo of the two rounds. I am a fan of both, as I believe few people have the money or time to devote to the serious practice needed to master the .40 and 45acp higher recoil firearms. Shooting someone to save your life, and missing, is sure a lot worse than shooting and hitting with a 9mm or .380.

    I, too, was disappointed in the 9mm performance. I think possibly the bullet design is better for the shorter bullet in .380/9mm, as the .40 and .45 tests of the same bullet design do much better. This ammo is what I load in my .380 carry gun in summer months, when it is hard to conceal the 9mm wearing just shorts and a tank top (Las Vegas heat!)

  3. For the 9mm, you should have used Federal Premium HST. The 9 loves it, the Hydra Shocks not so much, while the .380 loves the Hydra Shocks.

    1. For this test, I was going for apples to apples comparison. If HST was available in 380, I would have used that. I do have a few other HST 9mm tests on the blog.

  4. For me... they are close enough... what makes the decision for ME is... the best natural point shooter, i.e... which pistol can I pull and point and start blasting, and do so with combat accuracy under 21ft, AND be accurate to 40 ft+ with aimed fire. MY answer is the Beretta 84fs in .380, alternate loads Magsafe and either gold Dots or Hydra-Shok. I will say that my Kahr PM9 Black Diamond (9mm) is the runner up, and my KelTec P32 goes in a pocket when anything bigger is not "doable", i.e. gym shorts.