Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hornady Custom 380 Auto 90 Grain XTP Denim and Clear Gel Test

I don't think the Custom line from Hornady gets the respect it deserves.  It's the oldest variant in the Hornady 380 Auto HP line up with boxes that display the image of the company's founder, Joyce Hornady, on the front.  While it may lack the marketing pop and sizzle of "Critical", "TAP", and "Z-Max", it is loaded with Hornady's excellent XTP bullet.

I purchased this box for testing last year and just found out that Hornady has temporarily suspended production of this loading until they can catch up with consumer demand.

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 XTP bullet has always displayed the characteristics of modest expansion and deep penetration.  The bare gel test shot performed exactly the way I expected it would.  It expanded a little and penetrated deeply.

The denim and gel shot was a bit of a surprise.  From previous testing we know that the 4 layers of heavy weight denim is a formidable barrier so failure to expand was not unexpected.  We also know that 380 FMJ loads traveling at less than 850 feet per second tend to tumble after hitting the heavy clothing barrier.  The surprise was that this XTP bullet behaved very much like a FMJ and tumbled after passing through the clothing barrier.  The low initial velocity, and velocity loss during the tumble, kept the bullet from over penetrating.

Pick or Pan:
I found this load to be very mild in regard to felt recoil.  That is probably due to the low initial velocity.  Bare gel terminal performance was good with a balance of modest expansion and deep penetration.  It would have been nice to see some expansion from the heavy denim test shot, but bigger and faster bullets have failed to expand through this test barrier.  At least the bullet didn't over penetrate when it failed to expand.

This load might be right for someone looking for a mild recoiling load that penetrates between 12 and 16 inches regardless of expansion.  It's one of the few 380 loads that I have seen that is capable of expanding and still penetrating more than 12" in bare Clear Ballistics gel.


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. Man, this was a very eye-opening test. I've worked on three shootings in which there were failures to adequately penetrate with .380 JHPs (2 with Hydra-Shok and one with the heavy Golden Saber), based on which I've always carried FMJs in this caliber (hey, who needs to put the hollowpoint "brakes" on such a light, slow bullet, right?). The performance that you record gives me hope that this one might be worth a look. Thanks for taking the time to do and report these tests. cheers, erich martell, albuquerque, nm usa

  2. This is interesting, from a longer barrel:

  3. Compare the results in this test with your test of Hydra-Shocks. I think something is wonky with this gel. There is NO way a 90 grain bullet going 800 fps is going to penetrate 15 inches in proper ballistics gel, when a similar bullet going 100 fps faster only penetrates 10 inches.

    I appreciate your work in this area, but I suggest you retest this one.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You know, I was kinda pissed off too when I saw the results since I own a bunch of Hydra-Shoks, but you aren't considering expanded diameter of .492" vs .430". The Hydra-shok put up a bigger parachute so it slowed down faster than the Hornady. That's just physics.

      You are free to call bullshit on the results, but you may not know that I pre-screen and discard questionable tests results. I may test these again some day, but I'm comfortable with the accuracy of the results.

  4. I for one am very thank full for your test you spend a lot of time and money on this so thanks again.

  5. Hey, that's really great (whut-evs). Now how about a review of the Doubletap, mousegunaddict?!?

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

  6. Regarding expansion slowing penetration, Bruce is right. Not only is this simple physics, but it's a well known phenomenon in ballistics.

    With the Fiocchi version opening up through 2 layers, I had higher hopes for this, the original, through 4. But, in a way, the results could even be considered better, what with the 15"+ penetration.

    Like Erich505, I lean toward the penetration side. 12" is the bare minimum for the FBI with 15-18"+ being more desireable. Lots of good research showing bad guys continuing on due to a lack of penetration. I like the +/-15" for personal defense. It's the XTP or FMJ for me out of a short barrel .380.

    I'm glad to see you doing the 4 layer test now. Makes it easier to compare.

    Great job, as always! Thanks!

  7. Hmm. I just noticed that the Fiocchi versions moved along a little quicker. Not atypical of Fiocchi. Those extra fps may just be enough to make a difference in expansion vs none. The velocity appears to at least have made a difference in the expansion diameter for the bare gel tests. And, of course, with that... comes shallower penetration.