One of the most popular handgun cartridges available on the market today, the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is an easy-to-carry self-defense cartridge. With a variety of small, lightweight compact pistols chambered in this caliber, its mild recoil and minimal muzzle blast make it a popular choice among those who carry concealed, police officers looking for a capable back-up gun, and general backyard plinkers and target shooters.
Typical .380 ammunition, also called .380 Auto ammo, features an 85-95 grain (gr) bullet that measures .355 inch in diameter and 0.984 inch in cartridge length. It’s rimless and straight-walled, and is equipped with low-pressure percussion caps.
While .380 ACP ammo has gone up, down and back up in popularity over the last century, there’s still not a general consensus about the cartridge. When asked about their opinion on .380 ACP ammo, shooters either love it or hate it – and there’s not much middle ground for discussion.
Development of .380 ACP Ammo
Designed by John Moses Browning, .380 Auto ammunition was first introduced by Colt’s Manufacturing Company for the Colt Model 1908 Pocket Pistol in 1908. Browning’s design stemmed from his previous .38 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) cartridge, which are made for blowback pistols.
In 1912, .380 ACP ammunition was introduced in Belgium, where it became known as the 9mm Browning short. It remained popular during World War II – German forces used the Walther PPK and Italian forces used the Beretta M1934, both pistols chambered for .380 bullets.
The .380 Auto ammo was also used in other military pistols around the world until many replaced it with the 9mm. European law enforcement agencies also issued pistols chambered for .380 ACP ammunition as duty sidearms for their officers during the first decades of the 1900s.
In Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Sweden, the .380 still remains the official military cartridge.
Uses for .380 Auto Ammunition
The .380 ACP is not a high-energy round, but its accuracy makes it suitable for self protection, especially since recoil and muzzle blast are moderate. The bullets feed well and the firearms chambered for this round are as dependable as most other semi-automatic pistol rounds.
.380 ammunition shows a significant improvement in power and force when compared to the .32 Auto, especially in stopping power. The .380 ACP has become the standard minimum chambering for military, law enforcement, and self-defense rounds.
Outside of self defense, the .380 Auto provides high velocity and sufficient power for hunting small game. Many hunters use the round for rabbits, birds, and vermin like groundhogs and opossum. Using .380 ACP snake shot can come in handy for reptiles and indoor varmint, including rats.
Throughout history, even a few machine guns have been chambered for the .380 Auto, including the Mendoza HM-3 and the PP-19 Bizon.