Is 9mm Really Better Than .380 ACP?

It is one of the oldest arguments you could possibly have relating to firearms — Is 9mm really better than .380 ACP? It’s safe to say that we’ve all be a part of that conversation or heard one. Graham and Teya with AmmoLand TV took on the 9mm vs .380 ACP debate and gave their findings.

To approach this topic subjectively they want to compare the two calibers with similar handguns and ammunition loads. Graham stresses how important it is that the handguns have the same barrel length, locking systems, and grip or hand feel. He is able to accomplish that with the Walther CCP series and SCCY handguns in both .380 ACP and 9mm.

.380 ACP vs 9mm Walther CCP and SCCY handguns
To make sure that the guns were nearly identical in .380ACP and 9mm, Graham uses the Walther CCP and the SCCY handguns in both calibers.

The SCCY handguns have a Browning style, or modified, locking block which SCCY calls the quad lock system. The SCCY handguns both have a 3.1” barrel with small visual differences. The Walther CCP handguns are a pistol gas delayed style with a 3.54” barrel. The Walther handguns are nearly indistinguishable with all other features looking the same.

9mm vs .380 ACP Testing — Ammo Choices

They use five different types ranging in grain loads from 56 to 102 grain for the .380ACP and from 65 to 147 grain for the 9mm. The ammunition they chose were:

  • Hornady Critical Defense
  • Hornady American Gunner
  • Inceptor ARX
  • Speer Gold Dot
  • Remington Ultimate Defense (which should be noted that is designed for full-size handguns, which these two are not).

Testing

After selecting the ammunition, they shoot five rounds of each type of ammo through each handgun and measure the energy with a chronograph. While there are a few feed failures, the numbers don’t show a clear winner. If stopping power is what you’re after, the 9mm is the way to go. But there’s more to the caliber than just stopping power.

9mm vs 380 chronograph testing
To test the stopping power Graham shot the handguns in both calibers with all types of ammo. He found that the 9mm was slightly higher in energy but not by much.

During the chronograph portion of the test, they notice that there are loads that shoot softer or harder than others regardless of the handgun. Taking that into account, they want to shoot the tamest load (ARX ammo) and the hardest load (Ultimate Defense) side by side in slow motion to get a better look at recoil. The main concern for this part of the test is the controllability of the handgun and being able to get an accurate second shot off.

Teya shoots this part of the test and starts with the ARX .380 ammo in the Walther CCP. She finds that both the CCP and the SCCY are very controllable and have little rise, with the SCCY having a bit more of a bite. For the ARX 9mm ammo, the load has more recoil than the .380 ACP but both guns are still very controllable.

9mm vs .380 ACP with Walther CCP
Teya shoots the Walther with both the ARX and Remington Ultimate Defense ammunition. She finds that the .380ACP shoots softer but she has very good controllability with both loads with the Walther.

For the Ultimate Defense load, the .380ACP Walther has a failure to feed, and after it is cleared it shoots very well. She comments on how it is very pleasant to shoot. The SSCY shoots well with her only complaint being that the spent rounds land on her head. The CCP has a stronger recoil in the 9mm load, but she could still control it and it was softer than the SCCY.

9mm vs 380 SCCY handgun
Similar to the Walther, the SCCY shot very well and she was able to maintain control. Her recommendation is to choose whichever caliber and handgun you have the most experience handling and controlling.

After shooting the different loads in both guns, her conclusion is that subjectiveness was king. There are variables to consider in deciding which is better like the shooter and their experience, the ammunition, and the handguns. The main thing is to be comfortable with the handgun and controllability comes down to personal preference.

9mm vs 380 AmmoLand TV
At the conclusion of both testings, there is no definitive answer. The energy testing didn’t show a clear winner. Graham mirrored what Teya had said in that the caliber, ammunition load, handgun type, and the shooter’s experience all play into the full decision.

It all comes down to what you are comfortable with and gaining the necessary experience with your system.

Patti Miller is one of the most awesome females in the tactical/firearm (or any) industry. Imagine a tall, hawt, dangerous Laura Ingalls Wilder type with cool hair and a suppressed blaster and you'll be getting the idea. What's interesting is that in addition to being a willing brawler and intrepid adventuress, she's also an Ent/Ogier level gardener and a truly badass baker.

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