.380 ACP is a pain in the butt. It’s convenient, and you can make obscenely small and handy guns that can handle the caliber, but it’s a borderline cartridge in terms of performance. I’m guessing it gives ammo manufacturers fits. Why?

It’s a light bullet. Generally, 380 ACP rounds are about 90 grains in weight, or roughly ¾ the weight of a 9mm self-defense projectile and just 40% the weight of a .45 ACP bullet.

Velocity is limited to about 1,000 feet per second for 90-grain loads. You can only pack so much powder and pressure into that little cartridge without blowing up your micro gun.

Recoil has to be manageable in micro mini guns weighing less than a butterfly’s left leg.

Worse yet, with all those limitations, we expect a .380 ACP round to level a city block should we ever need to use it for self-defense.

I guess it just shows how we humans emphasize hope. There are guns that are tiny and easy to carry, so we hope (and assume) that they will provide enough oomph to get the job done.

With all that said, I guess it’s not surprising that most of the .380 rounds I test don’t compare to their 9mm and larger siblings. It’s simply a physics nightmare to produce a round that does what we want within the constraints of the cartridge. Sure, if you look at the ads, you’ll see lots of impressive pictures of perfectly expanded .380 ACP bullets, but did you read the fine print? I could probably get a can of spackle to expand if I fired it into water or uncovered ballistic gelatin. Most any bullet will make a picture perfect mushroom when fired into bare gel. The trick is making it perform that way after passing through clothing or other barriers.

The folks at the new Sig Sauer ammunition factory are pretty proud of their V-Crown bullets, so I’ve been testing different loads and calibers. A few weeks back, we looked at the 9mm 124 grain V-Crown bullet and it showed impressive performance. Will the 90-grain .380 ACP perform equally well? Let’s find out.

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