.38ACP vs .38 Special

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Wenis, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. Wenis

    Wenis Member

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    Pardon my ignorance, but I'm trying to figure out the differences between the 38acp (which I assume is the same as a 38 auto) and a 38 special? And are either or both the same as a 9x17mm? I am buying a Kel Tec P3AT tomorrow and want to get some break-in rounds as well as some defense rounds for it. Any help would be sweet. Thanks
  2. PhysicsGuy

    PhysicsGuy Resident Science Nut

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    .38 acp/auto is a 9x23mmSR, and is no where near the same as .380 acp/auto, which is what the P3AT is chambered in. The .380 is the 9x17mm that you're thinking of. And .38 special is a revolver cartridge (which the .357 magnum is derived from), and is a rimmed cartridge. There is a world of difference between those 3 calibers.

    Pretty much the only way you will see .380 ammo for sale in the US (for the keltec) is as .380 acp, or .380 auto. But it can also be known as; 9mm Browning, 9mm Corto, 9mm Kurz, 9mm Short, and 9x17mm.

    Pictures for comparison (from wiki);

    .38 acp
    [​IMG]


    .380 auto
    [​IMG]


    .38 special
    [​IMG]
  3. wichaka

    wichaka Moderator Staff Member

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    The 380 is the same as a 9x17mm, which is used in a semi-auto pistol.

    38 Special is a rimmed case, and most used in revolvers. They are not interchangeable.

    38 ACP and 38 auto are the same cartridge, but are different than the 380 and 38 Special.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Wenis

    Wenis Member

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    Thanks for the heads up and the quick response. It's a new caliber for me that I'm learning more about.
  5. wichaka

    wichaka Moderator Staff Member

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    It gaining more popularity with recent gun offerings for the small round. Loaded with a good quality HP, such as Gold Dot it can hold its own pretty well.
  6. Wenis

    Wenis Member

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    I like the Kel Tec P3AT because it's a cheap, lightweight and small gun that I won't mind scuffing up.
  7. jib

    jib Active Member

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    As for the .380 acp I would practice with full metal jacket "FMJ" ammunition and use the same for self-defense, FMJ ammo will give adequate and more consistent penetration for this cartridge, and it will be feed more reliably in most pistols.
  8. gunluvver

    gunluvver Member

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    No way! Practice is fine with hardball, but if you stake your life on it against a cranked out punk, you're a dead man. You find the most lethal, reliable load you can for that gun, it has LESS power than a 9mm round. Practice, practice, practice, with the hardball, then practice some more with the load you will use. Hardball will go right through soft body parts without much damage. It's only good for a head shot, and in a gunfight, a head shot won't be easy.
  9. Aloxite

    Aloxite Member

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    I think that any cartridge from 9x19 on up should only use HP ammo for self defense. But there is a long standing debate over FMJ vs HP in minor cartridges like the 380.

    The FMJ crowd points to the fact that many HP 380's don't meet the minimum FBI penetration standards. The thinking is that it is better to have a non-expanding round that will make it to the vitals (Could be a fat perp wearing winter clothes) than an expanding round that stops short.

    Personally I use Cor-bons 90 grain JHP 380 in my P-3AT. It shows less expansion but more penetration than the 80 grain Cor-bon JHP. I'd trust the 90 grain Gold Dots as well.

    By the way, I think that any Kel-tec owners would be well served by joining KTOG (the Kel-tec owners group). Lots of good info in that forum. Also, I'd suggest doing the Fluff and Buff. Doing so greatly improved my trigger pull and the feeding.

    http://www.ktog.org/tecwerks12a.htm
  10. CEF1959

    CEF1959 Banned

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    Which is exactly why those of us who own .380s are having so much trouble finding ammo these day....