A Case for the .380 Auto
Designed by John Moses Browning, the .380 Auto is still a formidable round more than 110 years after it was introduced. You’re certainly welcome to disagree, but I personally wouldn’t argue with a man whose middle name is “Moses.”
Speaking of names, the .380 Auto goes by many. Some of them are .380 ACP, 9mm Corto, 9mm Kurz, 9mm Browning, 9x17mm, and 9mm Short.
In case the names weren’t enough of a hint, the .380 Auto shares a lot of characteristics, such as rim and head dimensions, with the 9x19mm Luger cartridge. It is, essentially, a 9mm Luger with a 17mm case length and reduced volume. Because of this, the power of the .380 Auto is volume-limited. Browning didn’t let this hamper the design; instead, he chose to load the rounds with lighter bullets.
Black Hills Ammunition offers three different .380 Auto loads. One is a 100-grain FMJ, one is a 90-grain jacketed hollow-point, and one uses their 60-grain solid HoneyBadger bullets.
The 100-grain FMJ rounds have 160 foot-pounds of muzzle energy with a velocity of 850 fps and an average penetration depth of 14.5 inches. The 90-grain hollow-point rounds have 180 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and a velocity of 950 fps with an average penetration depth of 10.5 inches. The 60-grain HoneyBadger rounds have a muzzle velocity of 1,150 fps and a muzzle energy of 176 foot-pounds. For some comparison, that’s the same velocity as their 115-grain FMJ 9mm rounds.
When Browning introduced this round in 1908, it coincided with the introduction of yet another one of his pistols. This time, it was the Colt Model 1908 pocket hammerless pistol. Given that pairing, it’s clear that the round was designed with personal protection in mind. True to the saying, some things never change.
The cartridge has also been influential in multiple military and commercial settings. For example, it was a .380 Auto that sparked the beginning of World War I, changing our world forever in ways we’re still seeing today; it was adopted by five European countries as their standard military cartridge leading up to World War II; and one of Germany’s most iconic handguns (and James Bond’s favorite) - the PPK - is chambered for it.
There’s a lot of history and performance packed into this cartridge, and it’s clear that the round isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The sheer number of successful modern firearms chambered for the .380 Auto is a testament to this. Besides, if Black Hills Ammunition didn’t have faith in the caliber, then they wouldn’t have developed three different loads for it and put their name behind it. ~ T. Logan
To learn more about Black Hills Ammuntion click HERE.
Logan is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry. For more information, please visit www.highcaliberhistory.com.