Saturday, October 02, 2010

What About .380 ACP +P Ammunition?

Questions concerning using +P ammunition in one's defensive .380 ACP pistols turn up now and again on Internet firearm forums which is fine except that .380 ACP in a +P version does not exist.

It never has.

SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute) set the rating guidelines by which a specific load's operating pressure is rated as standard or +P. They have been around since 1926. One of their responsibilities has been to publish information on firearm and ammunition-related standards. Several popular handgun calibers definitely do have SAAMI +P ratings, but the 380 just is not one of them.

Several years ago an ammunition manufacturer known for handgun ammunition having higher-than-usual velocities ordered thousands of new .380 ACP cases. Since previous brass orders from this company had always included "+P" on the headstamp along with the caliber designation, the .380 ACP cases were mistakenly marked the same way and sent to the ammunition maker. The cases were used but subsequent orders for unfired brass made sure that the mistake was not repeated. Today the same load does not bear a +P designation but chronographs the same as the old mis-marked load.

Several popular handgun cartridges can be had in +P versions including .38 Special and 9mm but not .380 ACP. The reason is that the vast majority of semiautomatic pistols chambered for it are straight blowback designs and the standard-pressure loadings are toward the top of the pressure envelope that this design can safely handle and some loads do generate higher velocities than others and possibly higher accompanying pressures but they are not necessarily operating within SAAMI specs.

Some using this cartridge favor expanding loads while others recommend FMJ to insure adequate penetration but regardless of where you might stand on this issue, understand that currently-produced .380 ACP bearing a +P designation is simply incorrect information.