NOTE: USCCA Customer Engagement team members get a lot of questions, and they pass a good number of them along to Concealed Carry Magazine Senior Editor Ed Combs. If you have a question, you can either ask it below or email it to [email protected]. We, of course, cannot guarantee answers to all questions — Ed’s a pretty busy guy — but we’d love to help you out with whatever’s stumping you.

Jared Blohm
Managing Editor
Concealed Carry Magazine

Which Is Better for Self-Defense in a .380 ACP: Ball Ammo or Jacketed Hollow-Points?

The answer is a lot more complicated than it may seem.

You’ll never go wrong with buying jacketed hollow-points that are of the same brand and design as the JHPs your local police department or sheriff’s office uses. As a matter of defensibility in court, you’re using as close as you could to exactly what the local powers-that-be deemed acceptable for stopping imminent, unavoidable threats of death or great bodily harm.

However, it is my experience that .380 ACP (especially out of a short barrel, as is so often the case with concealed carry .380s) usually can’t muster up the velocity for much in the way of expansion. As such, what we’re looking to do is stop an attack with good penetration: the ability to get those rounds deep into an attacker to break bone and cut tissue rather than slide around them.

This is where our old friend the flat-nosed fully jacketed bullet comes in. These do wonderful work in the .380 ACP because, like a wadcutter in a revolver, they are less likely than their round-nosed brethren to slide past a bone. They’re more likely to break it. They will also often cost less than JHPs.

Testing Ammo Back Then

You can look this one up in the books detailing Jim Cirillo’s years on the NYPD’s legendary Stakeout Squad back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was a rotating team of officers that would sit concealed in businesses that were frequently robbed. When assailants would enter, draw weapons and announce a robbery, the Stakeout Squad would present themselves and try to take those armed robbers into custody. As far as law enforcement work goes it was as insanely dangerous as it sounds. And Cirillo and his teammates were in more than a few shootouts.

They also attended more than a few post-shootout autopsies to see which style of bullet did the best job at stopping deadly threats the fastest. What they found was that the NYPD’s standard-issue lead round-nose .38 Special load was inadequate for threat-stopping because it was more likely to slip through an attacker, while flat-nosed and wadcutter bullets (the latter of which were originally designed for target shooting) were far more effective.

Back to Your .380

If you want to carry nothing but JHPs, you can’t go wrong. But if you would rather source some flat-nosed ball rounds that still feed in and print well out of your .380, if anyone ever asks you why you carry them, point them to this blog post. Either way, you have fulfilled the first rule of defensive handgunning: You have a handgun. Don’t let anyone make you feel ill-equipped or otherwise behind the curve just because you don’t carry exactly what they carry.