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Survival Ammunition: .380 ACP

by Paul-Martin Foss

The .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) is another cartridge designed by John Moses Browning that is still with us over a century later. Adapted from the earlier .38 ACP, the .380 ACP is a significantly shorter round, featuring a cartridge case length of just over 17mm. The cartridge is variously known as .380 ACP, .380 Auto, 9x17mm Browning, 9x17mm Short, 9mm Short, 9mm Kurz, etc.

The .380 ACP is about the most powerful cartridge that can be chambered in a blowback-operated pistol, roughly equal in power to the Soviet-era 9x18mm Makarov cartridge. Featuring a standard 9mm .355”-diameter bullet, the .380 ACP is normally found pushing a 90- to 95-grain bullet at around 1,000 feet per second, for around 200 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Unlike other Browning-designed cartridges such as the .32 ACP and the .45 ACP, the .380 ACP never really caught on with governments and police forces. Perhaps that was due to the fact that it was essentially just a smaller, shorter, weaker version of the already existing 9mm Luger cartridge, and thus offered nothing over other, better options.

For most of its life, the .380 ACP has been largely the domain of civilian shooters, particularly for personal defense. Franz Ferdinand’s assassin Gavrilo Princip was said to have used a pistol chambered in .380 ACP to commit the assassination, and for much of the 20th century the cartridge remained a popular one for those desiring a pocket pistol for personal protection.

There are still several pistols available on the market today that are chambered for .380 ACP, although the chambering is slowly losing out to 9mm Luger. One of the advantages of .380 ACP blowback-operated pistols is that the pistol’s barrel is attached directly to the frame. That allows for greater accuracy than the tilting barrels more commonly seen in semiautomatic pistols.

If you already own a .380 ACP pistol then be sure to stock up on ammunition or reloading components for it. Due to its case measurements differing from 9mm Luger, .380 ACP brass isn’t readily made from other cartridge cases. While .380 ACP can be a valuable part of your survival armory, if you’re looking for an effective handgun cartridge with readily available ammunition and components, you probably won’t want to make .380 ACP your first choice.

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