9mm vs 380 Ammo and Gun Comparison Guide

9mm vs. 380— Which is Right for You?

If you are ready for a handgun purchase for self-defense, you have considerations before making your decision. Given the popularity, you would think the only choice is a 9mm Luger gun; this is not true. Today, we are comparing two options: 380 vs 9mm.

380 Auto compared to 9mm is worth considering when purchasing a handgun. These two are not your only options, but today’s article is to give you information on the 380 caliber vs 9mm.

When you study the differences between 380 and 9mm, you will find that the 9mm Luger will dominate the 380 in pure power. The larger 9x19mm cartridge helps in this respect (more room for powder). If you are looking for power, you will choose the 9mm. But, before you make your choice, you must consider the 380. If power defines the 9mm, finesse and short-range accuracy define the 380. The only similarity between the 380 cal vs 9mm is the diameter.

The two calibers differ in other ways. Law enforcement agencies and militaries choose the 9mm as their primary handgun and choose the 380 as a backup weapon.

380 ACP vs 9mm

The 380 Auto vs 9mm are both excellent calibers. The 9mm is better for long-range targets, whereas the 380 ACP excels at short-range targets. The 380 handgun is smaller and more comfortable to maneuver in close range situations. For example, if you are facing a home intruder, either weapon will serve you well. The 380 would be just as effective in this situation as your 9mm.

Though the diameter of both cartridges are roughly the same, they are not interchangeable between the two pistols.

380 vs 9mm Bullet Size

 380 Auto9mm Luger
Bullet Diameter.355 inches (9mm).355 inches (9.01mm)
Neck Diameter.373 inches (9.5mm).38 inches (9.65mm)
Base Diameter.374 inches (9.5mm).391 inches (9.93mm)
Rim Diameter.374 inches (9.5mm).392 inches (9.96 mm)
Rim Thickness.045 inches (1.1 mm).050 inches (1.27mm)
Case Length.68 inches (17.3mm).754 inches (19.15mm)
Overall Length.984 inches (25mm)1.169 inches (29.69 mm)

380 vs 9mm Stopping Power

The penetration of the target, according to the FBI, is the most effective judgment of stopping an attacker in a self-defense situation. Depending on load and bullet mass, the 9mm penetration is between 8 to 24.5 inches. Using load and bullet mass, the penetration of the 380 is between 6.5 and 17 inches. Using the same FBI analysis, anything over a 12-inch penetration is useful in stopping an aggressor.

380 vs 9mm stopping power is comparable when looking at the above penetration information. Using the FBI guideline of 12-inch minimum penetration, you have no problem choosing either caliber and feel good about your choice.

380 vs 9mm Ballistics

Watching your favorite action movie may lead you to believe that someone being shot with a pistol is as dramatic as the movie you are viewing. The real world tells a different story. I am not saying that you cannot stop the bad guy with your new purchase. The mere fact that the victim pulls a gun on an assailant may have the intended effect and prevent the aggressor in carrying out whatever scheme they may have. Whether you choose a 380 or 9mm, the bullet you decide upon will have different ballistic results. Ballistics include things like the velocity of the projectile, penetration, and expansion.

Many factors affect the outcome of ballistic testing. The type of firearm and the distance to the target. The clothing or barriers between you and the target and the characteristics of the cartridge. Barrel length will also contribute to the ballistic results. The time of day, the weather, and temperature also play a role in the ballistics of the shots fired.

Depending on what 380 ammunition you decide to utilize, the velocity of the 380 is about 945 to about 1045 feet per second according to Ballistics 101.

Again depending on the kind of 9mm round you use, the velocity of the 9mm is about 940 to 1280 feet per second using Ballistics 101 as a guide.

380 vs 9mm Recoil

No matter what caliber pistol you purchase or the ammunition you use, the 9mm will have a more significant recoil than the 380. The gentle recoil allows you to control multiple shots better at a closer range with the 380. The 9mm, even though the recoil is more robust, is more accurate with a further distance. The heavier weight of the 9mm helps offset the more substantial recoil.

If you take a 380 handgun that weighs the same as a comparable 9mm handgun, the 380 will have much less recoil allowing for more accurate multiple shots downrange. The strength of the person wielding the pistol may be a deciding factor in the purchase of the handgun. The stronger the individual, the better control they will retain over the recoil. You will need to take this under consideration when deciding on which caliber.

380 vs 9mm for Self-Defense

Most people choose 9mm for self-defense. The decision is yours to make. You can also make the argument for the 380 as another logical choice for self-defense. In some defensive situations, the 9mm may be the better choice, but other defensive positions, the 380 cal may be the best option. With a wide range of guns offered in both calibers, the decision comes down to the individual purchasing self -defense. No matter the choice of handgun caliber you decide, you will want a higher-end ammunition choice. Weaker practice round ammo will get the self-defense job done, but higher grain or hollow-point round will be more effective.

Concealed Carry 9mm vs 380

With the full range of sizes of guns in both calibers, either caliber can be concealed. Depending on the style of concealed carry, you may want to choose the more nimble 380 over, the more substantial, bulkier 9mm.

Manufactures make concealed carry holsters for both calibers. You don’t even need a holster for concealed carry if you get creative. The choices include:

  • Inside the waistband holster secured to your belt
  • Inside the waistband clip-on holster
  • Inside the waistband no holster
  • Outside the waistband holster attached to your belt
  • Shoulder holster for wearing under a jacket
  • Ankle holster
  • Fanny packs
  • Handbag, briefcase, backpack
  • Elastic belly band and other holsters
  • Specialty bra holsters
  • Thigh holsters

People can get creative when coming up with ways to conceal carry their weapon safely, but this list is the most common.

380 Hollow Point vs 9mm

A hollow-point bullet can be considered the equalizer when comparing a regular 9mm to a 380 hollow point. One of the problems with the 380 is you get excellent penetration with no expansion, or you get good expansion with less penetration. The higher pressure from the 9mm helps balance both better. The hollow point on the 380 helps give you better expansion. You will need to be careful with your jacketed hollow point. Clothing and other material can jam into the hollow point, reducing expansion. Hornady’s 90-grain critical defense round is an excellent example of a well-designed hollow point. It uses a polymer tip to help expansion and prevent debris from clogging the hollow-point. The 380 hollow-point ammo beats regular 9mm ammo in performance.

380 vs 9mm price

When comparing 380 ammo vs 9mm ammo, you would think the cheaper choice would be the 380, since there are lower costs in raw materials. However, due to the popularity of the 9mm caliber, 9x19mm is typically $0.05 to $0.10 cheaper per round. Even though the material cost is more affordable to make the 380 ammo, the 9mm ammo’s production cost is lower due to being mass-produced.

When analyzing the 380 ammo cost vs 9mm, 9mm ammo will be cheaper to purchase than a similar type of 380 ammo. One of the things to consider when purchasing a handgun is the cost of practicing with your weapon at the range. More people are beginning to turn to the 380 for a conceal carry weapon. This factor may help drive down the cost of the 380 ammo in the future.

Brief History of 9mm Luger and 380 ACP

The 9mm Luger beat the 380 to the world’s stage by approximately six years. Georg Luger designed the 9X19 parabellum round in 1902 and presented it to the British Empire, the German Empire, and the United States for testing. The German Navy was the first to adopt the new cartridge in 1904, followed by the German Army in 1908. WWI led to the widespread use of the round in pistols and submachine guns.

In 1908, John Moses Browning took the .38 ACP and used it to design the .380 ACP. He intended to use the low-powered ammo for the blowback pistols, which did not have a barrel locking mechanism. It was introduced to the world in 1908 for use with the Colt 1908 pocket hammerless semi-automatic pistol. It has since been popular as an easy-to-handle self-defense weapon.

Since the introduction of these two cartridges, the 380 Auto vs 9mm luger, they have been in a caliber war for use as a self-defense weapon.

Comparison of Popular 380 & 9mm Handguns

You will not lack choices in either caliber. Many manufacturers produce models in both calibers. Let us look at several of the popular options.

Sig Sauer 9mm versus 380

On the higher end of budgets, Sig produces plenty of choices in 9mm and 380 models.

P320 XCompact 9mm was ergonomically designed with performance in mind. The 3.6-inch barrel and 15+1 round capacity make this a great concealable weapon.

P238 Micro-Compact 380 Auto is another Sig choice for a concealable weapon. The 5.5 overall length and weighing less than a pound makes it a great, easily handled weapon.

Glock 26 Compared to Glock 24

Glock is another manufacturer that produces great handguns for self-defense in both 9mm and 380 models. You have many models to choose from. Here are two.

Glock 26 Gen5 Subcompact 9mm is ideal for concealability. The front serrations provide a tactile surface choice when operating the slide with wet or sweaty hands.

The G42 Subcompact .380 Auto is another excellent Glock weapon for concealed carry. Loaded with all the features you expect from Glock, and this handgun is ultra-compact and easy to shoot.

Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm vs Bodyguard 380

Smith and Wesson have been delivering quality self-defense weapons for over 164 years. The S&W Shield 9mm (which runs great with 147gr 9mm defense round) and Bodyguard 380 make excellent options for self-defense or home protection. Let us take a look at these two handguns.

S&W Shield Features:

  • Capacity: 7+1, 8+1
  • Weight: 20.8 ozs
  • Safety: Thumb safety
  • Barrel length: 3.1 inches
  • Overall length: 6.1 inches
  • Barrel material: stainless steel
  • Slide material: stainless steel
  • Frame material: Polymer
  • Striker fired for short, consistent trigger pull
  • M&P’s patented take-down lever allows for disassembly without pulling the trigger

Bodyguard 380 Features:

  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Safety: Thumb safety
  • Barrel length: 2.75 inches
  • Overall length: 5.3 inches
  • Barrel material: Stainless steel
  • Slide material: Stainless steel
  • Frame material: Polymer

The basic construction of these to concealable weapons are comparable. The Bodyguard’s short, lightweight structure makes it handily concealable and easy to carry all day. The Shield’s higher capacity gives you more firepower without re-loading. Both make excellent conceal carry weapons.


Here are a few final thoughts when deciding which caliber would be best for you. The 9mm ammo is more affordable, allowing you ample practice time to improve control and accuracy. The 380’s smaller, lighter frame allows for easier concealability. When deciding, take into consideration your size and strength. The recoil of the 9mm affects accuracy on multiple shots. The 380 is more comfortable to control when firing numerous shots. Both calibers offer superior performance and self-defense. We hope you find the information helpful. For deciding between 9mm Luger and 40 Smith and Wesson, be sure to read our other in-depth write-up!

Get Bulk Ammo Deals!

Join 20,817 newsletter subscribers who are saving money on ammo!

You have Successfully Subscribed!