Difference Between 380 ACP and 9mm

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 05, 2023


Difference Between 380 ACP and 9mm

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Watching people whip out a gun and shoot their enemies in the films does not prepare people to actually fire a gun in real-life self-defense situations. Therefore, people tend to get confounded when they search for a gun that would come in handy and the cartridges they would need for it. Most people want to give up the idea of buying a cartridge the second they see the numerous options available. However, 9mm and .380 ACP cartridges have been around for a long time, and they are extremely dependable.

.380 ACPs are an excellent option for everyday use due to their compact design. There is something comforting about having a dependable firearm with a decent cartridge even if one does not get to use them much or ever. The .380 ACPs may not have the stopping power of 9mms, but they perform what they are intended to do effectively. They are an excellent choice for beginners who are learning to shoot. At the very least, their shots will be more accurate as .380s’ recoil is minimal.

A .380 ACP is also called 9mm Browning, as it has the same diameter as 9mms (some refer to it as 9mm’s little sister). But that is where the similarity ends. 9mm cartridges are superior to .380s in every category (except rapid firing, as the recoil generated is a bit too much for some people). That is why some gun experts feel it is unfair to compare the two cartridges. 9mms are superior to the popular .38 cartridges when it comes to ballistics. They became highly popular after World War I, but their popularity sky-rocketed in the 1980s and 90s.

380 ACP Vs. 9mm

9mm cartridges are much more powerful than .380 ACP cartridges. Moreover, the 9mms are longer though they have the same diameter as the .380 ACPs.

Difference Between 380 ACP And 9mm In Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison380 ACP9mm
Recoil.380 ACPs have a low recoil, which makes them an ideal choice for inexperienced shooters.9mms generate 94% more recoil than .380 ACPs, and inexperienced shooters may not be able to handle it.
Easy of concealmentThe guns designed for chambering .380 ACPs are compact and lightweight, making them an excellent choice for concealed carry.Firearms designed to chamber 9mm cartridges are heavier and larger than .380 ACP guns. Therefore, they are slightly more difficult to conceal and carry.
PenetrationIt can penetrate 6.5 – 18 inches.9mm cartridges can penetrate 8 – 24.5 inches (depending on the load type).
VelocityA 90 gr .380 ACP cartridge typically has a velocity of 1,050 – 1,100 feet per second.Typically, a 115 gr 9mm cartridge’s velocity is 1,155 – 1,350 feet per second.
WeightA .380 ACP’s standard weight is 85 or 90 gr. However, cartridges weighing 95, 100, 115, and 120 grains are also available.9mms have a standard weight of 115, 124, or 147 gr. (124 gr is the most preferred).
PressureIt generates a maximum pressure of 21,500 psi.It generates a maximum pressure of 34,084 psi.
OriginUnited States.Germany.

What Is 380 ACP?

.380 ACP cartridges are lightweight and easy to handle but lack the stopping power of other popular cartridges. The military forces of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, and Yugoslavia had .380s as their standard pistol cartridge before World War II and continued to use it long after the war (but the 9mms eventually replaced them). The .380 ACP cartridges proved resilient and became popular with civilians, as most mini-pistols are not designed to chamber larger cartridges. They are slightly less powerful than .38 cartridges, and the energy they generate when fired is typically between 194 – 294 foot-pounds (do not laugh at it. It is still powerful enough to penetrate 18 inches; people do not want to be standing at the receiving end).

However, firearms designed to chamber .380 ACPs are easier to manipulate. Most significantly, racking these guns is a smooth process; people do not have to struggle to pull the slide all the way back. As .380s have less recoil they only require lighter recoiling springs, making the guns convenient to use for those who do not have Herculean strength. Furthermore, .380 pistols are one of the best options as a backup gun, as they are compatible with almost all types of concealed carry holsters (ITW holsters, OTW holsters, shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, etc.).

Popular .380 ACP Pistols

People have to be careful about which pistol they choose to chamber their .380 ACP cartridges. After all, even the best cartridge will be of no use if the pistol it is fired out of is inefficient. The following are some of the popular .380 ACP pistols:

Bersa Thunder

Bersa Thunder is one of the most affordable .380 ACP pistols out there. This model is reliable but slightly heavy. Moreover, Bersa Thunder pistols come with screw-on grips, meaning people can replace the grips with the one they like if they know their way around a tool set (do not tinker with it unless equipped with the required knowledge). This model may not be the perfect or exceptional pistol people are looking for, but it is trusty and will function well for several years.

Glock 42

Glock 42 is extremely reliable like all Glock models. These pistols do not come with bells and frills, but they do their job efficiently. Moreover, using these pistols will prepare people to handle the larger Glock models smoothly.

Kahr CW380

Kahr CW380 pistols are one of the best concealed carry weapons due to their smooth triggers, functional sights, and lightweight (they weigh just over 10 ounces). These pistols are comfortable to use and easy to manage.

Ruger LCP II

Ruger’s Lightweight compact models are fantastic. The LCP IIs, in particular, went through several re-designs based on the user’s feedback and have better sights and smoother trigger pulls. They weigh only 10.6 ounces and are 5.17 inches long, making them easy to conceal even when the climate calls for lightweight and minimal clothing (wearing a hoodie or a smothering coat when it’s 100 degrees out there is not plausible. So where will people conceal larger pistols?).

Sig Saucer P238

This model is tiny but smooth. P238 pistols only recoil mildly and so are controllable. People can shoot using these pistols for an extended period without getting tired. However, people with large hands will struggle to get a good grip on them; however, these pistols are perfect for people with elf-like slender fingers. After all, what’s there to not like about a pistol one can easily whip out and shoot? P238s are compatible with a wider range of ammo than other .380 ACP pistols.

Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ

This model is sought-after for its ease of use. It is suitable for inexperienced shooters and veterans alike. Besides, what is there to not like about this model? The 380 shields are easy to load and shoot. They are reliable and accurate, offer a great grip, and are concealable. Moreover, racking these pistols is a breeze (almost feels as easy as using the make-believe guns people played Cowboys and Aliens with). Of course, some people opine that they could have better sights (but hey, which model is perfect?)

Ruger LCP Max

Ruger LCP Max is the best choice out there in most people’s opinion. It weighs 10.6 ounces (unloaded) and is compact. This pocket pistol has an ammunition capacity of 10+1 rounds, which is significantly more than most pocket pistols. Moreover, its grip fits the palm better without being chubby (face it, everyone needs a pistol they can hold and look cool while doing so). LCP Max pistols’ front and rear sights are awesome, too.

What Is 9mm?

The 9×19 Parabellum cartridges are better known as 9mms. The name Parabellum is derived from a Latin motto meaning ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’ (a fitting name, as the cartridges were meant for the firearms used by the German Army and Navy). 9mm cartridges were intended to be lethal at 50 meters, i.e., 160 feet; however, they proved to be lethal at longer ranges (hmm, might come in handy during the Zombie apocalypse).

Law officials love 9mms because they can choose from a wide variety of handguns that chamber 9mm cartridges. In 2007, around 60% of the US police department’s firearms were pistols chambering 9mms. The cartridges’ affordability and the moderate recoil they generate have increased their popularity. Therefore, major ammunition manufacturers are seeing an increased demand for 9×19 Parabellum cartridges.

Popular 9mm Pistols

The following are some trusty 9mm pistol models that won’t let people down in tough situations:

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ

The Shield EZ has an easy-to-rack slide and great ergonomics. It is a perfect model for amateurs and veterans. Moreover, it offers a pleasant and smooth shooting experience. Like most 9mm pistol models, Shield EZs are slightly heavy and weigh 23.8 ounces. However, they have fixed front and rear sights, which some people may not like.

Glock G17

Glock G17 has an ammunition capacity of 17+1 rounds and is one of the best full-size pistols commercially available. They are so popular among gun lovers because of their simplicity and reliability. G17s generate manageable recoil; however, shooters need to adjust their grip angle to a different position compared to other pistols (a technique referred to as pointing downhill) to line the sights.

Taurus G3X

Taurus G3X’s best feature is its fabulous grip. The grip’s texture is compared to sandpaper, which offers a firm grip. This model is the most affordable concealed carry pistol and is shooter-friendly. In fact, it is a great contender to the more expensive models; it offers way more features than what is required for the price paid (no wonder it is so popular).

Springfield Armory Hellcat

People will not regret purchasing a Springfield Armory Hellcat as it is a lightweight pistol with an 11-round capacity (13 rounds with an extended magazine). It is only 6 inches long, making it manageable and comfortable to use. However, some people think it is a bit too expensive (so people must decide whether they like the features enough to break their piggy bank.).

Main Difference Between 380 ACP And 9mm (In Points)

  • Colt introduced the .380 ACP cartridges in 1908 for loading Colt Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless (a semi-automatic), and it continues to be a popular self-defense cartridge. On the other hand, DWM (a German weapons manufacturer) introduced 9mm cartridges for use in their Luger semi-automatic pistol in 1902.
  • Georg Luger designed the 9mm cartridge, whereas John Browning designed the .380 ACP cartridge.
  • Because .380 ACPs have less recoil, people can take a second shot faster than when using a 9mm. What would people rather have? A cartridge with a moderate stopping power they can fire rapidly or one that lands them in the ER with a broken wrist if they do not know how to handle the recoil properly? (Moral: One should stick to the basics and choose the .380 ACPs unless one has enough experience to handle something more powerful.)
  • 9mm cartridges have a greater range compared to .380s. The latter is much more useful in close-range shooting.
  • .380 ACPs are one of the most popular cartridges for civilian self-defense. Military and law enforcement officials prefer 9mm cartridges for their backup guns (not surprising considering the type of individuals they deal with on a daily basis).
  • Ironically, .380 ACP cartridges cost more than 9mms. The reason is that 9mms cartridges are abundant, and the demand for .380s has surged (probably because firearms designed for .380s are much more affordable).
  • 9mm cartridges generate 40% more energy than .380 ACP cartridges.


Those looking for a gun whose mere presence will comfort them and make them feel safe will benefit from .380 ACP cartridges. They are easy to conceal, handle, and shoot; moreover, they are an excellent choice for rapid-fire short-range shooting. 9mm cartridges are a much better option if people do not mind the heavier firearms. After all, 9mm cartridges are incredibly powerful and effective (though nowhere on the same level as the .357 Magnums). Their stopping power balances the drawback of not being able to fire rapidly.

Anyway, merely considering the pros and cons of purchasing a particular cartridge is not helpful. People should figure out which cartridge type they are most comfortable with and what gun type they feel confident firing it out of. That means spending some time practicing target shooting. Once people try out the various options available, they will have a clearer idea of what they need, making deciding between a 9mm and a .380 ACP a cinch.


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  • https://www.guns.com/news/380-acp-vs-9mm-self-defense-ammo-real-difference
  • https://www.outdoorlife.com/guns/380-vs-9mm/
  • https://gundigest.com/gear-ammo/ammunition/380-vs-9mm-reasons-to-consider-the-small-nine
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.380_ACP
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9%C3%9719mm_Parabellum
  • https://www.pewpewtactical.com/best-380-pistols/
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  • https://www.pewpewtactical.com/taurus-g3x-review/
  • https://www.gunadvice.com/sig-p238-review/


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"Difference Between 380 ACP and 9mm." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sat. 13 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-380-acp-and-9mm>.

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