.380 ACP vs. 9mm

What's the Difference?

The .380 ACP and 9mm are both popular handgun cartridges, but they have some notable differences. The .380 ACP, also known as the 9mm Short, is a smaller and less powerful round compared to the 9mm. It is commonly used in compact and subcompact pistols, making it a popular choice for concealed carry. On the other hand, the 9mm, also known as the 9mm Luger or 9x19mm, is a larger and more powerful round. It is widely used by military and law enforcement agencies due to its higher capacity and stopping power. While the .380 ACP offers better concealability and reduced recoil, the 9mm provides greater penetration and overall effectiveness. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on personal preferences, intended use, and the specific firearm being used.


Attribute.380 ACP9mm
Caliber.380 ACP9mm
Bullet Diameter.355 inches.355 inches
Case Length.680 inches.754 inches
Overall Length.984 inches1.169 inches
Maximum Pressure21,500 psi35,000 psi
Energy200-250 ft-lbs350-400 ft-lbs
Magazine Capacity6-8 rounds10-17 rounds
Popular FirearmsRuger LCP, Glock 42Glock 19, Sig Sauer P320

Further Detail


When it comes to choosing a handgun for self-defense or concealed carry, two popular options that often come up are the .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) and the 9mm. Both cartridges have their own unique attributes and advantages, making them popular choices among gun enthusiasts. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics of each round, comparing their size, power, recoil, capacity, and availability to help you make an informed decision.


One of the primary differences between the .380 ACP and the 9mm is their size. The .380 ACP, also known as the 9mm Short, is a smaller cartridge with a bullet diameter of .355 inches. On the other hand, the 9mm, also referred to as the 9x19mm Parabellum, has a slightly larger bullet diameter of .355 inches. While the difference may seem negligible, it can have an impact on the overall performance of the round.

Due to its smaller size, the .380 ACP is often found in compact and subcompact handguns, making it a popular choice for concealed carry. The smaller dimensions of the cartridge allow for a more compact firearm, which can be easier to conceal and carry for individuals with smaller hands or those who prioritize discretion. On the other hand, the 9mm is commonly found in a wider range of firearms, including full-size, compact, and subcompact models, providing shooters with more options to suit their preferences and needs.


When comparing the power of the .380 ACP and the 9mm, it is important to consider factors such as muzzle energy and velocity. Generally, the 9mm offers higher muzzle energy and velocity compared to the .380 ACP, resulting in increased stopping power. The 9mm typically delivers more kinetic energy to the target, which can be crucial in self-defense situations.

While the .380 ACP may have less power compared to the 9mm, it still possesses sufficient stopping power for self-defense purposes. The .380 ACP is known for its manageable recoil, making it easier to control and shoot accurately, especially for shooters with less experience or those who struggle with recoil management. Additionally, the .380 ACP can be a suitable choice for individuals who may have physical limitations or prefer a lighter recoil impulse.


Recoil is an important factor to consider when choosing a handgun, as it directly affects the shooter's ability to control the firearm and maintain accuracy. Due to its smaller size and lower power, the .380 ACP generally produces less recoil compared to the 9mm. The reduced recoil of the .380 ACP can be advantageous for shooters who are sensitive to recoil or have difficulty managing the higher recoil of the 9mm.

On the other hand, the 9mm, with its larger size and increased power, tends to generate more recoil. While this may pose a challenge for some shooters, it can also be an advantage for those who prefer a more substantial feel or are accustomed to handling higher recoil firearms. Additionally, the increased recoil of the 9mm can aid in faster follow-up shots, as the muzzle rise and reacquisition of the target can be quicker compared to the milder recoil of the .380 ACP.


Capacity is another crucial aspect to consider when comparing the .380 ACP and the 9mm. Generally, due to its smaller size, firearms chambered in .380 ACP tend to have a lower capacity compared to those chambered in 9mm. The reduced size of the .380 ACP cartridge allows for fewer rounds to be loaded into the magazine, typically ranging from 6 to 8 rounds.

On the other hand, the 9mm offers a higher capacity due to its larger size. Firearms chambered in 9mm can often accommodate more rounds in the magazine, ranging from 10 to 17 rounds or even more in some cases. The increased capacity of the 9mm can be advantageous in self-defense scenarios where multiple shots may be required, providing shooters with more ammunition before needing to reload.


Availability of ammunition is a crucial consideration for any firearm owner. The 9mm, being one of the most popular handgun cartridges worldwide, enjoys widespread availability. It is produced by numerous manufacturers and is readily available in various bullet weights and types, making it easier to find and purchase.

While the .380 ACP is also widely available, it may not be as abundant as the 9mm. Due to its smaller size and lower demand, the .380 ACP may have a slightly more limited selection of ammunition options compared to the 9mm. However, with the increasing popularity of concealed carry and compact firearms, the availability of .380 ACP ammunition has improved significantly in recent years.


When it comes to choosing between the .380 ACP and the 9mm, it ultimately depends on your personal preferences, needs, and shooting abilities. The .380 ACP offers a compact size, manageable recoil, and sufficient stopping power for self-defense, making it an excellent choice for concealed carry. On the other hand, the 9mm provides higher power, increased capacity, and wider availability, making it a versatile option suitable for a range of applications.

Ultimately, it is crucial to consider factors such as size, power, recoil, capacity, and availability when making your decision. It is recommended to try out different firearms chambered in both calibers, if possible, to determine which one feels more comfortable and suits your shooting style. Remember, choosing the right handgun and caliber is a personal decision, and what works for one person may not work for another. So, take the time to research, seek professional advice, and practice with different firearms to make an informed choice that best fits your needs and preferences.

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